I >lii losophers. He had the wisdom of Socrates, the humility of St Franc Assisi, the mass appeal of Lenin, the saintliness of the ancient Indian n |nd die profound love of humanity of the Buddha. He was a revolutio who was committed to the overthrow of all forms of tyranny and sc ui|iistice, but who never bore ill-will towards anyone; who led a mi in. ivement against British imperialism, but never allowed the moveme he accompanied by hatred, rancour or resentment against Englishmen u not an intellectual in the conventional sense of the term. He was nc
II ademic philosopher propounding his philosophy in a precise, dry
formal manner. It would not be difficult to find inconsistencies
. miiiadictions in some of his statements. He was supremely consistei in . devotion to truth. He was like the ancient sages, an earnest seekc-n uili, a spiritual explorer or a scientist experimenting all his life to disc truth, and apply it to the practical problems facing man. His source Impiration were not confined to his country or to his religion. His recer 11 II in I was open to various influences. From his very childhood, he l’ii night into contact with religious and moral ideas. He studied fUunaytma, the Bhagvata, the Vaishnava poets of Gujarat and the pop w i Mings of the Jains. During his stay in England he studied Buddhism the < Hid, met quakers and missionaries, read the Upanishads in translai l’ II k in’s Unto This Last, theosophist literature and books on Islam. He |||0 profoundly impressed by Thoreau and Tolstoy. Thoreau taught ih.ii it was more honourable to be right than to be law-abidinj i > i ilutionary concept which inspired his philosophy of passive resista I “I ‘.toy’s The Kingdom of God is Within You taught him how man c liberate himself and control evil through suffering.
Gandhiji was throughout his life a God-conscious, God-fearing i 11| never passed through the valley of doubt and darkness. Nothing c hike his confidence and faith in God and His scheme of life. God with ■ II not an abstraction or a mere metaphysical concept, but an intensely reality. Belief in God was with him a question of faith and conviction in. .led no arguments to establish God’s existence. His whole being i n rmeated with God-consciousness; his heart vibrated with it. Gandhiji no mystic who communicates with God in his trances or in moments of ecstasy, but a man of action. He had, however, the ability to withdraw himself from the life of excitement and meditate even amidst action.
Mahatma Gandhi’s bold affirmation of faith in God, in the moral na¬ture of the universe, in human society as an association of kindred souls, and in free will may be criticised by the modern cynics on the ground that no valid intellectual grounds have been offered, but none can dispute the fact that his faith leads to a way of life which is in complete harmony with the needs of the times. If God is love or truth, there can be no bar to the realisation of God through diverse ways. Religion does not divide people, unless it is understood in the sense that it is a matter of dogma, a church, a holy book; it emphasises the fundamental unity of the human race. The Gandhian way is the way of universal love and tolerance, of profound reverence for all great religions, which are so many ways of apprehending the reality and identifying ourselves with its purposes. Distinctions of race, nationality and sect have no room in Gandhian ethics. Patriotism is not enough. A truly religious man does not restrict his allegiance to any country or nation. His loyalty is to the whole of humanity. He acknowledges all great religions as embodying the truth and, therefore, worthy of deep reverence. Mahatma Gandhi was an admirer of all religions—Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Islam, Christianity and others. This does not mean that he accepted everything they preached. “He does not mouth the name of the Founder of Christianity”, writes Will Durant in his appreciation of the Mahatma, “but he acts as if the Sermon on the Mount were his perpetual guide.” If God is truth and if truth is God, then there is nothing which stands in the way of persons of various religious affdiations coming together on the same platform, as seekers after truth. Even an earnest atheist trying to explore the reality is a truly religious man. What is repugnant to the Gandhian way of life is dogmatism, fanaticism, intolerance, selfishness. Mahatma Gandhi was a secularist in the sense that he was against any discrimination between citizens on grounds of religion, sect or caste. But, he firmly believed that a State or society would be stable only to the extent to which it was based on ethical and spiritual ideals.
What Gandhiji condemned most was cowardice, weakness of will, acquiescence in evil. He wanted man to create an ideal society by his soul-force, not to remain satisfied with things as they were. He was a great revolutionary, a great rebel, a great social reformer, but his weapon always was man’s defiant spirit permanently committed to non-violence and love. Gandhiji was an apostle of non-violence and love because, while violence and hatred brutalised men, love ennobled them and brought out the best in them. Non-violence as a method of agitation, the Mahatma believed, was bound to succeed, because there was no man, however tyrannical.
i nieering and acquisitive, who could indefinitely hold out against
■ IM ugmha, against the appeal of the fighter for justice voluntarily submitting
i ‘ I on, or by display of physical force, would not fail to respond to the ippeal to their heart and to their soul. Underlying Gandhiji’s faith in
iiityaRraha is his belief that man is fundamentally a spiritual being, and
mnol long deny the spirituality within himself. Satyagraha ennobles both 111, lighter for justice, as well as the wrong-doer. Fasting, civil disobedience mil Mini cooperation with the tyrant are the means through which the
inn ience of the evil-doer is aroused. They are not a kind of blackmail or |iirsNiirc tactics. They are not intended to coerce a man or to intimidate him. IIH are not a form of exploitation.
Mahatma Gandhi was a great idealist whose thinking was always on 11H highest level. But he also claimed to be a realist. He did not think that Satyagraha as he conceived it was beyond man’s power. Nobody can say
1111 11 um can or cannot do. Is man still at heart a naked ape or is he capable a being an angel? It was said about Gandhiji that he had the power of MIII nig heroes out of clay. If society is organised on the Gandhian ideals mil the people are educated on the right lines, force would disappear. It is DOW universally recognised that war is not a necessary evil which must Btrii idically appear, but something abhorrent, which can be ended if mankind • i H ganised on an international basis and individuals are educated to respect the rule of law. There is nothing Utopian about Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals MKI techniques.
Satyagraha is one way of eliminating injustice and oppression. The
■ a! HI way is to create a social order in which all forms of exploitation may disappear and the need for Satyagraha or for the employment of force may be obviated. Such a social order implies a world government, democrati-i ally elected, a democratic national State, socialist economy and decentralisation of power. The world government would establish the rule Of law among nations and exploit world resources on a scientific basis for ihe benefit of the human race as a whole. It would have some force at its disposal to deal with any act of aggression or with a recalcitrant nation. Nobody can object to the use of this force because it will always be em¬ployed to uphold the rule of law. The democratic State will look after a people’s internal affairs and maintain the police to crush anti-social forces. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with the use of force by a duly consti¬tuted, public-spirited authority, in defence of the rule of law. This force would be very sparingly used because causes of social tension and social conflicts are very few where every citizen is guaranteed the basic conditions Of good life and disparities in the standards of living are not very marked. Force is reduced to the minimum possible in a healthy social order in which it is a safeguard against unruly elements. Mahatma Gandhi would have preferred the technique of Satyagraha for undoing wrongs and bringing erring persons to the path of virtue, but he would not have objected to the use of force by the community in self-defence.
Mahatma Gandhi was a kind of philosophic anarchist in whose ideal society the coercive authority of the State would disappear, economic activ¬ity would be organised, not on the basis of acquisitiveness and self-interest, but on that of co-operation and service, and every individual would perform his duties and work for the common good. He distrusted the highly centralised modern State, because, while apparently doing good by minimising ex¬ploitation and promoting welfare, it destroyed individuality and thereby impeded progress. The State in his view represented force in a most con¬centrated and organised form. With all his sympathy for the poor and the down-trodden, he was no socialist using the instrument of the State to relieve distress, ensure an equitable distribution of wealth and provide employment through planned scientific exploitation of the national resources. He was a decentralist who wanted all political and economic power to be decentralised so that the people might really feel free and not slaves of a centralised authority. Gandhiji advocated village autonomy, each village, more or less, autonomous and self-governing through panchayats, and a loose federation of villages for the satisfaction of common needs. As a spiritualist, he urged social reform, not through legislation but through self-discipline, moral restraint and persuasion. Gandhiji had no love for capitalism. Its acquisitive nature, its stress on self-interest, its exploitation of the poor were all repugnant to him. He did not, however, want to abolish capitalism by law, but to transform it by moral force, by appealing to the rich to act as trustees of the national wealth.
Mahatma Gandhi was thoroughly dissatisfied with the present eco¬nomic system and the growing trend towards materialism. He was against the modern craze for multiplicity of wants and ostentatious living, and against ever-increasing mechanisation of production and huge industrial combines relentlessly expanding their operations and pushing out small producers. He favoured simple and noble living, production through cottage and small-scale industries, village self-sufficiency, manual labour and self-help. He wanted everyone to be employed and assured of the basic conditions of good life, such as food, clothing and shelter. He was not opposed to the employment of machinery, but he wanted machines to serve man, not to enslave him. It would be wrong to call Gandhiji a conservative in his views. His views were conditioned by his knowledge of life in the country where the standards of living were deplorably low, unemployment had assumed staggering proportions and the privileged few were leading a most sophis¬ticated life.
Mahatma Gandhi was a great champion of individual freedom, bi lull- he conceded to the individual certain fundamental rights, he laid equ< In ss, if not more, on duties. Gandhiji was no individualist as the term i ordinarily understood—a man impelled by self-interest, working for sell i m andizement and conceding to society the minimum right to regulate hi
luct. He was an advocate of individualism in the moral and spiritui
i use of the term—in the sense of man whose nature made him an end i himself, who needed freedom to develop his moral nature and contribute t Hi. .in ichment of the corporate life of the community, and who was alwa)
I ci mscious, bound in his actions by Dharma. Gandhiji was against ever
n Horn that degraded man and made a mockery of his spiritual nature. H m in the pernicious practice of untouchability man’s most deadly sin. E III HI subscribed to the theory that women were in any way inferior to men ( intelligent or wise. Widows in his view had as much right to marry ; ■ ..lowers. He condemned child marriage. He denounced intoxicating druj HI.I drink as brutalising men and doing violence to their spiritual natur i Inndhiji’s views on education was also inspired by the consideration f< i ■. 11111 ng a sound character. Education should not only help in acquiring know . .l)’i- and arousing intellectual curiosity, but should inculcate right idea 11 II . nigh knowledge of the nation’s social and cultural heritage. The Mahatn i ■ 1.1 led the caste system based on birth as immoral. He wanted the organisatic of the economy on the basis of hereditary occupations on the ground that the i” 11 ied to transmit knowledge and skill to the succeeding generations. His greatest contribution to modern thought lies in his insistence th in.HI is fundamentally a spiritual and moral being and that society is « i. oeiation of human spirits—an association which is not limited in ai Way by considerations of nationality, race, creed or sex. This is a simp docl line, yet how profoundly revolutionary. He wants men and women wl in- noble, public-spirited, disciplined, who are always bound by the laws .