By Chitra Jha
Our capacity to appreciate Mahatma Gandhi is in direct proportion to our spiritual maturity
|Chitra Jha is a life-skills coach, past-life regression therapist, ‘new consciousness’ teacher and writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org|
I grew up in a family of Gandhians. My grandfather followed all Gandhian principles to the letter and kept quoting the Father of the Nation at all times. Whenever we children fought, he would tell us the importance of ‘turning the other cheek’. This philosophy did not appeal to me as a child. I thought, “Gandhiji wanted us to become cowards. Why would a strong person turn the other cheek and ask for another slap on his face?” Later, in school, I learnt about non-violence. By this time, I had grown up to be a peace-loving child. I reasoned, “Gandhiji knew that we Indians couldn’t match the power of the British Empire, so he chose the easy way out. Since Indians outnumbered the British, we could sacrifice a large number of Indians in our non-violent resistance to the Empire. And sure enough the British had to leave, because how many non-violent Indians could they possibly kill?” I viewed Gandhi as a shrewd strategist now.
Much later, I read more of Gandhian philosophy. The more I read, the more I admired him. I realised that Gandhi was not just a lawyer-politician-humanitarian-freedom fighter-Father of the Nation; he was, above all, a great spiritual master. ‘Turning the other cheek,’ first used by Jesus Christ, finds a parallel in another one of his sayings, ‘The meek shall inherit the earth,’ as both these thoughts carry the same message hidden in a play of words.
When we turn the other cheek for the aggressor to attack, we are not being weak – in fact only a very strong-willed person can do it. Besides being strong-willed this person has to be steeped in unconditional love. He has to accept the other person’s need for violence. And one can accept another’s need only when one’s own needs have been met with! What are these needs that we are talking about? These are all transcendental needs; primary amongst these is the need for validation of our worth. Yes, only a person with low self-worth can resort to violence. ‘The meek,’ that Christ spoke about are people with high self-worth. Only a highly confident person can be meek. Only a person with high self-esteem can enter the British Parliament (where everyone is dressed as formally as formal can be) in a loincloth. What a lion amongst men our Mahatma was!
I love the word, ‘Mahatma’. By this title, we have actually acknowledged that great soul. He taught us tolerance. He made us accept ourselves and our rustic ways, with élan. He inculcated pride in us. He knew we can accept others only when we accept ourselves.
He countered aggression with peace by turning the other cheek. This turning was not just the response for physical aggression, but for all other forms of aggression as well. The highest form of aggression is the one that we commit against our own selves, by becoming angry at our supposed inadequacies, judging our so-called shortcomings, comparing ourselves to all and sundry, and generally feeling lowly and miserable (sometimes we cover up this state by becoming abusive and overbearing). The best non-violent act that we can commit at such times is accepting ourselves, with warts and all.
We will do well to understand that each one of us is a unique individual. All our wants, desires, thoughts, feelings, relationships, reactions, and responses are unique because they have been factored into our DNA for our optimum growth. Each trait of ours (and others) is there for a reason. No quality or flaw is there just like that, nothing is a mistake. This is an intelligent universe where everything has been designed very diligently, keeping the larger picture in mind. By accepting each unique feature of our make-up and learning from it, we become a clear channel for our divine essence to flow in. More the embodied essence in a person, more the self-worth he possesses.
This self-worth makes him ‘turn the other cheek,’ because he understands and enjoys the illusion of power play. Such a person becomes meek and is eligible to inherit the earth. The great paradox is that such a person does not care if he inherits the earth or not, for his is the Kingdom of Heaven!
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