Gandhi was a bad ass. He lived by Vedic principles and could not have existed in another time, yet there he was, changing the course of history because he refused to back down to white arrogance in all its forms. His humility and his absolute insistence on love for all people, not just those of privilege was an anomaly, and it was what drove him deeply to face down the largest colonial empire on the planet.
And he won. He won independence for Maa India and gave the potential for all Indians to walk the earth as free men and women. His geopolitical legacy is not perfect, as shown in the continuing struggle between India and Pakistan since partition. But Gandhi never wavered from his ideal of solidarity between Hindus and Muslims. The world obviously has a deep need for more Gandhis in every culture. He did not shirk his civic and political duty, and when the time came to act, he did so decisively and shrewdly, yet held himself to the highest of all rigorous principles.
As a young law student at University College London, Gandhi was drawn through his lifelong devotion to vegetarianism to join the Theosophical Society, which studied both Hindu and Buddhist literature. It was then that he delved deeply into the Bhagavad Gita. Simply put, the Gita turned him on.
The Bhagavad Gita is the centerpiece of Veda Vyasa’s epic Hindu masterpiece the Mahabharata, penned around 400 BC. The Gita is primarily a 700-verse conversation between Arjuna and his charioteer and guru Krishna on the battlefield of the Kurekshetra War. In the course of this conversation, Lord Krishna explains to the warrior Arjuna about dharma (duty), yoga (to join or unite), and gives him the priceless practice of meditation.
Gandhi recognized the essential life-lessons outlined in this ancient book.
Yet all was not charm and light in young Mohandas’ world. Early in his career as a barrister he had a long-term assignment in South Africa, another of Britain’s colonies, and while travelling first-class on a train, was humiliatingly ejected from his compartment when a white traveler singled him out as a lowly “wog.” This injustice informed and defined the principles of non-violent resistance he later developed and employed to change the world.
During our stay in Delhi, my brother Pankaj generously took us to Gandhi’s home. We were able to walk through the living quarters he inhabited at the time of his death by assassination. His assassin Nathuram Godse was a Hindu nationalist who wrongly believed Gandhi favored Pakistan and Muslims.
We saw the loom upon which he weaved homespun cotton cloth. We saw his humble bed. We saw the yard where he was killed.
Here is why Gandhi’s existence has such profound resonance to me:
Because India won her independence, Guru Dev, (Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, the Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math) who became the spiritual leader of India in 1941, was able to bring the teachings of the Veda out of safekeeping and his Secretary, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was able to bring Vedic teachings to the west, with the help of pop culture icons The Beatles. Because of this, I meditate. And because of this, I will soon teach meditation.