The Sabarmati Ashram

by Ricky Toledano

When not in jail or walking around to unite India, this is where the Great Soul lived, founding the SATYAGRAHA movement, the unwaivering, unshakable commitment to Truth: that which cannot be defeated; that which is invincible. I held back tears when I saw his desk, the place where Gandhi sat, writing and spinning khadi cotton thread, dedicated to a life of simplicity and the opposite of consumption, because he knew well that nobody can achieve anything in this world unless they dedicate some time everyday to working with their hands, producing their own needs while giving the mind a time-out from unending siege of thoughts and desires of dissatisfaction.  It’s a discipline I am grateful I learned long ago from another great man whom I am proud to call my father. He forced me to work. Of course, I didn’t like it as a child. But he didn’t care what I liked, because he was not trying to be my friend. 

He was my father. 

But like all men — including Gandhi — my father was flawed. Although he was forceful, he was too gentle. I wish he had been an angrier man with more tenacity, ready to give others the limits they had been asking for. That is very easy to say, because no one is ever 100% satisfied with another individual — especially the family members and leaders from whom we expect nothing less than perfection.  We will inevitably find something wrong with others, but we never go inside ourselves to get past the inconsistencies, all the prejudice, the hypocrisies, and our habits in order to reach the Truth.  Only when that happens can COMPASSION be born.

Compassion will destroy all evil. Always. 

So, yes, maybe Gandhi was flawed, maybe he made some mistakes, just as my father and everyone else has.

It doesn’t matter!

Gandhi stands out among men for his effort to go inside, to find the Truth. And when he came out, he knew he was invincible. He had already won; it was a question of time. He would not obey liars and perverse “laws”. And that was final. That is because people, especially our “leaders”, certain individuals who have dedicated themselves to lies, to hurting people, to insulting others, to defamation, to machinations, to cheating, to stealing, to ignorance, have already lost. They already know it. Just look at their pathetic desperation. 

The Truth is Fearlessness. Faith is Fearlessness. Compassion is Fearlessness. It is the realization that there is nothing to be lost when protected by the Truth. I think all Indians should visit the Sabarmati Ashram. I think everyone should. It made me realize not only the power of the truth, but the power of CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE to do the great and necessary transformations.

“I did not ask your caste; I asked for water.”

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A native of Chicago, Ricky Toledano has lived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for over twenty years as a writer, translator and teacher. [a]multipicity is multi-lingual collection of reflections through the humanities.

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