“Emancipate your own self”

The relationship and communications between Mahatma Gandhi and Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore are lessons in how human beings can disagree on many matters, yet respectfully dialogue in ways that deepen mutual understanding, and love each other.

In a letter dated 30th September 1932,  Gurudev writes to Mahatma that “you know how to move the hearts of those that are obdurate, and only you, I am sure, have the patient love that can conquer the hatred that has accumulated for ages.”

In a letter dated 24th November 1932, Mahatma writes to Gurudev: “Your previous letter comforts me. It is enough for me that you are watching and praying.”

In a letter dated 2nd April 1910, from Mahatma to his nephew Maganlal, we read messages to each of us. Mahatma tells us  to realize that it is important to live the highest principles, the highest Teachings.

“Emancipate your own self,” Mahatma advises Maganlal. “Apply everything to yourself.” 

With words that remind us of the timeless idea “Atmano mokshartham jagat hitaya cha”for the salvation of our individual self and for the well-being of all — Mahatma emphasises that the self-emancipation he advises is not for selfish reasons but because “you are yourself India. In your emancipation is the emancipation of India.” 

Peace 😊

The Golden Rule

During a Book World Live online conversation (1st October 2008), the science-fantasy novelist Terry Pratchett was asked about a “theme that seems to run through many of your novels,” which “is the conception that good is relative but evil is the absolute inability to care about other living things, be they golems, people, or cats.” 

The endearingly wise Terry replied: “All I am really promoting in the books is the Golden Rule, which I hope everybody knows to be “do as you would be done by.” It has one or 2 flaws, but it is a good soundbite. Evil starts when you treat other people as things. There are perhaps worse crimes, but they begin when you treat other people as things.”

Around 450 BC, the first versions of what we know today as the Analects of Confucius began to be put together somewhere in modern-day China. In Chapter 12 (“Confucius: The Analects”, translated by Arthur Waley), we read what are probably the earliest recorded words pointing to the Golden Rule: “Do not do to others what you would not like yourself.” 

Towards the end of her Talk to the class of 1989 at Michigan Technological University, the 76 years old Rosa Parks, mother of the Civil Rights movement in the USA, draws on a lifetime of struggle for human rights, and gives each of us a message —

“we do need to go back to what we’ve always thought of as the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.””

Peace 😊

“….the right to criticise….”

The Lebanese-French writer, Amin Maaloouf writes about criticising in “In The Name of Identity”, a book that he tells us is about his quest “to understand why so many people commit crimes nowadays in the name of religious, ethnic, national or some other kind of identity”.

Amin writes that “the right to criticise someone else has to be won, deserved” by showing that person “friendship, sympathy and consideration, not merely superficially but in a manner that is sincere and felt to be so….” And when we have this relationship, Amin goes on, you “may allow yourself to criticise, with some hope of being heard, things about him that you regard as open to objection.”

The philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett offers a set of steps (that he credits Anatol Rapaport for), in “Intuition Pumps And Other Tools for Thinking”, to help us steer away from “uncharitable interpretations” of others, and deserve the right to criticise.

“”How to compose a successful critical commentary:

1. You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.

2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).

3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target.

4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.”

Bob Dylan sings, in his 1964 release “The Times They Are A-Changin’”:

“….don’t criticize
What you can’t understand….”

Peace 😊