“ Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.”
“ Mahatma Gandhi will go down in history on par with Buddha and Jesus Christ.”
Gandhi’s ‘ saintly ‘ reputation, that steadily grew in his own lifetime, was one that he was never really comfortable with or one that he openly courted. In his autobiography he wrote the following about being called Mahatma ( The Great Soul ) : “ Often the title has deeply pained me; and there is not a moment I can recall when it may be said to have tickled me.”
Gandhi felt that in the face of injustice and inequality he had no real alternative but to make a stand and confront the controlling influence of imperialism. This he did with commitment and determination of heroic proportions but throughout his entire political engagement he never lost sight of the fact that he was a man, just an ordinary man placed in extraordinary circumstances. Later in his life he said: “ I have not a shadow of a doubt that any man or woman can achieve what I have.”
Many may challenge these words; believing instinctively that Gandhi was indeed a rather special individual who attained a degree of awakening that no one else could. A man marked out for greatness. A spiritual man far removed from the rest of humanity – but was he? Are we saying that Gandhi, and Gandhi alone was the only one who could inspire his fellow countrymen to seek Independence? Are we saying that Gandhi, and Gandhi alone was the only one who could fight injustice and discrimination? Are we saying that Gandhi, and Gandhi alone was the only one who could stand up for truth?
If no injustice or discrimination had surfaced in India, under British rule, there would be no Mahatma Gandhi. For the prejudicial conditions that British imperialism created in India, were the very same conditions that created The Great Soul – one was but an unavoidable consequence of the other. This is not to suggest, however, that some form of rigid inevitability existed; but history has shown that where there has been an unjust balance of power, challenges have invariably followed. Gandhi’s challenge to British control of India eventually led to a complete transference of power to the Indian people, but if Gandhi had refused to address the problematic issues that his country faced, then others, I think we can be certain, would have eventually led the way.
CHANGE FOR A BETTER WORLD: CONFRONTING OUR FEARS
Whilst Gandhi was respected, revered and even idolized by millions there were, nevertheless, many critics who disapproved of him; his personality, his methods of working, even his vision for India in a post-colonial stage of development. But despite all this there still seems to be fairly universal agreement about one thing – Gandhi was a brave man who showed no fear towards anyone or anything. His strength was his fearlessness and this is what saw him through. But he wasn’t ( even by his own admission ) unique, because courage is something that is available to everyone, something that can be cultivated and developed by us all.
Fear is the dragon that we must face in our lives. Perhaps too many of us get preoccupied with an assortment of anxieties, doubts and fears that impede our growth to a better existence. Maybe we limit and restrict ourselves, missing the opportunities and life enhancing chances that are presented to us. Perhaps we are afraid of taking up responsibilities and commitments that can stretch us as individuals. Maybe we are afraid that we might just have the hidden potential that could make us ‘ bigger ‘ than we are now?
Gandhi was very much aware of his own personal fears, but through acknowledging them, and working with their presence in his life, he managed to transform them. And this is what we must do. We must never allow our fears to grip our hearts so that we become frozen in, unable to respond, in a positive manner, to life’s inevitable challenges and difficulties. Fear is a projection, not a reality. It is a self-induced, subjective state of mind that undermines our confidence and resilience to act appropriately, so we must mindfully guard against it at all times.
“There would be no one to frighten you if you refused to be afraid.”
Fear is the dragon that we must face in our lives. Unless we confront and challenge our fear, in a bold and forthright way, it will simply continue to stalk us down. Even in quiet moments, when its presence isn’t really felt, it still remains, hidden from view, yet poised to return and attack us again. Fear has physical consequences, it can grip our bodies and affect our health and well-being.
We must recognize that all fear is grounded in ignorance – ignorance of our true potential which can take us on a journey of self-discovery, enlarging us as individuals and enabling us to step into a new and better life, if we allow it.
Unfortunately we often seem secure in the familiar, in the habitual ways of dealing with life, even if it’s difficult and uncomfortable for us.
Gandhi wasn’t afraid of his potential and he seized every opportunity to work with it, to allow it to deepen his life and effect a qualitative change for others. He realized that fear would lead him to all the wrong places so he worked constructively and positively with this negative energy to minimize its influence on his life and his visionary work. Certainly Gandhi was an exceptional individual, but in reality we could all be exceptional, for we all carry the seeds of potential around within us. We are all Gandhi’s in the making, we can all overcome fear to make a difference to our lives and those around us. Engaging with our instinctive, frightened states of mind will always hold us back and limit what we can attain, but courage – especially courage informed by confidence, clear vision and perseverance – will always carry us forward to breakthrough, to attain those goals that perhaps we never thought we could ever achieve. The choice is ours. Do we restrict our lives and fall back in fear, or do we embrace the challenge of growth and move forward?
QUIET HEROICS: THE MAN IN THE WATER
In January 1981an Air Florida aircraft, full with passengers, took off from Washington Airport. Minutes later the plane nose-dived into a bridge that crossed the Potomac River. The emergency services were soon at the sight of the crash trying to rescue people from the icy waters. Helicopter crews were throwing life rings into the river, in an attempt to save as many people as they could. In a situation of understandable panic one man was seen to risk his life by swimming after the rings and passing them on to his fellow passengers. When the emergency services had saved all the lives that they possibly could they threw a lifeline to this one remaining man, only to find that the currents of the river had swept him away to his death
I have often thought about this man, thought about the sacrifice that he made for others. I believe that in the few brief moments of his actions – actions stemming from a deeply felt compassion that dissolved all notions of selfhood – this man touched something so profoundly ‘ generous ‘ within him that he was prepared to give up his life.
But he is not alone; cases are reported quite regularly which detail the heroic deeds of individuals who, like our hero of the Potomac River, risk their lives, in dangerous situations, for the benefit of others. And who knows; under the right circumstances we might even surprise ourselves and do the same – we can never tell……
“ The golden rule is to act fearlessly upon what one believes to be right.”
Gandhi’s fearless life, along with many other brave individuals, can inspire us all to look at our fears, worries and anxieties so that we may summon up the strength to deal with them effectively. Just because the future is unknown and uncertain, that doesn’t mean to say that we should be afraid of it, or let it erode our confidence and sense of purpose. We must look at the future as a rich source of possibilities, realizing that what has happened in the past may not necessarily happen again – if we make a stand. But we do need to make that stand, supported by a confident positivity and a strong presence of faith….
• Faith in a brighter future.
• Faith in ourselves – that our inner strengths can see us through
• Faith in others to support us on our journey
• Faith in truth – knowing that it will always work its way through.
• Faith in goodness – knowing that it cannot be diminish in any way.
• Faith in an interwoven, interconnected, spiritually sustained humanity
“ For a non-violent person, the whole world is one family.
He will thus fear none, nor will others fear him.”
JOURNEY WELL, JOURNEY WITH COURAGE…..