7. Power of imagination
From time immemorial people have been watching fruits falling off the trees. But only Isaac Newton could think of ‘why so?’ and discovered the theory of gravity.
We can say that a person who has never seen and heard of fire is ignorant. One who has never seen fire, but studied its properties has knowledge. One who knows how to produce fire and make use of it, has wisdom. But one who has discovered for the first time, as to how to produce fire, has imagination or what we can call ‘thinking outside the box’.
The word ‘education’ is derived from Latin word ‘educo’ which means ‘to develop within’ or ‘draw out’. The real purpose of education is to let a person know his shortcomings, ways to improvise and bring the best out of himself. The lack of this knowledge is the cause many students struggle in life even after acquiring degrees and ranks. Students who have won gold medal in electrical engineering fail to help others even in fixing problems such as fuse outage. It is unfortunate that a person who has invested lot of time and money to obtain a Ph.D. ends up competing for the jobs that don‘t require any skill.
Unfortunately we still follow the British education system developed to produce clerks needed for revenue collection and administrators needed for law and order. This system only aims at memorizing lessons required to clear the exams and then immediately forgetting them. Creativity for new inventions or analytical thinking for solving problems is not being encouraged.
If we want to be a successful businessman, we should know how to solve other‘s problems or provide valuable services or goods. Through wisdom one can understand how to apply knowledge in practical situations.
Neither as a law student in London nor as a briefless barrister in Bombay had Gandhi acquired much knowledge of the intricacies of legal practice. Moreover, he was completely innocent of the mysteries of book-keeping and business accounts which are involved in a complicated lawsuit. So he set himself to acquire both. In the process he made two discoveries. One was that
facts are three-fourths of the law; the other, that litigation was ruinous to both parties in a suit and therefore the duty of a lawyer was to bring them together in a settlement.
My joy was boundless. I had learnt the true practice of law. I had learnt to find out the better side of human nature and to enter men’s hearts. I realized that the true function of a lawyer was to unite parties riven asunder. The lesson was so indelibly burnt into me that a large part of my time during the twenty years of my practice as a lawyer was occupied in bringing about private compromises of hundreds of cases. I lost nothing thereby – not even money, certainly not my soul. -Gandhiji
In addition to law books Gandhiji studied several spiritual books that helped him in his thought process. Prior to Gandhiji‘s arrival into Indian independence struggle, many people were fighting the British. But it was Gandhiji‘s wisdom that made him stand apart from the crowd. He knew the strengths and weaknesses of the British Empire and that of his own people. Prior to his emergence on political field, politics was confined to elite classes. Middle classes and masses were largely unreached. Gandhiji knew that he had to touch the hearts of people by living a simple life and making himself available to the public.
Gandhiji was also able to apply his knowledge of scriptures and spiritual wisdom to freedom struggle. He knew the source of problem which is a violation of dharma and its consequent karma collectively felt upon by the Indians.
By middle ages of Indian history, there was a caste system based on birth and untouchability was well established. Even though the Upanishads and other sacred texts teach that everyman is a personification of Brahman, in real life there was a rigid social ladder of castes without any chance of upward growth. Priests, rulers, merchants and so on started occupying high positions just because of the caste they were born into, even though they lacked required merit and strength. Slowly the country disintegrated spiritually, physically and economically. It could not fight the invaders and yielded to slavery and exploitation.
Gandhiji knew that there could be no meaning of independence without eradicating untouchability and accordingly he guided the people to live in accordance with dharma. He pleaded that people of oppressed communities should be allowed to enter into temples, schools, villages and be treated as equals. He pleaded that they should be given access to drinking water from village wells and also allowed to eat along with people of so called ―higher castes‖. He declared that untouchability is a great sin that must be eradicated from the society. He worked hard to bring all people under one umbrella irrespective of caste, religion, language and so on.
Gandhiji also knew the causes behind the economic and political strengths of British Empire. He aimed his battles at weakening the empire through boycotting goods made in Britain, and through Indian‘s non-cooperation with British administration.
Knowledge will not be effective, unless it is organized and intelligently directed, through practical plans of action, to the definite end of a goal. Lack of this understanding has been the reason why millions of people earn certificates and degrees believing that “knowledge is power”, but are clueless about how to succeed in life. The power is, not in mere ‘accumulation’, but in the ‘application’ of knowledge.
An educated man is not necessarily one who possesses vast knowledge. It is not essential that he has this knowledge in his own mind. An educated man is one who has the wisdom to know how to achieve his goals, if necessary with the cooperation of other people (as will be covered later in the topic ‘Cosmic Mind).
A little understanding of the above topics will take us to the next topic, imagination. It is more powerful than knowledge, because knowledge is limited to all that we now know and understand. But Imagination embraces even the entire unknown universe.
Imagination is the realm of the mind where one can see things that do not yet exist in this world, but which one day might. It should not be confused with daydreaming or fantasizing, in which many people like to indulge. Daydreaming is a form of killing time whereas imagination is a form of constructive thought followed by action.
Generally authors, artists and musicians have great imagination. An author imagines in his mind several characters, locations, plot points and incidents. A musician imagines in his mind the interaction of many musical instruments in order to create great music.
Man can create or achieve anything which he can imagine. The imagination is the workshop of mind where all plans are created by man. The thought impulse, ‘the desire’, is given form and action through the aid of the imaginative faculty of the mind.
Through the aid of his imaginative faculty, man discovers, and harnesses forces of nature. Man has conquered the earth, water and air so much that the animals, fish and birds are no match to him in moving, swimming or flying. Inventions such as wheels, vehicles, telephones, Internet are the examples of ideas or imagination that have transformed the world.
The imagination functions in two forms; synthetic imagination and creative imagination.
- Synthetic imagination: Through this faculty, you can transform old concepts, ideas, or plans into new combinations. This faculty creates nothing new. It merely works with the material of experience, education, and observation with which it is fed. It is the faculty used most by common men.
- Creative imagination: The faculty of creative imagination is one which the majority of people never use during an entire lifetime, and if used at all, it usually happens by mere accident. The great leaders, writers, musicians, and poets become great, because they acquire the habit of relying upon the ‘still small voice’ which speaks from within, through the faculty of creative imagination.
When ideas or answers flash into one’s mind, they come from one or more of the following sources:
- One’s subconscious mind, wherein is stored every sense impression and thought impulse whichever reached the brain through any of the five senses
- From the mind of some other person who has just released the thought, or picture of the idea or concept, through conscious thought, or from subconscious mind
For instance Benzene is a natural constituent of crude oil. The empirical formula for benzene was long known, but it’s highly polyunsaturated structure, with just one hydrogen atom for each carbon atom, was challenging to explain.
After several years it was explained by a chemist, Friedrich August Kekulé. He had discovered the ring shape of the benzene molecule after having an imagination of a snake seizing its own tail.
In Gandhiji’s life too there were many instances that he received inspirations. By January 1930 Gandhiji was clueless as to what to do next in the freedom struggle. He spent many sleepless nights and was restless. By the middle of February his struggle came to an end and there was an idea in his mind. The next battle has to be through salt sathyagraha.
Salt can be easily made near sea shore and many Indians are dependent on this business. In addition, because of the weather in India even poor people must use salt every day. So the monopoly and taxation on the manufacture and trade of salt is a symbol of the British authority over India. Gandhiji thought that by refusing to pay taxes on salt, people could demonstrate their opposition to the British rule. He visualized multitudes of people standing in lines making, selling and buying salt. If the government arrested and punished the volunteers, more and more people would fill their places and thus the sathyagraha would become stronger.
Gandhiji wrote a letter asking the British Government to remove the salt tax, but it refused to do so. Gandhiji wrote another letter to the Viceroy saying
On the eleventh of this March I shall proceed to break the salt law. It is open to you to arrest me. I hope, there will be tens of thousands ready to take up the work after me’. But there was no reply.
On March 12th, at 6.30 in the morning, Gandhiji started on foot from his Ashram at Ahmedabad, with a band of carefully selected volunteers, on a march to break the salt-law. His steps were firm. His look was peaceful and fearless.
The whole world watched with wonder and curiosity and thousands of people joined the march on the way. At last, after 24 days, the march ended 241 miles away, on April 5th at Dandi a village on the west coast. Gandhiji spent that night in prayer. In the morning, he went to the sea-shore and bathed in the sea. Then he bent down and picked up a lump of salt and thus broke the salt-law. He issued an appeal to the world in a simple note ‗I want world sympathy in this battle of right against might.‘
The sathyagrahis wouldn’t harm the police but would just continue their work of making salt and willing to be beaten down on the heads with cracked skulls as they fall down. As one row of sathyagrahis fell down, the next row of sathyagrahis would come and offer their skulls to be broken. That was a different form of resistance that the British had ever faced.
The representatives from all over the world had come there to witness the great event. They praised the spirit of courage and dedication of the Satyagrahis. In the eyes of the world the British Empire suffered a serious blow to its moral authority. All over the country, even in distant villages, men and women came out in processions, held meetings, observed protests and manufactured salt without paying any tax. The Government brutally beat the demonstrators, even resorted to firing. Yet the struggle didn’t stop. More than a hundred thousand Satyagrahis were imprisoned. The jails were so full to overflowing that barbed wire jails were created in the open.
The British Government had called a Round Table Conference in London to draft a future constitution for India. But they couldn’t move on without Gandhiji, so they released him from the prison. The Viceroy talked with him in terms of equality and entered into treaty with him. This treaty is known as Gandhi-Irwin Pact. It was a great victory of Satyagraha. Gandhiji suspended the movement and the Government released all the political prisoners. Then Gandhiji went to England as an honoured guest of the British Government to attend the Round Table Conference. Gandhiji could move people into a kind of action called passive resistance. He showed that breaking the cycle of violence isn’t about weapons. It’s not about fight or flight. When we cower from conflict, we empower those who desire to inflict violence on us. On the other hand, when we respond to violence with violence, we escalate the cycle. This is the meaning of the saying ‘if someone hits you on one cheek, turn the other cheek’. When someone hits us, we don’t hit them back, and we don’t run away either. We should turn our cheek, forcing them to look into our eyes before hitting again.
My claim to hear the voice of God is nothing new. Unfortunately there is no-way I can prove the claim except through results. God will not be God if He allowed Himself to be an object of proof by His creatures. But He does give His willing slave the power to pass through the fiercest of ordeals.
I have been a willing slave to this most exacting Master for more than half a century. His voice has been increasingly audible as years have rolled. He has never forsaken me even in my darkest hour. He has saved me often from myself and left me not a vestige of independence. The greater the surrender to Him, the greater has been my joy. -Gandhiji
Gandhiji’s ideas such as non-cooperation, boycotting foreign clothes, Quit India movement also originated from inspirations or imaginations. The British government used to send cotton and other raw materials from India to Britain. Textile mills in Britain manufactured cloths and these were imported into India and sold at high prices.
The British Government imposed such restrictions that it was impossible for Indian manufactures to import machinery for factories or do business because of heavy duties. Such measures completely destroyed Indian industries, employment and people‘s purchasing power. Gandhiji imagined that the way to oppose British exploitation was through boycotting British clothes and by encouraging Indian manufacturers and homespun clothes.
Imaginative faculty may become weak through inaction. It can be revived and made alert through its constant use. For now, let us focus our attention on the development of the synthetic imagination, because this is the faculty which we will use more often in the process of converting desire into achievement.
Things are always created twice – first in the workshop of the mind and then, in reality. We can call the process ‘blueprinting’ because anything that you create in the outer world began as a simple blueprint in your inner world. When you learn to take control of your thoughts and vividly imagine all that you desire from this worldly existence in a state of total expectancy, dormant forces will awaken inside you. You will begin to unlock the true potential of your mind to create the kind of magical life that you deserve and achieve what you want.