Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was one of the greatest diplomats and enlightened political souls that ever walked the Indian soil in the modern times. But, does that mean that the ‘Father of the nation’ was infallible with respect to all his views.
Gandhi has been a flag bearer of Ahimsa i.e., Non-violence, but greatest of his critics question him on attributing the tenants of non-violence as the foremost and the core Hindu belief. As Hindu
Hinduism which in contemporary times has taken the shape of a ‘way of life’, can be said to be the most prolific, diverse and open-ended religious belief. Attributing the religion in the water-tight compartment of Ahimsa would be nothing short of religious contempt to the respectable beliefs of a billion Hindus.
Hinduism and Gandhian Philosophy
Gandhi however, cannot be said to be wrong in believing that ‘Hinduism is the most tolerant and inclusive religion and the evidence of tolerance lies in the acceptance and peaceful coexistence of a variety of foreign religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism and Islam which set their feet on the Indian soil much later in the day.’ However, he can be said to have followed the tolerance part that he got out of touch with reality. He propagated to the masses the concept of ‘अहिंसा परमॊ धर्मः सर्वप्राणभृतां समृतः’, i.e., to embrace non-violence as the highest virtue.
But he did not endorse the entire truth of Hindu philosophy that suggests that for maintenance of law and order and against dire injustice, violence can be co-opted. Gandhi can be said to have purposefully ignore the philosophy of Mahabharat, where Bhagwan Krishna clearly states that ahimsa, is not regarded as the highest dharma for everyone and especially against gross injustice, ‘अथ चेत्त्वमिमं धर्म्यं संग्रामं न करिष्यसि, ततः स्वधर्मं कीर्तिं च हित्वा पापमवाप्स्यसि’.
The critics accuse him of that he ‘cherry picked the Hindu philosophy for his own convenience’ and repackaged the entire Hindu religion with the tenant of ahimsa only. Gandhi was so mesmerized with the philosophy that he even proposed that, “Even if d Muslims want to kill us all, we should face death bravely. If they established their rule after killing Hindus we would be ushering in a new world by sacrificing our lives.”
The apostle of ‘non-violence’ had numerous counts rationalizing the violence against the Hindus and made requests to them to choose to die instead of retorting against injustice. It may therefore be said that Gandhi who had been a barrister himself cannot be said to be naïve to propose to Hindus such a vague idea of injustice. However, the motivation behind an idea is yet to be uncovered by the historians.
The recent thinkers of current generation, on the other hand, have started to question the theology of Mahatma Gandhi as vague and biased as they highlight that he was often silent on the atrocities towards Hindus. If we revisit his contributions to the Hindu culture, we might end up in disappointment as his only contribution could be reciting ‘Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram’. Moreover, his critics accuse him of politicizing ‘Raja Ram’ and believe that Mahatma Gandhi used the name of ‘Bhagwan Ram’ to gather support for his campaigns by using it in political discourse.
The religious beliefs/ philosophy of ‘Sanatan Dharm’ is the bedrock to the hundreds of diverse philosophies gemmating thereof. However, the liberal belief that Gandhi was an ardent follower of the Hindu cult and the fact has been matter of debate. Moreover, the political might of Gandhi cannot be questioned by anyone. His understanding of the political situation at ground zero was just about perfect. But sadly, his stance on atrocities against Hindus was always one which cannot be justified.
Gandhi’s diverse analogy
Gandhi claimed himself to be a Sanatani Hindu, despite the fact that he was so overwhelmed with tolerance that Hindu lives can be said to have never mattered for him. However, he propagated cow worship and protection of the cow was the supreme duty of every Hindu. He admonished the Vedic references of cow sacrifice and beef eating by Brahmans and suggested that references need not be taken literally.
He advocated the teachings of Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas, scriptures, incarnation (avatara) and also in rebirth. He believed in the law of ‘Varnashrama’ in the Vedic sense of the term, also believed that all religious texts were divinely ordained. On the contrary Gandhi owing to his colonial education subjected the religious texts of all denominations to the test of reason and morality. He strongly asserted that any philosophy that was repugnant to logic, reason and morality must therefore, be rejected.
Owing to his modern education he rearticulated the famous hymn of ‘Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram’ and incorporated terms like ‘allah’ and ‘ishwar’ into the hymn. The act could be termed as his liberal views, but equating and generalizing the Hindu hymns with that of other faiths was certainly an act looking down on Hindu ethos. He is often accused of being biased against the majoritarian culture owing to his liberal education in the United Kingdom.
Further, his vision that ‘one who has not attained perfection in Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truth), Brahmacharya (celibacy) and renunciation will not understand the Shastras in their true or correct sense’ is also in contrast to various Hindu philosophies. But the way, he practiced of Brahmacharya (celibacy) was often criticized by the society as opposed to public order and morality. The biggest critic of him on this was Sardar Patel, who often wrote to him to give up on such a practice.
Gandhi was of the view that the Varna or occupations were hereditary and cannot be disregarded. The division on the basis of varna into numerous castes was unwarranted as he believed that the system of caste was alien to the social structure of India. He believed that the four-fold categorization of occupations was adequate.
Gandhi was of the view that while the duties of each Varna are given, there cannot be a hierarchy amongst the Varnas. Gandhi also advocated that all Varna were equal and everyone was free to acquire skills and learning possessed by others but his progressive thoughts on caste system is always seen in contrast to his regressive views on inter-caste marriage. On the contrary his critics admonish him for his proscriptions on inter-dining and inter-caste marriages. He was often disparaged by Dr. Ambedkar as unreasonable for this stance.
Ambiguity in Gandhian philosophy
Gandhi proposed that Hindus must protect the cow by tapasya, self-purification and self-sacrifice; however, he was quite tolerant to the merciless killing of Hindus in various parts of India. He encouraged the Hindus to surmount the Muslims with their affection, but he never expected proportionate treatment from the latter.
Gandhi views on idol worship had more of superficial notion, as he accepted it but mentioned that he is not inspired by the practice, and ended up raising questions on the Hindu way of life.
The Gandhian philosophy is however not absolute as the principle of tolerance was meant only for the Hindu culture, thereby he created an improper atmosphere of appeasement and abdication of the Hindu culture post independence. Further, the principle of inclusiveness was also meant for the Hindus to accommodate the foreign religious outlooks into their culture, while the latter were left to follow their beliefs. Similarly, the principle of mercy, it was the Hindus who were expected to show mercy on the other communities, and not retort back.. Similarly, on the principle of peaceful coexistence, Gandhi always expected the Hindus to sacrifice their lives and pride to maintain coexistence.
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