|In Time of War - Visiting Gandhi|
Rather than an entry on politics and the war, a visit to the Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Memorial, and the "wall-less temple" erected in his honor. The memorial is a thousand-year-old stone sarcophagus from China, in which a portion of Gandhi's ashes are encased in a brass and silver coffer.
This is at the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine, 17190 Sunset Boulevard, Pacific Palisades, California, just up the hill from Pacific Coast Highway, at the edge of Malibu. It was established by Paramahansa Yogananda and opened on August 20, 1950 - a ten-acre site, with gardens and natural spring-fed lake, with swans, ducks, koi, and lotus flowers everywhere.
Gandhi's ashes had been sent to Yogananda by an old friend, Dr. V.M. Nawle, a publisher and journalist from Poona, India, who understood the bond between Yogananda and Gandhi. Following the dedication of the memorial, Dr. Nawle wrote - "Regarding Gandhi ashes, I may say that they are scattered and thrown in almost all the important rivers and seas, and nothing is given outside India except the remains which I have sent to you after a great ordeal .... You are the only one in the whole world who received Gandhi ashes outside India."
So here they are.
As we all know - Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948) was a major political and spiritual leader of the Indian independence movement. He was the pioneer of Satyagraha - resistance through mass civil disobedience strongly founded upon ahimsa (non-violence). Gandhi is commonly known and spoken of worldwide as Mahatma Gandhi (Hindi - Mahatma - Great Soul) and is sometimes called Bapu (in Gujarati, Father). Gandhi first tried out civil disobedience in the Indian struggle for civil rights in South Africa. When he returned to India, he helped lead poor farmers and laborers to protest oppressive taxation and widespread discrimination. Leading the Indian National Congress, Gandhi worked for the alleviation of poverty, the liberation of women, brotherhood, for the end to "untouchability" and caste discrimination and for the economic self-sufficiency of that nation. Also, Gandhi's work focused upon the goal of Swaraj - self-rule for India. Gandhi famously led Indians in the disobedience of the salt tax through the 400 kilometer (248 miles) Dandi March, and in an open call for the British to Quit India in 1942. That goal, freedom, came at a heavy cost - tens of thousands died in all of his movements as they clashed with the British.
Gandhi remained committed to non-violence even in the most extreme situations. Gandhi was a student of Hindu philosophy and lived simply, organizing an ashram that was self-sufficient in its needs. He made his own clothes and lived on a simple vegetarian diet. He used rigorous fasts for self-purification as well as a means of protest. All this was mainly done to raise the status of India's depressed classes and draw them into the freedom struggle. Gandhi is considered the "Father of the Nation in India." His birthday on October 2nd is celebrated each year with Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday.
Gandhi's teachings have inspired civil rights leaders - Martin Luther King, Steve Biko, Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi. And he said things like this -
- What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy? - "Non-Violence in Peace and War"
- Non-violence is not a cover for cowardice, but it is the supreme virtue of the brave. Exercise of non-violence requires far greater bravery than that of swordsmanship. Cowardice is wholly inconsistent with non-violence. Translation from swordsmanship to non-violence is possible and, at times, even an easy stage. Non-violence, therefore, presupposes ability to strike. It is a conscious deliberate restraint put upon one's desire for vengeance. But vengeance is any day superior to passive, effeminate and helpless submission. Forgiveness is higher still. Vengeance too is weakness. The desire for vengeance comes out of fear of harm, imaginary or real. A dog barks and bites when he fears. A man who fears no one on earth would consider it too troublesome even to summon up anger against one who is vainly trying to injure him. The sun does not wreak vengeance upon little children who throw dust at him. They only harm themselves in the act.
- What kind of victory is it when someone is left defeated?
It was worth a visit.