Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Relevance of Gandhi in Modern World for UPSC


Relevance of Gandhi in Modern World for UPSC


Mahatma Gandhi is a household name not only in India but also throughout the world. People have always questioned the pertinence of Gandhi since his death. Certainly, Gandhi's principles are not something that could be sidelined even at an industrially and technologically advanced age today. Throughout the world, he is revered because of his seminal principles that are based on the bedrock of non-violence. At the death of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru prophetically said that, "The light is gone and yet it will shine for a thousand years."

A physically frail man, Mahatma Gandhi had the inevitable courage of Satyagraha (firmness of truth). To Gandhi, "Satyagraha is the vindication of truth not by infliction of suffering on the opponent but on one's self. This is one of his major principles propounded to the masses. He coined this term when his social consciousness first awakened as a young man dazed of suffering a racial discrimination for being colored in South Africa in 1893. Gandhi later fought and strove against untouchability, the rampant notions in society of high and low in birth, he also rendered all his services to the emancipation of women in society. It sounds easy but hard to practice the austerity that Gandhi had actually led in his lifetime. It was a pure life of saint that he had: he followed a strictly vegetarian routine, abstained not only from alcohol and tobacco, but also from mild stimulants like tea and coffee.

The relevance of Mahatma Gandhi's principles today is a subject of perpetual polemic. We all agree that the deeply encrusted natures of commercialization, extravagance and conspicuous consumption that have grossly enveloped our societies today have made it intricate for Gandhi's foundational principles to thrive. But there also had been instances in the world when principles of Mahatma Gandhi had been zealously implemented and the desired results achieved. Gandhi's life was a passionate adherence to non-violence practiced to its perfection in an age driven by modern, liberalized economy. For the Tibetan spiritual and political leader, the present Dalai Lama, Gandhi has always been a source of guiding beacon. He casually says, "Many ancient masters have preached ahimsa, non-violence as a philosophy. That was mere philosophical understanding. But Mahatma Gandhi, in this twentieth century, produced a very sophisticated approach because he implemented that very noble philosophy of ahimsa in modern politics, and he succeeded." And that was actually what Gandhi did and passed forward to the modern world, quite contrary to what politicians today do in the name of democracy. The past century had drastically changed many countries like China the Soviet Union, Burma, communist countries in Africa and South America by the use of force and gun power. But they ultimately had to raise their white flag to the will of the ordinary people. The Dalai Lama stresses upon the need of Gandhism in this modern age to fight and retrieve the force of mind from the force of materialism and to retrieve democracy out of the totalitarian entanglement.

Gandhi's principles and his success thereupon was a result of his impeccable blending of faith, action and populism. He called himself a practical idealist and did never forget that man essentially is a social being. Going by the needs of the man for all sentient beings and also his relationship with the material things in the society, Gandhi proposed a philosophy on the relationship between the individual and the society called the sarvodaya - the rise and well-being of all. As it is the society's duty to plan for the best in the individual, it is also the duty of the individual to return what he owes to the society. Gandhi was a genuine leader of the people. The Japanese Buddhist leader Disaku Ikeda drawing real inspiration from Gandhi, said, "His activism is not mere action but contains many aspects of a spiritual practice that is inspired by the inner urging of the conscience."

Gandhi's principles significantly worked during the apartheid in South Africa when leaders like Nelson Mandela followed real Gandhism to fight for civil liberty and human rights of the black people. The South African President, De Klerk was also an avid follower of Gandhi's principles. Not only this, the famous Bishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, who in his book "God is not a Christian: And other Provocations' said that the holy saint Mahatma Gandhi walked close to God. The African-American Civil Rights Movement leader and the champion of the anti-slavery struggle, Martin Luther King combated racial inequality with non-violence finding that Gandhi, in India had attained freedom for his people only through this very principle. Like Mahatma Gandhi. Martin Luther King was also liked the idea of American philosopher, Thoreau that "man should not obey evil and unjust laws." While visiting India in 1959, King said that, "if humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable."

Likewise, the former President of the United States of America, Barack Obama draws a great deal of inspiration from the embodiment of Gandhi as an apostle of peace and transformational change that happens when ordinary people come together to do extraordinary things. The Burmese leader, Aung San Suu Kyi who was under house arrest for many years learnt from Gandhi that for peace and reconciliation to be translated into practice, an absolute condition needed is fearlessness.

It can be now entrenched that Gandhi continues to be an endless inspiration for the modern world. Many people from different walks of life like Joan Baez, the American folk singer and human rights activist, the American social activist Caesar Chavez, and also people like Joanna Macy, the environmental activist or Mubarak Awad, the non-violent Palestinian leader and also uncountable others have at different times drawn inspirational philosophies from the Mahatma. “We may fail in our attempt to do things, yet we may succeed in correct action when the action is non-violent." This actually preaches Gandhi's great principles in real action.

Gandhi always emphasized on the integrity of the body, mind and soul. To him, the body must be controlled by the mind and the mind by the soul. It is verily claimed that Gandhi's greatest achievement was the spiritualization of politics. He conceived of spirituality as an illumination or fragrance that must accompany every thought or action.

The modern twenty first century being an age of the common man has the absolute need and pertinence of Gandhi to battle against the prevailing societal evils. Today, when we conclude that there is a dearth of Gandhism in Gandhi's own country, it is not because of any flaw in the Mahatma's principles, it is only because of the absence of a strong leader's courage and conviction. Gandhi will certainly be a beacon for thousand years, only if his steps are particularly pursued. It seemed true when the great scientist Albert Einstein expressed his words of gratitude towards the Mahatma, "Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth."

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