Mohandas K. Gandhi was a great Gujarati. He was an outstanding Indian-the Father of his Nation. He was a noble Asian.He was a distinguished Hindu. More than all of these, Gandhi was a great human being.
Many so-called “great” men and women lived during the 20th century. In my estimate, and many
others, Gandhi was-so far-the greatest, by almost any definition of “great”.Or
who else?Churchill, Roosevelt? Lenin, Mao, Nehru? Einstein, Freud? Gandhi
overshadowed them all, as a world citizen while he lived and as a continuing
influence on dozens of movements and millions of people even today.
As we observe today, the 120th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth tomorrow, let us look briefly at
the impact Gandhi is still making on our world, 41 years after his death in 1948.
Gandhi lives today in dozens of fields of endeavour.I will not use the term, Gandhism. In his life
time, Gandhi warned: “If Gandhism is another name of sectarianism, it deserves
to be destroyed. If I were to know after my death that what I stood for had
degenerated into sectarianism, I should be sharply pained.” Elsewhere, Gandhi
admitted: “I have no desire to found a sect. I am really too ambitious to be
satisfied with a sect or a following.”
Gandhi is alive today wherever conflicts are being resolved, peacefully.Satyagraha, non–violent
direct action of soul force was Gandhi’s great contribution to humanity. It is
being studied and used in many parts of the world today.Since Gandhi’s death,
there have arisen an American Gandhi (Martin Luther King Jr.), A South Korean
Gandhi (Ham Sok Hon), a Palestinian Gandhi (Awad Mubarak), and several others.
Gandhi’s name was mentioned during the student demonstration in Beijing’s
Tiananmen Square and non-violent direct action has been intentionally used
against apartheid in the defiance campaign of 1952 and again in the last few
months. (Gandhi devised these techniques during his 26-year sojourn in South
Africa, ending in 1914.)
Gandhi is alive today also wherever people want to live simpler, healthier lives and more intentional
ones. Gandhi’s ashrams in South Africa and India were experiments in simple
living, prototypes to “small is beautiful.”Gandhi remains relevant for the
growing Green movements throughout the world, for ecological awareness, for
healthful foods (as well as vegetarianism).
Gandhi is also alive today where great world religions try to heal and not divide, where Hindus meet
Muslims, where Christians dialogue with Jews.Gandhi’s prayer meetings have
become a model for multi-religious meditation today. Also such international
groups as the World Conference on Religion and Peace owe their origin, at least
in part, to Gandhi’s concept of religious dialogue as well as to his inspiration.
Gandhi is, finally, alive in every deliberation or negotiation for disarmament and peace. Wherever war
and violence is abhorred and questioned, Gandhi is present. He lived 29 months
into the nuclear age, asserting, “unless now the world adopts non-violence, it
will spell certain suicide for mankind.”He early demanded disarmament.His
call for unilateral disarmament was, after his death, tried by Secretary Khrusuchev and President Kennedy, and then by President Gorbachev.His
inspiration aided the great peace marches and demonstrations of our time, east
and west, and his picture was often carried by those marchers.
Gandhi statues, Gandhi museums, Gandhi exhibits, Gandhi motion pictures, Gandhi plaques-all are
important symbols so that a new generation can remember Gandhi.The Collected
Works of Gandhi, now in 90 volumes, makes Gandhi’s word available to all.Many
volumes continue to he published about Gandhi, worldwide, including children’s
books.Thus his insights are alive in the hearts of countless persons of all
ages, in all walks of life, in all climes and countries, perhaps as much outside
India as in India itself.
We are grateful to the various Indian associations in New York metropolitan area, and to the Consulate
of India in New York, for sponsoring today’s observance.Yet India cannot keep
Gandhi for itself. He was a world figure; he remains one, the best the 20th
century has produced.
Albert Einstein said it well: “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in
flesh and blood walked upon this earth.”
We walk today upon his earth to do Gandhi honour. Let us preserve this earth, and humanity, through
non-violence, to honor Gandhi, and posterity.
Mahatma Gandhi ki jai! Mahatma Gandhi ki jai!