Today is a day of great auspiciousness and great significance in that it is that memorable day on which the Lord gave to us more than eighty years ago a glorious gift in the form of a blessed and glorious son of His, a son, who was the embodiment of all the great divine virtues which flow forth from the seat of Godhead, the virtue of wonderful compassion, the virtue of absolute purity, the virtue of absolute truthfulness and loyalty and Dharma, all of which go to make a man almost divine. For, this is that day upon which Mahatma Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi saw the light of the day in fortunate and proud Rajkot in Saurashtra.
We call it a blessed and glorious day, because through his advent into this world, he created a wave of a renascent Dharma, of a new view of things, a new and sublime sense of values, and a new attitude towards human life and man’s activities upon this physical, eternal world. For, when this child grew up and became a man, the world saw in him a dauntless champion of all that is noble and great, of all that goes to impart dignity to the human species and of all that is idealistic and of eternal, not merely of a passing temporary value. Mahatmaji, the great soul as he came to be rightly revered in later years, became to India, and through the Indian context to the world at large, a symbol of the good, the glorious, the noble and the near-on-divine. This living symbol of loftiness, of Daivee-Sampat or divine Aiswaryas became the source and fountainhead of a new conception of life in the hearts of the peoples of Bharatavarsha. He gave to India a new pattern of individual as well as public, personal as well as collective, social, as well as political living. This pattern which Mahatma Gandhi gave was one based upon the Sanatana Dharma, upon the purest essence of all great religions. For he was a man endowed with a great breadth of vision and a great universality of vision, and this vision he worked into the pattern which he gave to India and to the world through his own glorious personal life.
This day, we recall with very deep gratitude the gift, which God bestowed upon us, and also the services which Mahatmaji, the Father of the Nation, himself lovingly and spontaneously gave to the last day of his life for the renaissance of Dharma and the regeneration of Bharatavarsha, and for the establishment of permanent peace in this world, through his great doctrine of Ahimsa in all spheres of human activity. In thus expressing our gratitude, we shall also do well to bring before our mind’s eye, a picture of what this great soul was made of. For in thus doing, we shall be better able to pay at least an infinitesimal part of the great debt we owe to his great soul–the most effective way, in which we can express our gratitude and pay back at least a part of our indebtedness to any great soul, is by keeping the ideal set by him before us vividly before our mind’s eye and also by trying to the best of each one’s ability to conform to that pattern and to follow in his foot steps.
Therefore, by recalling upon this memorable day what Gandhiji stood for, lived for we shall be able to be enthused, inspired and filled with an inner strength and urge to strive a little more earnestly and with greater sincerity to make ourselves also a little model of the ideal, which he has placed before us. In thus trying to see Mahatmaji as he really was, we shall find that though outwardly the activities of the great soul were in the sphere of the nation’s politics to a great extent, that underneath it all this activity, which was but the apparent shell or framework into which he worked out in all the details his quest after Truth. Though it appeared like politics to people observing from outside, yet to him his political activity was, but the form which his quest after Truth took. He has very clearly stated that politics was but the least part of his life and that the real part of his life was a ceaseless quest after the great Reality in and through all activities, through all names and forms that he contacted. He said: “My service in the form of political activity to the apparent visible mankind is in reality my worship of the one truth which I tangibly feel and see enshrined in the hearts of all men. This Truth I wish to realise by worshipping it through my selfless, motiveless, loving action.” He was a great Karma Yogi, who regarded all activity as worship and thus through his worshipful activity he sought to realise the Truth enshrined in the heart of all, the lowly, the downtrodden, the oppressed, the depressed. Thus it was that his entire life’s activity constituted his Sadhana for the realisation of Truth, his Yoga for the realisation of the Truth immanent in the whole world.
Once we are able to realise this great fact of Mahatmaji’s life, we shall be able to understand the apparent paradox of his mixing such absolutely unpolitical elements as Ram-Nam, Gita, Prayer and such apparently spiritual and religious factors into his life. Not a little criticism has been directed against this great soul both in his lifetime and later on, for the seeming hash he made of things by mixing religion and spirituality with politics which the ordinary man considered to be diametrically opposite to each other and even mutually contradictory and exclusive. But they do not reckon with the view which Mahatmaji had as a true Hindu. For the true Hindu, all life, whatever sphere it may occupy–social, political, business or anything else–was but a means to the eternal end. The entire genius of Hindu culture is that man’s life in this world is regarded as a means for the attainment of the spiritual goal, for which he has been given this rare human birth. With this view-point if you analyse the entire structure of the Hindu nation, the social structure, the structure of caste and all the aspects of the Hindu life, you will find that they are all pervaded by this purpose of spiritual realisation. Various customs, traditions, all laws,–everything–directly or indirectly makes man move towards this one supreme end, viz., that of attaining Self-realisation and getting rid of the trammels of the earthly existence. This view was already there deep-rooted in the heart of Mahatmaji. Therefore, he knew his life was but a means of attaining the supreme Realisation. He chose politics as the special type of means for attaining this end. Therefore, we find that his entire life, personal as well as public, was based upon the bedrock of the fundamentals of Sanatana Dharma. He had the essence of Sanatana Dharma always in his heart.
For, the guiding scripture of Mahatmaji’s life was the supreme universal scripture–The Srimad Bhagavad Gita–which has been declared to be the very quintessence of the lofty Upanishads, which the Hindus revere as the ultimate revelations, the Bhagavata, the Mahabharata, and all the Puranas. Basing his life upon the Gospel of the Gita throughout his life, he clung to that two-lettered Taraka Mantra, the Divine Ram-Nam. People were puzzled to know whether Mahatmaji was a politician, whether he was a doctor of the body, mind or soul, whether he was a social reformer, or moral reformer–what he was people did not understand. When they approached Gandhiji deeply, they found that he was a man-of-God. He was a seeker supreme; he was a devotee and a Yogi. For, his source of strength, of intuition and of his wondrous peace and sublime calmness, the tranquillity which he always created wherever he went, lay in Ram-Nam. Take the writings of Gandhiji; take his letters; take any issue of the Harijan; take the record of any of his conversations, you will always find that he again and again stressed as the panacea for all personal problems and difficulties, sorrows and tribulations, Ram-Nam. To the student, to the elderly householders, to the youth, to the politician, to everyone he said: “If you are facing an insurmountable difficulty or problem, take recourse to Ram-Nam; and Ram-Nam will come to your rescue.” This prescription he invariably gave to everyone whatever the trouble may be. Even to people in physical disease or illness, who approached him for a remedy, he outlined some naturopathic way, but said: the cure is ultimately from Ram-Nam whatever measure you may adopt, remember the Ram-Nam, the Word which is the source of the entire world, that divine word will ultimately bestow upon you happiness and welfare.
In addition to basing his life upon the Gospel of the Gita and clinging to the sacred Ram-Nam through the thick and thin of the struggle of life, sunshine and rain, through all troubles and difficulties throughout his life, another sublime mode of ever keeping contact with the Goal of Self-realisation, with the Indwelling Truth, he gave to man in the form of his daily prayer. Mahatmaji was a man of prayer and throughout his life, throughout the most stormy periods of his political career, wherever he might have been in jail or outside, travelling and in whatever condition or state of health, his body might have been, never for a single day did he miss his daily prayer. At the close of the day when the sun was about to set and all nature became hushed in the silence of eventide, when twilight was stealing over the land, then this great soul withdrew himself for a time from all external activities and we see Mahatmaji with bowed head and in reverence sunk in the depth of earnest prayer. We see Mahatmaji sitting in deep contemplation of the Creator, of the Supreme Spirit, which was his one and only goal and this daily contact with the Supreme, communion with the Eternal Reality, with the Truth of man, through prayer he never missed even for a single day. Food he might miss; rest he might miss; and all comforts of the physical body he might miss; but this nourishment to the soul, this fresh communion with the Eternal Reality, the Indwelling Truth, he never, missed even for a single day.
By this three-fold means he has given to the whole of Bharatavarsha as well as to the world, a true pattern of a seeker’s life. Thus, we see that under the surface of apparent activity the real fact of the Mahatma was the factor of his being a true seeker, a lover of God, a devotee, a man of prayer, a man of faith in the divine name and a man following in the footsteps of the great gospel of the Blessed Lord.
Throughout his life he was firm in his adherence to the three cosmic principles of perfect purity, perfect truthfulness and perfect harmlessness, even to the least of the Lord’s creatures. He was ever firm in his adherence to the universal laws which form the fundamental unifying basis of all the faiths, religions, all cults and creeds. In whatever land, through whichever Prophet whichever religion might have come into this world, these fundamental virtues are found to be the common basis, the heart, the core and the essence of each and every religion, each and every utterance of the great Prophets. To show these universal laws, he became a living embodiment, a perfect personification of these three fundamental virtues throughout his life; and ceaselessly, at every opportunity, he has been advocating a life based upon Ahimsa, Satyam and Brahmacharya. Thus we find that this is the pattern and this is the way of realisation through Ahimsa, Satyam and Brahmacharya; through prayer through the practice of the Divine Name and through following the religion of worshipful action–it is this pattern that Mahatmaji gave the world through his exemplary life. We are heirs to this great ideal, which he has bestowed in his turn as a boon to humanity.
Therefore, let us pray to the Lord as well as to Mahatmaji and the other saints and sages and the Prophets, who are eternal, that we may also prove worthy of this great heritage left to us by this great soul and that we may be able to live up to this sublime pattern and make ourselves also real seekers, devotees, remaining firm in the adherence to the universal virtues and ever devotedly practising the Divine Name and living a life of worshipful activity, and that we may also be fortunate enough to realise the Supreme purpose for which we have been born as human beings upon this earth.