Gandhi was a passionate man. As an ascetic he channelled his sexual creativity beyond immediate gratification.
His pursuit was partly inspired by his reading of the Sermon on the Mount. Unable to assist theosophists’ in London who hoped he could translate Sanskrit, so he read the Bible.He also tapped into a tradition 2000 years older than Jesus with renewed vigour.
Shiva, lord of the Dance and Beasts, is depicted a yogi from the 3rd millennia BCE. Like Jesus fasting 40 days among the wild beasts, yogi’s reflected of in nature learning the meaning of breath, mind, and tapas or suffering.
Tapas is used in the Vedas of the creative heat of Tad Ekam, That One, Later tapas refers to the laser like power of focused yogic concentration.
In Christianity the suffering of Jesus crucifixion is called the Passion and in mystical Christianity personal transformation is attained through the burden of carrying our own cross.
Gandhi’s own passion for selfless service courted violent contempt by those unable to grasp his determination to give up wealth and comfort to break the evil of injustice. Each prison cell he proclaimed a “temple” or “palace”, the yogic self sacrifice of fasting had a “delicious taste” and pleasure was found in pain suffered for the common good.
He gained congress admiration, eve as Gokhale thought his methods impractical, and radicals despised his cal for non violence.
He was passionate in his Satyagraha campaigns against the injustices in Gujarat and Bihar. He transformed Congress moderate reform agenda of Congress into a mass movement for freedom. Critics may point to his Spartan simplicity, ruder in many cases than the poor endued, as publicity. His simplicity of dress made him one of the world’s most recognised figures, alongside Charlie Chaplin and Hitler. His insistence on third class train travel turned carriage into a mobile office, unless he was on foot or in prison.
Gandhi was a contradiction: He rejected the sensual and acquisitive realm of this world, and shivered naked in winter like the poorest. He retreated fro power on the brink of victory and suffered the summer heat without complaint.
Offered complete control of Congress, he declined, grooming younger men to wear the “crown of thorns.” He would abandon his own party when it lost its ideals to might, money and greed.
Gandhi recreated in himself a passion for the pain of the masses of poor, who saw in him the”Mahatma” or Great Soul.
“The purer the suffering (tapas) the greater the progress. Hence did the sacrifice of Jesus suffice to free a sorrowful world. .. If India wishes to see the Kingdom of God established on earth, instead of that of Satan which has enveloped Europe …we must go through suffering.
He would march his own Via Dolorosa” to freedom along with the poor who followed not a warring Maharaja but a yogi who mirrored their own suffering.
Creatively he subjugated his own suffering transforming Western passion and Indian tapas into a force against Empire. He turned himself into a cauldron of suffering that radiated an aura of compassion and goodness that magnetised the oppressed to his cause.
Just as the words tapas and passion express contradictory opposites, Gandhi’s own expressed passion is equally ambivalent.
Sensitive to the potential of sexual brutality Gandhi sought of return to Brahmacharya, the first stage of upper class life, or studenthood, before initiated into the sexual life of marriage. For four decades Gandhi struggled passionately for total conquest of desire.
He devoted his life to seeing God, perfecting his life to live in harmony with divine attributes.
“Truth (satya) is God” he wrote, and elsewhere he equated God wit Ahimsa, or non violence, which he called Love.
His embrace of tapas paced him at odds with society’s norms and demonstrated it was possible lo liberate oneself from self imposed shackles, as well as the shackles of tyranny. As a young man he had already been excommunicated from his caste for the act of travelling over the seas to London.
He knew rejection early in life, excommunicated from his caste for travelling across the ocean to study..
However, Ahimsa, Satya and tapas empowered him with a divine conviction beyond his physical body. He openly wrote of personal failings, or for the “Himalayan blunder” of prematurely launching his 1905 Satyagraha campaign. More importantly he learned from them transforming mistakes into stepping stones to success.
He had sought “purity of means” but sadly this legacy was not retained by India or by the Congress Party that he left, disappointed that power and money spoke more to politicians than selfless service.