Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi – the epitome of innate Indian culture have rightfully earned their title as “Mahatma” through meticulous movements and an omnipresent influence that puts great world leaders to shame. He was not only an essential figure in the Indian Freedom Movement but also a great writer, intellectual, nature enthusiast and a teacher. To this day, his influence lies within the kernel roots of our constitution and the day to day conduct of our social and political system. His major ideas including the concept of Truth, Non-Violence, Satyagraha, Sarvodaya and Swaraj, which were influenced from the works of Tolstoy and John Ruskin and brilliantly codified to cater to an emerging India,are relevant to the contemporary socio-political systems in our country.
Scholars and non-scholars alike have spent hours into the “Gandhian philosophy”, trying to study its scope and conduct through the lenses of a nationalist agenda to engage with the nation and to unite it; albeit they neglect and somewhat under-estimate the reach of the Gandhian ideas that permeates social differences and diversity in our nation.
Gandhian Philosophy is not only political, moral and religious, but also traditional and modern, simple and complex. To compile everything the philosophy entails is not only meticulous but beyond the scope of this essay. Nonetheless, I would like to present my thoughts and views on some of the integral elements of this ideology, including truth, non-violence, cleanliness and Sarvodaya; and will try to articulate their role in the times of a pandemic, such as COVID-19.
The charm of Gandhian Philosophy is that its neither overtly nor covertly meant to be scholastic-only. It could be understood as a doctrine that is meant to be a part of our daily lives. Truth, in this sense is by far the most important tenet of this philosophy, as it is the core principle of the IndianSanskrit tradition and is present in every religious teaching and sect that belongs and resides in our nation. Gandhi Ji advocated “Truth” – in both word and deed as a fragment of the ultimate truth, i.e. God and the inherent moral values as the basis for it. There is no doubt that Truth is an ideal that is relevant to the entirety of humankind and is universal. We can also conclude that “Truth” is complimentary to justice which further sustains the social fabric.
Truth as a teaching has been propagated through centuries not only through religious institutions but also through the rhetoric of great poets such as Kabir and many alike; and its practice is needed more than ever in the pandemic struck social relations. Lies lead to misinformation, which leads to doubt and half-knowledge, which further fuels suspicion and fear – which ends tragically with violence, labelled as a defence mechanism. Pandemic is already difficult to handle as it is; an unprecedented flow of misinformation would definitely worsen the situation. Truth here, is the Gandhian ideal that would dictate the psyche of the general demographic and keep social relations stable. Truth as a virtue is essential to be practiced by every individual, along with media and political structures to maintain a proper order to the flow of information and awareness.
“Non-violence” as advocated by Gandhi Ji was more than just peacefulness – He understood it as the virtue of active love and its propagation. It could be understood as the polar opposite of violence, in every form and sense. The practice of active love is considered to be the highest law of humankind, and is celebrated by every poet ever to exist. We could also that if our lives are a poem, then the governing theme should be “Love”; and I hope Gandhi Ji would have also agreed to this idea. Albeit, love as an ideal is not easy to practice in our modern lives and when the minds are shrouded by fear, especially during a pandemic. Now, if we take a closer look, we could see the correlation of truth and non-violence, which also indicates the correlative nature of his entire Philosophy.
One good deed would lead to another good deed; which is of utmost importance to our current situation. When truth excels and awareness spreads, we would witness less conflicts among social relations. Mahatma Gandhi united the nation with love, moreover he won the enemy with love (non-violence). Therefore, we need to win the pandemic with love and mutual understanding. The ones infected are not evil, they too are suffering, and we should be empathetic to those who have lost their dear ones. We must understand that we all are victims, irrespective of cast, creed, and religion. And a collective effort is required.
This brings us to the concept of “Sarvodaya” which means “Progress of All”. If truth and non-violence are the basic tenets of the Gandhian Philosophy, Sarvodaya could be understood as a cause that drives the philosophy.
Hisphilosophy guides us to push towards a collective welfare and universal upliftment of humankind – morally, individually and socially in terms of overall development. Sarvodaya amalgamates truth and non-violence to carve a path that is necessary to ensure the growth of individuals and our nation,pillared by an equal foundation. Sarvodaya is also what we should be aiming for when we tackle with issues such as a pandemic. Disasters such as this, inflict most damage to the subalterns and the working class. The injuries are not medical, but also financial and social. Our society functions when every aspect of it is able to sustain itself and provide proper services. If one aspect collapses, the overall structure is compromised. Instead of rampant alienation and accusation, we should aim to help those in need, to protect the integrity of the entire social structure and relations. Sarvodaya, is a concept that is being followed for decades, and its proper implementation would be very helpful to instigate hope and believe in the hearts of the affected, for existing political and social structures.
The final ideal of the Gandhian Philosophy which I would like to mention is not discussed often, but is a major part of the life of Mahatma and the ideology. In Champaran, both Gandhi Ji and his better half, Smt. Kasturba Ji, lead a campaign for proper sanitation and cleanliness. Gandhi ji considered “cleanliness” as an essential part of a healthy living, resulting in healthy body and mind. It means that a healthy human is capable of understanding and producing discourses that would ultimately benefit society. Also, Many of the religious teachings have taught us that a clean house is the site of divine presence. Considering the contemporary situation, “Cleanliness” is vital for tackling with the pandemic and should be a common ideal that must be followed as vigorously as now in the future.
In conclusion I would like to highlight how the “Gandhian Philosophy” still holds its relevance in the modern-day India and worldwide. Its amusing to see how the basic tenets of this ideology are capable of providing substantial resolutions to a modern-day problem. “Gandhian philosophy” is not just an ideology, but a way of life – which tries to make use of simple yet effective ideas for a better and healthy living. Its goal is to transform both the individual and the society, so that they can co-exist in a state of symbiosis. Henceforth, “Gandhian Philosophy” is a great school of thought that would helpperpetuate the wheel of democracy and nation-wide development, and probably help deal with the current pandemic.