Knowing the other side of Mahatma Gandhi
The Mahatma and the Poet
Between 1915 and 1941, Mahatma Gandhi — who was assassinated on January 30, 1948 — exchanged a series of letters with Indian poet, philosopher, and celebrated creative spirit Rabindranath Tagore, debating such subjects as truth, freedom, democracy, courage, education, and the future of humanity as India struggled for its independence.
[I feel] compelled to utter a truism in asserting that physical catastrophes have their inevitable and exclusive origin in certain combination of physical facts. … We, who are immensely grateful to Mahatmaji for inducing, by his wonder working inspiration, freedom from fear and feebleness in the minds of his countrymen, feel profoundly hurt when any words from his mouth may emphasize the elements of unreason in those very minds — unreason, which is a fundamental source of all the blind powers that drive us against freedom and self-respect.
The article originally appeared on Brain Pickings and was written by Maria Popova. You can read the original and the complete article here: www.brainpickings.org/2013/01/30/tagore-gandhi-letters.
Tolstoy’s Letters to Gandhi on Love, Violence, and the Truth of the Human Spirit
In 1908, Indian revolutionary Taraknath Das wrote to Leo Tolstoy, by then one of the most famous public figures in the world, asking for the author’s support for India’s independence from British colonial rule. On December 14, Tolstoy, who had spent the last twenty years seeking the answers to life’s greatest moral questions, was moved to reply in a long letter, which Das published in the Indian newspaper Free Hindustan. Passed from hand to hand, the massive finally made its way to the young Mahatma Gandhi, whose career as a peace leader was just beginning in South Africa. He wrote to Tolstoy asking for permission to republish it in his own South African newspaper, Indian Opinion. Tolstoy’s letter was later published in English under the title A Letter to a Hindu.
As soon as men live entirely in accord with the law of love natural to their hearts and now revealed to them, which excludes all resistance by violence, and therefore hold aloof from all participation in violence — as soon as this happens, not only will hundreds be unable to enslave millions, but not even millions will be able to enslave a single individual.
The reason for the astonishing fact that a majority of working people submit to a handful of idlers who control their labour and their very lives is always and everywhere the same — whether the oppressors and oppressed are of one race or whether … the oppressors are of a different nation.
The reason lies in the lack of a reasonable religious teaching which by explaining the meaning of life would supply a supreme law for the guidance of conduct and would replace the more than dubious precepts of pseudo-religion and pseudo-science with the immoral conclusions deduced from them and commonly called “civilization.”
As a bonus, you would also love reading about this conversation between Rabindranath Tagore and Einstein talking about human nature, absolute truth, love, peace and scientific truth.
When Einstein met Tagore
On July 14, 1930, Albert Einstein welcomed into his home on the outskirts of Berlin the Indian philosopher, musician, and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Following is an excerpt from one of their conversations :
EINSTEIN: Do you believe in the Divine as isolated from the world?
TAGORE: Not isolated. The infinite personality of Man comprehends the Universe. There cannot be anything that cannot be subsumed by the human personality, and this proves that the Truth of the Universe is human Truth.
I have taken a scientific fact to explain this — Matter is composed of protons and electrons, with gaps between them; but matter may seem to be solid. Similarly humanity is composed of individuals, yet they have their interconnection of human relationship, which gives living unity to man’s world. The entire universe is linked up with us in a similar manner, it is a human universe. I have pursued this thought through art, literature and the religious consciousness of man.
EINSTEIN: There are two different conceptions about the nature of the universe: (1) The world as a unity dependent on humanity. (2) The world as a reality independent of the human factor.
TAGORE: When our universe is in harmony with Man, the eternal, we know it as Truth, we feel it as beauty.
EINSTEIN: This is the purely human conception of the universe.
TAGORE: There can be no other conception. This world is a human world — the scientific view of it is also that of the scientific man. There is some standard of reason and enjoyment which gives it Truth, the standard of the Eternal Man whose experiences are through our experiences.
EINSTEIN: This is a realization of the human entity.
TAGORE: Yes, one eternal entity. We have to realize it through our emotions and activities. We realized the Supreme Man who has no individual limitations through our limitations. Science is concerned with that which is not confined to individuals; it is the impersonal human world of Truths. Religion realizes these Truths and links them up with our deeper needs; our individual consciousness of Truth gains universal significance. Religion applies values to Truth, and we know this Truth as good through our own harmony with it.
EINSTEIN: Truth, then, or Beauty is not independent of Man?
The article originally appeared on Brain Pickings and was written by Maria Popova. You can read the original and the complete article here: www.brainpickings.org/2012/04/27/when-einstein-met-tagore.