Mahatma Gandhi and the Gita
Gandhi’s overall intention was to be an individual of integrity and authenticity, his goal was to touch the bottom of humanity, maintain the way to peace, and achieve the heights of divinity. In Chapter three of the Bhagavad Gita, the overall theme of the chapter was the “Path of Service”. All work should be works of nature, as the Gita explicates. Krishna suggested to Arjuna that he shall fight but in the full knowledge of the Lord; “Do your duty dedicating all works to God in a spiritual frame of mind free from desire, attachment, and mental grief. (Bhagavad Gita 3.30)”. In accordance to Gandhi, The Gita delineates a devotional, spiritual work which disguised physical warfare taking place in the Mahabharata that pervaded in the hearts of humankind.
The fourth chapter explicated on transcendental knowledge, and its contrastive aspects, with the sub-themes of spiritual knowledge of inner self, the Lord, and their relationship which is liberating and purifying. “The one who has abandoned selfish attachment to the fruits of work and remains ever content and dependent on no one but God, such a person ¾ though engaged in activity ¾ does nothing at all, and incurs no Karmic reaction. (Bhagavad Gita 4.20)”; the knowledge acquired is the “fruit” of “selfish devotional action” which is best known as karma-yoga. Gandhi trusted into his belief that those who “detach themselves from the fruits of action”, would have the capabilities of serving god through devotional activities or meditation would lead one inevitably put one in the position moral purity and compassion.
How it works
In accordance to Krishna, one who apprehends the transcendental nature of the Lord, his appearances and activities will acquire liberation, “Acquiring transcendental knowledge is superior to any material sacrifice ¾ such as giving charity. Because, purification of mind and intellect that eventually leads to the dawn of transcendental knowledge and Self-realization is the sole purpose of any spiritual action.” (Bhagavad Gita 4.33). Within chapter four, Krishna expounds about the various levels of reality. Empirical reality includes the sun, stars, and birds, where subjective reality is the projection we instill in our minds about our personal adventures and experiences. Both forms of reality are expressions of wholeness. Krishna explains to Arjuna that an individual in the world should act from knowledge and wisdom. Krishna believes that glorifying transcendental knowledge and encouraging Arjun to use knowledge as his source of power shall burn sinful reactions and allow him to be in touch with the lord.
Thus, for Gandhi, if a citizen was to suffer and lose their life for peace, without having the motive to kill, the spirit of redemptive love would capture God’s attention. Gandhi deduces that the purpose of a citizen’s life is to attain a mystical or experiential union of alliance with oneself and the almighty. Transcendentalism was heavily manifested throughout the Bhagavad Gita. Gandhi, himself was a transcendentalist, he valued individuality and free thought, was an advocate for self-reliance and made it his goal for himself and others to keep confidence in oneself. Transcendental knowledge will destroy one’s karma and bring one to supreme and spiritual peace: “Having attained knowledge one goes at once to the Supreme Peace.” (Bhagavad Gita 4.39) The concept of transcendentalism and Gandhi’s framework for a moral life concur because Gandhi and the Gita both believed that those do not have faith in transcendentalism or transcendental knowledge will not be able to attain contentment or God’s consciousness.
The Bhagavad Gita was an excellent articulation which deeply influenced Mahatma Gandhi. It served to be his “spiritual dictionary” and serves as a manual for his political and personal endeavors. This book served a lasting impression with grew with him for the rest of his existence. During his darkest times in life, he would reference to the Gita because he found that it was a scripture which taught pure ethics, and most importantly, the physical warfare of the Mahabharata, which in reality shed light on a sacred spiritual work. Some individuals may argue that the Bhagavad Gita and Gandhi’s interpretation of it being about spiritual warfare was not a correct explication. They may not understand how warfare, violence, moral dilemma and despair could not be taken to the literal. However, Gandhi has given innumerous examples of his insight on the scripture and explains in detail why it is indeed about spiritual warfare, amongst other supporters such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, T.S Eliot, and many followers of Hinduism, including myself and others of many cultures. The Gita advocated major central themes which Gandhi believed in- dharma, karma, yoga, atma, and transcendental realization. The Bhagavad Gita was able to represent the main concepts through the war between between the Pandavas and Kauravas. Gandhi’s contribution to spirituality was through nonviolence by worshipping God, keeping his faith, and daily spiritual practices alive. For Gandhi, the Gita transformed and shaped his character and life, and explained that the text delineating warfare shouldn’t be taken strictly literal meaning, but it was a spiritual warfare with reflected nonviolence through many moral practices.
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