I have a few great/known people I like. They are so inspiring to me and I love reading about their lives. One of them is Mahatma Gandhi. I’ve first heard of him when I was a teenager and I watched Gandhi – the movie. It’s a 1982 biographical film who won eight Academy Awards. And Ben Kingsley does the role of his life; he’s amazing…really recommend this film to everyone!!
I found these interviews with Shri Mataji talking about Mahatma Gandhi. Shri Mataji knew Gandhi and talks very nice about the qualities of this great man.
Mahatma Gandhi was born at 2nd of October 1869.
986-0708: Shri Mataji Talks about Her Early Life, Vienna, Austria
Q: When You had been to the ashram with Gandhi, You know, can You imagine one or two impressions You remember about Gandhi?
Shri Mataji: Oh! Gandhiji was a tremendous man when I used to learn a lot from him. He was not at all a hypocrite. That’s one thing, and he was not like modern politician who says something, do something. No, he was very outspoken and always put himself on the testing point and he used to confess if he made mistakes immediately.
One very great incident I remember when I was a small child. They were having a meeting together and we girls were there only sitting giving them water and things, to all the people. All the big people were there, like Jawaharlal Lal Nehru was there and also Maulana Azad. All these people were sitting there. They were discussing something and then suddenly Mahatmaji said that,
“Now it’s very late. We’ll have lunch here.”
So they said, “Yes, yes, we’ll have lunch here.”
They had to go to the guest house which was far away. So Mahatmaji asked for the Baa, his wife. She had gone out. So he got up. He had a key with him, you see, always of the store-room. He opened the store-room and he asked the people who were in charge of cooking to measure everything according to the people there are, properly and everything, you see, and then he went. They measured it out. Everything was done and then he put the key back and then he went and sat there nicely .
So these people said, “Bapu, we did not know you had to take so much trouble, you see, to go all the way, to measure everything out for us.”
It did not take much time, about fifteen minutes, but still.
So he said, “What do you think? This is the blood of my country. I cannot allow it to be wasted.”
See, that’s the sign of a person who understands the value of public money. That’s just ingrained in him, but those who saw him also felt that, look at this man who is living like an ascetic, absolutely in the sense that he would not touch the public money. And that is one of the keys for all the leaders. If they are absolutely above money, then only people will respect; otherwise, there is no way out.
But you find these days in every country so much of corruption, hypocrisy, you are really shocked.
Q: What do You think is the reason of all these corruption, of the political instability?
Shri Mataji: It’s ignorance. It is ignorance. They think by having money or by having big position or by having a big name they’ll be happy. They’ll not be happy. Only the ego will be pampered. When it is slightly hurt, a person will be unhappy. So he’ll be going into from happiness to unhappiness. But when he gets the knowledge that it is the spirit which is the source of joy, then he doesn’t care for money. He doesn’t care for all these things. He is not afraid of anything. He lives like a Lord himself. He is a Lord, doesn’t want anything, you see. You see, the one who is the Lord doesn’t want anything.
1988-0608: Press interview – Vienna, Austria
Interviewer: Was there, I mean, that time together with Mahatma Gandhi, was there one thing You remember that he said to You?
Shri Mataji: First of all what impressed Me the most was his own discipline, he’s such a disciplined man himself, you see. He got up at 5 o’clock, make everybody get up at 5 and, you see, and we had to walk in the darkness to go for the prayers. There were lots of snakes moving around, you see. So people used to be worried, you see. So he said, “As long as you are sincere in your efforts to achieve your freedom no snake will bite you.” (Shri Mataji laughing) And really nobody was hurt by any snake. But the thing that has given Me a great strength from him was this – I was not a very – I mean, I’m not so money-oriented, I didn’t understand money much, you see, from My childhood and even now I’m not so good at it. For example I don’t understand economics and economic values. But what I learned from him that the sense of honesty he had for public money was very remarkable – for public money.
One day they were having a meeting in our ashram, it was Gandhiji’s ashram. I was there and many great leaders of India were there. But the wife of Mahatma Gandhi had gone out somewhere. We called her Kasturbai. And the time was up for lunch. So Mahatma Gandhi said that, “You better have your lunch here all of you. You should have lunch here.” So, he got up himself because his wife was not there. He opened the store-room with his key and counted how many people there were. I don’t know where he learned all this, but he did count and measure the food, measured all the grains that were there. Took about 15 minutes. So all the leaders felt very guilty about it. So one of them said,
“Bapu,” – Bapu means father, “you should have not bothered, we would go and had lunch. You took so much time to do it. You need not have bothered, you could have told somebody to do it.” So the sentence he said, “These grains are the blood of my country. I can’t allow it to be spilled out or wasted.”
A very practical and matter of fact gentleman was Mahatma Gandhi. That’s why I – one of these nice things is this that there was one very big lawyer. And there also he was leader. And there was a case to be fought in the court of law against the revolutionary. But the revolutionary had no money. So one king Baroda, king from Baroda he paid money to this lawyer. So Mahatma Gandhi when he heard about it, he wrote a letter – himself he used to write – on a post card,
“Whatever money you have taken from the king of Baroda please return that money immediately, or don’t show me your face.” No compromise on anything. The fellow got a fright of, you see, this whole man is going to jeopardy – my whole reputation. He got such a fright, you see. (Shri Mataji laughing) He just went and returned the money. There are
so many things, I mean, say, I was so close to him.
…He was a very nationalistic man – king of Baroda. Many great people were born in those days – very great people of great character – sacrifices. How much they sacrificed. When I look at My parents – they gave up everything, everything that they had. We used to live in huge, big palace-like houses and then in huts.
We had no money for our education – all kinds of problems. And struggled and struggled. But it’s worked out.
Interviewer: After Gandhi was murdered –
Shri Mataji: Yeah?
Interviewer: – what did you and your family do afterwards?
Shri Mataji: Actually I met him one day before he died.
Interviewer: And how was that meeting?
Shri Mataji: Oh – tremendous. I had one daughter at that time. He used to call Me as Nepali, because I have high cheek bones, (Shri Mataji laughing) so he used to call Me Nepali – means ‘from Nepal’. Just to tease Me. And immediately, after many years I met him – really, because I was married and – but immediately he recognized. Called Me and he said, “Meet me after prayer.” When I met him, he saw My daughter – very happy and he said, “Now take to constructive work, take to constructive work.” And next day he was murdered. I was living just close to his place where he was living. Next day I did not go – but something was there, and I heard the shot.
Interviewer: And when You got the message that he was murdered, what changed for You, I mean – what – immediately?
Shri Mataji: At that time I was just stunned, I mean, I was just stunned. I couldn’t believe it. Stunned for a while. But the change was that, “Now I have to start My own mission.”
Interviewer: So mission – Your mission, which You are still carrying on now that started on the day Mahatma Gandhi was killed?
Shri Mataji: No, not that way. I would say that I was born like this from My childhood and Gandhiji knew about it, he knew about Me. But I had to take some time, because it’s a very different work. It’s not the work outside, but inside human beings. And I had to study many human beings to find out what is their problem in their seeking. Why do they fall? To study different people, first of all to find out what was their problem.