I encountered the life of Gandhi in my late twenties through the movie and his autobiography. I was astounded by how driven he was toward a purpose few have touched, how he owned almost nothing but the clothes he wore, how he was revered by friends and even political enemies, how he treated both equally with love, and how his conscience and power so threatened the status-quo that someone eventually had to assassinate him.
It made me wonder, How is it that we humans can end up in such different places along the spectrum of human potential? We can lead lives more like Gandhi’s, or lives as ordinary people with ordinary jobs, or even lives of such violence that society may revoke our human status and imprison us as a mere animal in a cage.
From Gandhi’s writings we know that he tried hundreds of practices to elevate his consciousness and guide his life. But it left me wondering, was there a single thing he did, some fundamental habit perhaps, that I might also do?
Then one day I found it. And the moment I did, I almost wish I hadn’t. Because what it means is that we can become Gandhi. If we want to.
The secret to becoming Gandhi is this: Every morning Gandhi began his day by asking his conscience, “What would you have me do?”
Then he would sit there waiting for the answer as long as it would take.
That’s the secret to being Gandhi. That’s it. That’s all.
It’s obvious, if you think about it. We’ve all heard before that we should “follow our conscience”. Is it any wonder that if we were to follow it day after day after day that it might actually lead somewhere?
In the case of one young man who started off quite ordinary, it lead to becoming Gandhi. And the same practice in our own life can take us just as far.
The terrible thing about asking the conscience is that it will answer us. It will answer with relationships to repair, mistakes to correct, conversations and confrontations we’d rather avoid. Ask for guidance and the conscience will respond without regard for your comfort or material prosperity or social standing.
Our conscience, so far as I can tell, isn’t even on our side. It’s on the side of the optimal unfurling of the universe, of the increase and elevation of consciousness. Its allegiance is not to you or even the many but the whole.
That’s why we take care not to consult it too often. That’s why we box it up and bury it and drown it out with noise. We build societies where the conscience is optional, where a well developed ego will get you ahead.
Gandhi stood in such contrast to the rest of humanity because his conscience — not his ego, not society — became the loudest voice in his head.
Once I knew how to become Gandhi I was suddenly faced with a strange new question. Do I actually want to?
Am I ready to be that good? Am I ready to surrender completely to my conscience? Can’t I wait a while and get around to it later? And if I’m not yet ready to be so good as Gandhi what is holding me back?
Though I have not answered this fully, my searching has taken me on the grandest adventures through philosophy, psychology, and spirituality into the most meaningful experiences of my life.