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Gandhi's Relevance is Eternal and Universal

By K. D. Gangrade

Gandhi's relevance is eternal, timeless and universal. His cardinal principles of Truth and Nonviolence are as important and significant as sun to our life. He exhorted us not only to believe in purity of means but to practise them to achieve our ends and goals. He said that man can find God in the service of humanity.

According to him cult of violence had to be rejected at all costs and at all places. He taught us that Indian way to resolve conflict is not to struggle over values and claims to scarce resources and power in which the opponent or enemy is either neutralised or eliminated. But that our aim should be to develop harmonious relationships between different communities, castes, religious and other groups and to replace hatred with love and affection. The contemporary world situation which is ridden with violence should steer the whole international community to examine the value system the world intends to follow.

In competitive politics, the political parties are engaged in a race for political supremacy. What is the principal purpose of the race ? To gain political power either to build or to destroy the nation for personal or party gain or both. Much intelligence and energy are going into this effort. Yet, it seems more important than ever that an even greater effort is to be made to achieve positive and mutually helpful human relations. This cannot be done by merely political forces.

Among several others, political parties and leaders, instead of creating harmonious relations, have created hatred, and men have become thirsty for the blood of others. Consequently, defecting from one party to another, poll violence and booth capturing have become the order of the day. The power-hungry man has lost the balance of his mind.

World and specially India today has not become a better place to live in despite more than five decades of independence. No doubt, we have many spectacular achievements in science and technology and other fields to our credit. But, in the development process adopted by us, we have alienated man from man.

Time has come now for rethinking on the issue. Mahatma Gandhi's decision to march to Dandi was a message 'so simple that it reached every one'. Through the march Gandhi tried to provide means for the lowliest to undertake the change of self and take part in the change of society. The purity of means is an end in itself. Gandhiji, in his scheme kept the people at the centre. All his policies and programmes were designed to secure full support and participation of the people and to develop capacities in them to work as members of a one world community. The people felt that he was talking to them directly rather than through impersonal means of communication. He emphasised self-discipline, truth, satyagraha and nonviolence as some of the methods to achieve the goal set by the leaders through active involvement of the people.

In fact, the basic Gandhian principle in working with people is to lead them away from conflicts of interests towards a community or community of interests. Gandhi's goal was to bring about a community of interests by holding it up as the common good, by making Sarvodaya the motivation of all individual action. It is a process of the right discernment of the context for the sake of right action which would help to take it from conflict to harmony without sacrificing any value to that harmony. Gandhi, as the father of the Indian Nation and as an effective national leader, succeeded in uniting the people of India. He was able to integrate different dimensions—the people's task behaviour and socio-economic behaviour—and did not utilise one at the expense of the other.

Mahatma Gandhi won commitment from his followers. He had the skill to get them involved. He had a keen understanding of the people and a set of principles for dealing with their motivation, emotion, pain, trust and loyalty. India today suffers from ethnic differences and economic backwardness. Indian politics consists of both the politics of group identity and the politics of resource allocation. The political conflicts would be minimised if the politicians do not interfere in the formation of group identities, or in the allocation of resources. Gandhi maintained that a basic human need was to rise above animal nature and transcend it so that man could be creative and cease to be merely a creature. He did not think love and hate were antithetical drives : they are both answers to man's need to transcend his animal nature.

Mahatma Gandhi had holistic view of life. Accordingly, his development philosophy revolved round man, his society and environment (nature) and their respective and simultaneous development. He believed that instead of man exploiting the society and both exploiting nature, there was a symbiotic way of life in which they were in harmony with each other. In his frame of reference for development, man is the centre of attention. The objective is the moral and spiritual development of man.

Man is primarily his consciousness, his capacity to be self-conscious, and his built-in potentiality to judge between good and evil. Because that will help him in his evolution of higher levels of being rather than obstruct his path. This gives him a leverage not only to aspire to higher levels but to endeavour to attain them.

Gandhi believed in this effort. The path he outlined lay through ethical, moral and spiritual disciplines. The key note of his ethics is "love" which means a near identity of interest with every sentiment. This love has to be expressed in the form of service and sacrifice. His ethics in relation to material things and property consisted in his concept of Trusteeship. Every human being is a trustee not only of his faculties and attainments but of everything he comes by. The trusteeship consists not only in using his powers and goods properly but in using them selflessly and for the well-being of others.

Most of the present breed of leaders have taken to politics as their main source of income and livelihood. In the Gandhian era particularly in India leaders gave up their lucrative professions and took to politics not as a means of livelihood, but to join the struggle for India's freedom from foreign rule and to build New India. They did not expect any thing in return. These values must be revived to build the nation and maintain its unity and peace.

Gandhi's ideas, principles and concepts are universal and need to be followed to protect our planet from disaster. The decline of virtues in the last century can be described in four stages from 1900-2000. In the first period, the virtue was at its fullest. In the second, virtue had slightly diminished. In the third, virtue had diminished further. And in the fourth, virtue is at its lowest. Gandhian way is the only way to reverse this process to make the twenty-first century a glorious and virtuous period of happiness and peace.

Source: Journal of Gandhi Smriti & Darshan Samiti, April 2001