The Making of Greatness

Watching Shyam Benegal’s The Making of the Mahatma releases a stream of thoughts around one question. What constitutes greatness? Coming into touch with Gandhi – through reading of his life or watching his portrayals in cinema – is to come in touch with greatness. By definition, it is not a greatness that belongs to Gandhi. Gandhi is just one person who has touched greatness, charted a path to it – one that is uniquely his own, yet of value to us. A path that tells us that all of us, even those we are terrified of and those who anger us to no end, are the same. On the level of the spirit, we are connected. We are not only the same, we are one. And hence, all action, and especially action in conflict, can possibly arise from that very level and give a new colour, a new meaning to the vicissitudes of life. When hit, we may not hit back. When abused, we may not abuse back, but arouse in the abuser his own conscience which is undeniably good.

But of course, we can practice ahimsa towards others only if we have ahimsa towards the most difficult to bear parts of our selves. Ahimsa towards the self and ahimsa towards the other – these are the shoes with which we walk this path. As the film ends, Gandhi walks on the beach, towards the shore, facing the setting sun in all its glowing intensity. He says the film’s last words, so simple that we run the risk of not taking them seriously –

“I will remain forever, a South African Indian. How can I forget the lesson learnt, that the gravest conflict can be resolved in peace if we allow the resolution to come through the soul. That humanity is one, intended to live in peace and in equality.”

making of the mahatma

As the film ends, repeated chants of Vande Mataram, in a rendition of the song filled with hope and inspiration, tell us that it is time for all of us to go out and face the sun. Its greatness belongs to none of us, but it shines bright on the horizon, bestowing a light that we all partake in, to lesser and greater measure. Gandhi’s is one path that allows us to see, understand and absorb this light in all its fullness.

~ by tdcatss on May 1, 2015.

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