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ARTICLES > RELEVANCE OF GANDHI > India, Gandhi and relevance of his ideas in the New World
India, Gandhi And Relevance Of His Ideas In The New World
By Dr. Ravindra Kumar*
In the whole world India is a country of its own kind. It is the only nation, which for centuries has been the centre of great attraction for people of every part of the globe. On the basis of its knowledge and spiritualism, India has drawn the attention of the world. Its cultural values have left their deep impression on the whole world. India’s prosperity and the way of life of its people have attracted many to it.
Since ancient times, India has been the centre of a rich and developed civilization. Many of its centres of education and learning have been universally renowned in their respective eras. Centuries before Christ, India developed high human values, and on the basis of them it kept its flag flying high. This country has, from time-to-time, given the world mentors, who reached the highest stage of human status became philosopher guides for the entire world. Their ideas and adaptable practices, after passing of hundreds of years, are still ideal teachers for all―in general and in particular. Their work is capable of guiding the world even in the current scenario of the world if they are applied according to the demand of time and space.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, gave a new dimension to Ahimsa [non-violence]―an eternal, natural and the highest human value, in theory and practice. As the best and true representative of Indian Culture in his own time, Gandhi was a peacemaker’s mentor. Like other mentors of the world who were born from time-to-time on the Indian soil, Gandhi’s ideas and practices became equally adaptable in his own time for millions of his own country on the one hand, and on the other they proved to be the guiding force for people of many countries of the world. In particular, they have provided guidance to those working for freedom and justice. Moreover, they are fully capable of guiding the people today if they are applied accordingly and will continue to do so in the future.
How? Before knowing and understanding this, we need to consider some fundamental points, and in this chain the first one is: What are the ideas of the Mahatma? Or, in other words: What is the philosophy of Gandhi?
In brief, we can well understand the ideas or philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi in his firm belief in “mutual-dependence of man’s activities on one other” and “unity of human-life”, which is an indivisible whole. In his own words:
“The whole gamut of man’s activities…constitutes an indivisible whole. You cannot divide life, social, economic, political and purely religious, into separate watertight compartments.”
Mahatma Gandhi believed that all human activities, essentially influencing each other, build ways for a life. In this regard, many philosophies also confirm the belief of the Mahatma. Intellectuals are well aware of interdependent development. This makes life more meaningful and effective; and helps in achieving goals such as Truth. Gandhi called upon people to come forward in such a manner. He also emphasized upon adoption of Ahimsa [non-violence], which is the eternal, natural and supreme human value.
For Gandhi, non-violence is an active, pure and all-timely value. It is the best means to reach the Truth. In other words, only through Ahimsa can life be made meaningful. Gandhi had the firm opinion that except non-violence, there is no other means to reach a goal. Without Ahimsa, one cannot know the absolute Truth. In this regard Gandhi wrote the following in Young India:
“Means are after all everything. As the means so the end. There is no wall of separation between the means and the end.”
Non-violence is the nucleus in Gandhi’s ideas. In other words, his views revolved around Ahimsa. And as mentioned, it is the only means to achieve Truth, and to achieve Truth is the goal of one’s life, or to get completeness of life.
In this chain, the second point relates to Gandhi’s actions. The actions he undertook on the basis of non-violence consistently gave new dimensions to his views; they made them firm and mature. Therefore, it is necessary to know the intentions at the root of his actions.
Some people believed that most of the actions [if not all], taken by Gandhi were dedicated to the welfare of Indians. Indians were the centre of his actions in South Africa and India. To ascertain freedom of India and to accord justice to Indians was the prime objective of his non-violent actions. But this opinion is not true. The welfare of all human beings was at the root of his actions.
This reality can be understood well through the actions undertaken by the world’s other mentors, including Gautama Buddha who launched their actions from their own respective countries, but the spirit in the root of those actions remained the welfare of entire human world.
If it was not so, the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi would not have been within the scope of philosophies like “mutual-dependence of man’s activities on one other” or “unity of human-life”.
In this chain the third point relates to the refining of Gandhi’s ideas according to the demand of time and circumstances. And, this can be perceived well through the series of events pertaining to three mass actions―the Non-Cooperation , the Civil Disobedience  and the Quit India ―launched to make India free from the British Empire. In this regard Mahatma Gandhi himself has written in one of the issues of Harijan:
“I am not at all concerned with appearing to be consistent. In my search after Truth I have discarded many ideas and learnt many new things. Old as I am in age, I have no feeling that I have ceased to grow inwardly or that my growth will stop at the dissolution of the flesh.”
It is clear that Gandhi’s ideas, in spite of staying within the domain of non-violence, and even while adhering in search of Truth, are dynamic. They can be refined to suit the present circumstances.
Two thousand five hundred years ago, Gautama Buddha had said that every creation, every object/thing―movable or immovable―was subject to constant change. Besides Gautama Buddha other great men too ratified this reality, directly or indirectly. But, it was only Mahatma Gandhi, who, after Gautama Buddha, proved this reality directly on the strength of his actions, and, thus, made his ideas relevant during his own life time, and left the legacy of them as a guiding force for generations to come.
This is the main reason that even after sixty years of his passing away when the world has changed in different ways, all spheres of human life have turned over, and due to unprecedented development a new world has emerged, Mahatma Gandhi’s ideas are relevant; they call upon the world to resolve newly created complicated problems in a peaceful manner. How? This question emerges in our minds.
We are well acquainted of the reality of those inevitable struggles and problems, which constantly emerge in all walks of life and at different levels. Without becoming indifferent to these struggles and problems we also need to accept the reality of their resolution by ourselves. By doing so in the twenty-first century if we are honestly ready to sacrifice, as sacrifice is a must in the Gandhian way, without a doubt we would come upon wonderful results.
For sacrifice firm determination is essential. In it a strong will is necessary. Chivalry is needed for it. This is the call of the Mahatma and it is also the essence of his philosophy in the centre of which is non-violence―Ahimsa.
There is a need to adopt Gandhi’s ideas in daily practices in our ever changing, fast moving world. And while doing so, there is a need to introspect that without firm determination, strong will and chivalry, no concrete result will be possible. Only by doing so, the significance and importance of Gandhi’s ideas can be perceived.
Ahimsa is the nucleus in Gandhi’s ideas. Therefore, adoption of non-violent means is compulsory in Gandhism. Gandhism calls one to Truth; it appeals to accept the real state of affairs, and without relinquishing self-respect, it urges readiness to compromise. There is no room for destruction of evil-doers. It expects end of evil not of the evil doer. It promotes a win-win situation for all the parities concerned, and not only for one party in dispute. It incorporates high morality in it and talks of good, healthy and welfaristic human behaviours.
Let us analyze the situation of the new world! These are the days of globalization. Today, not a single country of the world, does not matter how mighty or rich it is, can think of its existence in a state of isolation. When it cannot think of existence in a state of isolation , how it can think of its development? In such a situation if a country exploits the people of another country or snatches its freedom, or oppresses it, then bearing the wide interest of the people in mind and with care, if other countries of the world take the way of non-cooperation with that country, it is not possible for it to endure such an action.
Non-cooperation was one of Gandhi's methods. It was an important part of India's struggle for freedom. But it needs extra care during its application in the international sphere. Moreover, it demands all sincerity. Therefore, if under the leadership and guidance of the United Nations, a symbol of the Indian concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam at the international level is taken, it will definitely prove to be effective.
Gandhi laid emphasis on non-violence, therefore, in all situations non-violence must be used. But when all such means fail, for protection of freedom and justice, if least possible violent means are applied in the larger public interest, it is not a disregard to the Gandhian approach. Freedom and justice were supreme for Mahatma Gandhi. Therefore, he always advised to protect them if possible by non-violent means and if not by Ahimsa then by violent means. But such violence must be momentary and there should not be any ill will towards the rival. Gandhi’s brief statement, ‘intent behind the act’ should remain the focus during the course of indulging in momentary violence.
Mahatma Gandhi was an Indian-born world’s mentor. Great Indian values, particularly the supreme value of Ahimsa, were the basis of his ideas. Practically, he desired solutions for all problems through the means of non-violence. His ideas based on non-violence are entirely important in the new world. They are completely relevant today and will remain so in future as well.
*Dr. Ravindra is a renowned Indologist; he is a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Meerut, India.