Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav
Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India
Contact No. – 09415777229, 094055338
Mahatma Gandhi Discussion with Poona Sanatanists
Mahatma Gandhi discussed with Poona Sanatanists on December 7, 1932.
Gandhiji: Temple-entry is a purely religious question. I have never regarded it as a question of expediency. For me religion is practice. Every Hindu has the right to go to a temple. The rules regarding personal hygiene apply to all. The custom of admitting Hindus of one particular class into temples has been in vogue for many years. But which Hindus should be admitted into a temple and which not is not a religious question. About this only the temple-goers should be consulted.
Dharmashastra should not be brought in. The few who are left out should not coerce others. They should build another temple for themselves. From what study I have made of my religion, I feel that for those who are not permitted in other temples, the temple should be opened for a few hours. True religion is that which leads to spiritual progress and for which we are ready to sacrifice everything. The temple should be thrown open for ‘touchables’ for a few hours; but if the reformers are few, it cannot be thrown open to untouchables. The question of minority and majority arose from my fast. In answer to those who doubted if the majority wanted temples to be opened to untouchables, a referendum was suggested. If you prove beyond doubt that temple-entry by untouchables is against the Shastras, I shall be helpless.
QUESTION: Do you promise to listen to the Shastris if they secure a 51 per cent majority?
G. I would give up the fast today if you prove it to be adharma.
Q. Would you consider this opportunity for a discussion with the Shastris?
G. Whether it is my good luck or bad luck, you people have come here because of my fast. I had resolved that it was our duty to throw open the temples. I decided this long ago. I met the Shastris at Vaikom. They showed me Shankar Smriti and translated it too. But there was nothing in it to support what the Shastris said. I shall, of course, listen to you, since you have come to throw new light on the question; but, in the course of discussion I will not give up the resolve to fast. I read through many grant has and their translations and in the end decided that that which stands the test of ahimsa and truth is dharma. I did not go to the Gita; instead the Gita came to me. The Gita is for me an independent support. To save myself from all sorts of criticisms, I fell back on my faith, reason and bhakti. If what you say appeals to my reason, I shall say that I have lost on the rational plane. Then I shall depend on my heart. You will have to satisfy my heart.
Q. Will it not follow that what appeals to your heart is your dharma?
G. Whatever appeals to a man’s heart is dharma to him. Dharma cannot be reached by the intellect. It can only be reached by the heart. That is why it is for fools too. The question of temple-entry is purely religious. To alter my views is very difficult indeed because behind my views is a past. An ordinary man cannot decide what is and what not dharma as regards temple-entry is. It would be a mistake on my part to advocate temple-entry, if I regard it as adharma. But after a prolonged study and experience I have come to believe that it is our religious duty to throw open the temples to Harijans. I do not want to force on others what I have decided for myself. But I tell you that if your heart does not rebel against the existing tradition, I will be forced to undertake a fast. If it rebels, there will be no need for me to undertake it. I have already decided for myself. People have to decide for themselves.
Q. How can we appeal to your heart?
G. It is the teacher’s duty to convey the lesson to the student. How to do it, is the teacher’s look out. If he does not know this, how can he be called a teacher? Where am I to look for the guru? The guru should find me. If I go in search of him, I may stumble. Man does not have to go in quest of God. If we have to go in quest of Him, is It God? God finds His servants and devotees.
Q. Please talk in Sanskrit.
G. I am an ignoramus. If I were a pundit like you, I would not have allowed you to come here or I would have locked you up. I would have said, ‘Go away; my study of Shastras is different from yours.’