Revisiting Gandhian Values

A few days back I was invited to deliver Valedictory Address In a faculty development program at Banasthali Vidyapeeth University at Niwai, seventy kilometer north of Jaipur.Vidyapeeth was established as a small NGO way back in 1927 in a backward area for rural development by a committed Gandhian and freedom fighter Heera Lal Shastri who later became Chief Minister of Rajasthan. Now it is a deemed University international known for women education.It is exclusively meant for girls education and to impart knowledge based on Gandhian values. There are several practices still in vogue including compulsorily wearing Khadi by all which reminds us its Gandhian heritage.

I have visited the campus few times but this time it was different.About forty young, intelligent and enthusiastic lecturers from all over India(including West Bengal) participated in the program. The program was devoted to “revisiting Gandhian Values”. What are Gandhian Values ?Is it possible to inculcate these values in youth ?Are we deviating from the path Gandhi showed us?There are some obvious Gandhian values: Truth, nonviolence, simplicity, austerity, equality among caste, class, religions, value for physical work etc. I started my lecture with an incident from Gandhi’s life.Gandhi was once asked” What is your message?”He replied famously,”My life is my message”. If we observe Gandhi’s life, we can draw at least three lessons which may be called his values.

The first Gandhian Value is Truth and nonviolence(ahimsa). Gandhi named his autobiography: experiments with truth.While writing about his life history in a series of articles in Navjeevan weekly in Gujarati(which later on compiled in the book known as his autobiography ). While explaining the reason of writing his autobiography (which was insistent upon by his well wishers and which covers his life till 1921)that it is a narration of seeking ultimate truth by a genuine seeker.The incidents of his life were simply illustrations of events which happened in the course of that journey.According to Gandhi the aim of human beings is to reach the Truth and the only way to reach the truth is through nonviolence (Ahimsa). What is Truth ? The only plausible explanation is given by German Philosopher Immanuel Kant.He says that there is an objective distinction between right and wrong, truth and untruth, good and bad etc.The distinction is made by this axiom.A thing, idea, definition is right or truthful if it can be used, applied or held simultaneously by all, at all places, at all times and it sustained itself or it can successfully happen.In Kant’s language “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.”On this criterion only Truth is possible but not untruth, only nonviolence is possible and not violence and so on and so forth.

Gandhi thus paved the way for others to find their own truth which is to be judged by everyone on this criterion.He himself found the way that is nonviolence and believed that this is the only way to find the Truth.For him Truth was an end and nonviolence was a means and both are convertible.If you strictly follow nonviolence you will reach at the truth and if you are committed to achieve truth you will become nonviolent.This Truth -nonviolence continuum is the core of Gandhian philosophy and his values.He lived and died for upholding it.In many difficult circumstances he did not abandon the path of nonviolence and preferred temporary disappointment than thought of leaving nonviolent behavior.

The second Gandhian value is to keep none or minimum difference between thinking, speaking and doing.This value reflected in Gandhi’s life at all times.He was amongst the rarest politician who lived a life that he preached for others.As a politician he was convinced that to truly reflect the voice of masses he should live like them.He preferred to raise the voice of the least advantageous in society and to resonant that voice he started wearing clothes like them, made his living standard like that of the poorest of the poor.This genuine empathy with poor made Gandhi a powerful voice in Indian politics.He introduced Hindustani as the link language of Indian people and forced the then leadership to adopt Hindustani replacing English as the language of communication in national politics.He introduced home spun Khadi as a symbol of a nonviolent politician,Charkha as a symbol of national pride etc.This transparency, dedication and determination made Gandhi a different politician.It is because of this value of minimum or no difference between speech and deeds that Gandhi yield so much power over masses in India.The masses developed an unshakeable faith in the honesty and selflessness of Gandhi and acknowledged him as Mahatma.

The third Gandhian Value is his commitment to pubic life.He was leading a life of a saint (with pledge of celibacy also) but he never wanted to lead a secluded life.When people asked him why he does not wear saffron robes,Gandhi asserted that saffron colour attracts reverence and anyone who wears that colour becomes different from an ordinary person which Gandhi did not want.He was a theist and spiritual person but he time and again made it clear that his God is not be found in the Himalayan caves but lies amongst the people.He chose a difficult path.He remained in politics for his whole life facing sever criticism,abuses,incarceration and ultimately suffered a violent death.But he never wavered from his path of truth and nonviolence.Gandhi’s life gives us inspiration that we should remain in public and assert our values in public sphere.He has no personal life.He believed that a public man should not have any private life and his devotion should be complete.He did not distinguish between private and public virtue.His life was an open book.No other politician lives a transparent life as Gandhi lived.

There are various other Gandhian Values that one can adopt from Gandhi’s life and writings but to begin with the above mentioned values are of utmost importance.

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