Teachings of Mahatma Gandhi in Transition from Violent to Peaceful Society

Teachings
Dr. Ravindra Kumar

“Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.”–MK Gandhi

The whole world cries over the most relevant issue of concern –increasing violence.

We are besieged with the stories of brutality, soldiers out of control, terrorism, suicide, murder and endless incidents of violence across the globe.

The violence has not only spread at political and social fronts, but also at individual front with psycho-neurotic personalities.

Now, where is all this violence coming from?

It is the time to sit back and analyse the possible cause of this increased violence. To comprehend it, let us understand what violence is.

Violence is the use of force to get your way over others; it is to do something by force resulting in terror, killing or taking others’ life, corporal hurt, psychological or emotional stress.

What we fail to understand is that the roots of violence lie in a disintegrated society, meaning a violent society leading to a violent individual.

How can we expect a child to grow into a violent being who has been brought up in a society catering to his physical, emotional and intellectual needs with love, care and respect?

In our pursuit of moving from a violent to a non-violent society, whose ideals can be better than those of Mahatma Gandhi with his spiritual and ethical doctrine of Ahimsa –non-violence in the context of current global conflicts.

With Gandhiji, the concept and philosophy of non-violence achieved a special status.

He not only patronized its characteristics, but also adopted it as an ideal way of life.

He made us understand that the philosophy of non-violence is not a weapon in the weak hands of a coward, but it is a weapon, which stays safe in the hands of a strong-willed person.

In his own words, “Ahimsa is the highest ideal. It is meant for the brave; never for the cowardly…No power on Earth can subjugate you when you are armed with the sword of Ahimsa.” (Harijan, June 9, 1946)

Though Ahimsa was not a new virtue of humanity invented by Gandhiji, but as old as hills, oceans and trees.

It occupies a high place in the Vedas –the oldest and holiest scriptures of the world, in the Upanishads, holy texts of Hinduism and other religious communities.

Yet, Gandhiji is called the champion of non-violence, because according to Mark Sheppard, “He raised non-violent action to a level never before achieved.”

According to Gandhiji, the term non-violence –Ahimsa also connotes strength of mind –strength that does not come from physical capacity.

It comes from an indomitable will –courage; therefore, by Ahimsa, he meant love, an active goodwill towards living beings.

It is because, if you have love and respect for a fellow individual and every living creature, you will, then, not even think of harming him.

Man is the most powerful component of the society, and his power when clubbed with will can construct or destruct any society.

And, here we are concerned with a will that is founded on the characteristic spirits of non-violence, i.e., observing non-violence in thought, speech and action.

Usually non-violence is supposed to be the absence of violence and peace to be the absence of conflict, but actually, it is to handle conflict through non-violent –Ahimsakand peaceful means.

The Brihadaranyakopanishad (Chapter-5) instructed to repeat the single letter Da, which was communicated to the Devas, Manushyas and Asuras –gods, men and demons –meaning Daamyata, Datta, Dayadhvam–be self-controlled, be charitable and be compassionate, is applicable to all mankind.

If mankind embraces self-control and compassion –the best practical aspect of Ahimsa, we would not be warring anymore.

Gandhiji considered non-violence as the mightiest weapon at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than any weapon of mass destruction.

He also gave the concept of the Satyagraha, which means insistence on truth, i.e., holding onto the Satya or the truth-force –another aspect of non-violent resistance or civil resistance.

He insisted on making peaceful protests in a democratic way.

The aggression, destruction and wars not only cause death and destruction, but also disintegrate a society or a community reverting its development.

Thus, Gandhiji observed non-violence as a conceptual blueprint for social change refusing all kinds of violence.

He also advocated non-violent action (that he called civil resistance) as an alternative to an acceptance of armed struggle against it.

The Shrimadbhagavad-Gita says, “Renunciation not of action, but in action.”

Hindu philosophy also states Ahimsa Paramo Dharma, which literally means non-violence is the Dharma in grandeur –the highest moral virtue.

So, while seeking justice and equality for the masses, a revolution must be devoid of any kind of violence.

In order to transform modern human society from a violent to a non-violent one, it is essentially to be rooted in cultural, moral and ethical values.

Gandhiji had insisted on the practice of values like Ahimsa –non-violence, the Satya –truth, simplicity, altruism and compassion, all connected to the first two and which are also, according to him, the two sides of a coin.

They have universal application and will never become outdated.

They were, are and will always be relevant for a peaceful society.

The social change starts from an individual reaching to the society, from one to many, from within to without, from micro-cosmic world to the macro-cosmic world.

Mahatma Gandhi led a simple life to emphasize that Earth’s resources are limited, and human beings also should limit their wants.

His insistence on the non-violent way of life has also an ecological dimension to it.

To have a non-violent society, we also have to be non-violent step-by-step towards other levels of existence like animals, birds, trees and plants.

Due to the development of science and technology and mushrooming industrialization, man has deviated from these ideals of the Mahatma.

Resultantly, terrorism, inter-group conflicts, disputes and crimes are all the bye-products of discontented societies.

By adhering to the Gandhian ideals of non-violent social order, we can, undoubtedly, step forward towards reconstructing a peaceful, loving and democratic world.

Non-violence is not only a philosophy, but a state of mind, a way of life and a means of building a peaceful and prosperous world, and it can be achieved by:

1-Achieving peace both inward and outward –outwardly –embracing tolerance and perseverance, loving and respecting every other individual irrespective of his caste, colour, creed, religious community or nationality; inwardly –overcoming fears, anger, attaining self-control and learning to forgive;

2-Convincing and not controlling others –trying to impose our ideas or controlling others is a kind of violence that is hazardous for any kind of relationship, be it familial, social, economic or political.

We must seek to convince and inspire other fellow-beings constructively. Even insulting, without sound reason in criticizing others is also violence; let us stay away from it.

Punishment can be replaced with rewards to have a non-violent society;

3-Developing a sense of humour –humour can mellow down even the cruellest of beings.

A hearty laugh can make us forget our violent thoughts, anger and depression, making us feel light and happy. Humour can act as a therapeutic tool to cure many emotional and psychological disorders;

4-Preferring vegetarianismas a way of sustaining ourselves –let us not forget that eating animals is indeed violence.

Many researchers have proved that human stomach is not designed to digest flesh leading to many disorders giving rise to aggression and short temper.

In the Ayurveda, the foods that harm body and mind are considered Tamasic and the ones calming on both mind and body are considered Sattvic.

Indian view of life believes that Tamasic food is conducive to producing dark thoughts. An act of violence can only lead to violent thoughts;

5-Learning forgiveness –taking revenge can never be a solution to a conflict. An eye-for-eye will make the whole world blind.

We need to sit back and reflect where and what went wrong, and not just make a hasty reaction in a fit of rage;

6-Live in present –Gautama Buddha, the Light of Asia has said that past is passed and no longer exists.

Our greatest worry is that we keep the past deeds and wrongs alive, though they cannot be undone.

Nurturing grudges and prejudices is violent for our own thoughts and opinions. No peaceful idea can occur in a violent state of mind;

7-Being spiritual –Mahatma Gandhi always talked about achieving salvation through the Karma-Yoga (selfless action), the Raja-Yoga (bodily discipline), the Bhakti-Yoga (devotional endeavours), and the Jnana-Yoga (knowledge through mental discipline).

One must bring one’s mind, body and soul in harmony –Sauhardwith each other to experience the inner peace and happiness.

This is the path towards realizing and achieving non-violence.

A spiritual person can practice non-violence more easily than an opposite one; and

8-Physical fitness –Gandhiji stressed upon being healthy and fit in body. He adopted a healthy way of life to prove his point.

He chose to work hard on the Tolstoy Farm in South Africa to stay fit and also called upon youth for a spiritualistic and healthy way of life for a better tomorrow.

Mahatma Gandhi drew upon the ideals of Indian philosophy and traditions to set his own rules, his own way of life, developed his own logic towards a peaceful society.

It is obvious that we all want peace, but do not know the way to it.

The above short discussion shows that non-violence is the key.

Being thoughtful, compassionate, tolerant, firm yet polite, spiritual, healthy in mind and body, and forgiving can only be the characteristics of a non-violent society.

Once formed, it will produce peaceful children and the world will be ruled by happiness, peace and joy.

*A Padma Shri and Sardar Patel National Awardee Indologist Dr. Ravindra Kumar is a Former Vice Chancellor of CCS University, Meerut; he is also the Editor-in-Chief of Global Peace International Journal.

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