Gandhi and Hinduism: A cheat sheet for high on Hindutva trolls

Even though Gandhi was assassinated 72 years ago, he had written his response to the Hindutva Trolls of 2020, in Young India on May 29, 1924, while dwelling on causes and cure of Hindu-Muslim tension

Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi

Ashutosh Sharma

This is yet another ugly reality of the “New India” under Modi rule that Gandhi bashers have set a new benchmark in the cyber space. Their hatred for the Father of the Nation has scaled the heights from where vulgarity practises sky diving and paragliding! Hindutva Trolls now use memes of Mahatma Gandhi for lampooning and abusing their ideological adversaries on social media.

When Nathuram Godse—a Hindu fanatic who didn’t dare to throw even a pebble at brutal British officers before Independence—shot at Gandhi, was he intending to kill a frail 78-year-old human body? Noted writer and poet Javed Akhtar raised this question while addressing a protest rally against the contentious new citizenship law in Delhi earlier this month.

“No”, he added, “Godse was trying to kill the ideas that Gandhiji represented and values that Gandhiji fought for all through his life.”

Gandhi considered himself a “staunch Hindu” and extensively wrote on his religious beliefs in his newspapers like Young India, the Harijan and the Navjivan. But the “dharma-sansad” of Hindutva Brigade and Godse lovers hold Gandhi in contempt, labelling him as “Muslim-pleaser” and “anti-Hindu”.

“Hinduism” for Gandhi—who became synonymous with humanism—was a way of life that transcends narrow cultural, ethnic and religious aspects of the traditional belief system.

In What is Hinduism?, a book published by National Book Trust, Gandhi says, “The beauty of Hinduism lies in its all embracing inclusiveness.

Hinduism tells everyone to worship God according to his own faith or dharma, and so it lives at peace with all religions. Its freedom from dogma makes a forcible appeal to me inasmuch as it gives the votary the largest scope for self-expression.”

In the book, which is compilation of his articles explaining his reflections on “What is Hindu Dharma”, he stresses, “Hinduism is a growth of ages. Hinduism abhors stagnation.”

The very name, Hinduism, was given to the religion of the people of Hindustan by foreigners, according to him.

“My Hindu instinct tells me that all religions are more or less true. All proceed from the same God, but all are imperfect human instrumentality,” he stated in another article in Young India dated May 29, 1924.

“Non-violence is common to all religions, but it has found the highest expression and application in Hinduism,” he has remarked. “What of substance is contained in any other religion is always to be found in Hindusim. And what is not contained in it is insubstantial or unnecessary.”

“Gandhiji was born a Hindu”, writes editor of ‘My Religion’, Bharatan Kumarappa, “but his Hinduism was his own. It had its roots firm in ancient Hinduism, but it grew and developed in the light of his contact with other religions.”

A devotee of Gita and a firm believer in “inexorable law of Karma”, Gandhi also believed in Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas among other Hindu scriptures. For him the Varna Vyavastha was flawed and professed that the sooner the social castes amalgamated, the better!

He upheld the principles of Varnashrama and wrote in Young India dated October 27, 1927: “Varnashrama Dharma defines man’s mission on this earth. He is not born day after day to explore avenues for amassing riches and to explore different means of livelihood; on the contrary, man is born in order that he may utilize every atom of his energy for his purpose of knowing his Maker. It restricts him, therefore, for the purpose of holding body and soul together, to the occupation of his forefathers. That and nothing more or nothing less is Varnashrama Dharma.”

Gandhi campaigned against non-vegetarian food and alcohol. On consumption of beef, he wrote in Young India dated April 8, 1926,

“Because at one time we used to eat beef, shall we also do so now?

Because at one time, we used to chop off the hands and feet of thieves, shall we revive that barbarity today? Shall we revive polyandry? Shall we revive child-marriage? Because we discarded a section of humanity one day, shall we brand their descendants today as outcastes?”

He further stated, “Hinduism abhors stagnation. Knowledge is limitless and so also the application of truth. Every day, we add to our knowledge of the power of Atman, and we shall keep on doing so. New experience will teach us new duties, but truth shall ever be the same. Who has ever known it in its entirety?”

Gandhi, who believed that “Truth is God” and rejected idol worship, wrote in his autobiography, My Experiments With Truth, that “My devotion to truth has drawn me into the field of politics; and I can say without the slightest hesitation, and yet in all humility, that those who say that religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion means.”

“Politics bereft religion area a death trap because they kill the soul,” he wrote in an article for Young India dated April 3, 1924.

In another article that appeared in the October 20, 1927 edition of the same publication, he wrote “If I were asked to define Hindu creed, I should simply say: search after Truth through non-violent means. A man may not even believe in God and still he may call himself a Hindu.

Hinduism is a relentless pursuit after truth and if today it has become moribund, inactive, irresponsive to growth, it is because we are fatigued, and as soon as the fatigue is over, Hinduism will burst forth upon the world with a brilliance perhaps unknown before.”

Even though Gandhi was assassinated on this day 72 years ago, he had written his response to the Hindutva Trolls of 2020, in Young India on May 29, 1924 while dwelling on causes and cure of Hindu-Muslim tension: “My religion is a matter solely between my Maker and myself. If I am Hindu, I cannot cease to be one even though I may be disowned by the whole of the Hindu population. I do, however, suggest that non-violence is the end of all religions.”

“Vaishnava Jana To”, Gandhi’s favourite bhajan penned by the 15th-century Gujarati poet Narsinh Mehta was a part of most of his regular prayer meetings. The opening lines of the bhajan say: “Call those people followers of Vishnu who feel the pain of others, help those who are in misery, but never let self-conceit enter their mind.”

That was precisely Hinduism for Gandhi!

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Published: 30 Jan 2020, 6:48 PM