Big ideas in our daily lives

It?s delightful, the new interest in Bapu?s ideas, dusted up for this millennium as ?Gandhigiri?, writes Renuka Narayanan.

india Updated: Oct 07, 2006 04:08 IST

It’s delightful, the new interest in Bapu’s ideas, dusted up for this millennium as ‘Gandhigiri’. The Bhagavad Gita and Christ’s Sermon on the Mount are generally acknowledged as big influences on him. Jesus was satyagraha incarnate while Krishna’s niti marga turned the wheel of dharma for Gandhi by helping him apply Christ’s goodness in political strategy.

Here are some key messages from the Sermon on the Mount to refresh ourselves with: ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.’

Further on, it says: ‘Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No’. Anything more is from the evil one. You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’

But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.’

Trying to win over opposition through conciliation rather than confrontation is a notion that struck others as splendid, too. In the Dhammapada, the Buddha’s dictum is clear: ‘Conquer anger by love, evil by good, the mean by giving, the liar by truth.’

The logic behind arousing the enemy’s better self is that he too is a human being like us. The famous story about Adi Shankara that one never tires of telling or hearing goes that when he was on his way to the Ganga for a bath, his path was blocked by a Chandal, accompanied by four dogs. “Dooramgachcha!” (Go away!) shooed the uber-ascetic. “What shall I move?” asked the Chandal, sweetly; “My body, that is made of the same five elements as yours, or the immortal Soul that abides in me, as in you?”

Hindus love to believe that this was Lord Shiva with the four Vedas along to bear witness to his lila or divine sport to humble Shankara and teach him truth. Shankara, being gifted with yogic insight, saw through the disguise, fell at Lord Shiva’s feet and composed the Maneesha Panchakam in reaction.

Centuries later, Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi asks in Persian: ‘Chitadbir-ae-Musalmaanan ki tarsa na yahudam man? Na az hindam na az chinam na as bulgar-o-saksinam. Na az mulk-e-iraqanam, na az khaq-e-khorasanam.’ ‘What shall I do, O Muslims, I am neither Muslim, Christian nor Jew. I am not from Hind, China or Europe; not of the land of Iraq, nor of the dust of Khorasan…’ He goes on to utter words of pure Advaita, that when ‘duality’ fell away from him, he became one with the One.

This oneness with God is repeatedly explained as oneness with ‘the children of God’. The Isha Upanishad asks, “Yastu sarvaani bhootani aatmaani evaanupashyati, sarvabhooteshuchaatmaanam tatho navijugupsate?” ‘If one sees all beings in oneself and oneself in all beings, how can one feel revulsion for the other?’ The bhakti saints take this into practice with messages like this one in Marathi by Saint Dnyaneshwar: “Tayasarvatmaka Ishvara sarvakarma kusumanchi veera,” meaning, ‘The Lord is most pleased if worshipped with the flowers of good deeds.’

It’s enchanting, how this basic idea of love-God-through-people is reburnished every age. Bapu, as we know, used it most effectively for it seems to run deep down in our culture as a mother lode, despite all the bad stuff that keeps happening otherwise.

The seeds of Gandhigiri in Lage Raho Munnabhai already existed in the first film, with the jadu-ki-jhappi. It has formidable scriptural backing, as we see. Remains only the need to apply the Big Idea to everyday life.

As one of Bapu’s favourite songs prods us lazier ones: “Uthjaag musafir, bhor bayi; ab rain kahan, kyon sovat hai? Jo sovat hai, so khovat hai, jo jaagat hai so paavat hai. Jo kal kare so aaj kar le, jo aaj kare so ab kar le.” ‘Wake up, wanderer, day breaks now; it is no longer night, so why do you sleep? Sleepers lose all, while the wakeful win. Do tomorrow’s work today and today’s work, do now.’

First Published: Oct 07, 2006 04:08 IST