Chapter 10: Spirituality, Religion and Politics
Life does not consist of two distinct colors - white and black, life is just gray, a mixture of white and black. In this context men like Gandhi are just utopians, dreamers, idealists who are completely divorced from reality. Krishna is in direct contact with life; he is not a utopian. For him life’s work begins with accepting it as it is.
What Gandhi calls “pure means” are not really pure, cannot be. Maybe pure ends and pure means are available in what the Hindus call moksha, or the space of freedom. But in this mundane world every, thing is alloyed with dirt. Not even gold is unalloyed. What we call diamond is nothing but old, aged coal. Gandhi’s purity of ends and means is sheer imagination.
For example, Gandhi thinks fasting is a kind of right means to a right end. And he resorts to fasting - fast unto death every now and then. But I can never accept fasting as a right means, nor will Krishna agree with Gandhi. If a threat to kill another person is wrong, how can a threat to kill oneself be right? If it is wrong of me to make you accept what I say by pointing a gun at you, how can it become right if I make you accept the same thing by turning the gun to point it at myself? A wrong does not cease to be a wrong just by turning the point of a gun. In a sense it would be a greater wrong on my part if I ask you to accept my views with the threat that if you don’t I am going to kill myself. If I threaten to kill you, you have an option, a moral opportunity to die and refuse to yield to my pressure. But if I threaten to kill myself, I make you very helpless, because you may not like to take the responsibility of my death on yourself.
Gandhi once undertook such a fast unto death to put pressure on Ambedkar, leader of the millions of India’s untouchables. And Ambedkar had to yield, not because he agreed that the cause for which Gandhi fasted was right, but because he did not want to let Gandhi die for it. Ambedkar was not ready to do even this much violence to Gandhi. Ambedkar said later that Gandhi would be wrong to think that he had changed his heart. He still believed he was right and Gandhi was wrong, but he was not prepared to take the responsibility for the violence that Gandhi was insisting on doing to himself.
In this context it is necessary to ask if Ambedkar used the right means, or Gandhi? Of the two, who is really non-violent? In my view Gandhi’s way was utterly violent, and Ambedkar proved to he non-violent. Gandhi was determined till the last moment to pressure Ambedkar with his threat to kill himself.
It makes no difference whether I threaten to kill you or to kill myself to make you accept my view. In either case, I am using pressure and violence. In fact, when I threaten to kill you I give you a choice to die with dignity, to tell me you would rather die than yield to my view which is wrong. But when I threaten you with my own death, then I deprive you of the option to die with dignity; I put you in a real dilemma. Either you have to yield and accept that you are in the wrong, or you take the responsibility of my death on you. You are going to suffer guilt in every way.