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. – 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

 

 

St. Francis and Mahatma Gandhi

 

 

 

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “A great Christian, St. Francis Xavier, passionately prayed that his mind might always remain pure for him devotion to God was not for enjoying a higher seat after death. He prayed because it was man’s duty to pray. The great Saint Theresa wished to have a torch in her right hand and a vessel of water in her left, so that with the one she might burn the glories of heaven and with the other extinguish the fires of hell, and men might learn to serve God from love alone without fear of hell and without temptation of heavenly bliss. To preserve morality thus demands a brave man prepared to face even death. It is cowardice to be true to friends and to break faith with enemies. Those who do well out of fear and haltingly have no moral virtue. Henry Clay, known for his kind lines, sacrificed his convictions to his ambition. Daniel Webster, for all his great intellect and his sense of the heroic and the sublime, once sold his intellectual integrity for a price. By a single mean act he wiped out all his good deeds. This shows how difficult it is to judge the morality of a man’s action because we cannot penetrate the depths of his mind. We have also the answer to the question raised at the outset in this chapter: what is a moral action? Incidentally, we also saw which kind of men could live up to that morality.” 1

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “St. Francis was a great Yogi in Europe. He used to wander in the forests among reptiles, etc., but they never harmed him. On the contrary, they were friends with him. Thousands of Jogis and fakirs live in the forests of India. They move fearlessly among tigers, wolves, snakes, etc., and one never hears of their coming to any harm on that account. It might be argued that there must be casualties even among them through snake-bites, or predatory animals; this is very likely. We know, though, that in comparison with the great number of reptiles, etc., the jogis and fakirs are so few that if these deadly creatures were set on destroying them, not one of them would survive. We are told and we believe it to be true that these jogis and fakirs keep no weapons with which to withstand these beasts. This proves that some dreaded beasts are friendly to or, at any rate; do not touch some Jogis and fakirs. I personally feel that when we rid ourselves of all enmity towards any living creatures, the latter also cease to regard us with hate. Compassion or love is man’s greatest excellence. Without this he cannot cultivate love of God. We come to realize in all the religions, more or less clearly, that compassion is the root of the higher life.” 2

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Our shastras seem to teach that a man who really practices ahimsa in its fullness has the world at his feet, he so affects his surroundings that even the snakes and other venomous reptiles do him no harm. This is said to have been the experience of St. Francis of Assisi.” 3 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I am glad you have taken Surendra in hand. It is criminal how he neglects his body. Even St. Francis, though he called his body an ass, took some care of it. And after all the ass is a most useful and patient animal. The brother ass can be equally useful if properly treated and neither pampered nor neglected.” 4

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I was glad to get your letter. Personally I was very happy that all of you were given a taste of the Government’s kindness. If the experience does not make us angry but, on the contrary, fills our heart with compassion for the other party, and if we are as ready as ever to welcome more such experience, we shall have realized the true aim of our life. If anybody abused St. Francis, he would smile gently and thank God that He did not inspire that person to assault him, and if anybody assaulted him he would thank God that He did not inspire the latter to kill him outright. If anybody attempted to kill him, St. Francis would say that after all he did not try to torture him. The point is that he who has overcome love for his body and looks upon it only as an instrument will never be affected in his mind by anybody injuring his body.” 5

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I got your mail in due time. I send with this a beautiful letter received from a lady living in an ashram like ours in Italy. All the workers in that Ashram are women. The letter will give you some idea of the devotion and patience with which they work. Explain its contents to all the inmates, particularly to the women. Tell them at the same time about St. Francis. Mahadev once wrote a sketch of his life for Navajivan. Maybe you have read it. I have requested these ladies to write a letter directly to the Ashram. If you get any letter from them, reply to it. If, on reading this letter, you wish to write to them immediately, you may do so without waiting for a letter from them. But please don’t think that you must write. For all I know, they may have written a letter directly to the Ashram.” 6 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I had sent to you, when you were [in the Camp Jail] here, a book named Flowers of St. Francis. Have you or anybody else taken it away? Mohanlal writes to tell me that he cannot find it among the books with him. And it has not been returned to me. Please look for it. Its special value lies in the fact that it was received as a gift from a lady in Europe and contained her good wishes. A few passages in it are also marked. Don’t mind if you cannot recollect where it is.” 7

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I hope that Shelat’s children have recovered. I know from a letter of Chhaganlal Joshi that Shelat has got a book entitled Flowers of St. Francis. If he has it, get it from him and send it to me with somebody who may be coming here. Its value lies in the fact that it was a loving gift from somebody.” 8 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I have not received Flowers of St. Francis. You need not, however, send it if it is with you. I have been able to get another copy.” 9 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I sent you a card telling you that I have received the book The Little Plays of St. Francis. I got on to one of the plays marked by you, I suppose, and perhaps that is all the progress I shall have made with it. It is a hopeless thing for me to try to read or do anything outside the work in front of me.” 10

 

References:

 

  1. Indian Opinion, 19-1-1907
  2. Indian Opinion, 9-8-1913
  3. ON AHIMSA: REPLY TO LALA LAJPAT RAI, October, 1916
  4. LETTER TO MIRABEHN, December 20, 1930
  5. LETTER TO KANTI GANDHI, January 23, 1932
  6. LETTER TO NARANDAS GANDHI, August 11/15, 1932
  7. LETTER TO CHHAGANLAL JOSHI, September 4, 1932
  8. LETTER TO NARANDAS GANDHI, Before November 13 /14, 1932
  9. LETTER TO NARANDAS GANDHI, December 5, 1932
  10.   LETTER TO F. MARY BARR, January 26, 1933

 

 

 

 

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