Printed in the Back to Godhead Magazine, 1956
Leaving aside all his other activities in the political field, the four following principles, which Gandhi adopted sincerely in his mature old age, are in essence derived from the teachings of Bhagavad-gétä for practical application in the matter of social and spiritual upliftment of the present order of things. They are as follows:
1. Leaders and politicians may take lessons from the life of Mahätmä Gandhi, who was undoubtedly a great and busy politician, with respect to his daily evening prayer meeting and regular recitation of the text of Bhagavad-gétä. He followed this principle of life most faithfully, even up to the last moment of his lamented life. People in general, and the leaders in particular, may follow the footprints of Mahätmä Gandhi, if they at all want to do some good to their followers. Such regular habit of reciting the reading of the Bhagavad-gétä makes one able to get rid of the demoniac way of life and gradually rise up to the plane of pure devotional life of the gods. When such devotional life is enriched by recitation of Bhagavad-gétä, all the good qualities of the gods automatically overcome the reciter without any extraneous effort on his part. And a person, however qualified he maybe in the mundane sense of the term, if he is devoid of the principles of devotional life as above mentioned, he shall surely hover in the mental plane of uncertainty and, as such, will always fail to enter into the numinous existence of life. Those who have developed such noumenon existence of life, generally known as spiritual life, are called mahätmäs in the language of Bhagavad-gétä. The definition of real mahätmäs is given in the book.
[Note: Italics and Bold Letters and underlines of this section are those of the Author]
2. The temple entry movement of Mahätmä Gandhi is another attempt to deliver people in general from spiritual degradation, and by such movement, the mass of people can be saved from gliding down to the lowest status of demoniac life. Even when he was at Noakhali during the dark hours of the partition days, he never hesitated to reinstall the deities of Rädhä and Kåñëa, and by such examples, he had done immense good for the people in general. Leaders and politicians may take lessons from this particular incidence of his life. It may be said in this connection that there are thousands and thousands of Viñëu temples all over India. And these temples were originally meant for enlightening the mass of people in spiritual values so that they can live in peace and harmony with higher aim of life. At the present moment in most cases, these spiritual educational centers have been rendered into rendez-vous of demoniac dance for want of the culture of Bhagavad-gétä. They have become on the contrary, so many plague spots for preaching atheism and advancement of demoniac principles, for want of regular propagation of spiritual education under able leadership. The mission of Gétä-nagaré must have its aim amongst others, to rectify the anomalies that have entered into the life of these centers of spiritual education and regenerate them to the sense of spiritual education through the exemplary life of devotees that may be created from the practical life of the members of the Gétä-nagaré. The Bhagavad-gétä encourages us in such spiritual culture as follows:
yänti deva-vratä devän pitèn yänti pitå-vratäù
bhütäni yänti bhütejyä yänti mad-yäjino ’pi mäm
“Those who worship the demigods will take birth among the demigods; those who worship the ancestors go to the ancestors; those who worship ghosts and spirits will take
birth among such beings; and those who worship Me will live with Me.” [Bg. 9.25]
3. Mahätmä Gandhi started the Harijana movement in order to raise the status of the fallen people either by social injustice or otherwise. But such pious movement may not be restricted only amongst the Bhangis and Chamars who are proclaimed as such for their unclean habits or in some cases by social injustice, but such movement may be extended amongst those also who are passing in the society as brähmaëas and kñatriyas etc., but in practice their mentality is more degraded than the lowest of the Bhangis and Chamars. Harijana means the associate of God Himself. Chamars and Bhangis, or for that matter, people who are of the mentality of Chamars and Bhangis both in habit and dealings can never be promoted to the position of Harijanas unless and until such persons are helped to go up to the place of the Harijanas by the approved method of rules made by actual Harijanas such as Arjuna, Prahläda, Dhruva Mahäräja, Yämaräja, Bhéñma, Janaka, Närada, etc. There is no bar for any one to rise up to the position of Harijana, and this is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gétä:
mäà hi pärtha vyapäçritya ye ’pi syuù päpa-yonayaù
striyo vaiçyäs tathä çüdras te ’pi yänti paräà gatim
“O son of Påthä, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth—women, vaiçyas [merchants] and çüdras [workers]—can attain the supreme destination.” [Bg. 9.32]
4.Mahätmä Gandhi did not approve of the system of birthright castes as prevailing in India, and there is ample support for this movement of casteless society in the Bhagavad-gétä in its own way. Casteless society does not mean that there will be no section or subsection of social division. Without such division of social order no living society can be conceived but there may not be any such section or subsection simply for the matter of birthright accidence.
A brähmaëa’s son has the right to become a brähmaëa provided he has the rightful qualifications of a brähmaëa otherwise he cannot be placed in the exhaled position of a brähmaëa. That is the verdict of all revealed scriptures.
There are three modes of Nature working all over the world and they are called the mode of goodness, the mode of passion, and the mode of ignorance. Every man or every animal is under the influence of either of the above modes of nature. As such, it is wrong to calculate that the modes of Nature are working only within the boundaries of India. On the contrary the fact is that nature is working all over the universe and therefore in other parts of the world also. In the human society, undoubtedly, there are men of different modes of nature as above mentioned. Persons who are under the influence of modes of goodness, may be classified as brähmaëas, similarly those who are under the influence of the modes of passion may be called as the kñatriyas and so on as they are described in the approved çästras. The modes of ignorance as it goes down by degrees, produces men of such lower and lower qualities and they are designated as Yavanas, Mlecchas, Kirätas, Hüëas, Ändhras, Pulindas, Pulkaças, Aviras, Çumbhas, Khasadayas, etc., and there are four lakhs of men of different qualities all over the universe influenced by the above mentioned modes of nature. From the Gétä-nagaré this universal Truth must be propagated systematically, so that REAL HUMAN SOCIETY may be established for the benefit of all, dividing the categories of men according to natural modes of nature. Such social order on the basis of the Bhagavad-gétä all over the world may be called the institution of natural caste system or the casteless society. In that institution of natural caste system all divisions of men will be engaged in one transcendental business of spiritual community with equal status of life and with equal importance of co-operative value as much as the different parts of the one whole body have different functions only but qualitatively they are one and the same. In that institution of spiritual social order every one will have equal right to promote himself to the higher status of life without any malicious competition and as such education and culture will be open door for all concerned as much as the varsity [university] of all state is open for all with equal status of educational right. Casteless society will, of course, never allow to place on the same category of a high court judge and the laborer unless such society will have gone in to madness of culture. On the contrary by establishment of such casteless society as it is stated in the Bhagavad-gétä nobody will be grudging if any one is recognized as the qualified brähmaëa on the value of merit only and not on the basis of birthright claim. Such casteless society is reasonable and acceptable by one and all in the world.
C. ISKCON’s Four Movements
The first wave in ISKCON was introducing the holy name of the Lord through public chanting (Näma Saìkértana) and book distribution (BBT), the båhad-mådaìga (both referred to by Gandhi as Randhun Kértana Meeting and within ISKCON as the Saìkértana Movement).
The second wave was opening temples and installing Deities of Lord Kåñëa (Temple Entry or Temple Worship Movement) so all people, irrespective of caste or creed, could worship the Lord.
The third wave was training and educating people in general on the science of devotional service (within ISKCON this covers the scientific preaching wing [Bhaktivedanta Institute - BI], College Preaching [BYS, IYF], New Bhakta Programs, Congregational Development [Näma Hatta], various training and education through Educational Institutes such as VIHE, MIHE, Bhaktivedanta College, etc., thus qualifying individuals to become duly initiated devotees connected in Guru Paramparä and knowledgeable in the science of devotional service (referred to by Gandhi as the Harijana Movement and by Çréla Prabhupäda as the Spiritual Initiation Movement).
The fourth wave was introducing the practical concept of a classless society for both the social and spiritual upliftment of society, varëäçrama-dharma [Farm communities, Varëäçrama communities, Village Organization, and more recently Glovesco] referred to by Çréla Prabhupada as the Movement of Casteless Society.
Somehow this fourth wave has not been taken up sufficiently within our ISKCON society, nor has it been properly understood, although some sincere efforts are being made at different places around the world. With the advent of modernization and globalization, which are fuelled by the advancement of science and technology, the pillars of a God centered society, where land, cows and brähmaëas are protected and cared for, are being seriously shaken. Indeed, we are witnessing a rapid decay in the lives of individuals and society in general. There is thus a very urgent need to promote this fourth wave of varëäçrama-dharma with its four natural social and spiritual divisions. As stated by Çréla Prabhupäda himself, “without such division of social order no living society can be conceived” [Essay on Gétä-nagaré, Part I]. It should also be remembered that Çréla Prabhupäda referred to this fourth movement as fifty percent of his yet unfinished mission.
These four movements, or waves, all based on the teachings of the Bhagavad-gétä, are meant for the social and spiritual upliftment of mankind:
“Leaving aside all his (Gandhi’s) other activities in the political field, the four following principles which he adopted sincerely in his mature old age, are in essence derived from the teachings of the Bhagavad-gétä for practical application in the matter of social and spiritual upliftment of the present order of things.”
[Essay on Gétä-nagaré, Part I]
Unless we take all four movements or waves into consideration, we fall short from following the main instructions given to us by the great Äcäryas like Çréla Prabhupäda and his predecessors. The principles of both sanätana-dharma (in the matter of devotional service or bhakti) and that of varëäçrama-dharma (in the matter of four social and four spiritual divisions) are created by the Lord Himself: dharmaà tu säkñäd bhagavat-praëétam. [SB 6.3.19]. Being both standard and eternal, they cannot be neglected or rejected. If we do so, we go against the principles of dharma.