The “Persistent” Mahatma: Rereading Gandhi Post-Hindutva
The “sanatani” Mahatma is, literally, the “eternal” or “perpetual” Mahatma (great soul)—in that sense this chapter asks what or who this Mahatma was, what aspect of Gandhi’s life and message are actually enduring. But in order to do so, I also try to define what Sanatana Dharma, or the philosophia perennis of Hinduism is—what is it that actually makes it Sanatana. Intended as an extended act of Sanatani reclamation of the life and legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, my chapter is also a political project. At its most ambitious, it tries to explore a new way of being Indian and Hindu, especially in so far as this relates simultaneously to being a citizen of contemporary India. Such a perspective is offered as a contribution to an alternative (trans)nationalism that is both contestatory and emancipatory, while at the same time lovingly, if painfully, engaged with the dominant, so as to create a better world. Sadly, however, neither dominance nor dissent, are able to deliver such a world to us. In fact, dissent is often a sanctioned, if not sanctified, part of the dominant. Gandhian satyagraha or insistence on truth is radical and far-reaching precisely because it dares not so much to break up or break out of the dominant or even to destroy it as some jihadists would, but rather more ambitiously to transform it into becoming the co-author of the ideal polity for the multiverse which we inhabit. I wish to accomplish a rereading of Gandhi by focussing on a special kind of limitation in his thought. Simply put, this limitation was his refusal to engage with modernity on its own terms. Whether this limitation was also a source of his unique strength is debatable, but that it was deliberate and thoughtful is somewhat more certain. What I plan to do is to use a similarly limited agency to recuperate Gandhi, who, I argue, himself risks being marginalized in India’s current self-fashioning.
KeywordsIndian Language Spiritual Tradition Western Modernity Spiritual Force Cultural Hero
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