April , 2024
Gandhian Ideals: Equality, Development and Sustainable Peace
23:19 pm

Dr. Ravindra Kumar

“Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow beings.” –Mahatma Gandhi

This concise statement encapsulates the vision of the Mahatma regarding ‘development and sustainable peace’. Further, this statement, as I believe, contains, more or less, the essence of Gandhiji’s thoughts, in other words the substance of Gandhian philosophy.

Ahimsa –non-violence, the highest human value synonymous with the Truth, i.e., God (the Indivisible Totality) Himself, is the soul of Gandhian philosophy. Or, it can be said that the basis of Mahatma Gandhi’s principles and works is non-violence. In this context, Gandhiji’s mention in his autobiography, ‘An Autobiography or The Story of My Experiences with Truth’ (page 463) is worth quoting here. He has said, “My uniform experience has convinced me that there is no God than Truth…After all, however sincere my strivings after Ahimsa may have been, they have still been imperfect and inadequate. The little fleeting glimpses, therefore, that I have been able to have of Truth, a million times more intense than that of the sun we see daily with our eyes. In fact, what I have caught is only the faintest glimmer of that might effulgence. But this much I can say with assurance, as a result of all my experiments, that a perfect vision of Truth can only follow a complete realization of Ahimsa.”          

Non-violence, in its basic spirit, as the active goodwill towards living beings and welfare of others serves as the Litmus test for Ahimsa. While remaining within the ambit of its basic spirit and standards, non-violence formulates an atmosphere surcharged with large-scale co-operation, coordination and harmony, and eventually paves the way for the development and sustainable peace. No one should doubt or deny it.

Gandhiji considered human inequality as one of the major social evils, a curse for humanity. In his own words, “The idea of inequality, of ‘high and low’ is an evil.” (Harijan, March 13, 1937 AD) He also considered inequality a means of oppression and exploitation of fellow beings. Further, Mahatma Gandhi took it as a crime against God. Inequality violates one’s freedom and it also plays a major role in depriving one of his rights and justice –social and institutional, both. In principle and practice, both, human equality was, therefore, the mission of life of Mahatma Gandhi. He strived throughout his life to establish human equality as much as possible on the basis of the highest, natural, eternal (all-timely) and a soul-force human value of Ahimsa –non-violence. The Mahatma has also accepted Ahimsa as such, and he has gone to the extent of saying that non-violence is not a garment to be put on and off at will. Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our being. He himself had said, “My (central aim) is equal treatment for the whole of humanity and that equal treatment means equality in service.” (Young India, March 12, 1925 AD) Human equality is the fundamental tenet of a mission, which is committed to the large-scale human development, co-operation and peace. It holds that there should be no cynicism to anyone in this regard.

Not only this, fellow-being’s equality was the criterion of humanity for Mahatma Gandhi. Throughout his life he continuously called on people the world over to have faith in this. He, time and again, urged people not to lose faith in humanity. Humanity is, according to him, like an ocean. If a few drops of the ocean are dirty (not following the principle of equality), the whole ocean does not become dirty. Therefore, each one of us has an equal accountability in establishing equality in society around us.

In the economic field, monopolizing wealth, land, resources or sources of production and using them arbitrarily to coerce people, dominate, and exploit them is an act against the principle of natural law of human equality. It is a grave injustice. That is why; Mahatma Gandhi presented before the world an idea of Trusteeship, which is a sustainable, excellent and worth following outline of a non-violent economy. It is a clarion call to the resourceful individuals, owners of resources and land, and sources of production to realize their inevitable human responsibilities, to reform themselves and work accordingly for the welfare of fellow beings. This is not an imaginary viewpoint, but a tested pathway that emphasized working for the welfare of others leading to the collective progress and peace through active goodwill and cooperation.

Gandhian idea of decentralization of power, especially in the political sphere, calls for the involvement of everyone (woman or man) in the making of the system and even in case of her/his being physically weak or incapable, he advocated to honour her/ his voice in the governance without any kind of discrimination. It is a means of building an ideal society as opposed to autocracy or monopoly of power and it is, undoubtedly, a concrete step towards the establishment of a welfare state. In Gandhian thought, this is a Sarvodaya State, enabling each person to journey through life with dignity and with greater possibilities of upliftment of one and all.

Thus, from our very brief analysis so far of social, economic and political subjects, as well as Ahimsa –non-violence, the central focus of spirituality, and which is, as we all know, the basis of the life, thoughts and works of Mahatma Gandhi himself, it appears that the Gandhi-Vichar is a call for the upliftment of everyone equally without any kind of discrimination. In other words, it provides a worthy way to Sarvodaya, and to step forward to the collective contribution to human development.

In each of the above-mentioned subjects as well as in religious, intellectual and cultural spheres, the Gandhian thought eventually reaches the one conclusion. That conclusion is, there should be upliftment of one and all, the rise of each and everyone in the world. Everyone should have the opportunity to live a life with dignity and grace.

Mahatma Gandhi considered all the subjects related to human life, social, cultural, political, intellectual, religious and spiritual as inseparably related to one other. He accepted their inevitable impact on each other. He had clearly said that various aspects of life could not be divided into water-tight compartments, but they have to be considered in totality as integrated form of individual and societal progress.

These various subjects related to human life, it can be reiterated, are interdependent for a wider scope of human development deeply rooted in the unwavering commitment to the essential human duty, i.e., morality. This is for the implementation of the call of the One Supreme Being, which is the Indivisible Whole and makes Universal Unity, that ‘the good of all also includes the good of an individual and in the welfare of the all incorporates the welfare of an individual’. This commitment lies at the heart of the short statement quoted in the beginning of discussion in hand calling man to work for the welfare of his fellow beings. It is also, as has been indicated, a guiding principle towards establishing a Sarvodaya Rajya or a healthy and the best democracy, in which the individual’s freedom of thought and action is carefully protected (Young India, March 2, 1922 AD) –the Ramarajya of the concept of Mahatma Gandhi (the  Kingdom of God on the planet Earth), in which even the person standing at the last end gets equal opportunities for her/his welfare and progress, she/he receives due justice without any kind of discrimination and treads a pathway of living in an environment of harmony, which is the sign and success of peace and development in any society or nation.

Along with equality and its integral aspects (liberty, human rights and justice), non-violent economy (which also includes the idea of Trusteeship) and decentralization of power etc., Mahatma Gandhi formulated self-reliance as the strongest foundation of the Sarvodaya State. Self-reliance frees one from all compulsions and bondages; it becomes a medium for one’s all-round development. Self-reliance is, in fact, the hallmark of one’s personality. Only a self-reliant one can contribute to his own development as well as the progress of society and humanity as a whole, and not someone dependent on others only. A self-reliant human being can further contribute towards collective peace, and not the one who is helpless, dependent, dejected and rejected.

Equality, Trusteeship and non-violent economy and decentralization are the measures of self-reliance of man in some form or the other. What Mahatma Gandhi talked about Gram-Swarajya –Village Swarajya (complete republic), self-rule, especially keeping India at the center (in which even today there are about six and a half lakh villages, and these villages are 2.4 percent of the total area of the planet Earth), was an excellent idea moving in this direction. The views expressed by Mahatma Gandhi about Gram-Swarajya of his vision in Harijansewak on August 8, 1942 and November 10, 1946 AD respectively, should be comprehended and valued even today with a broad outlook. Starting from the individual and the village unit, we should take concrete steps towards large-scale self-reliance and development in all walks of life, in order to establish sustainable peace in society, the nation and the entire Earth.

Development and peace, both, are the most important aspects of human existence. Along with being interlinked with each other both are indispensable to make life meaningful. Both are complementary to one-another and dynamic in nature. Therefore, the importance of the idea of Mahatma Gandhi, which we have analyzed in brief having development and sustainable peace at the centre, holds significant relevance even today. This Ahimsa-centered idea is, in its refined form, a matter of consideration and analysis with honesty and without any prejudice as per the demand of time and changed circumstances. Especially, in the pursuit of civic upliftment and sustainable peace for India, a nation of villages and other similar countries of the world (more or less all the nations of the world) it is relevant. 

-A Padma Shri and Sardar Patel National Awardee Indologist Dr. Ravindra Kumar is a Former Vice Chancellor of CCS University, Meerut; he is currently the Ombudsman of Swami Vivekananda Subharati University, Meerut (India). 

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