GANDHI IN ACTION network

the Spirit of Mahatma Gandhi lives through every nonviolent action

Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Senior Gandhian Scholar

Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No. – 09415777229, 094055338

E-mail- dr.yogendragandhi@gmail.com;dr.yadav.yogendra@gandhifoundation.net

Mail Address-   C- 29, Swaraj Nagar, Panki, Kanpur-208020, U.P.

 

Immortality and Mahatma Gandhi

 

 

Mahatma Gandhi had deep knowledge in Dharma. So he knew true meaning of immortality. He wrote in his many letters about it. He spoke on it in his many gatherings. Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “We live on in the world as if we had come here with a charter of immortality; and as the Gujarati proverb goes, we go on killing buffaloes for shoe-laces. But if we reflect seriously and look at things calmly, we realize that all is done in vain which is not done for others’ good. If every minute, hour and day given to us is spent in good deeds, in patriotic service and in maintaining truth, we shall have nothing to fear even when death strikes us down. Only a person who risks his life can fetch pearls from the depths of the sea. Similarly, from the ocean of life we have to seek out tasks precious like pearls.” 1 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I hear that, in July, Mr. Ismail Hajee Amad Kotda had sent telegrams to the Memans from Mafeking to remain firm and not to submit to disgrace, and encouraged them to be bold. The same gentleman went to Pretoria and, having taken out the title-deed of slavery, attained immortality in this paper.” 2

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “This brave man took poison by his own hand and died. On the day of his death he discoursed to his friend and companion on the perishable nature of the human body and the immortality of the soul. It is said that up to the very last moment Socrates showed no fear, and that he took the poison smilingly. As he finished the last sentence of his discourse, he drank the poison from the cup as eagerly as we might drink sherbet from a glass. Today the world cherishes Socrates’ memory. His teaching has benefited millions. His accusers and his judges stand condemned by the world. Socrates has gained immortality and Greece stands in high esteem because of him and others like him.” 3

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “In our world, some good men take to the Himalayas or the Vindhya mountains and mortify their bodies. Some think this body to be unreal; some, believing in the immortality and omnipresence of the soul, give up their bodies on the instant and attain moksha. Some do return but only after having so purified themselves that, thereafter, even while living in the midst of the world’s hypocrisies, they can follow their own dictates.” 4  Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “A lawyer, then, who wants no return can easily buy his client as a slave. Those who have never seen Dadabhai, even such Indians, suffering from leprosy, with which Dadabhai would never sit for a meal, worship that lawyer. Gokhale's gratuitous pleading has gained him immortality. If twenty-two crores of Hindus intelligently plead for the Muslims on the Khilafat issue, I believe that they would forever win the vote of the eight crores of Muslims.” 5

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “There is nothing here which suggests death. All signs point to his having attained immortality. Patwardhan’s co-workers may, through selfishness, mourn over his death. His memory should teach them to be more devoted to their work. Patwardhan lives in his death. Though dead, he is serving the cause of freedom. There must be many such silent workers in India.” 6 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “The central principle of Hinduism is that of moksha. I am ever striving for it. All my activities are for moksha. I have as much faith in the existence of the atman and in its immortality as I am certain of the existence of my body and its transience.” 7 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Ever since I saw Mother, her face has been before my eyes. I wish you would respect her wish that you should wear her tulsi beads. When you feel that it is sinful to wear them, you may discard them. The sacred beads given by one’s mother are a symbol of immortality.” 8

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “But there is a difference. These others may kill as well as die. We, however, know that immortality is won only by laying down one’s life. Is it in any way difficult to give up the way of killing and learn that of dying? For dying, one requires dauntless courage. The man of faith will have it in the winking of an eye. For killing, one requires strength of body and skill in shooting. One need to learn, besides, a thousand other evil things before one can become proficient in killing and the end-result is that one earns for oneself the title of a murderer.” 9

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Mirabai welcomed the-cup of poison as nectar. Holding a cup of poison in his hands, Socrates addressed to his dear pupil a discourse on the immortality of the soul which the world will ever cherish. His gentle language bears testimony to the fact that there was no trace in-his heart of any ill will or anger for the warder who gave him the cup or the judge who sentenced him to take poison. The history of the world provides many such instances.” 10 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “The execution of Socrates made immortality a living reality for us not so the execution of countless murderers. There is no warrant for supposing that we can steal swaraj by the imprisonment of thousands of nominally non-violent men with hatred, ill will and violence raging in their breasts.” 11

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Socrates made his best speech holding a cup of poison in his hand and, by his death, won immortality for himself and his words. Tilak Maharaj wrote his two greatest books in jail. No one can say that he wasted a single moment in jail or that the years he spent in jail were wasted. Even now, those who have been doing their work in jails are in fact doing service.” 12 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Every soul is immortal; such a pure soul, however, manifests its immortality clearly. Although Bi-Amma is no longer physically with us, her deeds and her words will not die so long as Hindus and Muslims survive.” 13 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I am not tired of preaching the message of the wheel on all occasions at all hours, because it is such an innocent thing and yet so potent of good. It may not be relishing, but no health-giving food has the relish of spicy foods so detrimental to health, and so the Gita in a memorable text asks all thinking people to take things of which the first taste is bitter, but which are ultimately conducive to immortality.” 14

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I would adduce proof of the immortality of Hinduism and say that the others became Muslims because they could not bear the brilliance of Hinduism. But if people turned Muslims out of greed or fear, as it happened there, I could not endure it. I am talking about this matter because I am to make you strong of mind, in order that you may be more attached to dharma.” 15 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “In these days of contradiction between precept and practice, it is refreshing to find a man like Hanumantharao who would remain true to his faith even unto death. What if he was mistaken? He was a searcher after truth. We shall find it only by following what we hold to be true. Hanumantharao lives though dead, for he had realized the immortality of the spirit in the perishable body.” 16

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I call myself a sanatani Hindu, because I believe in the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas and the writings left by the holy reformers. This belief does not require me to accept as authentic everything that passes as Shastras. I reject everything that contradicts the fundamental principles of morality. I am not required to accept the ipse dixit or the interpretations of pundits. Above all I call myself a sanatani Hindu, so long as Hindu society in general accepts me as such. In a concrete manner he is a Hindu who believes in God, immortality of the soul, transmigration, the law of Karma and moksha, and who tries to practice truth and ahimsa in daily life, and therefore practices cow-protection in its widest sense and understands and tries to act according to the law of varnashrama.” 17 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I could trace in that letter the same imperious will I knew so well when he was my bed-fellow. My faith in the immortality of the soul is more stable than ever. I know, therefore, that it is all well with him.”Death is but a sleep and a forgetting.” This is no poetic phrase with me and you. It is for Waldo a stepping stone to a higher life. May you, therefore, have the strength to bear the loss and find comfort in the thought that we must all go where Waldo has gone.” 18

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “May all your knowledge and your faith come to your assistance to give you courage and hope? If only our faith in the immortality of soul is real, nothing like death can matter. May God give you peace and strength?” 19 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “In the company of a saint, one’s suffering turns into welcome happiness, death into immortality and a dull person into a man of perfect illumination.” 20 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “How long will you grieve over Anil’s death? It does no good, either for the departed soul or for us, to brood over his qualities. Why should we not look at the matter from this angle? Anil’s soul is immortal. We were concerned only with his soul, not with his body. Had it been with the body we could have embalmed the corpse and preserved it for years? But we cremated the body upon the soul’s departure. In order to realize this and put it into practice, we need neither yogi nor anyone else. Yes, we needs must have faith in God and also in the immortality of the soul.” 21 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “We cannot follow their purity during their lifetime. But we ought to obtain such strength by remembering, in the true sense, his virtues. We find this happening in innumerable instances. That is why we shed the fear and sorrow of death when free from delusion and thus prove the immortality of the soul.” 22

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I admit that there was no guarantee that the calf would not recover. I have certainly known cases that were pronounced by doctors to be hopeless and were cured afterwards. But even so I hold that a man is bound to make the utmost use of his reason, circumscribed and poor as undoubtedly it is, and to try to penetrate the mists of ignorance by its light and try to act accordingly. And that is precisely what we do in countless cases in our everyday life. But strangely paradoxical as it may seem, it is nevertheless a fact that the moment we come to think of death the very idea frightens us out of our wits and entirely paralyses our reasoning faculty, although as Hindus we ought to be the least affected by the thought of death, since from the very cradle we are brought up on the doctrines of the immortality of the spirit and the transistorizes of the body. Even if it were found that my decision to poison the calf was wrong, it could have done no harm to the soul of the animal.” 23

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Having declared the highest truth, viz., the immortality of the eternal atman and the fleeting nature of the physical body (11-30), Krishna reminds Arjuna that a Kshatriya may not flinch from a fight which comes unsought (31-32). He then (32-37) shows how the highest truth and the performance of duty incidentally coincide with expediency. Next he proceeds to foreshadow the central teaching of the Gita in the following shloka.” 24 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Once the former is achieved, the rest will certainly follow. If this is not done, other things even if present, are useless, and very often difficulties crop up in the way of getting them or fraudulent practices have to be resorted to for that purpose. Today there are buildings in which only crows live. There are others which put the name ’Ashram’ to shame, where self-interest rather than the ideal of welfare, immortality rather than morality reigns.” 25

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “The event is sad but it is the kind of thing that is going on all the time. I have come to the conclusion that we needlessly regard death as a matter for sorrow. Like all other natural processes, death is also a necessary and beneficial phenomenon. Hence even to a person denying the existence of the soul or its attributes, it is no cause for fear, and it is much less so for one who believes in the soul and its immortality.” 26 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “When we are required to assume leadership only for service, we should do even that and carry on the work. It may be that faith begins as faith in the doer but it should be transformed into faith in his work. Only then can we feel satisfied. The doer lives for a while and is no more; he is only an instrument. Actions live forever. Where is Harishchandra now? But truth has always been, and is and will be. Harishchandra’s immortality is the result of his action in the service of truth. Truth existed even before he was born. He served only as an instrument. Fix this thought in your mind with the help of other examples; the goblin of despair will then run away from you.” 27

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “A life of sacrifice is the pinnacle of art and is full of true joy. Such life is the source of ever fresh springs of joy which never dry up and never satiate. Yajna is not yajna if one feels it to be burdensome or annoying. Self-indulgence leads to destruction and renunciation to immortality. Joy has no independent existence. It depends upon our attitude to life. One man will enjoy theatrical scenery, another ever new scene which unfolds them in the sky. Joy, therefore, is a matter of education. We shall delight in things which we have been taught to delight in as children. And illustrations can be easily cited of different national tastes.” 28 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Even the best of doctors cannot confer immortality on anyone. Therefore, in my view you and everyone else should give expression to your filial love by dwelling on the virtues of the departed and emulating them and you should devote all your energies for the cause of the motherland. Please discuss this with your father. If what I say appeals to you show this to your father and seek his consent for dedicating yourself to the work of service. Of course you had already made such a dedication. But the death of your mother has created a new situation and reconsideration may be the duty. However, if my advice does not appeal to you, you may use the letter to Ghanshyamdasji and earnestly try to earn a livelihood. I shall not be distressed thereby. Consult Prabhavati also. Keep writing to me and if at any time you need my help let me know. If it is not beyond my power I will help you.” 29

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Such a sati would refuse to give way to wild grief at the death of her husband but would ever strive to make her late husband’s ideals and virtues live again in her actions and thereby win for him the crown of immortality. Knowing that the soul of him whom she married is not dead but still lives she will never think of remarrying.

 

  Q. Do you then believe in the personal immortality of the soul?

 

Mahatma Gandhi answered, “Yes, I believe in the immortality of the soul. I would like to give you the analogy of the ocean. The ocean is composed of drops of water, each drop is an entity and yet it is part of the whole, ‘the one and the many’. In this ocean of life we are all little drops. My doctrine means that I must identify myself with life, with everything that lives, that I must share the majesty of life in the presence of God. The sum total of this life is God.” 30 

 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “We may leave aside the Gita’s philosophy about the immortality of the atman. But the immortality which I have explained can be witnessed with our ordinary eyes. You must not, therefore, fall into panic. Act in a manner which will do honour to yourself and to the cause. Surrender yourself and all that you possess to God, and be happy and ever remain so. I have no time today to write to the mischievous Om and the wise Madalasa.” 31 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I see that you are once more enjoying the company of birds and animals. Frogs have somehow or other appeared to me helpless creatures. They can’t run, they can’t fly and thus become an easy prey to the wily cat. And they seem to look at you so appealingly in their helplessness. The monkey on the other hand never excites my pity. He is a most resourceful and mischievous fellow and takes delight in overreaching you. He has no such thing as thankfulness in him. And yet I suppose all this is imagination or ignorance! If we thrive on knowledge, we seem somehow to do so on ignorance and imagination too. ‘It is folly to be wise when ignorance is bliss.’ And the shortest and the oldest Upanishad says, “He overcomes death through ignorance and mounts to immortality through knowledge.” 32

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “These sentiments seem to me to be natural. The contrast between the two is too striking to be missed. The one was ready to drop off like a fully ripe fruit. The other had yet to ripen and mature. Life still lay before Mahadev as ordinary standards go. He had aimed at living up to a hundred years. The amount of material that he had piled up in his voluminous note-books called for years of patient labour to work up and he had hoped to do all that. In his trunk was found a memo of my talks taken down on the day previous to his final end. Probably, none besides me can today make them out, and even I don’t know to what use he would have put them. He was a living example of the wise, which live and work as if they were born to immortality and everlasting youth.” 33

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “There are several things in this prayer which are worthy of your note but I want to draw your attention to that particular portion of it which pledged the recite to adherence to Truth in speech and action under all circumstances and at all times. One mantra means: “Lead me from untruth to Truth, from darkness to Light, from death to Immortality.” Similarly the Islamic prayer, which has just been recited, is an outpouring of the soul for Light and for being guided on to the straight path of Truth and Righteousness. This quest for Truth is the Alpha and Omega of all education.” 34 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “To gain immortality through divine endowment is not a big thing. To fulfil our obligations in daily life is.” 35

 

References:

 

  1. VOL. 6: 5 NOVEMBER, 1906 - 12 JUNE, 1907 333
  2.   Indian Opinion, 9-11-1907
  3.   Indian Opinion, 4-4-1908
  4.   Mahadevbhaini Diary, Vol. IV
  5. Navajivan, 29-2-1920
  6.   Navajivan, 16-1-1921
  7. Navajivan, 6-2-1921
  8.   LETTER TO SHANKERLAL BANKER, March 19 1921
  9.   Navajivan, 13-11-1921
  10. Navajivan, 19-2-1922
  11. Young India, 2-3-1922
  12.   Navajivan 5-3-1922
  13.   Navajivan, 30-11-1924
  14. Young India, 29-1-1925
  15.   Mahadevbhaini Diary, Vol. VII, pp. 137.
  16.   Young India, 25-3-1926
  17.   Young India, 14-10-1926
  18. LETTER TO MR. AND MRS. POLAK, October 26, 1926
  19. LETTER TO KSHITISH CHANDRA DAS GUPTA, After February 19, 1927
  20. Hindi Navajivan, 8-9-1927
  21. LETTER TO HEMAPRABHA DEVI DAS GUPTA, September 26, 1927
  22. Navajivan, 1-7-1928
  23.   Young India, 11-10-1928
  24.   VOL. 46: 12 MAY, 1929 - 31 AUGUST, 1929 177
  25.   Navajivan, 15-9-1929
  26.   LETTER TO RATILAL SHAH, July 20, 1930
  27.   LETTER TO VASUMATI PANDIT, August 2, 1930
  28.   LETTER TO NARANDAS GANDHI, October 23/28, 1930
  29. LETTER TO JAYAPRAKASH NARAYAN, November 1, 1930
  30. Young India, 21-5-1931
  31. LETTER TO JANAKIDEVI BAJAJ, September 19, 1932
  32. LETTER TO MIRABEHN, March 11, 1933
  33. The Hindu, 12-8-1944
  34. The Hindu, 5-12-1944
  35. May 9, 1946

 

 

 

 

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