Mahatma Gandhi: The beacon of truth, non-violence and global harmony
Gandhi, a paragon of integrity and humanity, centred his life philosophy on the freedom and welfare of all.
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Gandhi, a paragon of integrity and humanity, centred his life philosophy on the freedom and welfare of all. Non-violence, a fundamental principle, was key to realizing these noble goals. His unwavering belief in India’s potential and advocacy for peaceful international cooperation devoid of interference established him as a beacon of wisdom and credibility, shaping both modern India and his global influence.
Gandhian ideology draws from timeless human values—truth, love, righteousness, non-violence, and tolerance—passed down through centuries by the Upanishads, Gita, Buddha, and Christ. Gandhi, in essence, echoed these teachings. Beyond timeless principles, his ideology addresses contemporary challenges like untouchability, communal violence, rural poverty, and women’s status. Emphasizing the significance of means, Gandhi underscored that the journey is as crucial as the destination.
Gandhi, acknowledging the ancient roots of eternal values, claimed to offer nothing new, stating, “Truth and non-violence are as old as the hills.” His uniqueness lay in practising what he preached, a distinctive approach that set him apart.
Gandhi’s unique strength lay in his ability to connect with the masses, leading them unwaveringly to independence. What set him apart was his steadfast adherence to a ‘sanatanistic’ Hindu faith, rooted in deep reverence for Hindu scriptures. While embracing eternal Hindu values like truth and nonviolence, he remained non-sectarian and non-dogmatic, asserting that no religion is infallible recognizing truth in every faith.
Gandhi’s core tenets are truth and nonviolence, the latter grounded in two key principles. Firstly, viewing all life as interconnected, he saw violence towards others as self-destructive, violating the universal law of life, which is love. Secondly, Gandhi believed in the unparalleled power of ahimsa, considering it the force that prevented humanity’s self-destruction. From these perspectives, nonviolence and love emerge as the supreme principles guiding humankind.
Gandhi’s profound conclusion, drawn from extensive study and experience, asserts the inherent truth in all religions while also recognising their imperfections. His reverence for all faiths matched that of his own, viewing them as dearly as close relatives. Ultimately, he transcended traditional religious concepts, embracing a transcendental religion as the foundation of all faiths.
Gandhi’s prophetic words, “Out of my ashes, many more Gandhis will rise,” resonate today as leaders worldwide embrace satyagraha against tyranny and injustice. Icons like Martin Luther King, Jr., Chief Lithuli, Nelson Mandela, Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Benigno Aquino, Cesar Chevaz, Sulak Sivarsaka, Aung San Suu Kyi, and others have carried Gandhi’s legacy, advocating for human rights and challenging oppressive regimes across the globe.
To create a safer world for our children, teaching Gandhian conflict resolution methods becomes imperative—dialogue, negotiation, compromise, and love over hatred and violence. Martin Luther King’s words echo the urgency, emphasizing that the choice is between nonviolence and nonexistence. For Gandhi, political freedom meant liberation from both foreign rule and societal ills. He fervently fought against untouchability, seeing it as a crime against humanity and a divisive force in Hindu society. Similarly, he opposed the caste system’s modern interpretation but endorsed a functional division of society based on aptitude, devoid of notions of superiority or inferiority.
Recognising the societal impact of the caste system, Gandhi introduced ‘Nai Talim’ or basic education. This scheme aimed to address poverty and ignorance by fostering integrated and harmonious development in pupils, emphasizing education as a tool for holistic personality growth, especially at primary and secondary levels.
Gandhi prioritized character development in education, emphasizing that teachers, as living examples, play a crucial role. He advocated for craft training to ensure economic self-sufficiency. ‘Nai Talim,’ blending naturalism, idealism, and pragmatism, embodied his educational philosophy. Additionally, Gandhi, rejecting gender inequality akin to caste-based disparities, underwent a spiritual journey leading to a vow of celibacy and a profound appreciation for the true role of women in family and society.
Gandhi’s impact can only be described as monumental. Natwar Singh underscores this by stating that without Gandhi, there would be no freedom movement and no remarkable generation of leaders like Motilal Nehru, C.R. Das, Vallabhbhai Patel, C. Rajagopalachari, Sarojini Naidu, Rajendra Prasad, Maulana Azad, Abdul Ghaffar Khan, and Jawaharlal Nehru. The ability to draw such extraordinary individuals speaks to Gandhi’s exceptional nature—he transcended mere mortality, serving as a repository of spiritual values. His influence extended beyond politics, refining our political manners while humanizing and spiritualizing our conduct.
Some may deem Gandhi’s ideology outdated, asserting it lacks solutions for current crises. Traditional values like tolerance, harmony, equality, sharing, humility, honesty, simplicity, and symbiosis are considered irrelevant in today’s context. The prevailing sentiment leans towards ‘tit for tat,’ ‘an eye for an eye,’ or the belief that ‘Might is right.’ Despite this, Gandhi’s relevance persists, challenging the contemporary narrative by advocating for enduring principles that transcend immediate gains.
For those deeply concerned about society, Gandhi emerges as a prophet for the millennium, addressing issues of violence, untruth, corruption, and domination. His relevance lies in the meaningful struggle against the dehumanization of weaker sections, particularly in combating structural violence across generations. Gandhi’s perception of structural violence encompasses economics, politics, social systems, and education. He detested not individuals but the systems fostering evil—hating capitalism, racialism, untouchability, and aspects of modern civilization. Gandhi recognized immorality in destructive economics and politics, emphasizing the need for moral well-being and religious morality to achieve justice and inner freedom.
Gandhi held a positive conviction that societies, much like the Earth bound by gravitation, were sustained by non-violence. His vision of social organization mirrored the family, with the overarching concept that the entire world is one family, known as vasudhaiva kutumbakam. Within this interconnected system, each societal unit operates based on principles of interdependence, complementarity, cooperation, and dedication to duty, ensuring equal respect, social status, and importance for all. Gandhi’s emphasis on traditional values aligns with his vision for creating a better world to live in.
Gandhi’s profound connection between individual freedom and responsibility towards others is a cherished value. Dennis Dalton, drawing from Gandhian principles, establishes a link between freedom (Swaraj), duty (Dharma), non-violent action (Satyagraha), and self-reliance (Swadeshi). Satyagraha, meaning ‘insistence or holding of truth,’ aims to resolve conflicts without harm to antagonists, seeking transformation to a higher level. Gandhi referred to it as a “silent force” or “soul force,” emphasising patience, the absence of barbarity, and intolerance in its practice. He believed that true democracy requires faith in one’s cause and a commitment to non-intolerance.
Following in the footsteps of the Mahatma, ‘the great soul,’ may be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Gandhi wasn’t a Mahatma by birth; he earned this title through his magnanimity.
Gandhi emphasises that the root of problems lies within oneself, and solving them requires inner freedom and openness, deterring vices like arrogance and disobedience. Jayaprakash Narayan highlights Gandhi’s enduring relevance in the face of global violence, foreseeing it persisting until the threat to humanity’s existence is eliminated. Henry Skolimowski calls for a second Gandhian revolution to address ongoing issues, focusing on simplifying lifestyles and reducing consumption for peace with the poor and nature. Gandhi, embodying philosophy, spirituality, non-violence, and self-reliance, serves as a bridge to the 21st century, symbolising timeless ideals.
Gandhian philosophy presents a dual objective: simultaneously transforming individuals and society through truth and nonviolence. Sarvodaya, coined by Gandhi, envisions the welfare of all, reflecting a principle of justice for society. Dr. R.R. Diwakar emphasises that each individual’s good is linked to the good of all. Gandhiji’s concepts of gramodaya, antodaya, and sarvodaya propose a genuine alternative path to material development, aligning with human development rather than just economic growth. He foresaw the pitfalls of capitalism and industrialism, advocating for self-sufficient villages to address environmental issues and preserve local communities. Unfortunately, modern times have steered away from these Gandhian ideals, missing an opportunity for socially equitable, ecologically viable, and economically efficient development paths.
A good society transcends mere legal governance, embracing higher ethical and spiritual values. Central to this outlook is a profound sense of the essential oneness of humankind. Universal love, friendliness, and a shared responsibility for all stem from an unconditional acceptance of this unity, forming the core virtue for modern societal values—liberty, equality, and fraternity. When extended globally, these values foster the highest ideal of human fraternity. The spiritual perception emphasizes the unity of all beings, not just humans, while the social ideal, Loksangrah, envisions the collective welfare and nourishment of all beings as the foundation of social organisation.
Gandhi’s vision of a good society is embodied in his philosophy of sarvodaya and swaraj, rooted in ethical and spiritual principles. Swaraj, beyond political freedom, signifies self-governance and self-control in the spiritual realm. For Gandhi, truth and non-violence serve as fundamental principles guiding both individual and social life. He rejects the notion that spiritual law operates in isolation, emphasizing its expression through ordinary life activities and influencing the economic, social, and political domains.
In the face of prevailing darkness, the need for a leader like Gandhi is paramount—someone with rare courage, character, and charisma. Especially relevant today, Gandhi’s twin principles of satya (truth) and ahimsa (nonviolence), along with his concept of Lok Samgrah (world solidarity), offer guidance. In these troubled times, Gandhian satyagraha emerges as the most potent and pragmatic moral equivalent of war. Gandhi’s assertion that “nonviolence is infinitely superior to violence” and the potency of soul force over brute force remain compelling and vital teachings for our era.
Gandhiji, who championed the case for India’s independence globally, exemplified the real vision of a leader—the leader of leaders. Truth, a sovereign principle, anchored his philosophy, and various spiritual principles and schools of thought enriched it. His coined term “satyagraha” encapsulates his philosophy of non-violence, leaving a lasting impact on non-violent resistance movements that endure to this day. Society today craves a moral, philosophical, and spiritual leader of Gandhi’s stature for genuine development and progress.