Reviewing ‘Mohandas K Gandhi Thoughts, Words and Deeds and His Inspiration: Bhagavad Gita’

By Annan Boodram

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Nov. 30, 2012: On Gandhi’s seventh birth anniversary, Albert Einstein stated: “Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, once observed: “Christ gave the goals, Gandhi gave us the tactics…he influenced my life in terms of action more than anybody…”

And President Barack Obama, on his 2010 visit to Indian pointed out: “…I may not be standing here today, as President of the USA, had it not been for Gandhi and the message he shared with America and the rest of the world.”

Indeed Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the Mahatma (Great Soul), has influenced the lives of teeming millions from all walks of life, in literally every nation under the sun. In fact, tons and tons of literature has been written about this man who embodied humility and simplicity but challenged and overcame the might of the British Empire which was still in its heydays.

Among those moved to put paper to pen is Guyanese born, Canadian lawyer, Ramnarine Sahadeo. His self-published book, entitled Mohandas K Gandhi Thoughts, Words and Deeds and His Inspiration: Bhagavad Gita, was released to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11 – the terrorist attack on World trade Center in New York City.

In a preface to the recently released second edition, the author writes: “The ultimate aim of this book can be summarized in Gandhi’s own words. While he was fasting almost to death and was asked ‘what do you want?’ his memorable reply was, ‘I want the fighting to stop’”. Embodied in this response is the concept of Ahimsa, loosely translated as non-violence, one of Gandhi’s lifelong tactic and practice. The other was truth, which underpinned Gandhi’s Satyagraha Movement.

The book begins with a synopsis of Gandhi’s life, followed by Gandhi’s translation of the Bhagavad Gita, of which the Mahatma stated, “When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and I see not one ray of hope on the horizon, I turn to Bhagavad-gita and find a verse to comfort me; and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow. Those who meditate on the Gita will derive fresh joy and new meanings from it every day.”

Gandhi’s deep and abiding love of the Gita, has led to questions about his sincerity regarding non-violence, especially given that Gita supposedly took place in a battlefield and that the main protagonist, Krishna, is urging Arjuna to fight a war. In Gandhi’s defense, he viewed the Gita as a metaphysical text embodying wisdom and the Mahabharat War as symbolic rather than literal; a battle between the forces of good and evil that rages on the breast of each human being throughout life. In contemporary times these perspectives of Gandhi have been gaining ground.

Of course, the Mahatma’s embrace of Adolph Hitler as a friend whom he admired has come in for quite a bit of flak, but what is little known is that in 1939 Gandhi wrote Hitler, appealing to him to not go to war. In the letter the Mahatma stated, “It is quite clear that you are today, the one person who can prevent a war which may reduce humanity to the savage state….will you listen to the appeal of one who has deliberately shunned the method of war, not without considerable success?”

The book also contains a number of appendices: Gandhi’s views on conversion; quotes about the Gita by famous personnel from both Indian and the western world; some of Swami Vivekenand’s speeches, including the very famous one to the World Parliament of Religions in 1893; Gandhi on Satyagraha, quotes from Gandhi; excerpts from the Bibl – the Sermon on the Mount; references to the Golden Rule from varied religions, cultures and civilizations and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. In effect this book is a reservoir of information and should be a must for everyone seeking to broaden his/her horizons or to be grounded in morality and righteousness, as well as for those who know little about the Mahatma or who have reservations and skepticisms. For to embrace individuals like Martin Luther King and Barack Obama, without knowing and understanding Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi would be an embrace without context.

Given the preponderance of material that exists on Gandhi one has to wonder what new can a Guyanese born Canadian bring to the table. Ramnarine Sahadeo responds that it is not so much about what is new but rather that “The passage of time has not made him or the eternal philosophy he espoused irrelevant and in many lands where the children of Bharat lives, including India, there is also the threat of relatively recent doctrine like Communism which ignores the historical development of non-western countries.”

Adding that, “violence is caused by people and it is they who can stop it by changing their values and approach to situations where there are alternative methods of resolving disputes,” Ramnarine is seeking to spread this message of Gandhi as widely as possibly by offering the book as a fundraiser for interested organizations and by hoping to get it translated into other languages.

Meanwhile interested persons can contact Sahadeo directly for the book at [email protected] or by calling 905 671 9233.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Annan Boodram is the founder of The Caribbean Voice newspaper.