Thomas Merton and Mahatma Gandhi 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 Mertons 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. Encounters with Christ must be followed by the encounters and both must be experienced with the same love. Its 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 Gods ownership of everything and of mans 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 monks 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 Gandhis 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. Mertons 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 mens lack of inner light that made Gandhis 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 Gandhis 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 d …