EmPulse for Week of September 27, 2010
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” -Gandhi
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, [2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948], educated at the University College London, Gandhi left London immediately after finishing his exams, the day after he was called to the High Court (12 October 1891). He became the pre-eminent political and spiritual leader of India during the Indian independence movement. He pioneered satyagraha— literally “Soul Force,” nonviolent/passive resistance to government suppression. Through this, he won India’s self-determination from British rule & domination. As a practitioner of ahimsa, Gandhi swore to speak the truth and advocated that others do the same.
During Gandhi’s second year in England, two English brothers asked him to study the Bhagavad Gita, a part of the sacred Hindu scriptures, with them. Written several hundred years before Christ was born, the Gita is a dialogue between the Hindu god Krishna and Arjuna, a warrior about to go into battle. It glorifies action, renunciation, and worldly detachment, and its message seared Gandhi’s soul.
At about the same time he was searching through the Gita, a Christian friend persuaded Gandhi to read the Bible. The Old Testament set him dozing, but the New Testament, particularly Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, evoked a spiritual recognition. “Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man take away thy coat let him have thy cloak too.” The seeds of Gandhi’s philosophy of renunciation and nonviolence were thus planted almost simultaneously by sacred Hindu and Christian texts. [http://www.progress.org/gandhi/gandhi02.htm]
It is amazing what influences us as we formulate the principles that will guide our lives. Most of us do it when we are in our late teens through our mid-twenties; others, much later. For many of us our life-principles grow out of some incredible life-experience— a tragic event, a betrayal, or a great accomplishment, like conquering a 14,000’+ mountain. Whatever the event it changes our perspective on life from that point on. We see things differently: we become something other than who we were. For Gandhi, it was his search for meaning. For me, it was a confrontation with Jesus Christ, late one night (3:00 a.m. to be precise) in New York City. It is different for all of us.
That is, if you are even trying to live by some over-arching life-principle. Purveyors of the postmodern mindset tell us that the only absolute truth is that there are no absolute truths. Which, in the real world, leads to self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing, personal and cultural arrogance. For the long haul, in families, in businesses, social networks, and especially in the sciences, postmodernism’s presupposition fails miserably. But, what does work? (… always the pragmatist.)
Do we join the masses and go along with group-belief? Not possible: there are too many large masses that believe quite different things about reality. Or should we strike out on our own and construct a belief system that works for us…, forget everybody else! Back to personal arrogance. No, we need to carefully consider why we are in whatever life situation we find ourselves and not in some other. What do I need to do to make a difference HERE?
In truth, Gandhi was right on the mark— we do need to be the change we wish to see in this world. It starts with me, personally; with all of us. In my faith, I try to follow the axiom the Apostle James laid down in his letter; chapter 1 verse 27—
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Gandhi would have done well to have kept on reading.
Have a nice week.