Vice Chancellor's speech 2nd October 2009
According to Mahatma Gandhi fearlessness is the first requisite of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral. Where there is fear there is no religion. Every reader of the Gita is aware that fearlessness heads the list of the Divine Attributes fearlessness richly deserves the first rank assigned to it in ‘GITA’, we all know a saying if Dhairya Lakshmi leaves all other Lakshmis leave.
Fearlessness is essential for the growth of the other noble qualities. How can one seek truth or cherish Love without fearlessness? ‘The Path of truth is the path of the brave, not of cowards.’ Brave are those armed with fearlessness, not with the sword, the rifle or other carnal weapons, which are affected only by cowards.
Fearlessness means freedom from all external fear – fear of disease, death, of dispossession, of losing one’s nearest and dearest, of losing reputation or giving offence, and so on. Perfect fearlessness can be attained only by those who have feet, all fears will roll away like mists; we shall attain ineffable peace and see Satya – Narayan (the God of Truth) face to face.
Let us fear God and we shall cease to fear man. If one gives way to fear, even truth will have to be suppressed. The golden rule is to act fearlessly upon what one believes to be right.
Fearlessness does not mean arrogance or aggressiveness. That in itself is a sign of fear. Fearlessness presupposes calmness and peace of mind. For that it is necessary to have a living faith in God. Fear is a thing which I dislike. Why should one man be afraid of another man? Man should stand in fear of God alone, and then he can shed all other fears.
Each individual must be taught the art of self-defence. It is more a mental state that has to be inculcated than that our bodies should be trained for retaliation. Our mental training has been one of feeling helpless. Bravery is not a quality of the body, it is the soul. I have seen cowards encased in tough muscle and rare courage in the frailest body… The weakest of us physically must be taught the art of facing dangers and giving a good account of ourselves.
We stand on the threshold of twilight-whether morning or evening twilight we know not. One is followed by the night, the other heralds the dawn. If we want to see the dawning day after the twilight and not the mournful night, it behoves everyone of us… to realize the truth at this juncture, to stand for it against any odds and to preach and practice it, at any cost, unflinchingly.
We have chosen for our march towards freedom the ancient path of truth and non-violence, and we must let God’s covenant, which those who tread on the straight and narrow path shall never come to grief, inspire us with faith and hope.
In this country of self-suppression and timidity, almost bordering on cowardice, we cannot have too much bravery, too much self-sacrifice… I want… the greater bravery of the meek, the gentle and the nonviolent, the bravery that will mount the gallows without injuring, or harbouring any thought of injury to a single soul.
There is no bravery grater than a resolute refusal to bend the knee to an earthly power, no matter how great, and that, without bitterness of spirit and in the fullness of faith that the spirit alone lives, nothing else does.
We have two choices before us. We can become a great military power or, if we follow my way, we can become a great non-violent and invincible power. In either case the first condition is the shedding of all fear. It is faith that steers us through stormy seas, faith that moves mountains and faith that jumps across the ocean. That faith is nothing but a living, wide-awake consciousness of God within. He who has achieved that faith wants nothing. Bodily diseased, he is spiritually healthy; physically poor, he rolls in spiritual riches. Without faith this world would come to naught in a moment. True faith is appropriation of the reasoned experience of people whom we believe to have lived a life purified by prayer and penance. Belief, therefore, in prophets or incarnations who have lived in remote ages is not an idle superstition but a satisfaction of an inmost spiritual want. Faith is not a delicate flower, which would wither under the slightest stormy weather. Faith is like the Himalaya Mountains which cannot possibly change. No storm can possibly remove the Himalaya Mountains from their foundations. …And I want every one of you to cultivate that faith in God and religion.
Experience has humbled me enough to let me realize the specific limitations of reason. Just as matter misplaced becomes dirt, reason misused becomes lunacy. Rationalists are admirable beings, rationalism is a hideous monster when it claims for itself omnipotence. Attribution of omnipotence to reason is as bad a piece of idolatry as is worship of stock and stone believing it to be God. I plead not for the suppression of reason, but for a due recognition of that in us which sanctifies reason itself. To me it is as plain as a pikestaff that, where there is an appeal to reason pure and undefiled, there should be no appeal to authority however great it may be. There are subjects where Reason cannot take us far and we have to accept things on faith. Faith then does not contradict Reason but transcends it. Faith is a kind of sixth sense which works in cases which are without the purview of Reason.
Let me explain what I mean by religion. It is not the Hindu religion which I certainly prize above all other religions, but the religion which transcends Hinduism, which changes one’s very nature, which binds one indissolubly to the truth within and whichever purifies. It is the permanent element in human nature which counts no cost too great in order to find full expression and which leaves the soul utterly restless until it has found itself, known its Maker and appreciated the true correspondence between the Maker and itself.
By religion, I do not mean formal religion, or customary religion, but that religion which underlies all religions, which brings us face to face with our Maker. My religion has no geographical limits. If I have a living faith in it, it will transcend my love for India herself. Mine is not a religion of the prison-house. It has room for the least among God’s Creation. But it is proof against insolence, pride of race, religion or colour. There is undoubtedly a sense in which the statement is true when I say that I hold my religion dearer than my country and that, therefore, I am a Hindu first and nationalist after. I do not become on that score a less nationalist than the best of them. I simply thereby imply that the interests of my country are identical with those of my religion. Similarly when I say that I prize my own salvation above everything else, above the salvation of India, it does not mean that my personal salvation requires a sacrifice of India’s political or any other salvation. But it implies necessarily that the two go together. This is the maxim of life which I have accepted, namely, that no work done by any man, no matter how great he is, will really prosper unless he has religious backing. I have abundant faith in my cause and humanity. Indian humanity is no worse than any other; possibly it is better. Indeed, the cause presumes faith in human nature. Dark though the path appears, God will light it and guide my steps, if I have faith in His guidance and humility enough to acknowledge my helplessness without that infallible guidance. This may be considered to be quixotic, but it is my firm faith that he who undertakes to do something in the name of God, and in full faith in Him, even at the end of his days, does not work in vain; and I am sure that the work I have undertaken is not mine, but is God’s. That is dharma which is enjoined by the holy books, followed by the sages, interpreted by the learned and which appealed to the heart. The first three conditions must be fulfilled before the fourth comes into operation. Thus one has no right to follow the precepts of an ignorant man or a rascal even though they commend themselves to one. Rigorous observance of harmlessness, non-enmity and renunciation are the first requisites for a person to entitle him to lay down the law, i.e., dharma. I have a deep conviction that no religion can be sustained by brute force. On the contrary, those who take the sword always perish by the sword. Religions, like nations, are being weighed in the balance. That religion and that nation will be blotted out of the face of earth, which pins its faith to injustice, untruth or violence. With me moral includes spiritual. ….In my career as a reformer, I have regarded everything from the moral standpoint. Whether I am engaged in tackling a political question or a social or an economic one, the moral side of it always obtrudes itself and it pervades my whole attitude. There is no such thing as absolute morality for all times. But there is a relative morality, which is absolute enough for imperfect mortals that we are. Thus, it is absolutely immoral to drink spirituous liquors except as medicine, in medicinal doses and under medical advice. Similarly, it is absolutely wrong to see lustfully any woman other than one’s wife. Both these positions have been proved by cold reason. Counterarguments have always been advanced. They have been advanced against the very existence of God-the Sum of all that Is. Faith that transcends reason is our only Rock of Ages. …My faith has saved my and is still saving me from pitfalls. It has never betrayed me. It has never been known to betray anyone.
In reality there are as many religions as there are individuals. Religions are different roads converging upon the same point. What does it matter that we take different roads, so long as we reach the same goal? I do not share the belief that there can or will be on earth one religion. I am striving, therefore, to find a common factor and to induce mutual tolerance. The soul of religions is one, but it is encased in a multitude of forms. The latter will persist to the end of time. Wise men will ignore the outward crust and see the same soul living under a variety of crusts. I believe that all the great religions of the world are true more or less. I say ‘more or less’ because I believe that everything that the human hand touches, by reason of the very fact that human beings are imperfect, becomes imperfect. Perfection is the exclusive attribute of God and it is indescribable, untranslatable. I do believe that it is possible for every human being to become perfect even as God is perfect. It is necessary for us all to aspire after perfection, but when that blessed state is attained, it becomes indescribable, indefinable. And I therefore admit, in all humility, that even the Vedas, the Koran and the bible are imperfect word of God and, imperfect beings that we are, swayed to and fro by a multitude of passions, it is impossible for us even to understand this word of God in its fullness. I should love all the men-not only in India but in the world-belonging to the different faiths, to become better people by contact with one another, and if that happens, the world will be a much better place to live in than it is today. I plead for the broadest toleration, and I am working to that end. I ask people to examine every religion from the point of the religionists themselves. I do not expect the India of my dream to develop one religion, i.e., to be wholly Hindu, or wholly Christian, or wholly Mussalman, but I want it to be wholly tolerant, with its religions working side by side with one another. I came to the conclusion long ago, after prayerful search and study and discussion with as many people as I could meet, that all religions were true and also that all had some error in them, and that, whilst I hold by my own, I should hold others as dear as Hinduism, from which it logically follows that we should hold all as dear as our nearest kith and kin and that we should make no distinction between them.