MAHATMA GANDHI & KAVI RAJCHANDRAJI; QUESTIONS - ANSWERS
It is remarkable that Mahatma Gandhi had grown a close intimacy with Kavi Rajchandraji. Mahatmaji had expressed this experience of his life in very impressive language. He writes, "Tolstoy, Ruskin and Rajchandbhai the three great personalities have influenced me much. Tolstoy through his book and correspondence Ruskin by his " UNTO THIS LAST!" and Rajchandbhai by his close contact. When I had grown up doubts about Hinduism, it was Rajchandbhai who helped me (to remain firm in my belief). In the month of July 1891, when I returned from England and reached Bombay, that I first met Rajchandbhai. Dr. Pranjivandas introducing him to me, as a Kavi (Poet), said, that inspite of being a poet, he is a partner with us in business. He is very wise, a 'SHATAVADHANI' also. I was simply amazed to hear this and out of curiosity read out to him a big list of words from various languages, which I had written beforehand for my convenience. After hearing me, Rajchandbhai repeated those words exactly in the same order as I read them. I was satisfied and wondered (at this extraordinary feat of memory). Indeed I had a great regard and impression about his faculty of memory. The wonder is that the Kavi had no knowledge of English and he was only 25 years old at the time. A student only of vernacular (normal) classes, yet he developed his wisdom and knowledge such that commanded respect from all ! My acquaintance with Kavi continued for long, as a " Gnyani” he was!
While Mahatma Gandhi was in South Africa, he came into the contact of the Christian Missionaries and had religious and philosophical discussions with them. As a result he had to face a mental storm which arose in his mind . He at once wrote to Kavi Rajchandra and sought his help to clear the doubtful points, which were troubling his mind. He put no less than 27 questions to the Kavi, which were duly answered. Since they have a particular importance and meaning because they come from two great geniuses, who India gave to world in this century, we reproduce a few of them for the benefit of our readers.
Q.- What is a soul and what are its functions ? Do the Karmas bound it ?
A.-Just as the pot, table etc. are material substances, similarly a soul is a conscious substance. But pots, tables etc. all material substances are transient impermanent. They cannot remain static in their nature through aall the ages : past, present and future. While on the other hand, soul retains all its characteristics, because it is permanent and eternal. ' Eternal ' is that substance which is not created by the processes of integration and disintegration. There is nothing to show that soul has been created by any such processes. We may make thousands sorts of combinations and permutation (alteration) of material objects, but it is impossible to create consciousness. It is a thing of common experience that if a particular characteristic is wanting in a substance, it cannot be created in it by undergoing it through innumerable processes of combination and permutation. Thus material objects, like pots, tables, etc. which are devoid of consciousness, can never be made to yield it in whatever way they are changed or processed. All these things will result in producing objects of the same materialistic order. It is thus established that soul which is characterized by the wise as a conscious substance, cannot be created from material objects like earth, water, air, and space, etc. The particular characteristic of soul is consciousness. Where it is not found, or which is devoid of it, that, of course, is a material substance. Animate and inanimate these two are eternal entities. Besides the above, there are other methods also for the eternity and immortality of soul. If you just ponder deep you yourself can well realize the permanence of soul. There is no harm or objection, rather it carries you to truth, to accept the fact that the feelings of pleasure & pain, the desire of getting free from them, thoughts and inspiration etc. are all experiences due to the existence of soul and that soul is primarily a conscious entity. Since such conscious feeling, willing and knowing are always present in soul, therefore, it is eternal. For a clear understanding of such philosophical questions, it is advisable for you to first read the Shaddarshana-samuchchaya which is being sent to you.
2. The soul in its pure conscious state, i. e. in the state of its self-realization, is the creator of its own inherent characteristics of knowledge, perception and samadhi i. e. spiritual equanimity. But in the state of its ignorance the soul becomes a creator of emotions like anger, conceit, deceit, greed etc. which are all foreign to it. Not only this much, under the influence of these emotions, soul through its instrumentality also becomes a creator of things like pot, table, etc. To put it more expressively, though soul is not the creator of the substratums of earth from which pots, etc. are prepared, yet it becomes a creator of processes which give new modifications to it. This latter state and functioning of soul is called 'Karma' i.e. action in Jainism, and ' Bhranti' i.e. illusion in the Vedanta. Other systems of Philosophy also refer to this state of soul by similar sort of terms. But solemn and serene thinking reveals the truth that in reality the soul is neither a creator of pot etc., nor of the emotions of anger, conceit etc. In fact, it is a creator of its own conscious characteristics of feelings, willing and knowing.
3. The Karmas (actions) which are done in ignorance of one's own self, though in the beginning are merely seeds, yet at the time of maturity they turn into trees laden with heavy fruits. It is thus self-evident that the soul itself has to bear the fruits of its actions just as by giving a touch to fire you first feel its heat and then pain follows, similar is the state of the mundane soul. It also by coming in contact with earthly objects by its sensuous organs, first gives rise to emotions of greed, anger and deceit etc. and then as its fruits has to suffer the pangs of birth, death and old age. Please ponder well over these problems with a detached mind and if you have any doubts please rewrite to me. It is the detached mind, which gives strength for abstinence and control and ultimately leads the soul to Nirvana.
Q.-What is God ? Is He the creator of the universe ?
A.-I. Just see you and we, are all mundane beings bound with Karmas, i.e. our souls are in bondage of foreign matter and foreign impulses. The natural state of self with its intrinsic glory free from all karmas, aloof from all impurities and bondages is godhood. God is endowed with the fullness of peace, bliss and knowledge. This godhood is the inherent nature of self, but due to ignorance born of the bondage of karmas one is unable to have a vision thereof. However when one realizes the truth that self is altogether aloof from body and its limitations the dire fruits of actions, and this self is introspected by mind, then by and by one begins to realize its inner glory of omniscience etc. If you just make a minute survey of the value of all things around you, you will find that there is nothing to excel in the glory of your self. Thus we are led to conclude that 'God ' is a synonym of self. For this reason I have a firm conviction that God is self and self is God: God has no abode outside the self.
2. God is not the creator of the universe. All the elements of nature such as atom, space etc. are eternal and uncreated. They have got their own substratum. They cannot be created from substances other than themselves. Perchance if one says that God has created them, this also does not look sound, because if God is a conscious being or consciousness is taken to be His characteristic, then how can atoms, and space etc. be conceived to have been born from Him ? It is quite impossible for the insentient to come out of the sentient. If we regard God also to be insentient, then it will become devoid of all its glory of peace, bliss and knowledge. just as it is impossible for material things to come out of God, similarly the conscious beings called Jivas cannot be born out of Him. If God is taken to be sentient-cum-insentient, then we will have to con. tent ourselves with universe by calling it to be God, because universe consists both of sentients and insentients. Perchance while admitting atoms, space etc. to be realities independent of God, you may assert that God is the giver of fruits of our actions, but this pro, position also will equally fail. On this part it would be advisable to consult " Shaddarshan.-Samuchchaya " which has dealt this topic at length.
Q.-What is Moksa (salvation) ?
A.-Moksa or salivation is the absolute liberation of self from anger, conceit, greed and other nescient propensities, which bind the soul with earthly coils and other limitations. There is a natural urge in life to be free from all bandages and limitations. A close consideration of this urge makes the truth of the above saying of the wisemen to be self evident.
Q.-It is possible for an embodied soul to know precisely whether he would attain Moksa or not ?
A.-Just as a man, whose hands have been tightly bound down with a rope, on being slowly and slowly loosened, feels a great relaxation from bondage and begins to perceive as if the rope has ceased to exist or exert any influence, similarly the soul which is bound down with various kinds of nescient emotions, on being slowly and slowly released from them, beings to feel the glory of salvation. The more and more the streaks of these emotions fade away, the more and more the soul shines in its luster untarnished with ignorance. As soon as there is a complete extinction of these nescient forces, soul even though it may be delineated by body it blooms out in its full splendor with a consciousness of freedom all round. Thus the soul though residing, in this body enjoys the blessings of salvation.
Q.-It is said in scriptures that a man after death goes to animal, mineral and vegetable lives according to his actions. Do you think it to be right ?
A.-When a soul on death leaves one body to occupy the other, he moves according to his accumulated Karma. In that state sometimes he takes up the animal life and sometimes the mineral one. In mineral state soul experiences the fruits of its karmas only with the help of the touch sense, leaving the other four senses. It does not mean that in mineral state soul becomes earth or stone, rather in this state soul assumes a physical shape akin to stone and itself resides there in an invisible from. Since in this state soul does not possess the other senses besides the touch sense, so it is called Prithvi-kaya-Jiva i. e. a soul with earth body and it is a ( Eka-indriya) one-sensed being. By and by after experiencing the fruits of his karmas, when it leaves that form to assume other forms of life then its earthly body made of stone is merely a heap of particles devoid if life, After the departure of soul it does not evince the instincts of hunger sex, fear & accumulation. Please mind, that a soul in mineral state is not absolutely mineral, it has got a living aspect also. It is all due to its own nescient tendencies, that a soul by their fruitification has to assume an order of life which is one-sensed in consciousness and stonish in physical appearance. It is not merely a stone or a boulder of earth. A soul sometimes assumes the animal form also, but thereby it does not become purely an embodied animal. To assume a bodily form is merely the putting of an apparel, it is not its nature. With regard to the 6th and 7th questions, it will be sufficient to say that stone or earth is not the doer of karmas, rather it is the soul, which is embodied therein, which is the doer of karmas, Inspite of its embodiment, the soul and body are as distinct from each other as milk and water are just as water and milk when mixed together look as one and the same but in reality water is water and milk is milk i. e. in their specialty both of them are Separate entities. Similarly though a soul in its onesensed mineral state, owing to the bondage of karmas looks like an inanimate stone, yet in reality the soul is soul and it retains its separate entity, for in that state also it experiences the urges of the instincts of hunger, sex, fear and accumulation which are invisible to a naked eye.
Q.-What is the Arya Dharma or the sublime religion ? Is it right that almost all the religions have originated from the Vedas ?
A.-I. While describing Arya Dharma, almost all Faiths claim to be the “Arya Dharma ". The Jainas call Jainism to be an " Arya Dharma the Buddhists declare Buddhism to be so and the Vedantis name the Vedanta as such. Thus it has become a common thing, but for the wise the " Arya Dharma " is that spiritual path which leads one to self-realization. It is indeed the Arya Dharma or the sublime religion.
2. It does not seems possible that almost all the religions originated from the Vedas. The reason for this, as I understand, is, that the knowledge propounded by the Tirthankaras and other Teachers is far greater than that found in the Vedas. And this makes me to conclude that a perfect thing cannot be born from a limited one. Therefore it is not reasonable to presume that almost all religions originated from the Vedas. Vaishanavaism, etc. are of course certain religions which might have originated from the Vedas. No doubt the Vedas existed long before Mahavira and Buddha, the last propounders of Jainism and Buddhism, and we may grant a still greater antiquity to them, but this fact alone does not establish the suggested proposition, because time and truth do not go hand in hand. There is no logic in saying that whatever is antique is perfect and true and whatever is new is imperfect is untrue. As a matter of fact everything in its essence is eternal, but is subject to modification. There is nothing which is absolutely destructible or absolutely predicable. Thus there can be no objection in admitting that the principles enunciated by the Vedic, Jain and all other faiths are eternal, but this much alone does not serve our purpose. We have still to find which of these principles are strong and sound to make us achieve our aspirations of life.
Q.-Who composed Vedas? Are they eternal? If eternal, what does eternal mean ?
A.-I. It seems, the Vedas are old composition.
2 Any scripture in the shape of a book cannot be eternal, but of course if taken by their teachings every scripture is eternal; because there is not a single teaching which has not been announced by different people in different ways. Hinsa cult is, as old as the doctrine of Ahinsa. The thing worth consideration is its value, i.e. how far it is useful for the living beings. Undoubtedly both are eternal, truth as well as untruth, but the thing is that sometimes the untruth takes the upper-hand while at others, truth comes out triumphant.
Q-Who composed Gita ? It does not appear to be composed by God ? What is the proof of its being composed by God ?
A.-I. The above answers will be somewhat helpful in solving these questions provided. God is taken to mean an all-wise and all-knowing being. But if the conception of God is taken to mean an eternal, inactive and all-pervading entity like space, then of course it becomes quite impossible to conceive that such a God ever composed any book; because an act like composition of a book has a beginning and whatever has a beginning, cannot be said to be eternal.
2. It is said that Gita was composed by Veda-Vyasa and because it deals with the lessons given by Lord Krishna to Arjun, so primarily Lord Krishna is Said to be its author and this is all probable. This scripture is certainly very nice, and whatever teachings are contained in it they also are coming down to us from eternity. But it does not imply that its slokas (aphorisms)also are eternal; nor it is possible to say that these slokas were composed by an inactive God. An active embodied being alone can possibly be conceived to be their composer. In the light of the above discussion, there is no harm in believing that God is an all-wise; all-knowing, Being and the scriptures containing lessons taught by Him are Gods Book - “Ishwariya Shastra.”
Q-Is there any merit in performing bloody sacrifice ?
A.-The man only acquires demerit by slaughtering, sacrificing or causing the slightest pain to animals. It matters a little, whether the animal is killed for sacrifice or for the sake of God in a temple. It is true, that alms are given at the time of sacrifice, which are a source of gaining merit, but being associated with Hinsa i. e. injury to animals this sort of alms-giving also should not be consented to.
Q.-When it is said that Dharma or Religion is the highest thing, then is there any harm in asking reasons for its superiority and validity ?
A.-To declare the superiority and validity of the teachings of Dharma without considering the reasons thereof is undoubtedly very harmful. for it will give rise to propagation of all sorts of things good or bad, meritorious and demeritorious. The validity or non-validity, superiority or otherwise of a thing can only be established by cogent and potent reasons. I think, only those teachings of dharma are best which prove themselves to be strong and sound in. destroying the cycle of births and deaths; and in realizing this pure and peaceful state of life.
A.-I have ordinary information of Christianity, but it is a thing of common knowledge that the methods of thought and achievement of the Indian saves are different from those of the foreigners In Christianity soul is always believed to be dependent on others, even in the highest heaven it is not taken to be free from limitations and bondages. In its scriptures very little light has been thrown on the real intrinsic nature of soul. Nor there is any systematic description of the causes of birth, death & other various vicissitudes of life, nor it has dealt with the right ways and methods for the removal of those causes. For these reasons Christianity does not appeal to me to be the highest religion. This opinion of mine is not based on any religious prejudice. If you want to know anything further in this connection, I shall try to elucidate it.
Q-It is an article of faith with the Christians that Bible is the word of God and Jesus Christ is His son. What's your opinion about it ?
A.-This thing, of course, can be believed as an article of faith, but it cannot be established by proof. The same reasoning which I have advanced above to disprove the godly character of Gita and the Vedas can usefully be applied to Bible as well. You will keep in mind God is a perfect Being liberated from the cycles of birth and death, therefore a being who gets incarnated or takes birth can never be a God. As birth is the result of attachment and aversion and God is devoid of these blemishes so God can never be conceived to be assuming births and incarnations. allegorically, of course, Jesus can be taken to be a son of God , but rationally such a belief is untenable. How there can be a son to a liberated God ? If for sake of argument, it may be taken to be true, then how this birth will be conceived to have taken place. Still further if this relationship of father and son be taken to be eternal, then how this relationship will hold good ? All these things are worth consideration in this connection. As far as I think, these things when analyzed would never come true.
Q -The prophecy about Jesus in the old Testament has come out to be true. How do you explain it?
A.- It does not alter the position. It may be so, still we have to judge the validity of the testimony of both the Testaments. "Moreover such a Prophecy about Jesus' birth is no sound proof of his being an incarnation of God, because such prophecies of birth are possible to be made on the basis of astrology etc. It is also possible that Jesus birth might have been prophesied by some person by intuition, but in the absence of cogent proof it cannot be accepted. And such soothsayers cannot be held to be omniscient teachers. Such a prophecy appears to be based more on faith than any reasoning for there are so many difficulties in the way of its being accepted as true.
Q.-There are so many miracles about Jesus narrated in Bible, what do you say about them?
A.-It is quite impossible for a dead body to be resurrected by the entry of the soul which, has left it, or by some other soul. If such a thing begins to happen, then the whole science of causation of birth and death will come to an end. But there is no gainsaying the fact that various sorts of miraculous powers are achieved by spiritual discipline and yogic practices. It is all Within the pale of possibility that Jesus also might have attained several of these powers, but mind, such powers are far inferior to the glory of omnipotent soul. Glory and grandeur of soul is infinite. You may better discuss @s point when we meet.
Q.-Is it possible for us to know about our future and past births ?
A.-Yes, It is possible. Men of unblemished knowledge can know such things by intuition Even ordinary people can know them by logical reasoning. just as by looking, to the clouds & other symptoms of weather a rainfall can be ascertained, so by looking to the tendencies of a being, it is easy determine his previous set or life which led to his present birth. By this method, of course, it is likely that one may not be able to visualize the full picture of his previous life, still a good deal thereof can be known. Similarly from the above symptoms it is possible to ascertain ones future trends of life as well. The more minutely we go into. the details of one's life, the more vivid picture of his, future and previous births would come to light.
A.-So far as this question is concerned, it is already covered by the above answer.
Q.-You have named so many omniscient Teachers, well what is the proof of their being so.?
A.-If you ask this question, with particular reference to my experiences, then I would like to answer it in this way. .A man who has risen above his mundane state, develops in him such a divine life, that his very words, look and presence inspire in others the same sort of feelings of peace, bliss and excellence as felt by him." From this it. is natural to infer that he has attained Moksa or liberation. Besides my experiences there are so many scriptures to verify this truth.
Q.-What do you think about the final fate of the universe ?
A.-It is all unbelievable to me that one day the universe will be empty of souls & the drama of life will come to an end due to their liberation. To me the universe is a running concern. It is a system of double traffic of birth and death, of integration and disintegration. It will go on to be what it is today. Change of course is its law. The old order is being replaced by the new. If it grows in one part, it decays in the other. If we make a close study of this problem we would come to the conclusion that total destruction or Parlay of this universe is, but impossible. Universe does not mean this earth alone.
A.-From the answer of this question if anybody tries to indulge in inequities, he should be discouraged from doing so at all events. Both equity and inequity are incessant tendencies but it is most desirable that we should every try to adopt equity and give up immoral ;and unjust ways of life, rather it is our duty to do so for the spiritual progress. It is inconceivable that all living beings will give up their inequities one day and equity will prevail, everywhere. It is a mere utopia to think that such a state of affairs will ever come.
A.-If by pralaya you mean total extinction then such a thing is quite impossible, because there is nothing which is absolutely destructible. But if by parlay you mean an absorption of the universe into God etc., then it may be acceptable to some extent, but to my mind even this much doesn't appear to be possible. It is inconceivable that in some remote future all the souls and other objects of the universe will reach such a stage of similarity of change and uniformity of nature that they would all mingle together as one without any distinction bringing the whole show to an absolute rest. If once such a stage is reached, it is equally inconceivable, " how this uniformity will be disturbed to restart :activity ? " If by pralaya you mean an invisible diversity and a visible uniformity of souls, it would be equally untenable, for in the absence of bodies, there will be no medium of diversity in them. If you take your stand on the diversity of sex instincts of souls, we will have to presume that in Parlay all beings are one sensed. If we proceed on this presumption, the absence of other form of life i. e. two sensed or three sensed etc. in pralaya becomes inexplicable. In short the conception of the total extinction of the universe is altogether untenable.
Q.-Is it possible to get Moksa by Bhakti alone, without achievement of knowledge ?
A.-Bhakti or devotion leads to knowledge, and knowledge leads to Moksa. Illiteracy is no hindrance to devotion & knowledge, for knowledge is the very essence of soul. The significance of devotion lies in the fact that it purifies knowledge and the pure knowledge leads to Moksa. According to my belief, there is no attainment of Moksa, without the acquisition of perfect knowledge. It needs no stress to pay, that perfect knowledge includes the knowledge of languages as well. Undoubtedly literacy is helpful in Moksa, but it is not compulsory to be literate to acquire knowledge of self.
A.-I. I believe that Rama and Krishna were great personages. Since they were souls, they were certainly God also, and if they have annihilated their bandages of karma, there can be no dispute in their having attained Moksa as well. But I cannot accept the theory of a living being as a part of God, because there are thousands of things which militate against this idea. In the first instance thereby the well recognized differentiation between our mundane state of bondage and our cherished goal ,of emancipation will be put to nought. Secondly thereby all the nescient tendencies of life e. g. anger, greed, deceit and conceit etc. which are subduing the worldly beings will be equally attributable to God and if they are so attributed God will no longer remain God, he highest ideal of life. He will lose His Godhood and will become as one of the ordinary beings. Thirdly under this theory all worldly beings will become as perfect as God, and they will stand no need of exerting themselves for procurement of any ends of life. Moreover, they will no longer be liable for any fruits of their actions. When in face of such flaws and fallacies the above idea is not at all appealable, then how such great personages as Rama and Krishna can be taken as arts of God ? Though there is no harm in accepting that both of these great personages were God in embryo, yet it is to be considered whether perfect glory of Godhood had bloomed in them or not.
2. The answer to your second part of question is very easy and you already know, that Moksa means the spiritual state of freedom from all kinds of attachment, aversion and ignorance, etc. So by whosoever teachings this pure state of freedom be attainable, his worship of course is most fruitful, because by devotion for him the devotee will necessarily contemplate upon the glorious and blissful state of the adored, will acquire faith in the similar ultimate state of himself and by practice will mold himself in the same set of life as that of the worshipful. Thus it will be possible for the devotee to attain Moksa as a result of his devotion to the worshipful. Except this no other forms of worship are advisable for the attainment of Moksa, Other forms may prove helpful to attract him to the true path, but it is not a certainly.
A.-It is possible that this terms might be representatives of the three fundamental functions of the universe VI" ". creation (Brahma.) disruption ( Mahesa and maintenance (Vishnu) : If so their personification as deities is well and good; or they might be allegorical names of some other trinity of aspects. [such as the three aspect of the primeval Lord Vrasabha : first as Vishnutbe great ruler who laid down foundation of state and society, second, as Mahesa, the Mahayogi who destroyed the worlds of birth, death and old age; thirdly as Brahma, the omniscient sage, who gave the knowledge of great truths of the eternal drama of life. Taken in this way the idea becomes intelligible, but the accounts as given in the Puranas do not at all appeal to me. My interpretation finds support from this fact also that there are many great truths which have been described in Puranas in allegorical forms for teaching by lessons. We should also try to derive benefit from the lessons of this allegory without entering into controversial matters about Brahma etc. To me this allegorical interpretation looks very nice.
Q.-If a snake comes. to bite us, what should we do ? Should we remain calm and silent and allow it to bite, or kill it outright to save ourselves ?
A -If I reply this question in the affirmative and say, let the snake bite, it would, of course, become a great problem; but anyhow for those, who have realized the truth that body is a transient thing, it would not be at all reasonable to kill a creature which is attached to body. So my reply to this question is that those who are anxious for their spiritual good, should, when con. fronted with such situation offer their body to snake rather than take out its life. You may well ask, " well, what about those who care a little for spiritual good .?" For such people my simple reply is that " let them wander in wretched forms like hell etc. How can one like myself advise them to kill a snake ? It is the non-Aryan attitude of mind which teaches the killing of serpents or other creatures. We should ever aspire to be free from such attitude even in dream. Such are my answers to your questions in short and here I close my letter. In the end I will advise you to closely study the book entitled " Shatdarshan Samuchchaya " and ponder over these answers a bit seriously. In case you need any thing further by letter, you may please just write to me. I shall then try to elucidate it. The best thing .of course is that we should meet together and have a personal talk about these questions.
Ever engaged in solemn thinking on the ultimate nature of self the greatest source of inspiration.
BOMBAY Kanvar Vadi 6, Saturday, Samvat 1950
Such were the questions & answers which were carried on between the two geniuses. Their value & importance is beyond question Originally they were written in Gujarati language and I think, it is the first occasion that they are rendered in English and are being reproduced here. I am glad to note that Bro. Jai Bhagwan Jain advocate of Panipat has very kindly revised, the English Translation, for which I am thankful to him. I am sure, these questions and answers will prove most interesting and instructive to the readers.
“Mahatma Gandhi and Kavi Rajchandraji; Questions - Answered”, Translated by Brahmchari Sri Govrdhandas, Publisher: Shrimad Rajchandra Gyan Pracharak Trust, Ahemdabad.