(Note: The Modern Review archives run from 1907, when it was founded by Ramananda Babu, to the 1960s. Since this volume was intended to commemorate Ramananda Chatterjee, we looked only at volumes published between 1907 to 1943, the year of his death, and included a few articles from the August 1947 issue as well. Patriots, Poets & Prisoners was published in 2016 and edited by two of Ramananda Chatterjee’s descendants, Devangshu Datta and Anikendra Sen, and me.
By bringing out this volume and sharing excerpts from Patriots, Poets & Prisoners on this blog, we hope to draw attention to the fact that much of India’s true, and often stirring, history lies in the archives of little magazines and turn-of-the-century journals. These periodicals, if curated and reissued, allow readers today to listen in to history as it was being made, with few filters between them and the leaders or brightest minds from the past. It is a heritage that belongs, properly, to the next generation of Indians, but it cannot be so easily claimed until it is brought out of our archives and libraries.)
[In 1925, The Modern Review carried this remarkable series of essays by Tagore on swaraj, and what he called the “cult of the charkha”. Mahatma Gandhi responded at length and with some anguish to Tagore in three articles that were published in Young India. We cannot carry his responses for copyright reasons. However, aside from The Modern Review and Young India, their debates were compiled by Sabyasachi Bhattacharya in The Mahatma and The Poet (NBT, 1997).]
The Cult of the Charkha
Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray has marked me with his censure in printer’s ink, for that I have been unable to display enthusiasm in the turning of the charkha.
But, because it is impossible for him to be pitiless to me even when awarding punishment, he has provided me with a companion in my ignominy in the illustrious person of Acharya Brajendra Nath Seal. That has taken away the pain of it and also given me fresh proof of the eternal human truth, that we are in agreement with some people and with some others we are not. It only proves that while creating man’s mind, God did not have for his model the spider mentality doomed to a perpetual conformity in its production of web and that it is an outrage upon human nature to force it through a mill and reduce it to some stardardised commodity of uniform size and shape and purpose.
When in my younger days I used to go boating on the river, the boatmen of Jagannath Ghat would swarm around, each pressing on me the service of his own particular vessel. My selection once made, however, there would be no further trouble; for, if the boats were many so were the passengers, and the places to go to were likewise various. But suppose one of the boats had been specially hall-marked, as the one and only sacred ferry by some dream emanating from the shrine of Tarakeswar, then indeed it would have been difficult to withstand the extortions of its touts, despite the inner conviction of the travellers that though the shore opposite may be one, its landing places are many and diversely situated.
Our shastras tell us that the divine shakti is many-sided so that a host of different factors operate in the work of creation. In death these merge into sameness; for chaos alone is uniform. God has given to man the same many-sided shakti for which reason die civilisation of his creation have their divine wealth of diversity. It is God’s purpose that in the societies of man the various should be strung together into a garland of
unity; while often the mortal providence of our public life, greedy for particular results, seeks to knead them all into a lump of uniformity. That is why we see in the concerns of this world so many identically liveried, machine-made workers, so many marionettes pulled by the same string, and on the other hand, where the human spirit has not been reduced to the coldness of collapse, we also see perpetual rebelliousness against this mechanical mortar pounded homogeneity.
If in any country we find no symptom of such rebellion, if we find its people submissively or contentedly prone on the dust, in dumb terror of some master’s bludgeon, or blind acceptance of some guru’s injunction, then indeed should we know that for such a country, in extremis, it is high time to mourn.
In our country, this ominous process of being levelled down into sameness has long been at work. Every individual of every caste has his function assigned to him, together with the obsession into which he has been hypnotised, that, since he is bound by some divine mandate, accepted by his first ancestor, it would be sinful for him to seek relief
therefrom. This imitation of the social scheme of ant-life makes very easy the performance of petty routine duties, but specially difficult the attainment of manhood’s estate. It imparts skill to the limbs of the man who is a bondsman, whose labour is drudgery; but it kills the mind of a man who is a doer, whose work is creation.
So in India, during long ages past, we have the spectacle of only a repetition of that which has gone before. In the process of this continuous grind India has acquired a distaste for very existence. In dread of the perpetuation of this same grind, through the eternal repetition of births, she is ready to intern all mental faculties in absolute inaction in order to cut at the root of Karma itself. For only too well has she realised, in the dreary round of her daily habit the terribleness of this everlasting recapitulation. Moreover, this dreariness is not the only loss sustained by those who have suffered themselves to be reduced to a machinelike existence; for they have also lost all power to combat aggression or exploitation. From age to age, they have been assaulted by the strong, defrauded by the cunning and deluded by the
Gurus to whom their conscience was surrendered. Such a state of abject passivity has become easy because of the teaching that through an immutable decree of providence, they have been set adrift on the sea of Time, upon the raft of monotonous living death, burdened with a vocation that makes no allowance for variation in human nature.
But whatever our shastras may or may not have said, this popular conception of the Creator’s doing is the very opposite of what he really did do to man at the moment of his creation. Instead of furnishing him with an automatically revolving grindstone–God slipped into his constitution that most lively sprightly thing called Mind. And
unless man can be made to get rid of this mind it will remain impossible to convert him into a machine. In so far as the men at the top succeeded in paralysing the people’s minds by fear–or greed or hypnotic texts, they succeeded in extorting–from one class of them, only textiles from their looms; from another class, only pots from their wheels; from a third, only oil from their mills. Now when from such persons as these it becomes necessary to demand the application of their mind to any big work on hand, they stand aghast, “Mind!” cry they, “What on earth is that? Why don’t you order us what to do and give some text for us to repeat from mouth to mouth and age to age?”
Our mind, in doing duty only as a hedge to prevent the encroachment of living ideas, had been kept evenly clipped short for the purpose. If, in spite of that, in this age of self-assertion, we find mischievous branches trying to make room for the disturbance of the spruceness of the trimming,–if all over minds refuse incessantly to reverberate some one set mantram, in the droning chirp of the cicadas of the night,– let no one be annoyed or alarmed; for only because of this does the attainment of Swaraj become thinkable!
That is why I am not ashamed,–though there is every reason to be afraid,–to admit that the depths of my mind have not been moved by the charkha agitation. This may be counted by many as sheer presumption on my part, they may even wax abusive; for swearing is a much needed relief for the feelings when even one stray fish happens to elude the all-embracing net. Still, I cannot help noticing that there are others who are in the same plight as myself,–though it is difficult to find them all out. For even where hands are reluctant to work the spindle, mouths are all the more busy spinning its praises.
I am strongly of opinion that all intense pressure of persuasion brought upon the crowd psychology is unhealthy for it. Some strong and wide-spread intoxication of belief among a vast number of men can suddenly produce a convenient uniformity of purpose, immense and powerful. It seems for the moment a miracle of a wholesale conversion; and a catastrophic phenomenon of this nature stuns our rational mind, raising high some hope of easy realisation which is very much like a boom in the business market. The amazingly immediate success is no Criterion of its reality,–the very dimension of its triumph having a dangerous effect of producing a sudden and universal eclipse of our judgment. Human nature has its elasticity; and in the name of urgency, it can be forced towards a particular direction far beyond its normal and wholesome limits. But the rebound is sure to follow, and the consequent disillusionment will leave behind it a desert track of demoralisation. We have had our experience of this in the tremendous exultation lately produced by the imaginary easy prospect of Hindu-Muslim unity. And therefore I am afraid of a blind faith on a very large scale in the charkha, in the country, which is so liable to succumb to the lure of short cuts when pointed out by a personality about whose moral earnestness they can have no doubt.
Anyhow what I say is this. If, today, poverty has come upon our country, we should know that the root cause is complexly ramified and it dwells within ourselves. For the whole country to fall upon only one of its external symptoms with the application of one and the same remedy will not serve to fight the demon away. If man had been a mindless image of stone, a defect in his features might have been cured with hammer and chisel; but when his shrunken features bespeak vital poverty, the cure must be constitutional, not formal; and repeated hammer strokes upon some one particular external point will only damage that same life still more.
In the days when our country had to bear the brunt of Mughal and Pathan–the little jerry-built edifices of Hindu sovereignty fell to pieces on every side. There was then no dearth of home-spun thread, but that did not serve to bind these into stability.
And, yet, in those days there was no economic antagonism between the people and their rulers. The throne of the latter was established on the soil of the country, so that the ripe fruits fell to the ground where the trees stood. Can it then be today–when we have not one or two kings–but a veritable flood of them sweeping away our life-stuffs across the seas away from our motherland, causing it to lose both its fruits and its fertility,–can it be, I say, that the lack of sufficient thread prevents our stemming this current? Is it not rather our lack of vitality, our lack of union?
Some will urge that though in the days of Mughal and Pathan we had not sovereign power, we had at least a sufficiency of food and clothing. When the river is not flowing, it may be possible to bank up little pools in its bed to hold water enough for our needs, conveniently at hand for each. But can such banks guarding our scanty economic resources for local use withstand the shocks which come upon it today from far and near? No longer will it be possible to hide ourselves away from commerce with the outside world. Moreover such isolation itself would be the greatest of deprivations for us. If, therefore, we cannot rouse the forces of our mind, in adequate strength to take our due part in this traffic of exchanging commodities, our grain will continue to be consumed by others, leaving only the chaff as our own portion. In Bengal we have a nursery rhyme which soothes the infant with the assurance that it will get the lollipop if only it twirls its hands. But is it a likely policy to reassure grown up people by telling them that they will get their swaraj,–that is to say, get rid of all poverty, in spite of their social habits that are a perpetual impediment and mental habits producing inertia of intellect and will,–by simply twirling away with their hands? No.
If we have to get rid of this poverty which is visible outside, it can only be done by rousing our inward forces of wisdom of fellowship and mutual trust which make for cooperation.
But, it may be argued, does not external work react on the mind? It does, only if it has its constant suggestions to our intellect, which is the master, and not merely its commands for our muscles, which are slaves. In this clerk-ridden-country, for instance, we all know that the routine of clerkship is not mentally stimulating. By doing the same thing day after day mechanical skill may be acquired; but the mind like a mill-turning bullock will be kept going round and round a narrow range of habit.
That is why, in every country man has looked down on work which involves this kind of mechanical repetition. Carlyle may have proclaimed the dignity of labour in his stentorian accents, but a still louder cry has gone up from humanity, age after age, testifying to its indignity. “The wise man sacrifices the half to avert a total loss”–so says our Sanskrit proverb. Rather than die of starvation, one can understand a man preferring to allow his mind to be killed. But it would be a cruel joke to try to console him by talking of the dignity of such sacrifice.
In fact, humanity has ever been beset with the grave problem, how to rescue the large majority of the people from being reduced to the stage of machines. It is my belief that all the civilisations, which have ceased to be, have come by their death when the mind of the majority got killed under some pressure by the minority; for the truest wealth of man is his mind. No amount of respect outwardly accorded, can save man from the inherent ingloriousness of labour divorced from mind. Only those who feel that they have become inwardly small can be belittled by others, and the numbers of the higher castes have ever dominated over those of the lower, not because they have any accidental advantage of power, but because the latter are themselves humbly conscious of their dwarfed humanity. If the cultivation of science by Europe has any moral significance, it is in its rescue of man from outrage by nature, not its use of man as a machine but its use of the machine to harness the forces of nature in man’s service. One thing is certain, that the all-embracing poverty which has overwhelmed our country cannot be removed by working with our hands to the neglect of science.
Nothing can be more undignified drudgery than that man’s knowing should stop dead and his doing go on for ever. It was a great day for man when he discovered the wheel. The facility of motion thus given to inert matter enabled it to bear much of man’s burden. This was but right, for Matter is the true shudra; while with his dual existence in body and mind, Man is adwija.
Man has to maintain both his inner and outer life. Whatever functions he cannot perform by material means are left as an additional burden on himself, bringing him to this extent down to the level of matter, and making him a shudra.Such shudras cannot obtain glory by being merely glorified in words.
Thus, whether in the shape of the spinning wheel, or the potter’s wheel or the wheel of a vehicle, the wheel has rescued innumerable men from the shudra’s estate and lightened their burdens. No wealth is greater than this lightening of man’s material burdens. This fact man has realised ever more and more, since the time when he turned his first wheel; for his wealth hasthereupon gone on compounding itself in ever-increasing rotation, refusing to be confined to the limited advantage of the original charkha.
Is there no permanent truth underlying these facts? One aspect of Vishnu’s shakti is the Padma, the beautiful lotus; another is the Chakra, the movable discus. The one is the complete ideal of perfection, the other is the process of movement, the ever active power seeking fulfillment. When man attained touch with this moving shakti of Vishnu, he was liberated from that inertia which is the origin of all poverty. All divine power is infinite. Man has not yet come to the end of the power of the revolving wheel.
So, if we are taught that in the pristine charkha we have exhausted all the means of spinning thread, we shall not gain the full favour of Vishnu. Neither will his spouse Lakshmi smile on us. When we forget that science is spreading the domain of Vishnu’s chakra, those who have honoured the Discus-Bearer to better purpose will spread their dominion over us. If we are wilfully blind to the grand vision of whirling forces, which science has revealed, the charkha will cease to have any message for us. The hum of the spinning wheel, which once carried us so long a distance on the path of wealth, will no longer talk to us of progress.
Some have protested that they never preached that only the turning of the charkha should be engaged in. But they have not spoken of any other necessary work. Only one means of attaining swaraj has been definitely ordered and the rest is a vast silence.
Does not such silence amount to a speech stronger than any uttered word? Is not the charkha thrust out against the background of this silence into undue prominence? Is it really so big as all that? Has it really the divinity which may enable it to appropriate the single-minded devotion of all die millions of India, despite their diversity of temperament and talent? Repeated efforts, even unto violence and bloodshed, have been made, all the world over, to bring mankind together on the basis of the common worship of a common Deity, but even these have not been successful. Neither has a common God been found, nor a common form of worship. Can it then be expected that, in the shrine of swaraj, the charkha goddess will attract to herself alone the offerings of every devotee? Surely such expectation amounts to a distrust of human nature, a disrespect for India’s people.
In my childhood, I had an up-country servant, called Gopee, who used to tell us how once he went to Puri on a pilgrimage, and was at a loss what fruit to offer to Jagannath, since any fruit so offered could not be eaten by him any more. After repeatedly going over the list of edible fruits known to him he suddenly bethought himself of the tomato (which had very little fascination for him) and the tomato it was which he offered, never having reason to repent of such clever abnegation. But to call upon man to make the easiest of offerings to the smallest of gods is the greatest of insults to his manhood. To ask all the millions of our people to spin the charkha is as bad as offering the tomato to Jagannath. I do hope and trust that there are not thirty-three crores of Gopees in India. When man receives the call of the great to make some sacrifice, he is indeed exalted; for then he comes to himself with a start of revelation,–to find that he too has been bearing his hidden resources of greatness.
Our country is the land of rites and ceremonials, so that we have more faith in worshipping the feet of the priest than the Divinity whom he serves. We cannot get rid of the conviction that we can safely cheat our inner self of its claims, if we can but bribe some outside agency. This reliance on outward help is a symptom of slavishness, for no habit can more easily destroy all reliance on self. Only to such a country can come the charkha as the emblem of her deliverance and the people dazed into obedience by some spacious temptation go on turning their charkha in the seclusion of their corners, dreaming all the while that the car of Swaraj of itself rolls onward in triumphal progress at every turn of their wheel.
And so it becomes necessary to restate afresh the old truth that the foundation of Swaraj cannot be based on any external conformity, but only on the internal union of hearts. If a great union is to be achieved, its field must be great likewise. But if out of the whole field of economic endeavour only one fractional portion be selected for special concentration thereon, then we may get home-spun thread, and even genuine khaddar, but we shall not have united, in the pursuit of one great complete purpose, the lives of our countrymen.
In India, it is not possible for every one to unite in the realm of religion. The attempt to unite on the political platform is of recent growth and will yet take long to permeate the masses. So that the religion of economics is where we should above all try to bring about this union of ours. It is certainly the largest field available to us; for here high and low, learned and ignorant, and all have their scope. If this field ceases to be one of warfare, if there we can prove, that not competition but cooperation is the real truth, then indeed we can reclaim from the hands of the Evil One an immense territory for the reign of peace and goodwill. It is important to remember, moreover, that this is the ground whereon our village communities had actually practised unity in the past. What if the thread of the old union has snapped? It may again be joined together, for such former practice has left in our character the potentiality of its renewal.
As is livelihood for the individual, so is politics for a particular people, –a field for the exercise of their business instincts of patriotism. All this time, just as business has implied antagonism so has politics been concerned with the self-interest of a pugnacious nationalism. The forging of arms and of false documents has been its main activity. The burden of competitive armaments has been increasing apace, with no end to it in sight, no peace for the world in prospect.
When it becomes clear to man that in the co-operation of nations lies the true interest of each,–for man is established in mutuality –then only can politics become a field for true endeavour. Then will the same means which the individual recognises as moral and therefore true, be also recognised as such by the nations. They will know that cheating, robbery and the exclusive pursuit of self-aggrandisement are as harmful for the purposes of this world as they are deemed to be for those of the next. It may be that the League of Nations will prove to be the first step in the process of this realisation.
Again, just as the present day politics is a manifestation of extreme individualism in nations, so is the process of gaining a livelihood an expression of the extreme selfishness of individuals. That is why man has descended to such depths of deceit and cruelty in his indiscriminate competition. And yet, since man is man, even in his business he ought to have cultivated his humanity rather than the powers of exploitation. In working for his livelihood he ought to have earned not only his daily bread but also his eternal truth.
When, years ago, I first became acquainted with the principles of cooperation in the field of business, one of the knots of a tangled problem, which had long perplexed my mind seemed to have been unravelled, I felt that the separateness of self-interest, which had so long contemptuously ignored the claims of the truth of man was at length to be replaced by a combination of common interests which would help to uphold that truth, proclaiming that poverty lay in the separation, and wealth in the union of man and man. For myself I had never believed that this original truth of man could find its limit in any region of his activity.
The cooperative principle tells us, in the field of man’s livelihood, that only when he arrives at his truth can he get rid of his poverty,–not by any external means. And the manhood of man is at length honoured by the enunciation of this principle.
Cooperation is an ideal, not a mere system, and therefore it can give rise to innumerable methods of its application. It leads us into no blind alley; for at every step it communes with our spirit. And so, it seemed to me, in its wake would come, not merely food, but the goddess of plenty herself, in whom all kinds of material food are established in an essential moral oneness.
It was while some of us were thinking of the ways and means of adopting this principle in our institution that I came across the book called The National Being written by that Irish idealist, A. E. who has a rare combination in himself of poetry and practical wisdom. There I could see a great concrete realisation of the co-operative living of my dreams. It became vividly clear to me what varied results could flow therefrom, how full the life of man could be made thereby. I could understand how great the concrete truth was in any plane of life, the truth that in separation is bondage, in union is liberation. It has been said in the Upanishad that Brahma is reason, Brahma is spirit but Anna also is Brahma, which means that food also represents an internal truth, and therefore through it we may arrive at a great realisation, if we travel along the true path.
I know there will be many to tax me with indicating a solution of great difficulty. To give concrete shape to the ideal of cooperation on so vast a scale will involve endless toil in experiment and failure, before at length it may become an accomplished fact.
No doubt it is difficult. Nothing great can be got cheap. We only cheat ourselves when we try to acquire things that are precious with a price that is inadequate. The problem of our poverty being complex, with its origin in our ignorance and unwisdom, in the inaptitude of our habits, the weakness of our character, it can only be effectively attacked by taking in hand our life as a whole and finding both internal and external remedies for the malady which afflicts it. How can there be an easy solution?
There are many who assert and some who believe that swaraj can be attained by the charkha; but I have yet to meet a person who has a clear idea of the process. That is why there is no discussion, but only quarreling over the question. If I state that it is not possible to repel foreign invaders armed with guns and cannons by the indigenous bow and arrow, there will I suppose be still some to contradict me asking, ‘Why not?’
It has already been said by some, “Would not the foreigners be drowned even if every one of our three hundred and thirty millions were only to spit at them?” While not denying the fearsomeness of such a flood, or the efficacy of such a suggestion, for throwing odium on foreign military science, the difficulty which my mind feels to be insuperable is that you can never get all these millions even to spit in unison. It is too simple for human beings. The same difficulty applies to the charkha solution.
The disappointments, the failures, the recommencements that Sir Horace Plunkett had to face when he set to work to apply the cooperative principle in the economic reconstruction of Ireland, are a matter of history. But though it takes time to start a fire, once alight it spreads rapidly. That is the way with truth as well. In whatever corner of the earth it may take root, the range of its seeds is worldwide, and everywhere they may find soil for growth and give of their fruit to each locality. Sir Horace Plunkett’s success was not confined to Ireland alone; he achieved also the possibility of success for India. If any true devotee of our motherland should be able to eradicate the poverty of only one of her villages, he will have given permanent wealth to the thirty three crores of his countrymen. Those who are wont to measure truth by its size get only an outside view and fail to realise that each seed, in its tiny vital spark, brings divine authority to conquer the whole world.
As I am writing this, a friend objects that even though I may be right in thinking that the charkha is not competent to bring us swaraj, or remove the whole of our poverty, why ignore such virtues as it admittedly possesses? Every farmer, every householder, has a great deal of leisure left over after his ordinary work is done; so that if everyone would utilise such spare time in productive work much could be done towards the alleviation of our poverty. Why not glorify the charkha as one of the instruments of such a desirable consummation? This reminds me of a similar proposition I have heard before. Most of our people throw away the water in which their rice is boiled. If everyone conserved this nutritious fluid that would go a long way to solve the food problem. I admit there is truth in this contention. The slight change of taste required for eating boiled rice with its water retained should not be very difficult to acquire, in view of the object sought to be gained. Many other similar savings could be effected which are doubtless worth the effort and should be looked upon as a duty. But has anyone ever suggested that the conservation of rice-water should be made a plank in the platform of swaraj work? And is there no good reason for the omission?
In order to make my point clear, let me take an instance from the case of religion. If a preacher should repeatedly and insistently urge that the drinking of water from any and every well is the cause of the degeneracy of our religion, then the chief objection to his teaching would be its tendency to debase the value of moral action as a factor in religion.
No doubt there is the chance of some well or other containing impure water; impure water destroys health; a diseased body begets a diseased mind; and therefore spiritual welfare is in danger. I am not concerned to dispute the truth in all this, yet I must repeat that to give undue value to the comparatively unimportant, lowers the value of the important.
And so we find that there are numbers of Hindus who would not hesitate even to kill a Mohamedan if he came to draw water from their own well. If the small be put on an equal footing with the big, it is not content to rest there, but needs must push its way higher up. That is how the injunction: “Thou shalt not drink dubious water” gets the better of the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill”.
There is no end to the perversions of value which have become habituated to their facile intrusion that no one is surprised to see the charkha stalk the land, with uplifted club, in the garb of swaraj itself. The charkha is doing harm because of the undue prominence, which it has thus usurped whereby it only adds fuel to the smouldering weakness that is eating into our vitals. Suppose some mighty voice should next proclaim that the rice water must not be suffered to enter our councils. Given requisite forcefulness that may lead to the flow of rice water being followed by the flow of human blood, in the sacred name of political purity. If the idea of the impurity of foreign textiles should effect a lodgement in our mind along with the numerous fixed ideas already there, in regard to the impurity of certain food and waters, the Id riots, to which we are accustomed, might pale before the sanguinary strife that may eventually be set ablaze between the so-called unclean lot who may use foreign cloth and those politically pure souls who do not. The danger to my mind is that the contagion of “untouchability”, which was hitherto confined to our society, may extend to the economic and political spheres as well.
Some one whispers to me that to combine in charkha spinning is cooperation itself. I beg to disagree. If all the higher caste people of the Hindu community combine in keeping their well water undefiled from use of the lower ones this practice in itself does not give it the dignity of Bacteriology. It is a particular action isolated from the comprehensive vision of this science. And therefore while we keep our wells reserved for the cleaner sect, we allow our ponds to get polluted, the ditches round our houses to harbour messengers of death. Those who intimately know Bengal also know that at the time of preparing a special kind of pickle our women take extra precaution in keeping themselves clean. In fact they go through a kind of ceremonial of ablution and other forms of purifications. For such extra care their pickle survives the ravage of time, while their villages are devastated by epidemics. For while there may remain some Pasteur’s law invisible at the depth of this pickle-making precaution, the diseased spleens in the neighbourhood make themselves only too evident by their magnitude. The universal application of Pasteur’s law in the production of pickle has some similarity to the application of the principle of a cooperation method of livelihood in turning the spinning wheel. It may produce enormous quantity of yarn, but the blind suppression of intellect which guards our poverty in its dark dungeon will remain inviolate. This narrow activity will shed light only upon one detached piece of fact keeping its great background of truth densely dark.
It is extremely distasteful to me to have to differ from Mahatma Gandhi in regard to any matter of principle or method. Not that, from a higher standpoint, there is anything wrong in so doing; but my heart shrinks from it.
For what could be a greater joy than to join hands in the field of work with one for whom one has such love and reverence? Nothing is more wonderful to me than Mahatmaji’s great moral personality. In him divine providence has given us a burning thunderbolt of shakti.
May this shakti give power to India,–not overwhelm her,–that is my prayer! The difference in our standpoints and temperaments has made the Mahatma look upon Rammohun Roy as a pygmy–while I revere him as a giant.
The same difference makes the Mahatma’s field of work one which my conscience cannot accept as its own. That is a regret which will abide with me always. It is, however, God’s will that man’s paths of endeavour should be various, else why these differencesof mentality. How often have any personal feelings of regard strongly urged me to accept at Mahatma Gandhi’s hands my enlistment as a follower of the charkha cult, but as often have my reason and conscience restrained me, lest I should be a party to the raising of the charkha to a higher place than is its due, thereby distracting attention from other more important factors in our task of all-round reconstruction. I feel sure that Mahatma himself will not fail to understand me, and keep for me the same forbearance which he has always had. Acharya Roy, I also believe, has respect for independence of opinion, even when unpopular; so that, although when carried away by the fervour of his own propaganda he may now and then give me a scolding, I doubt not he retains for me a soft corner in his heart.
As for my countrymen the public,–accustomed as they are to drown, under the facile flow of their minds, both past services and past disservices done to them,–if today they cannot find it in their hearts to forgive, they will forget tomorrow. Even if they do not,–if for me their displeasure is fated to be permanent, then just as today I have Acharya Seal as my fellow culprit, so tomorrow I may find at my side persons rejected by their own country whose reliance reveals the black unreality of any stigma of popular disapprobation.
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