Gandhi: No Mahatma

So both the mental and physical habits of the Mleccha and Yavana (non- Vedic races and sects) are impure, that is, closely connected with himsa or animal-killing, etc., and generally their lifestyles are uncontrolled and boisterous in many other ways. They are not regulated according to the Vedic Scriptures.

— Srila Sridhara Maharaja, Sermons of the Guardian of Devotion Volume Two

In this age of Kali the shastras say everyone is born a sudra, servant class (kalau śūdra-sambhava). That is the bright side. Actually to refer to the average man in today’s world as sudra is flattery, because they are less than that. They are Mleccha and Yavana, as described above or duṣkṛtina, mūḍhāḥ, narādhamāḥ, etc., as described below. If they were born sudra they have fallen far below that standard either due to their own inclination or the influence of the society surrounding them which is principally composed of those persons described in the following verse:

na mā duktino mū
prapadyante narādhamā
māyayāpahta-jñānā
āsura bhāvam āśritā

Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, who are lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons do not surrender unto Me.


Bhagavad-gita As It Is, 7.15

A sudra is far more qualified than the vast majority of the men and women of today:

śūdrasya sannati śauca
sevā svāminy amāyayā
amantra-yajño hy asteya
satya go-vipra-rakaam

Translation

Offering obeisances to the higher sections of society [the brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas and vaiśyas], being always very clean, being free from duplicity, serving one’s master, performing sacrifices without uttering mantras, not stealing, always speaking the truth and giving all protection to the cows and brāhmaṇas — these are the symptoms of the śūdra.

Purport

It is everyone’s experience that workers or servants are generally accustomed to stealing. A first-class servant is one who does not steal. Here it is recommended that a first-class śūdra must remain very clean, must not steal or speak lies, and must always render service to his master. A śūdra may attend sacrifices and Vedic ritualistic ceremonies along with his master, but he should not utter the mantras, for these may be uttered only by the members of the higher sections of society. Unless one is completely pure and has been raised to the standard of a brāhmaa, katriya or vaiśya — in other words, unless one is dvija, twice-born — the chanting of mantras will not be fruitful.

— Bhaktivedanta Swami, ŚB 7.11.24

Look around. Do you see anyone so qualified as a sudra who is: always very clean, free from duplicity, faithfully serving his master, taking part in the performance of sacrifices, not stealing, always speaking the truth and giving all protection to the cows and brāhmaṇas? No, you will find almost no one so qualified.

Now, suppose one wanted to elevate himself to the position of sudra, what would he do? He would need to find a master to serve and the master must be one situated in a higher position than himself, that of a brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya or vaiśya. But these are far more rare and difficult to find than even a qualified sudra.

Is it any wonder, then, that the men and women of today would mistake a materially motivated politician for a mahatma and praise him as being one?

But don’t take my word for it. Dear readers, I would never ask you to do that.

What is a mahatma? Krishna tells us:

“O son of Pṛthā, those who are not deluded, the great souls [mahatmas], are under the protection of the divine nature. They are fully engaged in devotional service because they know Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, original and inexhaustible.”

— A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, Bhagavad-gītā As It Is, 9.13

Now that we know the qualities of a mahatma we are prepared to discern whether Gandhi was, or was not, one. For this, let us look to our Divine Preceptors for guidance.

He had no spiritual asset. —

Ambassador: How did you feel about Gandhiji spiritually?

Prabhupada: He was a good gentleman, that’s all. He had no spiritual asset.

— A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, with Canadian Ambassador to Iran, March 13, 1975, Iran

Just like Gandhi speculated, “I do not believe that ever any person like Kṛṣṇa lived.” —

So just like this brāhmaa took instruction from his spiritual master and began to read Bhagavad-gītā, and he realized what is Kṛṣṇa, what is Govinda, similarly, if we take seriously the instruction of our spiritual master and try to read Bhagavad-gītā according to his instruction, then gradually we shall realize Kṛṣṇa. And if you simply realize Kṛṣṇa, what is Kṛṣṇa… That is not difficult. Kṛṣṇa is personally speaking about Himself. You haven’t got to speculate like nonsense. Just like Gandhi speculated, “I do not believe that ever any person like Kṛṣṇa lived.” Just see. Do you know that? This is Gandhi’s statement. And he is mahātmā. The mahātmā’s definition is there in the Bhagavad-gītā = mahātmānas tu mā pārtha daivī praktim āśritā, bhajanty ananya-manasaḥ [Bg. 9.13]. That is mahātmā, not to take advantage of Bhagavad-gītā. Of course, there are… So we do not want to criticize anyone, but sometimes it so happens, big, big scholars, big, big politicians, they misguide people. That is the position of India. So many big, big leaders and politician and so-called svāmīs and yogīs, they have exploited people by bluffing, and now India’s position is = it is neither spiritual nor material. [laughter] That’s all. Dhuno ke pap.[?] Just like it is, the example is, if there are two boats and if you place your leg this boat and that boat, the position is very precarious. [laughter] Neither in this boat, neither that boat fully.

— A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, New York Class 3/6/75 SB 1.15.27

[I]f something was said quoting Aurobindo, Vivekananda, Ramakrsna, Gandhi, etc. it was summarily rejected—

I had some objections in the beginning but I found that what those devotees gave was correct, and my conception was wrong. In this way I gained understanding and inspiration by hearing more and more. Whenever anything was said to them from the Scriptures they would come to listen very carefully. But if something was said quoting Aurobindo, Vivekananda, Ramakrsna, Gandhi, etc. it was summarily rejected, “No, no, we have no time to lose. We have no time to waste to hear all this.” But whenever there was reference to any Scriptures their reaction was, “Yes, what do you say? Please express it.”

— Swami B.R. Sridhara, Sermons of the Guardian of Devotion Volume Three

[S]o in his case, the vibration of the name may have worked in the plane of nation-building—

Recently I was asked about a young boy who had been killed in an accident. I was told that he shouted the name of Krsna at the time of death. I was asked “What was his destination?” I explained that whether one is young or old in the plane of flesh and blood is no qualification for spiritual attainment. One’s mentality must be examined. According to the particular time and place and the conception of the person involved, that sound may be the genuine name, or it may be namabhasa, the shadow of the real name.

National Nama

When Gandhi was shot, he cried, “Rama! Rama!” He was shot in the chest, and his spectacles were thrown into the street. Within half an hour he passed away, but he pronounced the words “Rama! Rama!” He was on his way to deliver a religious lecture, but his mentality was full of thoughts of national progress, so in his case, the vibration of the name may have worked in the plane of nation-building. To understand a person’s destination at the time of death, we must ask, “What was his mentality?”

— Swami B.R. Sridhara, The Loving Search for the Lost Servant

Gandhi wanted to check his wife’s going to the Temple, as though God were within the jurisdiction of politics.—

Even Gandhi wanted to enter the Puri Temple with some of his outcast or lower caste followers, but they were prohibited. Gandhi also stayed out. He wanted to enter along with the outcasts of society. Despite his great influence over the country, he was refused entrance. Without his knowledge, Gandhi’s wife entered to have the darsana of Lord Jagannatha. When he came to know of it, he severely chastised her for entering without him.
So Gandhi was more of a patriot than a devotee. He thought his lordship over his wife was permanent and absolute, not to be modified even by devotion for Lord Jagannatha. But according to us, his wife did right. How permanent is the relationship between husband and wife? For the main part it is only a bodily relationship. And what is the relationship with the Lord – the Husband of husbands, the Master of the whole world? What is the nasty husband in this world in comparison with the Lord of the whole universe? For a national cause, or the cause of his political creed, Gandhi wanted to check his wife’s going to the Temple, as though God were within the jurisdiction of politics.

— Swami B.R. Sridhara, Sermons of the Guardian of Devotion Volume Two

Swami B.K. Giri