Here is why Osho thought that Gandhi was the “cleanest ignorant man in the world”

In Philosophy & Culture
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Mahatma Gandhi (1869 to 1948) was the preeminent leader of the Indian independence movement in British-ruled India.

He’s widely lauded for his methods of nonviolent civil disobedience in leading India to independence and inspiring civil rights and freedom movements around the world.

Osho was (1931 to 1990) was a controversial mystic, guru and spiritual teacher who was publicly vocal in arguing that Gandhi’s movement was bad for India. He believed that Gandhi was against technology, science and economy progress.

Here’s what Osho said about Gandhi, originally published at Osho News. Continue the conversation at Ideapod, a place for people to connect through ideas.

 

I want to say to you that there were many things about Mahatma Gandhi that I loved and liked, but his whole philosophy of life was absolutely disagreeable to me. So many things about him that I would have appreciated remained neglected. Let us put the record right.

I loved his truthfulness. He never lied; even though in the very midst of all kinds of lies, he remained rooted in his truth. I may not agree with his truth, but I cannot say that he was not truthful. Whatsoever was truth to him, he was full of it.

It is a totally different matter that I don’t think his truth to be of any worth, but that is my problem, not his. He never lied. I respect his truthfulness, although he knows nothing of the truth – which I am continuously forcing you to take a jump into.

He was not a man who could agree with me: “Jump before you think.” No, he was a businessman. He would think a hundred times before taking a single step out of his door, what to say of a jump. He couldn’t understand meditation, but that was not his fault. He never came across a single master who could have told him something about no-mind, and there were such people alive at the time.

Even Meher Baba once wrote a letter to Gandhi – not exactly that he himself wrote; somebody must have written it for him, because he never spoke, never wrote, just made signs with his hands. Only a few people were able to understand what Meher Baba meant. His letter was laughed at by Mahatma Gandhi and his followers, because Meher Baba had said, “Don’t waste your time in chanting ‘Hare Krishna, Hare Rama.’ That is not going to help at all. If you really want to know, then inform me and I will call you.”

They all laughed; they thought it was arrogance. That’s how ordinary people think, and naturally it looks like arrogance. But it is not, it is just compassion – in fact, too much compassion. Because it is too much, it looks like arrogance. But Gandhi refused by telegram saying, “Thank you for your offer, but I will follow my own way”… as if he had a way. He had none.

But there are a few things about him that I respect and love – his cleanliness. Now, you will say, “Respect for such small things…?” No, they are not small, particularly in India, where saints, so-called saints, are expected to live in all kinds of filth. Gandhi tried to be clean.

He was the cleanest ignorant man in the world. I love his cleanliness. I also love that he respected all religions. Of course, my reasons and his are different, but at least he respected all religions. Of course for the wrong reasons, because he did not know what truth is, so how could he judge what was right? – whether any religions were right; whether all were right, or whether any ever could be right. There was no way.

Again, he was a businessman, so why irritate anybody? Why annoy them? They are all saying the same thing, the Koran, the Talmud, the Bible, the Gita, and he was intelligent enough – remember the “enough’, don’t forget it – to find similarities in them, which is not a difficult thing for any intelligent, clever person. That’s why I say “intelligent enough”, but not truly intelligent. True intelligence is always rebellious, and he could not rebel against the conventional, the traditional, the Hindu or the Christian or the Buddhist.

You will be surprised to know that there was a time when Gandhi contemplated becoming a Christian because they serve the poor more than any other religion. But he soon became aware that their service is just a facade for the real business to hide behind. The real business is converting people. Why? – because they bring power. The more people you have, the more power you have.

If you can convert the whole world to be either Christian or Jew or Hindu, then of course, those people will have more power than anybody ever had before. Alexanders will fade out in comparison. It is a power struggle.

The moment Gandhi saw it – and I say again, he was intelligent enough to see it – he changed his idea of becoming a Christian. In fact, being a Hindu was far more profitable in India than being a Christian. In India, Christians are only one percent, so what political power could he have?

It was good that he remained a Hindu, I mean for his mahatmahood; but he was clever enough to manage and even influence Christians like C.F. Andrews, and Jainas, Buddhists, and Mohammedans like the man who became known as “the frontier Gandhi.”

This man, who is still alive, belongs to a special tribe, Pakhtoons, who live in the frontier province of India. Pakhtoons are really beautiful people, dangerous too. They are Mohammedans, and when their leader became a follower of Gandhi, naturally they followed. Mohammedans of India never forgave “frontier Gandhi” because they thought he had betrayed their religion.

I’m not concerned whether he fulfilled or betrayed, what I am saying is that Gandhi himself had first thought of becoming a Jaina. His first guru was a Jaina, Shrimad Rajchandra; Hindus still feel hurt that he touched the feet of a Jaina.

Gandhi’s second master – and Hindus will be even more offended – was Ruskin. It was Ruskin’s great book, Unto this Last, that changed Gandhi’s life. Books can do miracles. You may not have heard of the book, Unto this Last. It is a small pamphlet, and Gandhi was going on a journey when a friend gave it to him to read on the way because he had liked it very much. Gandhi kept it, not really thinking to read it, but when there was time enough he thought, “Why not at least look into the book?” And that book transformed him.

That book gave him his whole philosophy. I am against his philosophy, but the book is great. Its philosophy is not of any worth, but Gandhi was a junk-collector. He would find junk even in beautiful places. There is a type of person, you know, who even if you take them to a beautiful garden they suddenly come upon a place and show you something that should not be. Their approach is negative. And then there is a type of person who will collect only thorns – junk-collectors; they call themselves collectors of art.

If I had read that book as Gandhi did, I would not have come to the same conclusion. It is not the book that matters, it is the man who reads, chooses and collects. His collection would be totally different although we may have visited the same place. To me, his collection would be just worthless. I don’t know, and nobody knows, what he would think about my collection. As far as I know, he was a very sincere man. That’s why I cannot say whether he would say, the way I am saying, “All his collection is junk.” Perhaps he may, or perhaps he may not have said it – that’s what I love in the man. He could appreciate even that which was alien to him and tried his best to remain open, to absorb.

He was not a man like Morarji Desai, who is completely closed. I sometimes wonder how he breathes, because at least your nose has to be open. But Mahatma Gandhi was not the same type of man as Morarji Desai. I disagree with him, and yet I know he has a few small qualities worth millions.

His simplicity… nobody could write so simply and nobody could make so much effort just to be simple in his writing. He would try for hours to make a sentence more simple, more telegraphic. He would reduce it as much as possible, and whatsoever he thought true, he tried to live it sincerely.

That it was not true is another matter, but about that what could he do? He thought it was true. I pay him respect for his sincerity, and that he lived it whatsoever the consequences. He lost his life just because of that sincerity.

With Mahatma Gandhi, India lost its whole past, because never before was anybody in India shot dead or crucified. That had not been the way of this country. Not that they are very tolerant people, but just so snobbish, they don’t think anybody is worth crucifying… they are far higher.

With Mahatma Gandhi India ended a chapter, and also began a chapter. I wept, not because he had been killed – because everybody has to die, there is not much in it. And it is better to die the way he died, rather than dying on a hospital bed – particularly in India. It was a clean and beautiful death in that way. And I am not protecting the murderer, Nathuram Godse. He is a murderer, and about him I cannot say, “Forgive him because he did not know what he was doing.” He knew exactly what he was doing. He cannot be forgiven. Not that I am hard on him, just factual.

I had to explain all this to my father later on, after I came back. And it took me many days because it is really a complicated relationship between me and Mahatma Gandhi. Ordinarily, either you appreciate somebody or you don’t; it is not so with me – and not only with Mahatma Gandhi.

I’m really a stranger. I feel it every moment. I can like a certain thing about a person, but at the same time, there may be something standing by the side of it which I hate, and I have to decide, because I cannot cut the person in two.

I decided to be against Mahatma Gandhi, not because there was nothing in him that I could have loved – there was much, but much more was there which had far-reaching implications for the whole world. I had to decide to be against a man I may have loved if – and that “if” is almost unbridgeable – if he had not been against progress, against prosperity, against science, against technology. In fact, he was against almost everything for which I stand: more technology and more science, and more richness and affluence.

I am not for poverty, he was. I am not for primitiveness, he was. But still, whenever I see even a small ingredient of beauty, I appreciate it; and there were a few things in that man which are worth understanding.

He had an immense capacity to feel the pulse of millions of people together. No doctor can do it; even to feel the pulse of one person is very difficult, particularly a person like me. You can try feeling my pulse, you will even lose your pulse, or if not the pulse, then at least the purse, which is even better.

Gandhi had the capacity to know the pulse of the people. Of course, I am not interested in those people, but that is another thing. I’m not interested in thousands of things; that does not mean that those who are genuinely working, intelligently reaching to some depth, are not to be appreciated. Gandhi had that capacity, and I appreciate it. I would have loved to meet him now, because when I was only a ten-year-old lad, all that he could get from me were those three rupees. Now I could have given him the whole paradise, but that was not to happen, at least in this life.