We speak of
these as separate, but to Gandhiji they were
actually inextricable concepts:
was the means and truth was the end.
Truth was God, according to Gandhiji, but in
order to be one with God, one’s spirit had to be
pure, which could only be achieved through
As we reflect
on the greatness of Mahatma Gandhiji’s life, we must
ask ourselves, “What was the meaning of his life?
What was the message of his death?
What does he have to teach the world of today?”
We can answer
these questions with the word
Yagna was the spirit of his life and the
message of his death.
Every breath of his life, including the last,
was an oblation to his country, his principles and
his faith in God. The theme of his life was truly
Mahatma Gandhi could have been a wealthy
He could have had a life of relative ease and
However, he was a man devoted to his country
and to Her freedom.
Through his tireless effort and his simple
piety he led India to independence. However, in
spite of national and international acclaim,
he never lost his humility, his dedication and
his spirit of sacrifice. Rather, the flames of his
true yagna to Bharat Mata seemed to only grow until
he, himself, was the poornahuti, or final offering.
When I was little, a great saint told me that
we always try to put ourselves in the center. We
always want the focus on ourselves, the recognition
for ourselves and the reward for ourselves.
We do not actually work or accomplish anything
meaningful, but we expend great effort trying to
convince all those around us of our inestimable
worth. However, Gandhiji was different. He did
everything, accomplished everything. Yet he worked
and lived with such humility and such piety that he
never put himself in the center. This is a great
message of his life: “work, serve with every breath,
but remain a simple, humble,
unattached child of God.”
Gandhiji’s spirit of non-violence
and sacrifice did not only pertain to overt actions.
It was a quality of the spirit – a quality of humble
love for all beings. There is a story of a man
traveling by train to Porbandar in the same coach as
However, the man did not know that the old man
in his coach was Mahatma Gandhi.
So, all night long this man lay down on the
seat, occupied the entire coach, pushed Gandhiji,
put his feet on him, and left Gandhiji with barely
enough room to sit upright.
However, Gandhiji did not fight, nor complain.
How easy it would have been to proclaim, “I am
Mahatma Gandhi. Give me room in the coach.”
was an ahimsa
of the tongue and an
of the heart. So, he simply let the man use as much of
the seat as he desired. .
As the train pulled into
Porbandar the man mentioned that he was going to see
the famous Mahatma Gandhi.
Gandhiji still remained silent.
He had no need to stray from divine humility
and proclaim his identity. As Gandhiji descended
from the train to a welcoming crowd of thousands,
the man fell at his feet, begging for forgiveness.
Gandhiji, of course, blessed and forgave him,
telling him only that he should be more respectful
of others, regardless of who they are. He taught the
man the true lesson of Sarvodaya, for the man
learned that anyone (including the skinny, old man
in your coach) is divine and deserves respect.
This is a message we should learn and re-learn
every time we remember this great saint. We must
realize that every person is divine, including those
we step on to made ourselves higher, or push aside
to give ourselves center stage, or ignore in the
service of our needs.
Another beautiful example of Gandhiji’s
humility, his selfless sacrifice for his country is
how he “celebrated” his victory.
When India won independence, when Gandhiji was
the hero of the country,
he could have been in New Delhi receiving
boundless honors and appreciation. However, he was
not. He was not in New Delhi, nor was he in Bombay,
nor in Calcutta. He was nowhere that would shower
him with love and esteem. Rather, was in East Bengal
where Hindus and Muslims were fighting bitterly.
He was not content to have “fulfilled his
mission.” Rather, if humans were still suffering,
then he still had work to do. So, while the rest of
the country celebrated, Gandhiji continued his
tireless work to heal
the wound between Hindus and Muslims.
This is the spirit of sacrifice.
This is the spirit of divinity.. Even when all
external circumstances throw you to the center, you
remain humble, you remain simple, you remember for
whom your yagna was performed. Gandhi’s yagna was
for his country, not for his own fame.
Sacrifice for Dharma -- the Principles of Right
However, his life was not only a sacrifice for
Mother India. It was also a yagna of morality, of
dharma, of ethics and of truth. How easy it would have been to fight with weapons; how easy
to kill the enemy. How easy to carry a gun to
protect himself. Yet, the flames of Gandhiji’s yagna
were fueled by non-violence. Wars throughout history
had been won with weapons. Gandhiji was devoted to
proving that peace could only come through peace.
People criticized him vehemently for refusing to
take up arms; they claimed he was forfeiting India’s
fight for freedom. Yet, he simply kept pouring
truth, piety, and dharma into the fire of his
life yagna, and the flames rose in victory.
This is the true meaning of yagna, for Gandhiji
sacrificed an easy-win (or at least a quick loss)
for India by refusing to engage in armed warfare. He
sacrificed his popularity; he sacrificed his status
as a fighter. Yet, the truth prevails and he is
remembered as one of the greatest leaders -- both
political and spiritual -- that the world has ever
Sacrifice to God
Mahatma Gandhi’s life was in service to God.
His work for his country and his tenaciously held
values were part and parcel of this complete
sacrifice to the divine. The Gita was his closest
his most trusted guide.
So many people today claim that their lives and
their work are “God’s.”
Yet, they use this as an excuse to lie, to
cheat and even to kill. And, at the end it is clear
that they merely used God’s name in the service of
themselves. Yet, Gandhiji was pure and his death is
the clearest example.
Due to his tenaciously held belief in
and his true surrender to God, he refused to employ a
bodyguard. Hence, he was gunned down on his way to a
As he breathed his last, there was no sign of fight,
no break from his lifelong dedication to
non-violence and to the divine. He did not scream,
“Who are you? How dare you? Somebody help me!!”
Rather, the only words that escaped from his lips
were “He Ram, He Ram, He Ram.”
This is the spirit of yagna.
So many people come and go in this world. So
many people become famous through valiant efforts to
“make a name for themselves.”
Yet, how many of these people have really left
lasting impressions or have really changed the
course of history? Very few.
When we depart this Earth, when we leave our
bodies, what is it that remains? It is that which we
have given to the world. It is that for which we have sacrificed. It is the love and
the peace that our presence brought to those around
us. Gandhiji’s name will live eternally not only because he
brought independence to India.
He will be remembered forever and revered
forever because of the way he brought peace,
because of the message of his life.
When Gandhiji was in South Africa he was
traveling by train and the conductor came and rudely
told Gandhi to leave.
“But, sir, I have a ticket,” Gandhi replied.
The conductor threw violently him from the train and
yelled, “You do not deserve to ride on this train!”
Gandhi, however, did not raise an arm in his
And today, does anyone know the name of the man
who threw him from the train?
Of course not. But, today the name of that
train is “Mahatma Gandhi Train”, and the name of the
station is “Mahatma Gandhi Station”! That is the
spirit of yagna.
Gandhi would not have wanted to be only
remembered in history books. He would not want to be
remembered only as the politician who led India to
He would want his message to live on; he would want
his yagna to continue burning, to continue bringing
light and warmth to all the world. In fact, when
someone once asked him for a message, he replied,
“my life is my message.”
So, as we remember this
Mahatma, this “great soul,” let us take his message
Let us live our lives as a sacrifice to world
peace, as a sacrifice to our principles and as a
sacrifice to God. Then, and only then, will our
lives truly make a difference.
bless you all.