When i was invited to come here, I gladly agreed to do so. Yet I always find some difficulty in accepting an engagement of this kind relating to Gandhiji, because the thought of him fills my mind in many ways and sometimes confuses it. I am always trying to find out how he might have reacted to situations, what he would have advised and how far we have fallen away from that possible advice of his. That troubles me, and it might trouble others. I cannot presume to imagine that I can act up to the high standards which he would have liked us to observe and which he had himself laid down.
Gandhiji was much bigger than what all of us had imagined. He had the remarkable quality of allowing and even encouraging those who were privileged to follow him to think out their problems for themselves. He gave them his guidance, but he wanted them to come to their own decisions and to act according to their own light, even though that light might be dim. He did not want to impose himself on anyone. He certainly wanted to win the minds and hearts of people to his own way, but that was not imposition. He did not want people to suppress themselves and blindly say or do what he said. That was not the kind of following he wanted, though under the stress of his great personality people inevitably did find it difficult to function quite independently in mind.
Gandhiji was a dynamic person. He was not a person who went by some kind of rote. He had his feet firmly planted in principles, and nothing could move him from what was once clear in his mind. But he did not 'consider every minor aspect of life as some basic truth which could not be changed. He had realised that life is a changing and developing phenomenon and, therefore, has to be met in a developing and dynamic way. In the half-century and more of his service to India and to humanity, he himself developed and met new problems in a new or a somewhat changed way. For, he had that quality in him of sensing change and meeting it and yet keeping true to his basic ideals. How can we, as we are, talk of him and try to imagine that we are living up to his ideals? That is what troubles me. But even to talk about him is a consolation and a reminder of something big. It lifts us. Even to come to a place like this museum is good. It lifts us out of ourselves, and takes us into a region which is above the petty conflicts and hatreds of our lives. It is good that we are having such museums in various parts of India. It is good sometime even to have some kind of a statue of Gandhiji, in stone, marble or bronze. For many years I reacted strongly against images and statues being put up, partly because I disliked worship of images of any kind and their taking the place of the inner quality which an individual should have in his worship or thinking. I felt we are too apt to perform formal functions and think that our duty is over. But on later consideration I feel that I was not right to object to a statue or something like that being put up, provided that it is good as a work of art. I have come to think it is desirable because it would be a reminder. It would bring back to those who saw it the memory of a mighty son of India, and that memory would perhaps make us better for a little while.
It is good to think of him. The mere thought of him docs us good. It makes us question ourselves, even as his living presence made us question ourselves. While we rejoiced to be near him, we were also slightly tortured 'in spirit by the question as to whether we were worthy of him and whether we were appearing to be something which we were not. If that were so in his living presence, how much more must it be when he is not with us! The memory of him brings this eternal question.
Some of us attach ourselves to things which Gandhiji said or did. But there is always a danger of the follower losing himself in trivial details and forgetting the major lessons of the teacher. That is inevitable, because the follower is limited by his own understanding.
Essentially a man of God walked on the soil of India and sanctified it by his penance. He sanctified not only the soil of India but changed the minds and hearts of our people. To the humble people of India, it is the picture of a great person thinking of them, working for them and putting some hope and joy in their lives. It is good that we remember that picture above all else. It is also good that we remember the fundamental principles for which he stood. One of these principles is that means are more important than ends, and that no ends are right if we try to achieve them by wrong means. It is very difficult to apply the principle in our lives as we live them. Nevertheless, it is good to keep the principles in mind. I have come here today to offer my homage afresh to Gandhiji and to his memory.
From address at the openings of the Gandhi Memorial Museum and the inauguration of the conference of Chairman and Sanchalaks of State Boards of the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, Madurai, April 15, 1959