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Welcome to KHOJ: The search to know our roots and understand the meaning of our existence.

Prejudice is the biggest problem in the society. It can be it in terms of religion, cast, sex, skin-colour, status etc. Prejudice can also be in form of the feeling that human beings are the greatest creation, or even patriotism about artificially created borders. The motto of KHOJ is to gain knowledge and break that prejudice. But there is a word of caution for the readers. To break the prejudice KHOJ might throw upon you the concepts it believes in. If the reader believes on KHOJ’s perception without question, then KHOJ itself might incept a prejudice in the readers mind thus failing in it own motto. KHOJ is trying to break its own world of prejudice, but at times that prejudice might get reflected in its writing. Please do challenge them.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Compassion - The Future World




In a future world of greater population, limited resource, global warming, and technology threatening our jobs, the risks are global. They would need global solutions. Is there solution to our global problems?

Human brain is a complex mass of tufu-like protein that guides us through our life. Information travels faster than any F1 car inside our brains. It acquires, processes, interprets and stores information, while creating prejudices and biases. Every thought and memory that the brain generates is a complex process that uses several parts of the brain. Science is yet to unravel it’s mystery. What we do know is that it has evolved over millions of years from a rather humble beginning. 

The reptilian brain was the first to evolve. It controls the vital functions that help us survive, including heart rate, breathing, body temperature and balance. The basic instincts like hunger, thirst, survival and desire to procreate is rooted in this primitive brain. In other words, it controls our desires. The main structures of reptilian brain are brain stem and cerebrum. Reptilian brain represents our nature. In nature the fittest survive. Indians call it ‘prakriti’, which is guided by the rule of the jungle ‘matysa nyaya’. According to the rule, big fish eats small fish.

The next part of the brain that evolved is the palaeo-mammalian brain. Its main structures are hippocampus, amygdala, and the hypothalamus. This part of the brain gives us emotions and binds us together. Morality and empathy comes dominantly from the mammalian brain. It makes sure that even the weak survive, as long as (s)he belongs to the same group. Rule of ‘prakriti’ changes to rule of ‘sanskriti’. Sanskriti is culture, or a set of social rules that defines a group. The group can be a tribe, a religion or a nation. Matysa Nyaya is now modified to big (read powerful) groups eating (exploiting) small (weak) groups. According to the new rule, a small fish in a big group has more chance of survival than a big fish in a small group. Empathy is the glue that helps the group bond strongly. 

The connection of empathy is created through mirroring as discussed in the last post. We are less empathetic towards people we consider as ‘others’ who does not mirror our ideas and expressions. If empathy is the factor that helps creates groups, and you are empathetic towards people you can relate to, then empathy is limited by the Dunbar number. It is the suggested cognitive limit to the number of people whom you can consider as close and relate to. For most humans it is close to 150 individuals. Stories like religion or nationalism can loosely bind a bigger group, but it is not the strong glue of empathy.

Neo-mammalian brain (or primate brain), i.e. the neocortex, is the latest to evolve. Our cognitive abilities and intelligence is derived from this part of the brain. The Prefrontal Cortex (PFC) of neo-mammalian brain is involved in all executive functions, ability to plan, decision making, expressing our personality, aligning our thoughts and actions with internal goals, and moderating social behaviour. Basal Ganglia, also part of neo-mammalian brain, store routine, repetitive behaviours, and thoughts. Habits are stored in form of thousands mini-programs or maps which helps brain go on autopilot and save energy. 

Neo-mammalian brain gives us the ability to change ourselves. I must mention here that the three parts of the grain is a simplification, but a good analog. We have done enough research to understand the limitations of our brain and know our cognitive biases. While bigotory, racism, sexism etc still exists, we are slowly getting over it. The laws around the globe are more liberal than they were a century ago. According to Steven Pinker, the world is more peaceful that it ever was. But, how can we get better?

We can create a better world if we find a way to be compassionate about everyone else irrespective of the group they belong to. If we use our PFC to set a goal of being compassionate, and practice it consciously everyday then it becomes a mini-program that gets stored in our Basal Ganglia. One can become compassionate by practicing.

All cognitive information gets stored as memories called engrams.The way we act and think results in biophysical or biochemical changes in the brain and other neural tissues. By visualising a particular outcome or goal that you seek changes your brain. It makes you more positive and increases the likelihood of the outcome. Positive faith leads to positive results through placebo effect.

According to Indian philosophy actions leave behind mental impressions in our minds, called samskara. Samskara affects our future actions and thoughts. That is Karma. Compassion and kindness is contagious and can be rewarding. When you give compassion, it comes back to you.

If we want a better future, we need to erase the borders and create a compassionate world. Compassion not just for fellow beings, but also towards other species. It might sound too idealistic at the moment. A democratic world was once idealistic too. We have changed, and we will keep changing. 

The future world would be very different from what it is today. Next time when you think of someone, try consciously to forget about the identity of the other person. That person may belong to a group that had exploited your group in the past, that person might be from another country that you now consider your enemy. Forget all that identity and think about compassion. That person might still live in the medieval era of bigotry. That is not a good enough reason for you to turn into a bigot too. 

As the old cliche goes, be the change you want to see in the world. We have moved from prakriti to sanskriti. Now it is time to move towards global citizenship - vasudhaiva kutumbakam.



REF


Written by Subhrashis Adhikari


"Engaging and entertaining, this page-turner is remarkable in its narration and will give you a new perspective on various aspects of life. Wellresearched and heartfelt, the encouraging tone throughout the book tries to motivate towards a happier life." - Times of India

Link:


















Thursday, December 12, 2019

How did Buddhism Die in India?


When I visited China and interacted with the locals I realized that most of them still think that Indians are mostly Hindus and Buddhists. They were shocked to hear that there are only around 9 million Buddhists in India that accounts for less than 1% of India’s population. China has over 25 times more Buddhist than the country in which Buddha was born. That was certainly not the case in our historical past when the land was indeed dominated by Hindus and Buddhists. What happened to Buddhism in India? How did it die?


LEFT VERDICT: Hindus destroyed Buddhism.RIGHT VERDICT: Muslims destroyed Buddhism.

Like with most debates, there is no simple answer to why Buddhism died in India. There is truth and propaganda in both left and right version. The downfall cannot be attributed to a single factor. 

Buddha was born to King of Kapilavastu, sometime between 2,600 and 2,400 years ago. The wealthy prince realized that all his wealth was not going to prevent him from the miseries of illness, old age, and death. Even the power of being the king does not give him control over his own body or mind. So, he left his wife and kingdom to find salvation. Some may blame him for leaving his family. We don't really know what actually happened. Even if he was wrong, one must not forget that he was not wise yet. He went away sacrificing everything in search of wisdom.


According to the Buddhist texts he renounced his wealth, power and wife at the age of 29 years to become an ascetic after seeing the miseries of old age, disease, and death. Gautama was desperate for a solution to the miseries. He met many sages, but none could satisfy his quest. Hungry, weak, and frustrated, he sat under a pipal tree in Bodh Gaya (Bihar) to meditate—to know the absolute truth. According to Buddhist texts the descendents of Mara, the demon of delusion, tried to torment him while Gautama was on the verge of enlightenment. Gautama vanquished the armies of Mara. On the eighth day of the twelfth month under the papal tree, the once prince named Gautama transformed to Buddha, the awakened one. He exclaimed with joy, 
‘How strange! Every human being is capable of getting this enlightment, but for their clingings of false thought’. 
From there, he went to Sarnath, where he gave his first sermon. Buddha was against the Vedic rituals, superstition, caste system, metaphysics, miracles, and priest crafts. He never wanted to create another religion, but only teach people in need about compassion and humbleness.

Buddha’s disciples were mostly educated and wealthy Brahmin priests, Kshtriyas and merchants, who were looking for peace. Buddha did not distinguish between different social classes, and he did have followers from humble backgrounds like Sunita the sweeper and Upali the barber. However, his philosophy was such that it attracted mostly the wise and wealthy. The poors were probably too used to sufferings. Buddhism grew after the death of Buddha. Kings like Ashoka, Milinda and Kanishka turned a local philosophy into a global religion. Ashoka helped the religion spread across India and Sri Lanka. 


Some Hindu kings did promote Hinduism favourably, the same way Buddhist kings like Ashoka and Kanishka favoured Buddhism. Rare occasions of persecution of Buddhists by more orthodox Hindu rulers cannot be discarded. According to Buddhist texts like Asokavadana, Pushyamitra ruthlessly persecuted the Buddhists. His ministers advised him that only by destroying Buddhism could he become more famous than Ashoka. Pushyamitra attacked and destroyed 500 monasteries, burnt down the Buddhist scriptures and killed all the Buddhist monks he could lay his hands on. Some scholars are of the opinion that his aggression against Buddhism was due to the alliance of Buddhist monks with his Indo-Greek rival. Buddhism survived the attacks of Pushyamitra and soon revived to become one of the most dominant religions in world. Buddhism flourished under Milinda and Kanishka. These foreign rulers settled in India and were impressed by Buddhism. They got converted and helped Buddhism reach far corners of Asia. It was during their rule that Buddhism spread to China. 

The Gupta Empire marked the revival of Hinduism, but at the same time, other religions like Buddhism and Jainism also flourished. Many Hindu gods found their way into Buddhist and Jain texts. Buddha himself was given the status of the ninth incarnation of Vishnu in Agni Purana. According to it, Buddha created a non-Vedic path purposefully to divert the mighty Asuras from the Vedic ways to ensure that they are thrown to hell, helping Devas regain power. Foreign rulers like Milinda and Kanishka came to rule India but later became influenced by Buddhism. These stories of Puranas were probably reflecting those sentiments. However, most Hindu texts were silent about Buddhism, reflecting the tensions between the two groups.

The White Huns gained more control of Western India after the fall of Gupta Empire. They were particularly harsh on the Buddhists. White Hun king Mihirakula, a Shiva devotee, destroyed many Buddhist sites. A new cult of Tantric Buddhism evolved from the dying Mahayana Buddhism. Such esoteric form of Buddhism had its roots in the teachings of Nagasena and his disciples. It became more popular in the 8th century, popularized in different placed by groups of wandering yogis called Mahasiddhas (great adepts). Tantric Buddhism became very popular under the Pala Dynasty of Bengal. Palas were patrons of Buddhism. Universities like Vikramshila and Nalanda flourished under the Palas.

 Buddhism did revive for a short time under the great king Harsha. Harsha, according to Hindu texts, drove away the Brahmins from the religious council held in Kannauj. They fled to Deccan from where they staged a comeback under guidance of Brahminical philosopher and Mimamsa scholar Kumarila Bhatta. Over the years Buddhism evolved into different sects that were often at conflict with each other. The Buddhist sanghas became corrupt and faced a tough competition from the rejuvenated Hinduism.

Buddhism gave emphasis on life of monks, and was difficult for an ordinary householder to follow that path. Buddhism also lacked a personality like Sankaracharya to unite and promote their faith. Sankaracharya declared that Upanishads already contain everything that was good in Buddhism. Buddhism declined as many Buddhists started to follow Adi Sankaracharya. Hindu scriptures also started negative propaganda against Buddhism. It was written in Manu Smriti that ‘if a person touches a Buddhist … he shall purify himself by having a bath’.

Hinduism started receiving support from the crown. In South, the Pallava Dynasty favoured Hinduism and Kanchipuram, a popular Buddhist Center of learning, turned into a Hindu holy site and the royal capital of Pallavas. In Bengal Buddhism received a major blow under the rule of Sena dynasty. Sena Dynasty was from Karnataka who migrated to Bengal and replaced the Pala Dynasty in 1174CE. Vijayasen was the first ruler of Sena Dynasty. His son, Ballalsen, consolidated the kingdom. He was an orthodox Hindu ruler under whose rule Brahminism strengthened in Bengal and Buddhism was discouraged. Many Buddhists fled from Bengal to Sri Lanka. Some of the Buddhist Tantric Yogis who stayed back simply adapted Shiva-Tantra elements of Shaktism to survive. This resulted in the mixed Saiva-Buddhist cult of Bengal.

The main reason for the downfall of Buddhism was not political or religious, but the mere fact that Hinduism managed to adapt better with time compared to Buddhism. This was the reason why Buddhist monasteries lost Royal Patronage. Any religion needs the support of the crown to flourish. Over the years, Buddhism lost that support and Hinduism became the preferred religion of the crown.
According to Indologist Johannes Bronkhorst,
‘Brahmanism offered, apart from supernatural protection, lots of practical advice to rulers: how to organize society, how to run their kingdom, etc. etc. Buddhism, still during the early centuries of the Common Era, offered nothing of the kind…Buddhism had no vision of society and of how it should be run’.


In an era when fights between neighboring kingdoms were common, message of peace and non-violence became irrelevant to the crown.  By the time tantric Buddhism became popular in Bengal, it was too late. Buddhism was already weak when Islam arrived in India. 

The final nail in the coffin of Buddhism in India came during invasion of Islam. Islam was enemy of ‘But’, or idol worship. While Buddha was against idol worship, idol worshipping and rituals became common in Buddhism over centuries. B. R. Ambedkar writes, 
‘Before Islam came into being Buddhism was the religion of Bactria, Parthia, Afghanistan, Gandhar, and Chinese Turkestan, as it was of the whole of Asia. In all these countries Islam destroyed Buddhism’. 
After Shahabuddin Muhammad Ghori successfully defeated the Indian kings in the west it opened up the floodgates. Turks went on to conquer Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat under leadership of Qutub-ud-din Aibak. The Chalukyas soon recaptured Gujarat, but the rest remained under Turk control. The raids led to the destruction of many villages, along with the Buddhist universities of Nalanda and Vikramasila. Many Buddhists fled to Nepal and Tibet. When the monasteries (vihara) of Bihar were raided, the monks were mistaken as ‘shaven soldiers’. All of them were slaughtered. The invaders called the whole country ‘Bihar’ after the looted viharas. That’s how the modern state of Bihar got its name.

It is said that during one such raid Bakhtiyar attacked and burnt down the famous Nalanda University in 1197-1198CE. India lost a huge amount of its literature as one of the oldest and largest libraries of the world was burnt to ashes. According to some historians Nalanda University was already in ruins because of the internal rivalry between Hinayana and Mahayana sects of Buddhism. Bakhtiyar probably destroys another Mahavihara that was inside the fort of the local king. Tibetan monk Dharmasvamin visited Nalanda in 1234CE and is said to have found a 90 years old monk still residing there and teaching a group of students. But the religion of peace had already died in the land of its birth.

One cannot deny or hide history. Let's accept that there were persecution of men of one religion by some kings of rival religion. There is blood is everybody's hand. No once can claim that we are pure and 'others' are violent. But one must not forget that Buddhism and Hinduism coexisted under most of the powerful kings of India. Peace is in coexistence.

"Sarveshaam Svaastir Bhavatu, 
Sarveshaam Svaastir Bhavatu, 
Saveshaam Poornam Bhavatu, 
Sarveshaam Mangalam Bhavatu, 
Om Shanti, Shanti Shanteeh" 

"May health abound foreverMay peace abound foreverMay complete abundance abound foreverMay auspiciousness abound foreverOm Peace, Peace Peace."

Written by Subhrashis Adhikari


"Engaging and entertaining, this page-turner is remarkable in its narration and will give you a new perspective on various aspects of life. Wellresearched and heartfelt, the encouraging tone throughout the book tries to motivate towards a happier life." - Times of India

Link:
















Sunday, December 8, 2019

A CASE FOR EMPATHY

From ‘I think therefore I am’ era we have landed into the post-truth era of ‘I believe, therefore I am right’. 
An interesting experiment was done on two apes. The moment one ape took out food to eat, the other one received a shock. After some time the ape who was receiving the food preferred to starve in order to avoid harming the other ape. Empathy is product of evolution, and is probably rooted in the neo-mammalian brain that generates emotion. 

You feel empathetic towards people you can emotionally connect to, and experiments have shown that the best way to connect is through mimicking. Psycologists have named it ‘mirroring’. When an infant listens to cry of other infants, (s)he starts crying (Marvin Simner, 1971). Adults mimics too, albeit unconsciously. We all know how contagious yawning is. Its called unconscious synchrony, or herd instinct.

Mimicking is a survival mechanism, the same genetic expression that helps flock of birds to fly in formation and move towards the same direction. We constantly mimic when we are talking to others by adapting our body languages, tones and even accents to the person we are talking to. Human beings are social animals and mirroring helps us bind together. It also helps us to be empathetic because similar behaviour makes us seem familiar,  feel comfortable and helps us trust each other. 

Our perception of the entire universe, which includes every human being you know, is an interpretation of our brain based on the information it receives through our sense organs. Humans use themselves as the reference point to create perception about others. In other words, one needs to project oneself into another individual. Empathy gives us the ability to do that. Experiments showed that we can correctly predict others and thus be empathetic towards others when our mental sate is neutral or same as the other person. We miss judge people mostly when our mental states are not similar.

Interestingly, chimps mimic yawn too, but only when a member of their own community yawns, and not when they see someone from the other community yawn. Call it racism. Sherif and Tajfel’s 1954 experiment showed that it was very easy to divide people into ‘us’ verses ‘them’. The experiment supported the Realistic Conflict Theory which says that intergroup hostility can arise due to conflicting goals and competition over limited resources. In a study participants were shown a video of people being injected with a hypodermic needle. The participants showed more neurobiological activity (indicating empathy) when the injected person was of same race. We mirror those who we consider as ‘us’ more than those we consider as ‘others’.

Unknown person or animal were threat to our hunting and gathering ancestors. We still feel threatened when encountering ‘different’ beings. Decety and Jackson’s study show that when you encounter people who you consider as ‘other’, you are less likely to feel their pain and emotions. They write in their paper, ‘Shared neural representations, self-awareness, mental flexibility, and emotion regulation constitute the basic macrocomponents of empathy, which are underpinned by specific neural systems.’ To be empathetic you need to connect with the other person. William Ickes’s experiments show that it takes at least 30 minutes of being together to connect (Everyday Mind Reading by William Ickes) with a stranger.

With the rise of social media, humans are loosing the ’30 min’ face to face connect. It is easy to bracket someone as ‘other’ in the social media when you do not have to see the other person face to face. Once you add a tag to a person, that stays even when you meet (h)er/im. This, along with ‘confirmation bias’ based on the huge amount of information (including misinformation) in the internet, can easily give rise to polarised world view. From ‘I think therefore I am’ era we have landed into the post-truth era of ‘I believe, therefore I am right’. Building empathy in the age of technology and internet is not something we have evolved for, and hence we need to train ourselves for the future.

Right supramarginal gyrus, part of cerebral cortex, is that part of our brain that recognises lack of empathy and helps us correct it. It helps one look at the world from the perspective of others. Our brain’s neural circuitry is not rigid. Every thought and action creates new neural pathways and changes our brain. Our brain can be hacked, and it can even be trained to become empathetic.

Stories helps us get connected to different perspectives, and thus become more empathetic. To be more empathetic you need to create positive story in your brain about the other person. Travel, creativity and collaboration can make us more empathetic. One way of increasing empathy is to force yourself to be in other person’s shoe. When you are angry on someone, first calm down, curb your ego and reduce your emotional defensiveness. Be open to diverse opinions and try to find the common things that you share with the other person. Understand the problems (s)he might be facing that led to (h)er/is judgement. 


Experiments have shown that mindfulness based stress reduction programs have changed the brain by increasing the density of grey matter in regions related to 'learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking' (Holzed et. al, 2011). There are four stages of practicing empathy everyday. It starts with imagining and then practicing compassionate thoughts about loved ones, followed by self, then about a neutral person and finally ending with someone against whom you have a grudge. Practicing empathy this way is known to reduce stress leading to a healthier and happier life.

How many people can our brain be empathetic about? Should we focus on compassion rather than empathy? Need a different post for that!

REFERENCE


Written by Subhrashis Adhikari


"Engaging and entertaining, this page-turner is remarkable in its narration and will give you a new perspective on various aspects of life. Wellresearched and heartfelt, the encouraging tone throughout the book tries to motivate towards a happier life." - Times of India

Link:












Saturday, November 30, 2019

Decoding Gandhi Part 7: Decoding Gandhi




Part 2: The Beginning


Part 3: The Cult of Chakra


Part 4: The Practical Man

Part 5: The Sex Maniac


Part 6: The Miracle


Part 7: Decoding Gandhi




‘It has been my experience that I am always true from my point of view, but am often wrong from the point of view of my honest critics. I know that we are both right from our respective points of view. And this knowledge saves me from attributing motives to my opponents or critics. The seven blind men who gave seven different descriptions of the elephant were all right from their respective points of view, and wrong from the point of view of one another, and right and wrong from the point of view of the man who knew the elephant. I very much like this doctrine of the manyness of reality. It is this doctrine that has taught me to judge a Mussalman from his own standpoint and a Christian from his. Formerly I used to resent the ignorance of my opponents. Today I can love them because I am gifted with the eye to see myself as others see them and vice-versa.’ - Gandhi

One needs good IQ to justify criticising Gandhi, and a good EQ to love him. Legends like Tagore and Netaji had both. While they differed in their opinion, Tagore named him ‘Mahatma’ and Netaji addressed him as ‘The Father of the Nation’. It is only people who are both low in EQ and IQ, who can truly hate Gandhi. Gandhi once said to his confused followers, 
‘My language is aphoristic, it lacks precision. It is, therefore, open to several interpretation’.
 His words and actions are not always easy to understand. That’s the reason some people thought that he was too religious Hindu, while others thought he was anti-Hindu. Some considered him a lover of Dalits, while others thought that he was their enemy. He was indeed a riddle to many. For some Britishers like Churchill he was also a pain. Churchill mocked Gandhi as the Half Naked Fakir for the dress he wore and expressed his disappointment as Gandhi did not die in the hunger-strike. Gandhi wrote to Churchill  in  a letter dated 17th July 1944, 
‘ I have long been trying to be a fakir and that naked - a more difficult task. I, therefore, regard the expression as a compliment though unintended’. 

Gandhi had a brilliant sense of humour. He once met King George V in London wearing his usual attire. He was later asked what the king said about his attire. Gandhi replied ‘What could he say. He was wearing enough for the two of us.’ Another time someone asked what he thought about Western Civilisation, and his witty response was, ‘It is a good idea’. Without humour Gandhi would not have been able to survive the struggle. He himself confessed, ‘If I had no sense of humour, I would long ago have committed suicide.’ 

Alongside humour, he was also a very serious man whose strict principles could be hard to live by. There were eleven vows which were considered almost mandatory for those living in his ashram. They were: Truth (Satya), Non-Violence (Ahimsa), Chastity (Brahmacharya), Non-stealing (Asteya), Non-Possession (Aparigraha), Labour (Sharirashtrama), Control of Palate (Asvada), Fearlessness (Abhaya), Respect for all religion (Sarva-Dharma-Samanatva), Only use indigenous products (Swadeshi), and Removal of untouchability (Asprishyata Navaran). The strict principles led to friction between Gandhi and his son Harilal. He once confessed that his greatest regret was his inability to convince two people: Jinnah and Harilal. As a young man Harilal was deeply involved in the freedom movement. Between 1908 and 1911 he has been arrested 6 times. This earned him the nickname ‘Chotte (Little) Gandhi’. When he was 23 years old, he wanted to go to England for higher education and become a barrister. Gandhi himself had to fight against many to go overseas. The irony was that Gandhi was now against it. He did not want his son to get spoilt by Western education. Unfortunately, his opposition became the reason why his son got spoilt. In 1911 Harilal revolted against his father and renounced all family ties. He had problems with his wife, abandoned his children, became an alcoholic and gambler. Harlal started trading imported British clothes when his father urged the nation to boycott foreign goods. Even that business collapsed. Gandhi tried to make a saint out of his children and set example to the nation. He himself evolved over time, but Harilal was not given the time to mature. He broke under pressure. People must have always compared him to his celebrity father and reminded him what a failure he was. That would have left a deep psychological scar in his mind. In a letter Gandhi even accused Harilal of raping his own daughter. He wrote, 
‘Manu is telling me number of dangerous things about you. She says that you had raped her even before she was eight years and she was so much hurt that medical treatment was also to be taken’. 
The Father of Nation failed as a father.

After his death media and politicians left no stone unturned to turn Gandhi into a saint. Richard Attenborough’s 1982 epic film took it to a new level. With such a pure image any imperfections became easily visible. Quite naturally Gandhi’s critics, like  G. B. Singh and Dr. Tim Watson, started screaming to prove how bad a person he was. Time has made Gandhi more human. Gandhi was not a saint. He was an ordinary man who was put through extraordinary situations. Facing injustice from a powerful force, he did not accept it like most men—he revolted. Sometimes he was right and at times wrong. He was orthodox, discriminating towards the blacks, he was too religious, he was strict with his children, and he had flaws—like we all do. But what makes him different was that he stood for what he thought was right. He followed his heart and was not afraid to correct himself when he knew he was wrong. He did change his views about Africans, his religious beliefs evolved, and he constantly improved himself. He was a shy person who was afraid to speak in public but had the magnetic personality to attract millions of followers. 

There were thousands, and sometimes millions, of followers who came to watch Gandhi. They would thought and chant his name at the sight of him. Thats how much people loved him. But the moment he would rise his finger there would be pin drop silence. Thats how much people respected him. Only because of Gandhi, the freedom movement reached the poor and illiterate mass instead of being a monopoly of few foreign-educated lawyers. He brought in a new method of satyagrahya that taught the world about nonviolent protest. It is for these reasons that he is, and will remain, one of the greatest heroes of the world. To understand Gandhi we must follow what the man himself said, 
‘See me please in the nakedness of my working, and in my limitation, you will then know me.’



Back to the Beginning


References:

  1. http://indpaedia.com/ind/index.php/Mridula_Gandhi#.E2.80.9CI_requested_Bapu_to_allow_me_to_sleep_separately.E2.80.9D
  2. https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/cover-story/story/20130617-mahatma-gandhi-experiment-sexuality-manuben-discovered-diaries-763997-1999-11-30
  3. https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/thrill-of-the-chaste-the-truth-about-gandhis-sex-life-1937411.html
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/01/gandhi-celibacy-test-naked-women
  5. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-45469129
  6. http://www.gandhi-manibhavan.org/activities/essay_elevenvows.htm
  7. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1264952/A-new-book-reveals-Gandhi-tortured-young-women-worshipped-shared-bed.html
  8. https://www.outlookindia.com/newswire/story/gandhi-the-man-with-a-great-sense-of-humour/862449
  9. http://www.gandhi-manibhavan.org/activities/essay_elevenvows.htm
  10. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2007/aug/10/india
  11. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harilal_Gandhi
  12. https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/mahatma-gandhis-letter-accusing-son-of-raping-his-own-daughter-up-for-auction-in-uk-562069
  13. https://www.amazon.in/My-experiments-truth-M-Gandhi/dp/9387585204/ref=pd_sbs_14_t_0/260-3639262-6869921?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=9387585204&pd_rd_r=0d8cd17a-f987-4ec5-b9b0-525309023c06&pd_rd_w=f604U&pd_rd_wg=gzvz9&pf_rd_p=21bbdc4d-873b-48c5-a88a-70e643377944&pf_rd_r=AAQ1BZ6DZ5G5QH5EEW3Y&psc=1&refRID=AAQ1BZ6DZ5G5QH5EEW3Y
  14. https://www.mkgandhi.org/bapumymother/bapumymother.htm
  15. https://www.mkgandhi.org/ebks/an_atheist.pdf



Also Check Out:  5 Questions of the Inquisitive Apes
 
Written by Subhrashis Adhikari
"Engaging and entertaining, this page-turner is remarkable in its narration and will give you a new perspective on various aspects of life. Wellresearched and heartfelt, the encouraging tone throughout the book tries to motivate towards a happier life." - Times of India

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Decoding Gandhi Part 6: The Miracle





‘I find myself all alone, even the Sardar and Jawaharlal think my reading of the situation is wrong and peace is sure to return if partitioning was agreed upon . . . the future of independence gained at this price is going to be dark.’




After the end of World War II Mountbatten found himself in a country where civil war was inevitable. All Britain wanted was to leave India before it started. India was divided into so many groups, not just in terms of language, religion, and caste but, more importantly, politics. Russia was already sponsoring the Communist parties bringing India into the radar of USA. Jinnah wanted a separate nation for Muslims of India as they felt insecure in India dominated by Hindus and Congress. Ambedkar favored partition, acknowledging the huge differences between two communities. He wanted a separate constituency for untouchables who were victimized by the upper castes. The far-right Hindu groups like Hindu Mahasabha were against INC’s pro-Muslim attitude and at the same time opposed partition. The Sikhs wanted partition of Punjab instead of getting clubbed with a dominant Muslim province. INC opposed partition of India and rightly tried hard to represent all communities and all castes in a not so right way. Though everybody wanted freedom, there was no common consensus to earn it. Mountbatten wrote to British Prime Minister Attlee:
‘The scene here is one of unrelieved gloom. . . . The Cabinet is fiercely divided on communal lines; each party has its own solution and does not at present show any sign of being prepared to consider another . . . unless I act quickly I may well find the real beginnings of a civil war on my hands.’
It was no wonder that Britain wanted leave India quickly, and the only way to do that was partition. Reluctantly, Jawaharlal and Jinnah agreed with the plan. Only Gandhi was still against it. He said, ‘I find myself all alone, even the Sardar and Jawaharlal think my reading of the situation is wrong and peace is sure to return if partitioning was agreed upon . . . the future of independence gained at this price is going to be dark.’ The immediate future was one of the darkest indeed.


One-fifth of human race (400 million people) got freedom on 15 August 1947. Gandhi was not there to celebrate it. He was in Kolkata, trying to stop the riots. It was not the freedom he fought for. Nor was this freedom due to him. When British Prime Minister Atelee was asked about the reason for leaving India, he cited various reasons,
‘The most important were the activities of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose which weakened the very foundation of the attachment of the Indian land and naval forces to the British Government.’ 
When asked on the contribution of Gandhi, ‘Attlee’s lips widened in a smile of disdain and he uttered, slowly, putting emphasis on each single letter “mi-ni-mal”’.


Here it was the Sikhs, in other places it was the Muslims or the Hindus, but the victims of this brutal form of revenge and counter-revenge were inevitably women. The few who survived had their hands and breasts cut off, genitals mutilated, or the name of their rapist tattooed on their body. 


It was August, and monsoon was yet to arrive. The hot Indian summer of 1947 was also a lot drier than usual. The weather probably reflected the dark evil that engulfed the mind of Indians. A large group of Muslim women were stripped not just of their clothes but their soul and paraded naked in Amritsar as violent mobs of Sikhs raped and murdered them. Few women managed to survive the ordeal, only because of some brave Sikh men who hid them inside the sacred Golden Temple. Sikhs were avenging the March massacre where the Muslims in Pakistan raped and murdered the Sikhs. Here it was the Sikhs, in other places it was the Muslims or the Hindus, but the victims of this brutal form of revenge and counter-revenge were inevitably women. The few who survived had their hands and breasts cut off, genitals mutilated, or the name of their rapist tattooed on their body. If they survived to cross the border in one piece, there were pimps waiting to gift them one of the oldest professions in a man’s world: prostitution. It was the lucky ones who died because a life worse than hell awaited the ones who survived. A very conservative estimate by the government of India suggests that 83,000 women were violated during partition. Gandhi was grief stuck by the events that were unfolding. He said on his birthday,
‘I have no desire now to live for 125 years. Today you must all pray to God either to take me away from this fire or to grant good sense to India. I had never been so downcast in any of my numerous fights with the British. But what am I to do today with my own kith and kin? People try to kill their own brothers nowadays. I don't want to live to see this fratricidal war.’

Imperialism, the new and more powerful enemy, had shifted our focus from our old foes. Now that the giant was slayed, the old wounds surfaced once more. Muslim extremist groups, Sikh Akali Dal, Hindu Mahasabha, and the likes fuelled the violence. Over 12 million people were displaced from their homes and had to migrate across the border with death chasing them at every step. It was the largest mass migration in human history. Around a million died in the process. The riots that began in Bengal took the most brutal form in Punjab. These were the two states partitioned by Radcilffe line. In Punjab the Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims were evenly spread unlike in Bengal where the Hindus were dominant in the west and Muslims in the east. That made it that much harder to cut Punjab into two half. Bengal, which had already experienced partition, got its boundary declared couple of days before Punjab. This aggravated the violence in Punjab. More importantly, Bengal had Gandhi. It was in Bengal that Gandhi became a saint because it was in Bengal where he performed a miracle.


One could hear the resounding cries of ‘Hindu Muslim Ek ho’, ‘Jai Hind’, ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ in the streets of Kolkata. 


When India leaders were celebrating Independence Day, Gandhi was taking a difficult journey through the riot-stricken areas to calm people down. He first went to Bihar; and from there, he traveled to Bengal, which had been the heart of communal violence for a year since Jinnah declared Direct Action Day. Gandhi’s plan was to be with the Hindus of East Bengal during the partition. His plans changed when the terrified Muslim leaders in Kolkata invited him to stay with them. They assured him that if there was no riot in Kolkata, there would be no riot in the rest of Bengal. If the Hindus of Kolkata did not harm the Muslims, the Muslim-dominated regions of East Bengal would not harm the Hindus. With that assurance, Gandhi went to Kolkata and stayed in a Muslim house. Angry Hindu mob shouted at Gandhi, telling him to go back. They blamed him for supporting the Muslims and were asking for the blood of Shaheed Suhrawardy, the Muslim leader and ex-chief minister of Bengal. Gandhi brought Suhrawardy forward with a hand placed firmly over his shoulders. The crowd asked if he took the responsibility for the killings of Hindus last year. Surprising everyone, Suhrawardy accepted the blame and said that he was ashamed of it. By accepting his mistake, he won over the crowd. Soon there were Hindus and Muslims hoisting the Indian flag together amid the huge cheer from the crowd. On 15 August, Kolkata became the city of joy. The fairy tale did not last long as within a week violence returned. The old man, who had already distanced himself from politics and considered by many as a spent force, decided to go on a fast until people stopped killing one another. The city calmed down once more. Leaders from all faith came to him and put down their weapons and pledged not to fight. One could hear the resounding cries of ‘Hindu Muslim Ek ho’, ‘Jai Hind’, ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ in the streets of Kolkata. Lorries, buses, and taxis filled with Hindus and Muslims drove around the street, shouting the slogans of brotherhood. Bengal survived because of the old man’s miracle, but Punjab was not that lucky.

Seventy-year-old Gandhi started his journey towards Punjab to do what he did in Bengal. Meanwhile, riots spread to Delhi, breaking Gandhi’s journey in between. The emotionally charged Sikhs and Hindus migrating from Pakistan attacked the Muslims in Delhi. Fearing for their lives, the Muslims ran away to fortified places like Jama Masjid and Old Fort. A frustrated Jawaharlal warned people through radio, ‘We are dealing with a situation analogous to war, and we are going to deal with it on a war basis in every sense of the word’. Gandhi visited the hospitals to meet all victims. He requested Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs to stop the violence so that he could continue his journey towards Punjab. When violence did not stop, he resorted to another fast. Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh leaders came together and pledged to stop the violence. Gandhi broke his fast. Delhi, however, did not calm down like Kolkata. Two days later, there was an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Gandhi. Gandhi ignored the attack and kept meeting the people in Delhi.  The life of innocents were more important than his own. On 30 January, ten days since the first attack, Gandhi began his fateful walk towards the prayer meeting ground. His destiny awaited him.


Part 7: Decoding Gandhi


Written by Subhrashis Adhikari
"Engaging and entertaining, this page-turner is remarkable in its narration and will give you a new perspective on various aspects of life. Wellresearched and heartfelt, the encouraging tone throughout the book tries to motivate towards a happier life." - Times of India

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