the Spirit of Mahatma Gandhi lives through every nonviolent action

The Cult of the Charkha and Gurudev Ravindra Nath Tagore

Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Gandhian Scholar

Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No. – 09415777229, 094055338




The Cult of the Charkha and Gurudev Ravindra Nath Tagore



Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray has marked me with his censure in printer’s ink, for that I have been unable to display enthusiasm in the turning of the charkha. But, because it is impossible for him to be pitiless to me, even when awarding punishment, he has provided me with a companion in my ignominy in the illustrious person of Acharya Brajendra Nath Seal. That has taken away the pain of it, and also given me fresh proof of the eternal human truth, that we are in agreement with some people and with some others we are not. It only proves that while creating man's mind, God did not have for his model the spider mentality doomed to a perpetual conformity in its production of web and that it is an outrage upon human nature to force it through a mill and reduce it to some standardized commodity of uniform size and shape and purpose.

Our Shastras tell us that the divine Shakti is many-sided, so that a host of different factors operate in the work of creation. In death these merge into sameness; for chaos alone is uniform. God has given to man the same many-sided Shakti, for which reason the civilizations of his creation have their divine wealth of diversity. It is God’s purpose that in the societies of man the various should be strung together into a garland of unity; while often the mortal providence of our public life, greedy for particular results, seeks to knead them all into a lump of uniformity. That is why we see in the concerns of this world so many identically liveried, machine-made workers, so many marionettes pulled by the same string: and on the other hand, wherever the human spirit has not been reduced to the coldness of collapse, we also see perpetual rebelliousness against this mechanical, mortar-pounded homogeneity. If in any country we find no symptom of such rebellion, if we find its people submissively or contentedly prone on the dust, in dumb terror of some master’s bludgeon, or blind acceptance of some guru’s injunction, then indeed should we know that for such a country, in extremis, it is high time to mourn. In our country this ominous process of being levelled down into sameness has long been at work. Every individual of every caste has his function assigned to him, together with the obsession into which he has been hypnotized, that, since he is bound by some divine mandate, accepted by his first ancestor; it would be sinful for him to seek relief there from. This imitation of the social scheme of ant life makes very easy the performance of petty routine duties, but especially difficult the attainment of manhood’s estate. It imparts skill to the limbs of the man who is a bondsman, whose labour is drudgery; but it kills the mind of a man who is a doer, whose work is creation. So in India, during long ages past, we have the spectacle of only a repetition of that which has gone before.

It was while some of us were thinking of the ways and means of adopting this principle in our institution that I came across the book called “The National Being” written by that Irish idealist who has a rare combination in himself of poetry and practical wisdom. There I could see a great concrete realization of the co-operative living of my dreams. It became vividly clear to me what varied results could flow there from, how full the life of man could be made thereby. I could understand how great the concrete truth was in any plane of life, the truth that in separation is bondage, in union is liberation. It has been said in the Upanishad that Brahma is reason, Brahma is spirit, but Anna also is Brahma, which means that Food also represents an eternal truth, and therefore through it we may arrive at a great realization, if we travel along the true path.

It is extremely distasteful to me to have to differ from Mahatma Gandhi in regard to any matter of principle or method. Not that, from a higher standpoint, there is anything wrong in so doing; but my heart shrinks from it. For what could be a greater joy than to join hands in the field of work with one for whom one has such love and reverence? Nothing is more wonderful to me than Mahatmaji great moral personality. In him divine Providence has given us a burning thunderbolt of Shakti. May this Shakti give power to India, not overwhelm her that is my prayer! The difference in our standpoints and temperaments has made the Mahatma look upon Rammohan Roy as a pigmy, while I revere him as a giant. The same difference makes the Mahatma’s field of work one which my conscience cannot accept as its own. That is a regret which will abide with me always. It is, however, God’s will that man’s paths of endeavour shall be various, else why these differences of mentality? How often have my personal feelings of regard strongly urged me to accept at Mahatma Gandhi’s hands my enlistment as a follower of the charkha cult, but as often have my reason and conscience restrained me, lest I should be a party to the raising of the charkha to a higher place than is its due, thereby distracting attention from other more important factors in our task of all-round reconstruction. I feel sure that Mahatmaji himself will not fail to understand me, and keep for me the same forbearance which he has always had. Acharya Roy, I also believe, has respect for independence of opinion, even when unpopular; so that, although when carried away by the fervour of his own propaganda he may now and then give me a scolding, I doubt not he retains for me a soft corner in his heart. As for my countrymen, the public accustomed as they are to drown, under the facile flow of their minds, both past services and past disservices done to them, if today they cannot find it in their hearts to forgive, they will forget tomorrow. Even if they do not, if for me their displeasure is fated to be permanent, then just as today I have Acharya Seal as my fellow-culprit, so tomorrow I may find at my side persons rejected by their own country whose radiance reveals the black unreality of any stigma of popular disapprobation.

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