In Hinduism, the ancient texts — the Vedas, the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, the Mahabharata — reveal their view of God. Modern people might ask how to utilize Hindu wisdom today. In light of Hindu teachings, how might they tell us where God or the Divine can be found?

Hindus might say look into the face of your neighbor from the poorest neighborhood, and God is waiting for you. A modern Hindu, Mohandas K. Gandhi — bold, stubborn lawyer, freedom-fighter, and teacher of nonviolence, martyred for religious tolerance, father of independent India – brought Hinduism's wisdom to the larger world. Gandhi used theological reflection in his everyday life as his basis for finding truth which he calls God. His life was referred to as an experiment with Truth through which he modeled discipline, compassion, and nonviolence.

His discoveries came through minor everyday events. His greatest desire was to see God face-to-face and attain moksha (liberation). As a result, he realized everything, no matter how small, is in pursuit of this goal. He worshiped God as truth only. He used theological reflection to examine his past actions to find truth in the present moment. His thesis was that a lack of truth twists relationships and evokes violence. This brilliant discovery enabled him to model for the world how to liberate an entire continent through nonviolent means.

We might call his strategy confessional writing. He shares an incident where he stole a small piece of gold from his brother's bracelet, knowing it probably wouldn't be discovered. He felt so guilty he had to make amends. He wrote a note to his father confessing what he had done. He read the note aloud and cried — his tears wetting the paper. He felt the love he had for his father. Cried some more. He said his tears purified his heart and cleansed him of his sin. His discovery was by experiencing authentic love can we know true forgiveness. This lesson taught him the way to peace, clean confession, true repentance. Only then can we live a life of nonviolence that becomes all-embracing, transforming everything it touches. There's no limit to its power. He stated truth in word and deed can disarm the most difficult situation so people will respond non-violently. This practice guided him years later to liberate his people.

We can try it: Close your eyes and relax your body. Feel your body in the chair, your feet on the ground. Think of an event where a conflict took place, someone betrayed you or caused you pain or anger. Allow this event to surface. Watch it like a movie. Allow any emotion to arise. See the truth in your actions. Open your eyes and write any insights, any amends that need to be made. What truth revealed itself?

Gandhi’s discoveries are extraordinary because they occurred in daily life, in ordinary commitments, faithfully and honestly lived. He didn't seek God through yoga, meditation, or temple worship; he didn’t claim visions or present himself as a wise philosopher, but saw God in the faces of the poor.

He stated right action, experimentation with self, discoveries of self in the practicalities of daily life: these are the steps toward God and offer a glimpse into Hindu wisdom. We can look into our own lives when we have a choice to act violently or in truth and honesty. Gandhi said, “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall — think of it, ALWAYS.”

 

Karyn Chambers earned her master's degree in composition and rhetoric, philosophy, and literature from Oregon State University and a master's of divinity from Marylhurst University in Portland. She teaches world religions and philosophy at Chemeketa Community College in Salem. She has traveled to India and studied at Oneness University. In addition, she's a Kundalini Yoga teacher and offers meditation in her Albany home.

Outbrain