October 2, 1997
It has not been sufficiently noticed in our country that Hinduism, as viewed by Gandhi, is nothing but spiritual secularism and a service-oriented way of life based upon the highest principles of ethics and morality. That was why he was able to assert without any hesitation that his devotion to truth had drawn him to politics and those who believed that religion had nothing to do with politics did not understand what religion meant.
Gandhi’s interpretation of Hinduism becomes clear from his reply to the three questions from Dr Radhakrishnan. The questions were: What is your religion? How are you led to it? What is its bearing on social life?Gandhi’s answer to the first question: “My religion is Hinduism which, for me, is the religion of humanity and includes the best of all religions known to me.”
To the second question, he said: “I take it that the present tense in this question has been purposely used, instead of the past. I am led to my religion through truth and non-violence. I often describe my religion as religion of truth. Of late, instead of saying God is Truth. I have been saying Truth is God. We are all sparks of truth. The sum total of these sparks is indescribable, as-yet unknown truth, which is God. I am daily led nearer to it by constant prayer.”
To the third question, Gandhi replied: “The bearing of this religion on social life is, or has to be, seen in one’s daily social contact. To be true to such religion, one has to lose oneself in continuous and continuing service of all in life. Realisation of truth is impossible without a complete merging of oneself in and identification with this limitless ocean of life. Hence, for me, there is no escape from social service; there is no happiness on earth beyond or apart from it. In this scheme, there is nothing low, nothing high. For all is one, though we seem to be many.”
Gandhi elaborated: “The deeper I study Hinduism, the stronger becomes the belief in me that Hinduism is as broad as the universe. Something within me tells me that, for all the deep veneration I show to several religions, I am all the more a Hindu, nonetheless for it.”
On the Mahatma’s 128th birthday, it seems necessary to bring home these fundamentals of his beliefs to the people of India, particularly to those who go on condemning Hinduism without even studying it and also to those members of the ruling elite whose attachment to fake and fraudulent `gods’ have made the country a den of corruption, callousness, confusion and criminality. They call Gandhi the Father of the Nation. And yet, in practice, they do everything to negate all his beliefs.
While religion has its influence in every country, it is more so in India. As Swami Vivekananda said, “in India, religious life forms the centre, the keynote of the whole music of national life. Take away religion from India; nothing would be left.” The need for building a healthy India demands that Hinduism, as seen by Gandhi, should not be ignored as an instrument of state policy.
Power can corrupt. But it can also ennoble. It can elevate the wielder to a higher pedestal and transform him into a nobler creature. The tragedy of contemporary India has been that power has largely remained in the hands of those who were seldom inspired by a nobler purpose. And those who have that purpose do not get the opportunity; rather, the system denies it. It is unfortunate that the ethical foundation of Hinduism, as interpreted by Gandhi, which could provide “an awakened conscience” to an individual and make him an honest, just and compassionate component of society, has been destroyed partly by the stink and slush of our past degeneration and partly by the type of spurious secularism which has been exploited in the post-Independence India.
Hinduism, as made clear by Gandhi, sees all human beings as “sparks of truth/divinity”. It doesn’t go against any other religion. Nor is it incompatible with the constitutional goals of equality, fraternity, liberty and justice. If the same divinity constitutes the core of all individuals, they cannot but be equal. And divinity in one person cannot be unjust to the same divinity in another person.
The writer is an MP and former governor of J&K
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