GANDHI IN ACTION network

the Spirit of Mahatma Gandhi lives through every nonviolent action

Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Senior Gandhian Scholar, Professor, Editor and Linguist

Gandhi International Study and Research Institute, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No. – 09404955338, 09415777229

E-mail- dr.yadav.yogendra@gandhifoundation.net;

dr.yogendragandhi@gmail.com                                    

Mailing Address- C- 29, Swaraj Nagar, Panki, Kanpur- 208020, Uttar Pradesh, India

 

 

Gayatri Mantra and Mahatma Gandhi 

 

 

I was pleased to see the school’s activity of spinning and weaving; however, I immediately felt that neither I nor the Hindus could take credit for this meritorious deed. I can have no sense of satisfaction if a Muslim recites the Gayatri mantra instead of me. I can only feel satisfied when a Brahmin comes along and offers to recite the Gayatri for me. However, in this case, the Khoja are doing the work that should be done by Hindus. Here, no one is bothered in the least about the Antyajas. I do not see any non-Antyajas except the guests sitting among the Antyajas here before me. Even those who go around with me during the day have abandoned them and are seated in the enclosure for high-caste gentlemen. If you could rip open my heart today, you would find it crying O Lord! Could this be the Hindu dharma, where no one cares for the Antyajas? Is there not a single person in the town who will come to their rescue? 1

Having come here today I have an idea of the parsimony and callousness of the people of Kutch. Although you recite the verses of the Bhagavad Gita, the Gayatri mantra and the Navakar mantra there is no place in your hearts for the Antyajas. The dharma that you practise is neither Hindu dharma nor Jain dharma. He who is prepared to protect the bed-bug, should he not protect the Antyajas who are as meek as cows? You must learn something at least. What you ought to learn from me is not strength to fight but love. The former is only a small part of my life and, even that is born of my love for truth, my compassion, my love. Without this last, my whole struggle and my persistence in it would be futile. Only he who puts this love into practice in his own life can get the blessings of the Antyajas and the cows. Open your eyes and the curtains that cover your hearts! Take some warning at any rate! May God bless you! 2

This is one of the few difficult verses in the Gita. Should not one wish to have knowledge? In fact, in the gayatri mantra itself in the best Vedic prayer we pray to the shining being to purify our intellect, to make it sattvik. We also pray: tamaso ma jyotirgamaya. We aspire to be lifted from the darkness of attachment to illumination, from darkness to light. What, then, should we make of the statement in this verse? If we, living in the Ashram, did not cherish the aspiration which we do, we would fail in our aims. We must teach every child to say this prayer the very first thing in the morning. We should pray, tears streaming from our eyes, to be saved from the army of Kauravas, the army of deep slumber. 3 But, then, the charkha does well to society, to the world, and therefore to the soul also. This does not mean that a spinner cans ipso facto realize the progress of the soul. He who spins for earning a few coppers gets only a few coppers. But he who spins with the object of realizing his soul may attain liberation through it. As has been said, he too becomes fit for liberation who offers water for the thirsty in the spirit of devotion. Of those who repeat the Gayatri mantra either for show or for money, the first falls while the other goes on farther than the fulfillment of his desire for money. Liberation is reached wherever the objective is of the highest and purest, and is backed by similar action. 4 

I see no harm in fact there would be advantage in chanting the Gayatri mantra while plying the takli, especially when there is sacrificial spinning, i.e., as gesture of sympathy for the poor. 5 From this little booklet what we can learn about women is first, that we should strive as hard as possible to put an end to the evil custom of the purdah. Secondly, that no one man or woman should fear the sun, but should take a sun-bath bare-bodied for as long as possible. After taking a bath in the morning, one should salute the sun a hundred times or more and repeat the Gayatri mantra. It is being realized more and more that, while there is certainly spiritual significance and value in this, there is also an equally great worldly meaning and benefit. 6 

I have perhaps recited the Gayatri mantra thousands of times, having understood the meaning of it. But still it seems to me that it did not answer the whole of my aspirations. Then as you are aware I have, for years past, been swearing by the Bhagavad Gita, and have said that it answers all my difficulties and has been my Kamadhenus, the Cow of plenty, my guide, my open sesame, at hundreds of moments of doubt and difficulty. I cannot recall a single occasion when it has failed me. But it is not a book that I can place before the whole of this audience. It requires a prayerful study before the Kamadhenus yields the rich milk she holds in her udder. 7 Take the Gayatri Mantra. It cannot have the same effect on non-Hindus as it has on me, nor can the kalma have the same reaction on me as it has on the Muslims. Even so the spinning-wheel in itself has nothing which can teach ahimsa or bring swaraj. But you have to think it with those attributes and it is transformed. Its obvious value is the service of the poor, but that does not necessarily mean that it should be a symbol of nonviolence or an indispensable condition for swaraj. But we, since 1920, connected the wheel with swaraj and non-violence. 8 

As for the verses from the Koran, I have explained my position to you. There is nothing objectionable in the verses. I have explained to you the meaning. The Muslim friend who is my constant companion says that he who recites this prayer is not harassed by Satan. Tulsidas says the same thing in his Ramayana about the virtue of Ramanama and we have the same feeling about the Gayatri Mantra. Why then such threats? What good do they do? If any good comes from such threats it will be only for the threatened girl for such things make her more fearless. 9

 

References:

 

  1. Navajivan, 8-11-1925
  2. Navajivan, 8-11-1925  
  3. September 30, 1926
  4. Navajivan, 3-7-1927
  5. Letter to Jethalal Joshi, July 26, 1927  
  6. Navajivan, 24-3-1929 
  7. The Epic of Travancore, pp. 174
  8. Amrita Bazar Patrika, 9-5-1939
  9. Prarthana Pravachan—I, pp. 182

 

 

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