Mahatma Gandhi has not been rendered obsolete yet. Hence his birth anniversary is sure to get some attention. The Congress Party is sure to remember him. The ruling BJP may pay lip service unless it can conjure up the lexicon that can create a new discourse on the palimpsest of the country’s history and thus absorb Gandhi into its crowded pantheon.
Nathuram Godse, Gandhi’s assassin and a member of the RSS, said in his defence during the trial that what he could not stomach was Gandhi’s “infallibility” to which the Congress had capitulated helplessly. Godse went on to describe that infallibility as “eccentricity, whimsicality, metaphysics and primitive vision.”
And Godse was right!
Gandhi was on a relentless pursuit of the truth. The more he pursued it, the more convinced he became of the correctness of his approach. Hence he imposed his will on many people. Didn’t every prophet, every messiah, impose his will on his followers?
Gandhi was a messiah. He was a saint. He was not a mere statesman. Not at all a politician. This is what sets Gandhi apart from the other freedom fighters. This is what made him a martyr. The cross was the natural end for Jesus. And the bullet was the natural end for Gandhi. Every messiah has to be killed so that the people are saved. Saved from the messiah. Saved from the messiah’s impositions. Saved from the messiah’s will, the power of his truth, the ominous charm of the light he brings, and most of all the infinite demands he makes on the frail human beings.
Truth will set you free, every messiah said that with some variations. But such freedom is unbearable for the ordinary people. Such freedom brings what Milan Kundera called “the unbearable lightness of being.” It is a freedom to be just what you are. Without attachments. Without clinging to the truths manufactured by organised religions, political parties and various ideologies. That freedom is the infallibility that Gandhi possessed.
Gandhi had equated truth with God. Satya is derived from Sat, he said in one of his articles, and sat means being, reality. Truth is the reality. What is not truth is not real. Hence he said that where there is no truth, there is no knowledge or Chit. Where there is truth and knowledge, there is also bliss, Ananda.
For those who have achieved that stage in personal growth, for those who have raised their consciousness to the realms of Satchitananda, “all other rules of correct living will come without effort, and obedience to them (the rules) will be instinctive.”
Gandhi’s life was a committed pursuit of the Satchitananda. That’s why he called his biography My Experiments with Truth. He could boldly assert that there was no discrepancy between what he thought, said and did. It is such concordance between thought, speech and action that Gandhi demanded from people. That is a tough demand. If we are to abide by that demand, we have to be saints. And who wants to be a saint?
“These childish insanities and obstinacies,” said Nathuram Godse in his defence speech at his trial, “coupled with a most severe austerity of life, ceaseless work and lofty character made Gandhi formidable and irresistible.”
Gandhi was too good to live, in short. That’s what Godse said. That’s what his followers in the contemporary India say in different words.
Gandhi’s God was Satchitananda, the perfected consciousness. Such a God sees everything clearly, understands the reality from all possible angles, and hence cannot hate anyone. Rather, such a God understands why people behave the way they do. Such a God has no enemies. That’s why Gandhi could not accept the Rama of the Ramayana and the Krishna of the Mahabharata as gods. And Godse could not forgive Gandhi for that too. “It is my firm belief that in dubbing Rama, Krishna, and Arjuna as guilty of violence, the Mahatma betrayed a total ignorance of the springs of human action,” said Godse.
No, Godse, you betrayed a total ignorance of Gandhi’s greatness. You displayed your sheer inability to understand what “the Mahatma” was. You hated him for loving people other than the Hindus. You hated him for refusing to imprison the human spirit within the straitjackets of nationalism, religion and culture. You hated him for being too good. I hope the two of you share a lot of smiles up there in case there is such a place and it offers you better lessons than here where the ordinary mortals are condemned to grapple with the inevitable heaviness of being.
Happy Gandhi Jayanti to all those for whom Gandhi makes sense.