The Essence of Hinduism - Mahatma Gandhi

The Essence of Hinduism - Mahatma Gandhi

The Essence of Hinduism - Mahatma Gandhi

241 Pages ·2011·867 KB ·English

The Essence of Hinduism - Mahatma Gandhi

THE ESSENCE OF HINDUISM


By


M. K. GANDHI


Complied and edited by


V. B. KHER


NAVAJIVAN PUBLISHING HOUSE


AHMEDABAD-380 014 Fifty Rupees


The Navajivan Trust, 1987


First Edition, 2,000 Copies, August, 1987


Second Edition, Copies, May, 1996


Printer and Publisher


Jitendra T. Desai


Navajivan Mudranalaya


Ahmedabad-380 014 TO THE READER


I would like to say to the diligent reader of my writings and to


others who are interested in them that I am not at all concerned with


appearing to be consistent. In my search after Truth I have discarded


many ideas and learnt many new things. Old as I am in age, I have no


feeling that I have ceased to grow inwardly or that my growth will


stop at the dissolution of the flesh. What I am concerned with  is my


readiness to obey the call of Truth, my God, from moment to moment,


and therefore, when anybody finds any inconsistency between any two


writings of mine, if he has still faith in my sanity, he would do well to


choose the later of the two on the same subject.


M. K. Gandhi


Harijan, 29-4-1933, p. 2


[iii] [iv]


EDITORIAL NOTE


Hinduism differs from other faiths like Christianity and Islam in


two ways. First of all, it does not believe in any dogma and rejects the


exclusive claim of any individual, however highly evolved, to the


monopoly  of  Truth.  It  believes  that  the  Supreme  Being  may  be


approached  through  several  paths  such  as  Knowledge  (Dnyana),


Devotion (Bhakti), Action (Karma), and Yoga (Psychical Control). In


fact, in actual life, the path trodden by a seeker may be a combination


of two or more of these disciplines, depending on the choice of the


individual in consonance with his temperament aptitude and attitude.


Hinduism is not founded by any individual; it has grown or evolved


naturally,  and,  therefore,  remains  gloriously  undefined.  In  fact,  it


cannot be defined precisely as any other religion can be. However, the


following description thereof by a foreign thinker is nearer the mark


than any other: HInduism “is hardly a dogma but a working hypothesis


of human conduct adapted to different stages of spiritual development


and different conditions of life”. Starting with this working definition,


let us probe a little more into the subject.


What is really meant by Dharma or Religion? Broadly speaking,


the  universal  moral  law  governing  both  the  sacred  and  temporal


aspects of human life is known as Dharma. Confucius has described in


very significant and profound words how the universal moral law


operates. He says:


“The ordinance of God is what we call the law of our being. To


fulfil the law of our being is what we call the moral law. The moral


law when reduced to a system is what we call religion.


“The moral law is a law from whose operation we cannot for


one instant in our existence escape. A law from which we escape is


not  the  moral  law.  Wherefore  it  is  that  the  moral  man  watches


diligently. . . over his secret thoughts.


“When the passions such as joy, anger, grief and pleasure have


not  awakened,  that  is  our  true  self,  or  moral  being.  When  these


passions awaken and each and all attain due measure and degree, that


is the moral order. Our true self or moral being is the great reality of


existence, and moral order is the universal law in the world.


[iv] [v]


“When    true  moral  being  and  moral  order  are  realized,  the


universe then becomes a cosmos and all things attain their full growth


and development.”1


The above question succinctly brings out how integration of the


moral being and moral order alone can usher in the universe the


Kingdom of Heaven.


It is undeniable that a Law  of Power higher than human will


regulates events. We may all have our different definitions of the Law


or Power. In fact, there would be as many definitions of the Law as


there are men and women. “But beyond all that variety of definitions


there would be a certain sameness which would be unmistakable. For


the root is one.” Gandhiji describes the Law as “that indefinable


something which we all feel but which we do not know”. If it were


possible for the human tongue to give the fullest description of that


Law or Power in one word, Gandhiji would call it TRUTH,  as it


tends  to  disaram  any  criticism  naturally.  And  a  continuous  and


relentless search, after Truth would by the  summum bonum of human


life.


Speaking of this conception of the scientific ideal in his famous


letter to Charles Kingsley, T. H. Huxley observed, “Sit down before


fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion,


follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses Nature  leads or you


shall  learn  nothing.”  This  pursuit  of  Truth  is  also  the  ideal  of


Hinduism though the means for discovery of physical and spiritual


laws  must  naturally  vary  but  the  basic  scientific  attitude  and


temperament  are  identical  in  both  the  cases.  A  scientist  tries  to


understand the ultimate Truth through a series of steps, meticulously


analysing each step. But in ancient India sages  went straight to the


Reality  with  the  help  of  certain  mental  paradigms  (meditation


formulae).2  Says  Paul  Deussen,  “That  India  more  than  any  other


country  is  the  land  of  symbols  is  owing  to  the  nature  of  Indian


thought, which applied itself to the most abstruse problems before it


was even remotely in a position to treat them intelligently.”3


The  advice  of  Buddha,  one  of  the  greatest  of  Hindus,  to


Kalamas, a Kshatriya tribe of Kosaldesh, was also in keeping with this


scientific ideal. He said, “Do not accept what I have said to you


1 Juan Mascaro, Lamps of Fire, Methuen, London, 1961, p. 32.


2 Prabuddha Bharat, Editorial, May 1981, p. 202 at p. 206


3 Paul Deussen, The Philosophy of the Upanishads, Dover Publication


Inc., New York, 1950, p. 120 [vi]


because it has been so said in the past; do not accept it because it has


been handed down by tradition; do not accept it thinking it may be so;


do not accept it because it is also in the holy scriptures; do not accept


it because it can be proved by inference; do not accept it  thinking it is


wordly wisdom; do not accept it because it seems to be plausible; do


not accept it because it is said by a famous or holy monk; but if you


find that it appeals to your sense of discrimination and conscience as


being conducive to your benefit and happiness, then accept it and live


up to it.”


When stoning to death for apostasy was sought to be defended


by heads of many Islamic bodies as being enjoined in the Koran,


Gandhiji  questioned  the  morality  of  the  method  under  any


circumstance whatsoever and wrote in a forthright manner:


“Every formula of every religion has, in this age of reason, to


submit to the acid test of reason and universal justice if it is to ask for


universal assent. Error can claim no exemption even if it can be


supported by the scriptures of the world.” (Young India, 20-2-1925, p.


74)


“I would like to say that even the teachings themselves of the


Koran cannot be exempt from criticism. Every true scripture only


gains by criticism. After all we have no other guide but our reason to


tell us what may be regarded as revealed and what may not be. ... I


fully endorse the Maulana’s statement that error is a relative term. But


we know as a matter of fact that some things are universally accepted


as errors. Death by torture is, I expect, such an error.” (Young India, 5-


3-1925, p. 181)


“Everything has to submit to the test of reason. . . . There are


undoubtedly things in the world which transcend reason. We do not


refuse to bring them on the anvil of reason but they will not come


themselves. By their very nature they defy reason. Such is the mystery


of the Deity. It is not inconsistent with reason, it is beyond it.” (Young


India, 26-3-1925, p. 110)


The above extracts from Gandhiji’s articles truly sum up the


attitude of Hinduism to the questions which arise for decision in the


application of the criterion of Truth to matters pertaining to public


morality and general humanity.


The Hindu classical religious thought is classified under two


groups,  viz.  Shrutis  and  Smritis including  Dharmashastra.  Shrutis


which include Vedas and Upanishads contain knowledge of ‘Reality


As It Is’ which can be verified and is universal in its character. As [vii]


such  it  may  be  characterised  as  PHILOSOPHIA  PERENNIS    or


Perennial  Philosophy.  “The  Perennial  Philosophy  is  primarily


concerned with the one, divine Reality substantial to the manifold


world of things and lives and minds. But the nature of this one Reality


is such that it cannot be directly and immediately apprehended except


by  those  who  have  chosen  to  fulfil  certain  conditions,  making


themselves loving, pure in heart, and poor in spirit. Why should this


be so? We do not know. It is just one of those facts which we have to


accept, whether we like them or not and however implausible and


unlikely they may seem. . . . It is only be making physical experiments


that we can discover the intimate nature of matter and its potentialities.


And it is only by making psychological and moral experiments that we


can discover the intimate nature of mind and its potentialities. In the


ordinary circumstances of average sensual life these potentialities of


the mind remain latent and unmanifested. If we would realize them, we


must fulfil certain conditions and obey certain rules, which experience


has shown empirically to be valid.”4


The eternal Truth may also be explained in another way. “This


great Universe is pervaded by the Spirit. The Spirit (Self) is one


unmoving; He (It) is swifter than the mind. The senses cannot reach


Him (It). He (It) is ever beyond them. Unmoving, He (It) outruns the


pursuit by senses. Out of the Spirit (Self) comes the breath that is the


life of all things. He (It) moves and He (It) moves not. He (It) is  far,


and He (It) is near. He  (It)  is within all, and He (It) is outside all.”


(Ishopanishad, 4 and 5). In other words, the Spirit or the Power that


sustains the Universe is immanent, universal and transcendental. But


that Spirit which is consciousness raised to infinity, in order to become


immanent, must rule and transform the human heart. With Nishkama


Karma or desireless action and pure and single-minded devotion, the


seeker  of  Truth  can  overcome  death  and  with  the  transcendental


knowledge can have direct perception of the Divine Reality and attain


immortality. (Ishopanishad, 11 and 14)


Smirits derive  their origin and also authority from a personal


founder and deal with social and religious rules and regulations. These


laws can be modified or altered, as a code that sustains the society in


one  age  may  choke  it  in  another  age.  And  as  socio-economic


conditions  change  with  the  changing  technology,  which  in  turn


influence  the  political  structure,  laws  need  to  be  recast  and


4.  Aldous  Huxley,  The  Perennial  Philosophy,  Chatto  &  Windus,


London, 1946, Introduction, pp. 2-3 [viii]


reinterpreted in the light of the milieu and context of the changing


conditions. If the laws do not keep pace with or are out of step with


the changing conditions, they can be the cause of strangling the social


organism or of social upheavals, sometimes violent and bloody. So it


is prudent and in social interest to leave the formulation, amendment


and reinterpretation of laws to the political constitutions and social


conscience. That’s how the Hindu Law has been codified by the Loka


Sabha after the attainment of independence by India, to bring it in line


with the modern life, conditions and ideas.


The division of religious thought into the Knowledge of the


Spirit or Divine Reality and the Religious and Social Code of Conduct


is a unique feature of Hinduism and is not to be found in other


religions said to be ‘revealed’. The wisdom of this course of action


can be studied from the record of Hinduism. No wars have been


fought  in  the  name  of  Hinduism  (which  includes  Buddhism  and


Jainism) unlike the medieval religious crusades between Islamic and


Christian potentates. Nor have there been any inquisitions in Hinduism


for questioning any religious belief. Even though, Buddhism was the


State Religion of the kingdom founded by Ashoka, the wisest and the


greatest king in human history, it was truly secular in outlook and did


not discriminate against Hindusim and Jainism. It was again a Hindu


king in Gujarat who gave shelter to Parsis when they fled from Persia


to escape religious persecution at the hands of Muslim zealots.


The flexibility and catholicity of Hindu civilization enables her


“at once to renew herself in terms of her own essential nature and to


change herself so as to bring herself in harmony with the form of age


in which we live. In plain terms, the ancient Indian spirit takes on a


new form without ceasing to be itself. India’s religions have all been


natural religions. They have grown and prospered naturally. They were


not self-aware because they were expressions of the cosmic reality.


They did not define themselves. But when the Christian challenge


arose,  they  had  to  define  themselves.  They  did.  Lokamanya’s,


Gandhiji’s and Aurobindo’s commentaries on the Gita were part of


that effort at self-definition. . . . The Gita and the two epics, Ramayana


and Mahabharata, now sell in lakhs of copies year after year. This


intellectualization of the life of the Spirit, if we may so describe this


phenomenon, has deprived it of some of its natural flow but it has also


given a strength which is valuable in our days.”5


Contrasting the response of the world of Arab-Islam to Western


culture, Girilal Jain opines that refusing to be similarly creative and [ix]


flexible in the interpretation of the Koran, the Hadith and the Sunnah,


it has not only denied itself a similar advantage but as a result, fallen


into a deep state of shock and despair. It is undeniable that because a


large  majority  of  Indians  profess  Hinduism  that  democracy  has


succeeded in India while it has failed to take roots in other countries


of the third world. Hinduism abhors stagnation. Hinduism is like the


mighty Ganges which has been joined in its onward flow by other


streams and tributaries. Unfortunately Islam and Christianity which


came to India as appendages of foreign conquerors, did not mingle


with  the  main  stream  though  they  undoubtedly  inter-acted  with


Hinduism and influenced each other.


Another distinctive feature of Hinduism is the doctrine of karma


and rebirth. Transmigration is not a theory but a fact. Gandhiji also


believed  in  further  life  and  in  the  continuity  of  karma    through


successive births. What we sow here, we must reap here and elsewhere


–  there  is  no  escape.  The  law  of  karma  is  relentless.  However,


repentance even during one’s last moments will wash away sin and


sterilize it of consequences. Among Hinduism’s contributions to the


world are the ideas of man’s identity with the dumb creation and four


ashramas. The reader will find references to these and many other


ideas in the pages of this Book.


One of the texts in the Smritis says that whatever is followed by


the  learned,  the  good  and  those  who  are  free  from  anger  and


attachment and whatever is experienced in the heart is dharma or


religion. Gandhiji though not an acharya or an erudite scholar like Adi


Shankaracharya, is the authentic voice of age-old Hinduism in modern


times  who  has  given  it  a  new  turn  and  direction.  He  called  his


autobiography The Story of My Experiments with Truth. He found


after a long, arduous and relentless search for Truth that Hinduism


satisfied all his highest moral aspirations and he found solace and a


friend, guide and philosopher in the Bhagavad Gita. He says, “It (the


Gita) is accepted by all Hindu  sects as authoritative. It is free from


any form of dogma. In a short compass it gives a complete reasoned


moral code. It satisfies both the intellect and the heart. It is thus both


philosophical and devotional. Its appeal is universal. The language is


incredibly simple.”


To all Gandhiji recommends without any hesitation Nama and


prayer  for  purification  of  their  minds  and    transcending


5. Girilal Jain, ‘Assessing India’s Progress’, Times of India, Bombay,


dated 15-8-1986


THE ESSENCE OF HINDUISM


By


M. K. GANDHI


Complied and edited by


V. B. KHER


NAVAJIVAN PUBLISHING HOUSE


AHMEDABAD-380 014 Fifty Rupees


The Navajivan Trust, 1987


First Edition, 2,000 Copies, August, 1987


Second Edition, Copies, May, 1996


Printer and Publisher


Jitendra T. Desai


Navajivan Mudranalaya


Ahmedabad-380 014 TO THE READER


I would like to say to the diligent reader of my writings and to


others who are interested in them that I am not at all concerned with


appearing to be consistent. In my search after Truth I have discarded


many ideas and learnt many new things. Old as I am in age, I have no


feeling that I have ceased to grow inwardly or that my growth will


stop at the dissolution of the flesh. What I am concerned with  is my


readiness to obey the call of Truth, my God, from moment to moment,


and therefore, when anybody finds any inconsistency between any two


writings of mine, if he has still faith in my sanity, he would do well to


choose the later of the two on the same subject.


M. K. Gandhi


Harijan, 29-4-1933, p. 2


[iii] [iv]


EDITORIAL NOTE


Hinduism differs from other faiths like Christianity and Islam in


two ways. First of all, it does not believe in any dogma and rejects the


exclusive claim of any individual, however highly evolved, to the


monopoly  of  Truth.  It  believes  that  the  Supreme  Being  may  be


approached  through  several  paths  such  as  Knowledge  (Dnyana),


Devotion (Bhakti), Action (Karma), and Yoga (Psychical Control). In


fact, in actual life, the path trodden by a seeker may be a combination


of two or more of these disciplines, depending on the choice of the


individual in consonance with his temperament aptitude and attitude.


Hinduism is not founded by any individual; it has grown or evolved


naturally,  and,  therefore,  remains  gloriously  undefined.  In  fact,  it


cannot be defined precisely as any other religion can be. However, the


following description thereof by a foreign thinker is nearer the mark


than any other: HInduism “is hardly a dogma but a working hypothesis


of human conduct adapted to different stages of spiritual development


and different conditions of life”. Starting with this working definition,


let us probe a little more into the subject.


What is really meant by Dharma or Religion? Broadly speaking,


the  universal  moral  law  governing  both  the  sacred  and  temporal


aspects of human life is known as Dharma. Confucius has described in


very significant and profound words how the universal moral law


operates. He says:


“The ordinance of God is what we call the law of our being. To


fulfil the law of our being is what we call the moral law. The moral


law when reduced to a system is what we call religion.


“The moral law is a law from whose operation we cannot for


one instant in our existence escape. A law from which we escape is


not  the  moral  law.  Wherefore  it  is  that  the  moral  man  watches


diligently. . . over his secret thoughts.


“When the passions such as joy, anger, grief and pleasure have


not  awakened,  that  is  our  true  self,  or  moral  being.  When  these


passions awaken and each and all attain due measure and degree, that


is the moral order. Our true self or moral being is the great reality of


existence, and moral order is the universal law in the world.


[iv] [v]


“When    true  moral  being  and  moral  order  are  realized,  the


universe then becomes a cosmos and all things attain their full growth


and development.”1


The above question succinctly brings out how integration of the


moral being and moral order alone can usher in the universe the


Kingdom of Heaven.


It is undeniable that a Law  of Power higher than human will


regulates events. We may all have our different definitions of the Law


or Power. In fact, there would be as many definitions of the Law as


there are men and women. “But beyond all that variety of definitions


there would be a certain sameness which would be unmistakable. For


the root is one.” Gandhiji describes the Law as “that indefinable


something which we all feel but which we do not know”. If it were


possible for the human tongue to give the fullest description of that


Law or Power in one word, Gandhiji would call it TRUTH,  as it


tends  to  disaram  any  criticism  naturally.  And  a  continuous  and


relentless search, after Truth would by the  summum bonum of human


life.


Speaking of this conception of the scientific ideal in his famous


letter to Charles Kingsley, T. H. Huxley observed, “Sit down before


fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion,


follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses Nature  leads or you


shall  learn  nothing.”  This  pursuit  of  Truth  is  also  the  ideal  of


Hinduism though the means for discovery of physical and spiritual


laws  must  naturally  vary  but  the  basic  scientific  attitude  and


temperament  are  identical  in  both  the  cases.  A  scientist  tries  to


understand the ultimate Truth through a series of steps, meticulously


analysing each step. But in ancient India sages  went straight to the


Reality  with  the  help  of  certain  mental  paradigms  (meditation


formulae).2  Says  Paul  Deussen,  “That  India  more  than  any  other


country  is  the  land  of  symbols  is  owing  to  the  nature  of  Indian


thought, which applied itself to the most abstruse problems before it


was even remotely in a position to treat them intelligently.”3


The  advice  of  Buddha,  one  of  the  greatest  of  Hindus,  to


Kalamas, a Kshatriya tribe of Kosaldesh, was also in keeping with this


scientific ideal. He said, “Do not accept what I have said to you


1 Juan Mascaro, Lamps of Fire, Methuen, London, 1961, p. 32.


2 Prabuddha Bharat, Editorial, May 1981, p. 202 at p. 206


3 Paul Deussen, The Philosophy of the Upanishads, Dover Publication


Inc., New York, 1950, p. 120 [vi]


because it has been so said in the past; do not accept it because it has


been handed down by tradition; do not accept it thinking it may be so;


do not accept it because it is also in the holy scriptures; do not accept


it because it can be proved by inference; do not accept it  thinking it is


wordly wisdom; do not accept it because it seems to be plausible; do


not accept it because it is said by a famous or holy monk; but if you


find that it appeals to your sense of discrimination and conscience as


being conducive to your benefit and happiness, then accept it and live


up to it.”


When stoning to death for apostasy was sought to be defended


by heads of many Islamic bodies as being enjoined in the Koran,


Gandhiji  questioned  the  morality  of  the  method  under  any


circumstance whatsoever and wrote in a forthright manner:


“Every formula of every religion has, in this age of reason, to


submit to the acid test of reason and universal justice if it is to ask for


universal assent. Error can claim no exemption even if it can be


supported by the scriptures of the world.” (Young India, 20-2-1925, p.


74)


“I would like to say that even the teachings themselves of the


Koran cannot be exempt from criticism. Every true scripture only


gains by criticism. After all we have no other guide but our reason to


tell us what may be regarded as revealed and what may not be. ... I


fully endorse the Maulana’s statement that error is a relative term. But


we know as a matter of fact that some things are universally accepted


as errors. Death by torture is, I expect, such an error.” (Young India, 5-


3-1925, p. 181)


“Everything has to submit to the test of reason. . . . There are


undoubtedly things in the world which transcend reason. We do not


refuse to bring them on the anvil of reason but they will not come


themselves. By their very nature they defy reason. Such is the mystery


of the Deity. It is not inconsistent with reason, it is beyond it.” (Young


India, 26-3-1925, p. 110)


The above extracts from Gandhiji’s articles truly sum up the


attitude of Hinduism to the questions which arise for decision in the


application of the criterion of Truth to matters pertaining to public


morality and general humanity.


The Hindu classical religious thought is classified under two


groups,  viz.  Shrutis  and  Smritis including  Dharmashastra.  Shrutis


which include Vedas and Upanishads contain knowledge of ‘Reality


As It Is’ which can be verified and is universal in its character. As [vii]


such  it  may  be  characterised  as  PHILOSOPHIA  PERENNIS    or


Perennial  Philosophy.  “The  Perennial  Philosophy  is  primarily


concerned with the one, divine Reality substantial to the manifold


world of things and lives and minds. But the nature of this one Reality


is such that it cannot be directly and immediately apprehended except


by  those  who  have  chosen  to  fulfil  certain  conditions,  making


themselves loving, pure in heart, and poor in spirit. Why should this


be so? We do not know. It is just one of those facts which we have to


accept, whether we like them or not and however implausible and


unlikely they may seem. . . . It is only be making physical experiments


that we can discover the intimate nature of matter and its potentialities.


And it is only by making psychological and moral experiments that we


can discover the intimate nature of mind and its potentialities. In the


ordinary circumstances of average sensual life these potentialities of


the mind remain latent and unmanifested. If we would realize them, we


must fulfil certain conditions and obey certain rules, which experience


has shown empirically to be valid.”4


The eternal Truth may also be explained in another way. “This


great Universe is pervaded by the Spirit. The Spirit (Self) is one


unmoving; He (It) is swifter than the mind. The senses cannot reach


Him (It). He (It) is ever beyond them. Unmoving, He (It) outruns the


pursuit by senses. Out of the Spirit (Self) comes the breath that is the


life of all things. He (It) moves and He (It) moves not. He (It) is  far,


and He (It) is near. He  (It)  is within all, and He (It) is outside all.”


(Ishopanishad, 4 and 5). In other words, the Spirit or the Power that


sustains the Universe is immanent, universal and transcendental. But


that Spirit which is consciousness raised to infinity, in order to become


immanent, must rule and transform the human heart. With Nishkama


Karma or desireless action and pure and single-minded devotion, the


seeker  of  Truth  can  overcome  death  and  with  the  transcendental


knowledge can have direct perception of the Divine Reality and attain


immortality. (Ishopanishad, 11 and 14)


Smirits derive  their origin and also authority from a personal


founder and deal with social and religious rules and regulations. These


laws can be modified or altered, as a code that sustains the society in


one  age  may  choke  it  in  another  age.  And  as  socio-economic


conditions  change  with  the  changing  technology,  which  in  turn


influence  the  political  structure,  laws  need  to  be  recast  and


4.  Aldous  Huxley,  The  Perennial  Philosophy,  Chatto  &  Windus,


London, 1946, Introduction, pp. 2-3 [viii]


reinterpreted in the light of the milieu and context of the changing


conditions. If the laws do not keep pace with or are out of step with


the changing conditions, they can be the cause of strangling the social


organism or of social upheavals, sometimes violent and bloody. So it


is prudent and in social interest to leave the formulation, amendment


and reinterpretation of laws to the political constitutions and social


conscience. That’s how the Hindu Law has been codified by the Loka


Sabha after the attainment of independence by India, to bring it in line


with the modern life, conditions and ideas.


The division of religious thought into the Knowledge of the


Spirit or Divine Reality and the Religious and Social Code of Conduct


is a unique feature of Hinduism and is not to be found in other


religions said to be ‘revealed’. The wisdom of this course of action


can be studied from the record of Hinduism. No wars have been


fought  in  the  name  of  Hinduism  (which  includes  Buddhism  and


Jainism) unlike the medieval religious crusades between Islamic and


Christian potentates. Nor have there been any inquisitions in Hinduism


for questioning any religious belief. Even though, Buddhism was the


State Religion of the kingdom founded by Ashoka, the wisest and the


greatest king in human history, it was truly secular in outlook and did


not discriminate against Hindusim and Jainism. It was again a Hindu


king in Gujarat who gave shelter to Parsis when they fled from Persia


to escape religious persecution at the hands of Muslim zealots.


The flexibility and catholicity of Hindu civilization enables her


“at once to renew herself in terms of her own essential nature and to


change herself so as to bring herself in harmony with the form of age


in which we live. In plain terms, the ancient Indian spirit takes on a


new form without ceasing to be itself. India’s religions have all been


natural religions. They have grown and prospered naturally. They were


not self-aware because they were expressions of the cosmic reality.


They did not define themselves. But when the Christian challenge


arose,  they  had  to  define  themselves.  They  did.  Lokamanya’s,


Gandhiji’s and Aurobindo’s commentaries on the Gita were part of


that effort at self-definition. . . . The Gita and the two epics, Ramayana


and Mahabharata, now sell in lakhs of copies year after year. This


intellectualization of the life of the Spirit, if we may so describe this


phenomenon, has deprived it of some of its natural flow but it has also


given a strength which is valuable in our days.”5


Contrasting the response of the world of Arab-Islam to Western


culture, Girilal Jain opines that refusing to be similarly creative and [ix]


flexible in the interpretation of the Koran, the Hadith and the Sunnah,


it has not only denied itself a similar advantage but as a result, fallen


into a deep state of shock and despair. It is undeniable that because a


large  majority  of  Indians  profess  Hinduism  that  democracy  has


succeeded in India while it has failed to take roots in other countries


of the third world. Hinduism abhors stagnation. Hinduism is like the


mighty Ganges which has been joined in its onward flow by other


streams and tributaries. Unfortunately Islam and Christianity which


came to India as appendages of foreign conquerors, did not mingle


with  the  main  stream  though  they  undoubtedly  inter-acted  with


Hinduism and influenced each other.


Another distinctive feature of Hinduism is the doctrine of karma


and rebirth. Transmigration is not a theory but a fact. Gandhiji also


believed  in  further  life  and  in  the  continuity  of  karma    through


successive births. What we sow here, we must reap here and elsewhere


–  there  is  no  escape.  The  law  of  karma  is  relentless.  However,


repentance even during one’s last moments will wash away sin and


sterilize it of consequences. Among Hinduism’s contributions to the


world are the ideas of man’s identity with the dumb creation and four


ashramas. The reader will find references to these and many other


ideas in the pages of this Book.


One of the texts in the Smritis says that whatever is followed by


the  learned,  the  good  and  those  who  are  free  from  anger  and


attachment and whatever is experienced in the heart is dharma or


religion. Gandhiji though not an acharya or an erudite scholar like Adi


Shankaracharya, is the authentic voice of age-old Hinduism in modern


times  who  has  given  it  a  new  turn  and  direction.  He  called  his


autobiography The Story of My Experiments with Truth. He found


after a long, arduous and relentless search for Truth that Hinduism


satisfied all his highest moral aspirations and he found solace and a


friend, guide and philosopher in the Bhagavad Gita. He says, “It (the


Gita) is accepted by all Hindu  sects as authoritative. It is free from


any form of dogma. In a short compass it gives a complete reasoned


moral code. It satisfies both the intellect and the heart. It is thus both


philosophical and devotional. Its appeal is universal. The language is


incredibly simple.”


To all Gandhiji recommends without any hesitation Nama and


prayer  for  purification  of  their  minds  and    transcending


5. Girilal Jain, ‘Assessing India’s Progress’, Times of India, Bombay,


dated 15-8-1986


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