That in the Martyā Which is Amṛta: a Dialog with Ramchandra Gandhi

Sophia 57 (3):389-404 (2018)


This philosophical meditation, which deals with death as question, presence, and even teacher, begins with Ramchandra Gandhi’s penetrating essay ‘On Meriting Death.’ What does it mean ‘to merit’ death? To provide an answer, I travel through RCG’s corpus, in dialog with contemporary theorists such as Sri Aurobindo, Daya Krishna, and Mukund Lath. RCG implies that the question about ‘meriting’ death, and life, is not and cannot be ‘personal’ or ‘isolated’. For X to die, is for his close and distant samāj a matter of losing him and living without him. Hence meriting death, as also life, is a joint venture which involves deep understanding regarding non-isolation as the heart of the human situation. RCG’s creative thinking, or svarāj in ideas, reaches its peak when he dares to offer an answer of his own to the piercing question kim āścaryam, ‘what is amazing?’ raised in the Yakṣa-praśna episode of the Mahābhārata. For RCG, the heart of the matter is not the ‘ungraspability’ of one’s unavoidable death, or the perennial search for ‘permanence’ in vain, but our failure to perceive ‘that in the martyā which is amṛta,’ i.e., a sense of solidarity in the face of death, connecting ‘I and Thou,’ which he derives from the icchā mṛtyu of his grandfather, the famous Mahatma.

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Daniel Raveh
Tel Aviv University

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