The first bullet hit Gandhi in the stomach. Instinctively he cried out, “Ram, Ram!” Two more shots cracked out. Gandhi stumbled, his spectacles dangling on one ear and his sandals coming loose. He was severely wounded; blood gushed from his abdomen and his breast and stained his spotless white loincloth. He folded his hands in a gestureful prayer, lifted them toward his audience, and then fell down, doubled up with pain. He was carried indoors, but all efforts to save his life proved vain. Thirty minutes after the dastardly attack, the tragic announcement was made in three words: “Bapu is dead.”
I just got back from a speech given by Dr. Rajmohan Gandhi, where he spoke of Gandhi’s legacy and ideas. The Levis Faculty Center was packed to standing room, with a second overflow room where video was available, where people were flowing out in to the hallway. I sat on the floor, just behind the venerable grandson of Mohandas, having volunteered my seat to a lady wearing a Sari.
The event was awesome. Mr. Gandhi spoke about Mr. Gandhi, his beliefs, his practices, yadda yadda … at the end he took questions. Given the saint-like quality of Gandhi, the air was quite reverent. Even those who asked questions with a tone critical of Gandhi’s politics seemed to be seeking some sort of truth. During the presentation itself the feeling was somewhat of a memorial service being held for our fallen hero. A few moments I was stirred nearly to tears.
Now I have the feeling of one who has attended an ad hoc Church gathering or the like. I feel reverent and thoughtful, and sad that the occasion has ended, but very glad that it had taken place.
IVC and CFC have sponsored a preacher named Cliffe to speak on the Quad this week. I am impressed with this fellow. I feel somewhat guilty, though the point I raised was valid and insightful, I asked Cliffe if Gandhi was bound for Hell. Gandhi, who lived his life in self-sacrifice, acknowledging and striving to overcome his weaknesses and faults. Gandhi who lived a very spiritual life and was careful to respect all as his brethren. Gandhi who knew full well the words of the scriptures, having read the bible from cover to cover, admiring the teachings of Jesus, but not accepting him as a personal savior. I asked Cliffe if this man, this pious and respected, though imperfect human, who strove to better himself by striving to learn truth, and conduct himself in honesty and love … I asked Cliffe, if Gandhi was in hell.
Cliffe could not answer.
He tried … he flubbed, saying that he really didn’t know what Gandhi was thinking the moment he died. I argued that he repeated aloud the name of his Hindu God, as he bled to death. But Cliffe was unwilling to cast Gandhi in to the lake of fire.
I think, while it is perhaps a “cheap shot” – though I didn’t really consider it that at the time, and I don’t think it is one now, that the question really confronted Cliffe with his own beliefs, and that he may even be thinking a bit now. Maybe not, but later in the evening when he ended his session, he walked over to me and shook hands, I failed to tell him that I do respect him, perhaps feeling vainly proud … but I think I shall pop up at IV large group tomorrow evening and pay my respects.
It is one thing to have good beliefs, and I respect many Christians for having them, but it is another to believe that yours is the one and only way. Christ may have said as much, but what credibility can we give the writing in the Bible? I’d be careful. They are accounts written several years after the fact, often through second and third-hand sources. Did Christ ever actually say that he is the one and only way, or is that an embellishment after the fact? And if he did say as much, what credibility has Christ? The assertion offered does run contrary to common sense. There are many ways to truth.
One gentleman offered a line for us to reflect on. I think it was that Gandhi had read that God is Truth. However, Gandhi had offered the Truth is God. Don’t quote me on that though.
Rajmohan was asked, what part he played in Gandhi’s legacy.
A hard question. He thought and delivered an answer I thought wholly true – that he was in himself a distinct person, with his own beliefs, that may differ from those of his grandfather in parts, and that he tried to live for the good of himself and others. I’m really doing very poor justice to what he may actually have said and the eloquence with which he put it, but the point was that he lived in his way, followed his beliefs, and tried to live right. He said that in that he felt he was honoring what Gandhi had fought and lived for so hard, and that in that way he was fulfilling the legacy as Gandhi might have wished.
I liked that observation. I’m an Atheist. I don’t know or care or have concern for God, but I do recognize that there are certain rules that I should follow, for the benefit of all. I realize a certain quality in life that might require self-sacrifice on my part. I realize that I’m imperfect, and should be honest with these faults, and try to correct them. I realize many things as I try to lead the life of a good and honorable person, as poor a job I might in fact do of it, I do try … I think that in this way I might best do well an honor for whatever privilege it is that has granted me life. There does seem to be something large and awesome with which we need to grapple. Maybe not, at least though I tend to think that we ought to try to do good by each other, and to keep that idea central to our beliefs and practices.
I’m trying to leave a good life. Without Jesus Christ. Without Mahatma Gandhi. I wish to honor these great ancestors which may influence me, in my own special way.
I’m feeling a runny nose coming on. *SNEEZE!*
“Gandhiji,” she began, “you have always stated that you would live to be 125 years old. What gives you that hope?”
The answer was short and startling: “I have lost that hope.”
Because of the terrible happenings in the world. I do not wish to continue to live in darkness and in madness. I cannot continue…” He paused and waited, thoughtfully picking up some strands of cotton and running them on the spinning wheel. “But if my services are needed,” he went on at last, “or rather, I should say, if I am commanded, then I shall live to be 125.”