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Friday, February 18, 2005

Stargazin' with the Mahatma

by Maria Eleanor Elape Valeros
December 13, 2004, posted at www.thefreeman.com

An awaited perigee moon finally rose from a celestial horizon one breezy Saturday evening when I had all the opportunity to shift through my dream catcher the gorgeous silhouette of Buhisan’s mountain ridges that were all divine temptations.

“The Mahatma must have been waiting for me at this very minute,” I muttered to myself as my dreamy thoughts traversed a serpentine path of fallen leaves cracking crisply beneath each hurried footstep, far from the comforts of my pillow where my head chose to lie.

I saw myself hurriedly stuffing my backpack with provision, found my way to the reforestation’s campsite, and there pitched my tent and spread the earth pad a good few meters from the lake which was a painting of careening clouds, the star-spangled sky and one effulgent new age moon.

I caught sight of the stupendous raining moonshine sweeping the glades where The Mahatma maintained his calm and quiet in a squatting position.

“You just arrived at the very right time for your most-desired interview,” he looked at me and gestured for me to sit on the stump beside him.

“What do you want to know from a man who is humbler than the dust?” he nailed his deep-set eyes on me with a blinding shimmer of his spectacles hit by a moon ray.

“I know, Sir, you too appreciate the stars,” I pointed at the glittering skies covering us. “Most stars, though beautiful, fade to die; but there’s this star in the north that is unwavering, very much like your faith. That amazes me, Mr. Gandhi…I read your works on your experiments with Truth and find that writing an autobiography is a practice peculiar to the West. I know of nobody in the East having written one, except among those who have come under Western influence.

I would like to know what has set you on this adventure?”

He turned his gaze straight into the lake as if scanning its depths with his mind.

“I had considered what a God-fearing friend of mine said: Supposing you reject tomorrow the things you hold as principles today, or supposing you revise in the future your plans of today, is it not likely that the men who shape their conduct on the authority of your word, spoken or written, may be misled?’ This argument had some effect on me. But, it is not my purpose to attempt a real autobiography. I simply want to tell the story of my numerous experiments with Truth, and as my life consists of nothing but those experiments, the story took the shape of an autobiography,” he said. And there was a deafening silence.

I attempted to break it by asking, “Your experiments in the political fields are known not only in India, but the civilized world, and you have been aptly given the title ‘Mahatma’.”

He was still intently looking at the placid lake. “Aptly? For me, this has not much value,” then he smiled sheepishly. “The title ‘Mahatma” that they bestowed on me means less. Often the title has deeply pained me; and there is not a moment I can recall when it may be said to have tickled me. The more I reflect and look back at the past, the more vividly do I feel my limitations.” Again there was that deafening silence that made thunderous my heartbeat.

“Really? But you just can’t imagine the positive magnitude of your so-called ‘limitation”, Mr. Gandhi. Your passivity has eventually changed the face of one society! This, I suppose, is what you’ve been dying to achieve,” a second time I had attempted to break the silence by throwing in the question which I had only groped a second ago.

He gave me a drilling look into my eyes. “What I have been striving and pining to achieve all these years is self-realization. To see God face to face, to attain moksha – the Christian equivalent of salvation. There are some things which are known only to oneself and one’s Maker. These are clearly incommunicable. The experiments I had undertaken were about relating to Him.

But they are spiritual or rather moral; for I firmly believe that the essence of religion is morality,” he then folded his hands and whispered the rest of the answers to himself, leaving me gaping.

But I still faked composure amid the whining sensation that had now gutted my inner recesses, “At least, now I know I can relate for we share the same desire to see the Supreme face to face. It doesn’t even matter to me if He is Jesus, Yahweh, or Allah, or Jehovah. But tell me, Sir, what is Truth?

“Truth? Ah well…,” he was thumping his fingers on his lap, “I see it as the sovereign principle which includes numerous other principles. This Truth is not only truthfulness in word, but truthfulness in thoughts also, and not only the relative truth of our conception, but the Absolute Truth, the Eternal Principle that is God.”

It was a relief to see him turn to me and motioned to have me come closer with that innocent smile from a man British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once tagged as a “naked, little fakir”.

At the height of this shared bonding, I said: “We see God differently. While I profess I’m a Christian by indoctrination, for sure, you would insist that nothing could be better than being a Hindu. How will I know, then, what Truth is when what is True to you may not be True to me at all?”

The Mahatma retorted: “There are innumerable definitions of God because His manifestations are innumerable. They overwhelm me with wonder and awe and for a moment stun me. But I worship God as Truth only. I have not yet found Him, but I am seeking after Him. I am prepared to sacrifice the things dearest to me in pursuit of this quest. Even if the sacrifice demanded my very life. I hope I may be prepared to give it. But as long as I have not realized this Absolute Truth, so long must I hold by the relative truth as I have conceived it. That relative truth must, meanwhile, be my beacon, my shield, and buckler. That relative truth is straight and narrow and sharp as the razor’s edge, but for me it has been the quickest and easiest.”

But I had my own issue to deal with: “What I mean is that how can I determine if the path I’m walking on leads me to the Absolute Truth.”

Yet, he had a knack for reading minds because he had the quick reply: “Test your conviction. Daily the conviction on the Absolute Truth, God, must grow. It is growing upon me that He alone is Real and all else is unreal. The quest of truth is as simple as it is difficult. And so I tell you, what’s your name again?”

“Eleanor, sir!,” I answered.

“Ah yeah, Eleanor…I remember now my friend Franklin’s wife. A namesake. So I must tell you that the seeker after Truth should be humbler than the dust. The world crushes the dust under its feet, but the seeker after Truth should so humble himself that even the dust could crush him. Only then, and not till then, will he have a glimpse of Truth.”

And I was now comfortable to say this line to him: “You know what Mr. Gandhi, the thread of our thoughts may not intertwine today, but I believe the world will come to terms with that example of passivity you left behind. As long as we have this life blowing within us, spirituality will continue to groan deep. I do feel that God is still relevant in my generation.”

To which he retorted: “It groans deep inside, very much. It is an unbroken fortune to me that I am still so far from Him who, as I fully know, governs every breath of my life and whose offspring I am.”

(For your comments, reactions, suggestions, and contributions, crank up my addy: pinay_mangatkatay@yahoo.com. Celebrate the relevance of your God in this generation!)