What is the secret of Gandhiji’s world-wide fame and unquestioned influence? For one thing, his culture had all the traits of what is called the culture of character
The death of Mahatma Gandhi last evening at New Delhi at the hands of an insensate assassin in circumstances too tragic for reiteration has cast a deep gloom over the country from the effects of which it will not be easy for it to recover. For, as the Prime Minister of India has suggested in his broadcast, at no time in the long and chequered history of this great country were Gandhiji’s wise counsel, courageous guidance, unexcelled foresight and imperturbable patience in the face of events the most calamitous more necessary than to-day. It will be universally accepted that but for his steadying direction, unerring judgment, and a determination which accepted no defeat, the turmoil which befell us in the wake of the partition of the country would have continued to menace us in an ever-increasing measure. The hundreds and thousands of messages which keep the wires and radio of the world vibrating at the moment show how deeply Gandhiji has impressed humanity as an apostle of peace and as one who has been rightly hailed as the world’s Second Saviour.
What is the secret of Gandhiji’s world-wide fame and unquestioned influence? For one thing, his culture had all the traits of what is called the culture of character. He thought closely and seriously; he insisted on seeking fact or truth for one’s self boldly and clearly, and not merely echo it as hearsay; he cherished, not fashions or expedients of thinking, but true convictions with a strength of feeling which neither the coaxing of friends nor the railleries and the rapier thrusts of opponents could weaken. Throughout his career in whatever continent, country or clime his activity for the time being lay — whether in South Africa, Sabarmati or Champaran in the sub-montane region of Bihar among the indigo planters there — he carried to those among whom he worked unquestionable conviction that he could be trusted. It was because he inspired such trust that he proved a determining force in the formation of public opinion. He was essentially a man of action, not of sweet words. He had, further, what many others lacked, a constructive faculty. He would not merely denounce other men and other measures; he would show them a way and a method better than theirs. Gandhiji had a philosophy of his own and a way of life steeped in Sanatana Dharma; and neither that philosophy nor the way of life to which it led one was such as may be dismissed offhand as obscurantist. No wonder so many leaders of thought in Europe and America have been profoundly struck and influenced by his ideas of plain living and high thinking, non-violence even in the face of extreme provocation and a life of service to all.
The Father of the Nation has passed away. What shall we do now; and what is our duty? Our leaders, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel — Gandhiji’s trusted chelas — have both held aloft the torch of wisdom, guiding us along the path shown to us by the departed leader. He was like that watchman set unto the house of Israel referred to in Ezekiel:
“So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me.
“When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
“Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in this iniquity; thou has delivered thy soul.”
Gandhiji has done his duty; he has warned us of the perils and the temptations that confront us, and he has delivered his soul unto his Maker. It now remains for us to do our duty as we have been reminded in the broadcasts of the Prime Minister and Sardar Patel. Let us first get the atmosphere rid of the poison which permeates it; let us face, as the Prime Minister exhorts us to do, all the perils that encompass us — and they are many and grave — “not madly or badly, but in the way that our beloved teacher taught us to face them.” Let not anger becloud our vision nor unreasoning passion distort our minds. Not for us now petty prejudices and party intrigues and jealousies. If we are true to Gandhiji’s teachings, nothing must deflect us from considering all classes, castes and communities as children of the same mother, entitled to equal rights and — what is not less important — charged with equal responsibilities, all acting in harmony, earnestness and unison in the interest of the nation as a whole. Only thus may we uphold the reputation which Gandhiji claimed for our country and incessantly strove to sustain — the reputation such as the India of Asoka and Akbar enjoyed among the peoples of the world in their time.