Chakra Discussions

More On Prabhupada And Gandhi

by Payonidhi das

Posted September 23, 2006

Srila Prabhupada certainly respected Gandhi in many ways, he did however find some faults in Gandhi. One fault was fasting for political reason, the second was Gandhi's claiming that if there is violence in Bhagavad Gita then he would reject it. Yamuna devi wrote in one of her cookbooks about spiritual fasting

Spiritual Fasting
With spiritual fasting, you may not make headlines,
but you'll make headway on the path back to Godhead.

What do Mahatma Gandhi, Dick Gregory, Jane Fonda, Norman Mailer, Bolivian dissidents, British suffragettes, and Irish revolutionaries have in common? Well, for one thing, at one time or another and for one reason or another, they've all fasted. Materially their fasting was somewhat successful, whether it was undertaken to free India from British domination, turn public opinion against the Vietnam War, lose weight, win amnesty for political prisoners, get the right to vote, or what have you.

But how about spiritually? It's not that merely by starving we're sure to make spiritual progress. A lot depends on our purpose. Fasting for some political purpose my help us reach some political goal. But the Vedic teachings direct us beyond such goals. Fasting, say the Vedic scriptures, is meant to help us control the mind and senses so we can advance in spiritual realization; it's not for any other purpose. This may sound like a hard-nosed, shortsighted viewpoint, but before we make a hard-nosed, shortsighted judgment, let's take a closer look.

Say I'm overweight and want to whittle away some extra pounds. (In Western countries, losing weight is the most common reason people fast.) And say I summon my utmost determination and fast to shed those extra pounds. Still, I don't solve the problem that made me overweight to begin with: poor eating habits. So I'm much like the proverbial elephant who bathes thoroughly in a river and then emerges only to roll on the muddy riverbank. What is the use of such a bath? Or, as Judith Dobrzynski says in the last sentences of her book Fasting, a Way to Well-Being: "It is always better to eat a well-balanced, moderate diet and to practice good living habits to ensure good health. There are no shortcuts to that goal."

The material goals achieved by fasting are like everything else material: temporary and limited. India is free of British rule, but it is not free of daily economic, political, and social crises, nor of drought, floods, poverty, and all the ills that accompany industrialization. The Vietnam War is over, but other wars are flaring up regularly. Similarly, you may regain your health by fasting, but for how long? Disease is an inevitable part of material life.

But a transcendentalist's fast is entirely different: his goals are neither temporary nor limited. He doesn't begin his fast with a press conference to alert the public, nor does he step on the scales daily to see his pound-down progress. He doesn't even long for the day when he can once again enjoy apple pie a la mode without remorse or guilt. In fact, the most advanced transcendentalists fast inadvertently-they actually forget to eat!

For such advanced souls, this forgetfulness is the result not of severe self-abnegation but of spontaneous pure love of God. For instance, Uddhava, a great scholar and a devotee of Lord Krsna, is described like this in the Vedic classic srimad-Bhagavatam: "He was one who even in his childhood, at the age of five years, was so absorbed in the service of Lord Krsna that when he was called by his mother for breakfast, he did not wish to have it." Similarly, Lord Caitanya's foremost disciples, the six Gosvamis, were so absorbed in devotional service and remembrance of the Lord that they also neglected eating.

We can understand this preoccupation to a small degree. Sometimes we get so caught up in a novel or TV show that even when someone calls us it doesn't register; it "goes in one ear and out the other." But we can't imitate the ecstasy of Krsna's great devotees whose attention is so absorbed in the Supreme Lord that they forget to eat.

For those of us who are not on this exalted platform of spontaneous devotion to the Lord, the scriptures mention specific observances that will help us come to this platform. As far as fasting goes, we fast on the appearance days of the Lord and His empowered representatives, and on Ekadasi. (Ekadasi is the eleventh day after each full moon and the eleventh day after each new moon.) On these days we try to concentrate our attention and energy on transcendental activities-hearing about and discussing Krsna consciousness-and to minimize our bodily demands. In other words, the goal is spiritual advancement, self-realization.

There are different ways to observe Ekadasi. You may fast the entire day; you may eat only fruit; you may eat only fruit, milk, milk products, and root vegetables (such as potatoes, beets, white radishes, and peanuts) that are very simply spiced. But most commonly, devotees observe Ekadasi by abstaining from all grains and beans. In other words, they avoid rice, wheat, corn, string beans, peas, dals (soups made from dried beans), and spices that have been mixed with flour, like asafetida.

Although Ekadasi is not difficult to follow, the results, materially and spiritually, are most beneficial. For one thing, this kind of fasting is good for your health, and it saves food too. (If Ekadasi were generally observed, tons of food could be saved for people who really need it.) Besides that, this simple austerity helps us become religious. The Brahma-vaivarta Purana, one of the oldest scriptures known to man, states, "One who observes Ekadasi is freed from all kinds of reactions to sinful activities and advances in pious life." On the other hand, even if you're a world-famous politician or a top-ranking comedian, if you sacrifice eating simply for material reasons your sacrifices are denigrated by Lord Krsna: "Sacrifices performed without faith in the Supreme are nonpermanent. They are useless both in this life and the next" (Bg. 17.28). end

Now obviously the whole world had sympathy with Gandhi's fasting to make the British leave India and it may have saved life instead of a military confrontation so credit is certainly to be given to Gandhi for helping free Bharat Varsa from the british rule. And all sadhus certainly have blessed Gandhiji in this noble attempt .

So one may ask then why would Srila Prabhupada find faults in Gandhis fasting, the reason being is that fasting should be done only for glorifying Krsna and his Avataras and pure devotees on the appearances of these great personalities

from Hayagivas, Hare Krsna explosion we find this memory of Srila Prabhupada:

"Today we will fast," Swamiji tells us. "Normally we do not fast all day. Krishna consciousness is not for one who eats too much or too little. Gandhi fasted many days for political reasons, but we don't. In Bhagavad-gita, that kind of fasting is considered rajasic, or passionate. We fast according to regulations: Ekadasi, the eleventh day of the full moon, we take no grains. That is a partial fast. And Janmastami, there is complete fast all day until midnight. So today we will fast and chant, and tomorrow there will be initiation."

Satyagraha-fasting for political purposes performed by Mahatma Gandhi is not accepted by devotees of the Lord.

However Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhupada did not give the change of political leadership so much importance and told our Srila Prabhupada that KC cannot wait for a change in political leadership.

Obviously Sri Krsna told Arjuna to use violence to fight irreligion, but obviously the Mahabharat is full of violence so Gandhi is obviously wrong on this issue of non violence in the Gita.

Non violence is always better than violence, but to state that if Krsna tells Arjuna to to use violence against irreligious people then "I don't accept the Gita" is a statement that must be challenged, and Srila Prabhupada did just that.

The verse...

antavanta ime deha
nityasyokta¨ saririna¨
anasino 'prameyasya
tasmad yudhyasva bharata
[Bg. 2.18]

Yuddha, fighting, Arjuna was k˝atriya. It is his duty. Because here, in this material world, violence is also required. Violence. Because everyone is competitor, everyone is trying to become the Supreme, so there will be violence. Just like in your state, at the present moment, there is violence because one party is trying to become Supreme than the other. That is going on everywhere, all over the world, the struggle for existence. Everyone is trying to become supreme than the other. So there must be violence. So expecting that there will be violence, the k˝atriya class required. Just like in the state, expecting that there will be violence, therefore the police department is maintained, the military department is maintained. So you cannot avoid violence from this material world. It is useless proposal. Our Mahatma Gandhi tried to stop violence. He started the nonviolence movement, but factually he had to die by violence. So k˝atriya, they are trained up violent to become violent to stop violence. That is required. Therefore Krsna advises that "Don't try to become nonviolent because..." Tasmad yudhyasva bharata. "Don't think that by killing the body, your grandfather, or your nephews and your brother on the other side, they will be finished. No. They'll live. The body may be destroyed." Na hanyate hanyamane sarire [Bg. 2.20]. But actual soul, he'll transmigrate.

Srila Prabhupada knew Gandhi was in danger and as kind well-wisher wrote him a letter.

Letter to: Mahatma Gandhi

Cawnpore
12 July, 1947
47-07-12
Mahatma Gandhijee
Bhangi Colony
New Delhi.

Dear Friend Mahatmajee,
Please accept my respectful Namaskar. I am your unknown friend but I had to write to you at times and again although you never cared to reply them. I sent you my papers "Back to Godhead" but your secretaries told me that you have very little time to read the letters and much less for reading the magazines. I asked for an interview with you but your busy secretaries never cared to reply this. Anyway as I am your very old friend although unknown to you I am again writing to you in order to bring you to the rightful position deserved by you. As a sincere friend I must not deviate from my duty towards a friend like your good self.

I tell you as a sincere friend that you must immediately retire from active politics if you do not desire to die an inglorious death. You have 125 years to live as you have desired to live but you if you die an inglorious death it is no worth. The honour and prestige that you have obtained during the course of you present life time, were not possible to be obtained by any one else within the living memory. But you must know that all these honours and prestiges were false in as much as they were created by the Illusory Energy of Godhead called the maya. By this falsity I do not mean to say that your so many friends were false to you nor you were false to them. By this falsity I mean illusion or in other words the false friendship and honours obtained thereby were but creation of maya and therefore they are always temporary or false as you may call it. But none of you neither your friends nor yourself knew this truth.

Now by the Grace of God that illusion is going to be cleared and thus your faithful friends like Acarya Kripalini and others are accusing you for your inability at the present moment to give them any practical programme of work as you happened to give them during your glorious days of non-co-operation movement. So you are also in a plight to find out a proper solution for the present political tangle created by your opponents. You should therefore take a note of warning from your insignificant friend like me, that unless you retire timely from politics and engage yourself cent per cent in the preaching work of Bhagavad-gita, which is the real function of the Mahatmas, you shall have to meet with such inglorious deaths as Mussolini, Hitlers, Tojos, Churchills or Lloyd Georges met with.

You can very easily understand as to how some of your political enemies in the garb of friends (both Indian and English) have deliberately cheated you and have broken your heart by doing the same mischief for which you have struggled so hard for so many years. You wanted chiefly Hindu-Moslem unity in India and they have tactfully managed to undo your work, by creation of the Pakistan and India separately. You wanted freedom for India but they have given permanent dependence of India. You wanted to do something for the upliftment of the position of the bhangis but they are still rotting as bhangis even though you are living in the bhangi colony. They are all therefore illusions and when these things will be presented to you as they are, you must consider them as God-sent. God has favored you by dissipating the illusion you were hovering in, and by the same illusion you were, nursing those ideas as Truth(?).

You must know that you are in the relative world which is called by the sages as Dvaita i.e. dual- and nothing is absolute here. Your Ahimsa is always followed by Himsa as the light is followed by darkness or the father is followed by the son. Nothing is absolute truth in this dual world. You did not know this neither you ever cared to know this from the right sources and therefore all your attempts to create unity were followed by disunity and Ahimsa. Ahimsa was followed by Himsa.

But it is better late than never. You must know now something about the Absolute Truth. The Truth with which you have been experimenting so long is relative. The relative truths are creations of the daivi maya qualified by the three modes of Nature. They are all insurmountable as is explained in the Bhagavad-gita ( 7.14). The Absolute Truth is the Absolute Godhead. In the Katha Upanisad it is ordered that one must approach the bona fide Guru who is not only well versed in all the scriptures of the world but is also the realized soul in Brahman the Absolute-in order to learn the science of Absolute Truth. So also it is instructed in the Bhagavad-gita as follows:-

tad viddhi pranipatena
pariprasnena sevaya
upadeksyanti tad jnanam
jnaninas tattvadarsinah
(Bg. 4.34)

But I know that you never underwent such transcendental training except some severe penances which you invented for your purpose as you have invented so many things in the course of experimenting with the relative truths. You might have easily avoided them if you had approached the Guru as abovementioned. But your sincere efforts to attain some Godly qualities by austerities etc surely have raised you to some higher position which you can better utilize for the purpose of the Absolute Truth. If you, however, remain satisfied with such temporary position only and do not try to know the Absolute Truth, then surely you are to fall down from the artificially exalted position under the laws of Nature. But if you really want to approach the Absolute Truth and want to do some real good to the people in general all over the world, which shall include your ideas of unity, peace and non-violence, then you must give up the rotten politics immediately and rise up for the preaching work of the philosophy and religion of "Bhagavad-gita'' without offering unnecessary and dogmatic interpretations on them. I had occasionally discussed this subject in my paper "Back to Godhead'' and a leaf from the same is enclosed herewith for your reference. I would only request you to retire from politics at least for a month only and let us have discussion on the Bhagavad-gita. I am sure, thereby, that you shall get a new light from the result of such discussions not only for your benefit but for the benefit of the world at large-as I know that you are sincere, honest and moralist.

Awaiting your early reply with interest.
Yours sincerely,
Abhay Charan De.

from lecture in Bombay April 16, 1974
This Krsna consciousness movement, before starting, I wrote one letter to Mahatma Gandhi: "Mahatma Gandhi, you have got position. People accept you as a very pious man. Now you have got your sva-rajya, and you are very fond of Bhagavad-gita. Let us preach Bhagavad-gita." I wrote this letter. Unfortunately, a few days after, he was killed. So this is the position. All big, big leaders, they do not want to take relief from this sense gratification business.

December 17 1973 Los Angeles

Prabhupada: Yes. This was the system, that one must retire. Just like at the present moment, although people are asking the president that "You retire, you resign," he is not resigning, obstinate. Because he knows, "This is the first and last chance. I am not going to be elected again. So stick to the post and take as much money as possible." That's all. But formerly, they voluntarily retired, the kings. In India also, we have seen. So many big, big politicians, they could not give up their political job. Even Gandhi. I wrote a personal letter to Gandhi that "Mahatma Gandhi, you are recognized all over the world as a very pious man, and you are supposed to be very devotee of Bhagavad-gita. Now you have got your independence. You fought for independence. Now you have got your independence. So I request you to take the teachings of Bhagavad-gita to preach all over the world." That was my request. Because I was thinking of preaching this Bhagavad-gita. So I thought that "Gandhi's position is better. If he takes up this job, preaching of Bhagavad-gita, many people will give attention. Yad yad acarati sre˝÷ha¨ [Bg. 3.21]. He is a recognized good man, so people will follow." But he did not do so. He stuck up to the politics. And unless he was killed by another opponent party, he did not give it up. Similarly, I have seen other politicians also, Jawaharlal Nehru, Panth,(?) they would not give up. Panth(?) was so weak, I have seen. He could not stand even. He was doing like this, always. Still he would not give up. Similarly, Jawaharlal Nehru, he was paralyzed. Unless he was dead, he could not give up. So this is not Vedic civilization. Vedic civilization is that at a certain age, you must retire. Never mind. The age is divided into four parts: brahmacari, gňhastha, vanaprastha, and sannyasa. Brahmana, k˝atriya, vaisya, sŘdra. So Vedic civilization means varnasrama-dharma, accepting the institution of four varnas and four asramas. Social and spiritual order. For social order there must be brahmana, k˝atriya, vaisya, sŘdra, and for spiritual order, there must be brahmacari, gňhastha, vanaprastha, and sannyasa. This is the system. So unless you accept this institution of varnasrama-dharma, you are not considered as civilized man, arya, aryan. aryan means who are making progress under the institution of varnasrama-dharma. That progress means to approach the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is the goal. But people do not know that. Not only now; formerly also. Na te vidu¨ svartha-gatiÓ hi vi˝num [SB 7.5.31]. They do not know what is their ultimate goal of self-interest. Why Maharaja Yudhi˝÷hira is taking, retiring, from the...? That is not... To become king is not the ultimate goal of life. No. He has got another ultimate goal of life. He remained as a king as a matter of duty. Just like you work in some office or as a professional man. You work as a lawyer. You work as an engineer. You work as a medical man. That you can do, because you have to do something to live, livelihood. It doesn't matter. But to become an engineer or to become a scientist or become a medical man or a lawyer, that is not my ultimate goal of life. That is needed to maintain the body and soul together, but that is not ultimate goal of life. For that purpose, you may be what you are, but you must retire....:

february 1971 Gorakpur

Guest: I also read Gita. What's the difference? I mean, Mahatma Gandhi... Prabhupada: He never surrendered to Krsna. I wrote him letter. "Mahatma Gandhi, you have got so much influence. You just preach the gospel of Krsna, Bhagavad-gita. Now we have attained svaraj. You don't be in politics." But he was still in politics after attainment of svaraj. And his assistants became disgusted because he was interfering, and therefore he was killed. And that is open secret. If he would have surrendered to Krsna, "All right. Now I have worked for svaraj. My people have got svaraj. Now let me work for Krsna,"... He never did that. You cannot say that he surrendered to Krsna. He should have taken immediately sannyasa and preached Bhagavad-gita if he was actually surrendered to Krsna. What did he do for Krsna? We have to know from practical point of view. I'll tell you another story about Mahatma Gandhi. My Guru Maharaja invited him in our ma÷ha, Mahatma Gandhi. So Mahatma Gandhi inquired... The, my godbrothers went to invite him. "What you are doing in your matha?" They replied that "We are worshiping Lord Krsna." So he inquired, "Are you pulling on charka?" They said, "No sir," He said, "Charka is my God. If there is no charka, I am not going there." He said like that.

Devotee: What is charka?

Prabhupada: Yes, spinning. Because he was spinning daily. Just like you are chanting sixteen rounds, he was spinning sixteen rounds. (laughter) And he said frankly, "Are you spinning charka?" They said, "No sir." "Oh, then I am not going there. My god is charka." That is practical. We have got experience. And actually he was refusing. Just like we are insisting, "You must chant Hare Krsna mantra sixteen rounds," he was... There were so many charkas daily selling. People took it very seriously. We also took charka and that, what is called?

Devotee: Handloom.

Prabhupada: Handloom. And there was very good business. So many charkas and that handloom was sold in the shops because everyone was purchasing and purchasing. And they were stacked and thrown away some time after. So... Because Mahatma Gandhi asked, everyone did. You see? So he also asked our ma÷ha people that "Are you spinning a charka?" They said, "No, sir." "Then I am not going." He refused the invitation. Does it mean he surrendered to Krsna? He surrendered to charka. That's all. (laughter) And if you say, "Charka is also Krsna," oh, there will be no more argument. (laughter)

London september 12 1969

Then he was forced to retire. When Gandhi attained independence, I requested him in a letter, "Mahatma Gandhi, now you started your struggle with the Britishers, that they should go and Indians should have their independence. Now you have attained independence and Britishers have gone. Now you preach Bhagavad-gita. You have got some influence. You are known throughout the whole world a very great saintly person, and you also pose yourself that you are a great scholar of Bhagavad-gita. Why don't you take up Bhagavad-gita and preach?" There was no reply. And he was still meddling with politics, so much so that his own assistants became disgusted. And it is said that he was planned to be killed. Just see how much intoxication of this materialistic way of life. He was considered a mahatma, a great personality, and he got his svarajya. The Britishers left India. Still, he would not give up politics. Still, he would stick-unless he was forced to give up, he was killed. Similarly, Jawaharlal Nehru also. Nobody would retire voluntarily-unless he is killed by somebody or he is killed by the laws of material nature. This is the disease. He cannot give it up. Daivi hy e˝a gunamayi mama maya duratyaya [Bg. 7.14]. The maya is so strong that even an old man advertising to be very pious man, he cannot give up politics. Because maya is so strong, he's thinking, "If I leave political field, my countrymen will suffer, and so many disaster will happen." He's thinking like that.

But actually, things will go on. Many politicians came and gone. In your country there were many, many great politicians; they came and gone. But your country people are still living and they are going on. In Germany also, many Hitlers came and gone. Similarly, in India also many Gandhis came and gone. But things are going on. This is explained in the Bhagavad-gita:

prakňte¨ kriyamanani
gunai¨ karmani sarvasa¨
ahaýkara-vimزhatma
kartaham iti manyate
[Bg. 3.27]

S.F. feb 15 1967
"My dear Sa´jaya, my sons, mamaka¨, my sons and Pan˛ava, the sons of my younger brother, Pan˛u, they assembled in the battlefield which is also a pilgrimage. Then what did they do?" This is the simple... But the nonsense rascals, they are eschewing some meaning, "Oh, kuru-k˝etra means 'body,' and dharma-k˝etra means this and this... Pan˛ava means 'the five senses.' " So many nonsensical... Even Gandhi has done this. What Gandhi? Gandhi's nothing. You see? So they are, these rascals are doing and misleading persons. I've recently written one written to Dr. Radhakrishnan that "You are going to retire. Now join this Krsna conscious movement. You have written your Bhagavad-gita, and you don't believe Krsna as Supreme Lord, God. Therefore by reading your Bhagavad-gita people have become godless. So you better rectify your mistake. Now join this." I've written state letter to Dr. Radhakrishnan. "So if you want to, I mean to say, compensate the greatest sin you have committed in your Bhagavad-gita, then you join this Krsna conscious movement and rectify yourself." "Not to Krsna."

I hope this is of some help in understanding Gandhi and Srila Prabhupada in perspective