On dimly lit evenings, when as a young boy, a scared Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi would cuddle in his cot, the household maid Rambha would tell him to chant the name of Lord Rama. She assured him that Rama Nama (the name of God Rama) would be his shield, whatever may be the dangers he would face in life.
This was a mantra that he never forgot. Not just illusionary fears arising out of dark, stormy nights, but through real struggles regarding larger questions facing nationhood and Indian Independence, Mohandas Gandhi made Rama Nama his strength and weapon.
“As I write these lines, my memory revives the scenes of my childhood, when I used daily to visit the Ramji Mandir adjacent to my ancestral home. My Rama then resided there. He saved me from many fears and sins. It was no superstition for me.”
The seeds that were planted in his childhood, grew into a large Banyan as Gandhi grew up.
Gandhi ji said: “One must be completely absorbed in whatever mantra one selects. The mantra becomes one’s staff of life and carries one through every ordeal.”
It was a mantra that gave him peace and inner power to face adversity and the greatest of challenges with equanimity. It was the mantra that transitioned him from Mohandas Gandhi to becoming Mahatma Gandhi.
“Though my reason and heart long ago realised the highest attribute and name of God as Truth, I recognise Truth by the name of Rama. In the darkest hour of my trial, that one name has saved me and is still saving me. It may be the association of childhood, it may be the fascination that Tulsidas has wrought on me,” he admitted.
For him, prayer was not a mere ritual or empty words. Gandhi ji added his soul to his time with God. He said in Young India: “Prayer is no mere exercise of words or of the ears, it is no mere repetition of empty formula. Any amount of repetition of Rama Nama is futile, if it fails to stir the soul. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words, than words without a heart.”
Being a man of immense discipline, prayers became an integral part of day’s routine. Whatever may be the circumstance, however pressing an issue was at his door, congregations would meet in the evening at his residence and sing bhajans (devotional songs), a favourite amongst which was ‘Raghupati Raghava Raja Rama and Vaishnav Jan Te Taine Kahiye’.
This gave him balance and rectitude. In Young India, Gandhi ji is quoted as saying, “Rama Nama gives one detachment and ballast, and never throws one off one’s balance at critical moments.”
Such was his faith in the Beej Mantra (seed mantra of Rama Nama) that it freed him from the fear of death.
“Rama Naam cannot perform the miracle of restoring to you a lost limb. But it can perform the still greater miracle of helping you to enjoy an ineffable peace in spite of the loss while you live and rob death of its sting and the grave its victory at the journey’s end. Since death must come soon or late to everyone, why should one worry over the time?”
His firmness and conviction in these thoughts was apparent in his last moments.
Once when asked about his inner achievement, Gandhi ji had said that if a person sprays bullets into my body. And yet, I have no animosity or ill will against him. And rather have Rama Nama on my lips, only then will I give merit to myself.
His words turned out to be premonitory. On January 30, 1948 when Nathuram Godse pumped bullets into the Father of the Nation, the only two words that erupted from his lips were “Hey Ram”.
Gandhi ji lived and died by what he believed in. The potency of Rama Nama remained the fountainhead of all his strength.
(Today is Mahatma Gandhi’s 69th death anniversary.)
Source: Zee News