A reflection on the Man of the Millenium

By Stanley Jayaweera (Avadhi Lanka Activist)
The transcript of the radio interview "Mahatma Gandhi - the Man of the Millenium" (Sunday Island of 16th June) in which Ranil Mendis speaks of the relevance of India’s Liberator to today’s world gives us some consolation that in this country where standards in the conduct of public affairs have hit rock bottom and spiritually the land is a virtual cess-pit, there are, at least a few individuals who see a way out - namely the Gandhian way.

Gandhi was not proclaiming a new doctrine or a new philosophy when he advocated non-violence, civil disobedience, non-co-operation and the like. He was only putting into effect in daily life the Perennial Philosophy enshrined in the Teachings of the Buddha, Jesus and the several other sages who have adorned the history of mankind. Gandhi lived in this world but was not of it. Without being a recluse in a jungle hermitage, without donning a yellow robe or a white cassock, the Mahatma demonstrated that one need not co-operate with what considers evil, be able to live sensibly and meaningfully. In living out the Perennial Philosophy, he demonstrated though, that one has to pay a price and that is to be content with little. That way Gandhi identified himself with India’s starving masses and established his deep sense of unity with them - very unlike the men in this country who claimed and even now claim that they have taken to politics to liberate the downtrodden. In our land the sense of superiority of these liberators have prevented them from identifying themselves with those whom they seek to liberate.

The secret of Gandhi’s power was, on the contrary, his oneness with the masses. The contrast between this phenomenal energy and their passivity is the clue to his influence.

"I claim to know my millions. All the 24 hours of the day I am with them. They are my first care and last, because I recognise no God except the God that is to be found in the hearts of the dumb millions. They do not recognise his presence, I do. And I worship the God that is Truth or Truth, which is God through the service of these millions".

Gandhi once wrote in the Harijan of March 11th, 1939. He shared their sorrows, understood their difficulties and anticipated their wants. He released the energies contained in the endurance of the Indian masses. His first demand on those who entered the world of politics was that they must in mode of conduct and life, speech and thought, habit and clothing, food and habitation, identify themselves with the starving, naked and illiterate Indian masses. He adopted the language of the people for all political transactions. The imperialist sought to ridicule Gandhi as a half naked fakir. Little did he realise that what he regarded as an object of ridicule was the secret of the Mahatma’s strength.

Gandhi’s greatest achievement, I venture to think, was that he found for the Indian masses a function in the political life of India. Before he entered the political scene there was hardly a possibility of an active and energetic upheaval in India. Instead of an aggressive and militant struggle, Gandhi built up a movement of civil disobedience and non-violent and non-co-operation based on the passivity and endurance of the people. That way he proved to the world that tyranny, is made possible by the willing or unwilling, conscious or unconscious, free or forced co-operation of those who are tyrannised over. But that is another story.