Eknath Easwaran on "Gandhi, The Man"

January 4, 2012 - Vaikuntha Ekadashi

Gandhiji being weighed during the 21-day fast
for Hindu-Muslim unity, Delhi, 1924

On this holy day, my eyes strayed to a book that I have owned for a few years but hadn't read properly. Eknath Easwaran has profiled Mahatma Gandhi beautifully in his book "Gandhi, The Man". A Geeta blog is the perfect venue to review a book written by a noted teacher of the Geeta about that colossus of the 20th century, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

Shri Easwaranji was an accomplished spiritual teacher based in California, and has written a three volume set "Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living". Shri Easwaranji approaches Gandhiji's story as a story of transformation, not focusing on his political accomplishments but on how Gandhiji transformed the struggle for India's freedom by changing himself and his approach to life and to the world. Aptly, the subtitle of Shri Easwaran's book is "The Story of His Transformation".

As quoted by Shri Easwaranji, Mahatma Gandhi described the Geeta thus:

"To me, the Gita became an infallible guide of conduct. It became my dictionary of daily reference. Just as I turned to the English dictionary for the meanings of English words that I did not understand, I turned to this dictionary of conduct for a ready solution of all my troubles and trials. Words like 'aparigraha' (non-possession) and 'samabhava' (equability) gripped me. How to cultivate and preserve that equability was the question. How was one to treat alike insulting, insolent and corrupt officials, co-workers of yesterday raising meaningless objections, and men who had always been good to me? How was one to divest oneself of all possessions?... Was I to give up all and follow Him? Straight came the answer: I could not follow Him unless I gave up all I had.

"My study of English law came to my help... I understood the Gita teaching of non-possession to mean those who desired salvation should act like the trustee who, though having control over great possessions, regards not an iota of them as his own."
In this blog, I have discussed and talked about Guruji Swami Tejomayanandaji's declaration that "Our idea of change has to change". To me, this book on Gandhi is a perfect example of how Gandhiji redefined change by starting with transforming himself.

In this context, I came across this beautiful video by Crossfire files which features several heavyweights in its production, lyrics by Gandhiji himself, music set by Ilaiyaraja, sung by Pundit Bhimsen Joshi & Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty, and finally a narration by Amitabh Bachchan. The video is nice in syrupy way, don't be surprised if you find yourself teary-eyed at the end.

Hari Om and Namaskaar until the next post


  1. Unlike Nelson Mandela, Gandhi was not prepared to bear the brutalities of the oppressive regime in South Africa. So he gatecrashed the Indian politics, for he felt the government in India was liberal. Soon he became a top leader because Nehru was highly refined and allowed Gandhi to have his own plans. Gandhi was influenced by the Bhagavad Gita and the major mistake he did was to inject religion into the arteries of Indian politics. Krishna says in the Gita that he created four-fold division of caste (varnashrama), and Gandhi embraced caste-system as a religious duty. He said that, on religious grounds, it was essential to preserve the division of society into four fundamental castes, for it was this that had saved Hinduism from disintegration. ‘If Hindu society has been able to stand, it is because it is founded on the caste system. The seeds of swaraj are to be found in the caste system.’ To destroy it would mean that ‘Hindus must give up the principle of hereditary occupation which is the soul of the caste system. What a meaningless interpretation. It was by destroying caste system that K.R.Narayana became president of India and Balakrishnan became the Chief Justice of India, posts reserved exclusively for Brahmins in pre-British Hindu India of the Gupta period. Gandhi’s real character was revealed when he launched the ‘Quit India’ movement. The fall of Singapore to the Japanese on Feb15, 1942, was considered one of the greatest military disasters in the history of the British Army and Britain's most significant defeat in the Second World War.Gandhi took advantage of the weak position of Britain and said: "I, therefore, want freedom immediately, this very night, before dawn.” Like Krishna’s message to Arjun, Gandhi gave a mantra to his followers, ‘Do or Die.” Gandhi wanted to appease the Japanese and he was certain that the British would be defeated. Although Gandhi called ‘Quit India’ a non-violent, passive movement, police stations, post offices and railway stations were attacked and set ablaze in many places. Attempts were made by the agitated mobs to capture court buildings. Troops fired to control mob fury. Uncontrolled crowd threw bombs on the police in Madhya Pradesh, Bombay and Uttar Pradesh. The official death toll, mostly in Bihar and the Eastern United Provinces, was 1,060 demonstrators killed (as opposed to 63 policemen and a small number of military personnel), but unofficial estimates were higher (1,761 for Bihar alone according to a Congress source. After the event, Gandhi described it as a calamity. His third and last campaign against British rule had ended in total failure. By 1945 he was politically speaking a nonentity. But his conversion of the political movement started by the founders of the Congress Party into a religious movement caused irreparable disaster for the country. Jinnah, who stood with Nehru and fought for freedom, was completely disappointed at the religious fanaticism of Gandhi and clamoured for Pakistan. If Gandhi had not entered Indian politics, India would not have been partitioned. Even without Gandhi, India would have won independence. Was there a Gandhi in Burma? Was there a Gandhi in Malysia, Indonesia and Singapore? Britain was giving freedom to many African countries after World War II even without asking.

    1. Mr Yeshuratnam, your comment is rather confusing. I guess you are not a fan of Gandhi, which is your prerogative. With your mind already made up with a unique or peculiar reading of history, I am pretty certain you are not looking for a conversation on the Bhagavad Gita.