Tagore’s Reflections on Non-cooperation and Cooperation

(The Calcutta journal Modern Review of May 1921 carried letters inspired by Gandhi’s Noncooperation movement; addressed to C.F. Andrews, London, 1928)

Your last letter gives wonderful news about our students in Calcutta. I hope that this spirit of sacrifice and willingness to suffer will grow in strength; for to achieve this is an end in itself. This is the true freedom! Nothing is of higher value be it national wealth, or independence than disinterested faith in ideals, in the moral greatness of man.

The West has its unshakable faith in material strength and prosperity; and therefore however loud grows the cry for peace and disarmament, its ferocity grows louder, gnashing its teeth and lashing its tail in impatience. It is like a fish, hurt by the pressure of the flood, planning to fly in the air. Certainly the idea is brilliant, but it is not possible for a fish to realize.

We, in India, shall have to show to the world, what is that truth, which not only makes disarmament possible but turns it into strength. That moral force is a higher power than brute force, will be proved by the people who are unarmed. Life, in its higher development, has thrown off its tremendous burden of armor and a prodigious quantity of flesh; till man has become the conqueror of the brute world. The day is sure to come, when the frail man of spirit, completely unhampered by arms and air fleets, and dreadnoughts will prove that the meek is to inherit the earth.

It is in the fitness of things, that Mahatma Gandhi, frail in body and devoid of all material resources, should call up the immense power of the meek, that has been lying waiting in the heart of the destitute and insulted humanity of India. The destiny of India has chosen for its ally, Narayan, and not the Narayansena – the power of soul and not that of muscle. And she is to raise the history of man, from the muddy level of physical conflict to the higher moral altitude. What is swaraj! It is maya, it is like a mist, that will vanish leaving no stain on the radiance of the Eternal. However we may delude ourselves with the phrases learnt from the West, Swaraj is not our objective.

Our fight is a spiritual fight, it is for Man. We are to emancipate Man from the meshes that he himself has woven round him, these organisations of National Egoism. The butterfly will have to be persuaded that the freedom of the sky is of higher value than the shelter of the cocoon. If we can defy the strong, the armed, the wealthy, revealing to the world power of the immortal spirit, the whole castle of the Giant Flesh will vanish in the void. And then Man will find his Swaraj. We, the famished, ragged ragamuffins of the East, are to win freedom for all Humanity.

We have no word for Nation in our language. When we borrow this word from other people, it never fits us. For we are to make our league with Narayan, and our victory will not give us anything but victory itself; victory for God’s world. I have seen the West; I covet not the unholy feast, in which she revels every moment, growing more and more bloated and red and dangerously delirious. Not for us, is this mad orgy of midnight, with lighted torches, but awakenment in the serene light of morning.

Lately I have been receiving more and more news and newspaper cuttings from India, giving rise in my mind to a painful struggle that presages a period of suffering which is waiting for me. I am striving with all my power to tune my mood of mind to be in accord with the great feeling of excitement sweeping across my country.

But deep in my being why is there this spirit of resistance maintaining its place in spite of my strong desire to remove it? I fail to find a clear answer and through my gloom of dejection breaks out a smile and a voice saying, “Your place is on the seashore of worlds with children; there is your peace, and I am with you there.”

And this is why lately I have been playing with inventing new metres. These are merest nothings that are content to be borne away by the current of time, dancing in the sun and laughing as they disappear. But while I play the whole creation is amused, for are not flowers and leaves never ending experiments in metre? Is not my God an eternal waster of time? He flings stars and planets in the whirlwind of changes, he floats paper boats of ages, filled with his fancies, on the rushing stream of appearance. When I tease him and beg him to allow me to remain his little follower and accept a few trifles of mine as the cargo of his playboat he smiles and I trot behind him catching the hem of his robe.

But where am I among the crowd, pushed from behind, pressed from all sides? And what is this noise about me? If it is a song, then my own sitar can catch the time and I join in the chorus, for I am a singer. But if it is a shout, then my voice is wrecked and I am lost in bewilderment. I have been trying all these days to find in it a melody, straining my ear, but the idea of non-cooperation with its mighty volume of sound does not sing to me, its congregated menace of negations shouts. And I say to myself, “If you cannot keep step with your countrymen at this great Crisis of their history, never say that you are right and the rest of them wrong; only give up your role as a soldier, go back to your corner as a poet, be ready to accept popular derision and disgrace”.

R, in support of the present movement, has often said to me that passion for rejection is a stronger power in the beginning than the acceptance of an ideal. Though I know it to be a fact, I cannot take it as a truth. We must choose our allies once for all, for they stick to us even when we would be glad to be rid of them. If we once claim strength from intoxication, then in the time of reaction our normal strength is bankrupt, and we go back again and again to the demon who lends us resources in a vessel whose bottom it takes away.

Brahma-vidya (the cult of Brahma, the Infinite Being) in India has for its object mukti, emancipation, while Buddhism has nirvana, extinction. It may be argued that both have the same idea in different names. But names represent attitudes of mind, emphasize particular aspects of truth. Mukti draws our attention to the positive, and nirvana to the negative side of truth.

Buddha kept silence all through his teachings about the truth of the Om, the everlasting yes, his implication being that by the negative path of destroying the self we naturally reach that truth. Therefore he emphasised the fact of dukkha (misery) which had to be avoided and the Brahma-vidya emphasised the fact of ananda, joy, which had to be attained. The latter cult also needs for its fulfillment the discipline of self-abnegation, but it holds before its view the idea of Brahma, not only at the end but all through the process of realisation.

Therefore, the idea of life’s training was different in the Vedic period from that of the Buddhistic. In the former it was the purification of life’s joy, in the latter it was the eradication of it. The abnormal type of asceticism to which Buddhism gave rise in India revelled in celibacy and mutilation of life in all different forms. But the forest life of the Brahmana was not antagonistic to the social life of man, but harmonious with it. It was like our musical instrument tambura whose duty is to supply the fundamental notes to the music to save it from straying into discordance. It believed in anandam, the music of the soul, and its own simplicity was not to kill it but to guide it.

The idea of non-cooperation is political asceticism. Our students are bringing their offering of sacrifices to what? Not to a fuller education but to non-education. It has at its back a fierce joy of annihilation which at best is asceticism, and at its worst is that orgy of frightfulness in which the human nature, losing faith in the basic reality of normal life, finds a disinterested delight in an unmeaning devastation as has been shown in the late war and on other occasions which came nearer to us. No, in its passive moral form is asceticism and in its active moral form is violence. The desert is as much a form of a himsa (malignance) as is the raging sea in storms, they both are against life.

I remember the day, during the swadeshi movement in Bengal, when a crowd of young students came to see me in the first floor hall of our Vichitra House. They said to me that if I would order them to leave their schools and colleges they would instantly obey. I was emphatic in my refusal to do so, and they went away angry, doubting the sincerity of my love for my motherland. And yet long before this popular ebullition of excitement I myself had given a thousand rupees, when I had not five rupees to call my own, to open a swadeshi store and courted banter and bankruptcy.

The reason of my refusing to advise those students to leave their schools was because the anarchy of a mere emptiness never tempts me, even when it is resorted to as a temporary measure. I am frightened of an abstraction which is ready to ignore living reality. These students were no more phantoms to me; their life was a great fact to them and to the All. I could not lightly take upon myself the tremendous responsibility of a mere negative programme for them which would uproot their life from its soil, however thin and poor that soil might be.

The great injury and injustice which had been done to those boys who were tempted away from their career before any real provision was made, could never be made good to them. Of course that is nothing from the point of view of an abstraction which can ignore the infinite value even of the smallest fraction of reality. I wish I were the little creature Jack whose one mission is to kill the giant abstraction which is claiming the sacrifice of individuals all over the world under highly painted masks of delusion.

I say again and again that I am a poet, that I am not a fighter by nature. I would give everything to be one with my surroundings. I love my fellow beings and I prize their love. Yet I have been chosen by destiny to ply my boat there where the current is against me. What irony of fate is this that I should be preaching cooperation of cultures between East and West on this side of the sea just at the moment when the doctrine of non-cooperation is preached on the other side?

You know that I do not believe in the material civilisation of the West just as I do not believe in the physical body to be the highest truth in man. But I still less believe in the destruction of the physical body, and the ignoring of the material necessities of life. What is needed is establishment of harmony between the physical and spiritual nature of man, maintaining of balance between the foundation and superstructure.

I believe in the true meeting of the East and the West. Love is the ultimate truth of soul. We should do all we can, not to outrage that truth, to carry its banner against all opposition. The idea of non-cooperation unnecessarily hurts that truth. It is not our heart fire but the fire that burns out our hearth and home.

Things that are stationary have no responsibility and need no law. For death, even the tombstone is a useless luxury. But for a world, which is an ever-moving multitude advancing towards an idea, all its laws must have one principle of harmony. This is the law of creation.

Man became great when he found out this law for himself, the law of co-operation. It helped him to move together, to utilise the rhythm and impetus of the world march. He at once felt that this moving together was not mechanical, not an external regulation for the sake of some convenience. It was what the metre is in poetry, which is not a mere system of enclosure for keeping ideas from running away in disorder, but for vitalising them, making them indivisible in a unity of creation.

So far this idea of co-operation has developed itself into individual communities within the boundaries of which peace has been maintained and varied wealth of life produced. But outside these boundaries the law of co-operation has not been realised. Consequently the great world of man is suffering from ceaseless discordance. We are beginning to discover that our problem is world-wide and no one people of the earth can work out its salvation by detaching itself from the others. Either we shall be saved together, or drawn together into destruction.

This truth has ever been recognized by all the great personalities of the world. They had in themselves the perfect consciousness of the undivided spirit of man. Their teachings were against tribal exclusiveness, and thus we find that Buddha’s India transcended geographical India and Christ’s religion broke through the bonds of Judaism.

Today, at this critical moment of the world’s history cannot India rise above her limitations and offer the great ideal to the world that will work towards harmony and co-operation between the different peoples of the earth! Men of feeble faith will say that India requires being strong and rich before she can raise her voice for the sake of the whole world. But I refuse to believe it.

That the measure of man’s greatness is in his material resources is a gigantic illusion casting its shadow over the present day world, it is an insult to man. It lies in the power of the materially weak to save the world from this illusion and India, in spite of her penury and humiliation, can afford to come to the rescue of humanity.

The freedom of unrestrained egoism in the individual is licence and not true freedom. For his truth is in that which is universal in him. Individual human races also attain true freedom when they have the freedom of perfect revelation of Man and not that of their aggressive racial egoism. The idea of freedom which prevails in modem civilisation is superficial and materialistic. Our revolution in India will be a true one when its forces will be directed against this crude idea of liberty.

The sunlight of love has the freedom that ripens the wisdom of immortal life, but passions’ fire can only forge fetters for ourselves. The spiritual Man has been struggling for its emergence into perfection, and all true cry of freedom is for this emancipation. Erecting barricades of fierce separateness in the name of national necessity is offering hindrance to it, therefore in the long run building a prison for the nation itself. For the only path of deliverance for nations is in the ideal humanity.

Creation is an endless activity of God’s freedom; it is an end in itself. Freedom is true when it is a revelation of truth. Man’s freedom is for the revelation of the truth of Man which is struggling to express itself. We have not yet fully realised it. But those people who have faith in its greatness, who acknowledge its sovereignty, and have the instinctive urging in their heart to break down obstructions, are paving the way for its coming.

India ever has nourished faith in the truth of spiritual man for whose realisation she has made innumerable experiments, sacrifices and penance, some verging on the grotesque and the abnormal. But the fact is, she has never ceased in her attempt to find it even though at the tremendous cost of material success.

Therefore I feel that the true India is an idea and not a mere geographical fact. I have come into touch with this idea in far away places of Europe and my loyalty was drawn to it in persons who belonged to different countries from mine. India will be victorious when this idea wins victory, the idea of ‘Purusham mahantam adityavarnam tamasah parastat’, the Infinite Personality whose light reveals itself through the obstruction of darkness.

Our fight is against this darkness, our object is the revealment of the light of this Infinite Personality in ourselves. This Infinite Personality of man is not to be achieved in single individuals, but in one grand harmony of all human races. The darkness of egoism which will have to be destroyed is the egoism of the People.

The idea of India is against the intense consciousness of the separateness of one’s own people from others, and which inevitably leads to ceaseless conflicts. Therefore my one prayer is: let India stand for the cooperation of all peoples of the world. The spirit of rejection finds its support in the consciousness of separateness, the spirit of acceptance in the consciousness of unity.

India has ever declared that Unity is Truth, and separateness is maya. This unity is not a zero, it is that which comprehends all and therefore can never be reached through the path of negation. Our present struggle to alienate our heart and mind from those of the West is an attempt at spiritual suicide.

If in the spirit of national vain-gloriousness we shout from our house-tops that the West has produced nothing that has an infinite value for man, then we but create a serious cause of doubt about the worth of any product of the Eastern mind. For it is the mind of Man in the East and West which is ever approaching Truth in her different aspects from different angles of vision; and if it can be true that the standpoint of the West has betrayed it into an utter misdirection, then we can never be sure of the standpoint of the East.

Let us be rid of all false pride and rejoice at any lamp being lit at any corner of the world, knowing that it is a part of the common illumination of our house.

The other day I was invited to the house of a distinguished art-critic of America who is a great admirer of old Italian art. I questioned him if he knew anything of our Indian pictures and brusquely said that most probably he would “hate them”. I suspected he had seen some of them and hated them. In retaliation I could have said something in the same language about the Western art.

But I am proud to say it was not possible for me. For I always try to understand the Western art and never to hate it. Whatever we understand and enjoy in human products instantly becomes ours wherever they might have their origin. I should feel proud of my humanity when I can acknowledge the poets and artists of other countries as mine own. Let me feel with unalloyed gladness that all the great glories of man are mine.

Therefore, it hurts me deeply when the cry of rejection rings loud against the West in my country with the clamour that the Western education can only injure us. It cannot be true. What has caused the mischief is the fact that for a long time we have been out of touch with our own culture and therefore the Western culture has not found its prospective in our life very often found a wrong prospective giving our mental eye a squint. When we have the intellectual capital of our own, the commerce of thought with the outer world becomes natural and fully profitable.

But to say that such commerce is inherently wrong, is to encourage the worst form of provincialism, productive of nothing but intellectual indigence. The West has misunderstood the East which is at the root of the disharmony that prevails between them, but will it mend the matter if the East in her turn tries to misunderstand the West?

The present age has powerfully been possessed by the West; it has only become possible because to her is given some great mission for man. We from the East have to come to her to learn whatever she has to teach us; for by doing so we hasten the fulfillment of this age. We know that the East also has her lessons to give and she has her own responsibility of not allowing her light to be extinguished, and the time will come when the West will find leisure to realise that she has a home of hers in the East where her food is and her rest.

Rabindranath Tagore

Gandhi’s Reactions to Tagore’s Views
(Gandhi’s Young India of 1 June 1921, carried a reply to the Poet’s musings, under
the heading ‘English Learning’)

Elsewhere the reader will see my humble endeavour in reply to Dr. Tagore’s criticism of Non cooperation. I have since read his letter to the Manager of Shantiniketan. I am sorry to observe that the letter is written in anger and in ignorance of facts. The Poet was naturally incensed to find that certain students in London would not give a hearing to Mr. Pearson, one of the truest of Englishmen, and he became equally incensed to learn that I had told our women to stop English studies. The reasons for my advice, the Poet evidently inferred for himself.

How much better it would have been, if he had not imputed the rudeness of the students to Non cooperation, and had remembered that Non-cooperators worship Andrews, honor Stokes, and gave a most respectful hearing to Messrs. Wedgwood Benn, Spoor and Holford Knight at Nagpur, that Maulana Mahomed Ali accepted the invitation to tea of an English official when he invited him as a friend, that Hakim Ajmalkhan, a staunch Non-cooperator, had the portraits of Lord and Lady Hardinge unveiled in his Tibbia College and had invited his many English friends to witness the ceremony.

How much better it would have been, if he had refused to allow the demon doubt to possess him for one moment, as to the real and religious character of the present movement, and had believed that the movement was altering the meaning of old terms, nationalism and patriotism, and extending their scope.

If he, with a poet’s imagination, had seen that I was incapable of wishing to cramp the mind of the Indian women, and I could not object to English learning as such, and recalled the fact that throughout my life I had fought for the fullest liberty for women, he would have been saved the injustice which he has done me, and which, I know, he would never knowingly do to an avowed enemy.

The Poet does not know perhaps that English is today studied because of its commercial and so called political value. Our boys think, and rightly in the present circumstances, that without English they cannot get Government service. Girls are taught English as a passport to marriage. I know several instances of women wanting to learn English so that they may be able to talk to Englishmen in English.

I know husbands who are sorry that their wives cannot talk to them and their friends in English. I know families in which English is being made the mother tongue. Hundreds of youths believe that without a knowledge of English freedom for India is practically impossible. The canker has so eaten into the society that, in many cases, the only meaning of Education is a knowledge of English.

All these are for me signs of our slavery and degradation. It is unbearable to me that the vernaculars should be crushed and starved as they have been. I cannot tolerate the idea of parents writing to their children, or husbands writing to their wives, not in their own vernaculars, but in English. I hope I am as great a believer in free air as the great Poet. I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed.

I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any. I refuse to live in other people’s houses as an interloper, a beggar or a slave. I refuse to put the unnecessary strain of learning English upon my sisters for the sake of false pride or questionable social advantage.

I would have our young men and young women with literary tastes to learn as much of English and other world-languages as they like, and then expect them to give the benefits of their learning to India and to the world, like a Bose, a Roy or the Poet himself.

But I would not have a single Indian to forget, neglect or be ashamed of his mother tongue, or to feel that he or she cannot think or express the best thoughts in his or her own vernacular. Mine is not a religion of the prison house. It has room for the least among God’s creation. But it is proof against insolence, pride of race, religion or colour.

I am extremely sorry for the Poet’s misreading of this great movement or reformation, purification and patriotism spelt humanity. If he will be patient, he will find no cause for sorrow or shame for his countrymen. I respectfully warn him against mistaking its excrescences for the movement itself. It is as wrong to judge Non-cooperation by the students’ misconduct in London or Malegaon’s in India, as it would be to judge Englishmen by the Dyers or the O’Dwyers.

M.K. Gandhi

The Poet’s Anxiety

(Young India of 1 June 1921 also carried another reply to Tagore from Gandhi on cooperation and non-cooperation vis-a-vis the students.)

The Poet of Asia, as Lord Hardinge called Dr. Tagore, is fast becoming, if he has not already become, the Poet of the world. Increasing prestige has brought to him increasing responsibility. His greatest service to India must be his poetic interpretation of India’s message to the world. The Poet is, therefore, sincerely anxious that India should deliver no false or feeble message in her name. He is naturally jealous of his country’s reputation.

He says he has striven hard to find himself in tune with the present movement. He confesses that he is baffled. He can find nothing for his lyre in the din and the bustle of Non-cooperation. In three forceful letters, he has endeavored to give expression to his misgivings, and he has come to the conclusion that Non-cooperation is not dignified enough for the India of his vision, that it is a doctrine of negation and despair. He fears that it is a doctrine of separation, exclusiveness, narrowness and negation.

No Indian can feel anything but pride in the Poet’s exquisite jealousy of India’s honour. It is good that he should have sent to us his misgivings in language at once beautiful and clear.

In all humility, I shall endeavour to answer the Poet’s doubts. I may fail to convince him or the reader who may have been touched by his eloquence, but I would like to assure him and India that Non cooperation in conception is not any of the things he fears, and he need have no cause to be ashamed of his country for having adopted Non-cooperation.

If, in actual application, it appears in the end to have failed, it will be no more the fault of the doctrine, than it would be of Truth, if those who claim to apply it in practice do not appear to succeed. Non-cooperation may have come in advance of its time. India and the world must then wait, but there is no choice for India save between violence and Non-cooperation.

Nor need the Poet fear that Non-cooperation is intended to erect a Chinese wail between India and the West. On the contrary, Non-cooperation is intended to pave the way to real, honourable and voluntary co-operation based on mutual respect and trust.

The present struggle is being waged against compulsory cooperation, against one-sided combination, against the armed imposition of modern methods of exploitation, masquerading under the name of civilisation. Non-cooperation is a protest against an unwitting and unwilling participation in evil.

The Poet’s concern is largely about the students. He is of the opinion that they should not have been called upon to give up Government schools before they had other schools to go to. Here I must differ from him. I have never been able to make a fetish of literary training. My experience has proved to my satisfaction that literary training by itself adds not an inch to one’s moral height and that character-building is independent of literary training.

I am firmly of opinion that the Government schools have unmanned us; rendered us helpless and Godless. They have filled us with discontent, and providing no remedy for the discontent, have made us despondent. They have made us what we were intended to become – clerks and interpreters. A Government builds its prestige upon the apparently voluntary association of the governed. And if it was wrong to cooperate with the Government in keeping us slaves, we were bound to begin with those institutions in which our association appeared to be most voluntary. The youth of a nation are its hope. I hold that, as soon as we discovered that the system of Government was wholly, or mainly evil, it became sinful for us to associate our children with it.

It is no argument against the soundness of the proposition laid down by me that the vast majority of the students went back after the first flush of enthusiasm. Their recantation is proof rather of the extent of our degradation than of the wrongness of the step. Experience has shown that the establishment of national schools has not resulted in drawing many more students. The strongest and the truest of them came out without any national schools to fall back upon, and I am convinced that these first withdrawals are rendering service of the highest order.

But the Poet’s protest against the calling out of the boys is really a corollary to his objection to the very doctrine of Non-cooperation. He has a horror of everything negative. His whole soul seems to rebel against the negative commandments of religion. I must give his objection in his own inimitable language.

“R, in support of the present movement has often said to me that passion for rejection is a stronger power in the beginning than the acceptance of an ideal. Though I know it to be a fact, I cannot take it as a truth… Brahmavidya in India has for its object mukti (emancipation), while Buddhism has nirvana (extinction), negative side of truth… Therefore, he (Buddha) emphasised the fact of dukkha (misery) which had to be avoided and the Brahmavidya emphasised the fact of anand (joy) which had to be attained.”

In these and kindred passages, the reader will find the key to the Poet’s mentality. In my humble opinion, rejection is as much an ideal as the acceptance of a thing. It is as necessary to reject untruth as it is to accept truth. All religions teach that two opposite forces act upon us and that the human endeavour consists in a series of eternal rejections and acceptances. Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as co-operation with good.

I venture to suggest that the Poet has done an unconscious injustice to Buddhism in describing nirvana as merely a negative state. I make bold to say that mukti (emancipation) is as much a negative state as nirvana. Emancipation from or extinction of the bondage of the flesh leads to ananda (eternal bliss). Let me close this part of my argument by drawing attention to the fact that the final word of the Upanishads (Brahmavidya) is ‘Not’. Neti was the best description the authors of the Upanishads were able to find for Brahma.

I, therefore, think that the Poet has been unnecessarily alarmed at the negative aspect of Non-cooperation. We had lost the power of saying ‘no’. It had become disloyal, almost sacrilegious to say ‘no’ to the Government.

This deliberate refusal to cooperate is like the necessary weeding process that a cultivator has to resort before he sows. Weeding is as necessary to agriculture as sowing. Indeed, even whilst the crops are growing, the weeding fork, as every husbandman knows, is an instrument almost of daily use.

The nation’s Non-cooperation is an invitation to the Government to co-operate with it on its own terms as is every nation’s right and every good government’s duty. Non-cooperation is the nation’s notice that it is no longer satisfied to be in tutelage. The nation had taken to the harmless (for it), natural and religious doctrine of Non-cooperation in the place of the unnatural and irreligious doctrine of violence.

And if India is ever to attain the swaraj of the Poet’s dream, she will do so only by non-violent Non-cooperation. Let him deliver his message of peace to the world, and feel confident that India, through her Non-cooperation, if she remains true to her pledge, will have exemplified his message. Non-cooperation is intended to give the very meaning to patriotism that the Poet is yearning after. An India prostrate at the feet of Europe can give no hope to humanity. An India awakened and free has a message of peace and goodwill to a groaning world. Non-cooperation is designed to supply her with a platform from which she will preach the message.

M.K. Gandhi

The Call Of Truth

(This long rejoinder from Tagore to Gandhi originally appeared in Pravasee in Bengali and later in Modern Review in English. The original is reproduced in Volume XXIV of the Collected Works of Rabindranath Tagore)

Parasites have to pay for their readymade victuals by losing the power, of assimilating food in natural form. In the history of man, this same sin of laziness has always entailed degeneracy. Man becomes parasitical, not only when he fattens on others’ toil, but also when he becomes rooted to a particular set of outside conditions and allows himself helplessly to drift along the stream of things as they are; for the outside is alien to the inner self, and if the former be made indispensable by sheer habit, man acquires parasitical characteristics, and becomes unable to perform his true function of converting the impossible into the possible.

In this sense all the lower animals are parasites. They are carried along by their environment; they live or die by natural selection; they progress or retrogress as nature may dictate. Their mind has lost the power of growth. The bees, for millions of years, have been unable to get beyond the pattern of their hive. For that reason, the form of their cell has attained certain perfection, but their mentality is confined to the age-long habits of their hive-life and cannot soar out of its limitations. Nature has developed a cautious timidity in the case of her lower types of life; she keeps them tied to her apron strings and has stunted their minds, lest they should stray into dangerous experiments.

But Providence displayed a sudden accession of creative courage when it came to man; for his inner nature has not been tied down, though outwardly the poor human creature has been left naked, weak and defenceless. In spite of these disabilities, man in the joy of his inward freedom has stood up and declared: “I shall achieve the impossible”.

That is to say, he has consistently refused to submit to the rule of things as they always have been, but is determined to bring about happenings that have never been before. So when, in the beginning of his history, man’s lot was thrown in with monstrous creatures, tusked and taloned, he did not, like the deer, simply take refuge in flight, nor, like the tortoise, take refuge in biding, but set to work with flints to make even more efficient weapons.

These, moreover, being the creation of his own inner faculties, were not dependent on natural selection, as were those of the other animals, for their developments. And so man’s instruments progressed from flint to steel. This shows that man’s mind has never been helplessly attached to his environment. What came to his hand was brought under his thumb. Not content with the flint on the surface, he delved for the iron beneath. Not satisfied with the easier process of chipping flints, he proceeded to melt iron ore and hammer it into shape. That which resisted more stubbornly was converted into a better ally.

Man’s inner nature not only finds success in its activity, but there it also has its joy. He insists on penetrating further and further into the depths, from the obvious to the hidden, from the easy to the difficult, from parasitism to self-determination, from the slavery of his passions to the mastery of himself. That is how he has won.

But if any section of mankind should say, “The flint was the weapon of our revered forefathers; by departing from it we destroy the spirit of the race”, then they may succeed in preserving what they call their race, but they strike at the root of the glorious tradition of humanity which was theirs also. And we find that those, who have steadfastly stuck to their flints, may indeed have kept safe their pristine purity to their own satisfaction, but they have been out casted by the rest of mankind, and so have to pass their lives slinking away in jungle and cave.

They are, as I say, reduced to a parasitic dependence on outside nature, driven along blindfold by the force of things as they are. They have not achieved swaraj in their inner nature, and so are deprived of swaraj in the outside world as well. They have ceased to be even aware, that it is man’s true function to make the impossible into the possible by dint of his own powers; that it is not for him to be confined merely to what has happened before; that he must progress towards what ought to be by rousing all his inner powers by means of the force of his soul.

Thirty years ago I used to edit the Sadhana magazine and there I tried to say this same thing. Then English-educated India was frightfully busy begging for its rights. And I repeatedly endeavoured to impress on my countrymen, that man is not under any necessity to beg for rights from others, but must create them for himself; because man lives mainly by his inner nature, and there he is the master. By dependence on acquisition from the outside, man’s inner nature suffers loss. And it was my contention, that man is not so hard oppressed by being deprived of his outward rights as he is by the constant bearing of the burden of prayers and petitions.

Then when the Bangadarshan magazine came into my hands, Bengal was beside herself at the sound of the sharpening of the knife for her partition. The boycott of Manchester, which was the outcome of her distress, had raised the profits of the Bombay mill-owners to a super-foreign degree. And I had then to say: “This will not do, either; for it is also of the outside. Your main motive is hatred of the foreigner, not love of country.”

It was then really necessary for our countrymen to be made conscious of the distinction, that the Englishman’s presence is an external accident, mere maya but that the presence of our country is an internal fact which is also an eternal truth. Maya looms with an exaggerated importance, only when we fix our attention exclusively upon it, by reason of some infatuation be it of love or of hate. Whether in our passion we rush to embrace it, or attack it; whether we yearn for it, or spurn it; it equally fills the whole field of our blood-shot vision.

Maya is like the darkness. No steed, however swift, can carry us beyond it; no amount of water can wash it away. Truth is like a lamp; even as it is lit, maya vanishes. Our shastras fell us that Truth, even when it is small, can rescue us from the terror which is great.

Fear is the atheism of the heart. It cannot be overcome from the side of negation. If one of its heads be struck off, it breeds like the monster of the fable, a hundred others. Truth is positive; it is the affirmation of the soul. If even a little of it be roused, it attacks negation at the very heart and overpowers it wholly.

Alien government in India is a veritable chameleon. Today it comes in the guise of the Englishman; tomorrow perhaps as some other foreigner; the next day, without abating a jot of its virulence, it may take the shape of our own countrymen. How-ever determinedly we may try to hunt this monster of foreign dependence with outside lethal weapons, it will always elude our pursuit by changing its skin, or its colour. But if we can gain within us the truth called our country, all outward maya will vanish of itself.

The declaration of faith that my country is there, to be realised, has to be attained by each one of us. The idea that our country is ours, merely because we have been born in it, can only be held by those who are fastened, in a parasitic existence, upon the outside world. But the true nature of man is his inner nature, with its inherent powers. Therefore, that only can be a man’s true country, which he can help to create by his wisdom and will, his love and his actions. So in 1905, I called upon my countrymen to create their country by putting forth their own powers from within. For the act of creation itself is the realization of truth.

The Creator gains Himself in His universe. To gain one’s own country means to realize one’s own soul more fully expanded within it. This can only be done when we are engaged in building it up with our service, our ideas and our activities. Man’s country being the creation of his own inner nature, when his soul thus expands within it, it is more truly expressed, more fully realised.

In my paper called Swadeshi Samaj, written in 1905, I discussed at length the ways and means by which we could make the country of our birth more fully our own. Whatever may have been the shortcomings of my words then uttered, I did not fail to lay emphasis on the truth, that we must win our country, not from some foreigner, but from our own inertia, our own indifference.

Whatever be the nature of the boons we may be seeking for our country at the door it only makes our inertia more densely inert. Any public benefit done by the alien Government goes to their credit not to ours. So whatever outside advantage such public benefit might mean for us, our country will only get more and more completely lost to us thereby. That is to say, we shall have to pay out in soul value for what we purchase as material advantage.

The Rishi has said: The son is dear, not because we desire a son, but because we desire to realize our own soul in him. It is the same with our country. It is dear to us, because it is the expression of our own soul. When we realize this, it will become impossible for us to allow our service of our country to wait on the pleasure of others.

These truths, which I then tried to press on my countrymen, were not particularly new, nor was there anything therein which need have grated on their ears; but, whether anyone else remembers it or not, I at least am not likely to forget the storm of indignation which I roused. I am not merely referring to the hooligans of journalism whom it pays to be scurrilous. But even men of credit and courtesy were unable to speak of me in restrained language.

There were two root causes of this. One was anger, the second was greed.

Giving free vent to angry feelings is a species of self-indulgence. In those days there was practically nothing to stand in the way of the spirit of destructive revel, which spread all over the country. We went about picketing, burning, placing thorns in the path of those whose way was not ours, acknowledging to restraints in language or behavior, all in the frenzy of our wrath.

Shortly after it was all over, a Japanese friend asked me: How is it you people cannot carry on your work with calm and deep determination? This wasting of energy can hardly be of assistance to your object. I had no help but to reply: When we have the gaining of the object clearly before our minds, we can be restrained, and concentrate our energies to serve it; but when it is a case of venting our anger, our excitement rises and rises till it drowns the object and then we are spend-thrift to the point of bankruptcy.

However that may be, there were my countrymen encountering, for the time being, no check to the overflow of their outraged feelings. It was like a strange dream. Everything seemed possible. Then all of a sudden it was my misfortune to appear on the scene with my doubts and my attempts to divert the current into the path of self-determination. My only success was in diverting their wrath on to my own devoted head.

Then there was our greed. In history, all people have won valuable things by pursuing difficult paths. We had hit upon the device of getting them cheap, not even through the painful indignity of supplication with folded hands, but by proudly conducting our beggary in threatening tones. The country was in ecstasy at the ingenuity of the trick.

It felt like being at a reduced price sale. Everything worth having in the political market was ticketed at half-price. Shabby-genteel mentality is so taken up with low prices that it has no attention to spare for quality and feels inclined to attack anybody who has the hardihood to express doubts in that regard.

It is like the man of worldly piety who believes that the judicious expenditure of coin can secure, by favour of the priest, a direct passage to heaven. The dare devil who ventures to suggest that not heaven but dreamland is likely to be his destination must beware of a violent end.

Anyhow, it was the outside maya which was our dream and our ideal in those days. It was a favourite phrase of one of the leaders of the time that we must keep one hand at the feet and the other at the throat of the Englishman, that is to say, with no hand left free for the country!

We have since perhaps got rid of this ambiguous attitude. Now we have one party that has both hands raised to the foreigner’s throat, and another party which has both hands down at his feet; but whichever attitude it may be, these methods still appertain to the outside maya. Our unfortunate minds keep revolving round and round the British Government, now to the left, now to the right; our affirmations and denials alike are concerned with the foreigners.

In those days, the stimulus from every side was directed towards the heart of Bengal. But emotion by itself, like fire only consumes its fuel and reduces it to ashes; it has no creative power. The intellect of man must busy itself, with patience, with skill, with foresight, in using this fire to melt that which is hard and difficult into the object of its desire.

We neglected to rouse our intellectual forces, and so were unable to make use of this surging emotion of ours to create any organisation of permanent value. The reason of our failure, therefore, was not in anything outside, but rather within us. For a long time past we have been in the habit, in our life and endeavour, of setting apart one place for our emotions and another for our practices.

Our intellect has all the time remained dormant, because we have not dared to allow it scope. That is why, when we have to rouse ourselves to action, it is our emotion which has to be requisitioned, and our intellect has to be kept from interfering by the hypnotism of some magical formula, that is to say we hasten to create a situation absolutely inimical to the free play of our intellect.

The loss which is incurred by this continual deadening of our mind cannot be made good by any other contrivance. In our desperate attempts to do so we have to invoke the magic of maya and our impotence jumps for joy at the prospect of getting hold of Alladin’s lamp. Of course everyone has to admit that there is nothing to beat Alladin’s lamp, its only inconvenience being that it beats one to get hold of.

The unfortunate part of it is that the person, whose greed is great, but whose powers are feeble, and who has lost all confidence in his own intellect, simply will not allow himself, to dwell on the difficulties of bespeaking the services of some genie of the lamp. He can only be brought to exert himself at all by holding out the speedy prospect of getting at the wonderful lamp. If anyone attempts to point out the futility of his hopes, he fills the air with wailing and imprecation, as at a robber making away with his all.

In the heat of the enthusiasm of the partition days, a band of youths attempted to bring about the millennium through political revolution. Their offer of themselves as the first sacrifice to the fire which they had lighted makes not only their own country, but other countries as well, bare the head to them in reverence. Their physical failure shines forth as the effulgence of spiritual glory. In the midst of the supreme travail, they realised at length that the way of bloody revolution is not the true way; that where there is no politics, a political revolution is like taking a short cut to nothing; that the wrong way may appear shorter, but it does not reach the goal, and only grievously hurts the feet.

The refusal to pay the full price for a thing leads to the loss of the price without the gain of the thing. These impetuous youths offered their lives as the price of their country’s deliverance; to them it meant the loss of their all but alas! the price offered on behalf of the country was insufficient. I feel sure that those of them who still survive must have realised by now, that the country must be the creation of all its people, not of one section alone. It must be the expression of all their forces of heart, mind and will.

This creation can only be the fruit of that yoga, which gives outward form to the inner faculties. Mere political or economical yoga is not enough; for that all the human powers must unite.

When we turn our gaze upon the history of other countries, the political steed comes prominently into view; on it seems to depend wholly the progress of the carriage. We forget that the carriage also must be in a fit condition to move; its wheels must be in agreement with one another and its parts well fitted together; with which not only have fire and hammer and chisel been busy but much thought and skill and energy have also been spent in the process.

We have seen some countries which are externally free and independent; when however, the political carriage is in motion, the noise which it makes arouses the whole neighbourhood from slumber and the jolting produces aches and pains in the limbs of the helpless passengers. It comes to pieces in the middle of the road, and it takes the whole day to put it together again with the help of ropes and strings. Yet however loose the screws and however crooked the wheels, still it is a vehicle of some sort after all.

But for such a thing as is our country a mere collection of jointed logs, that not only have no wholeness amongst themselves, but are contrary to one another for this to be dragged along a few paces by the temporary pull of some common greed or anger, can never be called by the name of political progress. Therefore, is it not, in our case, wiser to keep for the moment our horse in the stable and begin to manufacture a real carriage?

From the writings of the young men, who have come back out of the valley of the shadow of death, I feel sure some such thoughts must have occurred to them. And so they must be realising the necessity of the practice of yoga as of primary importance; that from which is the union in a common endeavour of all the human faculties. This cannot be attained by any outside blind obedience, but only by the realisation of self in the light of intellect. That which fails to illumine the intellect, and only keeps it in the obsession of some delusion, is its greatest obstacle.

The call to make the country our own by dint of our own creative power, is a great call. It is not merely inducing the people to take up some external mechanical exercise; for man’s life is not in making cells of uniform pattern like the bee, nor in incessant weaving of webs like the spider; his greatest powers are within, and on these are his chief reliance. If by offering some allurement we can induce man to cease from thinking, so that he may go on and on with some mechanical piece of work, this will only result in prolonging the sway of maya, under which our country has all along been languishing.

So far, we have been content with surrendering our greatest right – the right to reason and to judge for ourselves to the blind forces of shastric injunctions and social conventions. We have refused to cross the seas, because Manu has told us not to do so. We refuse to eat with the Mussalman, because prescribed usage is against it.

In other words, we have systematically pursued a course of blind routine and habit, in which the mind of man has no place. We have thus been reduced to the helpless condition of the master who is altogether dependent on his servant. The real master, as I have said, is the internal man; and he gets into endless troubles, when he becomes his own servant’s slave a mere automaton, manufactured in the factory of servitude. He can then only rescue himself from one master by surrendering himself.

Similarly, he who glorifies inertia by attributing to it a fanciful purity, becomes, like it, dependent on outside impulses, both for rest and motion. The inertness of mind, which is the basis of all slavery, cannot be got rid of by a docile, submission to being hoodwinked, nor by going through the motions of a wound-up mechanical doll.

The movement, which has now succeeded the swadeshi agitation, is ever so much greater and has moreover extended its influence all over India. Previously, the vision of our political leaders had never reached beyond the English-knowing classes, because the country meant for them only that bookish aspect of it which is to be found in the pages of the Englishman’s history. Such a country was merely a mirage born of vapourings in the English language, in which litted about thin shades of Burke and Gladstone, Mazzini and Garibaldi.

Nothing resembling self-sacrifice or true feeling for their countrymen was visible. At this juncture, Mahatma Gandhi came and stood at the cottage door of the destitute millions, clad as one of themselves, and talking to them in their own language. Here was the truth at last, not a mere quotation out of a book.

So the name of Mahatma, which was given to him, is his true name. Who else has felt so many men of India to be of his own flesh and blood? At the touch of Truth the pent-up forces of the soul are set free. As soon as true love stood at India’s door, it flew open; all hesitation and holding back vanished. Truth awakened truth.

Stratagem in politics is a barren policy this was a lesson of which we were sorely in need. All honour to the Mahatma, who made visible to us the power of Truth. But reliance on tactics is so ingrained in the cowardly and the weak, that in order to eradicate it, the very skin must be sloughed off.

Even today, our worldly-wise men cannot get rid of the idea of utilising the Mahatma at a secret and more ingenious move in their political gamble. With their minds corroded by untruth, they cannot understand what an important thing it is that the Mahatma’s supreme love should have drawn forth the country’s love.

The thing that has happened is nothing less than the birth of freedom. It is the gain by the country of itself. In it there is no room for any thought, as to where the Englishman is, or is not. This love is self-expression. It is pure affirmation. It does not argue with negation: it has no need for argument.

Some notes of the music of this wonderful awakening of India by love, floated over to me across the seas. It was a great joy to me to think that the call of this festivity of awakening would come to each one of us; and that the true shakti of India’s spirit, in all its multifarious variety, would at last find expression. This thought came to me because I have always believed that in such a way India would find its freedom.

When Lord Buddha voiced forth the truth of compassion for all living creatures, the manhood of India was roused and poured itself forth in science and art and wealth of every kind. True in the matter of political unification the repeated attempts that were then made as often failed; nevertheless India’s mind had awakened into freedom from its submergence in sleep, and its overwhelming force would brook no confinement within the petty limits of country. It overflowed across ocean and desert, scattering its wealth of the spirit over every land that it touched.

No commercial or military exploiter, to-day has ever been able to do anything like it. Whatever land these exploiters have touched has been agonised with sorrow and insult, and the fair face of the world has been scared and disfigured. Why? Because not greed but love is true. When love gives freedom it does so at the very centre of our life. When greed seeks unfettered power, it is forcefully impatient.

We saw this during the partition agitation. We then compelled the poor to make sacrifices, not always out of the inwardness of love, but often by outward pressure. That was because greed is always seeking for a particular result within a definite time. But the fruit which love seeks is not of today or tomorrow, or for a time only: it is sufficient unto itself.

So, in the expectation of breathing the buoyant breezes of this new found freedom, I came home rejoicing. But what I found in Calcutta when I arrived depressed me. An oppressive atmosphere seemed to burden the land. Some outside compulsion seemed to be urging one and all to talk in the same strain, to work at the same mill. When I wanted to inquire, to discuss, my well-wishers clapped their hands over my lips, saying: “Not now, not now”.

Today, in the atmosphere of the country, there is a spirit of persecution, which is not that of armed force, but something still more alarming, because it is invisible. I found, further, that those who had their doubts as to the present activities, if they happened to whisper them out, however cautiously, however guardedly, felt some admonishing hand clutching them within.

There was a newspaper which one day had the temerity to disapprove, in a feeble way, of the burning of cloth. The very next day, the editor was shaken out of his balance by the agitation of his readers. How long would it take for the fire which was burning cloth to reduce his paper to ashes? The sight that met my eye was, on the one hand people immensely busy; on the other, intensely afraid.

What I heard on every side was, that reason, and culture as well, must be closured. It was only necessary to cling to an unquestioning obedience. Obedience to whom? To some mantra, some unreasoned creed!

And why this obedience? Here again comes that same greed, our spiritual enemy. There dangles before the country the bait of getting a thing of inestimable value dirt cheap and in double-quick time.

It is like the faqir with his goldmaking trick. With such a lure men cast so readily to the winds their independent judgement and wax so mightly wroth with those who will not do likewise. So easy is to overpower, in the name of outside freedom the inner freedom of man.

The most deplorable part of it is that so many do not even honestly believe in the hope that they swear by. “It will serve to make our countrymen do what is necessary” say they. Evidently, according to them, the India which once declared: “In truth is Victory, not in untruth” that India would not have been fit for Swaraj.

Another mischief is that the gain, with the promise of which obedience is claimed, is indicated by name, but is not defined, just as when fear is vague it becomes all the more strong, so the vagueness of the lure makes it all the more tempting; inasmuch as ample room is left for each one’s imagination to shape it to his taste. Moreover there is no driving it into a corner because it can always shift from one shelter to another.

In short, the object of the temptation has been magnified through its indefiniteness while the time and method of its attainment have been made too narrowly definite. When the reason of man has been overcome in this way, he easily consents to give up all legitimate questions and blindly follows the path of obedience. But can we really afford to forget so easily that delusion is at the root of all slavery that all freedom means freedom from maya?

What if the bulk of our people have unquestioningly accepted the creed, that by means of sundry practices swaraj will come to them on a particular date in the near future and are also ready to use their clubs to put down all further argument, that is to say, they have surrendered the freedom of their own minds and are prepared to deprive other minds of their freedom likewise, is not this by itself a reason for profound misgiving? We were seeking the exerciser to drive out this very ghost; but if the ghost itself comes in the guise of exerciser then the danger is only heightened.

The Mahatma has won the heart of India with his love; for that we have all acknowledged his sovereignty. He has given us a vision of the shakti of Truth; for that our gratitude to him is unbounded. We read about Truth in books: we talk about it: but it is indeed a red-letter day, when we see it face to face.

Rare is the moment, in many a long year, when such good fortune happens. We can make and break Congresses every other day. It is at any time possible for us to stump the country preaching politics in English. But the golden rod, which can awaken our country in Truth and Love is not a thing which can be manufactured by the nearest goldsmith. To the weilder of that rod our profound salutation!

But if having seen Truth, our belief in it is not confirmed, what is the good of it all? Our mind must acknowledge the Truth of the intellect, just as our heart does the Truth of love. No Congress or other outside institution succeeded in touching the heart of India. It was roused only by the touch of love. Having had such a clear vision of this wonderful power of Truth, are we to cease to believe in it, just where the attainment of Swaraj is concerned? Has the Truth, which was needed in the process of awakenment, to be got rid of in the process of achievement?

Let me give an illustration. I am in search of a vina player. I have tried East and I have tried West, but have not found the man of my quest. They are all experts, they can make the strings resound to a degree, they command high prices, but for all their wonderful execution they can strike no chord in my heart. At last I come across one whose very first notes melt away the sense of oppression within. In him is the fire of the shakti of joy which can light up all other hearts by its touch. His appeal to me is instant and I hail him as Master. I then want a vina made.

For this, of course are required all kinds of material and a different kind of science. If, finding me to be lacking in the means my master should be moved to pity and say: “Never mind, my son do not go to the expense in workmanship and time which a vina will require. Take rather this simple string tightened across a piece of wood and practise on it. In a short time you will find it to be as good as a vina.” Would that do? I am afraid not.

It would, in fact, be a mistaken kindness for the master thus to take pity on my circumstances. Far better if he were to tell me plainly that such things cannot be had cheaply. It is he who should teach me that merely one string will not serve for a true vina, that the materials required are many and various; that the lines of its moulding must be shapely and precise; that if there be anything faulty, it will fail to make good music, so that all laws of science and technique of art must be rigorously and intelligently followed. In short the true function of the master player should be to evoke a response from the depths of our heart, so that we may gain the strength to wait and work till the true end is achieved.

From our master, the Mahatma may our devotion to him never grow less! we must learn the truth of love in all its purity, but the science and art of building up swaraj is a vast subject; its pathways are difficult to traverse and take time. For this task, aspiration and emotion must be there, but no less must study and thought be there likewise. For it, the economist must think, the mechanic must labour, the educationist and statesman must teach and contrive.

In a word, the mind of the country must exert itself in all directions. Above all, the spirit of Inquiry throughout the whole country must be kept intact and untrammelled, its mind not made timid or inactive by compulsion open or secret.

We know from past experience that it is not any and every call to which the country responds. It is because no one has yet been able to unite in yoga all the forces of the country in the work of its creation, that so much time has been lost over and over again. And we have been kept waiting and waiting for him who has the right and the power to make the call upon us.

In the old forests of India, our gurus, in the fullness of their vision of the truth had sent forth such a call saying: “As the rivers flow on their downward course, as the months flow on to the year, so let all seekers after Truth come from all sides”. The initiation into Truth of that day has borne fruit, undying to this day, and the voice of its message still rings in the ears of the world.

Why should not our guru of today, who would lead us on the paths of karma, send forth such a call? Why should he not say: “Come ye from all sides and be welcome. Let all the forces of the land be brought into action, for then alone shall the country awake. Freedom is in complete awakening, in full self-expression.” God has given the Mahatma the voice that can call, for in him there is the Truth. Why should this not be our long awaited opportunity?

But his call came to one narrow field alone. To one and all he simply says: “Spin and weave, spin and weave”. Is this the call: “Let all seekers after Truth come from all sides”? Is this the call of the New Age to new creation? When nature called to the Bee to take refuge in the narrow life of the hive, millions of bees responded to it for the sake of efficiency, and accepted the loss of sex in consequence.

But this sacrifice by way of self-atrophy led to the opposite of freedom. Any country, the people of which can agree to become neuters for the sake of some temptation, or command, carries within itself its own prison-house. To spin is easy, therefore for all men it is an imposition hard to bear. The call to the case efficiency is well enough for the Bee. The wealth of power, that is Man’s, can only become manifest when his utmost is claimed.

Sparta tried to gain strength by narrowing herself down to a particular purpose, but she did not win. Athens sought to attain perfection by opening herself out in all her fullness, and she did win. Her flag of victory still flies at the masthead of man’s civilisation.

It is admitted that European military camps and factories are stunting man, that their greed is cutting man down to the measure of their own narrow purpose that for these reasons joylessness darkly lowers over the West. But if man be stunted by big machines, the danger of his being stunted by small machines must not be lost sight of.

The charkha in its proper place can do no harm but will rather do much good. But where, by reasoned failure to acknowledge the differences in man’s temperament it is in the wrong place, there thread can only be spun at the cost of a great deal of the mind itself. Mind is no less valuable than cotton thread.

Some are objecting: “We do not propose to curb our minds for ever, but only for a time”. But why should it be even for a time? Is it because within a short time spinning will give us swaraj? But where is the argument for this? Swaraj is not concerned with our apparel only it cannot be established on cheap clothing; its foundation is in the mind, which, with its diverse powers and its confidence in those powers, goes on all the time creating swaraj for itself. In no country in the world is the building up of swaraj completed.

In some part or other of every nation, some lurking greed or illusion still perpetuates bondage. And the root of such bondage is always within the mind. Where then I ask again, is the argument that in our country swaraj can be brought about by everyone engaging for a time in spinning?

A mere statement, in lieu of argument, will surely never do. If once we consent to receive fate’s oracles from human lips that will add one more to the torments of our slavery, and not the least one either. If nothing but oracles will serve to move us, oracles will have to be manufactured morning, noon and night, for the sake of urgent needs, and all other voices would be defeated.

Those for whom authority is needed in place of reason, will invariably accept despotism in place of freedom. It is like cutting at the root of a tree while pouring water on the top. This is not a new thing I know. We have enough of magic in the country magical revelation, magical healing, and all kinds of divine intervention in mundane affairs.

That is exactly why I am so anxious to reinstate reason on its throne. As I have said before, God himself has given the mind sovereignty in the material world. And I say today that only those will be able to get and keep Swaraj in the material world who have realised the dignity of self-reliance and self-mastery in the spiritual world, those whom no temptation, no delusion, can induce to surrender the dignity of intellect into the keeping of others.

Consider the burning of cloth, heaped up before the very eyes of our motherland shivering and ashamed in her nakedness. What is the nature of the call to do this? Is it not another instance of a magical formula? The question of using or refusing doth of a particular manufacture belongs mainly to economic science. The discussion of the matter by our countrymen should have been in the language of economics.

If the country has really come to such a habit of mind that precise thinking has become impossible for it, then our very first fight should be against such a fatal habit, to the temporary exclusion of all else if need be. Such a habit would clearly be the original sin from which all our ills are flowing. But far from this, we take the course of confirming ourselves in it by relying on the magical formula that foreign cloth is ‘impure’. Thus economics is bundled out and a fictitious moral dictum dragged into its place.

Untruth is impure in any circumstances, not merely because it may cause us material loss, but even when it does not; for it makes our inner nature unclean. This is a moral law and belongs to a higher plane. But if there be anything wrong in wearing a particular kind of cloth that would be an offence against economics, or hygiene, or aesthetics, but certainly not against morality.

Some urge that any mistake which brings sorrow to body or mind is a moral wrong. To which I reply that sorrow follows in the train of every mistake. A mistake in geometry may make a road too long, or a foundation weak, or a bridge dangerous. But mathematical mistakes cannot be cured by moral maxims. If a student makes a mistake in his geometry problem and his exercise book is torn up in consequence the problem will nevertheless remain unsolved until attacked by geometrical methods.

But what if the schoolmaster comes to the conclusion that unless the exercise books are condemned and destroyed, his boys will never realise the folly of their mistakes? If such conclusion be well-founded, then I can only repeat that the reformation of such moral weakness of these particular boys should take precedence over all other lessons, otherwise there is no hope of their becoming men in the future.

The command to burn our foreign clothes has been laid on us. I, for one, am unable to obey it. Firstly, because I conceive it to be my very first duty to put up a valiant fight against this terrible habit of blindly obeying orders, and this fight can never be carried on by our people being driven from one injunction to another.

Secondly, I feel that the clothes to be burnt are not mine, but belong to those who most sorely need them. If those who are going naked should have given us the mandate to burn, it would, at least, have been a case of self-immolation and the crime of incendiarism would not lie at our door. But how can we expiate the sin of the forcible destruction of clothes which might have gone to women whose nakedness is actually keeping them prisoners unable to stir out of the privacy of their homes?

I have said repeatedly and must repeat once more that we cannot afford to lose our mind for the sake of any external gain.

Where Mahatma Gandhi has declared war against the tyranny of the machine which is oppressing the whole world, we are all enrolled under his banner. But we must refuse to accept as our ally the illusion-haunted magic-ridden slave mentality that is at the root of all the poverty and insult under which our country groans. Here is the enemy itself on whose defeat alone swaraj within and without can come to us.

The time, moreover, has arrived when we must think of one thing more, and that is this. The awakening of India is a part of the awakening of the world. The door of the New Age has been flung open at the trumpet blast of a great war.

We have read in the Mahabharata how the day of self-revelation had to be preceded by a year of retirement. The same has happened in the world today. Nations had attained nearness to each other without being aware of it, that is to say, the outside fact was there, but it had not penetrated into the mind. At the shock of the war, the truth of it stood revealed to mankind.

The foundation of modern, that is Western, civilisation was shaken; and it has become evident that the convulsion is neither local nor temporary but has traversed the whole earth and will last until the shocks between man and man, which have extended from continent to continent, can be brought to rest, and a harmony be established.

From now onward, any nation which takes an isolated view of its own country will run counter to the spirit of the New Age, and know no peace. From now onward, the anxiety that each country has for its own safety must embrace the welfare of the world. For some time the working of the new spirit has occasionally shown itself even in the Government of India, which has had to make attempts to deal with its own problems in the light of the world problem. The war has torn away a veil from before our minds.

What is harmful to the world, is harmful to each one of us. This was a maxim which we used to read in books. Now mankind has seen it at work and has understood that wherever there is injustice, even if the external right of possession is there, the true right is wanting. So that it is worthwhile even to sacrifice some outward right in order to gain the reality.

This immense change, which is coming over the spirit of man raising it from the petty to the great is already at work even in Indian politics. There will doubtless be imperfections and obstacles without number. Self-interest is sure to attack enlightened interest at every step. Nevertheless it would be wrong to come to the decision that the working of self-interest alone is honest, and the larger-hearted striving is hypocritical.

After sixty years of self-experience, I have found that out and out hypocrisy is an almost impossible achievement, so that the pure hypocrite is a rarity indeed. The fact is, that the character of man has always more or less of duality in it. But our logical faculty, the trap-door of our mind, is unable to admit opposites together. So when we find the good with the bad, the former is promptly rejected as spurious.

In the universal movement, as it becomes manifest in different parts of the world, this duality of man’s character cannot but show itself. And whenever it does, if we pass judgment from past experience, we are sure to pronounce the selfish part of it to be the real thing; for the spirit of division and exclusion did in fact belong to the past age. But if we come to our judgment in the light of future promise, then shall we understand the enlightened large-heartedness to be the reality and the counsel which will unite each to each to be the true wisdom.

I have condemned, in unsparing terms, the present form and scope of the League of Nations and the Indian Reform Councils. I therefore feel certain that there will be no misunderstanding when I state that, even in these, I find signs of the Time Spirit, which is moving the heart of the West Although the present form is unacceptable, yet there is revealed an aspiration, which is towards the Truth, and this aspiration must not be condemned. In this morning of the world’s awakening, if in only our own national striving there is no response to its universal aspiration, that will betoken the poverty of our spirit.

I do not say for a moment that we should belittle the work immediately to hand. But when the bird is roused by the dawn, all its awakening is not absorbed in its search for food. Its wings respond unweariedly to the call of the sky, its throat pours forth for songs, for joy of the new light. Universal humanity has sent us its call today. Let our mind respond in its own language for response is the only true sign of life.

When of old we were immersed in the politics of dependence on others, our chief business was the compilation of others’ short-comings. Now that we have decided to dissociate our politics from dependence, are we still to establish and maintain it on the same recital of others’ sins? The state of mind so engendered will only raise the dust of angry passion, obscuring the greater world from our vision, and urge us more and more to take futile short cuts for the satisfaction of our passions. It is a sorry picture of India, which we shall display if we fail to realise for ourselves the greater India. This picture will have no light. It will have in the foreground only the business side of our aspiration. Mere business talent, however, has never created anything.

In the West, a real anxiety and effort of their higher mind to rise superior to business considerations, is beginning to be seen. I have come across many there whom this desire has imbued with the true spirit of the sannyasin, making them renounce their home-world in order to achieve the unity of man, by destroying the bondage of nationalism; men who have within their own soul realised the Advaita of humanity.

Many such have I seen in England who have accepted persecution and contumely from their fellow countrymen in their struggles to free other people from the oppression of their own country’s pride of power. Some of them are amongst us here in India. I have seen sannyasins too in France – Romain Rolland – for one, who is an outcast from his own people. I have also seen them in the minor countries of Europe.

I have watched the faces of European students all aglow with the hope of a united mankind, prepared manfully to bear all the blows, cheerfully to submit to all the insults, of the present age for the glory of the age to come. And are we alone to be content with telling the beads of negation, harping on others’ faults and proceeding with the erosion of Swaraj on a foundation of quarrelsomeness?

Shall it not be our first duty in the dawn to remember Him, who is One, who is without distinction of class or colour, and who with his varied shakti makes true provision for the inherent need of each and every class; and to pray to the Giver of Wisdom to unite us all in right understanding:

Yo ekovarno vahudha shakti yogat
Varnanekan nihitarthodadhati
Vichaiti chante vishwamadau
Sa no buddhya subhaya samyunaktu!

Rabindranath Tagore

The Great Sentinel

(The following article by Gandhi on Tagore and his criticism appeared in Young India of 13 October 1921. It was in reply to ‘The Call of Truth’)

The Bard of Santiniketan has contributed to the Modern Review a brilliant essay on the present movement. It is a series of word pictures which he alone can paint. It is an eloquent protest against authority, slave mentality or whatever description one gives of blind acceptance of a passing mania whether out of fear or hope. It is a welcome and wholesome reminder to all workers that we must not be impatient, we must not impose authority no matter how great.

The poet tells us summarily to reject anything and everything that does not appeal to our reason or heart. If we would gain swaraj we must stand for Truth as we know it, at any cost. A reformer, who is enraged because his message is not accepted must retire to the forest to learn how to watch, wait and pray. With all this one must heartily agree, and the Poet deserves the thanks of his countrymen for standing up for Truth and Reason.

There is no doubt that our last state will be worse than our first, if we surrender our reason into somebody’s keeping. And I would feel extremely sorry to discover that the country had unthinkingly and blindly followed all I had said or done. I am quite conscious of the fact that blind surrender to love is often more mischievous than a forced surrender to the lash of the tyrant. There is hope for the slave of the brute, none for that of love. Love is needed to strengthen the weak, love becomes tyrannical when it exacts obedience from an unbeliever. To mutter a mantra without knowing its value is unmanly.

It is good, therefore, that the Poet has invited all who are slavishly mimicking the call of the charkha boldly to declare their revolt. His essay serves as a warning to us all who in our impatience are betrayed into intolerance or even violence against those who differ from us. I regard the Poet as a sentinel warning us against the approaching enemies called Bigotry, Lethargy, Intolerance, Ignorance, Inertia and other members of that brood.

But whilst I agree with all that the Poet has said as of the necessity of watchfulness lest we cease to think, I must not be understood to endorse the proposition that there is any such blind obedience on a large scale in the country today. I have again and again appealed to reason, and let me assure him that if happily the country has come to believe in the spinning wheel as the giver of plenty, it has done so after laborious thinking, after great hesitation.

I am not sure that even now educated India has assimilated the truth underlying the charkha. He must not mistake the surface dirt for the substance underneath. Let him go deeper and see for himself whether the charkha has been accepted from blind faith or from reasoned necessity.

I do indeed ask the poet and the sage to spin the wheel as a sacrament. When there is war, the poet lays down the lyre, the lawyer his law reports, the schoolboy his books. The poet will sing the true note after the war is over, the lawyer will have occasion to go to his law books when people have time to fight among themselves. When a house is on fire, all the inmates go out, and each one takes up a bucket to quench the fire. When all about me are dying for want of food, the only occupation permissible to me is to feed the hungry.

It is my conviction that India is a house on fire because its manhood is being daily scorched, it is dying of hunger because it has no work to buy food with. Khulna is starving not because the people cannot work; but because they have no work.

The Ceded Districts are passing successively through a fourth famine. Orissa is a land suffering from chronic famines. Our cities are not India. India lives in her seven and a half lacs of villages, and the cities live upon the villages. They do not bring their wealth from other countries. The city people are brokers and commission agents for the big houses of Europe, America and Japan. The cities have cooperated with the latter in the bleeding process that has gone on for the past two hundred years. It is my belief based on experience, that India is daily growing poorer. The circulation about her feet and legs has almost stopped. And if we do not take care, she will collapse altogether.

To a people famishing and idle, the only acceptable form in which God can dare appear is work and promise of food as wages. God created man to work for his food, and said that those who ate without work were thieves. Eighty percent of India are compulsorily thieves half the year. Is it any wonder if India has become one vast prison?

Hunger is the argument that is driving India to the spinning wheel. The call of the spinning wheel is the noblest of all. Because it is the call of love. And love is swaraj. The spinning wheel will ‘curb the mind’ when the time is spent on necessary physical labour can be said to do so. We must think of millions who are today less than animals, who are almost in a dying state. The spinning wheel is the reviving draught for the millions of our dying countrymen and country-women.

‘Why should I who have no need to work for food, spin?’ may be the question asked. Because I am eating what does not belong to me. I am living on the spoilation of my countrymen. Trace the course of every pice that finds its way into your pocket, and you will realise the truth of what I write. Swaraj has no meaning for the millions if they do not know to employ their enforced idleness. The attainment of this swaraj is possible within a short time and it is so possible only by the revival of the spinning wheel.

I do want growth. I do want self-determination, I do want freedom, but I want all these for the soul. I doubt if the steel age is an advance upon the flint age. I am indifferent. It is the evolution of the soul to which the intellect and all our faculties have to be devoted.

I have no difficulty in imagining the possibility of a man armoured after the modern style making some lasting and new discovery for mankind, but I have less difficulty in imagining the possibility of a man having nothing but a bit of flint and a dail for lighting his path or his matchlock ever singing new hymns of praise and delivering to an aching world a message of peace and goodwill upon earth. A plea for the spinning wheel is a plea for recognizing the dignity of labour.

I claim that in losing the spinning wheel we lost our left lung. We are therefore suffering from galloping consumption.

The restoration of the wheel arrests the progress of the fell disease. There are certain things which all must do in all climes. The spinning wheel is the thing which all must turn in the Indian clime for the transition stage at any rate and the vast majority must for all time.

It was our love of foreign cloth that ousted the wheel from its position of dignity. Therefore I consider it a sin to wear foreign cloth. I must confess that I do not draw a sharp or any distinction between economics and ethics. Economics that hurt the moral well being of an individual or a nation are immoral and therefore sinful. Thus the economics that permit one country to prey upon another are immoral. It is sinful to buy and use articles made by sweated labour. It is sinful to eat American wheat and let my neighbour the grain dealers starve for want of custom.

Similarly it is sinful for me to wear the latest finery of Regent Street, when I know that if I had but worn the things woven by the neighbouring spinners and weavers, that would have clothed me, and fed and clothed than. On the knowledge of my sin bursting upon me, I must consign the foreign garments to the flames and thus purify myself, and thenceforth rest content with the rough khadi made by my neighbours. On knowing that my neighbours may not having given up the occupation, take kindly to the spinning wheel, I must take it up myself and thus make it popular.

I venture to suggest to the Poet that the clothes I ask him to bum must be and are his. If they had to his knowledge belonged to the poor or the ill-clad, he would long ago have restored to the poor what was theirs. In burning my foreign clothes I bum my shame.

I must refuse to insult the naked by giving them clothes they do not need, instead of giving them work which they sorely need. I will not commit the sin of becoming their patron, but on learning that I had assisted in impoverishing them, I would give them a privileged position and give them neither crumbs nor cast off clothing but the best of my food and clothes and associate myself with them in work.

Nor is the scheme of Non-cooperation or swadeshi an exclusive doctrine. My modesty has prevented me from declaring from the house top that the message of Non-cooperation, Nonviolence and swadeshi, is a message to the world. It must fall flat, if it does not bear fruit in the soil where it has been delivered. At the present moment India has nothing to share with the world save her degradation, pauperism and plagues.

Is it her ancient shastras that we should send to the world? Well they are printed in many editions, and an incredulous and idolatrous world refuses to look at them, because we, the heirs and custodians, do not live them. Before, therefore, I can think of sharing with the world, I must possess.

Our Non-cooperation is neither with the English nor with the West. Our Non-cooperation is with the system the English have established, with the material civilisation and its attendant greed and exploitation of the weak. Our Non-cooperation is a retirement within ourselves. Our Non-cooperation is a refusal to co-operate with the English administrators on their own terms.

We say to them, ‘Come and co-operate with us on our terms, and it will be well for us, for you and the world.’ We must refuse to be lifted off our feet. A drowning man cannot save others. In order to be fit to save others, we must try to save ourselves.

Indian nationalism is not exclusive, nor aggressive, nor destructive. It is health giving, religious and therefore humanitarian. India must learn to live before she can aspire to die for humanity. The mice which helplessly find themselves between the cat’s teeth acquire no merit from their enforced sacrifice.

True to his poetical instinct the Poet lives for the morrow and would have us do likewise. He presents to our admiring gaze the beautiful picture of the birds early in the morning singing hymns of praise as they soar into the sky. These birds had their day’s food and soared with rested wings in whose veins new blood had flown during the previous night. But I have had the pain of watching birds who for want of strength could not be coaxed even into a flutter of their wings.

The human bird under the Indian sky gets up weaker than when he pretended to retire. For millions it is an eternal vigil or an eternal trance. It is an indescribably painful state which has to be experienced to be realised. I have found it impossible to soothe suffering patients with a song from Kabir. The hungry millions ask for one poem invigorating food. They cannot be given it. They must earn it. And they can earn only by the sweat of their brow.

Niyatham kuru karmathvam karmajyaayohyakarmanah:
Yagnyaarthaath karmanonyathra lokoyam karmabandhanah: (8)
Thadarttham karma Kountheya mukthasanga: samachara (9)
Saha yagnaah: prajaah srishtva purovaacha prajaapathihi:
Arena prasavishyaddvamesha Voasthishtakaamaddhuk (10)
Devaanbhaavayathaanena the devaabhaavayanthu vah:
Parasparam bhaavayanthah: sreyah: paramavaapsyattha (11)
Ishtaanbhogaanhivodevaa daasyanthe yagnyabhaavithaah:
Thairdattaanapradayaibhyo yo bhungthe sthena eva sah: (12)
Yagnasishtaasinah: santho mutchyamte sarvakilbishaii:
Bhujamthe the thvagham paapaa ye pachanthyaathmakaranaath (13)
Annaathbhavanthi dhuthaani parjanyaadannrsambhavah:
Yagnyaathbhavathi parajanyo yagnah: karmasamudbhavah: (14)
Karma brahmoobhavam viddhi brahmaaksharasamudbhavam
Thasmaathsarvagatham brahma nithyma yagne prathishtitham (15)
Evam pravarthitham chakram naanuvarthayathiiha yah:
Aghaayurindriyaaraamo mogham paarttha sa jiivathi (16)
– Gita (Chapter III)

In these verses is contained for me the whole truth of the spinning wheel as an indispensable sacrament for the India of today. If we will take care of today, God will take care of the morrow.

M.K. Gandhi

Tagore’s Essay, The Cult of the Charkha’

(Tagore’s contribution to the controversy on “The Cult of the Charkha’, which appeared in Modern Review on September 1925)

Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray has marked me with his censure in printer’s ink, for that I have been unable to display enthusiasm in the turning of the charkha. But, because it is impossible for him to be pitiless to me even when awarding punishment, he has provided me with a companion in my ignominy in the illustrious person of Acharya Brajendra Nath Seal.

That has taken away the pain of it and also given me fresh proof of the eternal human truth that we are in agreement with some people and with some others we are not. It only proves that while creating man’s mind, God did not have for his model the spider mentality doomed to a perpetual conformity in its production of web and that it is an outrage upon human nature to force it through a mill and reduce it to some standardized commodity of uniform size and shape and purpose.

When in my younger days I used to go boating on the river, the boatmen of Jagannath Ghat would swarm around, each pressing on me the service of his own particular vessel. My selection once made, however, there would be no further trouble; for, if the boats were many so were the passengers, and the places to go to were likewise various.

But suppose one of the boats had been specially hallmarked, as the one and only sacred ferry by some dream emanating from the shrine of Tarakeswar, then indeed it would have been difficult to withstand the extortions of its touts, despite the inner conviction of the travellers that though the shore opposite may be one, its landing places are many and diversely situated.

Our shastras tell us that the divine shakti is many-sided so that a host of different factors operate in the work of creation. In death these merge into sameness; for chaos alone is uniform. God has given to man the same many-sided shakti for which reason the civilisation of his creation have their divine wealth of diversity.

It is God’s purpose that in the societies of man the various should be strung together into a garland of unity; while often the mortal providence of our public life, greedy for particular results, seeks to knead them all into a lump of uniformity. That is why we see in the concerns of this world so many identically liveried, machine-made workers, so many marionettes pulled by the same string, and on the other hand, where the human spirit has not been reduced to the coldness of collapse, we also see perpetual rebelliousness against this mechanical mortar pounded homogeneity.

If in any country we find no symptom of such rebellion, if we find its people submissively or contentedly prone on the dust, in dumb terror of some master’s bludgeon, or blind acceptance of some guru’s injunction, then indeed should we know that for such a country, in extremis, it is high time to mourn.

In our country, this ominous process of being levelled down into sameness has long been at work. Every individual of every caste has his function assigned to him, together with the obsession into which he has been hypnotised, that, since he is bound by some divine mandate, accepted by his first ancestor, it would be sinful for him to seek relief therefrom.

This imitation of the social scheme of ant-life makes very easy the performance of petty routine duties, but specially difficult the attainment of manhood’s estate. It imparts skill to the limbs of the man who is a bondsman, whose labour is drudgery; but it kills the mind of a man who is a doer, whose work is creation. So in India, during long ages past, we have the spectacle of only a repetition of that which has gone before.

In the process of this continuous grind India has acquired a distaste for very existence. In dread of the perpetuation of this same grind, through the eternal repetition of births, she is ready to intern all mental faculties in absolute inaction in order to cut at the root of Karma itself. For only too well has she realised, in the dreary round of her daily habit the terribleness of this everlasting recapitulation.

Moreover, this dreariness is not the only loss sustained by those who have suffered themselves to be reduced to a machinelike existence; for they have also lost all power to combat aggression or exploitation. From age to age, they have been assaulted by the strong, defrauded by the cunning and deluded by the gurus to whom their conscience was surrendered. Such a state of abject passivity has become easy because of the teaching that through an immutable decree of providence, they have been set adrift on the sea of Time, upon the raft of monotonous living death, burdened with a vocation that makes no allowance for variation in human nature.

But whatever our shastras may or may not have said, this popular conception of the Creator’s doing is the very opposite of what he really did do to man at the moment of his creation. Instead of furnishing him with an automatically revolving grindstone – God slipped into his constitution that most lively sprightly thing called Mind. And unless man can be made to get rid of this mind it will remain impossible to convert him into a machine.

In so far as the men at the top succeeded in paralysing the people’s minds by fear or greed or hypnotic texts, they succeeded in extorting from one class of them, only textiles from their looms; from another class, only pots from their wheels; from a third, only oil from their mills. Now when from such persons as these it becomes necessary to demand the application of their mind to any big work on hand, they stand aghast, “Mind!” cry they, “What on earth is that? Why don’t you order us what to do and give some text for us to repeat from mouth to mouth and age to age?”

Our mind, in doing duty only as a hedge to prevent the encroachment of living ideas, had been kept evenly clipped short for the purpose. If, in spite of that, in this age of self-assertion, we find mischievous branches trying to make room for the disturbance of the spruceness of the trimming, if all over minds refuse incessantly to reverberate some one set mantram, in the droning chirp of the cicadas of the night, let no one be annoyed or alarmed; for only because of this does the attainment of Swaraj become thinkable!

That is why I am not ashamed, though there is every reason to be afraid, to admit that the depths of my mind have not been moved by the charkha agitation. This may be counted by many as sheer presumption on my part, they may even wax abusive; for swearing is a much needed relief for the feelings when even one stray fish happens to elude the all-embracing net. Still, I cannot help doing that there are others who are in the same plight as myself, though it is difficult to find them all out. For even where hands are reluctant to work the spindle, mouths are all the more busy spinning its praises.

I am strongly of opinion that all intense pressure of persuasion brought upon the crowd psychology is unhealthy for it. Some strong and wide-spread intoxication of belief among a vast number of men can suddenly produce a convenient uniformity of purpose, immense and powerful. It seems for the moment a miracle of a wholesale conversion; and a catastrophic phenomenon of this nature stuns our rational mind, raising high some hope of easy realisation which is very much like a boom in the business market.

The amazingly immediate success is no criterion of its reality, the very dimension of its triumph having a dangerous effect of producing a sudden and universal eclipse of our judgment. Human nature has its elasticity; and in the name of urgency, it can be forced towards a particular direction far beyond its normal and wholesome limits. But the rebound is sure to follow, and the consequent disillusionment will leave behind it a desert track of demoralisation.

We have had our experience of this in thr tremendous exultation lately produced by the imaginary easy prospect of Hindu-Muslim unity. And therefore I am afraid of a blind faith on a very large scale in the charkha, in the country, which is so liable to succumb to the lure of short cuts when pointed out by a personality about whose moral earnestness they can have no doubt.

Anyhow what I say is this. If, today, poverty has come upon our country, we should know that the root cause is complexly ramified and it dwells within ourselves. For the whole country to fall upon only one of its external symptoms with the application of one and the same remedy will not serve to fight the demon away.

If man had been a mindless image of stone, a defect in his features might have been cured with hammer and chisel; but when his shrunken features bespeak vital poverty, the cure must be constitutional, not formal; and repeated hammer strokes upon some one particular external point will only damage that same life still more.

In the days when our country had to bear the brunt of Mughal and Pathan – the little jerry-built edifices of Hindu sovereignty fell to pieces on every side. There was then no dearth of home-spun thread, but that did not serve to bind these into stability. And, yet, in those days there was no economic antagonism between the people and their rulers. The throne of the latter was established on the soil of the country, so that the ripe fruits fell to the ground where the trees stood.

Can it then be today – when we have not one or two kings but a veritable flood of them sweeping away our life-stuffs across the seas away from our motherland, causing it to lose both its fruits and its fertility, can it be, I say, that the lack of sufficient thread prevents our stemming this current? Is it not rather our lack of vitality, our lack of union?

Some will urge that though in the days of Mughal and Pathan we had not sovereign power, we had at least a sufficiency of food and clothing. When the river is not flowing, it may be possible to bank up little pools in its bed to hold water enough for our needs, conveniently at hand for each. But can such banks guarding our scanty economic resources for local use withstand the shocks which come upon it today from far and near?

No longer will it be possible to hide ourselves away from commerce with the outside world. Moreover such isolation itself would be the greatest of deprivations for us. If, therefore, we cannot rouse the forces of our mind, in adequate strength to take our due part in this traffic of exchanging commodities, our grain will continue to be consumed by others, leaving only the chaff as our own portion.

In Bengal we have a nursery rhyme which soothes the infant with the assurance that it will get the lollipop if only it twirls its hands. But is it a likely policy to reassure grown up people by telling them that they will get their swaraj, that is to say, get rid of all poverty, in spite of their social habits that are a perpetual impediment and mental habits producing inertia of intellect and will, by simply twirling away with their hands? No. If we have to get rid of this poverty which is visible outside, it can only be done by rousing our inward forces of wisdom of fellowship and mutual trust which make for cooperation.

But, it may be argued, does not external work react on the mind? It does, only if it has its constant suggestions to our intellect, which is the master, and not merely its commands for our muscles, which are slaves. In this clerk ridden country, for instance, we all know that the routine of clerkship is not mentally stimulating. By doing the same thing day after day mechanical skill may be acquired; but the mind like a mill-turning bullock will be kept going round and round a narrow range of habit.

That is why, in every country man has looked down on work which involves this kind of mechanical repetition. Carlyle may have proclaimed the dignity of labour in his stentorian accents, but a still louder cry has gone up from humanity, age after age, testifying to its indignity. “The wise man sacrifices the half to avert a total loss” so says our Sanskrit proverb. Rather than die of starvation, one can understand a man preferring to allow his mind to be killed. But it would be a cruel joke to try to console him by talking of the dignity of such sacrifice.

In fact, humanity has ever been beset with the grave problem, how to rescue the large majority of the people from being reduced to the stage of machines. It is my belief that all the civilisations, which have ceased to be, have come by their death when the mind of the majority got killed under some pressure by the minority; for the truest wealth of man is his mind. No amount of respect outwardly accorded, can save man from the inherent ingloriousness of labour divorced from mind.

Only those who feel that they have become inwardly small can be belittled by others, and the numbers of the higher castes have ever dominated over those of the lower, not because they have any accidental advantage of power, but because the latter are themselves humbly conscious of their dwarfed humanity.

If the cultivation of science by Europe has any moral significance, it is in its rescue of man from outrage by nature, not its use of man as a machine but its use of the machine to harness the forces of nature in man’s service. One thing is certain, that the all-embracing poverty which has overwhelmed our country cannot be removed by working with our hands to the neglect of science. Nothing can be more undignified drudgery than that man’s knowing should stop dead and his doing go on for ever.

It was a great day for man when he discovered the wheel. The facility of motion thus given to inert matter enabled it to bear much of man’s burden. This was but right, for Matter is the true shudra; while with his dual existence in body and mind, Man is a dwija.

Man has to maintain both his inner and outer life. Whatever functions he cannot perform by material means are left as an additional burden on himself, bringing him to this extent down to the level of matter, and making him a shudra. Such shudras cannot obtain glory by being merely glorified in words.

Thus, whether in the shape of the spinning wheel, or the potter’s wheel or the wheel of a vehicle, the wheel has rescued innumerable men from the shudra’s estate and lightened their burdens. No wealth is greater than this lightening of man’s material burdens. This fact man has realised ever more and more, since the time when he turned his first wheel; for his wealth has there upon gone on compounding itself in ever-increasing rotation, refusing to be confined to the limited advantage of the original charkha.

Is there no permanent truth underlying these facts? One aspect of Vishnu’s shakti is the Padma, the beautiful lotus; another is the Chakra, the movable discus. The one is the complete ideal of perfection, the other is the process of movement, the ever active power seeking fulfillment. When man attained touch with this moving shakti of Vishnu, he was liberated from that inertia which is the origin of all poverty. All divine power is infinite. Man has not yet come to the end of the power of the revolving wheel.

So, if we are taught that in the pristine charkha we have exhausted all the means of spinning thread, we shall not gain the full favour of Vishnu. Neither will his spouse Lakshmi smile on us. When we forget that science is spreading the domain of Vishnu’s chakra, those who have honoured the Discus-Bearer to better purpose will spread their dominion over us. If we are wilfully blind to the grand vision of whirling forces, which science has revealed, the charkha will cease to have any message for us. The hum of the spinning wheel, which once carried us so long a distance on the path of wealth, will no longer talk to us of progress.

Some have protested that they never preached that only the turning of the charkha should be engaged in. But they have not spoken of any other necessary work. Only one means of attaining swaraj has been definitely ordered and the rest is a vast silence. Does not such silence amount to a speech stronger than any uttered word? Is not the charkha thrust out against the background of this silence into undue prominence? Is it really so big as all that? Has it really the divinity which may enable it to appropriate the single-minded devotion of all the millions of India, despite their diversity of temperament and talent?

Repeated efforts, even unto violence and bloodshed, have been made, all the world over, to bring mankind together on the basis of the common worship of a common Deity, but even these have not been successful. Neither has a common God been found, nor a common form of worship. Can it then be expected that, in the shrine of swaraj, the charkha goddess will attract to herself alone the offerings of every devotee? Surely such expectation amounts to a distrust of human nature, a disrespect for India’s people.

In my childhood, I had an up-country servant, called Gopee, who used to tell us how once he went to Puri on a pilgrimage, and was at a loss what fruit to offer to Jagannath, since any fruit so offered could not be eaten by him anymore. After repeatedly going over the list of edible fruits known to him he suddenly bethought himself of the tomato (which had very little fascination for him) and the tomato it was which he offered, never having reason to repent of such clever abnegation.

But to call upon man to make the easiest of offerings to the smallest of gods is the greatest of insults to his manhood. To ask all the millions of our people to spin the charkha is as bad as offering the tomato to Jagannath. I do hope and trust that there are not thirty-three crores of Gopees in India. When man receives the call of the great to make some sacrifice, he is indeed exalted; for then he comes to himself with a start of revelation, – to find that he too has been bearing his hidden resources of greatness.

Our country is the land of rites and ceremonials, so that we have more faith in worshipping the feet of the priest than the Divinity whom he serves. We cannot get rid of the conviction that we can safely cheat our inner self of its claims, if we can but bribe some outside agency. This reliance on outward help is a symptom of slavishness, for no habit can more easily destroy all reliance on self.

Only to such a country can come the charkha as the emblem of her deliverance and the people dazed into obedience by some spacious temptation go on turning their charkha in the seclusion of their corners, dreaming all the while that the car of Swaraj of itself rolls onward in triumphal progress at every turn of their wheel.

And so it becomes necessary to restate afresh the old truth that the foundation of Swaraj cannot be based on any external conformity, but only on the internal union of hearts. If a great union is to be achieved, its field must be great likewise. But if out of the whole field of economic endeavour only one fractional portion be selected for special concentration thereon, then we may get home-spun thread, and even genuine khaddar, but we shall not have united, in the pursuit of one great complete purpose, the lives of our countrymen.

In India, it is not possible for everyone to unite in the realm of religion. The attempt to unite on the political platform is of recent growth and will yet take long to permeate the masses. So that the religion of economics is where we should above all try to bring about this union of ours. It is certainly the largest field available to us; for here high and low, learned and ignorant, and ail have their scope.

If this field ceases to be one of warfare, if there we can prove, that not competition but cooperation is the real truth, then indeed we can reclaim from the hands of the Evil One an immense territory for the reign of peace and goodwill. It is important to remember, moreover, that this is the ground where on our village communities had actually practised unity in the past. What if the thread of the old union has snapped? It may again be joined together, for such former practice has left in our character the potentiality of its renewal.

As is livelihood for the individual, so is politics for a particular people, a field for the exercise of their business instincts of patriotism. All this time, just as business has implied antagonism so has politics been concerned with the self-interest of a pugnacious nationalism. The forging of arms and of false documents has been its main activity. The burden of competitive armaments has been increasing apace, with no end to it in sight, no peace for the world in prospect.

When it becomes clear to man that in the co-operation of nations lies the true interest of each, for man is established in mutuality – then only can politics become a field for true endeavour. Then will the same means which the individual recognises as moral and therefore true, be also recognised as such by the nations. They will know that cheating, robbery and the exclusive pursuit of self-aggrandisement are as harmful for the purposes of this world as they are deemed to be for those of the next. It may be that the League of Nations will prove to be the first step in the process of this realisation.

Again, just as the present day politics is a manifestation of extreme individualism in nations, so is the process of gaining a livelihood an expression of the extreme selfishness of individuals. That is why man has descended to such depths of deceit and cruelty in his indiscriminate competition. And yet, since man is man, even in his business he ought to have cultivated his humanity rather than the powers of exploitation. In working for his livelihood he ought to have earned not only his daily bread but also his eternal truth.

When, years ago, I first became acquainted with the principles of cooperation in the field of business, one of the knots of a tangled problem, which had long perplexed my mind seemed to have been unravelled, I felt that the separateness of self-interest, which had so long contemptuously ignored the claims of the truth of man was at length to be replaced by a combination of common interests which would help to uphold that truth, proclaiming that poverty lay in the separation, and wealth in the union of man and man. For myself I had never believed that this original truth of man could find its limit in any region of his activity.

The cooperative principle tells us, in the field of man’s livelihood, that only when he arrives at his truth can he get rid of his poverty, not by any external means. And the manhood of man is at length honoured by the enunciation of this principle.

Cooperation is an ideal, not a mere system, and therefore it can give rise to innumerable methods of its application. It leads us into no blind alley; for at every step it communes with our spirit. And so, it seemed to me, in its wake would come, not merely food, but the goddess of plenty herself, in whom all kinds of material food are established in an essential moral oneness.

It was while some of us were thinking of the ways and means of adopting this principle in our institution that I came across the book called The National Being written by that Irish idealist, A. E. who has a rare combination in himself of poetry and practical wisdom. There I could see a great concrete realisation of the co-operative living of my dreams. It became vividly clear to me what varied results could flow therefrom, how full the life of man could be made thereby.

I could understand how great the concrete truth was in any plane of life, the truth that in separation is bondage, in union is liberation. It has been said in the Upanishad that Brahma is reason, Brahma is spirit but Anna also is Brahma, which means that food also represents an internal truth, and therefore through it we may arrive at a great realisation, if we travel along the true path.

I know there will be many to tax me with indicating a solution of great difficulty. To give concrete shape to the ideal of cooperation on so vast a scale will involve endless toil in experiment and failure, before at length it may become an accomplished fact. No doubt it is difficult. Nothing great can be got cheap.

We only cheat ourselves when we try to acquire things that are precious with a price that is inadequate. The problem of our poverty being complex, with its origin in our ignorance and unwisdom, in the inaptitude of our habits, the weakness of our character, it can only be effectively attacked by taking in hand our life as a whole and finding both internal and external remedies for the malady which afflicts it. How can there be an easy solution?

There are many who assert and some who believe that swaraj can be attained by the charkha; but I have yet to meet a person who has a clear idea of the process. That is why there is no discussion, but only quarreling over the question. If I state that it is not possible to repel foreign invaders armed with guns and cannons by the indigenous bow and arrow, there will I suppose be still some to contradict me asking, ‘Why not?’

It has already been said by some, “Would not the foreigners be drowned even if every one of our three hundred and thirty millions were only to spit at them?” While not denying the fearsomeness of such a flood, or the efficacy of such a suggestion, for throwing odium on foreign military science, the difficulty which my mind feels to be insuperable is that you can never get all these millions even to spit in unison. It is too simple for human beings. The same difficulty applies to the charkha solution.

The disappointments, the failures, the recommencements that Sir Horace Plunkett had to face when he set to work to apply the cooperative principle in the economic reconstruction of Ireland, are a matter of history. But though it takes time to start a fire, once alight it spreads rapidly. That is the way with truth as well. In whatever corner of the earth it may take root, the range of its seeds is worldwide, and everywhere they may find soil for growth and give of their fruit to each locality.

Sir Horace Plunkett’s success was not confined to Ireland alone; he achieved also the possibility of success for India. If any true devotee of our motherland should be able to eradicate the poverty of only one of her villages, he will have given permanent wealth to the thirty three crores of his countrymen. Those who are wont to measure truth by its size get only an outside view and fail to realise that each seed, in its tiny vital spark, brings divine authority to conquer the whole world.

As I am writing this, a friend objects that even though I may be right in thinking that the charkha is not competent to bring us swaraj, or remove the whole of our poverty, why ignore such virtues as it admittedly possesses? Every farmer, every householder, has a great deal of leisure left over after his ordinary work is done; so that if everyone would utilise such spare time in productive work much could be done towards the alleviation of our poverty. Why not glorify the charkha as one of the instruments of such a desirable consummation?

This reminds me of a similar proposition I have heard before. Most of our people throw away the water in which their rice is boiled. If everyone conserved this nutritious fluid that would go a long way to solve the food problem. I admit there is truth in this contention. The slight change of taste required for eating boiled rice with its water retained should not be very difficult to acquire, in view of the object sought to be gained. Many other similar savings could be effected which are doubtless worth the effort and should be looked upon as a duty. But has any one ever suggested that the conservation of rice-water should be made a plank in the platform of swaraj work? And is there no good reason for the omission?

In order to make my point clear, let me take an instance from the case of religion. If a preacher should repeatedly and insistently urge that the drinking of water from any and every well is the cause of the degeneracy of our religion, then the chief objection to his teaching would be its tendency to debase the value of moral action as a factor in religion. No doubt there is the chance of some well or other containing impure water; impure water destroys health; a diseased body begets a diseased mind; and therefore spiritual welfare is in danger.

I am not concerned to dispute the truth in all this, yet I must repeat that to give undue value to the comparatively unimportant, lowers the value of the important. And so we find that there are numbers of Hindus who would not hesitate even to kill a Mohamedan if he came to draw water from their own well. If the small be put on an equal footing with the big, it is not content to rest there, but needs must push its way higher up. That is how the injunction: “Thou shalt not drink dubious water” gets the better of the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill”.

There is no end to the perversions of value which have become habituated to their facile intrusion that no one is surprised to see the charkha stalk the land, with uplifted club, in the garb of swaraj itself. The charkha is doing harm because of the undue prominence, which it has thus usurped where by it only adds fuel to the smouldering weakness that is eating into our vitals. Suppose some mighty voice should next proclaim that the rice water must not be suffered to enter our councils. Given requisite forcefulness that may lead to the flow of rice water being followed by the flow of human blood, in the sacred name of political purity.

If the idea of the impurity of foreign textiles should effect a lodgement in our mind along with the numerous fixed ideas already there, in regard to the impurity of certain food and waters, the Id riots, to which we are accustomed, might pale before the sanguinary strife that may eventually be set ablaze between the so-called unclean lot who may use foreign cloth and those politically pure souls who do not. The danger to my mind is that the contagion of “untouchability”, which was hitherto confined to our society, may extend to the economic and political spheres as well.

Some one whispers to me feat to combine in charkha spinning is cooperation itself. I beg to disagree. If all the higher caste people of the Hindu community combine in keeping their well water undefiled from use of the lower ones this practice in itself does not give it the dignity of Bacteriology. It is a particular action isolated from the comprehensive vision of this science. And therefore while we keep our wells reserved for the cleaner sect, we allow our ponds to get polluted, the ditches round our houses to harbour messengers of death.

Those who intimately know Bengal also know that at the time of preparing a special kind of pickle our women take extra precaution in keeping themselves clean. In fact they go through a kind of ceremonial of ablution and other forms of purifications. For such extra care their pickle survives the ravage of time, while their villages are devastated by epidemics. For while there may remain some Pasteur’s law invisible at the depth of this pickle-making precaution, the diseased spleens in the neighbourhood make themselves only too evident by their magnitude. The universal application of Pasteur’s law in the production of pickle has some similarity to the application of the principle of a cooperation method of livelihood in turning the spinning wheel.

It may produce enormous quantity of yarn, but the blind suppression of intellect which guards our poverty in its dark dungeon will remain inviolate. This narrow activity will shed light only upon one detached piece of fact keeping its great background of truth densely dark.

It is extremely distasteful to me to have to differ from Mahatma Gandhi in regard to any matter of principle or method. Not that, from a higher standpoint, there is anything wrong in so doing; but my heart shrinks from it. For what could be a greater joy than to join hands in the field of work with one for whom one has such love and reverence? Nothing is more wonderful to me than Mahatmaji’s great moral personality. In him divine providence has given us a burning thunderbolt of shakti. May this shakti give power to India, – not overwhelm her, that is my prayer!

The difference in our standpoints and temperaments has made the Mahatma look upon Rammohun Roy as a pygmy while I revere him as a giant. The same difference makes the Mahatma’s field of work one which my conscience cannot accept as its own. That is a regret which will abide with me always. It is, however, God’s will that man’s paths of endeavour shall be various, else why these differences of mentality. How often have any personal feelings of regard strongly urged me to accept at Mahatma Gandhi’s hands my enlistment as a follower of the charkha cult, but as often have my reason and conscience restrained me, lest I should be a party to the raising of the charkha to a higher place than is its due, thereby distracting attention from other more important factors in our task of all-round reconstruction.

I feel sure that Mahatma himself will not fail to understand me, and keep for me the same forbearance which he has always had. Acharya Roy, I also believe, has respect for independence of opinion, even when unpopular; so that, although when carried away by the fervour of his own propaganda he may now and then give me a scolding, I doubt not he retains for me a soft corner in his heart. As for my countrymen the public, accustomed as they are to drown, under the facile flow of their minds, both past services and past disservices done to them, if today they cannot find it in their hearts to forgive, they will forget tomorrow.

Even if they do not, if for me their displeasure is fated to be permanent, then just as today I have Acharya Seal as my fellow culprit, so tomorrow I may find at my side persons rejected by their own country whose reliance reveals the black unreality of any stigma of popular disapprobation.

Rabindranath Tagore

Striving for Swaraj

(In the September 1925 issue of Modern Review, Tagore raised some more questions about Charkha and Swaraj)

Our wise men have warned us, in solemn accents of Sanskrit, to talk away as much as we like, but never to write it down. There are proofs, many of them, that I have habitually disregarded this sage advice, following it only when called upon to reply. I have never hesitated to write, whenever I had anything to say, be it in prose or in verse, controversy alone excepted, for on that my pen has long ceased to function.

Such of our beliefs as become obsessions are hardly ever made up of pure reason, – our temperament, or moods of the moment, mainly go to their fashioning. It is but rarely that we believe, because we have found a good reason. We most often seek reasons because we believe.

Only in Science do our conclusions follow upon strict proofs; while the rest of them, under the influence of our attractions and repulsions, keep circling round the centre of our personal predilections. This is all the more true when our belief is the outcome of a desire for some particular result especially when that desire is shared by a large number of our fellow men. In such case no reason needs to be adduced in order to persuade people into a common course, it being sufficient if such course is fairly easy, and, above all, if the hope is roused of speedy success.

It is some time since the minds of our countrymen have been kept in a state of agitation by the idea that swaraj may be easily and speedily attained, in this unsettled atmosphere of popular excitement any attempt at a discussion of pros and cons does but bring down a cyclonic storm, in which it becomes almost hopeless to expect the vessel of reason to make sail for any part of destination. Hitherto, we had always thought that the achievement of swaraj was a difficult matter.

So, when it came to our ears that, on the contrary, it was extremely easy, and by no means impossible to reach in a very short time, who could have the heart to raise questions or obtrude arguments? Those who were enthusiastic over the prospect of faqir turning a copper coin into a gold mohur, are able to do so, not because they are lacking in intellect, but because their avidity restrains them from exercising their intelligence.

Anyhow, it was only the other day that our people were beside themselves at the message that Swaraj was at our very door. Then when the appointed time for its advent had slipped by, it was given out that the disappointment was due to our non-fulfillment of the conditions. But few thereupon paused to consider that it was just in the fulfillment of these conditions that the difficulty lay. Is it not a self-evident truth that we do not have Swaraj simply because we do not fulfil its conditions?

It goes without saying that if Hindu and Moslem should come together in amity and good fellowship, that would be a great step towards its realisation. But the trouble always is, the Hindu and Moslem do not come together. Had their union been real, all the 365 days in the calendar would have been auspicious days for making the venture. True, the announcement of a definite date for the start has an intoxicating effect. But I cannot admit that an intoxicating state makes the journey any easier.

The appointed time has not long gone by, yet the intoxication lingers, the intoxication which consists in a confusion of haste with speed, in a befogged reliance on one or two narrow paths as the sole means of gaining a vast realisation. Amongst those paths prominently looms the charkha.

And so the question has to be raised: What is this swaraj? Our political leaders have refrained from giving us any dear explanation of it. As a matter of feet we have the freedom to spin our own thread on our own charkha. If we have omitted to avail ourselves of it, that is because the thread so spun cannot compete with the product of the power mill. No doubt it might have been otherwise if the millions of India had devoted their leisure to the charkha, thereby reducing the exchange value of home spun thread. But nothing proves the hopelessness of such an expectation more than the fact that those very persons who are wielding their pens in its support are not wielding the charkha itself.

The second point is, even if every one of our countrymen should betake himself to spinning thread, that might somewhat mitigate their poverty, but it would not be Swaraj. What of that? Is the increase of wealth a small thing for a poverty stricken country? What a difference it would make if our cultivators, who improvidently waste their spare time, were to engage in such productive work!

Let us concede for the moment that the profitable employment of the surplus time of the cultivator is of the first importance. But the thing is not so simple as it sounds. One who takes up the problem must be prepared to devote precise thinking and systematic endeavour to its solution. It is not enough to say: Let them spin.

The cultivator has acquired a special skill with his hands, and a special bent of mind, by dint of consistent application to his own particular work. The work of cultivation is for him the line of least strain. So long as he is working, he is busy with one or other of the operations connected therewith: when he is not so busy, he is not at work. It would be unfair to charge him with laziness on this account. Had the processes of cultivation lasted throughout the year, he also would have been at work from one end of it to the other.

It is an inherent defect of all routine toil, such as is the work of cultivation, that it dulls the mind by disuse. In order to be able to go from one habitual round of daily work to a different one, an active mind is required. But this kind of manual labour, like a tram car, runs along a fixed track, and cannot take a different course with any ease, however dire the necessity. To ask the cultivator to spin, is to derail his mind. He may drag on with it for a while, but at the cost of disproportionate effort, and therefore waste of energy.

I have an intimate acquaintance with the cultivators of at least two districts of our province and I know from experience how rigorous for them are the bonds of habit. One of these districts is mainly rice-producing and there the cultivators have to toil with might and main to grow their single crop of rice. Nevertheless in their spare time, they might have realised growing green vegetables round their homesteads. I tried to encourage them to do so, but failed.

The very men who willingly sweated over their rice, refused to stir for the sake of vegetables. In the other district the cultivators are busy, all the year round with rice, jute and sugarcane, mustard and other spring crops. Such portions of their holdings as do not bear any of these, are left fallow, without any corresponding remissions of rent.

To this same locality come peasants from the North-West, who take up, and pay a good rent for similar waste lands and, raising thereon different varieties of melon, return home with a substantial profit. The producer of jute can by no means be called lazy. I am told there are other places in the world quite as suitable for growing jute, where the farmers nevertheless refuse to undergo the hardships of its cultivation.

It would seem, therefore, that if Bengal has a monopoly of jute, that is more due to the character of her peasants than of her soil. And yet these hard-working jute cultivators, with the example before their very eyes of the profits made by those up-country melon growers, do not care to follow it in the case of their own fallow holdings by treading a path to which they are unaccustomed.

Therefore, when we are faced with any such problem, the difficulty we have to contend with is how to draw the mind of the people out of its path of habit into a new one. I cannot believe that it is enough to indicate some easy external method; the solution, as I say, is a question of change of mentality.

It is not difficult to issue from outside the mandates: Let Hindu and Moslem unite. At this the obedient Hindus may flock to join the Khilafat movement, for such conjunction is easy enough. They may even yield some of their worldly advantages in favour of the Moslems, for though that be more difficult, it is still of the outside. But the real difficulty is for Hindus and Moslems to give up their respective prejudices which keep them apart.

That is where the problem now rests. To the Hindu, the Mussalman is impure: for the Mussalman, the Hindu is a kafir. In spite of their longing for swaraj neither can forget this inward obsession. I used to know an anglicised Hindu who had leanings towards European fare. Everything else he would heartily relish, but he drew the line at hotel cooked rice, rice touched by Mussalman cooks, said he, refused to pass his lips.

The same kind of prejudice which makes such rice taboo, stands in the way of cordial relationship. The habit of mind which religious injunctions have ingrained in us constitutes the age old fortress which holds our anti-Moslem feeling secure against penetration by outside ententes, whether on the basis of the khilafat movement or of pecuniary pacts.

Such like problems in our country become so difficult: because they are of the inside; the obstructions are all within our own mind, which is at once in revolt if there be any proposal for getting rid of them. That is why we feel so strongly attracted if some external solution be suggested. It is when his own character stands in the way of making a living along the beaten track, that a person becomes ready to court disaster in a desperate gamble for becoming suddenly rich.

If our countrymen accept the proposition that the charkha is the principal means of attaining swaraj then it has to be admitted that in their opinion swaraj is an external achievement. And therein lies the reason why, when the defects of character and the perversions of social custom which obstruct its realisation are kept out of sight, and the whole attention is concentrated on home spun thread, no surprise is felt but rather relief.

In these circumstances, if we take the view that the external poverty of our country claims our foremost attention – that one of the chief obstacles to swaraj will be removed if our cultivators employ their leisure in productive occupations, then it is for our leaders to think out the ways and means whereby such spare time may be utilised to the best advantage. And does it not then become obvious that such advantage is best to be secured in the line of cultivation itself?

Suppose that poverty should overtake me, then it would surely behove any adviser of mine, first of all to consider that literary work is the only one in which I can claim any length of practice. However great may be my mentor’s contempt for this profession, he cannot well ignore it in advising me on how to earn a living.

He may be able to show by statistical calculations that a tea shop in the students quarters would yield 75% profit for accounts which neglect the human element easily run into large figures. And if such tea shop enterprise should but assist in completing my ruin, that is not because my intellect is of a lower order than that of the successful tea vendor, but because my mind is differently constituted.

It is not feasible to make the cultivator either happier or richer by thrusting aside, all of a sudden, the habits of body and mind which have grown upon him through his life. As I have indicated before, those who do not use their minds, get into fixed habits for which any the least novelty becomes an obstacle. If an undue love for a particular programme leads one to ignore this psychological truth, that makes no difference to psychology, it is the programme which suffers.

In other agricultural countries the attempt is being successfully made to lead the cultivators towards a progressive improvement of production along the line of cultivation itself, and there agriculture has made long strides forward by an intelligent application of science, the yield per unit of land being many times larger than in our country.

The path which is lit up by the intellect is not an easy, but a true path, the pursuit of which shows that manhood is at work. To tell the cultivator turn the charkha instead of trying to get him to employ his whole energy in his own line of work is only a sign of weakness. We cast the blame for being lazy on the cultivator, but the advice we give him amounts rather to a confession of the laziness of our own mind.

The discussion, so far, has proceeded on the assumption that the large-scale production of homespun thread and cloth will result in the alleviation of the country’s poverty. But after all that is a gratuitous assumption. Those who ought to know, have expressed grave doubts on the point. It is however better for an ignoramus like myself to refrain from entering into this controversy. My complaint is, that by the promulgation of this confusion between swaraj and charkha, the mind of the country is being distracted from swaraj.

We must have a clear idea of the vast thing that the welfare of our country means. To confine our idea of it to the outsides, or to make it too narrow, diminishes our own power of achievement. The lower the claim made on our mind, the greater the resulting depression of its vitality, the more languid does it become.

To give the charkha the first place in our striving for the country’s welfare is only a way to make our insulted intelligence recoil in despairing inaction. A great and vivid picture of the country’s well-being in its universal aspect, held before our eyes, can alone enable our countrymen to apply the best of head and heart to carve out the way along which their varied activities may progress towards that end. If we make the picture petty, our striving becomes petty likewise.

The great ones of the world who have made stupendous sacrifices for the land of their birth, or for their fellow-men in general, have all had a supreme vision of the welfare of country and humanity before their mind’s eye. If we desire to evoke self-sacrifice, then we must assist the people to meditate thus on a grand vision.

Heaps of thread and piles of cloth do not constitute the subject of a great picture of welfare. That is the vision of a calculating mind; it cannot arouse those incalculable forces which, in the joy of a supreme realisation, cannot only brave suffering and death, but reck nothing, either, of obloquy and failure.

The child joyfully learns to speak, because from the lips of father and mother it get glimpses of language as a whole. Even while it understands but little, it is thereby continually stimulated and its joy is constantly at work in order to gain fullness of utterance. If, instead of having before it the exuberance of expression, the child had been hemmed in with grammar texts, it would have to be forced to learn its mother tongue at the point of the cane, and even then could not have done it so soon.

It is for this reason I think that if we want the country to take up the striving for swaraj in earnest, then we must make an effort to hold vividly before it the complete image of that swaraj. I do not say that the propositions of this image can become the immensely large in a short space of time; but we must claim that it be whole, that it be true. All living things are organic wholes at every stage of their growth. The infant does not begin life at the toe-end and get its human shape only after some years of growth.

That is why we can rejoice in it from the very first, and in that joy bear all the pains and sacrifices of helping it to grow. If Swaraj has to be viewed for any length of time, only as home-spun thread, that would be like having an infantile leg to nurse into maturity. A man like the Mahatma may succeed in getting some of our countrymen to take an interest in this kind of uninspiring nature for a time because of their faith in his personal greatness of soul. To obey him is for them an end in itself. To me it seems that such a state of mind is not helpful for the attainment of swaraj.

I think it to be primarily necessary that, in different places over the country small centers should be established in which expression is given to the responsibility of the country for achieving its own swaraj; that is to say, its own welfare as a whole and not only in regard to its supply of homespun thread. The welfare of the people is a synthesis comprised of many elements, all intimately interrelated. To take them in isolation can lead to no real result.

Health and work, reason, wisdom and joy, must all be thrown into the crucible in order that the result may be fullness of welfare. We want to see a picture of such welfare before our eyes, for that will teach us ever so much more than any amount of exhortation. We must have, before us, in various centres of population examples of different types of revived life abounding in health and wisdom and prosperity.

Otherwise we shall never be able to bring about the realisation of what swaraj means simply by dint of spinning threads, weaving khaddar, or holding discourses. That which we would achieve for the whole of India must be actually made true even in some small corner of it, then only will a worshipful striving for it be born in our hearts.

Then only shall we know the real value of self-determination, na medhaya na bahudha srutena, not by reasoning nor by listening to lectures, but by direct experience. If even the people of one village of India, by the exercise of their own powers, make their village their very own, then and there will begin the work of realising our country as our own.

Fauna and flora take birth in their respective regions, but that does not make any such region belong to them. Man creates his own motherland. In the work of its creation as well as of its preservation, the people the country come into intimate relations with one another, and a country so created by them, they can love better than life itself.

In our country its people are only born therein: they are taking no hand in its creation; therefore between them there are no deep-seated ties of connexion, nor is any loss sustained by the whole country felt as a personal loss by the individual. We must re-awaken the faculty of gaining the motherland by creating it. The various processes of creation need all the varied powers of man. In the exercise of these multifarious powers, along many and diverse roads, in order to reach one and the same goal, we may realise ourselves in our country.

To be fruitful, such exercise of our powers must begin near home and gradually spread further and further outwards. If we are tempted to look down upon the initial stage of such activity as too small, let us remember the teaching of Gita: Swalpamasaya dharmosya travate mahato bhayat, by the least bit of dharma (truth) are we saved from immense fear. Truth is powerful, not in its dimensions, but in itself.

When acquaintance with, practice of, and pride in cooperative self-determination shall have spread in our land, then on such broad abiding foundation alone may swaraj become true. So long as we are wanting therein, both within and without and while such want is proving the root of all our other want – want of food, of health, of wisdom, it is past all belief that any programme of outward activity can rise superior to the poverty of spirit which has overcome our people. Success begets success; likewise swaraj alone can beget swaraj.

The right of God over the universe is His swaraj, the right to create it in that same privilege, I say consists our swaraj, namely our right to create our own country. The proof of such right, as well as its cultivation, lies in the exercise of the creative process. Only by living do we show that we have life.

It may be argued that spinning is also a creative act. But that is not so: for, by turning its wheel man merely becomes an appendage of the charkha, that is to say, he but does himself what a machine might have done: he converts his living energy into a dead turning movement. The machine is solitary, because being devoid of mind it is sufficient unto itself and knows nothing outside itself.

Likewise alone is the man who confines himself to spinning, for the thread produced by his charkha is not for him a thread of necessary relationship with others. He has no need to think of his neighbor, like the silkworm his activity is centered round himself. He becomes a machine, isolated, companionless.

Members of Congress who spin may, while so engaged, dream of some economic paradise for their country, but the origin of their dream is elsewhere; the charkha has no spell from which such dreams may spring. But the man who is busy trying to drive out some epidemic from his village, even should he be unfortunate enough to be all alone in such endeavour, needs must concern himself with the interests of the whole village in the beginning, middle and end of his work, so that because of this very effort he cannot help realising within himself the village as a whole, and at every moment consciously rejoicing in its creation.

In his work, therefore, does the striving for swaraj make a true beginning. When the others also come and join him, then alone can we say that the whole village is making progress towards the gain of itself which is the outcome of the creation of itself. Such gain may be called the gain of swaraj. However small the size of it may be, it is immense in its truth.

The village of which the people come together to earn for themselves their food, their health, their education, to gain for themselves the joy of so doing, shall have lighted a lamp on the way to swaraj. It will not be difficult therefrom to light others, one after another, and thus illuminate more and more of the path along which swaraj will advance, not propelled by the mechanical revolution of the charkha, but taken by the organic processes of its own living growth.

Rabindranath Tagore

The Poet and The Charkha

(It was after a couple of months that Gandhi wrote a rejoinder to Tagore’s ‘The Cult of the Charkha’ in his journal, Young India of 5 November 1925)

When (Sir) Rabindranath’s criticism of the charkha was published some time ago, several friends asked me to reply to it. Being heavily engaged I was unable then to study it in full. But I had read enough of it to know its trend. I was in no hurry to reply. Those who had read it were too much agitated or influenced to be able to appreciate what I might have then written even if I had the time. Now therefore is really the time for me to write on it and to ensure a dispassionate view being taken of the Poet’s criticism or my reply if such it may be called.

The criticism is a sharp rebuke to Acharya Ray for his impatience of the Poet’s and Acharya Seal’s position regarding the charkha, and a gentle rebuke to me for my exclusive love of it. Let the public understand that the Poet does not deny its great economic value. Let them know that he signed the appeal for the All India Deshabandhu Memorial after he had written his criticism. He signed the appeal after studying its contents carefully and even as he signed it he sent me the message that he had written something on the charkha, which might not quite please me.

I knew therefore what was coming. But it has not displeased me. Why should mere disagreement with my views displease? If every disagreement were to displease, since no two men agree exactly on all points, life would be a bundle of unpleasant sensations and therefore a perfect nuisance.

On the contrary, the frank criticism pleases me. For our friendship becomes all the richer for our disagreements. Friends to be friends are not called upon to agree even on most points. Only disagreement must have no sharpness, much less bitterness, about them. And I gratefully admit that there is none about the Poet’s criticism.

I am obliged to make these prefatory remarks as Dame Rumour has whispered that jealousy is the root of all that criticism. Such baseless suspicion betrays an atmosphere of weakness and intolerance. A little reflection must remove all ground for such a cruel charge. Of what should the Poet be jealous in pie? Jealousy presupposes the possibility of rivalry. Well, I have never succeeded in writing a single rhyme in my life. There is nothing of the Poet about me. I cannot aspire after his greatness. He is the undisputed master of it. The world today does not possess his equal as a poet.

My ‘Mahatmaship’ has no relation to the poet’s undisputed position. It is time to realise that our fields are absolutely different and at no point overlapping. The Poet lives in a magnificent world of his own creation – his world of ideas. I am a slave of somebody else’s creation – the spinning wheel. The Poet makes his gopis dance to the tune of his flute. I wander after my beloved Sita, the charkha and seek to deliver her from the ten-headed monster from Japan, Manchester, Paris etc.

The Poet is an inventor – he creates, destroys and recreates. I am an explorer and having discovered a thing I must cling to it. The Poet presents the world with new and attractive things from day to day. I can merely show the hidden possibilities of old and even worn-out things. The world easily finds an honourable place for the magician who produces new and dazzling things. I have to struggle laboriously to find a corner for my worn-out things. Thus, there is no competition between us. But I may say in all humility that we complement each the other’s activity.

The fact is that the Poet’s criticism is a poetic licence and he who takes it literally is in danger of finding himself in an awkward corner. An ancient poet has said that Solomon arrayed in all his glory was not like one of the lilies of the field. He clearly referred to the natural beauty and innocence of the lily contrasted with the artificiality of Solomon’s glory and his sinfulness in spite of his many good deeds.

Or take the poetical licence in it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. We know that no camel has ever passed through the eye of a needle and we know too that rich men like Janaka have entered the Kingdom of Heaven. Or take the beautiful simile of human teeth being likened to the pomegranate seed. Foolish women who have taken the poetical exaggeration literally have been found to disfigure and even harm their teeth.

Painters and poets are obliged to exaggerate the proportions of their figures in order to give true perspective. Those therefore who take the Poet’s denunciation of the charkha literally will be doing an injustice to the Poet and an injury to themselves.

The Poet does not, he is not expected, he has no need, to read Young India. All he knows about the movement is what he has picked up from table talk. He has therefore denounced what he has imagined to be the excesses of the charkha cult.

He thinks for instance that I want everybody to spin the whole of his or her time to the exclusion of all other activity; that is to say that I want the Poet to forsake his muse, the farmer his plough, the lawyer his brief and the doctor his lancet. So far is this from truth that I have asked no one to abandon his calling, but on the contrary to adorn it by giving every day only thirty minutes to spinning as sacrifice for the whole nation.

I have indeed asked the famishing to spin for a living and the half-starved farmer to spin during his leisure hours to supplement his slender resources. If the Poet spun half an hour daily his poetry would gain in richness. For it would then represent the poor man’s wants and woes in a more forcible manner than now.

The Poet thinks that the charkha is calculated to bring about a deathlike sameness in the nation and thus imagining he would shim it if he could. The truth is that the charkha is intended to realise the essential and living oneness of interest among India’s myriads. Behind the magnificent and kaleidoscopic variety, one discovers in nature a unity of purpose, design and form which is equally unmistakable.

No two men are absolutely alike, not even twins, and yet there is much that is indispensably common to all mankind. And behind the commonness of form there is the same life pervading all. The idea of sameness or oneness was carried by Shankara to its utmost logical and natural limit and he exclaimed that there was only one Truth, one God Brahman, and all form, nam rupa was illusion or illusory, evanescent. We need not debate whether what we see is unreal; and whether the real behind the unreality is what we do not see.

Let both be equally real if you will. All I say is that there is a sameness, identity or oneness behind the multiplicity and variety. And so do I hold that behind a variety of occupations there is an indispensable sameness also of occupation. Is not agriculture common to the vast majority of mankind?

Even so was spinning common not long ago to a vast majority of mankind. Just as both prince and peasant must eat and clothe themselves, so must both labour for supplying their primary wants. Prince may do so if only by way of symbol and sacrifice but that much is indispensable for him if he will be true to himself and his people.

Europe may not realise this vital necessity at the present moment, because it has made of exploitation of non-European races a religion. But it is a false religion bound to perish in the near future. The non-European races will not for ever allow themselves to be exploited. I have endeavoured to show a way out that is peaceful human and therefore noble. It may be rejected. If it is, the alternative is a tug of war, in which each will try to pull down the other.

Then, when non-Europeans will seek to exploit the Europeans, the truth of the charkha will have to be realised. Just as, if we are to live, we must breathe not air imported from England nor eat food so imported, so may we not import cloth made in England. I do not hesitate to carry the doctrine to its logical limit and say that Bengal dare not import her cloth even from Bombay or from Banga Lakshmi. If Bengal will live her natural and free life without exploiting the rest of India or the world outside, she must manufacture her cloth in her own villages as she grows her corn there.

Machinery has its place; it has come to stay. But it must not be allowed to displace the necessary human labour. An improved plough is a good thing. But if by some chance one man could plough up by some mechanical invention of his the whole of the land of India and control all the agricultural produce and if the millions had no other occupation, they would starve, and being idle, they would become dunces, as many have already become.

There is hourly danger of many more being reduced to that unenviable state. I would welcome every improvement in the cottage machine but I know that it is criminal to displace the hand labour by the introduction of power-driven spindles unless one is at the same time ready to give millions of farmers some other occupation in their homes.

The Irish analogy does not take us very far. It is perfect in so far as it enables us to realise the necessity of economic cooperation. But Indian circumstances being different, the method of working out cooperation is necessarily different. For Indian distress every effort at cooperation has to centre round the charkha if it is to apply to the majority of the inhabitants of this vast peninsula 1900 miles long and 1500 miles broad. A Sir Gangaram may give us a model farm which can be no model for the penniless Indian farmer who has hardly two to three acres of land which every day runs the risk of being still further cut up.

Round the charkha, that is, amidst the people who have shed their idleness and who have understood the value of cooperation, a national servant would build up a programme of anti-malaria campaign, improved sanitation, settlement of village disputes, conservation and breeding of cattle and hundreds of other beneficial activities. Wherever charkha work is fairly established, all such ameliorative activity is going on according to the capacity of the villagers and the workers concerned.

It is not my purpose to traverse all the Poet’s arguments in detail. Where the differences between us are not fundamental – and these I have endeavoured to state – there is nothing in the Poet’s argument which I cannot endorse and still maintain my position regarding the charkha. The many things about the charkha which he has ridiculed I have never said. The merits I have claimed for the charkha remain undamaged by the Poet’s battery.

One thing, and one thing only, has hurt me, the Poet’s belief, again picked up from table talk that I look upon Ram Mohun Roy as a ‘pygmy’. Well, I have never anywhere described that great reformer as a pygmy much less regarded him as such. He is to me as much a giant as he is to the Poet.

I do not remember any occasion save one when I had to use Ram Mohun Roy’s name. That was in connection with Western education. This was on the Cuttack’s sands now four years ago. What I do remember having said was that it was possible to attain highest culture without Western education. And when some one mentioned Ram Mohun Roy, I remember having said that he was a pygmy compared to the unknown authors say of the Upanishads.

This is altogether different from looking upon Ram Mohun Roy as a pygmy. I do not think meanly of Tennyson if I say that he was a pygmy before Milton or Shakespeare. I claim that I enhance the greatness of both. If I adore the Poet as he knows, I do in spite of differences between us. I am not likely to disparage the greatness of the man who made the great reform movement of Bengal possible and of which the Poet is one of the finest of fruits.

M.K. Gandhi

The Congress

(This article by Tagore published in July 1939 in Modem Review is a critique of the developments that had overtaken the Congress; the original Bengali version, in the form of a letter to the poet Amiya Chakraborty was published in Pravasee)

I sit down to write to you in a perturbed state of mind. There was a time, not so very long ago, when the mind of the great mass of our countrymen was desert-like, its unfertile expanse divided into isolated sections between which all commerce was obstructed, resulting for India, in a succession of poverty-sticken epochs. All of a sudden came the rise into power of the new Congress organisation, a wide-branching tree that held out large promise of future fruit.

Surprising was the change it wrought in the mass mind, as it learnt to hope, forgot to fear, and ceased to shrink from the very idea of casting off its bonds. What had seemed a while ago to be beyond the bounds of the possible was no longer felt to be unattainable. The feebleness of spirit that dreaded to desire was at length cured. And this stupendous change was due to the unbounded faith in India’s destiny of one single man – a fact which already shows signs, here and there, of fading from public recollection.

Of course I know that, however dependent the new Congress regime may be on the personality of its founder, and great though that personality undoubtedly is, it will nevertheless be necessary from time to time to enlarge its scope and improve its working. But too much of a hurry to disturb the adaptation to its present circumstances which has grown with the growth of the Congress, may break up its very foundation.

For it has to be admitted that no other genius seems to have arisen amongst us who is competent to bring about a radical change in it without damage to its organic cohesion. That is why I think that this vast field of endeavour, where the different forces of the country may meet and join hands, needs must continue to be developed, for the present, under the guidance of the Mahatma who gave it birth.

As you know, I have never been a blind follower of tradition, that is to say, I have not believed that our national welfare could be made secure by fixing once for all some principle or method that was once found to be good, nor do I now feel it to be true that however great the Congress organisation may have grown, its aims and objects should be stereotyped for all time, rather do I devoutly wish that such a calamity may not befall it.

At the same time, whenever I realise the immense value of this organisation as created by a great-souled Master, I cannot but be perturbed at the possible consequences of piecemeal attacks on it from the outside. Such reforms as are found to be necessary must come from within itself.

Many of us still remember the original National Congress that started political agitation in India. It made no attempt to look into, to awaken, the mind of the people, its appealing glances were all directed to the authorities above.

What it called freedom lay in the lap of dependence on others – this was the obsession it could not get rid of. I need hardly remind you that I have hesitated to cry shame on the poverty of spirit of the begging and praying Salvation Army into which that Congress had resolved itself.

We all know whose was the magic wand that touched into life the deadly torpor into which the country had fallen, making it conscious of its own powers, proclaiming non-violence to be the true creed of the brave.

Of this new life which Mahatmaji gave to India, the stage of initiation is not yet passed, and further advance along its way should still be under the guidance of the Master. Like Nandi who stood guard at the entrance to Shiva’s hermitage I must raise my warning finger for all that the Mahatma has to teach may not yet have reached us. When the rigour of Shiva’s meditation was untimely broken, a raging conflagration was the only result.

So far, for one side of the question. The other side also deserves anxious consideration. When the powers of the Congress had but begun to unfold, it had little to fear from within. Now it is at the height of its prestige; it has gained world-wide recognition; the doors of Government at which its predecessors of old had vainly knocked, are now hospitably open to it, even ready to show it honour.

But Manu, the ancient law-giver has warned us to beware of honour. For where power rises into eminence, toxins are created that eventually destroy it, be it Imperialism or Fascism, have they not been generating the seeds of their own downfall? It may likewise be that the heat created by the growing power of the Congress is rising to an unhealthy temperature.

The higher command who are at its helm are apt in moments of crisis, to lose their head, and cannot hold to a straight course. Have we not seen lapses in regard to the vital matters of mutual courtesy and forbearance of constitutional procedure which had hitherto been sources of its strength, lapses at the bottom of which lies pride of power?

The Christian scriptures have warned us how difficult it is for bloated prosperity to pass through the narrow gate of the Kingdom of Heaven. Freedom can be won only by putting forth the best in man that is what I understand the teaching of the Mahatma to be. But those who have come together to control the field of our high endeavour – are their minds broadly tolerant, unswayed by personal bias?

When they create ruptures by wounding one another is that for the sake of pure principle – is there no trace in it of the heat that is born of love of power, pride of power? The cult of shakti that is gradually growing up within the Congress fold shows itself in its true colours when Mahatmaji’s followers find it in their hearts to proclaim him as the equal of Hitler and Mussolini. Can it be at all possible for those whose reverence goes out to these gatherers of victims for human sacrifice, properly to maintain the purity of the citadel of Truth build by the selfless ascetic whom they would follow?

I have the highest respect for Jawaharlal, who is always ready to lead an assault against abuse of power by wealth or blind faith, or imperialistic politics. Of him I ask whether the keepers of the Congress stronghold have not on occasions shown dangerous signs of the intoxication of personal power? I have my own doubts, but at the same time I do not hide from myself the fact that my knowledge of political happenings is very insufficient.

On this point it is necessary to say something further. Bengal seems to have made up its mind at the last sitting of the Congress Committee, the Bengali people were treated with contumely. To be too ready to believe such a charge is nothing but a sign of weakness. It is hardly a proof of political sanity to allow ourselves to be continually afflicted with the suspicion that every one around us is conspiring against us. But the fact remains that in spite of the uniting centre which the Congress represents, the provinces are showing lamentable signs of separatist tendencies.

The Hindu-Moslem disunity is both lamentable and alarming, because nothing is more difficult to bridge than the gulf created by religious differences. On the other hand, the disunity between the provinces is owing to a lack of proper mutual understanding, due to differences of habits and customs. Thus Religion and Custom have between them usurped the throne of Reason, thereby destroying all clarity of mind.

In countries where customs are not blindly sacrosanct, where religious beliefs have not cut up society into warring sections, political unity has come as a matter of course. Our Congress has not had the advantage of being able to grow up in an atmosphere of social tolerance, rather it has had to function in spite of social antagonisms which have set up impassable barriers every few miles – barriers which are guarded night and day by forces wearing the badge of religion.

Whatever the reasons may be, the fact remains that our provinces have not been welded together. I remember to have said somewhere that a coach of which the wheels are wobbly, the box shaky, and the whole body creaky; is all very well so long as it remains propped up in its stable, there it may even be admired as a whole; but if it be dragged by horses through the street, it loudly complains of the lack of inward unity. That is what the Congress has done.

It has dragged the provinces of India out on the highway of a common political freedom, and its internal discords are thereupon becoming apparent at every step. This being our plight, it behoves the authorities of the Congress to be very circumspect in their movements, for mutual suspiciousness is lying in wait to exaggerate the implications of every lapse, or inconsiderate gesture.

That is what seems to have happened in the case of Bengal, and the relations between it and the Congress high command have been strained to breaking point. Personally, I am not aware that anything has happened which made this inevitable. And yet, while the popular mind is thus exercised, it will be difficult for the leaders of Bengal to steer a correct course.

To me it is evident that Mahatmaji, having mapped out a particular line along which he advises the country to travel on its way to freedom, is naturally on the alert to see that no disturbing factor be allowed to bring about a deviation from it. Having successfully steered the ship of Congress so far, his reluctance to let it be taken out of its appointed course cannot reasonably be construed as a desire to wield dictatorial power.

Men of genius would be unable to fulfil their destiny unless they had unbounded confidence in themselves, a confidence which they are wont to fortify by their faith in divine inspiration. In spite of occasional serious mistakes, Mahatmaji may claim to have had sufficient proof in his successes of his being on the right track and he is moreover, entitled to believe that none but himself can worthily complete the picture of national welfare which he has conceived and outlined.

It may well be that he has many a further touch in mind with which it is to be perfected in due course. If these finishing touches are not given under his direction, with the patient attention and reverence due to the master from his followers, the picture as a whole may suffer. In these circumstances, say I, we need must rely for its completion on its creator, especially as it is still in the stage of unfinished growth.

Here I should confess that I do not always see eye to eye with Mahatmaji, by which I mean that had I been endowed with his force of character, my scheme of work would have been different. What that scheme is, I have indicated in some of my previous writings. But though I may have the imagination to conceive, I have not the power to carry out.

Only a few men in the world have this power. And since our country has had the good fortune of giving birth to such a man, the way should be kept clear for his progress – I certainly would never think of impeding it. The time will doubtless come when Mahatmaji’s errors and omissions will have to be made good; then will each one of us, according to his zeal and capacity have the opportunity of making his contribution.

For the present, let the Congress proceed to the destination towards which it is heading. I will not say, like a blind follower, that there can be no other bourne beyond. Others there may be and are; but the time to take on other pilots will come when the first part of the journey is over.

I have referred to my own scheme. That was the outcome of my conviction that politics is but a part of the social system, as is borne out by the history of every country. To be enamoured of some political system apart from its social foundation, will not do. Triumphal structures of different shapes and sizes raise their heads on the other side of the seas. We may be sure that none of them are built on foundations of sand. And when we set to work to imitate any super-structure that has caught our fancy, we should not forget the necessity of fitting it to some adequate foundation in the depths of our own social mentality.

I have recently taken refuge on a secluded hill-top, far from the scene of the recent political excitement, and after a long time I am getting the opportunity to survey both India and my own attitude with dispassion. I can see clearly that politics has to do with two different sets of forces, one may be called mechanical, the other spiritual.

In these days of crisis Europe is pacing backwards and forwards between the two. Neither is easy to secure, or work with; both have their price, the proper application of both require long preparatory training. We who have been so long in subjection know what the impact of mechanised force is like, but we cannot even dream of bringing it under our own control.

The utmost we can think of is to purchase the alliance of some other power by getting into its debt. But history has shown us that to cultivate this kind of unequal friendship is like digging a channel to give entry to the crocodile – resulting in a feast for the latter at the expense of the digger.

There was a time when the issue of battle depended on personal bravery and physical strength. Now has come the day of weapons wrought by science which require a high degree of intellectual skill for their proper use. Any fight with those is unthinkable for us, with our untrained body and mind. This was realised from the very beginning of our political life, wherefore our former leaders were content with launching their fleet of petition, carrying paper-boats. But this reduced our politics to a mere game.

Then arrived Mahatmaji with a solution for our utter lack of material equipment. Unflinching he came, with head held high, to prove that battle could be effectively waged against wrong without mechanical resources. He started experimental campaigns along different lines – and though in none of them can it be asserted that he has won through – he has extracted from his very defeats, lessons showing the way to ultimate victory. He has been busy ever since inculcating in the country the need of training in restraint and spiritual faith necessary to wield the weapons of non-violence.

It is comparatively easy to raise an army for violent warfare. A year’s drilling is sufficient to fit men to be sent to the seat of war, but to train the spirit in the methods of non-violence takes more time. We have had enough of attempts to get together a table of untrained enthusiasts. Such crowds may be used to break down the work of rivals, but they cannot build up anything of value. They go to pieces when met by determined counter-attack. Those nations of the world who are now in fighting trim, rely for their strength of the education of masses of their people.

The present age is the age of the trained mind not of blustering muscle. And everywhere in the East to say nothing of Japan, educational institutions have been made for the people at large. So long as our masses remain bound to blind tradition it is hopeless for us to expect to make any move forward. And so, after his discovery that an undisciplined mob is not a fit instrument for non-violent work – Mahatmaji has cried a halt in his campaign of civil disobedience, and turned his attention to mass education. So far, all is fairly clear.

But when I come to the contending political groups of the day with their rival methods of political advancement, round which endless controversies are ragings, I am beset with doubts and cannot see the issue clearly. My main difficulty in arriving at any definite conclusion may be due to my very meagre knowledge of what is actually happening in the different political circles. I know that those who have the power can make possible the seemingly impossible.

Mahatmaji is one of those who have this power; but it would be going too far to say that he is the only one, or that all he undertakes must be successful. And if any other – powerful personality inspired with a different ideal should arise the latter in turn, will not stay his hands because of the doubts or protests of others.

It may even be that he will have to cut adrift from the main body and work alone to form another organisation, of which it will take us time to appraise the proper value. Should such a personality come forth from within the Congress, I would watch his progress – and wish him success – but from a distance. It would be beyond my capacity, altogether out of my sphere of work to join hands with him in any way.

The responsibility would be so great, the effects so far-reaching, the consequences so incalculable, that their burden could only be shouldered by one who has the necessary degree of self-confidence.

Our scriptures tell us that the worship of Ganesha – the Lord of the Masses must come before all other worship. In the service of our country our first duty must be to work for the welfare of the mass of its people, to make them healthy in body and mind, happy in spirit; to foster their self-respect, to bring beauty into their daily work their daily life; to show them the way to strive together in mutual respect, for mutual welfare.

So far as my limitations have permitted, I have been doing this for the last forty years or so. And when Mahatmaji’s call awakened the country, it was my fervent hope that he would rouse the powers of all sections of our people, in all their variety, to work in the different departments of national endeavour. For it is my belief that a realisation of the country’s welfare means to believe in it, to know it in its fullness. Its true freedom would consist in gaining the fullest scope for its own obstructed powers.

Rabindranath Tagore