Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation not only preached but first practised Gandhism unfailingly as his life's principles which happen to be basic and core prerequisites to sustenance of God's creation, nature, of which man is a small part. In fact, his practice was his preaching even if unstated by him. As two interconnected pillars of unfailing strength, truth (Satya) and non-violence (Ahimsa) are the backbone of yamas (ethical commandments from human behaviour), being the two sides of the same coin. The other three of the five yamas include Asteya or shunning the use of materials or services obtained illegitimately as well as destruction and vandalism, Brahmacharya or controlled procreation and Aparigrah or not coveting or amassing materials and wealth beyond ones 'need' as defined later.
Together with these five yamas Gandhiji consistently followed five niyamas (self-based code of conduct), (i) saucha or cleansing/sanitation of body and mind with abhorrence to lust or kamadhikya, anger or krodh and greed or lobha as part and parcel of saucha niyama, (ii) contentment or santosha, (iii) austerity or tapas, (iv) self introspection or swadhyaya and (v) prayer/meditation or ishwar-pranidhan to correct any lapse in practice of yamas and niyamas.
The yamas are the essential principles to be practised in relation to man's behavior with fellowmen, other living creatures and non-living objects or resources in a sustainable manner. The niyamas are self-code of conduct or five do's to manage oneself sustainably. It was Gandhiji's genius which integrated yamas and niyamas with our socio-economic and political activities with utmost wisdom. This way Gandhiji galvanized Indians into a cohesive force required in those days to attain self-governance (Swaraj), self-reliance (swadesi), welfare of the weakest (antodaya) and welfare of all (sarvodaya). The rest is a long-chequered history; the present being so unfortunately in the worst typhoon of corruption, thereby necessiting a fresh resurgence of interest in Gandhianism.
Gandhiji's birth date is celebrated as World Non Violence Day but do we understand the full significance of ahimsa for our sustainability? Our one and only Earth (dharati mata) or universal mother harbours a vast brood of living organisms, over sixteen lakh species to be specific; human being only one of them. From his inner spiritual realization Gandhiji had long ago concluded that there was a fundamental balance, a unity in vast diversity and a divinity in all lives co-existing in nature. This truth found scientific support decades later on discovery of DNA present commonly in all the species. As a consequence the man is not the sole owner of the Earth and has no right to finish other species. By destroying any species, man's own base of survival may be jeopardized beyond redemption.
Thus, ahimsa is the key to balance, unity and divinity in nature, all together called eco-balance today. Consequently it is only when non-violence is ingrained in human nature and actions, the ongoing damage to nature could be prevented spontaneously at the root, thereby leading to environmental protection and climate control. Truth, on the other hand, begets love and compassion which tend to suppress man's urge for violence, greed and destruction. To attain the virtue of truth or swarnadand, one has to free one's mind from shackles of discrimination and ill intentions and unify the thoughts, speeches and actions. Satya begets ahimsa and ahimsa begets satya.
Gandhiji had said, "Man's happiness lies in contentment (Santosha). He who is discontented, however much he possesses, becomes a slave to his own desires." To differentiate need from greed, we must understand that our craving for superficial or artificial desires are nothing but greed which are never satiated but may cause suffering from discontentment. On the other hand, a natural desire for life's objective essentials which ends soon after they are met is a need, contributing to one's well-being and survival. Natural desires are implanted by nature and get quenched instantly; thirst by clean water, hunger by nutritious food. The artificial desires in today's conditions are often inspired and determined by market forces and such desires like appetite for countless accessories, gold, black money and so on would never cease - thanks to one's cupidity.
Hence, if man's life-style is need-based, sans greed, simple, austere, clean, sustainable and reasonably comfortable viz. based on yamas and niyamas, the downstream environmental damages following the barbaric use of resources would mostly be controlled at the source itself and the necessity for post damage control may be minimum, providing much wanted carbon-cut and climate control rather inexpensively.
The Ishopanishad says that our universe consisting of all creatures belongs to the Lord and to nature, over which man has no absolute power. So let no species encroach upon the right of existence of other species, though one can always enjoy the bounties of nature sans greed. Thus, it is for the man to practice yamas and niyamas which can be nature's savers. For this to happen, nations must facilitate to carve a future where all humans are put on the path of non-violence towards other humans, living creatures and inanimate resources, the barbaric exploitation of which, is no less than violence. A mandatory conservationist approach alone may thus apply a desired break to unsustainable and self-destructive pattern of present consumption.
The references made to Gandhism are as such few and far between in today's political circus, though some leaders do make a vague and passing reference to ‘Gandhian values' in context to environment - without any commitment, which is somewhat like taking a quick customary round of Gandhiji's Samadhi at Rajghat. A thick haze seems to obstruct the understanding the tenets of Gandhianism and that is what needs to be cleared at priori. A year back, some religious leaders met in U.K. to consider integrating environmental protection with religious practices - though no guidelines were forthcoming. It would be laudable to make such a result-oriented effort now in India. Hindu rituals are built around the worship of all components of environment: the earth, rivers/ponds, animals, trees and so on but what matters is to what extent these are protected. Even a small step taken towards truthful action may inspire a big leap for adherence to Gandhian, yamas and niyamas, call it ‘Green Gandhism' for environmental protection.
In sum and substance if Green Gandhism is indeed accepted in principle and practice as a basic and core prerequisite to all plans of development and deployment of technology, we can still create an over-riding criterion for clean and green environment. So let us pave the way for Green Gandhism or perish as there is no other alternative in the long run, notwithstanding the status of Gandhism being conveniently branded as ‘impractical', ‘irrelevant', ‘idealistic' and so on. This, in fact, is because of our defeatist tendency towards retracing our steps from the sinful acts (adharma), we have been committing against the nature. The ongoing deployment of so called ‘Green Technology' is a must to save the nature but unless the unsustainable life-styles and adharma towards dharati mata are stopped, technology alone may help only to a small extent (mostly in post damage control), the net effect being a cumulative increase in eco-imbalance much to the peril of Mother Earth. It is for us to deploy technology judiciously within the framework of Gandhism to ensure sustainability in the new millennium.
Courtesy: This article has been reproduced from the ISBN Publication - Gandhi in the New Millennium - Issues and Challenges' published by Khandwala Publishing House.