Gandhi on Theosophy and the Civilization of Tomorrow

Common be your prayer;
Common be your goal;
Common be your purpose;
Common be your deliberation.

Common be your wishes,
Your hearts in concord,
Your intentions in concord,
Perfect be the union amongst you.
Rig Veda1


Let me begin this evening by honoring the ancient and noble practice of saluting those who have made this talk possible. I have drawn inspiration for Gandhi’s connection with Theosophy principally from Gandhi’s own writings and from Louis Fischer’s sparkling and insightful biography, The Life of Mahatma Gandhi. I have also immensely benefitted from the brilliant and profound elucidation of Gandhian thought by Raghavan Iyer in his book, The Moral and Political Thought of Mahatma Gandhi. Lastly, I have drawn from a variety of contemporary sources for meaningful pointers toward the emerging global civilization of the future.  However, the richer, wider prospects and possibilities of the dawning Aquarian Age have been nurtured by many seminal articles penned by H.P. Blavatsky as well as by that most insightful of all books on the prospects of a “universal civilization”, Parapolitics: Toward the City of Man, also by Raghavan Iyer.

Before turning to the substance of my talk, I would like to add that it is especially a privilege to present this talk on the sacred soil of Aryavarta, on the very site which was consecrated by the dynamic presence of that great and compassionate initiate, H.P. Blavatsky. It was H.P. Blavatsky, as we know, who made Adyar holy as she dedicated it to the global Work of the spiritually wise and magnanimous Brotherhood of Bodhisattvas. And, to its immense credit, the Theosophical Society, Adyar has nobly weathered all the trials and tribulations of its past and might yet fulfill the prophetic declaration from The Great Master’s Letter that the Theosophical Society is to be the cornerstone of the religions of the future. Considering these profound facts, what more auspicious place to discuss Gandhi, Theosophy and global civilization than here in Adyar, at this gathering of students of Theosophia from across the globe.

About Gandhi

M.K. Gandhi was the most eminent social revolutionary of the Twentieth Century and perhaps one of the many paradigms of the Aquarian man and woman of the coming centuries. Gandhi, as we know, was an unusual individual. He was not only a courageous man of action but a deep thinker as well.

As an earnest thinker, Gandhi was principled, lucid and insightful.  As a karma yogin, his actions were purposeful and discriminating.  As a bhakti yogin, he was a lover of God and man and, most especially, a lover of God-in-man. Gandhi was honest to a fault, full of love for friends and strangers alike and was blessed with abundant good humor. With respect to the latter quality, Gandhi was once asked by a British journalist if he had felt scantily dressed when meeting King George at Buckingham Palace. After all, persisted the journalist, Gandhi had only worn a dhoti and a shawl. Gandhi smiled and retorted that he did not feel awkward at all since his majesty had on enough clothes for both of them. Gandhi could also take a joke at his own expense. Louis Fischer, his best biographer, visited Gandhi in 1942 and again in 1946. On his second visit, Gandhi humorously remarked that Fischer must find him as unhandsome now as he had four years ago. Fischer, with a twinkle in his eye, immediately said that he would never dare to disagree with a great man. Gandhi laughed loudly and walked arm and arm with Fischer to his simple dwelling in the ashram.

Beyond all these admirable traits there was a deeper quality in Gandhi that is often over-looked – his desire to heal.  Gandhi’s fervent wish as a young man was not to be a lawyer or a social reformer or a national leader. His heart’s wish was to be a doctor – a healer. However, he wasn’t allowed to study medicine because of the practice of vivisection. Nonetheless, his compassionate, healing impulse still found moments of spontaneous expression throughout his life. It led him to enter into forbidden areas of plague on at least two occasions in order to tend to the desperate and the dying. He also voluntarily took into his home lepers and people with various maladies. He formed an ambulance corps during two wars in South Africa and together with his ambulance crew risked his life to relieve the miseries of wounded soldiers on both sides of the battle. All in all, Gandhi’s supple mind was obedient to his compassionate, oceanic heart. The latter was, in fact, the source of his moral genius.

Gandhi and Theosophy

There was a golden current of Theosophical influence that continually sustained the spiritual arc of Gandhi’s life. That fertile current entered his life in November of 1889 at the age of twenty in London and continued as a vibrant, tempering influence until the very day of his assassination in 1948. The seminal “Theosophical moment” that occurred in London was when Gandhi met two Theosophists who re-introduced him to the Bhagavad Gita and, most significantly, took him to a meeting of the Blavatsky Lodge. There he met H.P. Blavatsky and Annie Besant. (He had, by the way, read Annie Besant’s book on why she became a Theosophist and he was very impressed by the reasons she gave for her conversion.) As a result of Gandhi’s personal encounter with H.P.B. as well as the encouragement of Theosophical friends, Gandhi studied The Key to Theosophy. Among other things, his study of the Key made him keenly aware of the philosophical richness and spiritual potency of Hinduism. It helped him to see through the many criticisms of Christian missionaries and eventually led him to declare that philosophical Hinduism was the religion that spoke to him the most deeply.

We are told more about young Gandhi and his first encounter with Theosophy from P. Nayyar, Gandhi’s personal secretary in his later years. Nayyar tells us in his biography on Gandhi that:

“He (Gandhi) read Mme. Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine, and on March 26, 1891, was enrolled as an associate member of the Blavatsky Lodge.”2

The cumulative effect of Gandhi’s fortuitous encounter with H.P. Blavatsky and his subsequent study of Theosophical teachings, is that it helped him to spiritually self-ignite; it kindled and fed what became an all-consuming fire of spiritual aspiration, an ardent search to experience God-consciousness.

Later, in South Africa, Gandhi continued his study of the Gita and of selected Theosophical writings. In his private library in Durban could be found the works of H.B. Blavatsky, Leo Tolstoy and other eminent writers on spiritual ideas. Gandhi also had a deep interest in Esoteric Christianity as well as in Raja Yoga. In addition, he contributed to the activities of the Theosophical Society of Southern Africa — Johannesburg Lodge.  While he apparently never became an official member of the Johannesburg Lodge, he did give a series of talks there on the major religions of India.

Gandhi’s personal association with Theosophists continued in India from 1915 until his death in 1948.  He interacted frequently with Theosophists in the pursuit of Indian Independence and often collaborated with Shri B. P. Wadia, an eminent Theosophist, an original co-worker of Annie Bessant and the founder of the first Labor Union in India. Furthermore, Gandhi freely acknowledged the historical fact that one of the co-founders of the Indian National Congress was a Theosophist. He later repeated his recognition of Theosophy’s seminal contribution to the Indian Independence Movement when he said:

“In the beginning, the top Indian National Congress leaders were Theosophists.” 3

In a wider sense, we might say that Gandhi implicitly embraced the “Three Objects” of the Theosophical Movement (but with specific reservations about the Third Object). As we know, the First Object of the Theosophical Movement is to form the nucleus of a universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color. Gandhi’s whole adult life could be seen as an attempt to embody the living spirit of this aim. It was the root inspiration of his fertile spiritual life and of his numerous “experiments with truth”.  Brotherhood was also the universal constant in his solution to the complex algebra of the religious communal issues that plagued India — and which the British government so cleverly exploited. As Indian independence neared in the late 1940s, and violent disagreements intensified between Muslim and Hindu Congressmen, Gandhi saw his hopes for a politically unified India wane. In an interview in June of 1946 with Louis Fischer, Gandhi lamented the patent smugness of many Hindus toward Muslim members of the Indian National Congress. He equally lamented the devolution of the Muslim belief in the brotherhood of man into the brotherhood of Muslims only. In light of this sad, dual realization, Gandhi made the following unequivocal declaration to Fischer:

“Theosophy is the teaching of Madame Blavatsky… Theosophy is the brotherhood of man.” 4

Gandhi was, in effect, making it clear that H.P. Blavatsky was the true teacher of Theosophy and that its essential message of brotherhood was what both Hindu and Muslim proponents were sorely lacking. In the end, the lack of brotherhood in the Indian National Congress led to the devastating division of a unified Aryavarta into the separate nation states of Pakistan and India.

The Second Object of the Theosophical Movement is to encourage the comparative study of ancient religions, philosophies and sciences. Gandhi was a Hindu – initially by birth but ultimately by choice. He was also an ardent student of the world’s major religions. Since he came to recognize that each religious tradition embodies a profound set of spiritual truths, he declared that “Truth alone is God.” This statement parallels the Theosophical motto taken from the Maharaja of Benares: “There is no religion higher than Truth.” It is not surprising then that since Truth alone is God, Gandhi believed fundamentally in the following:

“… (I believe in) the religion which transcends Hinduism, which changes one’s very nature, which binds one indissolubly to the truth within and which continually purifies.”5

This notion of an in-born “transcendent-religion” — rooted in Nature itself — was dialectically compatible with, and supportive of, a diversity of religious teachings. Like the full moon simultaneously mirrored in many different lakes, each authentic religious teaching reflects some portion of Absolute Truth. This calls for more than mere tolerance. It calls for an abiding reverence for the world’s multiple religious teachings and a willingness to search for underlying truths beneath constricting dogmas and rituals. It is not surprising then, that Gandhi admired the universal and universalizing spirit of Theosophy. This appreciation was aptly and simply expressed in his “Foreword” to the book, The Brotherhood of Religions, penned by the Theosophist Sophia Wadia. In Gandhi’s “Foreword” to that book, he says:

“And understanding of and respect for the great faiths of the world is the (very) foundation of true Theosophy.”6

In this respect, Gandhi also noted that true religion not only transcends all formal religions — including Hinduism — but also unifies them without destroying their fundamental, discrete integrity. This dialectical outlook is compatible with true Theosophia, is it not?

The Third Object of the modern Theosophical Movement is to investigate the hidden laws of Nature and the creative powers latent in man.  Gandhi recognized these subtler dimensions of Nature and humanity. To quote from his autobiography:

“…(W)e are children of one and the same Creator, and as such the divine powers within us are infinite.”7

To Gandhi, the highest creative faculty in man was pure thought and that faculty was regulated by the impersonal, subtle and multi-layered law of karma. His belief in the karma-generating power of thought sometimes created peculiar problems for him. Take, for example, his reaction to the Bihar earthquake of 1934. After the earthquake, Gandhi publicly commented that, in his view, the earthquake was caused by the sin of untouchability practiced by most caste Hindus. Well, as you might expect, many rationalists, scientists and friends were thunder-struck and dismayed by this statement. So was Gandhi’s close friend, Rabindranath Tagore. In fact, Tagore publicly chastised Gandhi and stated,

“… physical catastrophes have their inevitable and exclusive origin in certain combinations of physical facts.”8

Gandhi’s retort to Tagore and his critics alike was:

“To me, the earthquake was no caprice of God nor a result of the meeting of mere blind forces. We do not know all the laws of God (karma) nor their workings.”9

While Gandhi recognized the reality of occult powers, he felt that it was often an unhealthy diversion for mystics, Hindus and Theosophists to focus on hidden and as yet undeveloped psychic powers. Gandhi’s concern, as we know, echoes a serious point made in The Great Master’s Letter in which the aim of universal brotherhood is fervently upheld and the fascination with occult powers strongly criticized. As the Great Master unequivocally states:

“… perish rather the Theosophical Society with both its hapless Founders, than that we should permit it to become no better than an academy of magic, and a hall of Occultism!”10

In the last issue of Gandhi’s journal, “Harijan”, ironically published on the very day of his assassination (January 30th, 1948), Gandhi wrote the following:

“There are many admirable works in Theosophical literature which one may read with the greatest profit; but it appears to me that too much stress has been laid upon …intellectual studies, upon the development of occult powers, and that the central idea of Theosophy — the brotherhood of man and the moral growth of man — has been lost sight of.” 11

In the final analysis, Gandhi believed that the identity of all life with God and the derivative principle of brotherhood were the keys to the fullest possible life for all. This is certainly compatible with the presiding and moving spirit of Theosophia, Divine Wisdom.

But, a final word before turning to the global civilization of tomorrow. What about Gandhi’s “inner voice”? Like the Greek philosopher and revolutionary, Socrates, Gandhi seems to have had an “inner voice” which guided him at certain critical points in his life. Unlike Socrates, whose inner voice prevented him from doing a particular thing, Gandhi’s inner voice commanded him to do a particular thing. Gandhi claimed to have always followed the positive guidance he received. Now, how do we look at this? What framework of understanding do we adopt here? I think that it is perfectly reasonable to regard Gandhi’s inner voice as a higher Bodhisattvic influence. If so, that further places him within the vast, nourishing current of the Theosophical Movement, of the Army of the Voice.

Gandhi and the Global Civilization of Tomorrow

“East and West are no more than names. Human beings are the same everywhere. He who wants to will conduct himself with decency…. If we look into the future, is it not a heritage that we have to leave to posterity, that all the
different races commingle and produce a civilization that perhaps the world has not yet seen.”12

M.K. Gandhi

[The above quote from Gandhi could not only be true of India – which I revere – but true of my beloved America as well. It is my belief that America will in time grow into its noble vision and join hands across the “great divide” with Mother India. In so doing, they will bring together science and spirituality in such a unique way that it will give birth to a spiritual, intellectual and social renaissance that the world has yet to witness. However, I digress.]

Let us now turn toward the unchartered future, toward a possible global civilization of tomorrow.  In doing so, we will humbly embrace Rainer Rilke’s intriguing observation that, “The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.” In this sense, the “global civilization of tomorrow” is here now– in embryotic form.

Despite the confusion, greed and violence so apparent in our tilting “age of transition”, there are nonetheless subtle signs of a dawning Aquarian awareness.  The most significant one is the recognition that human and global interconnectedness is now undeniable: culturally, economically, ecologically, intellectually and in a thousand other ways we are bound together in a common destiny. No man, no woman, no country, no religion is “an island unto itself”. We are painfully inching our way toward a new kind of inclusive mentality, a new kind of global consciousness.

If this is true, then what role might Gandhi’s guiding principles, innovative reforms and communal experiments play in helping to bring about, if not a global civilization, then at least a multitude of “civilizing centers”; civilizing centers in which the initiative is on the side of inclusiveness, universality, generosity, cooperation and trusteeship rather than of on the side of suffocating tribalism, insatiable greed, self-destructive competition and cowardly coercion?

In answer to that question, let us first recognize that Gandhi has already left his indelible imprint on generations yet to come. Look at what took place on the world stage in the years and decades immediately after his death. First, there was the pivotal incident that took place in India, itself, on April 18, 1951 – almost 100 years to the day of the birth of that great Theosophist, William Quan Judge. On that day in 1951, Vinoba Bhave, (one of Gandhi’s truest disciples) began the revolutionary Bhoodan land reform movement. This reform movement – in my view — saved India from decades of violence and ideological conflict. This nation-altering movement originated in the following way. For some time, Bhave had been mulling over the problem of what to do about the millions of landless peasants in India. The antiquated and unjust Zamindari feudal system was suffocating the landless. Furthermore, and most significantly, the communists were fomenting violent revolution among the desperate peasants. There was chaos and mayhem throughout the major provinces of Telangana (then called Hyderabad State). To make matters worse, the new, national government of India was struggling with a host of problems and had not yet found a solution to dismantling the Zamindari system or for coping with fiery communist insurgents. Fortunately, Bhave stepped into the epicenter of this dangerous situation and appealed to the wealthy landowners to voluntarily redistribute a small percentage of their land to the starving poor. At first Bhave’s appeal fell on deaf, unsympathetic ears. But at the village of Pochampalli, a landlord spontaneously stood up and offered 100 acres of his land to be allocated to forty families in his village.  Bhave was delighted and intuitively saw this generous act as providential. This wealthy Zamindari had spontaneously brought together in his concrete gesture the Gandhian principles of trusteeship and non-coercive, social transformation. The Land gift Movement called Bhoodan had begun and would, in time, slowly spread across India.

A few months after the start of the Bhoodan Movement, Prime Minister Nehru stood before the Indian Parliament and made the following comment about Vinoba Bhave and his burgeoning land reform efforts:

“This frail man has just accomplished, solely by the force of non-violence, what all the military power of the (Indian) Government would be unable to do.”13

In the end, Bhave collected and re-distributed over four and one-half million acres of arable land to the landless. And, just as importantly, Bhave — and the gifts of the wealthy — halted a teeming communist revolution

Turning to Gandhi’s influence on America, we have the sterling example of Martin Luther King, Jr., the Christian exponent of non-violent social and racial reform. At a critical turning point in King’s early life, he was encouraged by a remarkable mentor to read the writings of Gandhi, which he did. It was only then, he admitted, that he understood that it was possible to take the Christian principle of unconditional love and apply it to the social, economic and racial problems of America. By the mid-1950s, King emerged as the leader of the American civil rights movement and was responsible for initiating economic boycotts and civil disobedience campaigns across the racist South.  His activities became a fundamental challenge to the conscience of America. During these creative and tumultuous times, King conceived a desire to travel to India. That wish finally came to fruition in 1959 when he made what he termed a “pilgrimage” to visit the land of his revolutionary mentor, Mahatma Gandhi.

King’s five-week pilgrimage to India had a profound influence on his understanding of nonviolent resistance and his commitment to America’s struggle for civil rights. During his stay in India, King met with Prime Minister Nehru, with the reformed communist and socialist leader, J.P. Narayan, with Vinoba Bhave and, most importantly, with hundreds of local Gandhians, social workers and untouchables across the sub-continent.

On his final evening in India, King made a moving radio address to the Indian people. In that eloquent address, he said:

“Since being in India, I am more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity. In a real sense, Mahatma Gandhi embodied in his life certain universal principles that are inherent in the moral structure of the universe, and these principles are as inescapable as the law of gravitation.” 14

King returned to America with a deeper understanding of the dynamics of non-violent resistance and a tremendous appreciation for the Indian peoples and their ancient culture. Four years later, on July 2nd, 1964, the United States Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act which legally ended racial discrimination across America. This act, and the collective sacrifice that inspired it, continues to sustain all concerted efforts toward American racial justice and equality.

Turning now to Gandhi’s influence on Europe, we have the non-violent revolution that took place in former Czechoslovakia in 1989. This revolution of the Czech masses was called the “Velvet Revolution”. It spontaneously began on November 17, 1989, exactly one hundred and fourteen years to the day of the founding of the Theosophical Society in New York City. It ended a mere six weeks later. The intrepid non-violent demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience by the oppressed Czech peoples resulted in the peaceful abdication of the ruling Communist Party and the establishment of a Parliamentary Czech Republic. Four years later, in January of 1993, Czechoslovakia separated into two independent countries: the Czech and Slovak Republics. It was a bloodless, non-violent act of political division called “the velvet divorce”. It was no less amazing than the non-violent overthrow of Communist rule four years earlier.

There is now world-wide recognition that non-violent, non-cooperation is a constructive form of social, political and economic protest to correct perceived injustices. In fact, non-violence has entered into our very social and political vocabulary. This global fact is Gandhi’s gift to our grandchildren’s, grandchildren.

But the world still has much to learn from Gandhi if it is to give birth to a “universal civilization”. The world’s seminal thinkers and dedicated revolutionaries have yet to understand the signal importance of Gandhi’s philosophical distinction between Absolute and relative Truth. Nor have many New Age thinkers and ecumenical devotees quite understood Gandhi’s rich conception of the sacred. Nor have social historians ever intuited the broader significance of Gandhi’s ashram experiments. Nevertheless, all three are critical to the human family if it is to pass through its current “dark night of the soul”, its nitya pralaya– the very painful, inevitable process of consciously “dying into a new life”.

As pointed out in The Moral and Political Thought of Mahatma Gandhi by Raghavan Iyer, Gandhi made a crucial distinction between Absolute and relative truth – a distinction which is the heartbeat of the First Fundamental principle of the Theosophical philosophy.  Gandhi noted that Absolute truth is ever beyond us while relative truth functions as our immediate guide through the labyrinth of daily life. Sadly, Gandhi recognized that the failure of sincere religionists, ideologues, reformers and rebels to clearly distinguish between Absolute and relative truth in their own minds and hearts had created many of the world’s tragedies. By unconsciously lending a narrow sense of self to our perceptions of truth we create intense attachments to them and a subsequent narrow – heartedness toward the beliefs and practices of others. So many activists, observed Gandhi, fall prey to the tenacious tendency to “absolutize the relative”, to take an idea, an insight or a revered truth and to treat it as final, as ultimate, as the only possible interpretation, as the only viable practical application. This mulish perversity spawns the world’s political and religious “isms” and increases violence and divisiveness.

It could well be, that out of collective pain, disillusionment and suffering the men and women of tomorrow will gradually learn to honor the Absolute in the relative by becoming humbler in the realm of self-assertion and claim-making. This sobering attitude will no doubt be aided by the progressive deglamorization of all political and religious power.

To Gandhi, the vivifying sacred gives birth to the pervasive feeling of “reverence” for the divine in all its marvelous manifestations: reverence for spiritual teachers, for knowledge, for sacrifice, for moral courage, and, of course, increasing reverence and respect for the bounty of Nature. In this sense, Gandhi saw that not only is God sacred, and Nature too, but humanity is likewise sacred. We, as human beings, are neither hopeless sinners, random cosmic accidents, bundles of instincts nor sophisticated machines. No, we are essentially god-like and worthy of admiration when we act up to our moral, intellectual and spiritual potential. Thus, in the not-so-distant future, the notion of the sacred will cease to be confined to conventional religions only, nor will it be limited to certain holy activities housed in enclosed spaces called temples, pagodas, churches, synagogues or mosques. Nor will the sacred be viewed as something forever somber or grim but as something joyous and elevating. On the whole, there will be such a pervasive feeling of the sanctity of life that men and women will learn to honor the hidden potency of the unblemished divine as it manifests itself in everyday life. The most mature individuals in the centuries ahead will inwardly salute the presence of the divine and the divinely human whenever and wherever they witness acts of authentic selflessness, of moral and spiritual courage, of spontaneous generosity and of voluntary renunciation.

Let us turn now to Gandhi’s ashram experiments. Amidst the complex political challenges in South Africa and later in India, Gandhi realized that it was necessary to initiate a new kind of ashram; namely a micro-community of committed individuals that deliberately brought together the spiritual and the social through the transfiguring power of vows. The spiritual aspect involved the taking of vows to honor certain eternal guiding principles: truth, non-violence, non-possessiveness, non-stealing and the like.  As a result of taking such vows, there was an active recognition and a place for diverse religions teachings within the ashram.  But Gandhi felt that spiritual vows and religious teachings are impotent unless they connect up with concrete social needs. Therefore, Gandhi and his ashram co-leaders agreed to radically reconfigure Indian society within the parameters of their own miniature community. Over many years, they organically evolved a communal structure which eliminated caste differences, purged it of untouchability, re-established the nobility of womanhood, honored the innate dignity of bread labor and integrated the head, the heart and the hand in the education of children and young adults alike.

In the end, Gandhi’s ashram experiments embodied a new kind of thinking, an original way of bringing together the seemingly separate worlds of religion and social reform by transforming both. His ashrams became the transformational levers that realigned God within man, the sacred within the social, the citizen within the political community. Members of Gandhi’s ashrams in South Africa and India sought not moksha or nirvana, but dharma, skill in rendering intelligent service to the larger society and to human kind as a whole.

Now, it is rarely brought to the public’s attention that there are at this moment thousands of eco-villages and intentional communities busily at work on every continent. These innovative communal experiments have become quiet centers of social, political, religious and even intellectual pioneering. They are visionary, knowledge based as well as value bound and are refreshingly unostentatious. They are to be found in inner cities, suburbs, the country side and villages. Their historical roots are many, but they are, in some sense, subtly indebted to Gandhi’s own bold ashram experiments of the last century.

All that we have discussed so far points to the fact that the global civilization of tomorrow will continue to call for a seismic shift in consciousness – an inner transformation sparked and supported by innovative social and political arrangements at the micro-level. As we have seen, this is already occurring in some fashion. But more is needed — especially at the psychological level. What is most needed in our own time, is not so much the yearning for a lost Golden Age or the determination to recover a paradise lost, but, more to the point, we need to recover a lost self-confidence – individually and collectively. We need to arouse a deeper confidence in the potential of man to rise from the hell of self-will into the heaven of cooperative fellowship.

How, then, do we ascend step-by-step toward a more courageous and unshakable confidence in ourselves, in others and in the uncircumscribed future? Gandhi’s solution is simple, seemingly paradoxical and very challenging. He says that the fundamental cure for lack of self-confidence is moral and spiritual courage. Most of us, he states, are not as morally weak, intellectually confused or as uncertain as we think we are.  Somewhere in our searching mind, we know what we ought to do. We know what is the decent thing to do. But we lack the courage or the verve to do it. In moments of quiet solitude, when we honestly scan our lives, we can clearly see that so many of our mistakes and tragedies could have been avoided with a little courage, a little daring, a little caring, a little self-honesty, a little detachment from ourselves. If this is true, then what we need to do is to arouse our moral and spiritual courage by making a Promethean resolve to reduce our personalities to a zero in specific moral situations. This unconditional resolve summons the heroic element in us and awakens our innate will to act rightly and honorably — without concern for consequences or for self-image. However, while this is the ideal, Gandhi was no romantic idealist nor a foolish optimist. He was, instead, an objective idealist. He understood that man and society are necessarily full of imperfections. It is part of the human condition that error, sin and injustice shadow all human activities. So, when our actions toward others fail to measure up to our ideals of truth and love, we must have the courage not to lie, to temporize or to rationalize our mistakes — either to ourselves or to others. We must correct ourselves before life does it for us. Fortunately, Gandhi became a master of self-correction in every aspect of his life –from the personal to the political.

On one occasion in South Africa, Gandhi and his wife, Kasturba, engaged in a heated argument over her doing scavenger work in the ashram. Eventually, Gandhi realized that he had lost his temper badly and was trying to force Kasturba to do something that was, as yet, completely unnatural to her. Gandhi felt badly and, over-coming his righteousness, said those magical words: “I was wrong.” He immediately followed this up with the potent mantram: “I apologize.” These acts of self-correction restored harmony between he and his noble companion and increased their mutual understanding and respect for each other.

Gandhi carried over the principle of self-correction into that most difficult of all realms of social encounter, the political. In 1919, Gandhi initiated a mass Satyagraha campaign throughout India in response to the British government’s oppressive Rowlatt Act. The British army responded to the non-violent Satyagraha campaign by brutally repressing protestors. Eventually, some protestors were unable to measure up to the high standards of non-violent action and turned to violence and mayhem. Gandhi soon realized his mistake and publicly declared that he had made a “Himalayan miscalculation”. He took personal responsibility for his error and called off the national campaign despite the heated disagreement of almost all his associates.

In both cases of deliberate and loving self-correction, we can see that Gandhi had the courage to set aside his ego. He was forced by the moral logic of his own vows to swallow his pride, his hurt feelings, his righteous anger, his high expectations, his deep disappointment and perhaps even his self-image. He consciously chose to follow the morally and psychologically demanding path of truth and non-violence. In doing so, he purified his consciousness and, paradoxically, increased his confidence in his own capacity to learn and to grow morally and spiritually. Clearly, the Gandhian template of selfless action and timely self-correction is vital if we wish to progress toward a better, more harmonious world.

Now it is important to note that self-renunciation is aided by two factors. What are those factors? According to Theosophy, Eastern philosophy and modern cutting-edge science, meditation together with the conscious cultivation of universal responsibility are the keys to positively transfiguring the mind. Meditation is ultimately about Self-gestation. It’s about calmly negating the subtle tyranny of the lesser self and gradually ascending the ladder of consciousness into the empyrean of the transcendent, all-compassionate One. Persistence in meditation and self-study help us to progressively “un-self” the mind such that it becomes natural for us to generate an expanding series of inclusive circles of responsibility for others –from one’s family to one’s community and, ultimately, to the family of humankind. In light of this, we can understand why Gandhi was said by many to “breathe compassion”. One of the self-confessed constants of Gandhi’s inner life was his daily meditation on the plight of the starving millions. This golden thread of life – long meditation was the heart-beat of Gandhi’s rich and fruitful quest for universal brotherhood and God-realization.

Broadly speaking, as a spacious sense of Self dawns upon human consciousness in the decades ahead, the king faculty of creative imagination will become a willing co-partner with impersonal reason. This happy alliance will make the personality of man more plastic, more capable of being self-shaped. If this is true, there will come about a change in the valence of the mind.  It will become more noetic, more suffused with luminous insights. In a word, the mind will become more multi-dimensional and capable of inhabiting diverse perspectives and entertaining opposing points of view. Furthermore, man’s empathic I.Q. will increase such that he will suffer and celebrate with others more easily. This new, hospitable mentality is what is really at the heart of “becoming more global”. In this sense, one can live in a village and be global or reside in a thriving metropolis and be parochial. It all depends on the quality of the individual’s state of consciousness or mental purity.

In summary then, we might say that within the intentional micro-communities of the future there could well take place the creative integration of the spiritual, the intellectual and the social. If so, this could give birth to what we might call the “magnanimous mind” — the dynamic fusion of the alpha intellect and the alpha heart. The magnanimous mind points to a sublime ethical intelligence. Its unfoldment would re-integrate our mental, moral and spiritual lives. It would be truthful and compassionate, morally upright and tolerant, rationally exacting yet flexible and intuitive. At its best, the magnanimous mind of tomorrow would be permeated with a felt sense of the sacred that expresses itself in boundless generosity and consummate grace. Such a spiritual mentality would evince a marvelous buddhic mobility. It would excel at shifting its focus from the theoretical to the practical, from the moral to the psychological, from prose to poetry, from the local to the global and back again. And, what is more, this new kind of mentality would be as much at home in the spacious unknown as it would be in the formulated known.

Because of the emergence of the magnanimous mind, the man and woman of the future will find it natural to be many things at once: a seeker of Truth, a mystic, a lover of science, a viable contributor to the moral uplift of society and a conscientious trustee of Nature’s resources. In essence, the man and woman of generations to come will, like Gandhi, learn to be spiritually independent, intellectually open and socially responsible. They will withdraw excessive allegiance to church and state, to sect and party, and, by holding firmly to universal principles, regenerate civil communities within a multi-layered global civilization.

Finally, the magnanimous mind, when nurtured within the numerous micro – communities of coming centuries, could well give birth to authentic “islands of brotherhood” that would grace the globe. Such iridescent centers of culture would summon to our rejuvenated earth jnanis from celestial spheres. These magus – Teachers would take birth once again and freely walk among men and women without fear of being “hunted as devils or worshipped as gods.” Such wise magicians of the heart would open wide the windows of perception so that the receptive and the distressed might equally catch a glimpse of the Divine.  They would reorient human consciousness toward a vibrant idealism and offer the alchemy of fresh hope to the ritualists, the materialists and the spiritually downtrodden. If such exalted sages, if such magnanimous teachers were to incarnate and restore some form of Rama Rajya on earth, then we could all join in chorus with sweet, innocent Miranda in Shakespeare’s Tempest when she joyously declares:

“O’ wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is.
O’ brave new world, that has such people in’t.”15



  1. As quoted in: The Jewel in the Lotus, Concord Grove Press, 1983, facing page.
  2. Mahatma Gandhi: The Early Phase”, Pyarelal Nayyar, Navjivan Trust, 1956, pg. 259.
  3. The Life of Mahatma Gandhi, Louis Fischer, Harper and Row, paperback edition, 1983, pg. 437.
  4. Ibid
  5. “Young India”, December 5, 1920, pg. 2
  6. The Brotherhood of Religions, Sophia Wadia, 1944, “Foreword”, pg. 3.
  7. The Story of My Experiments with Truth, M.K. Gandhi, Beacon Press, 1957, (6th printing), pg. 276.)
  8. The Mahatma and the Poet: Letters and Debates between Gandhi and Tagore, 1915 – 1941, National Book Trust, Sabyasachi Bhattacharya (editor), first edition, 1997; see review by Venu Govindu at website “India Together”, May 2003.
  9. Ibid
  10. Human Solidarity, “The Brotherhood of Humanity”, The Maha Chohan, Concord Grove Press, 1987, pg. 9.
  11. Harijan, January 30, 1948 as quoted on website “Gandhi Serve Foundation”.
  12. As quoted in: The Jewel in the Lotus, Concord Grove Press, 1983, pg. 533.
  13. Gandhi to Vinoba,: the New Pilgrimage, Lanza Del Vasto, Rider and Company, pg. 91.
  14. “The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Educational Institute”, Stanford University website, (transcript of an audio recording called “Farewell Statement for All India Radio”, March 9, 1959, New Delhi, India.)
  15. The Tempest, William Shakespeare, Act 5, Scene 1.