Sunday, January 29, 2006

More Gandhi quotes

In continuation of this post, I'm putting Gandhi quotes with "I am a Hindu" on this blog. There are lots of them, and since this is for the record, rather than to try to make you read them, I'm putting all of them in the comments.

I have yet to look for quotes with "I am a xxx Hindu" where xxx could be staunch, true, or sanatani.
PS: Thanks to G.P. for pointing out unnecessary repetitions.

PS: I can't make comments accept various tags, so here goes - warning - long!

Gandhi's "I am a Hindu...." quotes:

Autobiography, First Day in Pretoria:
During the very first interview Mr. Baker ascertained my religious views. I said to him : I am a Hindu by birth. And yet I do not know much of Hinduism, and I know less of other religions. In fact I do not know where I am, and what is and what should be my belief. I intend to make a careful study of my own religion and, as far as I can, of other religions as well.

Young India, 23-6-1920, regarding the composition of the Khilafat committee
And now the question why there are no Hindu leaders on the committee is easily answered. The supreme committee can only be purely Mussulman. My presence, too, I consider as an evil but it is a necessary evil because of my qualifications. I have specialized in non-co-operation. I have successfully experimented with it. The resolution about non-co-operation was conceived by me at the conference at Delhi. I am on the committee therefore as a specialist and not because I am a Hindu. My function is therefore of an adviser merely. That I happen to be a staunch Hindu with the conviction that every Hindu should consider it to be his duty to go with the Mussulmans the full length in non-co-operation, is no doubt an advantage to the committee. But that advantage was at its disposal whether I was on it or not.

Speech at the Antyaj Conference, Nagpur, Dec 25, 1920
I am a Hindu myself and I claim to be an orthodox one. It is my further claim that I am a sanatani Hindu. At present I am engaged in a great dispute with the Hindus in Gujarat. They, especially the Vaishnavas, reject my claim to be called a sanatani Hindu, but I cling to it and assert that I am one. This is one great evil in Hindu society. There are many others, but those you may eradicate, if not today, after a thousand years and the delay may be forgiven. This practice, however, of regarding the Antyajas as untouchables is intolerable to me. I cannot endure it.

Navajivan, 24-11-1921, on the birth anniversary of Rajchandra, translated from Gujarati
We must cease to be unscrupulous Vanias and become Kshatriyas. The Vaisyas dharma does not mean doing no manual work, no ploughing, no heroism and no consideration for right and wrong. The true Vaisya, rather, shows himself heroic in his generosity and discrimination in his business; he follows the Brahmins dharma, too, by exercising his discrimination and deciding that he may not sell liquor or fish, that he may deal only in pure khadi. We shall fall into sin if others slave for us and we merely lend money and earn interest. At least by way of yajna, we should do some bodily labour every day.

Primarily, the Vanias sphere is business, but he must also possess the qualities of the other castes. If I should have to engage a Kabuli or a Pathan to protect my wife, it would be better, though I am a Hindu, that I should divorce her and set her free. But what do we find many Vanias doing? Most of them have engaged North Indians and Pathans as watchmen. You may do even that; I do not mind it. If, however, you lack the strength to protect your wife and children, you had better retire into a hermits cottage and live there as befits your dharma. It will not, then, be your duty, as Vanias, to come forward to protect the world. The Kshatriyas will do that whenever and wherever they find people suffering.

The biggest lesson I learnt from Rajchandrabhais life is that a Vania should always live as befits a Vania.

Young India, 23-2-1922
M. Paul Richards presentation of my views about non-violence is really a caricature. I have no doubt that he understands me in the manner in which he has represented me. There is undoubtedly a sense in which the statement is true when I say that I hold my religion dearer than my country and that therefore I am a Hindu first and nationalist after. I do not become on that score a less nationalist than the best of them. I simply thereby imply that the interests of my country are identical with those of my religion. Similarly when I say that I prize my own salvation above everything else, above the salvation of India, it does not mean that my personal salvation requires a sacrifice of Indias political or any other salvation. But it implies necessarily that the two go together. Just in the same sense I would decline to gain Indias freedom at the cost of non-violence, meaning that India will never gain her freedom without non-violence or through violence. That I may be hopelessly wrong in holding the view is another matter, but such is my view and it is daily growing on me.

Young India, 29-5-1924, Hindu-Muslim Tension, its cause and its cure.
{After stating Hindu opinions against non-violence} My religion is a matter solely between my Maker and myself. If I am a 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.

Speech at AICC meeting, June 28, 1924
Just think of it, it is only the spinning-wheel which brings us into contact with the lowest of our countrymen. I do not wish to make a fetish of the spinning-wheel. If I come to see that it is an impediment in the winning of swaraj, I shall immediately set fire to it. That way I am an iconolast, and in that sense a Muslim. And yet, I am an idolator too. If I feel that even a stone from the bed of the Narmada river helps me to concentrate my attention on my chosen god, I would certainly keep it and worship it. In that sense I am a Hindu.

Speech at National Education Conference, Aug 2, 1924
{On the costs of joining the fight for swaraj}

What if your livelihood is endangered while doing so? We have been conducting the movement for swaraj precisely to create conditions in which our livelihood will not be jeopardized. We can consider that movement to have succeeded only when hundreds, thousands, lakhs of boys and girls will cease to worry and become unconcerned about their livelihood. In a country which enjoys freedom, boys and girls do not at all think of their livelihood while doing their duty. Nowhere else do we find such difficulty about earning ones livelihood as we do here. It is Indias claim that it gives first place to activities concerning the atman. The fear of death and livelihood, which is found in this country making such a claim, is found nowhere else. I speak thus because I am a Hindu through and through.

Why should we have any fear about our livelihood? We certainly have weaving as a means of livelihood. If that is not possible, we shall split wood, break and carry stones. If we go a step further and do the sacred work of cleaning latrines, we shall certainly get the Rs. 15 or Rs. 20 that we want, nay we shall be even wooed. Hence, truly speaking, we have no problem of livelihood. Those who want swaraj and yearn for it, those who feel that they should immolate themselves in this struggle, should certainly forget all about earning their livelihood.

Young India, 26-3-1925, All about Travancore
{On the removal of untouchability in the princely state of Travancore}

But when I saw with my own eyes what the State is, what a cultured ruler and what a cultured Dewan it had, this existence of unapproachability staggered and puzzled me. How the inhuman thing could exist in such a State with such a sovereign, such a Dewan and such a people, baffled me as it still baffles me. But for the satyagraha no one would have known anything of it. But now that it is known in its nakedness, I must own that I have become impatient for its removal. I am impatient because I am a Hindu, because the State is a Hindu State, because its Dewan is a Hindu, because the people are educated and because the evil is acknowledged. If it was the British Government, it could certainly plead neutrality if it wished.

But since it is a Hindu Government and in this case and in such cases it is not dominated or influenced not so far as I am aware by the British Government, it cannot plead or profess neutrality. It must take the side of reform and oppose blind orthodoxy or superstition even as it would take the side of the robbed and come down upon robbers with a heavy hand.

Speech at AICC Meeting, Gauhati, Dec 24, 1926
{On Swami Shraddhanand's assassination by a Muslim}

But I have said all this from the point of view of Swamiji and from my own point of view. I have repeatedly said that I make no distinction between Hindus and Mussalmans. I am a Hindu by birth and I find peace in the Hindu religion. Whenever peace seemed to elude me, it was in the Hindu religion that I found it. I studied other religions also and I decided that, whatever its defects and drawbacks, Hinduism alone could be the religion for me. That is what I feel and that is why I call myself a sanatani Hindu. Many sanatanis feel exasperated by this claim of mine and say: How can this man who has come back from England with all these new-fangled ideas be a Hindu? But this does not weaken my claim to being a Hindu, and Hinduism tells me to abide in friendship with all. So I have to think of the viewpoint of Mussalmans also.

Young India, 20-10-1927, Why I am a Hindu
I have ventured at several missionary meetings to tell English and American missionaries that if they could have refrained from telling India about Christ and had merely lived the life enjoined upon them by the Sermon on the Mount, India instead of suspecting them would have appreciated their living in the midst of her children and directly profited by their presence.

Holding this view, I can tell American friends nothing about Hinduism by way of return. I do not believe in people telling others of their faith, especially with a view to conversion. Faith does not admit of telling. It has to be lived and then it becomes self-propagating.

Nor do I consider myself fit to interpret Hinduism except through my own life. And if I may not interpret Hinduism through my written word, I may not compare it with Christianity. The only thing it is possible for me therefore to do is to say, as briefly as I can, why I am a Hindu.

Believing as I do in the influence of heredity, being born in a Hindu family, I have remained a Hindu. I should reject it, if I found it inconsistent with my moral sense or my spiritual growth. On examination, I have found it to be the most tolerant of all religions known to me. Its freedom from dogma makes a forcible appeal to me inasmuch as it gives the votary the largest scope for self-expression...

Interview with the Associated Press, Feb 14, 1933
I am a Hindu not merely because I was born in the Hindu fold, but I am one by conviction and choice. As I know it and interpret it, it gives me all the solace I need, both here and hereafter. It solves for me many riddles of life. But it also contains, as it is practised today, the big blot of untouchability in the sense in which it is understood today, that is, distinction between man and man, one occupying the topmost rung of the ladder and another the lowest. If this doctrine of utmost superiority and utmost inferiority, descending from father to son for eternity, is an integral part of Hinduism without the slightest prospect of a change, then I no more want to belong to it than does Dr. Ambedkar.

"How to cultivate Ahimsa?" 20-7-1940
Mere resolve to lay down ones life under the circumstances is not enough. There must be the necessary qualification for making the sacrifice. If I am a Hindu, I must fraternize with the Mussalmans and the rest. In my dealings with them I may not make any distinction between my co-religionists and those who might belong to a different faith. I would seek opportunities to serve them without any feeling of fear or unnaturalness. The word fear can have no place in the dictionary of ahimsa. Having thus qualified himself by his selfless service, a votary of pure ahimsa will be in a position to make a fit offering of himself in a communal conflagration.

Speech at a Prayer Meeting, Sept 7, 1946
When the Qaid-e-Azam and his followers describe Hindus as their enemies I am surprised and pained. I am not a Muslim but I venture to say that Islam does not preach enmity towards anyone. I think I am as much a Christian, a Sikh and a Jain as I am a Hindu. Religion does not teach one to kill brother however different his belief. No one can treat another as his enemy until the latter has become his own enemy. Muslim League leaders were not right when they said that they would compel the Congress, the Hindus and the British to accede to their demand.

Speech at a prayer meeting, April 1, 1947
{ Today as soon as Manu Gandhi uttered the first word of the Kalma from the Koran a young man stood up, marched right up to the stage where Gandhiji sat and said, You go away from here. This is a Hindu temple where we will not allow a Muslim prayer. You have been repeatedly telling this thing to us but our mothers and sisters continue to be slaughtered. We cannot tolerate it any longer. The man was forcibly removed from the audience. Gandhi said: }

You did not do the right thing. You forcibly removed the young man from the meeting. You should not have done such a thing. It would give him a sense of triumph. He was very excited. He did not wish to listen to the prayer. But I know that you all wish to listen to it.

I do not wish to hold the prayer in spite of protests. Now I intend to give up the rest of the prayer. You are all familiar with the prayer I offer. You have heard it even before I went to Noakhali. In my sequence of prayers, the Muslim prayer is followed by the Parsi prayer. After that this girl would have sung to you a bhajan in her melodious voice and then there would have been Ramdhun.

But now I am leaving out the Parsi prayer and also the Ramdhun. Auz-o-Billahi is the beginning of one of the verses of the Koran. You think that uttering this expression is an insult to Hinduism. But I am a true sanatani Hindu. My Hinduism tells me that along with the Hindu prayer I should also offer the Muslim prayer and the Parsi and Christian prayers.

True Hinduism lies in offering prayers of all religions because only he is a good Hindu who is also a good Muslim and a good Parsi. The young man said that this was a Hindu temple and such prayers could not be held here. But that is wild talk. This temple belongs to the Bhangis. Even a single Bhangi can throw me out of this place if he so desires. But these people love me. They know that I am a Hindu.

Jugal Kishore Birla, on the other hand, is my brother. He is a big man in terms of money but he regards me an elder. He has put me up here because he considers me a pious Hindu. He also takes me to the big temple built by him. If in spite of all this the young man insists that I should go away and I cannot pray here, it is merely his arrogance.

But you should have won him over with love. You threw him out by force. What is the point in offering prayers by resorting to force? The young man was in a rage and in his anger was talking wild things. It was out of such talk that all those things happened in the Punjab. This rage is what starts all the fanaticism.

Prayer Meeting, April 3, 1947
{The controversy over Gandhi offering prayers of all religions continued. Below, the organization referred to is the RSS}

But those who do physical exercises and drill here every morning and are members of that organization love me. If they do not want me to stay here there is no point in my staying on. I must not remain here. But I had a talk with their leader. He said that it was not their intention to harm anyone. The Sangh was not formed to oppose anyone.

True, they had not accepted my method of non-violence; but they were willing to confine themselves within the Congress discipline. So long as the Congress rules non-violently they would remain peaceful. He thus talked with me very cordially.

If you still want to stop me, then kindly do not come here from tomorrow. I do not wish to hold prayers in this manner. I am made of different stuff. If I am a Hindu, I am also a Muslim. And the Sikhs are almost Hindus. I have seen the Granth Sahib. In many parts it is Hinduism to the letterthe religion I follow. Hence, with great humility I request you to remain peaceful because I would stop the prayer even at a childs wish. If you want to recite Gods name by creating a row you would be acting like a devil although you may be uttering the name of God. And I can never do the work of the devil. I am a devotee of God alone.

Prayer meeting, April 4, 1947
Hence, those who oppose my prayer are destroying Hindu dharma. They should understand that I am as much a Parsi, a Christian and also a Muslim as I am a Hindu. What wonderful meaning is conveyed by Auz-o-Billahi. I have not read the Yajurveda. But a gentleman writes to say that everything is contains is to be found in the Yajurveda. In that case why should you oppose it? Religious sentiment whether expressed in Arabic, Sanskrit or Chinese, is always noble. That is why I would like to ask that gentleman if he has understood my point.

Prayer meeting, April 5, 1947
If I am a Hindu, why can I not recite from the Koran, or from
the Zend-Avesta? Besides, the Hindu mode of worship also is no less diverse. Some would have recitations from the upanishads and not from the Vedas; some would want the Gita and not the upanishads, a third one would demand the Atharvaveda in preference to the Yajurveda. In other words, each one is entitled to pray in his own way.

Prayer meeting, May 1, 1947
Signing a peace appeal is nothing new for me. All my life I have done that and I continue to do it. But Jinnah Sahebs signature is a great thing. If all Muslims are under Jinnah Sahebs influence, they must now abide by his words; for he has signed on behalf of the Muslims. But have I given my signature because I am a Hindu? I have influence over none. I belong to no party. I belong to all. If the Hindus of Bihar act in frenzy again I shall fast unto death. In the same way, if the Muslims in Noakhali lose their heads, I shall lay down my life there. I have earned that right. I belong to the Muslims no less than to the Hindus. I belong to the Sikhs, Parsis and Christians in the same measure. I may be crying in the wilderness, but whatever I say would be on behalf of all and addressed to all.

Prayer meeting, June 1, 1947
{To a man who objected to Gandhi's recitation of the Koran}

Hinduism does not belong only to you. I am a Hindu too, and a perfect sanatani. Now, why should we read only the Gita? Why should we not read the Koran too? We must gather pearls wherever we find them. Power is now about to come to us. The Viceroy is impatient to hand it over to us. Would you, at this moment, quarrel like this and show your folly? You must learn to be courteous. You can learn courtesy from Badshah Khan. Today when Manu went to bring him to the prayer he said he would rather keep away as some Hindu might be hurt by his presence. I then sent him a message saying that he was huge as a mountain and I was a mere Bania, and if I was not scared, why should he be? And now, having come here, there he sits more gentle than a lamb. We too should be well-behaved like him.

Talk to Hindus, July 6, 1947
If you have finished saying what you wanted me to hear I will say a few words. I am a Hindu, by birth and up-bringing, by practice and faith. In addition to the Hindu scriptures, I have read the holy books of almost all the other religions. I wish to raise my Hinduism higher and that is the reason why I respect other religions. Can an old man like me all of a sudden become an apostate? Calmly seek an answer to this question from your heart. I do not want your testimonial. I do not live by anyone's testimonials. I live by a testimonial from God alone. And if I have to die in obtaining that, I shall die bravely. If at that moment I get the fruits of my last sixty years penance for truth and non-violence, I shall feel more than rewarded. I shall regard it as a grace of God.

Prayer meeting, Oct 26, 1947
...And then Calcutta is no small village. It is a city where business worth crores is carried on. Huge freighters come to the Calcutta port and the city is inhabited by the Hindus and the Muslims who do business. If we started treating one another as enemies there, would not the entire trade be destroyed?

It is indeed very good if the Shanti Sena has taught the people of Calcutta to live as brothers. Why should we not learn a lesson from Calcutta? Why should we not have a Shanti Sena here as well? Some Muslims came to me today on account of Id. They know that I am not their enemy but their friend. I am a Hindu, and a sanatani Hindu at that. That is why I am as much a Muslim as a Hindu. Hence they came to me as to a friend. I did offer them Id greetings; but I told them that really I had not the face to do so. Even today they live in great fear. They wonder if the Hindus would let them stay here. Or would they be killed? Of course all the Hindus do not kill. But they are in panic because many have been slaughtered. What if they are few in number? Should the people of the majority community attack and terrorize them? These atrocities have got to end, otherwise we will perish.

A letter, Nov 8, 1947
We have certainly no right to advise a neighbour to clean his house as long as our own house is not clean. I am a Hindu by birth and by practice. It is my duty to bring glory to this religion, and my religion is all-embracing.

A letter, Dec 17, 1947
I am passing through a difficult time. I have not a moment to spare. I am convinced that this communal conflict is not of the common peoples making. A handful of persons are behind it. Whose fault is it if I do not see amity even between these two. . .? If the ocean itself catches fire, who can put it out? Falsehood has spread so much that one cannot say where it will end.

If in that yajna, our struggle for freedom, we had been wholly negligent in preserving truth it is doubtful that we could have attained even this so-called swarajya. Truth is my only God. Truth alone to me is prayer, penance and the rest. I am a Hindu. I know that if the world were to adopt my Hinduism mankind would be free from all the worldly ills and man would live in a truly human manner. All this that I have dictated for you has just occurred to me after the prayer.

A letter, January 9, 1948

Your letter is full of anger. Anger seems to be the food on which you subsist. My simplest statement seems crooked to you. Let it be. Can one help ones nature?

I have never felt that you are a Muslim and I am a Hindu. The only feeling I have is that you are A. S. and I am Gandhi. Where our atmans are concerned we are one.