Gandhi Literature: Gandhi - Tilak Correspondence

A collection of letters : Correspondence between Gandhiji and Lokmanya Tilak.

Gandhi - Tilak Correspondence

Letter to B. G. Tilak

AHMEDABAD, July 27 1915
I have your note. I have not given anyone any authority to use my name in connection with the interviews I had with you. I have not even read the things you are referring to. The conversations between us were private and must remain so. The draft sent by you hardly does justice to the interview. I never said that t I spoke for the Congress party or with its authority. I simply came as a friend and admirer and for friends. I did not know what view the Congress party would take. I simply put a tentative proposal before you.
I hope you will respect my wish not to be drawn in a newspaper controversy and that you will in no case publish the interview.
I am,
Yours sincerely,

From a facsimile of the original in Gandhiji’s hand published in Mahatma, Vol. I

Source: The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi-Tilak Volume 15

Letter to B. G. Tilak

August 25, 1918
I have your letter. I am grateful to you for your sympathy. How can you not be concerned about my health? God be thanked I am now well. Of course I shall not be able to leave my bed for a few days. There was great pain. It has only now subsided. I do not propose to attend the Congress or the Moderates’ Conference either. I see that my views are different from those of either. I have already told you about them. My view is that if all of us take up the work of recruitment for the war and enlist hundreds of thousands of recruits we can render a very great service to India. I know that Mrs. Besant and you do not share this view. The Moderates also will not take up the work earnestly. This is one thing. My other point is that we accept the substance of the Montagu-Chelmsford Scheme, explain clearly the improvements that we wish to be made in it and fight till death to have these improvements accepted. That the Moderates will not accept this is clear enough. Even if Mrs. Besant and you accept it, you will certainly not fight in the way I wish to fight. Mrs. Besant has declared that she is not a satyagrahi. You recognize satyagraha as [only] a weapon of the weak. I do not wish to get caught in this false position. And I do not wish to carry on an agitation in the Congress in opposition to you both. I have unshakable faith in my own formula. And it is my conviction that if my tapasya1 is complete, both Mrs. Besant and you will accept my formula. I can be patient. That the Moderates and the Extremists should each abandon some minor positions and come together is a thing repugnant to me. There are two wings in the country. I do not believe that it will do any harm to make the positions of both clear to the Government and the people. I do not at all like the attempt to bring together the Extremists and the Moderates. It will do much good if both the parties boldly proclaim their respective positions before the Government and the people. May God help you in your undertaking.
[From Hindi]

Source: The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi-Volume 17Mahadevbhai ki Diary, Part I

1. Spiritual discipline

Tribute to B. G. Tilak

BOMBAY, May 31, 1919
A public meeting was held on Saturday evening at Shantaram’s Chawl, Girgaum, Bombay, under the presidency of Mr. Gandhi, for the purpose of expressing appreciation of the services rendered by Mr. Tilak to India and calling upon his countrymen to contribute to the expenses incurred by him in his case against Sir Valentine Chirol. The following is a full translation of his speech in Gujarati: I am thankful to the organizers of the meeting for asking me to preside. The goal of every thinking Indian must be the same, though the methods for its attainment may be different and it is a matter known to all that my ways differ from Mr. Tilak’s. And yet I would wish to heartily associate myself with every occasion to pay a tribute to his great services to the country, his self-sacrifice, and his learning—and with the present occasion in especial. The nation does not honour him any the less f or his defeat in his case against Sir Valentine Chirol. It honours him, if that were possible, all the more, and this meeting is but a token of it. I have come to offer my hearty support to it. Truly speaking, I am in no love with fighting in law courts. Victory there does not depend on the truth of your case. Any experienced vakil will bear me out that it depends more on the judge, the counsel, and the venue of the court. In English there is a proverb that it is always the man with the longest purse that wins. And there is a good deal of truth in this, as there is exaggeration in it. The Lokmanya’s defeat therefore made me only wish he was a satyagrahi like me, so that he would have saved himself the bother of victory or defeat. And when I saw that far from losing heart at the result of his case, far from being disappointed, he faced the English public with cool resignation and expressed his views to them with equal fear-lessness, I was proud of him. He has been in his life acting to the very letter up to what he has believed to be the essential teaching of the Gita. He devotes himself entirely to what he believes to be his karma, and leaves the result thereof to God. Who could withhold admiration from one so great? I think it our duty to contribute to the expenses of his suit. He surely did not fight for his personal ends; he fought in the public interests. I am sure, therefore, that you will accept the resolution that is going to be proposed this evening to find for Mr. Tilak the expenses of his suit, and to express our gratefulness for his services to the country. Young India, 7-6-1919

Source: The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi-Volume 18

Note on Tilak's letter

After January 18, 1920
I naturally feel the greatest diffidence about joining issue with the Lokamanya in matters involving questions of interpretation of religious work. But there are things in or about which instinct transcends even interpretation. For me there is no conflict between the two texts quoted by the Lokamanya. The Buddhist text lays down an eternal principle. The text from the Bhagavad Gita shows to me how the principle of conquering hate by love, untruth by truth, can and must be applied. If it be true that God metes out the same measure to us that we mete out to others, it follows that if we would escape condign punishment, we may not return anger but gentleness even against anger. And this is the law not for the unworldly but essentially for the worldly. With deference to the Lokamanya, I venture to say that it betrays mental laziness to think that the world is not for sadhus. The epitome of all religions is to promote purushartha, and purushartha is nothing but a desperate attempt to become sadhu, i.e., to become a gentleman in every sense of the term. Finally, when I wrote the sentence about ‘everything being fair in politics’ according to the Lokamanya’s creed, I had in mind his oft-repeated quotation . To me it enunciates bad law. And I shall not despair of the Lokamanya with all his acumen agreeably surprising India one day with a philosophical dissertation proving the falsity of the doctrine. In any case I pit the experience of a third of a century against the doctrine underlying ... the true law is ...
Young India,

Source: The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi-VOL. 19: 29 SEPTEMBER, 1919 - 24 MARCH, 1920

1. This was in reply to the following letter dated Poona, January 18, 1920, from Lokamanya Tilak: “I am sorry to see that in your article on ‘Reforms Resolution’ in the last issue, you have represented me as holding that I considered ‘everything fair in politics’. I write this to you to say that my view is not correctly represented therein. Politics is a game of worldly people and not of sadhus, and instead of the maxim as preached by Buddha, I prefer to rely on the maxim of Shri Krishna . That explains the whole difference and also the meaning of my phrase ‘responsive co-operation’. Both methods are equally honest and righteous but the one is more suited to this world than the other. Any further explanation about the difference will be found in my Gita Rahasya.” For the article referred to, vide “The Reforms Resolution in the Congress”,

Tribute to Tilak

August 2, 1920
Love of India was the breath of life with Mr. Tilak and in it he has left to us a treasure, which can only increase, by use. The endless procession of yesterday shows the hold the great patriot had on the masses.
The Bombay Chronicle,

Source: The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi-Volume 21

Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak is no more. It is difficult to believe of him as dead. He was so much part of the people. No man of our times had the hold on the masses that Mr. Tilak had. The devotion that he commanded from thousands of his countrymen was extraordinary. He was unquestionably the idol of his people. His word was law among thousands. A giant among men has fallen. The voice of the lion is hushed. What was the reason for his hold upon his countrymen? I think the answer is simple. His patriotism was a passion with him. He knew no religion but love of his country. He was a born democrat. He believed in the rule of majority with an intensity that fairly frightened me. But that gave him his hold. He had an iron will, which he used for his country. His life was an open book. His tastes were simple. His private life was spotlessly clean. He had dedicated his wonderful talents to his country. No man preached the gospel of swaraj with the consistency and the insistence of Lokamanya. His countrymen therefore implicitly believed in him. His courage never failed him. His optimism was irrepressible. He had hoped to see swaraj fully established during his lifetime. If he failed, it was not his fault. He certainly brought it nearer by many a year. It is for us, who remain behind, to put forth redoubled effort to make it a reality in the shortest possible time. Lokamanya was an implacable foe of the bureaucracy, but this is not to say that he was a hater of Englishmen or English rule. I warn Englishmen against making the mistake of thinking that he was their enemy. I had the privilege of listening to an impromptu, learned discourse by him, at the time of the last Calcutta Congress, on Hindi being the national language. He had just returned from the Congress pandal. It was a treat to listen to his calm discourse on Hindi. In the course of his address he paid a glowing tribute to the English for their care of the vernaculars. His English visit, in spite of his sad experience of English juries, made him a staunch believer in British democracy and he even seriously made the amazing suggestion that India should instruct it on the Punjab through the cinematograph. I relate this incident not because I share his belief (for I do not), but in order to show that he entertained no hatred for Englishmen. But he could not and would not put up with an inferior status for India in the Empire. He wanted immediate equality, which he believed was his country’s birthright. And in his struggle for India’s freedom he did not spare the Government. In the battle for freedom he gave no quarter and asked for none. I hope that Englishmen will recognize the worth of the man whom India has adored. For us, he will go down to the generations yet unborn as a maker of modern India. They will revere his memory as of a man who lived for them and died for them. It is blasphemy to talk of such a man as dead. The permanent essence of him abides with us forever. Let us erect for the only Lokamanya of India an im-perishable monument by weaving into our own lives his bravery, his simplicity, his wonderful industry and his love of his country. May God grant his soul peace.
Young India,

This obituary appeared on the first page of Young India.

Source: The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi-Volume 211 JULY, 1920 - 21 NOVEMBER, 1920