Interpretation of MK Gandhi’s Hinduism (3): Religion of Service

By Prashant Jain

Next in the series of our articles on Gandhi’s Hinduism, we bring to you the main intent of any religion i.e. service. For those who have missed out on the first article which clearly defines the intent of this article series, I would request them to please read it here.

Let’s look at the excerpts first from one of his articles in Young India.

“I cannot practice ahimsa without practicing the religion of service and I cannot find truth without practicing the religion of ahimsa. And there is no religion other than truth. Truth is Rama, Narayana, Ishwara, Khuda, Allah, God. As Narasinha says, ‘The different shaped into which gold is beaten gives rise to different names and forms; but ultimately it is all gold.’

– Young India, 14 August 1924

Gandhi, in his stay in South Africa and after, always believed in service to the mankind. Being a thorough reader of different religions, he found that every religion in one way or the other include service in its canonical literature. He captured this thought and declared that the best way to practice any religion is to do service.

In this pursuit, he did not say that a particular religion is better. He just said that a hindu should be a better hindu, muslim a better muslim and a christian a better christian. All this can happen only through service to mankind.

As a symbol of service, he spread awareness about spinning wheel (Charkha). He wanted to see the wheel everywhere as a symbol that people are doing a service and thus are becoming better practitioner of their religion. There was a moment in India at that time when this wheel was actually spinning at the houses of people of different religions. Such consent on any issue is next to impossible in contemporary India.

Is this article only written to glorify Mahatma? Is there any definition for the service?

First, the article is not about Mahatma’s greatness (Mahatma means great in English).

Second, there is no particular definition of service. It is actually subjective but should have two essential features.

  • One, it should seek truth in a non-violent manner.
  • Two, it should do tangible benefit to other human beings or animals.

If you are doing an activity to further the cause of your religion and above mentioned conditions are satisfied, then you are actually doing a good service. Following are some examples of ascertaining if a particular activity is a service or not.

Is a Service

  • Running a religious school where values of humanity are taught.
  • Making clothes or donating clothes to the needy.
  • Feeding cows and other animals (human beings are social animals).
  • Understanding the true meaning of Veda and disseminating that information to all.

Not a Service

  • Pouring tonnes of milk on Shivlinga while beggars line up at the doors of temple. (No tangible benefit to other human beings.)
  • Rioting or killing in the name of religion (Non violence stands nullified)
  • Running schools and teaching hatred (Tangible destruction of character instead of benefit)
  • Not allowing people of certain sections of society to enter into temples and other public areas. (Does not seek truth. Truth is everybody is born equal).

In India, religion is a way of life and this way, according to Gandhi, should be service oriented. Our Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi, in one of his many interviews, mentioned that there is a huge decline in the number of elected leaders who are coming from the social service background. This has not happened because there has been a decrease in number of candidates with social service background. It has primarily happened because of our own moral bankruptcy. We have forgotten the essential conditions of service to humanity and when we are morally bankrupt, how can we elect good service oriented people.

The good thing, however, is that we have taken a u turn from terminally corrupting our minds in last few years. To continue this trend, it is essential to understand that our religions are actually service oriented, as written by Gandhi, and everything else falls after that.

P.S. The opinions expressed in above article are extensions of MK Gandhi’s notion of Hinduism and we do believe that they are highly relevant in current context of India. We, at Know India, do not propagate any religion in any preferential manner.

P.P.S If you think Gandhi has relevance in contemporary India and its politics, do share this article 🙂

About the Writer: Prashant is a graduate from IIT Bombay and a co-founder of Know India. He can be reached on facebook and on mail at knowthyindia@gmail.com

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