M. N. Roy Jawaharlal Nehru



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H Sri Aurobindo : The Ideal of Human Unity, pp. 291-92.

The central point in Aurobindo's political philosophy is the ideal of inner spiritual freedom. In modern politics and philosophy the supreme emphasis has been on liberty. There has been a fight not only against the instruments of constraint but against the very princi­ple of power itself, as in modern anarchism. Aurobindo's criticisms of democracy and socialism mainly refer to their neglect of freedom. He visualized the advent of a spiritualized society for the sake of attaining integral freedom. But there are values other than freedom. Freedom is not the only goal of human progression and evolutionary endeavour. Today political liberty has to be supplemented by free-



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  1. doms from want, material insecurity and the constant fear of alien destructive social and political forces. There is the imperative neces­sity of securing for mankind at large, those resources of nature and society which can enable it not only to participate in and enjoy the advantages of the heritage of human culture and civilization, but to realize its creative spiritualism by its freely willed contributions to human advancement and progress. Hence Aurobindo pleaded for a spiritual synthesis of liberty, equality, unity, peace and fraternity. Although a yogi and a spiritualist, he did not inculcate the sociology of abnegation and scarcity. He would like to have a 'simply rich and beautiful life' for all. His plea for the spiritual synthesis of individualism and communism has implicit in it the ideal of the reconciliation of social, economic and political liberty. And, accord­ing to him, the creative freedom of the spirit should be expressed not only by some esoteric, mystic process of cosmic and transcendental consciousness, leading to the descent of some meta-political and meta-social dynamism, but it should be realized also in the planning of a free, intelligent, prosperous and just society.

  2. Ideal of Spiritualized Society

  3. Sri Aurobindo maintained that the only solution to the present evolutionary crisis, which has led to social and political chaos, could be found only in the formation of a gnostic community. A mere economic rationalization and the democratic culture of the average man cannot stop the growth of the communal ego. A socialist eco­nomic planning ultimately leads to authoritarianism. Humanism and humanitarianism cannot be the ultimate solutions, because a perfect society cannot be built on the basis of imperfect men. Hence Aurobindo advocated the ideal of a spiritualized society which could rely on the spiritual sources of governance. But he was not satisfied with f'_;s ideal of a spiritualized society also. He wanted the divine Supcrmind, which is all-aware and world-aware and is the Creator of the world, to descend for the purpose of terrestrial transformation. Man should evolve beyond mind to the Supermind. Such a gnostic transformation consequent upon the aspirations of man and the con­sent of the divine can alone solve the evolutionary crisis.

  4. Aurobindo undoubtedly accepted the rationality of the state in the scheme of spiritual evolution, but without conceiving it as realized ethical substance. In India today, we do feel the necessity of a strong state, partly for safeguarding our freedom and partly for rationalizing our social and economic life. But he rightly warned us against power-politics and the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few persons. He strongly felt the urgency of evolving an integral political philosophy in India, which would recognize the spiritual worth of the individual and, at the same time, permit the reasonable use of the minimum necessary political power for the beneiit of the society as a whole.

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  6. M. K. GANDHI (I 869-1 948)



  7. Gandhi: The Worshipper of the Soul

  8. The great man is one who makes others great and who carries with him the burden of the whole humanity. The greatest fact it) the history of man on earth is not what he achieves materially or what he gains here, but the prowth of his Soul from age to age in its search for truth. Those who take part in this adventure of the Soul secure an ever-lasting place in world history. The greatness of Gandhi lies not in his heroic struggle for India's freedom, but in his ever striving for the Soul-force and in his insistence on the creative power of the Soul.

  9. Although Gandhi was mainly responsible for the mighty up­heaval of Indian nation who broke its old chains, his way of thinking and method of revolution were unique. Politicians are not reputed to take religion seriously, for the values which they cherish and to which they are committed, such as political control ever inferiors and economically undeveloped peoples and the economic exploitation of the poorer and weaker human beings, are so inconsistent with the values of religion that the latter cannot be taken too seriously. But for Gandhi, all life was of one piece. He himself admitted : "To sec the universal and all-pervading Spirit of Truth face-to-face one must be able to love the meanest of creation as oneself. And a man who aspires after that cannot afford to keep out of any field of life. That is why my devotion to Truth has drawn me into the field of politics ; and I can say, without the slightest hesitation and yet in all humility, that those who say that religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion means !" Like Buddha and Mahavira ho accepted an integrated view of life and as such he condemned the division of religion and politics. He regarded religion and politics as two different sides of the same coin. He was a devoted worshipper of the Soul and, by that relation, of God and His humanity.

  10. A Synthesis of Religion and Politics

  11. Gandhi was not a politician in the Machiavellian sense, but he did what his knowledge a priori taught him. He never lost touch with his spirituality even in the moments of his great political engagements. He, like Machiavclli and modern politicians, Marxists and others, did not separate religion from politics but tried to provide a synthesis of the two. Machiavclli started with the assumption that



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  1. human nature is selfish and the effective motives on which a states­man must rely are egoistic, such as the desire for security in the masses and the desire for power in rulers. Government is founded upon weakness and insufficiencies of the individual, who is unable to protect himself against the aggression of other individuals unless supported by the power of the state. As such, Machiavelli regarded human nature as egoistic and rejected the old belief in a supernatural end for man. Disbelieving in a supernatural end for man, he not only separated morality from politics, but also relegated religion to a very subordinate position in his political system. In the same way, Karl Marx and his followers in the 19th and 20th centuries, being influenced by Darwin's idea of biological evolution of human society, took Hie mechanistic and materialistic view of human life as Thomas Hobbes had conceived of it in the 17th century under the influence of Galileo and Newton. Marx and his followers did not assign any part which religion has to play in determining individual and social actions. But quite contrary to them, Gandhi, primarily based all his social and political doctrines on the religious and spiritual view of human life. According to him, politics devoid of religion is a death­trap because it kills the Soul. In Young India, he once wrote that "at the back of every word that I have uttered, since 1 have known what public life is and of every act that I have done, there has been a religious consciousness and a downright religious motive." For him, there was no religion apart from human activity. He did not believe in any particular religion, and his religion was the service of the whole humanity. Religion, when particularized, gives a partial outlook of life, but, in reality, it is a passion for love which sees the whole world, whether human, animal or vegetable, within itself. There is one and one Truth only, although it is put in different ways—'Ekam Sad Vipra Bahuda Vadanti.' God lives even in the smallest atom. To love God is to love His creation. Hence Gandhi was fully justified to love and extend his sympathy to the lowest creature and combine religion with politics. His idea of combining religion with politics is a challenge to those political thinkers who take a partial view of human life.

  2. Although Gandhi drew inspiration from all the religions of the world and he belonged to the whole world by extending his love and sympathy to the whole humanity, he was primarily nurtured in the traditions of Hinduism. Hinduism is the religion of Truth which sees no difference between Truth and Religion and Truth and God. Gandhi himself said that "Truth is God and there is no other God than truth." The thinkers and the peoples all over the world may differ on the conception of religion and God ; they may also deny the existence of God, and religion to them may appear loathsome, but no one denies the idea of Truth. That is why Gandhi inverted the phrase and said that 'Truth is God' in place of 'God is Truth.' And Truth, according to him, can be realized in perfect sense through



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  1. love and ahimsa. 'He prayeth best wno loveth best, both man and bird and beast' was his diction.

  2. Spiritual Basis of Politics

  3. In a world where the rulers of nations are relying more and more upon brute force and the nations trusting their lives and hopes to systems which represent the denial of law and brotherhood, Gandhi stood out as an isolated and most impressive figure. He was a ruler obeyed by millions, not because they feared him but because they loved him ; not as the master of wealth and secret police and machine-guns, but as holding that spiritual authority which, when it once dares to assert itself, seems to reduce almost to impotence the values of the material world.

  4. We cannot, of course, assume that a spiritual authority is always right in its guidance. Its claims and professions can seldom be proved or disproved. It is directed by human beings, who are subject to ordinary human frailties and as liable as other autocrats, to be corrupted by power. But among spiritual rulers, as among rulers in general, Gandhi stood as almost unique. In the first place, he uttered no dogma, no command, only an appeal : he called to our spirits ; he showed what he held to be the truth, but did not exclude or condemn those who differed from him. In the second place, he was unique in his manner of fighting, as was shown best in his fifteen years' struggle for the rights of Indians in South Africa. He and his followers were repeatedly imprisoned, herded with criminals, treated as subhuman beings, yet whenever the governments which oppressed him were weak or in trouble, instead of pressing his advantage he turned and helped them When they were involved in a dangerous war, he organized a special corps of Indian stretcher-bearers to help them ; when, in the midst of a non-violent strike by his Indian followers, the government were suddenly threatened by a revolu­tionary railway strike, he immediately gave orders for his people to resume work until his opponents were safe again. No wonder that he won the day. No genuinely human enemy could hold out against that method of fighting. Thirdly, perhaps the hardest point of all for a leader who is worshipped and idealized by immense multitudes, he never claimed to be infallible. While launching his 'non-coopera­tion' campaigns, he always used to pause and re-think about the Tightness of his actions. The spiritual authority of one unarmed man over great multitudes is in itself wonderful, but when that man not only abjures violence and helps his enemies in their creed, but also recognizes his own human fallibility as did Gandhi, he claims unanswerably the admiration of the whole world.

  5. It is necessary to view Gandhi's life-activities as a developing and an unfinished chapter of Indian history. Our Indian history has been primarily made by spiritual individualities. The mighty spiri­tual individualities who have played the leading role in our history



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  1. have always been integrated beings. They integrated themselves by disciplining their warring members. The more complete the har-monious fusion of the activity of the hands, the head and the heart, the greater the individuality. Not by outer opulence but by inner enrichment have they served their beloved motherland. When necessary they have worn a royal garb, as in Rama's case ; in another era Siddhartha, also a prince, exchanged his sceptre for the begging-bowl of the Buddha ; both were integrated individualities. There have been others—poets, seers, sages—all of them different in their outer appearance and working in environments which were different, but all of them the same in their inner consciousness—minds en­lightened by souls, hearts full of the Tathagata Light. Of them it might be said not so much that they were the makers of Indian history as that they were made by world history ; that is, by the power of the Spirit in the region called Bharatavarsha, described as Karma-Bhumi, the 'Land of Works'. They all served humanity by sustaining India's real nature, her innate property, her spiritual law and order, which are all implicit in the term Dharma. This line of thought may appear fanciful and historically unsound to occidental scholars who do not recognize the spiritual basis of human life.

  2. The orthodox occidental scholars think that although Gandhi was a great spiritual leader like Buddha and Mahavira, he was not a political thinker as he did not exclusively dilate on the state and its related problems. Further, they think that whatever ideas Gandhi expressed on political questions as those of the nature and functions of the state, form of government, distribution of wealth and the question of individual freedom, and whatever methods he adopted in fighting for India's freedom were mostly inconsistent and impracti­cable. But this is not correct. We form such an opinion when we see him as a soul, and when we take into account the fact that he was one who refused to make compromises between his head and his heart, who declined to go against his own conscience, who viewed all events not from the mundane standpoint, but as avenues for soul-learning for himself and of soul-service of others. He practised his philosophy, he lived up to his principles ; and therefore he remained a puzzle of varying bafflement to all who compromise and so remain in a disintegrated state of mental confusion.

  3. No doubt, some people speak of Gandhi as a mystic and religi­ous man, he was best known to the world as the political leader of India, no matter of a different type and calibre. As an integrated being he expressed his views on the various political, economic and social questions. His idea was of a new social order based on universal love and ahimsa. Under his thesis of new social order he discussed the idea of establishing a non-violent society and related to it his conceptions of stateless society, democracy, decentralization of economic and political powers, Varna Vyavastha, trusteeship and so on.



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  1. Gandhi's Ideal Society

  2. Gandhi's ideal society was a non-violent and stateless society. He repudiated state on ethical, historical and economic grounds. The compulsive and predatory nature of state authority took away the moral value of the individual's actions. A man is moral when he acts freely and voluntarily. To quote Gandhi himself: "The state represents violence in a concentrated and organized form. The indi­vidual has a soul, but as the state is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from violence to which it owes its very existence." Al­though, like anarchists, he regarded the state as rooted in violence, he differed from them. Unlike them, he put emphasis on moral force and on the realization of one's own self and his technique of establishing a stateless society was of non-violence and love. Accord­ing to him, only a society based on non-violence could be .stateless. Hence there was no place for violence in Gandhi's ideal society.

  3. Further, Gandhi also did not want to abolish the state completely as did the anarchists. He frankly admitted that the society would have representative institutions and government. Although, he made it clear, ideal society would be a stateless society consisting of self-sufficing, self-regulating and self-governing village communities joined together in a voluntary federation, the maintenance of federation involved the necessity of government. Thus he meant by his ideal society predominantly a non-violent state, and not a non-violent and stateless society as it is generally thought. He was only opposed to the oppressive authority and to the theory of absolute sovereignty of the state, but not to the ideal state itself. He believed in the soverei­gnty of the people based on pure moral authority. According to him, a man owed only a limited and relative loyalty to the state as he also owed his loyalty to other associations. The loyalty was conditional on the state appealing to the conscience of the people. That might involve * perpetual danger of anarchy, but that was the only adequate safe­guard against the abuse of political power. Thus Gandhi's ideas of limited and relative loyalty to the state and of conditional anarchy were very similar to those of the pluralists, particularly like Maclver, Leon Duguit and Harold J. Laski. But unlike them, he provided ample safeguards against anarchy by making disobedience non-violent.

  4. His Ideal State

  5. In fact, Gandhi's ideal state was a non-violent democratic state where social life would remain self-regulated. In a democratic state everyone is his own ruler. According to him, democracy lies not in the number of persons who vote or in the size of Assembly, but in the sense to what extent masses imbibe the spirit of non-violence, and social service. Manual work gives an opportunity to all who wish to take part in the government and the well-being of the state. In an ideal democratic state the powers are to be decentralized and equality is to prevail in every sphere of life. Every individual is to



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  1. be given fullest freedom to devote himself to social service according to his capacity. The structure of the state that is .0 eme: ge as a result of non-violent revolution is to be a compromise between the ideal non-violent society and the facts of human nature. He agreed with Lord Lothian that "democratic government was a distant dream so long as non-violence was not recognized as a living force, an inviolable creed, not a mere policy." The state is to continue to exist on account of the anti-social tendencies of certain individuals and groups. There is also the danger of anarchy to be safeguarded against. But the functions of the state, according to him, are to be reduced to the minimum. Like Figgis, Gierke, Bertrand Russell, G. K. Chesterton, G. D. H. Cole and other guild-socialists, Gandhi admitted that most of the functions of the state were to be transferred to the voluntary association in order to have a real self-government in the country. There are certain things which cannot be done without political power, but there are also numerous other things which do not at all depend upon political power, and hence they should be left to the voluntary associations. Like the guild-socialists, he was against the wage system and favoured the establishment by the workers of self-government in economic and political spheres of national life. Also like them, he maintained that on account of the large-scale production there was no scope for beauty and crafts­manship. The individual worker became merely a cog in the machine and his individuality completely disappeared. The influence of John Rusk in, Carlyle and William Morris was decisive on Gandhi, as he, like them, detested the monotony of machine production and looked back to the time when the independent workmen of the past took pride in creative work, and produced the greatest art for which the past was famous. And he reached the conclusion of Henry Thoreau, an anarchist, and J. S. Mill, an individualist, that that government is best which governs the least. This means that when people come into possession of political and economic power, the interference with the freedom of the people is reduced to a minimum. He remarked : "A nation that runs its affairs smoothly and effectively without much state interference is truly democratic. Where such condition is absent the form of government is democratic in name."

  2. Gandhi was not a visionary but a practical and logical thinker, and he related his theory of government to his conception of human nature. His description of human nature was well-balanced. His intensive tours of India and intimate contact with the people helped him to understand human nature in its right perspective. As an empiricist he was concerned with human nature not only as it was but also as it could be trained and moulded. He did not believe, as did Rousseau, that man was all good, but he admitted that every one of us was a mixture of good and evil. The difference was only one of degree. Admitting the animal ancestry of man, he said that "there is no one without faults, not even men of God. They are



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  1. men of God not because they are faultless, but because they know their own faults and are ever ready to correct themselves." This does not mean that he, like Thomas Hobbes or J. Bentham, believed that human beings are merely brutes and depraved or egoistic. His belief v/a-i that sins and errors are not the true self of man. Man is able to mould himself and even the worst of the people can be transformed. There is a self-conscious will in man which can be used to revolutionize his life. It was his strong belief in the self-conscious will in man which made him think in terms of individual freedom. Freedom is tlu* demand of this will which no state or society can dare to ignore. According to him, man is free to act according to his own conscience. He can even revolt against the established order of state or society. Socrates and to some extent Kant had also accepted this view long before that human nature is self-conscious. But Gandhi gave a spiritual colour to such a view of human nature and he, therefore, said that man is not only self-conscious being, fighting for his freedom, but he is also by nature going higher. Human nature is in its essence one and every man has the capacity for the highest possible development. To quote him : "The soul is one in all. Its possibilities are, therefore, the same for everyone."

  2. Gandhi: An Egalitarian and a Socialist

  3. Gandhi was not only a great individualist and a practical idealist but he was also a first-rate egalitarian and a socialist. He firmly believed that the ideal of non-violence could be achieved only if the gulf dividing the rich and the poor was made as small as possible. But he regarded the principle of absolute equality, which the dog­matic Marxists, stress too much, as impossible. His idea of econo­mic equality was that "everyone would have a proper house to live in, sufficient and balanced food to eat, and sufficient khadi with which to cover himself." He also said that "the cruel inequality that obtained today would be removed by purely non-violent means." To achieve his ideals, Gandhi did not suggest any wholesale confiscation of property of the landlords and capitalists. Like Christian socialists he wanted to achieve his goal of economic equality by changing their mentality through love and persuasion. They were to be persuaded to act as the trustees of peasants and workers. But if they failed to act as trustees, their lands and industries would then be taken over by the government through legislations. The industries were to be nm not for profit, but for the benefit of the whole society. In the management the workers were to be given due share along with the government. Following in the footsteps of Leo Tolstoy, Gandhi urged the people to earn their own livelihood through spinning and run­ning their own small-scale industries. As he had a distrust of autho­rity like Tolstvyj he disliked the concentration of power in both eco­nomic and political fields. He said that there was to be decentrali-



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  1. zation, as far as possible, as centralization and large-scale production were considered to be enemies of democracy.

  2. In fact, the whole range of Gandhian thinking is superimposed by the influence of the concept of the Soul. As in the case of machines, the idea of the State and Government has also been en­circled by the higher ideals of life and Soul which will not come in the strict orbit of economic socialism. Ke felt that decentralization is the best method and on this ground he remarked : "God forbid that India should ever take to industrialism after the manner of the West." Concentration of power will not enlighten the individual. Rather it will frustrate the inner genius. Gandhiji believed that every individual has equal responsibility for the society, and hence the possibility of making everybody as big as everybody else must be widened. This will only be possible in a socialism of decentralized power. In this approach to socialism the Gandhian socialism strikes a new ground. Socialism always has meant some kind of regimen­tation and state control over the individual. Though Marx himself had supported, of course very vaguely, some kind of decentralization of power, the other socialists had wanted power to be centralized as far as possible. In the 20th century, particularly after the World War II, this trend for centralization has been quite visible. But in case of Gandhian socialism, like the guild-socialists, there has been an attempt for making power as much diffused as possible. ". . . . every village will be a republic or panchayat having full powers.. . . every village has to be self-sustained and capable of managing its affairs, even to the extent of defending itself against the whole world. It will be trained and prepared to perish in the attempt to defend itself against any onslaught from without. . . .Such a society is neces­sarily highly cultured in which every man and woman knows what he or she wants and, what is more, knows that no one should want anything that others cannot have without equal labour."

  3. Gandhian Socialism : A Way for Sarvodaya

  4. From the Gandhian application of socialism, however, it must not be thought that Gandhi was a mystic or his socialism was only a matter of the mind. He was intensely practical and his principle was that the life of the individual should get all possible expression only in the context of society. He added to this the possibility of application of non-violence and truth in all activities and thought. Gandhian idea in general and Gandhian socialism in particular is no mere theory, not mereiy an intellectual grasp or philosophical satis­faction which can be attained by simple speculation and thinking. The most particular and significant aspect of Gandhian socialism is the emphasis which Gandhi laid on the internal aspect of life. Even in case of the theory of sarvodaya and the sarvodaya samaj, Gandhi did not give much importance to external forces to organize the institutions. He did not believe that revolution or evolution when



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  1. imposed from outside would bring about any fundamental change in human nature or in society. The entire responsibility of reconstruc­tion in social, economic and political aspects must start with the individual himself ; without the individual's consistent and constant attempt for reorientation no amount of effort will bring the socialistic order. The Gandhian idea of sarvodaya is the apex of Gandhian socialism. Sarvodaya does not mean that majority alone is enough ; the growth and upliftment of every one is vitally necessary. In this respect. Gandhian socialism thinks of society as an organic whole where differences do not exist. The concept of organic unity, where all individuals have equal importance and the rise of everyone is dependent on the rise of every other, is a fundamental contribution to socialistic theory and practice. It opens a new approach in socia­listic thought. The previous socialist thinkers had the belief that with­out a sizable majority no social change can be effective. Socialism for them was to be founded by force and force always meant the force of the body combined with that of the mind. But in most case:; the mental forces did not exist or existed in a perverted form of cheap propaganda, or in many cases it was grossly prostituted in the name of higher ideals and for the sake of socialism. But in case of Gandhian socialism it is altogether different. Gandhian theory puts enormous emphasis on the capacity of the individual. Socialism, nay any other principle, must start with some individual. "Socialism begins with the first convert. If there is one such, you can add zeros to the one and the first zero will account for ten and every addition will account for ten times the previous number. If, however, the beginner is a zero, in other words, no one makes the beginning, multiplicity of zeros will also produce zero value." This dependence on the first 'convert' is comparatively unknown in western socialism. In western socialistic thought, "we have got to think in terms of collective groups of the trade unions, kisan panchayats, socialist parties, and youth organizations etc. These collective expressions of the people will suck into their folds millions of men through struggles as also through co-operative efforts will qualify themselves for the responsibility of building up of a free and equal society that we call socialism."

  2. This individual approach to socialism was necessitated for practi­cal reasons. In case of an economy like that of the United States the individual approach to socio-economic issues will be impossible. In India the case is quite different. Unlike in the western countries there is much time and opportunity in India for the individual to contemplate and brood for himself and the society he lives in. Moreover, the predominant nature of an agricultural economy necessitates poise, contemplation, inner searching and the ten­dency to isolate oneself from the rest. In an industrial community, where the tempo of life is unimaginably fast and the com­mercial economy makes life a matter of monetary calculation, all



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  1. these are unnecessary, and sometimes dangerous also. Industrial civilization creates a mass-man who will be unable to find out his individual existence. Hence the socialism of western pattern neces­sarily is for the group and the units of the group. On the other hand, Gandhian socialism is for the individual and the groups of individuals.

  2. Conclusion

  3. Thus Gandhi's political philosophy was a fusion of individualism, idealism and socialism. And the key-words of his economic and political programme were self-sufficiency, non-competition, equitable distribution and decentralized production. He incarnated India's traditional ideal of saint, but on the other hand, he belonged to the most modern type of mass-leader. Gandhi, like Jefferson, thought of politics in moral and religious terms. That is why his proposed solutions bear so close a resemblance to those proposed by the great American. That he went further than Jefferson—for example, in recommending economic as well as political decentralization advo­cating the use of satyagraha in place of the Ward's 'elementary exercises of militia'—is due to the fact that his ethics was more radical and his religion more profoundly realistic than Jefferson's. Although Gandhi's plan was not adopted like Jefferson's, he is regarded and would be regarded in world history as the most visible, most spectacular, most single-minded and most pure-hearted symbol of redeemed humanity.

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