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English fortnightly, devoted to life, literature and culture.

Vol: 29  No: 01


1 August 1982

Gandhiji’s Religion

Acharya Kripalani

“I am a politician trying to be a saint.”

- M. K. Gandhi

What did Gandhiji mean when he said that he was a politician? He did not believe in progressive materialism, in increasing people’s wants and their satisfaction, or inventing sharper and more destructive weapons of war. Gandhiji wanted that every person must be provided with the basic necessities for his physical, mental and moral satisfaction and advancement. Throughout his life, therefore, he worked for the elimination of the abysmal poverty in which the masses of India live. He held foreign rule to be mainly responsible for this poverty. Therefore, every effort of his and most of his constructive programmes were directed towards the elimination of foreign rule. At the same time, he believed that our slavery was also due to some defects in our nation character. These, too, he wanted to get rid of. He believed that only a free India could make any worthwhile contribution to humanity and the world.
The removal of foreign rule and the building up of national character were also the aims which the best men of the times kept before themselves and the people. This is what Gandhiji meant when he said that he was a politician.
Gandhiji is popularly known as a karmayogi. In the accepted sense of the term, a karmayogi does his work prescribed by birth and the community to which he belongs. He performs social duties according to his family and caste. However, all work has to be done in a disinterested way as a dharma (duty), not caring for the results which are in the hands of God.
Gandhiji wanted people not necessarily to follow the traditional occupation of their ancestors, or their caste or community, but the yugadharma, the dharma demanded by the times. If performed disinterestedly it would lead to salvation.

When some foreigners came to India on hearing that Gandhiji was a Mahatma, they wanted him to guide them in the yoga by which they could get their moksha or self-realisation. Gandhiji asked them to go to the villages, propagate the use of khadi and engage themselves in the other items of his Constructive Programme. It was the yugadharma required for the country so that it could be of service to the poor and to humanity. This was his interpretation of karmayoga, service to the poor, the nation and the world.
It is said in the Bible: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling symbol. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” (Corinthians I, 13).
Here, ‘charity’ does not mean alms-giving. It has a wider connotation; it means fellow-feeling, that “we are one of another.”
Valid for all
The yugadharma, thus interpreted, is not confined only to India but is valid for the whole world. Today there are innumerable sects in Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism and in Islam, though they bear the same name. They are all presumably in search of Truth. But they all agree to disagree with one another! Can we therefore find any dharma, discipline, in which the different religions and sects can unitedly believe?
In my view, there is one dharma in which they can all unite. That is the dharma (religion) of humanism. It believes that all men and women are equal, that the service

Bhavan's Journal

1 August 1982

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