When the flag was raised on a free India on August 15, 1947, Mahatma Gandhi was not a part of the celebrations and he did not want to be. In many ways, the “victory” to him was hollow. Partition was taking place, India and Pakistan were being divided along a somewhat arbitrary border by an English general who had little knowledge of the culture; and tensions were rising between Hindus and Muslims. The BBC and other news agencies came to him for a statement, and he kindly, but flat out refused to say a word about it.
What did he do on this day? He worked. He spent the day fasting and spinning. Instead of celebrating ‘Independence Day’ he celebrated ‘Mahadev Desai Day’ for it so happened that his secretary of 25 years, Mahadev Desai, had shed his body on the 15th of August, 1942 while imprisoned in the Aga Khan Palace. In honor of Desai, one of his most faithful friends and colleagues, the morning prayer ceremony included a full recitation of the Bhagavad Gita. And remember, it is the Gita that reminds us that we must be detached from the fruits of our actions, for we otherwise become entangled in the results and are unable to adequately address the challenges that lie ahead. Not to mention, such triumphalism has the power to humiliate others and create more tensions.
Gandhi was not easy to please because he was not satisfied with superficial changes. For him, nonviolence has to go beyond any elections–it must be fully integrated, as he said, “economically, politically and morally,” which will, if we look at it squarely, take lifetimes–or generations (depending on your worldview!). It was a cause of no small sorrow to him that so many were pacified at mere political independence, when there was more work to be done. He looked at the road and challenges ahead straight on, and kept right on working, but escalating the work to match the escalating tensions that were ready to explode. He had not lost his faith in nonviolence; any faith he had had in politics alone to solve essential problems was lost a long time ago.
Take time to read the Bhagavad Gita. The translation by Eknath Easwaran is exceptionally good.
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org