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कृण्वन्तो विश्वमार्यम्

Mahatma Gandhi's speeches at Arya Samaj annual celebrations - Surat


1ST SPEECH ON January 2, 1916

You have laid me under a heavy debt by inviting me to attend
this function and declare open the Arya Samaj temple and I am
thankful likewise to the Samaj and to the people of Surat for asking me to preside over this celebration. Let me tell you at the outset that I
am not an Aryasamajist, as members of the Samaj, and others as well,
know. At the same time, I ought to say that I bear no ill-will to the
Samaj either. I am not a member of this body just as I am not a
member of any other body. There are numerous other bodies like the
Arya Samaj in India and they all do their best by way of service, but I
have especial respect for the Samaj. I have developed good relations
with Munshiramji of the Gurukul at Hardwar. My sons and other
friends of mine had occasion to stay in that Gurukul and it is not easy
to forget the love which prompted all that was done for them. The
whole of India knows its work as much as I do. Swami Dayanand, the
adored founder of the Samaj, was a rare man and I must acknowledge
that I have come under his influence. I have had occasion to talk
about the Arya Samaj at many places. In my opinion, the Samaj could
do very useful work if some change was brought about in it. What
needs to be changed is this,— some of the spokesmen of the
Samaj seem to be only too ready to enter into violent controversy to
gain their end. They could, however, achieve their purpose without
recourse to controversy. I discussed this matter in Hardwar and
mention it again here today. The service that the Arya Samaj renders
is not different from that of the Hindu religion. If one examines
different bodies like the Brahmo Samaj1, the Sikh Samaj, etc., one sees
that all of them express the truths of the Hindu religion. Only the
names differ. Just as individual persons are mentioned by name for
the purpose of a census, so are the various sects listed with some
public good in view. If you examine the basic principles of all the
sects, they will be found to differ in no way from those of the Hindu
religion. The trend of the discussions at present going on shows
unmistakably that a time will certainly come when all the sects of
Hindus will be included under the single term “” There are
different religious groups in India like Hindus, Parsis, Muslims and so
on, but for purposes of national work they all get united. This will
show that the spirit of religion is active in all. Let it be remembered
that without this spirit, no great task was ever ventured upon or ever
will be. I shall now make a few observations I feel like making on this
occasion. They will serve my own purpose and will also help me to
discharge my duty. I have been given half an hour now and one hour
in the evening, a total of one and a half hours, for speaking, but it is
beyond me to speak so long and see that you digest all that I say. I
like to have the shortest possible time for a speech and I have had
good experience in the matter. I have been at a good many places
during the last 30 years and I have noticed that where there is much
speaking, there is little work. This charge has long been made against
the whole of India. It is made by Europeans, that is, by people from
the West. We deserve it. It has been remarked even at a session of the
Congress that we are fed only on speeches and discourses. When shall
we break free of this? We are very much at fault on this count and
find ourselves in a miserable plight in consequence. As you know,
there is much hunger in India, and it has always been hunger for
spiritual food. If, on occasions of such celebrations, the day is spent
merely in listening to speeches for seven or eight hours, when can we
have time for work? If we had spent as much of our lives in work as
we have in listening to speeches, how much could have been
accomplished in India by now. If we had spent in doing sums in
arithmetic all the time we wasted on speeches, I think India would be
now on the threshold of swaraj. We shall never get swaraj by listening
to speeches and discourses, sitting in pandals like this. It is to be had
only through sacrifice of self and by making ourselves worthy of it. I
brought up this matter for discussion in the Congress session, at
Hardwar and wherever else I went and, having got this opportunity
today, place it before you. Whenever I have occasion to speak, I have
my say in brief and I shall continue to follow that practice. I appeal to
the speakers [today] to proceed apace likewise. We arrange
programmes of as many as seven hours of speeches at these
gatherings. If the men who have assembled here were given a hoe and
a shovel each and made to work at digging the land here for that
number of hours, and the land were sown, we should certainly have a
good crop next year. If I could take the leading workers of the Arya
Samaj round the town and make them clean up the dirty spots, they
would certainly earn the gratitude of the people of Surat. We see that
the people of the West are more keen on work than on speeches. If at
all you want to imitate them, imitate them in their good qualities. You
will learn much therefrom. If, instead, you adopt foreign ways from
them, you will invite your undoing. If we could reduce the
programme of speeches today from seven to four hours and give the
three hours thus saved to doing something useful, the time would be
better spent. If merely listening to speeches could accomplish
anything or cure our ailments, why, they arrange reading from the
Bhagavat at so many places and these draw large audiences, but we
shall find on several of these occasions that quite a few in the audience
are dozing. If we could get everything by submitting to speeches, we
need do nothing else. Only let the Brahmins go on with their readings
from holy books and Puranas and our salvation would be assured.
Indians, thus enjoy speaking and hearing others speak and paying
compliments to themselves. They go to extremes in these matters. If,
instead, we were to hold our tongues, there is much we could learn.
Speaking hinders reflection. If, on the other hand, you do something,
be it what it may, that will lead to a discussion and the people will be
enabled to draw some lesson from it. I would, therefore, entreat you to
employ every available minute in doing your duty. A great saint has
said that, if at any time too many ideas rush into one’ mind. one
should not lose one’ judgement. One should not act upon them
immediately. One should sleep over them for a night and examine
them with oneself from every point of view so as to cast out such of
them as are of no value, discuss the rest with one’ wife, exchange
views with her and cut out those which are found unsound. The idea
that remains at the end, if one feels with all one’ soul that it is true,
one may act upon it and place it before the world undeterred by any
attacks that may follow. Only an idea that is held with such conviction
can be translated into action, and no time will be wasted in
consequence. I respectfully submit that it is very necessary to take full
thought before embarking upon any course of action. It will be
impudence on my part to tell you what ought to be done. By my
saying so, moreover, the thing will not be done. What I have told you
today is but my own experience and I would humbly request you,
therefore, to accept from it only what may appeal to you as right.
Rather than imitate the West, it would be far more profitable to us to
reject everything that they offer us. If only you consider, they don’
have speeches in Europe as we have, for they get no time to listen to
any. In order to make the progress that they are making, there are
certain rights we must demand and secure from the Government. For
that purpose, we must get ready for a struggle. I know that the honour
people give me these days is because of the fight I gave to the
Government for securing our rights and because of the suffering I
went through in doing so. We have to deserve such rights. May you,
therefore, read and think and learn from others in order to make
yourselves so worthy and be fit to give a fight to the Government
along the path of truth! If the workers of this Samaj take the lead in
doing this duty, that would be more profitable. With these words I
request your permission to resume my seat.

Replying to some observations of the speakers who followed him, Gandhiji
It is not enough that today, acting upon a hint from me, you did not indulge in
long speeches to make things easy for me. It will make me happier to know that you
will never do so. Pandit Ramchandraji put me an important question in the course of
his speech. He asked me to say how the world of the Arya Samaj could be made more
useful and popular. It is not only here that the question has come up. It was also
discussed when I was at Hardwar. I have no time just now to answer it. I shall argue
with Panditshri about it if he visits me at Ahmedabad. It will also be necessary to take
into account the views of those who have different ideas on the subject. I was asked
by my guru, the late Mr. Gokhale, not to get involved in such controversies and
hence I avoid them. This is not a controversy, however, with people not one’ own. I
look upon members of this Samaj as my friends and I owe it to them to offer my
advice. I have been tested on the anvil and have stood the test; it is my duty,
therefore, to share my experience with my friends. We must strive every day for
India’ progress.

In reply to one Balkrishna who argued against Gandhiji’ advice to
refrain from controversies, he said:
Following the advice of my guru, Mr. Gokhale, I do not enter
into argument with anyone. With the new year, I must remind myself
of this and, since the issue has come up, I shall say that it is a very
delicate one and the question cannot therefore be answered without
some discussion. I am not partial to anyone. If I feel that I can serve
India better by becoming a member of the Samaj, I will become one
and when I feel that way, I shall immediately say so in public. At the
moment, I cannot give any reply to Mr. Balkrishna. However, if he
comes to Ahmedabad any time, I shall discuss the matter with him and
satisfy him.2
[From Gujarati]
Gujarat Mitra ane Gujarat Darpan, 9-1-1916 and Gujarati,

2ND SPEECH ON January 3, 1916

I should have been here at two but I could not; kindly forgive me for that. I find myself in difficulties wherever I go. I have one or two days at my disposal and too many people to meet and too many places to see, with the result that I cannot always manage to be punctual. Nor can I deny myself to anyone. Yesterday, a subject was suggested to me for a speech, but I did not like to speak on it. It has
again been suggested today. I shall, therefore, as desired, place before you what few ideas I can. We find everyone in India in a state of fear, so much so that a father and a son dare not speak frankly to each other. The reason for this, you will find, is that it has become difficult to speak the truth. One is always in doubt whether one’ words will
please the other person or not. So long as this is our condition, we
shall never be able to speak the truth. While this state of fear
continues, we shall always remain backward and shall always be
dogged by misery. From the prevalent atmosphere, it seems that the
people are eager for something to be done. What is that something?
Allow me to point out that we shall have to suffer whatever work we
take up. In taking up any work, we must first decide on the course we
want to follow and then go ahead fearlessly. We are afraid at the sight
of a policeman. We feel afraid if it is but a station-master. Why this
fear? It is there because we are afraid of speaking the truth. Though
they are men in authority, they are in a way our servants, since their
services are paid for from public revenues. Why, then, should we be
afraid of those whom we have ourselves appointed? Only when people
become fearless will they wipe out this charge of timidity. I would say
that fear springs in a man from within, that no one puts the fear into
him. If you stand by the side of a wild animal, like a tiger, utterly
fearless, he will play with you; if you try to run away, he will kill you.
If, for example, you run because of the barking of a dog, he will run
after you, but he will play with you if you face him fearlessly.
Government officers are in fact our servants. We should entertain no
fear of them, though we should not behave rudely to them either.
There must be courtesy even in dealing with servants. We should
follow truth, and be fearless in doing so. A coward is himself afraid
and fills others with fear. Such is the condition of affairs in families
and communities. Where, then, shall we voice the demand for reform?
Everyone who desires reform in his community only talks about the
matter before others, saying: “ yes! There is need for such a
reform, certainly. But you know what our community is like! The
members would raise a storm.” To be afraid in this way and do
nothing is no credit to one’ manliness. The other members of the
community would not feel for our daughter as we do. I know the way
caste affairs are managed; everywhere there is the same story. Parents
remain in great fear for their daughters. Any reform that is necessary
in this matter must be carried out. If that is not done, to what end do
bodies like the Arya Samaj exist? The poet Akha has said; “ as
you will, Realize God anyhow, anyway.”
We are to seek Hari through these activities. We cannot attain
Him till we have realized the self. This country is ever in the forefront
with words, but hindmost in action. This charge against our country
must go, however. It was my experience in South Africa that people
spoke with a profuse flow of words at meetings, declared themselves
ready in their speeches even for imprisonment, but, when the testing
time came, they made themselves scarce. A man is one person when
speaking and another when the time for action comes. Then, fear
takes possession of his heart. Till you have driven out that fear, you
will make no progress, material or spiritual. People in India will know
real life only when they have shed all fear. The country has a
population of three hundred million. Even if only a few of these come
forward, they will give a lead to the rest. One good coin is of greater
worth than millions of bad ones. With these words, I beg leave to
resume my seat. I should tell you that I have yet another appointment
elsewhere. Kindly give me leave, therefore, and go on with the rest of
the programme.
[From Gujarati]
Gujarat Mitra ane Gujarat Darpan, 9-1-1916