The 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi is round the corner. Gandhi was undoubtedly one of the greatest souls that ever walked on the earth. Albert Einstein was of the opinion that “Gandhi’s views were the most enlightened of all the political men in our time.” Indeed Gandhi was an enlightened man.
What made Gandhi an enlightened soul, a Mahatma, was the universalism of his vision. His vision embraced everyone and everything. It was not restricted by language, religion, nationality, or any such narrow human constructs.
Gandhi would never accept the kind of narrow nationalism that is being peddled in India today by the dominant political party that has vowed to rewrite the country’s history. In its narrow meaning, nationalism seeks to glorify one’s nation at the cost of certain sections of population. Gandhi would not accept such nationalism though he wouldn’t deny the need of self-sacrifice for the sake of the nation. Self-sacrifice, not sacrifice of other people. The individual may have to sacrifice himself for his family. The individual may have to die for his nation too. Gandhi died for his nation. But he would not sacrifice others for the sake of the nation. “It is not nationalism that is evil,” Gandhi wrote in Young India on 18 June 1925, “it is the narrowness, selfishness, exclusiveness which is the bane of modern nations which is evil.”
Inclusiveness was an integral part of Gandhi’s vision. That is why the partition of India into two countries in the name of religion agonised him interminably. He would have nothing to do with any kind of exclusivism.
Gandhi’s words, “The chief value of Hinduism lies in holding the actual belief that all life is one, i.e., all life coming from one universal source, call it Allah, God or Parameshwara” (Harijan, Dec 1936), reveal his concept of religion. Religion is a means of connecting the individual soul with the cosmic soul. Religion is a means of discovering the divine within you and in other creatures. Everyone, irrespective of which god he prays to or whether he doesn’t pray at all, everyone is a spark of the divine, according to Gandhi. You can’t be religious and hateful of some people at the same time. If your religion makes you hate anyone, it’s not religion.
Gandhi would never impose anything like religion, language, culture, or food habits on anyone. Instead he would inspire people with his vision, his life.
The question today is whether anyone is looking for inspiration.