Gandhi ji- New thoughts
“Drops make the ocean, the reason being that there is complete cohesion and cooperation among the drops.”
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was an eminent freedom activist and an influential political leader who played a dominant role in India’s struggle for independence. Gandhi is known by different names, such as Mahatma (a great soul), Bapuji’s (endearment for father in Gujarati) and Father of the Nation.
Every year, his birthday is celebrated as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday in India, and also observed as the International Day of Nonviolence.
Gandhi is considered an epitome in the course of the Indian National Movement. Gandhi brought to the notice of all the sad predicament of the wretchedness of the so-called modern civilization characterized by the outward progress but inward backwardness.
It may seem to be a paradox but there is poverty in affluence. And that poverty in affluence only the sharp insight of Gandhi could clearly discern.
An interesting and significant aspect of the freedom movement in India was that along with the struggle against colonial rule, vigorous efforts were made to find an alternative path of development.
While several people in India were eager to ‘develop’ as much as the British and later some others wanted to industrialize as rapidly as the Soviets, there were others who kept alive the concept of small and cottage-scale development to be based in largely self-reliant rural communities.
It was this difference in the thinking which can be profoundly seen in the thought process of Gandhi which clearly shows how ecologically sensible he was, though none of his writings mention anything on this.
The Norwegian philosopher, Arne Næss, who came up with the idea of “deep ecology”, had said it is from Gandhi that he came to the realization of “the essential oneness of all life”.
Gandhi was a proponent of recycling of objects even when this concept had not gained much fanfare. Gandhi considered the earth a living organism.
His ideas were expressed in terms of two fundamental laws: Cosmic law and the Law of Species. Cosmic Law views the entire universe as a single entity. Regarding the law of species Gandhi believed that without the cooperation and sacrifice of both human and non-human beings evolution is not possible.
Modern industrial civilization has had a huge impact on human kind as well as on the environment. It made a small part of the population wealthy at the cost of exploiting the world’s natural resources.
Gandhi believed that it propagates nothing other than the hunger for wealth and the greedy pursuit of worldly pleasures.
Natural resources were ruthlessly exploited and their rhythm and balance disturbed while animals were killed or tortured for human needs.
Gandhi believed that villages would soon disappear due to the urbanization which is part of modern civilization, and of which environmental degradation is a product.
While the western environmentalists spread the message of “going back to the nature” Gandhi spread the message of “going back to the villages”.
He believed that the “the blood of the village is the cement with which the edifice of the cities is built.”
His practice of observing 24 hours of silence regularly, can was also an ecological gesture, a mode of conserving energy and a devastating indictment of the modern industrial culture of noise and consumption.
Modern economy is “propelled by a frenzy of greed and indulges in an orgy of envy.”22 It makes man more materialistic at the risk of majority and the environment.
Gandhi asserted that “true economics stands for social justice; it promotes the good of all equally, including the weakest and is indispensable for decent life”.
Gandhi urged us to minimize our wants to minimize the consumption and thus reduce the burden on nature by avoiding hazardous wastes.
Our civilization, culture and Swaraj depend on the restriction of wants. Gandhi realized that the modern civilization and the market economics have a tendency to multiply the wants and needs of common people. Bread labor is another important economic concept of Gandhi.
His views can be best summarized in the following words, “God forbid that India should ever take to industrialism after the manner of the West.
The economic imperialism of a single tiny island kingdom [England] is today keeping the world in chains. If an entire nation of 300 million took to similar economic exploitation, it would strip the world bare like locusts,”
Religious View –
India is a country where people are predominantly religious. Religion and spirituality are firmly rooted in the minds of the Indian people. Gandhi refers to ‘God’ as ‘Truth’ and this has very important bearings.
The word ‘Truth’ has a much wider connotation that the term ‘God’. Mahatma Gandhi was a Sanatani Hindu. He was a follower of inclusive monotheism that is “all worship the same God although under different names”.
Gandhi illustrates this by a striking verse from the Guru Granth Sahib in which Nanak says that God may be called by the name of Allah, Rahim or Ram.
Gandhi’s religion was not confined to Temples, Churches, books, rituals and other outer forms. Thus Gandhi’s concept of religion was not bound by any formalities.
His God may be a personal God to those who needs his personal presence. He may be a law to those who concentrate their minds on the orderliness of the universe.
Gandhi’s ‘toleration’ is different. Parents often put up with the blemishes of their children which they would not suffer in others.
We choose to overlook a fault in our spouse, lover, or close friend that we would not excuse in others.
The hate-based conception of toleration that presupposes that oneness with significant others is achieved by abolishing the radical other, by eliminating plurality hence it is different from the Gandhian conception where oneness is attained by accepting all radical others as equally significant because they variously manifest one Supreme Being.
Gandhi’s Evolution of Philosophy –
Gandhi was an anarchist. He was for such a stateless society in which life becomes perfect. People, without any prejudice, never become hindrance to one-other’s routines.
Moreover, self-regulation, self-dependency and mutual cooperation on priority become essential in day-to-day human practices. For Gandhi, the institution like the State or the system like democracy cannot be the final ideal.
He in one way or the other considered democracy to be essential as the first phase for transforming more or less his dream of stateless system into the reality.
He wished the beginning of this work from India, and also desired India to become ideal for the whole world in this regard. Undoubtedly, freedom and justice had been the two basic pillars of democracy of Mahatma Gandhi’s imagination. He saw the welfare of all was an essentiality.
It was in South Africa that Gandhi perfected the mode of Passive Resistance, which he later called “satyagraha”, to defend the interests of the Indian community in South Africa. During this period he was greatly influenced by the writings of Leo Tolstoy and John Ruskin: from the former he derived mainly his hatred of violence and consumerism, and from the latter, respect for labor and concern for the poor.
Mahatma Gandhi laid a great stress on decentralization of power so that participation of each and every one in political and economic fields could ascertain. Moreover, on the strength of this participation common men could also enjoy a standard of living, and along with intellectual growth they could find a way to achieve equality in society.
To quote Gandhi himself, “Democracy is an impossible thing until the power is shared by all…Even a pariah, a laborer, who makes it possible for you to earn your living, will have his share in self-government –Swarajya or democracy.”
The experience of the Non-Cooperation movement, led Gandhi to formulate in 1924, his ‘Constructive Programme’. He had by now made his peace with electoral democracy by advocating optional universal suffrage for legislative bodies in an article in 1924. His Constructive Programme concentrated on work in the villages, involving the promotion of Khadi (hand-woven cloth out of hand-spun cotton), which was in line with his rejection of machine-made cloth, though here opposition to use of foreign, especially British, manufactured cloth was also involved. Allied with this project was a campaign for Hindu-Muslim unity and removal of untouchability. Simultaneously Gandhi developed his theory of the property-owners as custodians of the poor, the mill-owners looking after their workers, and landlords, after their tenants. This was part of an obvious bid to overcome class antagonisms.
Gandhi was highly critical of the parliamentary democracy and in his book “Hind Swaraj” (Self Rule or Home Rule, he has called the British Parliament as a “sterile women and a prostitute”, though for him “good government is no substitute for self-government.”
The caste system is indirectly praised for having barred market competition by assigning a fixed occupation to everyone.
During the later years Gandhi chose for his main activity the welfare of the Depressed Castes, whom he now called Harijans.
Provoked by the British Government’s Communal Award of August 1932, he went on fast against separate electorates created for depressed castes.
The Poona Pact proved a signal for Gandhi from 1932 onward to initiate a nationwide campaign against untouchability and for ‘Harijan’ uplift. Increasingly, Gandhi now avoided giving any sanction to the caste system, or any philosophical defense of varnashram.
Gandhi on Gita-
Throughout Gandhi’s life, the Gita was both a guidebook for living a moral life and a spiritual reference point. In its pages he found great insight and direction for his journey.
Two teachings of the Bhagwad Gita appealed most to Gandhi. The first one was anasakti, non-attachment, to the fruits of one’s actions. The second teaching was that of attaining the exalted state of sthitaprajna, elaborated in 19 verses in England.
For him, these 19 verses represented the gist of the entire Gita. The yogi, who has succeeded in freeing his mind from all attachment to objects of senses, is devoid of all fear and remains calm and composed even in adverse situations.
In Gandhi’s view, the Gita teaches us that even evil depends upon goodness. Goodness can be withdrawn from evil by the nonviolent warrior laying claim to virtues such as friendship, loyalty, courage and sacrifice in a more powerful way than his or her violent enemies can.
It was these teachings from the Gita that Gandhi put into practice in his own moral and political actions.
Gita, according to Gandhi taught him a very important aspect that Duties are more important than Rights. Rights can always be taken away; they are not inalienable and cannot define moral and political action.
Duties, however, truly belong to individuals and can never be taken away. And while the primary right is that to life, the most important duty is the sacrifice of life in killing or dying.
It is also believed that Gita was instrumental in formulation of 11 principles of Gandhi namely – Satya (truth), ahimsa (nonviolence), asteya (non-stealing), aparigraha (non-covetousness), brahmacharya (abstinence), aswada (palate control), parishrama (physical labor), swadeshi (using homegrown or local products), asprushyatanivaran (removal of untouchability), abhaya (fearlessness), and sarva-dharma-samanata (equal respect for all religions as well as people).
He based moral and political action on duty (dharma), not as something generic but specific to each person given their circumstances (swadharma).
One has to discover and do one’s duty rather than choose on the basis of a result which can never be fully known. Doing one’s duty therefore meant focusing not on the ends so much as the means of moral and political action (nishkama karma).
Gandhi on Freedom of Press-
It is less well known that Gandhi’s first individual Satyagraha, which he began before launching the Quit India Movement in 1942, was the only Satyagraha launched by him for defending press freedom, which was suppressed by the British with all their might because of the Second World War.
Mahatma Gandhi was a staunch believer in the power of the word and wrote very cautiously in his newspapers to mobilize public opinion. The subjects he chose to write on were varied and variegated, which depicted his honesty, integrity and transparency.
He started as a journalist with the Vegetarian in England, before launching a weekly newspaper called Indian Opinion in South Africa.
When he returned to India, he founded publications like Navajivan, Young India, and Harijan that became communication platforms for the freedom movement.
He published Indian Opinion in four languages: English, Gujarati, Hindi, and Tamil. He also inspired other journalists to write in regional languages.
Gandhi’s newspapers suggest that his purpose of journalism was to serve the society in all respect and inspire the mass for a greater cause. He talked to the people in their own language to communicate the message.
His overreaching concern for addressing the communication needs of the general public became evident when he expressed that English alone could not be a medium of the newspaper.
Hence, it is clear that Gandhi’s practice of journalism set high ethical and moral standard by practicing mass oriented and value based journalism.
In 1922, he pleaded guilty in order to expose the undemocratic nature of the sedition law, which he termed a “prince among the political sections… designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen”.
Gandhi has not spoken his last word
In modern times men have built wonderful cities, they have also invented bombs to match them to reduce them to rubble. Gandhi objected to this soulless and heartless progress of modern civilization. During these evolving times, it is essential, according to Gandhi’s perspective that Leadership should comprise of two qualities- Questioning and Dissent.
Gandhi teaches us is that nonviolence consists of tender-heartedness with tough-mindedness. The true Gandhians who made history, such as Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Vaclav Havel, were obstinate and stubborn humanists.
Gandhi’s purpose was to free the Indian people by their own means from suppression and colonization through non-violent, non-cooperative protest.