Mahatma Gandhi: The Karma Yogi
This Gandhi Jayanti will be marking 151st birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. We know him to be a strong political leader, messenger of Peace and the Father of our Nation but as we get closer to him through his writings, we realize that there is so much more to Gandhiji. One such revelation is that Gandhiji had some of the technical and specific traits typical to that of a Seeker pursuing Yoga. ‘Yoga’ in Sanskrit means ‘Union’ i.e. union of Self and the Absolute; simply put, Yoga is the path towards disposing our personal idea of ‘I’ and ‘Me’ and becoming one with everything and everyone in existence (wherein we attain a state where there is neither ‘I’ and ‘Me’ nor ‘You’,‘It’ and ‘They’).We must understand that Asanas (physical postures) and Pranayam (breathing practices) which we are familiar with are only a partial constituent of Yoga. To attain the state of ‘Union’, there are eight serial stages as mentioned in Patanjali Yoga Sutra, Seekers ought to traverse as follows: Yama(the Seeker’s observance of Intra-personal Ethics), Niyama(the Seeker’s observance of Inter-personal Ethics), Asana(the Seeker’s control over his/her Body), Pranayama(the Seeker’s control over his/her Breath), Pratyahara(the Seeker’s control of his/her senses), Dharana(the Seeker’s act of concentration), Dhyana(prolonged act of concentration i.e. meditation)and Samadhi(the Seeker’s Supreme Consciousness).
Gandhijienlists and elaborates first two stages in his book ‘From Yeravda Mandir (Ashram Observances)’ penned during 1930-32. He mentions Truth, Ahimsa or Love, Brahmacharya or Chastity, Control of the Palate, Non-Stealing, Non-possession or Poverty, Fearlessness, Removal of Untouchability, Bread Labour, Tolerance i.e. Equality of Religions and Humility. We can see that the first six of Gandhiji’s eleven vows consist all the five of Yamasexplicitly, while ‘Control of the Palate’ as a further extension to Continence beyond Chastity. As for the Niyamas, Fearlessness and Removal of Untouchability can be paralleled to Internal purification (mental and emotional hygiene) while Bread Labour i.e. earning a responsible livelihood through service to the society using one’s physical abilities of the body can be paralleled to external purification (i.e. bodily, environmental and social hygiene) and contentment. Similarly, mortification and study (of Self) may be paralleled to Humility while worship of God may be paralleled to Tolerance.
These striking parallels take us closer to the less known ‘Yogic’ quality of Mahatma Gandhi which one can say, helped him become the Mahatma we know today. His importance to bodily hygiene is evident in his being a staunch proponent of Nature Cure treatments such as Mud-therapy, hydrotherapy, Sunbath etc. as they not only prevent our bodies from illnesses but also promote the health of our bodies.
Let’s celebrate this Gandhi Jayanti by cherishing this revelation about the Father of our Nation and by pledging to strive towards observing atleast two attributes i.e Satya and Ahimsa in our personal and social spheres. Gandhiji followed these ardently and it was demonstrated from his life so much so that even his enemies accepted him and surrendered before him.