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

 

Greedy and Mahatma Gandhi 

 

 

Mahatma Gandhi was not well in 1947. He was suffering from cough. But he wanted to go Ahmadabad for Harijan fund collection. Sardar Patel opposed him. But he was not ready to stop. So Sardar told him you are a greedy. Mahatma Gandhi told 21 April, 1921 that he was a greedy man. These thoughts come to mind as we read the account of the meeting of our brethren at Mombasa, published elsewhere in this issue. The whites cast their greedy eyes on the fertile territory of Nairobi, near Mombasa. They tried to drive the Indians out of the place or to stop them from entering the territory. They seem to have succeeded in the attempt. Following this, our people held a big meeting and are preparing to resist the whites. So great was their enthusiasm that, within half an hour, they succeeded in collecting Rs. 20,000 and have further undertaken to raise Rs. 400 a month for calling in a lawyer to help. 1 Sir George Birdwood is an old and prominent Indian civil servant of outstanding ability. He has served for many years on the India Council. He has stated that the fight of the Indians is justified. Mr. Ritch feels puzzled when he finds some of us Indians yielding. In other words, the Committee desires that we fight to the last. If, after our giving so much publicity to the struggle, any Indian submits to the obnoxious law out of fear, being selfish or greedy of money, we shall take him to be an enemy both of himself and of the country. 2 

On one side, look at the picture of civilization drawn above, a civilization grown as terrible as a wolf through its hunger for wealth and its greedy pursuit of worldly pleasures. On the other, look at the figure of a satyagrahi who, out of his loyalty to truth, to his nature as a spiritual being and out of a desire to obey God’s command, submits to the suffering inflicted by wicked men, with fortitude in his breast, with a smile on his face and without a single tear in his eyes. Of the two pictures, towards which will the reader feel attracted? We are sure it is the vision of the satyagrahi which will touch the heart of mankind, and that the effect will grow deeper as his sufferings increase. Is there anyone who, looking at this cartoon alone, does not feel in his heart that Satyagraha is the only way in which mankind can attain freedom and strength? 3

If we are not greedy, if we remain truthful, and act with moderation and in keeping with the people’s honour and our own, we shall succeed in having these difficulties removed. We shall have the tree in the form of a uniform law. It will be for us to choose whether or not to enjoy its shade. 4 We wish that we would give no one cause for criticism in such matters. If only a few leaders would evince enthusiasm and take in hand the task of imparting this kind of education to people, a great change can be effected in our condition. This work can be done for the most part by landlords. But before they can do it, they should stop being greedy. 5 If parents would do their duty by their children, there would be no limit to the heights the latter could reach. But, if we regard children merely as toys, fondle them excessively, spoil them out of a mistaken notion of affection with sweets and rich clothes right from their childhood, allow them to do as they please, if we are greedy for money ourselves and teach this greed to children, are engrossed in pleasures and set that example before children, are lazy ourselves and make them lazy, are dirty and teach them dirty ways, tell lies and teach them lies, then is it any wonder that our progeny grow up to be feeble, immoral, lying, lustful, selfish and greedy? Thoughtful parents need carefully to ponder over these remarks. India’s future, a good half of it, lies in the hands of parents. 6

 If the leaders are selfish, greedy, lazy, given to lying and licentious, the common people will make no progress. And so, should the latter remain backward, the responsibility will be that of the leaders and theirs, too, will be the guilt. 7 Directors are always much too greedy and look at only one side of a question. They can take into account nothing but their own interest. Now that you know my view, it is entirely for you to decide what you will do. 8 We were greedy and so was England. The connection between England and India was based clearly upon an error. But she (England) does not remain in India in error. It is her declared policy that India is to be held in trust for her people. If this be true, Lancashire must stand aside. And if the swadeshi doctrine is a sound doctrine, Lancashire can stand aside without hurt, though it may sustain a shock for the time being. I think of swadeshi not as a boycott movement undertaken by way of revenge. I conceive it as a religious principle to be followed by all. I am no economist, but I have read some treatises which show that England could easily become a self-sustained country, growing all the produce she needs. This may be an utterly ridiculous proposition, and perhaps the best proof that it cannot be true is that England is one of the largest importers in the world. But India cannot live for Lancashire or any other country before she is able to live for herself. And she can live for herself only if she produces and is helped to produce everything for her requirements within her own borders. She need not be, she ought not to be, drawn into the vortex of mad and ruinous competition which breeds fratricide, jealousy and many other evils. But who is to stop her great millionaires from entering into the world competition? Certainly, not legislation. Force of public opinion, proper education, however, can do a great deal in the desired direction. The handloom industry is in a dying condition. I took special care during my wanderings last year to see as many weavers as possible, and my heart ached to find how they had lost, how families had retired from this once-flourishing and honourable occupation. If we follow the swadeshi doctrine, it would be your duty and mine to find out neighbours who can supply our wants and to teach them to supply them where they do not know how to, assuming that there are neighbours who are in want of healthy occupation. Then every village of India will almost be a self-supporting and self-contained unit exchanging only such necessary commodities with other villages where they are not locally producible. This may all sound nonsensical. Well, India is a country of nonsense. It is nonsensical to parch one’s throat with thirst when a kindly Mahomedan is ready to offer pure water to drink. And yet thousands of Hindus would rather die of thirst than drink water from a Mahomedan household. These nonsensical men can also, once they are convinced that their religion demands that they should wear garments manufactured in India only and eat food only grown in India, decline to wear any other clothing or eat any other food. Lord Curzon set the fashion for tea-drinking. And that pernicious drug now bids fair to overwhelm the nation. It has already undermined the digestive apparatus of hundreds of thousands of men and women and constitutes an additional tax upon their slender purses. Lord Hardinge can set the fashion for swadeshi and almost the whole of India will foreswear foreign goods. There is a verse in the Bhagavad Gita, which, freely rendered, means masses follow the classes. It is easy to undo the evil if the thinking portion of the community were to take the swadeshi vow even though it may for a time cause considerable inconvenience. I hate interference in any department of life. At best, it is the lesser evil. But I would tolerate, welcome, indeed plead for, and stiff protective duty upon foreign goods. Natal, a British colony, protected its sugar by taxing the sugar that came from another British colony, Mauritius. England has sinned against India by forcing free trade upon her. It may have been food for her, but it has been poison for this country. 9

Person-ally, I feel my inadequacy in Sanskrit, and my eagerness to study Marathi, Bengali and Tamil is more than I can describe. And yet I have had to check my greedy desire, thanks to the tasks which fell to my lot one after another. I often wish to give Chi. Devdas ever so much knowledge. He has a gift for learning and I am confident that he would turn his learning to good account. Even so, I have stopped his studies because the work he is doing, teaching Hindi to our brethren in Madras, is more important. Take the case of Chi. Maganlal himself. His deficiency in the matter of education has no limit. I think we would all admit that, if he could study further he would make excellent use of his knowledge. I often realize his lack of adequate education. Despite this, ever since he joined me, I have had to employ him on other tasks and therefore I could not let him study further. I could recount many more instances, but I have given enough to satisfy you. Just at present we have so many things to be done through the Ashram that we must set every available person to work. And so I think that, for the present, you must attend, with single-minded devotion, to whatever work is entrusted to you and give full satisfaction in it. I shall always keep in mind the question of your studies and, when I feel that the time has come for it, I shall not let the opportunity go. If this reply does not satisfy you, write to me whatever you would. I want to take work from you after satisfying you. 10 I said in 1894, as I repeat now, that it was a criminal blunder on the part of the greedy Europeans of Natal to have imported indentured labour from India at miserably low wages when they had 400,000 stalwart Zulus in their midst who would gladly have worked if the employers had not wanted to make enormous profits. Can South Africa, with any right on its side, starve the descendants of the original settlers and the brethren out of existence? 11

I for one would nurse by every legitimate means the spirit of independence in the brave Arabs, but I shudder to think what will happen to them under the schemes of exploitation of their country by the greedy capitalists protected as they will be by the mandatory Powers. If the pledge is to be fulfilled, let these places have full self-government with suzerainty to be retained with Turkey as has been suggested by The Times of India. Let there be all the necessary guarantees taken from Turkey about the internal independence of the Arabs. But to remove that suzerainty, to deprive the Khalifa of the wardenship of the holy places is to render Khilafat a mockery which no Mohammedan can possibly look upon with equanimity. I am not alone in my interpretation of the pledge. The Right Hon’ble Ameer Ali calls the peace terms a breach of faith. 12 The Allies have proved themselves to be just as deceitful, cruel, greedy and selfish as Germany was or would have been. Germany would have avoided the sanctimonious humbug that one sees associated with the many dealings of the Allies. 13 

It therefore bribes you into consenting to its will by awarding titles, medals and ribbons, by giving you employment, by its superior financial ability to open for its employees avenues for enriching themselves and finally, when these fail, it resorts to force. That is what Sir Michael O’Dwyer did and that is what almost every British administrator would certainly do if he thought it necessary. If then we would not be greedy, if we would not run after titles and medals and honorary posts which do the country no good half the battle is won. 14 Think of all the three—your body, your mind and your soul For the body exercise, recreation, good food and cheerfulness. For the mind—reading and thinking For the soul inward purity and, for cultivating this, early rising, absorption in prayers with one-pointed attention and reading of the Gita. Repeat this to yourself every day: ‘I will always speak truth, will think and act truth, will love everyone, learn to control all my senses and never look with greedy eyes on anything belonging to someone else. I will look upon nothing as mine but offer up everything to God.’ Such meditation will purify the heart. 15 The swadeshi dharma which I propagate means that every village should produce its own requirements. If we can revive this old way, no one dare cast a greedy eye on India. I entreat the Principal and the professors to accept this line for a year and so train the students that they can be sent into villages. 16

Some sisters have indeed adopted swadeshi but, as you know, I am a greedy an, a miser. So I cannot be happy as long as the whole of this little community does not shine with lustre. You see beauty in silk clothes, but you will be able truly to adorn yourselves and India only by wearing khadi. Many Hindus still do not wear khadi, nor do Muslims. But you should not follow others’ example. If other people take to wrong ways, we need not do likewise. Your community can set an example to crores of Hindus and Muslims. When I visited a handloom factory in Surat, I was glad to find a Parsi brother doing a bit for swadeshi. But I am not a man who will be satisfied with that little. Introduce a spinning-wheel in every one of your homes. Your Parsi sisters can spin very fine yarn. You spin fine woolen yarn for your sacred thread. Dedicate this gift of yours to the country. 17 Madhuri and Pushpa are girls of six or seven. It was my greedy hunt for contributions to the Tilak Swaraj Fund that had taken me to the family. While I sat surrounded by the men and women members of the family, all full of love for me, Madhuri came up, walking with slow, hesitant steps. I called her to me. Unfortunately, they had given me a chair, tables and chairs being the normal thing in the family. Seated in a chair, how could I take up Madhuri? So I drew her to me and put her head on my lap. “I have cheated you.” “Elders may cheat me, not kids. You cannot have cheated me.” I replied with a smile, observing Madhuri’s features the while. “But I have really cheated you; I gave you only a rupee and a half”, she said with courage. “Then, I must say, I have been really cheated. With so many ornaments on you, you gave me only a rupee and a half?” I said, and took Madhuri’s little hand in mine. Her bangle danced in my palm. I continued:  “You should then do expiation. Kids should be perfectly innocent. They never cheat anybody. To expiate means to wash off one’s sin, to cleanse one. You ought to do so now.” “How is it possible to be cleansed now? The fact remains that I have cheated you.” “There is an easy way. You have realized that you ought to have given me your ornaments. That is what made you say you had cheated me. You should now give me all your ornaments and your sin will be washed off.” Madhuri’s face, bright till now, fell somewhat. I saw this and resumed: “What should kids have to do with ornaments? We appear handsome through our actions. Besides, ornaments may be lost. Better give them to help some good cause. And you seem to be a good girl! You confess your error too. You should willingly give your ornaments. I shall utilize them to supply spinning-wheels to the homes of the poor, and to educate children like you. Other little girls like you have also given their ornaments.” I paused. There were two little ruby pendants on Madhuri’s ears and on her wrists a pair of bangles with strips of gold and another pair of glass bangles. She whispered: “Will it be all right if I give these glass bangles?” I wondered what reply I could give to this child. Shall I take her with me and adopt her as my daughter? But, then, I thought, I have so many daughters like her! And, for the present, I am but a miserly Bania, who knows only grabbing. So I said: “I can get money even for your bangles. But I want all your ornaments. Surely, it should not be so very difficult to part with them! For one thing, your sin will be washed off and, for another; they will come in useful to me. Your ornaments will help us in winning swaraj. Won’t you give me all?” “I shall not give my gold bangle at any rate. Will you accept these (pointing to her pendants)?” Now that is something. How nice it would be, though, if you gave me these bangles as well?” Madhuri felt somewhat unhappy. I kissed her and said, “All right, give me your pendants.” She ran away, returning in a minute. While she was removing the pendants, I said: “But have you obtained mother’s permission?”  “Yes, she has given her permission.” “She told me to give everything, but I don’t like to part with my bangles.” Madhuri removed the pendants and dropped them into my hands. A tiny gold link had fallen on to the ground. She looked for it carefully, found it and handed it to me.

Do what I might, though, I could not overcome my greed. My eyes would not turn away from the bangles. I did not yet know the girl’s name, or whose daughter she was. I now asked and learnt her name recognized the worthy gentleman who was her father, and said: “Really, Madhuri, what do you see in these bangles that you love them so much? What should an innocent girl like you do with ornaments? Won’t you give your bangles too?” Madhuri softened. With her own hands, she removed a bangle and put it into my hand. This was a victory for me, I thought. But the victory was on Madhuri’s side. That little girl had stolen my heart. I envied her parents. “May all parents have such children,” I prayed from my heart. My faith in the success of our struggle for swaraj grew stronger. I said to Madhuri: “You have been so wonderful. I will not accept the other bangle even if you give it. But is it willingly that you have given me what you have? You can take them back, if you wish to.” As I said this, I held out the ornaments before her. “I gave them quite willingly and do not want them back.” The answer brought fresh blood to me. I went into another room to see the female members of the family. Some other kids had been following the conversation between Madhuri and me.  Pushpa, a neighbour’s daughter, removed her bangle and put it into my hand. “Have you obtained your mother’s permission?”  “It is with her permission that I give this bangle to you.” “And do you know my terms for accepting all these articles? Little girls who give ornaments must not ask their parents to replace them before we have won swaraj. If they have some others, they may wear them; but, for some time, they must not ask for new ones to be made.”  “I have got another such bangle with me. I won’t ask for a new one. I have given my bangle to you quite willingly.” Madhuri was looking on. She was also discussing something with her mother. She removed the glass bangles and the remaining gold one, and put them both into my hand! “I accept this glass bangle. But I told you I would not accept your gold bangle even if you offered it. Please, therefore, do not give it. As it is, you have given much.” “So far as I am concerned, I have given it away to you. I do not want it at all. I have given it willingly. Kindly keep it.” Madhuri scored a victory over me. I broke my word and accepted the other bangle. With

wrists and ears bare, Madhuri looked more handsome, to me at any rate. I hugged her to my heart. Overcome with joy, I offered thanks to God. Madhuri now addressed herself to a task. She set to work to see other girls’ wrists stripped bare. Her efforts met with indifferent success. Will God, however, judge her from the outcome of her attempt? He has said, in truth: “Do your work; leave the result entirely to me.” For her part, Madhuri did her “work”, not for show but for the satisfaction of the great atman inhabiting her little frame. After exhorting Madhuri and Pushpa to wear khadi and ply the spinning-wheel and after securing a promise from the ladies of the family in regard to both, I left all admiration in my heart for Madhuri and Pushpa. If we do not get swaraj this very year, even through the sacrifice of such innocent ones, how great must have been the burden of sin accumulated by us, the so-called elders! May God ever send into the world children like Madhuri and Pushpa! Let us, men and women alike, salute the stainless atmans of such children and learn from them. I have written down this conversation thirty hours after it took place. I have reproduced it as well as I remember it. Even the children’s words are given as they were actually spoken, without any embellishment. I noted all the time that they spoke faultlessly. 18 

He should look upon every woman as his sister and never look at anyone with greedy eyes. He should never allow any such thought in-his mind that this woman is good-looking and the other is not. If beauty consisted in shape or colour, we would have gratified our sight by looking at statues. Beauty lies in virtue and this is not a thing which can be perceived by the senses. He should control his passions by reflecting that a man who thinks of his mother or sister as beautiful or not beautiful commits a sin. 19 Yes, I think all these horrible and evil creatures are inhabited by the souls of men who have gone wrong snakish men, greedy, unmerciful crocodile men, and so on. 20 

A boy has to be found for Radha. Let me know if there is any young man you know in the Modh or some other Bania community. He should be a simple man. He should not be greedy. He should be healthy and should have respect for khadi. He should be of good character. I am not worried if he has no money. 21 You are very greedy. You wish to know everything all at once. You leave nothing for the future, no room for faith. Ramanama is no substitute for one’s work or profession; but it is for its purification. While doing anything you can chant the Name. Only one with faith can gain some good from it. If you have no faith in your teacher, you can learn nothing from him. They will keep you in the Ashram even for a short period if there is room available. You may write to the manager if you feel like going there. You can do a lot of work in the village, if you can be at peace there and do manual labour. 22 I am greedy. I am impatient to see and to demonstrate the victory of dharma. I am ever anxious to do all that may be needed for it. It is for this reason alone that I want swaraj as also the spinning-wheel, Hindu-Muslim unity, cowproection, abolition of untouchability and prohibition. Which of these should I pursue and which should I give up? The ship of my longings is thus rolling back and forth on a stormy sea. 23 A greedy president like me would expect a member to go out among the people and invite them to wear khadi, spin regularly and become members of the A.I.S.A. He would also ask him to hawk khadi among them and to teach them spinning and to collect donations among friends. But to expect is one thing, to have one’s expectation fulfilled is another. Therefore when one becomes a member and scrupulously and diligently spins and never uses anything but khadi, wherever cloth is required, he has done the minimum required of him. The majority would no doubt fluctuate between the two extremes. 24 You should not be greedy to acquire knowledge of merely external things. It is desirable to be content with what one learns in the ordinary course of things. If we do not do that, so wide is the extent of such knowledge that it would take your whole life-time and you would be able to do no service, let alone realize the self. 25

History teaches one that those who have, no doubt with honest motives, ousted the greedy by using brute force against them have in their turn become a prey to the disease of the conquered. If it be better to be slaves than slave-drivers, if this is no mere copybook maxim, we can easily afford to let the slave-drivers do their worst, whilst, being weary of the brutal tug of war, so unbefitting our human nature, we try to explore the possibilities of matching the brute force of the greedy exploiters and the like with soul-force. 26 How any man of religion can help being in sympathy with the strivings of his nearest neighbours passes comprehension. Internationalism presupposes nationalism not the narrow, selfish, greedy spirit that often passes under the name of nationalism, but the nationalism that, whilst it insists upon its own freedom and growth, will disdain to attain them at the expense of other nations. 27 With brahmacharya as your shield and buckler you should find no difficulty in entering any walk of life, and if you will follow the vocation natural to you—agriculture, cow-protection, and commerce in the right way, you will serve both your community and the country. But beware that your pursuit of these professions may not become synonymous with exploitation as it is today. If you desire to take off the sinister aspect of greedy commerce, you will have to make it centre round the charkha. There are exploiters enough on this earth. If we also follow suit, we shall have to seek for our victims on other planets. Khadi is the only wholesome national trade that we can pursue and as Vaishyas I ask you not to neglect it. 28

Very often money given for help is also misused. A large number of volunteers is required for distributing relief over a large area. If they are greedy, they pocket the money which is entrusted to them. It would be foolish to expect Gujarat to be completely free from such malpractices. But it can certainly be expected of volunteers that they will have no greedy thoughts and, working wholly in a spirit of service, will win credit for them. 29 ‘We,’ she may say, ‘clean and cook your food, we spin the yarn from which khadi is prepared.’ then she is clothed with dignity which is hers by birthright and of which we, men and traitors of our womanhood, have deprived her. For in our stupidity and in our ignorance we removed from each cottage spinning-wheels and became infatuated with the foreign fineries that came to us from the West and became greedy after the sovereigns and rupees that would dangle before us, and whether by its own design or by an accident, be it however it may, we, men, conspired to keep our daughters and sisters and our wives in utter ignorance and we denied them the education to which they had a right. In our ignorance we gave away our daughters in marriage at an age when they were able only to sit on the lap and play with us as brothers and sisters. By constant usage you yourselves, sisters, who are sitting in front of me, have come to think that it is the most natural thing for you to give away your daughters early in the so-called marriage and to keep them in dismal ignorance. The message of the spinning-wheel is designed to undo these terrible wrongs. The spinning-wheel gives the status to which a woman is entitled and it quickens the conscience both of men and women and enables man to understand his duty by the women of India. 30 First, brahmacharya, celibacy; the second is satya, truth; the third is ahimsa, absolute innocence, not even hurting a fly; the next condition is asteya, non-stealing, not merely not stealing in the ordinary sense in which the word is understood, but if you appropriate or even cast your greedy eyes on anything that is not your own, it becomes stealing. 31

If we are to achieve the full result of the struggle of 1906 to 1914, we must act on the square and cleanse our stables, and I feel sure that if those who have entered surreptitiously will cease to be greedy, will make a clear confession and truthfully, not encourage any single fraudulent entrant in future, the position can be saved and the condition of the resident population steadily improved. If, however, the des

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