I remember reading a wonderful book of essays on Mahatma Gandhi when I was in 9th std from a book which I got as a prize in Ramakrishna Mission School. One particular essay always remained etched in my memory and one of the few writers whose name I never forgot because of just two paragraphs he wrote about Gandhi. It was Stephen Hobhouse. The book was ‘The first Mahatma Gandhi Essays and Reflections on his life and works Presented to him on his Seventieth Birthday October 2, 1939 Edited By : S. Radhakrishnan, our former president Dr. S. Radhakrishnan
The essay in all editions of different publishers to my memory has remained on Page 80 [ probably because only by that age we realize the value of certain souls] title of the essay was ‘THE SIGNIFICANCE OF GANDHI FOR THE OUTLOOK OF A CHRISTIAN PACIFIST By Stephen Hobhouse, M.A. (Broxbourne, Herts, England)
“However objective our religion or philosophy may appear to be, each of us human beings who is able to reflect and to aspire has had to construct a world of his own out of materials set before him by the mysterious, unknown environment wherein he finds himself. Within this universe of our consciousness there are certain objects— forces, qualities, ideals, or persons we call them— which stir with a strange and moving attraction the central fibres of our nature, our heart and our reason; and there comes to us in our better moments a constant longing to know them, to love them, to identify ourselves with them more and more completely, ever seeking to liberate ourselves from the trivial and inessential, the unlovely and the impure. Other minds may find much of this central attraction in the creations of human art or even in the subtle correspondences of scientific process. I am one of the many who find it chiefly in the inexpressible wonder and beauty of personality, as imagined in its perfection of life through the best and loveliest men and women who cross our path whether in the flesh or in books, as well as in an indefinable sense of the same personal wonder and beauty breathed upon us from visible nature, in sky and earth and living things, when her moods and ours possess the inner harmony that brings peace. And from these two centres of my highest experience I am inescapably drawn to a faith in that which we call God, to an experiment in discovering and testing an infinite super-personal yet supremely personal and supremely beneficent Being, who is at once the source and the goal of all the separate centres of life and beauty which within and around me strive for liberation and expression. Unhappily, too, I am equally conscious of dark, destructive elements of ugliness and discord, which with an evil activity of their own mar the growth of harmonious life. These forces seem to some extent to be present in external nature, but, inasmuch as the courageous human soul has a marvellous capacity for overcoming or neutralizing the hostility of nature, they are far more dangerous enemies as present within the hearts of men, and within my own heart in particular. Unaided I too often lose faith and am all but helpless before the demonic power of these evil tendencies; and I must turn for aid and liberation to a closer fellowship of spirit with some other personality, human or divine. Providence has ordained that I have been born and bred in a community where past and present have united in confronting me with the historic figure of Jesus Christ, as supremely incarnating the infinite Personality which seems to live at the heart of all that is good and beautiful. Thought and prayer and the influences of a still vigorous tradition, sanctified by the wisdom of antiquity and now, as perhaps never before, becoming purified of alien accretions, have convinced me that this historic person holds a position at the heart of the Godhead and the universe, as no other human figure, no other avatar or incarnation of the Divine can do. The same Spirit lives with a lesser but still splendid pre-eminence in other human personalities, in many doubtless who have left behind them no recorded memory, in some souls whose memory is preserved as the bright and shining lights of our race's history. A fewdark patches indeed there may be on their radiance, but these dim its beneficence but little. I think of them all as messengers and prophets of the eternal Christ, even though some among them would not or could not acknowledge Him as Lord and God. Of these historic light-bearers, one of the greatest of all time, so it seems to me, is Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the prophet of ahims-satyagraha. Certainly he is the greatest that has appeared in our own day. The decay of ancient faiths and moralities, the tyranny of the machine, the evil use of applied science made by the misguided industrialists and militarists whose control we support or at least endure, have, in spite of recent revelation of many new and lovely aspects of truth, produced I n world history an unexampled crisis. It is even conceivable that civilization or, since that word is an ambiguous one, orderly, kindly, enlightened human society, as the more fortunate know it to-day, may perish more completely than ever before in the universal confusion and destruction of strife engendered by the lawless selfseeking of human desires and passions. I have sent myself in the essay to try to explain how it is that Gandhi’s great and closely related ideals of ahimsa and satyagraha appear to me to present the only means by which salvation and redemption, healing and true life, can come to the sorely distracted and diseased environment in which we find ourselves.
Now this book is available free on net http://www.mkgandhi.org/ebks/mgessaysandreflections.pdf