Shri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Rajkot

Publication : History

Advent Of Mahatma Gandhi

The arrival of Mahatma Gandhi on the national scene after a victorious struggle in Africa marked the beginning of a new phase not only in the socio-political field but also in the field of Gujarati literature. Speaking about his literary style K.M.Munshi says: 'Mahatma Gandhi has given to Gujarati prose a new sense of power. With him, beauty of expression has to be a humble housemaid to Truth. . .'

The tremendous influence exerted by the life and teachings of Sri Ramakrishna on Mahatma Gandhi is beautifully expressed by Vincent Sheen in his book Lead Kindly Light. He writes: 'He [Gandhi] was always ready to acknowledge his masters, who were indeed, each in his field, more highly developed than he; there were in sanctity of personal life a large number of Hindu exemplars; and, above all, in sheer mysticism, that is, in the quality Indians call 'spirituality', the Mahatma very humbly recognized himself to be a follower. But certainly his reverence for Ramakrishna was strong and unfeigned, and a more extreme mystical phenomenon than Ramakrishna has yet to be observed on earth. Gandhi's reserve on the subject of religious 'realizations' was seldom broken--never with respect to himself--but he wrote a foreword to the Life of Ramakrishna in 1924 which is worth quoting: 'The story of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa's life is a story of religion in practice. His life enables us to see God face to face. No one can read the story of his life without being convinced that God alone is real and all else is an illusion. Ramakishna was a living embodiment of godliness. His sayings are not those of a mere learned man but they are pages from the Book of Life. They are revelations of his own experiences. They therefore leave on the reader an impression which he cannot resist.'

By introducing the method of objective verification in the field of religious experience, Sri Ramakrishna laid the foundation of what may be termed as a scientific religion to suit the modern scientific spirit. His experiments in religion might have provided the inspiration for Gandhiji's Experiments With Truth. Sri Ramakrishna's ideal of Sarva Dharma Samanvaya found an echo in Gandhiji's 'equal respect for all religions.'

While paying his homage to the revered memory of Swamiji in 1921, at Belur Math Gandhiji spoke the following words:

'I have gone through his [Swamiji's] works very thoroughly and after having gone through them, the love I had for my country became a thousand fold.'

God to Sri Ramakrishna was no abstraction or a hypothesis but a reality to be seen, felt, spoken to, and consulted with every moment. Gandhiji said: 'I am surer of His existence than of the fact that you and I are sitting in this room. I may live without air and water, but not without Him.'

No important decision of his was taken without consulting the 'inner voice'.

Sri Ramakrishna once told Keshab Sen: 'If God makes a man great, then everybody knows about him even though he lives in a forest. When flowers bloom in the deep woods, the bees find them, but the flies do not.'

In a similar language, Gandhiji said: 'Life is its own expression. The rose does not need to write a book or deliver a sermon on the scent it sheds all around, nor on the beauty, which everyone who has eyes can see. Spiritual life is infinitely superior to the beautiful and fragrant rose... The moment there is a spiritual expression in life, the surrounding will readily respond.'

Elaborating Sri Ramakrishna's idea regarding the power of concentrated thought, Swami Vivekananda said: 'The highest men are calm, silent and unknown. They are the men who really know the power of thought, they are sure that even if they go into a cave and close the door and simply think five true thoughts and then pass away, these five thoughts of theirs will live throughout eternity.'

Gandhiji wrote in a similar language: 'There are two kinds of thought, idle and active. There may be myriads of the former. They do not count. But one pure, active thought proceeding from the depth and endowed with all the undivided intensity of one's being, becomes dynamic.'

Pyarelal, in his biography of Mahatma Gandhi shows how Gandhiji internalised some of Swamiji's revolutionary ideas in the field of religion. He writes: 'In the brief span of barely a decade, he[Swamiji] accomplished work enough for a life-time. He gave India the expression 'Daridranarayana' - God incarnated as oppressed humanity. . .'

Pyarelal continues: 'Vivekananda's declaration about the futility of preaching religion to hungry stomachs, or his utterance: 'He alone serves God who serves all other beings. There is no other God to seek.' How identical with Gandhiji's: 'I recognise no God except the God that is to be found in the hearts of the dumb millions. And I worship the God that is Truth or Truth which is God, through the service of these millions.'

'Instances of parallelism in their thought and expression can be multiplied. Gandhiji never wearied of proclaiming that his life was made up of little things. Swami Vivekananda confided to his English disciple, Sister Nivedita: 'As I grow older, I find that I look more and more for greatness in little things.'

We thus get an idea of the great influence exerted by Ramakrishna-Vivekananda thought on Gandhiji's life and his writings.

You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself.- Swami Vivekananda

A few heart-whole, sincere, and energetic men and women can do more in a year than a mob in a century.- Swami Vivekananda

Arise ! Awake ! And Stop Not Till the Goal is Reached.- Swami Vivekananda

All power is within you, you can do anything & everything !- Swami Vivekananda

To be good & to do good, that is the whole of religion.- Swami Vivekananda

Purity, Patience & Perseverance are the three essentials to success, and above all Love !- Swami Vivekananda

Take the whole responsibility on your own shoulders, and know that you are the creator of your own destiny !- Swami Vivekananda

We are what our thoughts have made us, so take care about what you think.- Swami Vivekananda