Gandhi: god’s eunuch

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Gandhi: god’s eunuch

A controversial study on Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most important figures of the twentieth century, yet in the west we have barely begun to understand who he really was.  Ours is a very simplistic view of Gandhi,  to most of us he is the man we see in the Attenborough film.  It’s an idealised image based on the romantic (and often ignorant) western view of the spiritual east.  Gandhi is seen as an innocent, a simple, pure man who is almost divine, born with a halo and a loincloth.  He has become a kind of ‘world citizen’ of peace and in the process (like world music) has become a diluted simplistic shadow of his true self.  Of course, in reality Gandhi was a far more complex and fascinating man than his iconic status allows. 

Gandhi is seen as a man of peace, a man who connected spirituality with politics, and believed that the goodness of humanity had the potential to overcome the greatest conflict.  But more than that, Gandhi believed that his own spiritual purity could change the politics and history of India.  This belief had its roots in Gandhi’s  in traditional Hinduism.

Hinduism teaches that through purity of the body a man can achieve purity of the spirit and that purity of the spirit will give a man extraordinary powers, like knowing the hour of his own death, or the ability to tame wild animals.  But whilst Gandhi believed that spiritual purity gave a man tangible power  he  departed from traditional Hinduism in his belief that spiritual power can be translated into political power; he believed that he could not find God if he did not take his fellow man with him.
To gain spiritual power a traditional Hindu will endeavour to repress sensual pleasures and desire (check).  In order to achieve spiritual purity, which in turn would help him achieve peaceful political resolution for India, Gandhi had to develop a way of living that sublimated his body, and all its desires, to his spirituality.  In this pursuit of spiritual purity Gandhi experimented extensively with his body in an effort to become a purely spiritual being.   

As a result, his every gesture, every word, the way he used his eyes, what he ate, how he slept, his toilet habits, his clothing, his posture, his sexuality – everything about him was a result of a long intellectual process based on his study of spirituality – in other words every single thing about him was meticulously planned.  Gandhi was not simply an innocent soul who preached  non-violence and a peasant lifestyle .  In fact he was a highly complex intellectual who spent his life at war with his body.  Without understanding his physical struggle and the beliefs behind it we cannot really appreciate who Gandhi really was.   

Channel 4 ▪ TX 2001 ▪ 1 x 60 min
Associate Producer: Nadia Hall
Director: Elizabeth Dobson