Gandhi,Caste and Democracy

With vote bank politics, smaller parties led by the caste leaders are trying to exploit the situation against the interest of the country just for their vested interests.Heads of these parties are demanding more of their candidates from the major parties such as BJP with threat of abandoning the alliances. Over the years such casteist political parties that are family owned mostly, are growing in number. This is dangerous for a strong democracy with majority of either of the largest parties getting difficult. This is one major reason that the caste system in Hindus must end. It is creating heart burns and conflicts and misunderstanding among the people of different castes. Our father of nation, Mahatma Gandhi was dead against the caste system among Hindus. Dr. Ramachandra Guha has mentioned Gandhi’s view in his latest book, Gandhi. “Sometime in 1945, in Bombay , answering to a question about whether caste was ‘consistent with democracy and democratic organisations’, Gandhi replied:’I do not need to refer to my past writings to say what I believe today, because only what I believe today counts. I wish to say that the caste system as it exists to-day in Hinduism is an anachronism.It is one of those ugly things which will certainly hinder the growth of true religion.It must go if both Hinduism and India are to live and grow……The way to do (this)is for all Hindus to become their own scavengers, and treat the so- called hereditary Bhangis as their own brothers.’ Unfortunately, Nehru never came out in forthright manner on the caste system in Hindus. Nehru rather loved to be called Panditji, or Pandit Nehru. As a result, today Rahul Gandhi with Parsi father and Cristian mother declares himself Brahmin to allure Brahmin voters and Hindus. Can some rules by EC discourage the casteist political parties? Castes were a very late introduction in Hinduism and with reservations based on castes by birth, it is becoming a menace for the unity and amity of this country.All Hindu intellectuals and religious leaders must sit together and find a way out to end it.Perhaps the best way for ending it will come with right education, migrations for jobs and urbanisation.

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Gandhi and Congress Party

What Gandhi wanted Congress to do after independence? When Modi in an address talked about the wish of Mahatma Gandhi to wind up Congress, I took it as political statement. But while I am finishing the latest voluminous book of Ramachandra Guha, ‘Gandhi-the years that changed the world 1914-1948, I found the mention of the Gandhi’s view on page 879.

“ On 29 January (1948), he (Gandhi) drafted a short note arguing that the Congress itself should be disbanded, since it had ‘outlived its use’ as ‘a propaganda vehicle and parliamentary machine’. It must keep itself ‘out of unhealthy competition with political parties and communal bodies’.

Other parties could contest elections and run governments, but the Congress, argued Gandhi, should now become a Lok Sevak Sangh (Society for the Service of the People).The workers of this new organization( habitual khadi wearers of course) should focus on rural reconstruction, on making India’s villages ‘self-contained and self-supporting through their agriculture and handicrafts’. They should ‘educate the village folk in sanitation and hygiene’ and enrol them for voting in local, state and national election…..However, he had not yet shown it to Nehru and Patel…”

And on 30 January 1948, Gandhi got killed by Godse..We missed the chance of knowing the views of Nehru or Patel. I wish the new president of Congress thinks over the views of Gandhi and revives Congress Sevak Dal and emphasises on providing the basic services to the rural India.

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Gandhi and Gita

Gandhiji’s first introduction to Gita was in England through two English brothers. Gandhi at that time was studying law. The brothers read Gita regularly and asked Gandhi to join in. Perhaps they thought that they may get to know the text in Sanskrit better. But Gandhi felt sad, because of his lack of Sanskrit knowledge. He read English version by Sir Edwin Arnold as recommended by his English friends, and was captivated for life by Gita’s message.

Gandhi had included 19 concluding slokas from Chapter 2 on स्थितप्रज्ञ (one with steady insight) in Ashram Bhajanawali to be read in his regular prayers in morning.As it appeared Gandhi practised the teachings of Gita in his own way too in day to day life.The two books that I am going through these days are ‘Gandhi- the years that changed the world’ by Ramachandra Guha and ‘Bhagavad Gita for daily living in 3 Volumes by Eknath Easwaran. Both talk about the influences of the Bhagawad Gita on Mahatma Gandhi.Eknath Easwaran has extensively referred to Mahatma Gandhi views and how it matched with the philosophical teachings preached by Bhagawad Gita. Gandhi has written a commentary on Gita too. He used to teach Gita to some like Manu Gandhi.

For last few months I am trying to understand the teachings of Bhagawad Gita through different commentaries. I am of view that all senior citizens can spend some time every day on serious study of Bhagawad Gita with help of one of the best commentary of it. The edition of Gita for children must be a compulsory reading book for every students in all countries. And Gita being a very secular book must be read by every citizen of Indian. One can shun the doubt with the Sloka 21 from Chapter 7:

यो यो यां यां तनुं भक्तः श्रद्धयार्चितुमिच्छति ।

तस्य तस्याचलां श्रद्धां तामेव विदधाम्यहम्‌ ॥

Whatsoever form any desires to worship with faith-that(same) faith of his I make (firm and) unflinching.At least all the legislators of the country must undertake a mandatory study of Gita. It will certainly make their lives better and help them serving the nation better.Let Congress because of its nearness with Gandhiji and BJP because of its claim for Hinduism must take it up the study of Gita immediately and seriously.

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Gandhi Changed The Course of Post Independent India

I am just completing the latest voluminous book of Ramchandra Guha, ‘Gandhi, the years that changed the world 1914-1948 (933 pages), a very comprehensively documented narration of the time.I am quoting here from the book a controversial issue that is as alive today as it was then.Why did Gandhi selected Jawaharlal Nehru as his sole heir?

“Maulana Azad had served as Congress President from 1940 to 1946.In the last week of June 1946,the Cabinet Mission departed for England, having failed to bring about a resolution of the dispute between the Congress and the Muslim League.Another way would have to be found to take the transfer of power from British to Indian hands forward.A new president of Congress was to be selected in place of Azad.

Twelve of the fifteen secretaries of the provincial Congress committiees nominated Vallabhbhai Patel, in acknowledgement of his role in building and rebuilding the party. But Gandhi himself wanted Jawaharlal Nehru. In the event, his will prevailed, and the working committee nominated and selected Nehru.

Why did Gandhi choose Jawaharlal Nehru over Vallabhbhai Patel?

First, Gandhi knew that, with independence imminent, the person who became Congress president in 1946 would most likely become the prime minister of a free India.Second,for at least a decade now, Gandhi had regarded Nehru as his political heir. In statements both private and public, he made this choice clear.”

Some questions naturally comes up in my mind in context of the incidents mentioned in the book: Was Gandhi right in his pushing Jawaharlal Nehru without agreeing with the majority? But for his schooling in England and exposure to international politics, others like Patel,Rajaji,Rajendra Prasad were equally strong candidates with great scholarship. But Gandhi had special soft corner for Jawaharlal though the both had strong difference of opinion on economic policy and renewal of India in post independent India with Jawaharlal. In the CWC meeting in Poona,Nehru and Gandhi had a long argument on the subject. Gandhi believed that the village must be placed at the centre of of India’s economic renewal. Nehru insisted on modern heavy industries.When Nehru didn’t communicate with Gandhi after Poona argumentative tussle, Gandhi observed,’I have said that you are my heir. It is only proper that I should at least understand my heir and my heir in turn should understand me. I shall be then at peace.’

Interesting, the book has mention of Motilal Nehru promoting his son Jawaharlal Nehru (page 249), “Gandhi spent six weeks in Nandidurg, from 20 April to 5 June 1927for rest…..In Nandi, Gandhi received a letter from Motilal Nehru suggesting that his son Jawaharlal be made the next Congress president. The father had always had large ambitions for his son….” Gandhi wrote to Motilal a reply why he would not do that. But it seems the affluence of Motilal and the European living style and culture at home perhaps influenced the decision. It was because of Gandhi that other very contender of Jawaharlal in every respect, Subhash Bose had to leave Congress.History proved that Motilal Nehru initiated the laying of the foundation of Nehru Dynasty and the country had to bear with fifty five years of its reign. Jawaharlal never encouraged any of his younger colleagues to be become strong enough to take the top office. But Gandhi’s decision changed the course of the history of India. (more to be continued after completing the book in a week time)

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On Bhagawad Gita

The Right Opportunity: The retirement age during my time was 58 years. I took another job after that and worked there for two years before I underwent an open heart surgery. I decided thereafter based on a very sane advice from a doctor to lead a retired life. Though allured on number of occasions, I didn’t take any job. But as usual my personal weaknesses-lust, anger,greed,ego (काम, क्रोध, लोभ, अहंकार) remained with me. As the ageing advanced and I got nearer to the teachings of Bhagawad Gita, I, like many started thinking about practising some of the desired qualities in a good human being to make myself happier. Perhaps once we are above 65-70 years of age,it should be easier, though really in right sense it is not. One will have to work hard. As most of us have done away with our material responsibilities of our life, perhaps we can try to develop ourselves spiritually and live as per scripture. While Ashram concept of Vanprasth and then Snayas living philosophy can be practised to have detached peaceful living, we can try to change ourselves from Rajshik to Satvik approaches in living as advised in at least three chapters of Bhagawad Gita.According to Gita, everything including human beings in the universe is a combination of the three Gunas-Sattva (law), Rajas(energy), and Tamas(inertia)-in varying proportions. One can transform Tamas to Rajas to sattva with constant concentration.One can try to increase the proportion of Sattva. Each of us can choose to move on the upward path that leads to abiding joy and will be divine.It will be time taking but with no other better work for self improvement, why should not we try that.

I quote from Bhagawad Gita Chapter 16 that is called दैवासुरसंपद्विभागयोगो:

‘Be fearless and pure;never waver in your

determination or your dedication to the spiritual

life. Give freely. Be self-controlled, sincere, truthful,

loving, and full of the desire to serve.Realize the

Truth of the scriptures;learn to be detached and

to take joy in renunciation.1.

Do not get angry or harm any living creature, but compassionate and gentle;show good will to all.2

Cultivate vigorous,patience,will,purity;avoid malice and pride..Then, Arjuna, you will achieve your divine destiny.3 (Translation by Eknath Easwaran)

अभयं सत्त्वसंशुद्धिर्ज्ञानयोगव्यवस्थितिः।

दानं दमश्च यज्ञश्च स्वाध्यायस्तप आर्जवम्‌॥१॥

अहिंसा सत्यमक्रोधस्त्यागः शान्तिरपैशुनम्‌।

दया भूतेष्वलोलुप्त्वं मार्दवं ह्रीरचापलम्‌॥२॥

तेजः क्षमा धृतिः शौचमद्रोहोनातिमानिता।

भवन्ति सम्पदं दैवीमभिजातस्य भारत॥३॥

With still years to go before the last breath, we can try to concentrate to be a better human being, a Satvik and if possible help to improve the conditions around us.

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Make in India and 2018

Even though the nonbelievers hardly appreciate the good work happening in the country under the better performing present government, I present below just three achievements in year 2018 that must be landmarks for indigenous production starting in significant way for the first time in the country with a hope that the tempo will be further enhanced.(I have limited it to just three though I could have made the list longer.)

1. HAL—manufacturer of the aircraft—can go ahead with its production of the weaponised version of Tejas Mk1. HAL has been ordered to produce 20 aircrafts under the Mk1 category, with Final Operational Clearance (FOC). IAF has given an order of equal number of Tejas aircraft of the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) configuration. IAF has already received 10 of IOC configuration, and the rest are under development. IAF had formed the first Tejas unit—No 45 Squadron IAF ‘Flying Daggers’—on July 1, 2016 with two aircrafts, which has now grown to a strength of 10 fighter jets. Insiders claim that an official announcement is expected on January 4, the day of Tejas’ first test flight in 2001.

2. Train 18 is an electric multiple unit (EMU), semi-high speed train where the engine is inbuilt as part of the rake. Built at a cost of ₹100 crore, the train was named after its launch year—the first one was supposed to start operations by 2018. As per the Indian Railways’ plan, two sets of Train 18 will be developed initially. Till now, one set is ready. The train was built using indigenous technology and is not a product of reverse engineering, though European experts were consulted, according to engineers at Chennai’s Integral Coach Factory (ICF), where it was developed. ICF is expecting an order of 10 more such trains in 2019-20.

3. India’s first indigenous, long-range artillery gun “Dhanush” has passed its final test at Pokhran, paving the way for its induction into the Army. Dhanush is a 155mm x 45mm calibre artillery gun and is also called the “desi Bofors”.12 guns would be supplied to the Army in the current fiscal while the total number for the initial phase is 114 guns.

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On Bhagwad Gita


Bhagwad Gita and Old Person

For last few months I spend my major spare time after the household activities in reading two major books. I try to study Bhagwad Gita for about two hours early in the morning, and for an hour or so after a post- lunch nap I read the voluminous book ‘Gandhi- the years that changed the world 1914-1948’ written by Dr. Ramachandra Guha. While studying ‘Bhagawad Gita for daily living’ by Eknath Easwaran whom someone has called The Teacher of Timeless Wisdom, I came across a portion in the commentary of chapter 16 on दैवासुरसंपदिव्िभागयोग that amazed me and I quote: “….I can testify that the vast majority of problems associated with old age- problems with vitality, memory, attention,endurance, resilience- need never arise at all.

Every older person, even those who do not meditate, can draw inspiration from my small example. I have probably ten times the vitality I had when I was thirty, and perhaps a hundred times the capacity to contribute to life.. I may not be able to run the way I did then, but my judgement is sounder, my understanding is deeper, and my endurance is greater; I can work long hours without tension or fatigue…Living for oneself, indulging the senses, having no overriding goal, all make tremendous demands on prana, and in the later part of life we do not have prana to lose. But if you have an overwhelming desire to contribute to the welfare of others, if your heart is full of love for all, Sri Krishna promises that he will magnify all your faculties- your memory, your creativity, your energy, your resources, your capacity to draw people and win their love and respect and help them to change their lives.All this happens naturally when prana is conserved.”….”Old age is “useless” only if you are living for yourself, in which case any age could be called useless. If you live for giving, you can go on making a vital contribution to the rest of life right up to your last day in this body.Even if you are confined to a wheelchair, you will be able to inspire, support, and strengthen many people who come in contact with you.” Can we help each other in finding a way to contribute and to give?


Mahatma Gandhi- Caste, Varna System and Gita

As I understand through the book, ‘Gandhi-the years that changed the world 1914-1948’, Gandhi had very strong views against the caste system in Hindu society. For all Hindus today, it is a great concern that thousands of castes that have cropped up over the centuries have become a menace for present Hindu society. It is high time that all rational,reasonable, and educated individual,intellectuals, social, political and religious leaders and opinion builders agree to do away with the caste system that is fixed on basis of the birth. I seek a thoughtful view on the subject of utmost national importance.The book says,

“In around 1930, Gandhi wrote in an essay on the subject,’I do not believe in caste in the modern sense…It is an excrescence and a handicap on progress. Nor do I believe in inequalities between human beings…Assumption of superiority by any person over any other is a sin against God and man. Thus caste,in so far it connotes distinctions in status, is an evil.’This system, believed Gandhi, had been corrupted over the years, resulting in ‘unnecessary and harmful restrictions’ on inter-dining and intermarriage.But as Gandhi understood it, the ’law of Varnas has nothing to do with these restrictions.People of different Varnas may intermarry and interdine….[A]Brahmin who marries a Sudra girl or vice verse commits no offence against the law of Varna.’

Gandhi continued to believe in Varna insofar as it defined and marked ‘ four universal occupations- imparting knowledge(Brahmin), defending the defenceless(Kshatriyas), carrying on agriculture and commerce (Vaishyas)and performing service through physical labour(Shudras). These occupations are common to all mankind, but Hinduism, having recognised them as the law of our being,has made use of it in regulating social relations and conduct.’(page 389)”

Though the subject is controversial but it is alive because of the exploitation of ignorance of the mass by the people of vested interest.As for me and most of us, the country and our religion are important, we must think over the mesh that the caste system had created and still creating.

Mahatma Gandhi kept Bhagwad Gita always with him and had started studying it since he first went to England. Gandhi has also written his own view on The teachings of Gita. His view on Varnas mentioned above are same as mentioned in Bhagwad Gita Chapter 18 that has four slokas (41-44) on Varnas.

The traits observed in different Varnas:

1. Brahmans – serenity,self-restraints,austerity,purity,forgiveness and also uprightness, knowledge, realisation, belief in God.

2. Kshatriyas-prowess,splendours,firmness,dexterity, and also not fleeing from battle, generosity, lordliness.

3. Vaishyas-agriculture,cattle-rearing and trade.

4. Shudras-service

The mental temperament of a man determines what sort of work assignment would suit him.However, a person can earn the traits and qualities to get into the different classification.It suits manning and promotions in any modern organisation or business establishments.Please note few essential aspects of Varna system:

1. It was not based on heredity or the family of birth.It was based on the qualities born of one’s own nature.

2. With focused practice or alternatively giving up the qualities, a person of one Varna could improve upon or change his qualities and get upgraded or demoted.A Brahmin could become Ashura, or a low Varna person could become the greatest epic writer or Rishi, Brahmin.

As Swami Chnmayanand in his commentary on Gita writes, the Hindu scriptures have brought the entire humanity under this four-fold classification that is applicable not merely in India, but is universal.The four types of people , in present context, may be called: 1. The creative thinker, 2. The politicians, 3. The commercial employers, and 4.The labourers(the proletarians). But the caste system is corrupt erupted extension of Varnas with no sanctions from scripture. It started sometimes in fifth centuries AD. We must see that it must gradually die out, if Hinduism is to become the old great religion.

PS For information, Gandhi did not agree for inter community(In Hindus And Muslim) marriages. While one of his four sons who wished to marry a Muslim girl finally agreed to marry a Hindu girl of his caste, the second also married a girl of Gandhi’s caste, Devdas Gandhi, the youngest married the daughter of Rajagopalchary , a Brahmin. Only his eldest son with whom Gandhi could not keep normal relation, had married Muslim girl against his wishes.

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