Gandhian Values as A Way of Life
“Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.” - M.K. Gandhi Gandhi
- Partha Pratim Mazumder
Gandhian philosophy is best suited for the present day situation and needs to be epitomized among the youth. The Gandhian perspective of a healthy and pious lifestyle may apparently look very mundane but in reality it is very effective and lasting in the long run. The young may instinctively be repulsive to such values but elders, teachers and, above all, parents need to help the youth to imbibe these values. The Gandhian maxim of “means are more important than the end” implies that one needs to focus on the means, not merely the achievement of an end at any cost. To reiterate the practice of honest means for the desired end, we need to reinforce the fact that the use of drug or alcohol destroys the very core of our social institution and does not help to lead a successful life. A short cut to achieve pleasure and material gain and escape from the vagaries of life by use of addictives (both addictive substances or digital gadgets) cannot be good means for achieving good ends. To address the malady, Gandhiji suggested, the youth should take into consideration various dimensions of their conduct such as the social, cultural, and religious and they should also make sure that they are meaningfully engaged with the welfare of society. The youth is very vibrant and energetic, dynamic and capable of achieving, provided that they remain on the right track. Hence it is essential for them to use their energies in a positive manner to attain long-term happiness in their life and also contribute to the overall well-being of society.
Gandhi's message of 'swabalambi', self-sufficiency with home spun 'khadi' cloth is not used now a days even as a social slogan. Statistics show that the country is definitely not following 'sarvodaya', a broad Gandhian term meaning 'universal upliftment' or 'progress of all' reaching the masses and the downtrodden. On the contrary, India today has the unique distinction of being the only country in the world which has the richest man in the world while at the same time more than 30 per cent of its population lives in dire poverty. Today, Gandhism is a very confused 'ism' in India. Today many politicians in India use the term merely as a slogan and the common man make Gandhi almost out of reach of the younger groups by making Gandhi an unwilling 'avatara'. That may be one reason why the only photo we see of Gandhi in India is always that of an old man which brings the image of a very simple and pious man who was meek and mild like Jesus Christ. While Gandhi was not a simple man to say the least, the above does not gives the right image of Gandhi and does not bring any inspiration to the younger group, the group most relevant for Gandhi.
Gandhiji has not only forewarned about the consequences of the phenomenon, he has also given alternatives to take care of such a situation. He pleaded for the voluntary reduction of our wants to a genuine level. He said that we should set a limit to our indulgence. According to Gandhiji, material wants dehumanize the individual, who puts a premium on body comforts to acquire all luxuries of life that money can buy and fails miserably in doing so. This is due to man's insatiable greed for earthly material possessions. Gandhiji often said that one has to renounce his cravings and desire the contentment from within. It is said to be Samthistha or Sthitiprajana that can only help one to dissociate from materialism or hedonism; according to Gandhiji, to accumulate more than is required would be a sort of theft. The youth need to be endowed with values of Samthistha. Gandhiji has talked at length regarding satwik food, which definitely takes care of obesity and allied maladies among youth. Though sometimes Gandhiji ate goat meat when he was young, he did not relish it at all and left it for good. He was also averse to cow or buffalo milk so he started goat milk with doctor's advice. Frugal eating behaviour was illustrated throughout his writings and discourses. It was not that he could not afford it, but his purposeful self-denial of a non-vegetarian diet, different hard and soft beverages, was to keep him morally clean and upright. Though the youth of today's generation may not be as austere as Gandhiji used to be, they can definitely emulate him on many counts regarding habits. Inculcation of Gandhian food habits can protect them from obesity and related ailments.
"Many ancient Indian 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. That is a very great thing." - Tibetan leader Dalai Lama
Gandhi left many valuable sayings for the modern man to fight for goodness in society in a non-violent way. "Good" Gandhi said "travels at a snail's pace." "Non-violence" Gandhi said "is a tree of slow growth. It grows imperceptibly but surely." And then "Mere goodness is not of much use." Gandhi stated. "Goodness must be joined with knowledge, courage and conviction. One must cultivate the fine discriminating quality which goes with spiritual courage and character." The modern man can also take great wisdom from what Gandhi said the seven social sins: Politics without principles; Wealth without work; Commerce without morality; Education without character; Pleasure without conscience; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice. Gandhi objected when people called him "a saint trying to be a politician." He said he would rather be "a politician trying to be a saint." Gandhi was not a Saint. He was a common man, but a common man in modern world in the footsteps of Buddha and Jesus. He said, "I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and Non-violence are as old as the hills". It may be said that, after the great Buddha and Jesus, Gandhi once again demonstrated that non-violence could also be an effective instrument of social change in modern times. Gandhi successfully demonstrated to a world, weary with wars and continuing destruction that adherence to Truth and Non-violence is not meant for individual behavior alone but can be applied in global affairs too.
If we say that the twenty-first century is the century of the common man, then we see that Gandhism has even more relevance in this age, and Gandhi will inspire generations of individuals fighting for goodness of the society. If today we find that Gandhism is in severe test in countries like India, it is not because there is certain inherent weakness in Gandhism, but it is because we have not seen in India strong leaders with the required courage and conviction to fight the evils in society. We may borrow Gandhi's own words on Ahimsa, and say that Gandhism is only for the courageous people.
We should follow three mantra from our BAPU. First, do away with platitudes. Language, communication and discussion have become a labyrinth of context, nuances and sophistication. A society based on truth and non-violence affirms a belief in God. Second, Gandhiji gave importance to right values. He was a plain-speaking person without artifice; never mincing his words. Sarvodaya, or universal uplift, trusteeship and principled leadership formed his vision for taking India forward. He was not interested in his statues or parks named after him. Gandhiji hoped that the ideals of his vision would be like the tiny spring that gushes forth from the Gangotri glacier and that flows down as the mighty Ganga, nurturing, serving and sharing in the lives of the people. He believed in a decent standard of life, unlike the concept of standard of living that is a material quotient. Standard of life suggests a flowering of spiritual, cultural and material values so that one is not afflicted by the seven deadly sins: wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce (business) without morality (ethics), science without humanity, religion without sacrifice, and politics without principle. Third, Gandhiji believed everyone ought to share and care. Trusteeship, serving people, sacrificing for them and, thus, contributing to the standard of life was advocated by Gandhiji, who would say, “A person cannot do right in one department whilst attempting to do wrong in another department. Life is one indivisible whole.”