The Cuban National Hero, Jose Marti, got his ideology from the Bhagavad Gita

The Cuban National Hero, Jose Marti, got his ideology from the Bhagavad Gita
Photo : The Cuban National Hero, Jose Marti

Armando Garcia’s Jose Marti and the Origins of Cuban Independence (2015), is interesting reading. In the six-chapter book, there are two chapters of special significance-The Hindu Inspiration of a Freedom Fighter’s Spiritual and World Outlook; and Marti and the Divine State.

Jose Marti (1835-1895), the Cuban National Hero, was a student of the Bhagavad Gita. He first learned of the Gita during the years he was living in exile in New England, USA. There he interacted with the Transcendentalist movement. Also referred as the Boston Brahmins, the transcendentalists included in its circle such distinguished persons as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Annie Besant, Henry Ward Beecher, etc.

Marti learned from the Gita that the human soul is immortal; that no effort is lost or wasted; that doing ones sacred duty saves one from fear; and that no effort is lost when desires are renounced and actions are selfless.

Sacrificing oneself to the service of a higher cause was the main plank of his life. In Marti’s case it was his homeland Cuba. It was under the yoke of Spanish oppressive rule and Marti was eager to liberate it, even at the cost of his life. Marti learned from the Gita that sacrifice is the highest deity and that virtues create oneness. His life was a renunciation of materialism and selfless action which he views as the pathway to purifying the soul.

Marti started his struggle to liberate Cuba at age 16. He was imprisoned and exiled to Spain. While in Spain he studied law and philosophy. However, that did not deter him from his outlook to liberate Cuba. Through his writings and speeches Marti educated and informed the Spanish people of the atrocities and injustices being committed against the Cuban people by the Cuban colonial government.

While in Mexico he continued to write critically of governments not only in Cuba but the entire Americas including Mexico. His writing offended the Mexican dictator and Marti had to migrate to Guatemala where he worked as a professor. Marti would spend time in New York and other parts of the Americas including Jamaica and Venezuela. Through his short life, Marti never failed in his task to struggle for the liberation of the people of Cuba and the Americas. He died in battle in 1895 fighting Spanish rule.

His ideology, heavily influenced by the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, went beyond the expulsion of Spain from Cuba.  Armando Garcia wrote that he was equally focussed on “cross ethnic fraternity and an aspiration for freedom.” Jose Marti also saw a racially blind republic with equal rights for women.

A Cuban national hero with a global vision, Marti saw the independence struggle of Cuba as “an act of service to the Americas and the world.” He was not contented with liberating Cuba from Spanish rule but more so, serving the State to ensure peace and justice for all. In a speech honouring a friend, Marti said that “the path to salvation lies in sacrificial acts and in behaviour dedicated to the welfare of others.” Marti went on to state: “Selfishness is the blot of the world, selflessness its sun.” Through the teachings of the Gita Marti learned that acting selflessly-serving the welfare of others- helps to purify the soul.

Today Cuba boasts of 11 million-strong-population of 72 % European, 20 % African and 8% Indigenous. Not known for racial disturbances, this is in no small way because of the ideology of Jose Marti. His message of sacrificing oneself in service to the State was derived from the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita.

The Cuban revolution of 1959 was inspired by the ideology of Jose Marti. It was his dedication, commitment and writings-his essays and poems-that inspired the youthful Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and thousands of Cubans to fight for the liberation of Cuba.  Today, in recognition of the dedication and heroism of Jose Marti, the Cuban highest award is the Order of Jose Marti. Several schools, parks, buildings and institutions in Cuba are named after this national hero.

Numerous awards, scholarships and foundations dedicated to the memory of Marti throughout the Americas.  The International Jose Marti Prize is given by UNESCO “to promote and reward an activity of outstanding merit in accordance with the ideals and spirit of Jose Marti.” The National Association of Hispanic Publications presents the Jose Marti Awards to media personality and has grown to become the largest award in Hispanic media.

Jose Marti’s life resembled that of Mahatma Gandhi and so many Indian leaders such as Veer Sarvakar, Bal Gangadhar Tilak who shouted that freedom (swaraj) was his birth right, Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, the founder of the RSS, the largest volunteer organization in the world and Narendra Modi, the current Prime Minister of India.

Marti died at age forty two. It was a life never of rest but one dedicated to learning and serving, all of which he dedicated to the service of the people of the Americas. Jose Marti continues to be an inspiration to all of humanity. His selflessness and dedication was certainly a product of the teachings from the Bhagavad Gita.