Gandhi’s favorite hymn, “Vaishnava Jana To” or “The True Lover of God,” was composed by 15th century Gujarati poet-mystic, Narsinha Mehta. So dear was its message to Gandhiji, I was surprised–and even delighted– to learn, that it was sung around him even as he committed his famous act of civil disobedience of picking up salt on the beach at Dandi on April 6, 1930 at the end of the Great Salt March. It is now sung whenever Gandhiji is honored, especially in India.
Here’s one rendering of the poem by Eknath Easwaran:
They are the real lovers of God who feel others’ sorrow as their own. When they perform selfless service, they are humble servants of the Lord. Respecting all, despising none, they are pure in thought, word, and deed. Blessed is the mother of such a child; and in their eyes the Divine Mother shines in every woman they see. They are always truthful, even-minded, never coveting others’ wealth, free from all selfish attachments, Ever in tune with the Holy Name. Their bodies are like sacred shrines In which the Lord of Love is seen. Free from greed, anger, and fear, these are the real lovers of God.
What does this poem tell us about nonviolence? A lot. Does the “true lover of God” love injustice? No way. Does the “true lover of God” want to benefit themselves at the expense of the whole? Not at all. And as Gandhi dared to show us: Is the “true lover of God” willing to break an unjust law because they want to relieve the suffering of others? You betcha. It should be “repugnant to our moral sense” and even to our reason to accept anything less from religion today.
Consider some of the ways in which the qualities described in Mehta’s poem empower nonviolent action.
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org