My Mahatmaship

The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi

Truth to me is infinitely dearer than the Mahatmaship, which is purely a burden. It is my knowledge of my limitations and my nothingness which has so far saved me from the oppressiveness of the Mahatmaship.
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.
I do not feel like being one [a Mahatma]. But I do know that I am among the humblest of God’s creatures.
My Mahatmaship is worthless. It is due to my outward activities, due to my politics which is the least part of me and is, therefore, evanescent. What is of abiding worth is my insistence on truth, non-violence and brahmacharya which is the real part of me. That part of me, however small, is not to be despised. It is my all. I prize even the failures and disillusionments which are but steps towards success.
I hold it to be a blasphemy to represent me as Shri Krishna. I claim to be a humble worker and no more among many in a great cause, which can only be injured rather than advanced by glorification of its leaders. A cause has the best chance of success, when it is examined and followed on its own merits. Measures must always, in a progressive society, be held superior to men, who are after all imperfect instruments, working for their fulfillment.
I have become literally sick of the adoration of the unthinking multitude. I would feel certain of my ground, if I was spat upon by them. Then there would be no need for confession of Himalayan and other miscalculations, no retracing, no re-arranging.
The world knows so little of how much my so-called greatness depends upon the incessant toil and drudgery of silent, devoted, able and pure workers, men as well as women.
The highest honour that my friends can do me is to enforce in their own lives the programme that I stand for or to resist me to their utmost if they do not believe in it.
I lay claim to nothing exclusively divine in me. I do not claim prophetship. I am but a humble seeker after Truth and bent upon finding it. I count no sacrifice too great for the sake of seeing God face to face. The whole of my activity, whether it may be called social, political, humanitarian or ethical, is directed to that end. And as I know that God is found more often in the lowliest of His creatures than in the high and mighty, I am struggling to reach the status of these. I cannot do so without their service. Hence my passion for the service of the suppressed classes. And as I cannot render this service without entering politics, I find myself in them. Thus I am no master. I am but a struggling, erring, humble servant of India and there through of humanity.
I am conscious of my own limitations. That consciousness is my only strength. Whatever I might have been able to do in my life has proceeded more than anything else out of the realization of my own limitations.
I have no desire for prestige anywhere. It is furniture required in courts of kings. I am a servant of Musalmans, Christians, Parsis and Jews as I am of Hindus. And a servant is in need of love, not prestige. That is assured to me so long as I remain a faithful servant.
In the majority of cases addresses presented to me contain adjectives which I am ill able to carry. Their use can do good neither to the writers nor to me. They unnecessarily humiliate me, for I have to confess that I do not deserve them. When they are deserved, their use is superfluous. It cannot add to the strength of the qualities possessed by me. They may, if I am not on my guard, easily turn my head. The good that a man does is more often than not better left unsaid. Initiation is the sincerest flattery.
I am not aching for martyrdom, but if it comes in my way in the prosecution of what I consider to be the supreme duty in defence of the faith I hold… I shall have earned it.
Assaults have been made on my life in the past, but God has spared me till now, and the assailants have repented for their action. But if someone were to shoot me in the belief that he was getting rid of a rascal, he would kill not the real Gandhi, but the one that appeared to him a rascal.
If I had no sense of humour, I should long ago have committed suicide.
Three are certain things which you cannot escape all at once, even whilst you are avoiding them. This earthly case in which I am locked up is the bane of my life, but I am obliged to put up with it and even indulge it.
I Hope there is no pride in me. I feel I recognize fully my weakness. But my faith in God and His strength and love is unshakable. I am like clay in the Potter’s hands. I shall continue to confess blunders each time the people commit them. The only tyrant I accept in this world is the ‘still small voice’ within me. And even though I have to face the prospect of a minority of one, I humbly believe I have the courage to be in such a hopeless minority.
I can truthfully say that I am slow to see the blemishes of fellow beings, being myself full of them and, therefore, being in need of their charity. I have learnt not to judge any one harshly and to make allowances for defects that I may detect.
The only virtue I want to claim is Truth and Non-violence. I lay no claim to superhuman powers. I want none. I wear the same corruptible flesh that the weakest of my fellow-beings wears, and am, therefore, as liable to err as any. My services have many limitations, but God has up to now blessed them in spite of the imperfections.
I consider myself to be a sagacious worker and my sagacity means no more and no less than a fine perception of my limitations. I hope I never travel beyond my limits. Certainly I have never done so consciously.
Whilst I prize the unbounded affection of the people, let them realize that my life is not worth keeping if anxiety to save it deflects the attention of the nation from the main purpose.
I claim to be a fairly accurate student of human nature and vivisector of my own failings. I have discovered that man is superior to the system he propounds.
I am an irrepressible optimist, because I believe in myself. That sounds very arrogant, doesn’t it? But I say it from the depths of my humility.
I believe in the supreme power of God. I believe in Truth and, therefore, I have no doubt in the future of this country or the future of humanity.
I am an optimist because I expect many things from myself. I have not got them, I know, as I am not yet a perfect being. If I was one, I should not even need to reason with you. When I am a perfect being, I have simply to say the word and the nation will listen. I want to attain that perfection by service.
In the midst of humiliation and so-called defeat and a tempestuous life, I am able to retain my peace, because of an underlying faith in God, translated as Truth. We can describe God as millions of things, but I have for myself adopted the formula – Truth is God.
My Life is an indivisible whole, and all my activities run into one another; and they all have their rise in my insatiable love of mankind.
I have often been charged with having an unyielding nature. I have been told that I would not bow to the decisions of the majority. I have been accused of being autocratic … I have never been able to subscribe to the charge of obstinacy or autocracy. On the contrary, I pride myself on my yielding nature in non vital matters. I detest autocracy. Valuing my freedom and independence I equally cherish them for others. I have no desire to carry a single soul with me, if I cannot appeal to his or her reason. My unconventionality I carry to the point of rejecting the divinity of the oldest Shastras if they cannot convince my reason. But I have found by experience that, if I wish to live in society and still retain my independence, I must limit the points of utter independence to matters of first-rate importance. In all others which do not involve a departure from one’s personal religion or moral code, one must yield to the majority.
I have learnt through bitter experience the one supreme lesson to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmuted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power which can move the world.
It is not that I do not get angry. I don’t give vent to anger. I cultivate the quality of patience as angerlessness, and generally speaking I succeed. But I only control my anger when it comes. How I find it possible to control it would be a useless question, for it is a habit that everyone must cultivate and must succeed in forming by constant practice.
I spare neither friend nor foe, when it is a question of departing from the code of honour.
I hate privilege and monopoly. Whatever cannot be shared with the masses is taboo to me.
I have always had a love for the poor all my life and in abundance. I could cite illustrations after illustrations from my past life that it was something innate in me. I have never felt that there was any difference between the poor and me. I have always felt towards them as my own kith and kin.
My Loin Cloth is an organic evolution in my life. It came naturally, without effort, without premeditation.
It would be impossible for any person to point to a single act of mine during the past fifty years which could be proved to have been antagonistic to any person or community, I have never believed anyone to be my enemy. My faith demands that I should consider no one as such. I may not wish ill to anything that lives.
My Philosophy, if I can be said to have any, excludes the possibility of harm to one’s cause by outside agencies. The harm comes deservedly and only when the cause itself is bad or, being good, its champions are untrue, fainthearted or unclean.
Somehow I am able to draw the noblest in mankind, and that is what enables me to maintain my faith in God and human nature.
If I was what I want to be I would not then need to argue with anyone. My word would go straight home. Indeed I would not even need to utter the word. The mere will on my part would suffice to produce the required effect. But I am painfully aware of my limitations.

Courtesy : Jitendra T. Desai, Navajivan Mudranalaya, Ahmedabad-380 014.