Gandhi: Merely human. But also so much more.


I just finished watching the 3-hour, 1982 biographical film ‘Gandhi’.

Reading about Gandhi and watching that film really leaves one awe-struck. And inspired, so inspired. You’re just speechless that a person like that can really exist, especially in a world like ours. Yet… it also finds me in two minds about him and his beliefs.

There’s this part of me — the cynical, jaded part; the part that likes to think itself a realist — that thinks, are you for real? Sure, his message is inspiring but… is that really the best way to do things? Maybe some things are worth fighting for. Maybe if they had fought–physically fought– in the right way, it wouldn’t have taken so long to achieve their goals. And maybe the factors for such methods just happened to be right in those situations…maybe trying to bring them elsewhere– the holocaust for example– would have resulted in even worse harm and atrocities! I mean, you can’t stand up for your principles by saying ‘I’m willing to die for this cause!’ when that’s exactly what the enemy wants? Hitler wasn’t interested in keeping Jews oppressed, he just wanted them exterminated!

And… it just seems naive to think you can have no conflict all the time. Fighting seems so… ingrained. People seem primed to fight, especially in the face of injustice. Wouldn’t it seem wiser? more practical? to take that fact into consideration and work around it or try to prevent it rather than just tell them not to fight and expect them to obey?

He also has this quote about how history reads like it’s all fighting, but in reality fights are just interruptions from peace. Its just that only the fights tend to get recorded. In truth, peace is the default.

Yet too often, it really seems the other way around. That conflict is a core part of us and our society. Just the way the world works.

The parts depicting the riots and beatings and killings made me feel all that. And I cried at how evil man can be and wondered how those people could live with themselves.

Still, the idealistic part of me really wants to believe it. It echos his sentiment that love and truth always wins out in the end. It argues that it’s not this kind of thinking that’s too idealistic, it’s the world that’s too cynical and jaded. If everyone could see the truth in such statements and lived their life by them… it would work

And still, he’s only human. He has no magic answers. He just sticks to the simple truths that he does know.

“There is no such thing as “Gandhism,” and I do not want to leave any sect after me. I do not claim to have originated any new principle or doctrine. I have simply tried in my own way to apply the eternal truths to our daily life and problems…The opinions I have formed and the conclusions I have arrived at are not final. I may change them tomorrow. I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and non-violence are as old as the hills.”  – Mahatma Gandhi

Regardless of what you think of his methods, you have to respect and admire him for being able to stay so true to his principles and not lose hope in love and truth. How did he do it? How did he not get angry, discouraged and jaded at the stupidity and evilness of men? He saw it all first hand and he never lost hope.

Hears to hoping that I, and all of us, can be just a little bit more like him. The world could be a much better place.

God, Gandhi and Ultimate Truth


Is there an Ultimate Truth? Truth with a capital ‘T’?

I feel that… an Ultimate Truth, if it existed, would have to be something deeply intertwined with the fabric of the universe, the fabric of reality. This Truth would have be intrinsically in the world, a part of the world. And the world has to be intrinsically that Truth.

Anything that claims to be true but stands apart from everything else cannot be truth, but mere delusion.

If truth is necessarily based on and based in reality, an Ultimate Truth would have to be based on and in all of reality.

Some say God is Truth.

They say that He is in the very fabric of the universe. When they look within themselves and at the world around them, they can’t help but see His hand in their hearts, in their lives, in the world.

I say that may be true for you, but for many others it’s not true at all.
There are people who see no such thing at all, all their lives.
There are people who peer at the world and into their hearts and see the opposite (ie that there is no god).
There are people who see the hand of different Gods.
There are people who, the harder they stared, the more God vanished from reality.

If God were the Ultimate Truth and in the very fabric of the universe, you would be able to find Him just by seeking, searching and exploring our reality, be it the physical reality, our mental reality or (most likely) a combination of the two. You wouldn’t need sacred texts. You wouldn’t need missionaries or evangelicals, at least not in the strongest sense of those words. The Truth should speak for itself, even if it takes some time to be heard.

“Divine knowledge is not borrowed from books. It has to be realized in oneself. Books are at best an aid, often even a hindrance. ” – Mahatma Gandhi

Texts may act like a textbooks and preachers like teachers: at their best they are but a guide to show you the things that are there and more importantly, to teach you how to find them for yourselves. Even if mathematics textbooks did not exist, 1+1 would still = 2. If the bible didn’t exist, how would we know of Jesus and his significance?

An Ultimate Truth, I feel, should be something elegant, something that transcends even as it is firmly grounded in reality. The simplest thing, even as it possess untold layers of complexity. It should unite rather than divide even as it highlights diversity.

Religion and the Gods of today’s major religions don’t feel to me like any sort of an Ultimate Truth.

Religion, the institutions of religion with their hierarchies and rules, the ancient sacred texts and holy rituals feel… too cluttered, too inelegant, too man-made. Religion is an agenda that needs pushing, it doesn’t speak for itself. How can something that is not intrinsic in reality, something that not everyone has the opportunity to discover for themselves, be an Ultimate Truth?

Which is greater, God or Truth?

If God existed, He must surely be Truth as well. If Truth existed, must it definitely be God?

“I have no God to serve but Truth.”
“I am devoted to none but Truth and I owe no discipline to anybody but Truth.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

Ghandi is a very strong believer in God (although which God and what kind of God is slightly less clear) and he also says, repeatedly, that Truth is God, and God is Truth. If that is true, than there is no conflict: He is completely devoted to God, which is Truth, and Truth, which is God. But if we were to just suppose for a moment that it might not be true– if we were to, for a moment, separate God from Truth, the above quotes would seem to indicate Truth to be greater of the two.

“For me God and Truth are convertible terms, and if anyone told me that God was a God of untruth or a God of torture, I would decline to worship Him.” – Mahatma Gandhi

If God weren’t true, He would be… worthless. If Truth weren’t God… it would still be invaluable. Truth appears to be greater than God.

“But each (religion), in my judgment, embodies a common motivating force: the desire to uplift man’s life and give it purpose.”

“After long study and experience, I have come to the conclusion that (1) all religions are true; (2) all religions have some error in them; (3) all religions are almost as dear to me as my own Hinduism, in as much as all human beings should be as dear to one as one’s own close relatives. My own veneration for other faiths is the same as that for my own faith; therefore no thought of conversion is possible.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

What is this truth that Ghandi saw in all the religions?

What does Ghandi teach? What does Jesus teach? What does Buddha teach? What does any great moral leader that we know of teach?

Love. Humility. Selflessness. Forgiveness. Honesty.
A unity, a one-ness in the world, something unchanging beneath the changing, that unites all, that unites us.
Fearlessness/detachment from worldly cares, from what others think of you.
Acknowledging your own flaws and insignificance while constantly striving to be better, constantly seeking the truth. Constantly striving for that ideal (to be christ-like? to perfection, to truth? to enlightenment?).
Love, above all else.

I’m not sure if there is an Ultimate Truth or what it may be. But if it did exist, I imagine it would be something like love.

So abstract and complex that no words can ever fully capture its essence or adequately describe all it’s nuances.
Yet it is something so simple and foundational that any new-born child can experience it for themselves. Accessible to people of all ages, of all intellects and educational levels, from all cultures and times in history. Something universal that everyone can understand and relate to on such a deep and personal level.

Elegant yet complex; accessible to all yet experienced on an incredibly personal level; Self-evident and speaks for itself; heightens a sense of being unique and special, yet unifies all like nothing else can.

Because Gandhi believed in God, he limited his non-discriminating embrace to religions. I would bring it one step further so say that all these similarities that he sees in religions, all these truths, extend to ALL people. Anyone who is searching, anyone who is striving. And aren’t we all searching for meaning and purpose, all striving to be better people, for better lives?

As he believes that the different teachings of these religions are in fact, at the core, the same and thus all true, I believe that any religious teachings can also be ‘translated’ into non-religious terms, and remain equally true.

Because truth transcends.