Mahatma Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869. He was six years younger than Swami Vivekananda. We see that many of Swami Vivekananda’s teachings were exemplified in Mahatma Gandhi’s life, especially to love poor and the untouchables, and serve them as God, and treat all human beings equally with respect irrespective of their religions and other external differences.
The famous scientist Albert Einstein said, “Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such a one as this (Mahatma Gandhi), even in flash and blood, walked upon this earth.”
The famous writer and thinker Romain Rolland wrote Mahatma Gandhi’s biography in 1924. At that time Mahatma Gandhi’s launched movement had failed to win its objective. Mahatma Gandhi was in jail atoning, Christ-like, for the failing of his own countrymen. Romain Rolland wrote this biography to fully support Mahatma Gandhi. For him Gandhiji was the dawn of new hope for humanity. They both met in 1931 and then remained friends till end.
The following is a wonderful word-picture of Mahatma Gandhi written by Ramain Rolland.
“… a small frail man, with a thin face and rather large protruding eyes, his head covered with a little white cap, his body clothed in coarse white cloth, barefooted. He lives on rice and fruit, and drinks only water. He sleeps on the floor-sleeps very little, and works incessantly. His body does not seem to count at all. There is nothing striking about him-except his whole expression of “infinite patience and infinite love.”
W.W. Pearson, who met him in South Africa, instinctively thought of St. Francis of Assisi. There is an almost childlike simplicity about him. His manner is gentle and courteous even when dealing with adversaries, and he is of immaculate sincerity. He is modest and unassuming, to the point of sometimes seeing almost timid, hesitant, in making assertion. Yet you feel his indomitable spirit. He makes no compromises and never tries to hide a mistake. Nor is he afraid to admit having been wrong.
Diplomacy is unknown to him; he shuns oratorical effect or, rather, never thinks about it; and he shrinks unconsciously from great popular demonstrations organized in his honor. Literally “ill with the multitude that adores him,” he distrusts majorities and fears “mobocracy,” and the unbridled passions of the populace. He feels at ease only in a minority, and is happiest when, in meditative solitude, he can listen to the “still small voice” within.
This is the man who has stirred three hundred million people to revolt, who has shaken the foundations of the British Empire, and who has introduced into human politics the strongest religious impetus of the last two thousand years.”
A few quotes of Mahatma Gandhi:
“I am giving you a bit of my experience and that of my companions when I say that he who has experienced the magic of prayer may do without food for days together but not a single moment without prayer. For without prayer there is no inward peace.” (January 23, 1930)
“I suggest we are thieves in a way. If I take anything that I do not need for my own immediate use and keep it, I thieve it from somebody else.” (February 19, 1925)
“To me God is Truth and Love; God is ethics and morality; God is fearlessness. God is the source of Light and Life and yet He is above and beyond all these. God is conscience. He is even atheism of the atheist. For in His boundless love God permits the atheist to live.” (March 5, 1925)
“Daridranarayana is one of the millions of names by which humanity knows God, who is unnamable and unfathomable by human understanding and it means God of the poor, God appearing in the hearts of the poor.” (April 4, 1929)
“I venture to suggest, in all humility, that if India reaches her destiny through truth and non-violence, she will have made no small contribution to the world peace for which all the nations of the earth are thirsting and she would also have, in that case, made some slight return for the help that those nations have been freely giving to her.” (March 12. 1921)
Note that these three events happened in 1893:
(1) Swami Vivekananda gave his famous speech in Chicago Parliament of World Religions on September 11, 1893.
(2) In 1893, Mahatma Gandhi as M.K. Gandhi went to South Africa, where he spent 20 years opposing discriminatory legislation against Indians. As a pioneer of Satyagraha, or resistance through mass non-violent civil disobedience, he became one of the major political and spiritual leaders of his time.
(3) In February 1893, Sri Aurobindo arrived in India from England. He started working in Baroda, Gujarat and started taking active interest in the politics of India’s freedom struggle against British rule.
I can share couple of incidents which were imprinted in my mind.
(1) It was around December 1982. Our son was in the middle school. I went to his school to give him something. His principal, Mr. Alfred Baumann who was also a mayor of the town, saw me and asked me, “Mr. Jani, would you be able to see me on your way back?” I said, “Okay.” I thought there might be something related to our son. When I was going back, I saw him waiting for me. He then took me inside his office and asked me to take a seat and he sat on his chair on the other side of the table. Without any other formalities, he asked me, “Did you see Gandhi movie?” I was pleasantly surprised. I said, “Yes, I saw it.” He asked, “Did you like it?” I said, “Yes. I liked it. Director Attenborough and the actor Ben Kingsley had done a wonderful job.” Then, Mr. Baumann lean little forward on the table. His face was filled with loving emotions. He said, “Look, I am a Christian. After I saw that movie I was thrilled with the thought that a Christ-like person was living on earth when I was a young boy. In the movie, when a person in South Africa could not burn a passport because he was beaten by a police, I felt like going there and throw the passport in the fire.” Then we talked about Mahatma Gandhi for a while. I was amazed by his reverence for Gandhiji.
(2) This was around early 1970s. With my friends we went to attend a Sunday morning service conducted by a group which was more Vedanta oriented. The organizers, though Caucasians, knew Hindu chanting. After the service, while I was taking some snack which was offered to all, I heard someone was humming a very familiar tune. I recognized that it was the tune of “Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram.” I turned to my right and found that the Minister (who conducted the service) was joyfully humming this tune. I asked him, “Do you know what you are humming?” He calmly said, “Yes, it is ‘Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram’ which was favorit of Mahatma Gandhi.” I was surprised. I asked whether he had met Mahatma Gandhi. He said, “I was not fortunate to meet him. But, whenever Mahatma Gandhi was fasting for protest or for purification in India, we, a group of young boys, used to fast here in USA to support him.”
(3) This incident I have heard from Shri Narayanbhai Desai. He visited Vivekananda Vidyapith and told his reminiscences of Mahatma Gandhi. He said that he was in Canada and one Canadian (non-Indian) person was driving him. Road was clear and he was going with the fastest allowed speed. He was asking Shri Narayanbhai about his association with Mahatma Gandhi. When Shri Narayanbhai said that he was fortunate to sit on the lap of Mahatma Gandhi, immediately this person turned his car to the shoulder and applied break to stop the car. It was a jerky stop. After stopping the car, he turned to Shri Narayanbhai and said, “Can I touch your hands which had touched Mahatma Gandhi?”
These three people were not directly related to Gandhiji, but were deeply impressed by him.