On this day that marks the day that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi-The Mahatma, Bapu, Father of a Nation = India left the earthly plane via the gun in the hand of Godse. I choose to explore the principles that were honed and practised by the Mahatma during his lifetime. For sure the Mahatma was an explorer of Universal Collective Prayer long before I decided to do the dance. He explored many of the world religions from what I've read about him.
When he was a child he grew up under the care of a staunch Hindu mother and in the midst of a vibrant Gujarati Jain community. Supposedly his mum made him vow before a Jain monk before he made his way to London to study that he would uphold the Hindu and I'm assuming also Jain principles that is best explained like this in this free online book-"MAHATMA GANDHI-His Life In Pictures" :
"The mother's objection to his going abroad was overcome by the son's solemn vow not to touch wine, women and meat." And I assume they meant engaging in sexual things with women other than his wife. Gandhi already being a married man at the time of his departure.
According to the book he was ex-communicated by his caste for as my people would put it crossing the kala paani. Historically I'm told my ancestors came to the Caribbean with the burden that they did like Gandhi and crossed the sea or as they called it the kala paani. So like my people and in the same 19th century as them Gandhi crossed the sea but instead he set sail for London, England.
Here's what the book goes on to say:
"In Bombay, his caste people, who looked upon crossing the ocean as contamination, threatened to excommunicate him if he persisted in going abroad. But Gandhi was adamant and was thus formally excommunicated by his caste. Undeterred, he sailed on September 4, 1888, for Southampton-aged eighteen. A few months earlier Kasturbai had borne him a son.
The first few days in London were miserable. "I would continually think of my home and country. . . Everything was strange-the people, their ways and even their dwellings. I was a complete novice in the matter of English etiquette, and continually had to be on my guard. There was the additional inconvenience of the vegetarian vow. Even the dishes that I could eat were tasteless and insipid."The food difficulty was solved when one day he chanced upon a vegetarian restaurant in Farringdon Street where he also bought a copy of Salt's Plea for Vegetarianism and was greatly impressed by it. Hitherto he had been a vegetarian because of the vow he had taken. From now on he became a vegetarian by choice. He read many more books on vegetarianism and diet and was delighted to discover modern science confirm the practice of his forefathers. To spread vegetarianism became henceforward his mission, as he put it."
So I'm glad he crossed the kala paani because it made him take up a cause dear to my heart and made it his mission to spread it! Thus a great advocate of vegetarianism was born and many a 'little one' possibly saved! :)
Of course that first epiphany was just the beginning of his journey into universal collective prayer! Here is what the book goes on to say:
"Towards the end of his second year in London, he came across two theosophist brothers who introduced him to Sir Edwin Arnold's translation in English verse of the Gita-The Song Celestial priceless worth. He was deeply impressed. "The book struck me as one of priceless worth. This opinion of the Gita has ever since been growing on me, with the result that I regard it today as the supreme book for knowledge of Truth. It has afforded me invaluable help in my moments of gloom."
About the same time a Christian friend whom he had met in a vegetarian boarding house introduced him to the Bible. He found it difficult to wade through the Old Testament which put him to sleep, but he fell in love with the New Testament and specially with the Sermon on the Mount. He also read Sir Edwin Arnold's rendering of Buddha's life-The light of Asia-as well as the chapter on the Prophet of Islam in Carlyle's Heroes and Hero Worship. The attitude of respect for all religions and the desire to understand the best in each one of them were thus planted in his mind early in life."
So there you have it his big jump into the dance of Universal Collective Prayer. It would be the beginning or a wonderful journey into exploring and putting into practice universal collective prayer by honouring and practising the teachings of many of the world's great religions. It was no doubt this dance that made him hone and develop the principles of satyagraha that I am trying to learn more about and perhaps put into action in my own daily life dances. Here is a really great definition of its concepts that I found on this site-
"Basic Concepts of Satyagraha: Gandhian Nonviolence:
from the APT Nonviolence Trainer's Manual.
I. "Sat" --- which implies openness, honesty, and fairness: Truth.
A) Each person's opinions and beliefs represent part of the truth.
B) In order to see more of the truth we must share our truths cooperatively.
C) This implies a desire to communicate and a determination to do so, which in turn requires developing and refining relevant skills of communication.
D) Commitment to seeing as much of the truth as possible means that we can not afford to categorize ourselves or others.
II. "Ahimsa" --- refusal to inflict injury on others.
A) Ahimsa is dictated by our commitment to communication and to sharing of our pieces of the truth. Violence shuts off channels of communication.
B) The concept of ahimsa appears in most major religions, which suggests that while it may not be practiced by most people, it is respected as an ideal.
C) Ahimsa is an expression of our concern that our own and other's humanity be manifested and respected.
D) We must learn to genuinely love our opponents in order to practice ahimsa.
III. "Tapasya" --- willingness for self-sacrifice.
A) A satyagrahi (one who practices satyagraha) must be willing to shoulder any sacrifice which is occasioned by the struggle which they have initiated, rather than pushing such sacrifice or suffering onto their opponent, lest the opponent become alienated and access to their portion of the truth become lost.
B) The satyagrahi must always provide a face-saving "way out" for the opponents. The goal is to discover a wider vista of truth and justice, not to achieve victory over the opponent."
That is quite a bit to taken in as a lesson! But it is amazing how much it rings through in anything in our life! A lot like the Desiderata really but even more challenging in terms of the actions it suggests on the experimenter. Those who follow my blogs would know I work full-time as an engineer and am only a part time blogger. Reading about Satyagraha makes you realise how useful a tool it can even be in finding engineering solutions! For sure an amazing tool for communicating with anyone about anything!
So as I continue on this dance that is Universal Collective Prayer I will continue to keep my readers updated as to how this new experiment of satyagraha progresses! No doubt I must to some extent already embrace or try some of it some of the time...but now I will be consciously following it as a principle and assessing how it goes like how you should do with any true experiment...collecting the data...but it is an experiment in life not in science so don't expect charts and reports just feelings and moods and storytelling after all this is a dance not a laboratory!
Besides I'm sure the Spirit in the Sky or the Akashic recorders are taking note! :)
And I leave you with one of the fav tunes of the great proponer of all this great Satyagraha business...one of the Mahatma's favs- Allah Tero Naam Ishwar Tero Naam Sab Ko Sanmati De Bhagwan/Raghupati Raghav Raja Raam! And whereever you are great one thank you Mahatma Gandhi Ji! Thank for you experimenting with Universal Collective Prayer! Thank you for being an advocate of vegetarianism and saving perhaps the lives of many a little one! Thank you for Satyagraha! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!