Thomas Merton And Mahatma Gandhi Essay

Thomas Merton and Mahatma Gandhi both speak of God in a personal way. They both
speak of God as truth. Famous Thomas Merton, Trappist American monk, was a
traditional Christian. Born in France in 1915 and died in Asia in 1968 Merton
was greatly influenced by the complexities of the twentieth century. His
writings served as a personal may in his search for God.. He pursued the
ascending path towards the eternal kingdom of truth, towards heaven, while
leaving the world of shadowy existence behind. Truth would be a passion of his
life. He also took it upon himself to speak on behalf of the disenfranchised of
the word. Thomas Merton was a dynamic, modern man who committed himself to a
lifelong search for a meaningful and authentic way of life. He had only one
desire and that was the desire for solitude-to disappear into God, to be
submerged in his peace, to be lost in the secret of his face. This singular
passion and boundless energy led him to combine in one life a unique variety of
roles, prolific spiritual writer and poet, monk and hermit, social activist, all
while living at the Trappist monastery in Gethsemani, Kentucky. Merton, a monk
under a vow of silence, found fame by not seeking it, by speaking the truth.


Much can be said with the praise “the truth will set your free” Merton
provided a path that is still setting people free. Freedom from silence. Many
feel that a monastery is a sanctuary to escape from the realities of the real
world. Merton saw it as helping rescue the world from the new dark ages. “In
the night of our technological barbarism, monks must be as trees which exist
silently in the dark and by their vital presence purify the air.” Some believe
Merton’s world was the monastery grounds, the whole world was. He believed
that all men and women are to be seen and treated as Christ. Failure to do this,
involves condemnation for disloyalty to the most fundamental of revealed truths.

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Encounters with Christ must be followed by the encounters and both must be
experienced with the same love. It’s a love that frees, not a love that wants
to possess or manipulate. The great Indian teacher, Mahatma Gandhi, philosophy
was very similar. Merton loved people, but he also loved nature. He told us to
begin “by learning how to see and respect the visible creation which mirrors
the glory and the perfection of the invisible God”. Everything that surrounds
us, the trees, the ocean, the waves, the sky, the sun, the birds, it is in all
this that we will find our answers. God is omnipresent; we do not see this
because we are not contemplative. Merton believed a Christian society is one in
which men give their share of labor and intelligence and in return receive their
share of the fruits of the labor, which is seen in the Kingdom of God, a society
centered upon the divine truth and the divine mercy. In such a society the
prophetic role of the monk would be fulfilled, in the sense that his
renunciation of the right of ownership was an affirmation of God’s ownership
of everything and of man’s right to be a possessor only in so far as he was
willing to share with others what he did not need. Merton did not feel impelled
to become involved in political deeds. He believed the monk’s duty was to
cultivate consciousness and awareness however, truth and God demanded he speak
out loudly and often against all forms of war. He stated that the Vietnam war
was an example of Americans seeing their country as the center of the world,
imposing their will, in the name of freedom, on weaker nations that might stand
in their way. It was a needless destruction of human life, a rape of a culture
which could only lead to the death of the spirit of an exhausted people. He saw
men striving to negotiate for peace, and failing because their fear overbalanced
their true good will. “The root of all war is fear.” He taught that we must
fearlessly love even the men we cannot trust, for the enemy was war itself, and
peace could not be brought about by hatred. “Peace does not consist in one
man, one party, one nation, crushing and dominating everyone else. Peace exists
where men who have the power to be enemies are, instead, friends by reason of
the sacrifices that they have made in order to meet one another on a higher
level, where the differences between them are no longer a source of conflict. By
such reasoning, Merton brought himself very near to Gandhi’s position on war
as well as that of the struggle for civil rights. He saw nonviolence as not
merely the only just means but also the only practicable one of resisting evil
and injustice. Merton believed the Gandhian teachings on civil disobedience were
of urgent importance to the world and especially to Americians. The Christian
does not need to fight and indeed it is better that he should not fight, for
insofar as he imitates his Lord and Master. His writings on racial justice and
peace were strong and influential. They were changing the thoughts on
Christians. Many people in the private sector and government officials were
upset that an obscure Monk would speak out like this. Fanatics of all stripes
stepped forward with treats against Thomas Merton. It was in the same way,
Gandhi set out to show that the problems of a subjugated India were those of the
conquerors and not of the conquered. Merton’s view of non-violent protests of
US involvement in Vietnam is similar to that of Martin Luther Kings ideas of
non-violence in Civil Rights issues. King said “The purpose of non-violent
protest, in its deepest and most spiritual dimensions is to awaken the
conscience of the white man to the awful reality of his injustice and of his
sin, so that he will be able to see that the black man problem is really a white
problem: the cancer of injustice is rooted in the heart of the white man
himself. Merton admired Gandhi for preparing for publication a selection of his
sayings on non-violence, and here was perhaps the most striking example in
history of the combination of a spiritual life with the liberal politics which
it irradiated; it was other men’s lack of inner light that made Gandhi’s
achievement seem in the end a failure. Mahatma Gandhi was one of the foremost
political leaders of the 20th century. He dedicated his life to peace. He was
born in 1869 to Hindu parents in India. He learned from his mother and neighbors
the Indian maxim, “There is nothing higher than Truth”. He also learned that
harmlessness or nonviolence was the highest virtue. In 1888, his family sent him
to London to study law and in 1891 he was admitted to the bar. He moved to
southern Africa and spent 20 years improving the rights of the immigrant
Indians. South Africa abounded in color prejudices, even Gandhi with his
professional standing and British education was often subjected to all kinds of
humiliation against which he revolted and protested only to provoke more insult
and sometimes physical assault. It was then he developed his creed of nonviolent
resistance against injustice, satyagraha, meaning truth and firmness. He was
frequently jailed as a result of the protests that he led, but before he
returned to his homeland, he drastically changed the lives of the Indians living
in South Africa. Returning to India, he witnessed discriminatory legislation
being proposed by the British rulers that would take away the rights of
citizenship from Indians. This continued his nonviolent civil disobedience
movement in order to gain independence from British rule. He hoped that the
rulers would ultimately would realize their mistakes and rectify the wrongs. The
masses took up Gandhi’s call and his movement spread throughout India. He
applied the method of truthfulness and love to organize the people to make them
nonviolent to win their righteous struggle against the British Government.


Gandhi had taken a vow of poverty and lived as the people did, even though he
had a choice, because of this Gandhi became a trusted leader. He became the
international symbol of free India. He believed wholeheartedly that if he was to
serve society, he had to give up his greed for money, hankering pleasures and
lead a life of utter simplicity and self-control and teach others by his own
example. Refusing earthly possessions, he wore a loincloth and shawl like that
of the lowliest Indians and survived on vegetables, fruit juices, and goat’s
milk. He lived a spiritual and abstemious life of prayer, fasting and mediation.


He was quite sensitive to the charms of nature. He wanted to understand nature
as an expression of God and tried to see life in everything breaking down even
the customary distinction between the animate and the inanimate. During the long
struggle for independence, he never wavered in his unshakable belief in
nonviolent protest and religious tolerance. When the Muslim and Hindu countrymen
committed acts of violence, whether against the British or against each other,
he would fast until the fighting ceased. Finally in 1947, India won its freedom,
however to Gandhi’s despair the country was divided into Hindu India and
Muslim Pakistan. Violence broke out and he was disheartened. The feeling that
all he had done was useless because of his countrymen fighting each other over
religion. Nonetheless he plunged himself into helping repair the riot razed
areas and fasted for peace in those places where the fighting continued over
religion until it ceased. However, Gandhi did not celebrate freedom for very
long. He was shot to death by a Hindu fanatic on January 30, 1948 as he was
going to evening prayer. He died with freedom, peace and love within his heart.


He lived a simple life in a world of mounting complexity and practiced
nonviolence in a country that seen brutality on the part of the governing
powers. Religion to Gandhi meant participating in politics, people oriented
politics. Gandhi believed that in order to be truly religious you needed to take
an active part in politics. Religion involves all forms of human life, while at
the same time it provides a moral foundation of human nature and human society.


Human progress can be assured only if the life of an individual, society or
country is based on the fundamental moral principle of truth To Gandhi truth was
God. Politics dedicated to serve the needs of humanity leads inevitably to a
better understanding of Truth. Gandhi believed that everyone should be free to
choose his own religion. “Religion is a very personal matter. We should try by
living the life according to our lights to share the best with one another, thus
adding to the sum total of human effort to reach God.” The aim of fellowship
should be to help man to become a better Christian. “God did not bear the
cross only 1900 years ago, but he bears it today, and he dies and is resurrected
from day to day. If would be poor comfort to the world if it had to depend upon
a historical God who died 2000 years ago. Do not them preach the God of history,
but show him as he lives today through you. Thomas Merton had the same
philosophy, “What we are asked to do people may find God by feeling how he
lives within us. Gandhi was endeavoring to see God through service of humanity,
for he knew that God was neither in heaven, nor down below, but in everyone and
everything. In todays society, competitive economic progress is the root of most
rivalries-greed for possession. When large headlines of cruelty, corruption and
greed are plastered in the news media it usually announces moral chaos, but our
system chooses to overcome the sickness of it. Making excuses by rationalizing
and justifying on the basis of some half-mixed theories of abnormal psychology
and the progress of science and technology. Both Merton and Gandhi tried to make
us realize the discipline in order to improve the quality of our own life. It
was by faith and determination that Gandhi made himself so great and became the
moral leader of millions, and achieved by the methods of truth and love things
which looked like miracles in modern age. He surrounded himself with his
brothers and sisters and lived like they did. Merton surrounded himself with his
community only. Through his prayers and writings he reached the outside world
and showed that God was neither in heaven, nor down below, he is in everyone and
everything. They both realized that the world’s condition made it more
important than ever for the great religions to reach the level of mutual
understanding and mutual enrichment. They publicly made it know that the present
of war is something we have made entirely for and by ourselves. There is in
reality not the slightest logical reason for war. They fought for the abolition
of war and to use a nonviolent means to settle conflicts. Religions are
different roads converging to the same point. Why does it matter that we take
different roads? As long as we all have the same ultimate goal-God. Without
love, especially love of our opponents and enemies, Gandhi and Merton both
insisted that neither profound personal nor social transformation could occur.


It is when we love the other, the enemy, that we obtain from God the key to an
understanding of who he is and who we are. Instead of pushing our enemy down and
trying to climb out by using him as a stepping stone we help ourselves to rise
by extending our hand to help him rise. They both taught us to open our eyes to
the truth and to direct our actions to others that are blinded so they may see
the truth.


Bibliography
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Merton, Servant Publications, 1992 . De Wall, Esther, A Seven Day Journey with
Thomas Merton, Servant Publications, 1992 . Woodcock, George, Thomas Merton,
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