Love lust and the Mahatma
• Posted by GandhiServe Foundation on November 14, 2010 at 9
Love lust and the Mahatma
By Thomas Weber
In 1924 a birth control league was established in
Gandhi replied that he was open to further education on the subject and Sanger started planning a visit to
Margaret Sanger's diary notes that the arguments in the formal interview "were along the same lines as in the morning", and she felt that "his personal experience at the time of his father's death was so shocking and self-blamed that he can never accept sex as anything good, clean or wholesome." During the interview â€¦ Gandhi counselled celibacy
Not unexpectedly, Sanger raised the phantasmagoria of "irritations, disputes, and thwarted longings that Gandhiji's advice would bring into the home", citing cases of "great nervous and mental breakdowns as a result of the practice of self-control."
Gandhi countered that this would only be the case with "imbeciles", not with "healthyminded people". When Sanger insisted that his advice was not practical, that it would "mean a revolution in the home" and lead to divorce because "the average marriage contract assumes that intercourse and the married relationship shall be harmonious", Gandhi tried to draw a distinction between love and lust
Sanger did not accept the analogy, explaining that "sex expression is a spiritual need" and that the quality of the expression is "more important than the result". She tried to get Gandhi to admit that he was against "sex lust" rather than "sex love"; however when she asked him whether he thought "it possible for two people who are in love, who are happy together, to regulate their sex act only once in two years, so that relationship would only take place when theywanted a child?", Gandhi answered that "I had the honour of doing that very thing". Sanger saw it as "illogical to contend that sex union for the purpose of having children would be love and union for the satisfaction of the sexual appetite was lust, for the same act was involved in both." Gandhi explained that he knew that all sexual unions partook of the nature of lust from his own personal experience because "as long as I looked upon my wife carnally, we had no real understanding. Our love did not reach a high plane."
Sanger responded by asking if that meant that "the sexual union takes place only three or four times in an entire lifetime?" In response to the woman who, like Olive Schreiner 30 years before her, had been a lover of Havelock Ellis, the pioneer of sexology and author of the seven- volume Studies in the Psychology of Sex, Gandhi responded
Not long before his discussion with Margaret Sanger, Gandhi received a letter from a councillor of the Municipal Corporation of Bombay asking him to support the opening of a birth control clinic â€¦ and issuing posters advising people to take advantage of it. Gandhi replied
In her autobiography Sanger notes that even though Gandhi appeared to be going along with her in their discussions, as soon as she stopped he continued "as though he had not heard you", putting up a "stone wall of religion or emotion or experience" which she could not "dynamite him over".
However, he had heard her, and tried hard to counter her arguments, and perhaps Sanger had slightly more impact on him than she imagined or he admitted to. At the end of the session of interviews, Gandhi conceded that he thought highly of Sanger's purpose, otherwise he "would not have given time to this subject". As a conclusion to the section of his article that contains the interview with Margaret Sanger, Desai wrote
"And yet as Mrs Sanger was so dreadfully in earnest Gandhiji did mention a remedy which could conceivably appeal to him. That method was the avoidance of sexual union during unsafe periods confining it to the 'safe' period of about ten days during the month. That had at least an element of self-control which had to [be] exercised during the unsafe period."
What had induced this change? Later a close friend and member of his secretariat, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur [independent
Gandhi biographer Martin Green claims that the encounter left [the Mahatma] exhausted, resulting in his hospitalisation and a breakdown in his health that "was very painful to him because it involved an episode of involuntary sexual excitement." Green appears to be making a causal link between Gandhi's seminal discharge and the resurfacing of buried emotions, particularly those that had led to the platonic yet sexually charged love affair (or spiritual marriage) with Sarala Devi Chaudhurani [pioneering women's rights activist, Rabi- ndranath Tagore's niece and wife of Punjab Congress leader Rambhuj Dutt Chaudhary] that had fleetingly threatened his own marriage in 1920.
This is not an outrageous interpretation.
In her interviews, Sanger had put to Gandhi that, "If we have a choice in our mates [as he did not] there is a natural sex attraction between two people. You then have a different experience and in the experience an expression of love which makes you a finer human being ... and contributes to a finer understanding and a greater spiritual harmony."
GANDHI'S response was illuminating
In an article on birth control that appeared in his paper only a few months later, Gandhi reiterated that he would agree to at least consider the rhythm method of birth control, even though he did it reluctantly. Although she had no luck in convincing Gandhi of her position, her lecture tour of
- Extracted with permission from Going Native
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