It is written in the Bible – An Eye for an Eye and a Tooth for a Tooth.
I hesitated for some time before writing this article as I am going to criticize the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi.
But I told myself that Gandhi had given this country its freedom. God has given me a mind of my own and the Constitution of India guarantees to me the right of free speech. And implicit in the right to free speech is the right to have opinions of my own even if they contradict the Mahatma’s teaching and philosophy.
Gandhi – responding to the Bible – famously said that an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.
But is that really so?
Suppose someone attacks you and you lose an eye. According to Gandhi if you ask for an eye in return then some other innocent person will lose his eye and if the chain continues then the whole world becomes blind.
But is that really the teaching of the Bible?
As I see it if you lose an eye then you are not justified in asking for an eye of an innocent person. But what about the person who attacked you? Is it not justified that he should lose his eye because he took yours? This is not the highest teaching. This is not the teaching of the Sermon of the Mount. But how many people in this world are trying to be saints? Very few.
I think that the Bible shows a deep understanding of human nature as it exists. It is a deep rooted instinct in humans that they should receive justice if someone harms them.
Human nature has not changed since the time that the Bible was written. It has not evolved. Our instincts require us to seek justice and we meddle with them at our own peril.
Mahatma Gandhi described himself as a politician who was trying to be a saint. And he may well have succeeded in becoming a saint. He died remembering the name of God and according to the Hindu scriptures if someone has the name of God on his lips at the exact moment of death then he or she attains salvation.
But his teaching that you should not seek retribution if someone harms you goes against some very powerful and deep rooted instincts in our nature. And almost nobody in this world is trying to become a saint in any case.
Gandhi’s teaching may be relevant to people who are trying to be saints. But to expect and require the aam aadmi to do so is completely unrealistic.
It is said in the Bible – Many are called but few are chosen. Out of the entire human race, many are called. So most are not even called. That is to say most of the people on this Earth are not even trying to be saints
Hinduism believes in the doctrine of Karma, the teachings of Islam will not contradict the Bible and all countries have a criminal justice system. These established religious teachings have survived because they have a more mature understanding of human nature than what Mahatma Gandhi had (judging by the evidence at hand).
Looking at it from Gandhi’s point of view he probably wanted to persuade people (of his day) to not resort to communal violence on being provoked. But the solution to that should have been to have a functioning criminal justice system and not require people to act against their instincts and try to become saints. You do not force somebody to climb Mount Everest at gunpoint. He will only fall and break his neck.
Mahatma Gandhi bit off a good bit more than he could chew. Human nature did not change despite the spiritual attainments of the Buddha, Jesus, Prophet Muhammad or any of the other saints and prophets. And it did not change for Mahatma Gandhi either.
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