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Gandhian perspective on religion for conflict resolution

Gandhi defined religion and its relation with morality from his own perspective which can still enlighten us in our quest for peace both at individual and global level

Gandhian perspective on religion for conflict resolution

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  18 Dec 2022 2:08 PM GMT

At a time when the clouds of hatred, violence, suspicion and prejudice loom large over the society and the invisible walls of communalism are raised to isolate man from man, teaching and practice of Gandhian thoughts on religion and ethics can flicker rays of hope and convey the message of unity and brotherhood across the society. Mahatma Gandhi is believed to be the greatest apostle of peace the world has seen after Buddha and Christ. Gandhi was influenced by Buddhist, Hindu and Jain philosophy and many other leaders and writers of his time. He also influenced many others in India and abroad, such as Martin Luther King Jr during the civil right movements in the United States, Nelson Mandela during his anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and Aung San Suu Kyi during her struggle for democracy in Myanmar.

Gandhi defined religion and its relation with morality from his own perspective which can still enlighten us in our quest for peace both at individual and global level. His understanding of religion and morality is still relevant to combat violence and bring peace.

Religion is a pervasive and almost a universal phenomenon in the human societies which brings to man inner strength, spiritual light, and ineffable peace. Religion not only purports to create a society of tolerance but also attempts to maintain peace in the minds of the followers. Religion is undoubtedly one of the most effective means of social control pervading throughout all activities of our being. Religion, right from our birth, controls our action and thought processes. In the words of Mathew Arnold, "Religion is morality touched with emotion". Our concepts of ethics, which is a system of moral principles, are largely derived from religions. They affect how people make decisions and lead their lives.

Religious pluralism is obvious throughout the world. There are approximately 2 billion people that call themselves Christians, more than 1 billion people that call themselves Muslims, more than 850 million people that call themselves Hindus, more than 600 million people that call themselves Buddhists, approximately 150 million people that label themselves atheists, and approximately 14 million people born as Jews. Such diversity in religious views and practices seems to enhance beauty of life, but in reality it is a heavy burden on humanity, which is isolating man from man and unleashing more violence and hatred across the world. Gandhian notion of religion can teach us a lot in this context and help in removing the walls of hatred and prejudice.

Gandhi was a religious man, whose religion was based on truth, love, and non-violence that cannot teach mutual enmity. He consid¬ered different religions as different roads going towards the same destination. Gandhi, out of his own experiences and readings, came to the conclusion that all religions are based on the same principles, namely, truth and love. He was greatly perturbed by the fighting among people in the name of religion, and, in fact, laid his life for the sake of religious unity. For Gandhi, religion pervades everyone and it is not sectarianism. He holds that religion binds indissolubly to truth and it is a permanent element present in human nature. Religion for him is an innate attribute of the soul which enables one realize the duties in life and establish correct relationship with the fellow-beings.

In the Gandhian value system, religion and morality are interconnected. Religion without morality is meaningless and morality without religion is purposeless. For Gandhi there is no religion higher than Truth and Righteousness. He attributes all social and human values to God, who stands for truth and love. God is ethics and morality; God is fearlessness; God is the source of light. Above and beyond all these God is conscience. According to Gandhi religion and morality are complementary but not contradictory to each other. So Gandhi emphasized the need for the synthesis of morality and religion. For Gandhi religion and morality are convertible terms. Gandhi wrote: "For me, morals, ethics, and religions are convertible terms. A moral life without reference to religion is like a house built upon sand".

A peaceful society is based on the ideals of love and mutual respect. True religion inspires mutual respect and reciprocal love. It preaches responsibility towards other individuals. Religion is not only belief in God but it is selfless service to human community. Gandhi tried to understand the spirit of the various scriptures of the world and apply the test of non-violence and truth laid down by these scriptures for interpretation. The ultimate aim of Gandhi's view on religion is the universal brotherhood and making good to fellow beings. And that is the first condition for establishment of a peaceful society. In his view there is no religion which is higher than truth and righteousness.

Religion becomes meaningless when spirituality is neglected or ignored. Spirituality helps one to realize unity in the midst of diversity. The doctrines, beliefs and practices of religions should establish peace within oneself, with others and with God. Instead, today they almost have become sources of divisions, tensions, violence and have become a great threat to humanity. In other words, the differences in the religions are the main cause of restlessness in the society.

The Gandhian concepts of religion, morality, non-violence and peace are intertwined. Gandhi considered that religion leads to better understanding of our relation with god and His creations. Being manifestation of divine spark we all share common roots; profound understanding of this divine origin may help us in establishment of a society free from hatred and prejudice. Enduring peace is possible only in such a society .Cultivation of the Gandhian ideals can help us bind the society with a feeling of love and brotherhood. The role of religions is to bring peace and harmony within oneself and with others. Therefore, religious tolerance becomes the key to peace and harmony.

In the recent time we have seen how religious sentiments have fuelled hatred and violence. True religion never propagates hatred and violence, but love and brotherhood. Study of Gandhian notion of religion helps us realize this truth.

Sumanta Rajbanshi


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