Quarterly Newsletter of The Gandhi Memorial Center, Washington, DC
Volume XXXXVI, Number 1, 2012 - Winter Issue
The Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Foundation The Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Foundation, Incorporated, was founded in the United States of America in 1959 by Swami Premananda of India. The purpose of the Foundation is to disseminate the philosophy, ideal, life, service and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. The Foundation is a legally independent, nonprofit cultural and educational organization.
Gandhi Memorial Center
Dedicated to the life and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, the Gandhi Memorial Center seeks to offer a broad representation of authors from many cultures and times, as well as displays, recordings, lectures and demonstrations of cultural and educational value. The Library of the Gandhi Memorial Center is open on Fridays and Saturdays from 10am to 4pm (except during July and August).
For the expansion of its ideals and activities the Foundation will gratefully receive donations of funds and contributions of books, publications and memorabilia pertaining to Mahatma Gandhi and his associates. Please make checks payable to the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Foundation, Inc. or contribute online at our website: www.gandhimemorialcenter.org/contribute The Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Foundation is a 501c(3) tax-exempt non-profit organization. The staff of the Foundation and Gandhi Center are dedicated workers who serve without any remuneration throughout the year. Your contribution is an offering towards the services and activities of the Gandhi Center. Your contribution is tax deductible.
Gandhi Memorial Center 4748 Western Avenue Bethesda, MD 20816 301-320-6871 firstname.lastname@example.org www.gandhimemorialcenter.org
ÂŠ 2012 Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Foundation, Incorporated. Printed in the United States of America
Table of Content Image of Gandhiji in “Pronam” ..........................................................front cover “Gandhi and the Wisdom of Advaita” by Carrie Trybulec..........................2-10 Recent Music Offerings.........................................................................................11 Noble Thoughts................................................................................................12-13 Student Visitors................................................................................................14-17 Recent Event............................................................................................back cover
“I do not sit in judgment upon the world for its many misdeeds. Being imperfect myself and needing toleration and charity, I tolerate the world’s imperfections till I find or create an opportunity for fruitful expostulation.” “I hold myself to be incapable of hating any being on earth. By a long course of prayerful discipline, I have ceased for over forty years to hate anybody. I know this is a big claim. Nevertheless, I make it in all humility. But I can and do hate evil whenever it exists.” – Mahatma Gandhi from “All Men are Brothers”
Gandhi and the Wisdom of Advaita By Carrie Trybulec Director, Gandhi Memorial Center
We often think of Gandhiji as being relevant to a specific time in history – particularly for his role in the movement towards Indian independence. But Gandhi’s life held deeper significance that cannot be relegated to only a single moment in history. Mahatma Gandhi’s timelessness is rooted in the belief of Universal Truth. He said, “I believe in Advaita, in the essential unity of man and for that matter, of all that lives.” Advaita or Nonduality is often described as Monism or Oneness. We find this ideal in the saying: “Ekam Sat” – Truth is One. Absolute Monism or Advaita Vedanta is an ancient spiritual heritage whose origin in time or geographic location cannot be pinpointed nor marked by the life of a particular prophet or sage. Its philosophy cannot be contained nor limited to any one scripture. It is found in all scriptures of self-enlightenment, for these are all revelations of Truth. Advaita Vedanta is the philosophy of the soul’s realization of perfection. (And this Gandhi is known to have articulated, the mission of life is to strive for perfection of Soul.) Absolute Monism is self-unfoldment and self-realization in the search for Truth, universal to us all. The Swami Order established by Swami Shankarachariya devotedly imparted Advaita Vedanta through the ages. Shankarachariya lived during the 8th century AD. What he proposed was not new. His realization and teachings flowed from the heart of the Vedas. His heart and mind reawakened those around him to the universal purpose, potential, and value of human life.
Gandhi’s life revolved around his belief in the oneness of all. His goal was to attain moksha: self-liberation through self-realization. Gandhi was a universalist ever seeking the Truth that all of human life aspires to reach: true knowledge of the Self. He turned inward to realize and know the Self through study, prayer and meditation. He was motivated to act outwardly the expression of this awareness through selfless service. Gandhi viewed the Truth of existence as pointing to the idea of the oneness of life, that you and I are one, one with the stars and the planets and all that lives. If I harm you or another, I harm myself. Christ said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Similarly, Gandhi said that “To slight a human being is to slight those divine powers and thus to harm not only that being but with him the whole world.” Gandhi said he believed “in the oneness of God and therefore, in the oneness of humanity. What though we have many bodies, we have but one soul. The rays of the sun are many through refraction. But they have the same source. I cannot, therefore, detach myself from the wickedest soul nor may I be denied the identity with the most virtuous.” Gandhi’s love for the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, played an important role in his life, forming one of the strongest foundations for his commitment to ahimsa – nonviolence or love. Through his writing, Gandhiji interprets the Gita’s description of the perfect devotee, of the perfect renunciate: “He is a devotee who is jealous of none, who is a fount of mercy, who is without egotism, who is selfless, who treats alike cold and heat, 3
happiness and misery, who is ever forgiving, who is always contented, whose resolutions are firm, who has dedicated mind and soul to God, who causes no dread, who is not afraid of others, who is free from exultation, sorrow and fear, who is pure, who is versed in action and yet remains unaffected by it, who renounces all fruit, good or bad, who treats friend and foe alike, who is untouched by respect or disrespect, who is not puffed up by praise, who does not go under when people speak ill of him, who loves silence and solitude, who has a disciplined reason. Such devotion is inconsistent with the existence of strong attachments.” Gandhi lived by three basic principles: self-dedication, self-purification, and self-realization. He hoped that individuals would find enough strength of character to realize a higher calling than the ugliness that could otherwise pull us down. He hoped that all would grow to understand that we are “part and parcel of the whole”. There is a wonderful story of Shankarachariya that comes to my mind when I think of Gandhiji, because it relays a story of an Untouchable. Today, members of this class may be called Dalits. In this story the term “Chandala,” is used. Of course, we all know that among the many social reforms that Gandhiji worked toward was the effort to uplift the Untouchables, or Harijans as he called them (meaning Children of God). He strove to break down caste barriers in society and to raise awareness of the oneness of all creation.
The Story of Shankarachariya and the Chandala: Shankarachariya had gone to the sacred river Ganges for a ritual bath, a time for self-purifying thoughts and prayers, for oblation and homage, to the one stream of consciousness and life, the current that carries the soul to its union with the Absolute. Imbued and inspired with feelings of profound peace and devotion, he emerged from the waters and began to walk along the path of the river bank towards the Viswanath Temple. Suddenly a Chandala, an outcast or Untouchable, appeared before him blocking his path. Annoyed and distracted from his holy mood by the presence of one he considered impure, Shankara rudely commanded, “Move!” “Whom are you addressing, O holy man?” came the gentle Chandala’s voice. “Are you speaking to my body? If you think this body is different from yours, how is it so? Both our bodies have come from the same primordial matter. Then are you addressing my soul? Is not the Atman the same--one, indivisible, eternal? “Is it not the same sun that reflects in the Ganges and also in a roadside puddle? Is there any difference in the Atman reflecting through a Brahmin or a Chandala? “‘Move,’ you say... The soul being one, how can it go away? Where, O holy man, shall this soul go where your soul is not?” Shankarachariya was stunned and humbly reawakened with the revelation of God. He saw before himself a God-realized being. Reverently Shankarachariya bowed before the Chandala. On the spot he composed a beautiful hymn, an ever-favorite of the Indian people, immortalizing the unforgettable experience. All religions today could heed its message: “One who has gained self-knowledge is my Guru, whether Brahmin or Untouchable. God, the Soul, is the Guru of all.” - (Selection from “I Am An Absolute Monist” by Srimati Kamala)
GANDHI & SELF-REALIZATION Gandhi represents many things to me. However, I believe the greatest spiritual contribution Gandhiji’s life offers us is the one pointed determination with which he constantly applied himself to self-realization. He believed that “The ideal must not be lowered because of our weaknesses or imperfection.” We can see how determined Gandhi was not to let the very human weaknesses and imperfections that so often prevent us from realizing the infinite and eternal qualities of Soul limit his progress. Perhaps that is one of his greatest achievements: the tireless effort to realize the absolute oneness of life through all his activities and pursuits. For “the purpose of life,” Gandhi said, “is undoubtedly to know oneself. We cannot do it unless we learn to identify ourselves with all that lives.” ASHRAM LIFE As we all know, Mahatma Gandhi utilized the “ashram life” as a sort of spiritual laboratory. It was the environment he created in which to test out and experiment with the ideal of Truth. Just as Henry David Thoreau went to Walden Pond to experiment with the simple life, a life enriched by man’s natural heritage, Gandhiji explored the domain of the Soul through prayer and service in the ashram setting. We, too, can create an environment in which to search deeply and per6
sonally for understanding and applying the Advaita philosophy. We do this through our own study, prayer, and meditation. We do this as we watch the changes and activity of Nature that surrounds us. We do this as we observe our own spiritual growth, as our mind becomes more and more attuned to the oneness of life. Gandhi was very adept at establishing routines. There were routines for prayer, for cleaning, for spinning, for village service and for reading and writing. And, yet, he was also flexible in his attitude and knew that one could always improve one’s thoughts and habits. Although Gandhiji had practical objectives in terms of breaking down societal barriers, as well as advancing constructive programs, he always had at the heart of his life’s ambition, the goal of self-realization. As an Advaitist, Gandhiji applied the 4-fold standard of Self-Realization espoused by Swami Shankarachariya: 1. 2. 3. 4.
Discriminate between eternal and ephemeral values Renounce the desire to live in sense-identified self-consciousness Cultivate the means of self-unfoldment (Yoga) Desire self-liberation (Moksha)
Sabarmati Ashram (Gandhiji’s Ashram)
TRUTH Gandhi believed that God is Truth. He even turned it around and said: Truth is God. And yet, for Gandhi: Truth, Love, God are interchangeable terms. 7
It may be that Gandhiji was searching for the most universal thought to bring together human beings of all walks of life, all religious persuasions, all cultural backgrounds. He was seeking that which would be close to the hearts of every individual. And what he discovered was that: “All the religions of the world, while they may differ in other respects, unitedly proclaim that nothing lives in this world but Truth. Truth alone is eternal, everything else is momentary.” “As a matter of fact we are all thinking of the Unthinkable, describing the Indescribable, seeking to know the Unknowable, and that is why our speech falters, is inadequate and even often contradictory. That is why the Vedas describe Brahman as ‘not this’, ‘not this’. But if He or It is not this, He or It is. If we exist, if our parents and their parents have existed, then it is proper to believe in the Parent of the whole creation. If He is not, we are nowhere. And that is why all of us with one voice call one God differently in an infinite variety of names. He is one and yet many; He is smaller than an atom, and bigger than the Himalayas. He is contained even in a drop of the ocean, and yet not even the seven seas can encompass Him. Reason is powerless to know Him. He is beyond the reach or grasp of reason.”
TRANSCENDING THE SENSES Gandhiji also realized that in order to know the Self, in order to aspire after Truth, we must be able to transcend the senses. There is a saying from the Upanishads that reflects this very ideal: “I am not the body, because the body is impermanent and subject to growth and decay; I am not the mind and its thoughts and feelings and dreams, because they too change and pass away; I am not the consciousness in deep sleep, because although there the perception is freed from duality and division, it comes to an end on waking; what I am is the witness of all that persists through all these states.” Gandhiji explains this witness of all that persists as an indefinable mysterious power that pervades everything. He said: “I feel it, though I do not see it. It is this unseen Power which makes itself felt, and yet, defies all proof, because it is so unlike all that I can perceive through my senses.” “I do dimly perceive that whilst everything around me is ever changing, ever dying, there is underlying all that change a living power that is changeless, that holds all together, that creates, dissolves and recreates. That informing power or spirit is God. And since nothing else I see merely through the senses can or will persist, He alone is.” 9
SELF-SURRENDER Gandhiji is most often described as a Karma Yogi. He led an extremely active life. His daily schedule was filled with activities of national, village, and ashram service. However, this work was always done with a heart full of devotion. He believed that true devotion was only possible in the presence of total self-surrender and all-embracing love. “God to be God must rule the heart and transform it. This can only be proved by the transformed conduct and character of those who have felt the real presence of God within.” In a way, it was his deep sense of humility that revealed Gandhij’s devotion and self-surrender to the Divine.
HUMILITY He knew that one could not be successful in attaining the highest truth, the highest goal, without first reducing himself to zero. Humility is required to follow such a path. Gandhi said, “We must be humbler than the dust the world daily crushes beneath its feet. In such selfless search for truth, nobody can lose his bearings for long. Directly he takes to the wrong path, he stumbles, and is thus redirected to the right path. In the search for truth, there can be no place for even a trace of self-interest.” When we reflect upon the spiritual ideal of Gandhiji, Shankarachariya, and Advaita, we relect on our own spiritual path in light of the revelation of Truth and Existence. And when we think of Gandhiji, we think not only of the man who strove for a free India, but of the man who strove for the freedom of Soul. 10
Recent Music Offerings:
November 20, 2011
Photo Above: Jay Gandhi (above left) gave a performance of Hindustani Classical Flute (bansuri) with accompaniment by Monir Hossain (above right) on tabla. Jay is a very talented and devoted student of the world renowned bansuri maestro, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia. Photo below: Shafaat Khan (below right) gave a duo performance of both tabla and sitar. While performing tabla, he was accompanied by Jeff Bauer (below left) on keyboard and for his sitar recital he was accompanied by Rishi Malhotra on tabla. Shafaat is an Indian Classical musician and son of Ustad Imrat Khan and nephew of Ustad Vilayat Khan. Shafaat has distinguished himself by attaining excellence in performing sitar, surbahar and tabla.
December 3, 2011
He who is completely devoid of all selfish desires, free from senseidentification, and who has attained the realization of universal oneness by overcoming his ego, alone attains peace even while living on earth. This is known as living in the consciousness of Brahman, O Son of Pritha. One who has attained this state is never again to be deluded. By living in this state of consciousness, the Yogi finally attains absolute freedom in the realization of his oneness with Brahman. -Srimad-Bhagavad-Gita, translation by Swami Premananda When one knows thee, then alien there is none, then no door is shut. Oh, grant me my prayer that I may never lose the bliss of the touch of the One in the play of the Many. -Rabindranath Tagore How vast and profound is the influence of the subtle powers of Heaven and Earth! We seek to perceive them, and we do not see them; we seek to hear them, and we do not hear them; identified with the substance of things, they cannot be separated from them. -Henry David Thoreau Prayer is the Miâ€™raj (union with the Divine Essence, by means of continual upward progress) of the Faithful. He is one and loves unity. -Muhammed, Translation by Allama Sir Abdullah al-Mamun al-Suhrawardy O hidden Life, vibrant in every atom, O hidden Light, shining in every creature, O hidden Love, embracing all in oneness, May all who feel themselves as one with thee Know they are therefore one with every other. -Annie Besant, Theosophist 12
The Kingdom of God cometh not with outward show; neither shall they say, Lo here! or Lo there! for behold, the Kingdom of God is within you. -Luke:20,21 Christâ€™s teaching only has power when it demands absolute perfection that is, the fusion of the divine nature which exists in every manâ€™s soul with the will of God - the union of the Son with the Father. The fulfillment of Christâ€™s teaching consists in moving away from self toward God. -Leo Tolstoy Within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related; the eternal ONE. And this deep power in which we exist and whose beatitude is all accessible to us is not only self-sufficing and perfect in every hour, but the act of seeing and the thing seen, the seer and the spectacle, the subject and the object, are one. -Ralph Waldo Emerson That man is free who, knowing the Self through his mind in all moving and unmoving objects and observing It as their substratum, renounces all superimpositions and remains as the Absolute and the Infinite Self. I am the Universal, I am all in all, I am transcendent and non-dual, I am absolute, unbroken knowledge, I am Bliss and eternal am I. -Swami Shankarachariya Those wise men alone, not others, attain eternal happiness who feel dwelling in themselves that one all-controlling power which pervades all life and though one appears as many. Those wise men alone, not others, attain eternal peace who feel dwelling in themselves that God who is the permanent essence among the impermanent, who is the life in all that lives and who though one fulfils the desires of many. -Kathopanishad, II:12,13, Translation by Mahatma Gandhi 13
Student Vistors to the Gandhi Center:
January 27, 2012
Photo Above: The third grade classes of John Eaton Elementary School visited the Gandhi Memorial Center for a presentation on Gandhi and Indian culture. The students are studying India all year long through a DC Public School Catalyst program in World Cultures. Under the Catalyst program the study of world cultures through core subject areas, such as reading, social studies, science and math, prepares students to be world citizens, able to participate and thrive in an increasingly diverse society. Photo Below: Students of the American University Washington Semester Peace and Conflict Resolution Class visited to the Gandhi Memorial Center for a lecture and discussion on the life and philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi.
February 3, 2012
February 10, 2012
Fillmore Arts Center Students from the Fillmore Arts Center visit to Gandhi Memorial Center through DC Arts and Humanities Education Collaborative â€œArts for Every Studentâ€? Program. The DC Collaborative works with its members to provide access to arts and humanities education for all DC public and chartered public schools for the growth of the whole child.
Davis Elementary School, Washington, DC: Students from the Kindergarten and Pre-Kindergarten classes of Davis Elementary School of Washington, DC visited the Gandhi Memorial Center for a program of “Katha: Folktales of India” through the DC Arts and Humanities Education Collaborative “Arts for Every Student” Program. The children interacted with the folktales and fables, listening and sharing their own stories. During their visit, the Director of the Gandhi Memorial Center, Carrie Trybulec, introduces the children to Mahatma Gandhi and the cultural heritage of India.
December 9, 2011
Gallaudet University Student Visit:
February 18, 2012
Hearing impaired students from Gallaudet University visited the Gandhi Memorial Center in order to enhance their knowledge of Mahatma Gandhi and the spiritual heritage of India. During their visit, Carrie Trybulec offered a presentation on the life ideals of Mahatma Gandhi with the aid of sign language interpreters and a brief segment of a closedcaption film on the life of Gandhi. The students also enjoyed a Bharatanatyam demonstration by Charu Narasimhan and two of her dance students. The dancers shared the expression and elements of Indian classical dance along with the mudras (or hand gestures), facial expressions and footwork.
“The Mother of Tears” choreographed by Nilimma Devi and Anila Kumari
“The Ganga” In Myth, Poetry, and Dance
Nishi Chawla reading from her poetry “The Ganga”
Presented by the Gandhi Memorial Center on March 4, 2012 with Nishi Chawla, Nilimma Devi, & Devi Dance Theater Nilimma Devi performs “Swagatam”