This post includes two four-minute clips from the classic 1992 Richard Attenborough film, Gandhi. The first sets the context for the Salt March that was a turning point in the Indian struggle for independence. The clip at the end of this post shows more of the March itself.
“There comes a time when an individual becomes irresistible and his action becomes all-pervasive in its effect. This comes when he reduces himself to zero.” (Mahatma Gandhi, quoted in Eknath Easwaran’s book Gandhi the Man p114)
The Indian National Congress issued its declaration of independence on January 26, 1930 and raised a new national flag. The masses of the Indian people were ready for an uprising. It was a conflagration waiting for a match.
Yet the British Empire did not flinch. The Indian National Congress made demands and pursued negotiations, but it was clear that the British were not ready to give up or even compromise significantly.
The pressure for change among the people was gaining in intensity. Everyone knew that either a massive nonviolent action would take place or violent revolution would break out. All eyes turned expectantly to the ashram and humble rooms of Mahatma Gandhi, but no word came forth. Days stretched into weeks, and Gandhi made no indication of what would come. The media accused him of playing his cards close to his chest, of purposefully building suspense to get the world’s attention.
But Gandhi was telling them the truth when he said he did not know what action he would take. He was praying and waiting. He was meditating, listening, asking for God’s guidance, and he would not do anything until he felt a clear calling from the Spirit.
In the end it came to him in a dream: the great Salt March to Dandi, or Salt Satyagraha, now considered to have been the turning point for independence, and perhaps the greatest single action in that decades-long struggle.
It came to Gandhi from the Golden Room—the place within our heart’s core where we are most receptive to the guidance and power of the Spirit and where we experience oneness. That is where Gandhi went in the weeks leading up to his decision. It was where he looked for the action he should take.
This was not new. It was where he sought guidance and power for all his actions every day. Gandhi lived in and from the Golden Room as constantly as humanly possible. He literally prayed without ceasing in an effort to keep himself there.
It may seem surprising at first that one of the greatest men of action in history should have been also one of the greatest contemplatives, but he tried to make people understand that it was precisely because of his dwelling in that inner place of connection to deepest truth that he was able to be as active and effective as he was.
Having gone within to that place, it was the most natural thing to return from there with vision, power and gifts to share. Having experienced oneness there and become able to see all creation as one, it was the most natural thing to approach the British Empire and the factions within India with the understanding that all were in fact truly one.
We need to learn from Gandhi’s path of higher power. We need it in our world even more than he did, confronting threats today not only to global democracies but also to global survival.
So it is crucial to understand that the first part of Gandhi’s path was all about reducing himself to zero. He found that direction in the Christian “Sermon on the Mount” and teachings about losing life to gain life, and he found it also in the Hindu Bhagavad Gita where it says in the second chapter:
They live in wisdom
Who see themselves in all and all in them,
Whose love for the Lord of Love has consumed
Every selfish desire and sense-craving
Tormenting the heart.
The first part of the path was reducing the ego to zero in the service of the Lord of Love, and the second part of the path was rising from zero to oneness, from meekness to the nonviolent wisdom and power that inherits the earth from those who divide, oppress and lay it waste.
Watch the video below of the Salt March and feel what it is like to see Gandhi’s formula come true: “There comes a time when an individual becomes irresistible and his action becomes all-pervasive in its effect. This comes when he reduces himself to zero.” Watch the power and oneness build before your eyes.
Please think about how you can take that same path to be as effective in transforming the world as you can be with your particular gifts, in your particular time and place. Thank you!