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Gandhiji’s Religion
Acharya Kripalani
(Published in 1982 Annual Number)
“I am a politician trying to be a saint.”
- M. K. Gandhi
What did Gandhiji mean when he said that he was a politician? He did not believe in progressive materialism, in increasing people’s wants and their satisfaction, or inventing sharper and more destructive weapons of war. Gandhiji wanted that every person must be provided with the basic necessities for his physical, mental and moral satisfaction and advancement. Throughout his life, therefore, he worked for the elimination of the abysmal poverty in which the masses of India live. He held foreign rule to be mainly responsible for this poverty. Therefore, every effort of his and most of his constructive programmes were directed towards the elimination of foreign rule. At the same time, he believed that our slavery was also due to some defects in our nation character. These, too, he wanted to get rid of. He believed that only a free India could make any worthwhile contribution to humanity and the world.
The removal of foreign rule and the building up of national character were also the aims which the best men of the times kept before themselves and the people. This is what Gandhiji meant when he said that he was a politician.
Gandhiji is popularly known as a karmayogi. In the accepted sense of the term, a karmayogi does his work prescribed by birth and the community to which he belongs. He performs social duties according to his family and caste. However, all work has to be done in a disinterested way as a dharma (duty), not caring for the results which are in the hands of God.
Gandhiji wanted people not necessarily to follow the traditional occupation of their ancestors, or their caste or community, but the yugadharma, the dharma demanded by the times. If performed disinterestedly it would lead to salvation. When some foreigners came to India on hearing that Gandhiji was a Mahatma, they wanted him to guide them in the yoga by which they could get their moksha or self-realisation. Gandhiji asked them to go to the villages, propagate the use of khadi and engage themselves in the other items of his Constructive Programme. It was the yugadharma required for the country so that it could be of service to the poor and to humanity. This was his interpretation of karmayoga, service to the poor, the nation and the world.


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