Dinner with Mahatma Gandhi….anyone?
2nd October is Gandhi Jayanti when India marks the birth of the father of the nation, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi – who spearheaded the country’s Freedom Movement for Independence from British Rule.
“Hi. I’m Lilly. And if you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be,” President Obama was asked by a student named Lilly during his discussion (in 2009) with 9th graders at Wakefield High School in Arlington Virginia.
President Obama replied:”Dinner with anyone dead or alive? Well, you know, dead or alive, that’s a pretty big list,” Obama responded amidst laughter. The next moment he was serious and said “You know, I think that it might be Gandhi, who is a real hero of mine,” Obama said. “Now, it would probably be a really small meal because he didn’t eat a lot,” he said amidst laughter. But Mahatma Gandhi is someone who has inspired people across the world for the past several generations, he said.
“What was interesting was that he ended up doing so much and changing the world just by the power of his ethics, by his ability to change how people saw each other and saw themselves — and help people who thought they had no power realise that they had power, and then help people who had a lot of power realise that if all they’re doing is oppressing people, then that’s not a really good exercise of power. I am always interested in people who are able to bring about change, not through violence, not through money, but through the force of their personality and their ethical and moral stances. That is somebody that I would love to sit down and talk to,” Obama said.
“In my life, I have always looked to Mahatma Gandhi as an inspiration, because he embodies the kind of transformational change that can be made when ordinary people come together to do extraordinary things,” he wrote in an ethnic Indian newspaper last year. That is why his portrait hangs in my Senate office; to remind me that real results will not just come from Washington, they will come from the people,” President Obama said.
To know Gandhiji is to know how wisdom is put into practice in every day life. Here is a sample of Gandhiji’s noteworthy words of wisdom on sublime themes like GOD, Life and religion.
God: “I am impatient to realize the presence of my Maker, Who to me embodies Truth and in the early part of my career I discovered that if I was to realize Truth, I must obey, even at the cost of my life, the law of Love”
Sanatana Dharma: “I call myself a Sanatani Hindu, because I believe in the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas, and all that goes by the name of Hindu scripture, and therefore in avataras and rebirth; I believe in the varnashrama dharma in a sense, in my opinion strictly Vedic but not in its presently popular crude sense; I believe in the protection of cow … I do not disbelieve in murti puja.” (Young India: June 10, 1921)
The Teachings of the Gita: “Hinduism as I know it entirely satisfies my soul, fills my whole being … When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and when I see not one ray of light on the horizon, I turn to the Bhagavad Gita, and find a verse to comfort me; and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow. My life has been full of tragedies and if they have not left any visible and indelible effect on me, I owe it to the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita.” (Young India: June 8, 1925)
God is Strength: “Who am I? I have no strength save what God gives me. I have no authority over my countrymen save the pure moral. If He holds me to be a pure instrument for the spread of non-violence in place of the awful violence now ruling the earth, He will give me the strength and show me the way. My greatest weapon is mute prayer. The cause of peace is therefore, in God’s good hands.”
All Religions are True: “I came to the conclusion long ago … that all religions were true and also that all had some error in them, and whilst I hold by my own, I should hold others as dear as Hinduism. So we can only pray, if we are Hindus, not that a Christian should become a Hindu … But our innermost prayer should be a Hindu should be a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim, a Christian a better Christian.
Seeking God: “I worship God as Truth only. I have not yet found Him, but I am seeking after Him. I am prepared to sacrifice the things dearest to me in pursuit of this quest. Even if the sacrifice demanded my very life, I hope I may be prepared to give it.
Religion – a Matter of the Heart: “True religion is not a narrow dogma. It is not external observance. It is faith in God and living in the presence of God. It means faith in a future life, in truth and Ahimsa…. Religion is a matter of the heart. No physical inconvenience can warrant abandonment of one’s own religion.
Faith in God: “Everyone has faith in God though everyone does not know it. For everyone has faith in himself and that multiplied to the nth degree is God. The sum total of all that lives is God. We may not be God, but we are of God, even as a little drop of water is of the ocean.”