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Significance of Gandhi and Gandhism
By Dr. Ravindra Kumar*
“I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and non-violence are as old as the hills. All I have done is to try experiments in both on as vast a scale as I could.”
– M K Gandhi
The above short statement of the Mahatma is itself sufficient enough to elucidate the stature of Gandhi and the spirit in the root of Gandhism besides proving its significance for the present and all times to come. Further, this statement is, despite being short, capable of illustrating the source and basis of his life and ideas for those who are, more or less, familiar with life of Gandhi, and Gandhism. Even though, as I have observed during my continuous visits to various places of the world, people of the present generation, youth in particular, desire to learn more and more about Satya and Ahimsa, the core points of Gandhian philosophy, it is necessary to make a fair analysis of life of Gandhi on one hand, and Gandhism, having this short statement in the centre, on the other.
The word Gandhi is about that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who on the basis of his exemplary and inspiring life and works became an icon and ideal not only for his contemporaries all over the world, but equally for generations to come. The legacy he has left through his actions, which he successfully carried out on the strength of the supreme human value of Ahimsa, in fact, makes him relevant for all times to come.
Gandhism is, in quite clear and simple words, an amalgam of Mahatma Gandhi’s views and practices, actions. It consists of ideas, which Mahatma Gandhi presented before the world, and his actions, which he described as his experiments with truth. We know he to the maximum possible extent treated his individual life in accordance with his ideas, therefore, those who hold merely his ideas to be the Gandhism, they are not correct. In this regard, Mahatma Gandhi cannot be compared to Karl Marx whose thoughts are termed as Marxism. As the Mahatma has simultaneously been a man of action, it is unfair if merely his ideas are named as Gandhism.
Now, after becoming reasonably familiar with the reality of the both, Gandhi and Gandhism, and accepting their indivisibility from each-other, it will not be inappropriate if with the purpose of analyzing the subject in hand in easy manner, we go forward by keeping the word Gandhism as the nuclei.
Gandhism, as is evident from the short statement quoted in the beginning of discussion in hand, is entirely based on Ahimsa, non-violence. Ahimsa is the most ancient, perpetual, individual as well as social, welfaristic and all-timely value. It is a religion in grandeur. It is permanently present in human nature. Moreover, it is an essential condition for existence, the basis of development and the achievement of goal in life. It is a soul force, a virtue of the soul. The soul itself is a part of truth. Hence, being a permanent, eternal and all-timely, and a virtue of the soul simultaneously, Ahimsa is a truth-based value; truth is perpetual, it is permanent. Therefore, the following statement of Mahatma Gandhi seems worthy of consideration here in this regard:
“Truth and non-violence are the two sides of the same coin. Both have the same value. Difference lies in approach only. On one side there is non-violence; on the other side is truth.” [Harijan Sewak: July 13, 1947]
In this very context another statement of the Mahatma also seems distinctive and exemplary. He says:
“My love for non-violence is superior to that for every other thing, mundane or supra-mundane. It is equaled only by my love for truth, which is to me synonymous with non-violence through which and which alone I can see and reach truth.” [Essentials of Gandhian Thought, page 9]
Thus, it is clear that the life, work and ideas of Mahatma Gandhi remained to a large extent in uniformity with his own statement quoted in the beginning of discussion. His actions-experiments remained continue in search of truth. The Mahatma made efforts continuously for the welfare of one and all. Indeed, Ahimsa was the only means in search for truth and to achieve whatever Gandhi could in the larger interest of humanity. Truth remained intact in all of his actions carried out for the establishment of justice, equality and freedom on the strength of Ahimsa in South Africa, or in India.
The distinctive success of Gandhi’s own actions, and triumph of those movements, which were carried out by others in different parts of the world by applying the Gandhian way in its refined form and as per the demand of time and space, well proves itself the importance, validity and significance of the Gandhian way, Gandhism, in current perspective. Therefore, it is inevitable that the Gandhian way should be analyzed properly, with honestly, sincerity and without having prejudice. If it is done accordingly, its relevance will become apparent; the Gandhian way, Gandhism, will pave the way to resolve unprecedentedly.
Nevertheless, some of the points, which can be signified for those from the present generation who have high hopes from Ahimsa-based Gandhian way, Gandhism, or who desire solution of problems through it, are as follow:
  • To accept Ahimsa by understanding the basic spirit at the root of non-violence, making intent underlying the act the acid test of Ahimsa in particular;
  • To identify the strength of Ahimsa, realizing its necessity and inevitability in life with sincerity;
  • To have patience toward outcomes of Ahimsa, having full faith and trust in it and to get enough courage produced by non-violence;
  • To accept Ahimsa as a dynamic force, making it the basis of one’s day-to-day practices and to proceed accordingly and continuously;
  • To be ready to resolve disputes, conflicts and struggles through Ahimsa and activities related to it, realizing the fact that non-violence is the only means to resolve problems or there is no other effective means available to accord success in this regard except Ahimsa [and its activities];
  • To accept Ahimsa as the basic source of establishing cooperation at larger scale, acknowledging the reality of solution through cooperation and to take the way of non-violent non-cooperation with the purpose of ascertaining cooperation; to persist as a non-co-operator until the goal is not achieved, cooperation is not ascertained, but to be ready meanwhile to absorb success even if it is partly; and
  • To accept the triumph achieved through Ahimsa as win-win state, taking it not the victory of one and defeat of the other as Vinobha Bhave has rightly pointed out, “One man’s victory is other man’s defeat is true in the realm of violence. In the spare of non-violence one man’s victory is also another man’s victory.”
Moreover, Ahimsa is all-welfaristic; it is a means to reach truth, truth is truth and it is for all in equal amount. Therefore, accomplishments made on the strength of truth are for one and all.
This is the message of Gandhi, the Mahatma to the world. In his life he acted himself accordingly, in consonance with his ideas. As Gandhi’s works and views are dedicated to Ahimsa; they are for the welfare of one and all, Sarvodaya, therefore, they are significant in current perspective and will be so in all times to come if are refined as per the demand of time and space, and applied accordingly. Ponder over it and apply it, results will themselves prove the relevance of Gandhism.

*Indologist Dr. Ravindra Kumar is former Vice Chancellor of CCS University, Meerut, India. Email: