Saving Gandhi and Gandhian Institutes in India
NATIONAL WOMEN’S ORGANIZATION, PUNE
( Reg No. Mah/735/99,Pune exemption on U/S 80-g of the IT Act 1961)
1) What Gandhian Institutions should do to complete the Unfinished Work of Gandhiji?
Today the modern Western civilization, which Gandhiji denounced to be a soulless false civilization of lust for pleasure and wealth, is spreading like a wild fire throughout the country, and the basic values of our classical Indian civilization, which he considered to be essentially a true civilization, are disappearing from the core of our hearts. While various traditional major forms of violence, such as injustice to women, caste and class injustice, communalism, exploitation of rural masses by the urban still continue to exist even 59 years after our independence, a potentially much greater kind of violence in the form of environmental degradation and destruction of forests, wildlife and thousands of animal and plant species is rapidly growing in the name of development. Our philosophers and human scientists have totally failed to give us the ethics education necessary to build a rational ethical culture: under the influence of modern western civilization, they have excluded ethics education from educational curricula from school to university education level.
It is greatly agonizing to see that Gandhians and Gandhian Institutions are hardly doing anything substantial to complete the unfinished work of our beloved Bapu, the apostle of Truth and non-violence of our age. Our Gandhian Institutions do not even have regular deliberations on Gandhian thought. Their libraries, if any, are in lifeless condition. Grand old persons head many of these institutions: some of them are more than 80 years old. Many of their members are ignorant about Gandhian thought and action or have no respect for Gandhian ideology. The information of the movie “Lageraho Muna Bhai” about the pathetic condition of our Gandhian institutions and abut the relevance of Gandhi today is just a tip of an iceberg. Even our intellectuals have in general a very shallow understanding of Gandhiji’s view about Truth, i.e. the true Meaning of Life, and its means ,i.e. non-violence. They even fail to see that the Gandhian nonviolent mass-struggle against various forms of mass-injustice which exist in the world today on the basis of differences in species, class, gender, race, color, caste, religion, language, etc. is the surest and best means to root out them from the world.
We must transform our Gandhian institutions in to centers of moral and spiritual awareness and inter-religious dialogue on the one hand, and into centers of movements against various forms our social injustices such as species-injustice, class- injustice, caste- injustice, gender- injustice, etc. giving top priority to movements for empowerment of women, children and rural India based on Truth & non-violence and for non-violent form of development on the other hand. Gandhiji would have given top priority to create a mass Satyagraha to replace the immensely eco-hostile form of development of modern Western civilization by an eco-friendly form of development which is based on the principle of universal non-violence. His thought does provide the form and content of such a development in the present context, which could save us from our impending catastrophic ecological crises. Gandhians and Gandhian institutions should participate in our Save Ganga & Save Hmalayas Movement, Ganga, symbolizing all rivers and water bodies, and the Giriraj Himalaya, symbolizing all mountains, forests and wildlife, and convert it into a mass Satyagraha for a non-violent culture of development.
Posterity will condemn us and curse us if we allow our Gandhian institutions to die when they could play a great role to build a culture of Truth and non-violence in our great country and through it in the world at large.
2) Some Suggestions to Save our Gandhian Institutions
- A) Let us have a national Gandhian movement to complete the unfinished work of our beloved Bapuji, a movement to save and purify our civilization, a movement to have a rational culture of Truth and non-violence where all religions could grow harmoniously, and where development could take place with loving care of our life sustaining natural systems and their countless kinds of invaluable flora and fauna. Let the Gandhian institutions become the centers of Gandhian thought and action for creating such a movement.
Let the Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust (KGNMT), which pays homage to MATRISHAKTI-Mother Power-lead such a movement. Its 22 state branches with more than 500 centers spread throughout India must play an important role for the empowerment of women and children of the rural India. Their members should never forget our beloved Bapuji’s firm view that “ India’s salvation depends on the sacrifice and enlightenment of her women.”
- B) No lasting Gandhian movement is possible without deep rational conviction about the truth of the Gandhian thought. Every Gandhian institution should have regular formal as well as informal critical reflection over the fundamental aspects of Gandhiji’s thought and action. They should have simple Dharmashalas for participants from the rural side in various meetings/ seminars/ workshops/ conferences, etc. to be conducted regularly for rural and women empowerment with the help of available like-minded persons and institutions. Deliberations over Gandhian thought and action should be transferred to the masses through a separate TV Channel or through various available religious and cultural TV channels like ASTHA, SAMSKAR, Q-T.V, Z-Jagaran, etc.
We must have some autonomous national institute of education and research on Gandhian Studies for providing critical systematic basic knowledge about Gandhian ideology at least to the members of our various Gandhian institutes and for doing advanced level research on Gandhian thought. Every member of a Gandhian institution must have at least some basic critical knowledge about Gandhian ideology
The International Centre of Gandhian Studies and Peace Research (ICGSPR) at Gandhi Darshan , New Delhiit should be converted into an International Center of Advanced Gandhian Studies and Inter-religious Dialogue in the model of Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimala(IIAS, Shimala). It should have (a) simple Fellowships for advanced Gandhian Studies (b) an international library on morality, spirituality and Gandhian thought; (c) a simple international hostel for Residential Gandhian Fellows; (d) a simple Dharamsala for Gandhian workers to get regular training in Gandhian thought and action as well as for participants from the rural India in various workshops to be conducted regularly for rural empowerment with the help of the residential as well as non-residential Gandhian Fellows.
We could have a branch of this institute at Gandhi National Memorial, Agakhan Palace, Nagar Road, Pune which is a living memorial to Mahatma Gandhi: his wife Smt. Kasturaba Gandhi, Personal Secretary Shri Mahadev Desai, Secretary Shri Pyarelal and many other persons like Mira Ben, Sarojini Naidu, Dr.Sushila Nayar, etc. were interned here by the British Government during ‘QUIT INDIA’ movement of 1942. A beautiful “Baa Bapu Peace Garden” near Kasturba Samadhi for meditation and contemplation could be created.. It is worth noting that Pune is one of the most important centers of education and research of our country.We organize a seminar on 30th January every year since 30th January 2000 at the Gandhi National Memorial, Agakhan Palace at Pune, with the help of donations from the people, not only to pay tribute to Bapuji but, at the same time, to reflect over his thoughts and actions in which many eminent persons and people from different streams of life and belonging to different religions from Pune and outside Pune participate. It is generally agreed that such an Institution at Agakhan Palace, Pune would be a significant first step for saving our Gandhian institutions.
- D) No person who has no respect to Gandhian ideology should be allowed to be a member of a Gandhian Organization: at present many such persons are members of Gandhian Institutions because of they are influential powerful persons.
- E) Grand Old Gandhians should be free from administrative activities as far as it is possible and play only advisory and monitoring role with due respect and dignity in the Gandhian institutions. There should be at least one National Asharm at some National Gandhian Institution for needy grand old Gandhian workers to live with dignity where they could get due love, respect, security and medical and non-medical care.
3) The Unfinished Work of Gandhiji
Gandhiji stands for a culture of Truth and non-violence, i.e. a culture of pursuit of ethical perfection as the ultimate goal of life and pursuit of selfless ethical life of universal love as its means: the essence of Gandhian Philosophy is that Truth is the ultimate goal of life and non-violence is its means. Contrary to the widely accepted view that spirituality belongs to the domain of mysticism, Gandhiji sees clearly that it belongs essentially to the domain of ethics. Unlike for most modern intellectuals, for him “to lead a spiritual life”, and “to lead a religious life” essentially mean the same as to lead a selfless ethical life of love, and non-violence constitutes the foundation of ethics; unlike for them, for him “to realize God”, “to realize Truth”, “to realize self”, “to realize liberation” essentially mean the same as to realize a perfect enlightened selfless ethical life of love. Unlike them, he sees clearly that the peace and happiness, which involves in a liberated life is not only ever lasting but also of the highest kind. He sees clearly that any person through conscious effort can progress in the path of Truth from evil to good life, from selfish good life to unselfish good life, from unselfish good life to enlightened selfless good life and from it finally to Truth, i.e. to perfect enlightened selfless good life. He sees clearly that the basic values of all great religions are essentially the same and true, and that inter-religious dialogue would be conducive to lasting inter-religious harmony: “I believe in the fundamental truth of all great religions of the world ……… And I believe that, if only we could all of us read the scriptures of different faiths from the stand points of the followers of those faiths we should find that they were at bottom all one and were all helpful to one another.” He sees clearly that all religions rightly consider that enlightened selfless ethical life of love constitutes the core of Truth and pursuit of selfless ethical life of love, serving selflessly one’s society to the best of one’s ability through some work required for the general good and making constant effort to progress towards ethical perfection, constitutes the core of its means.
In the beginning of 20th century in his Hind Swaraj, Gandhiji made a severe condemnation of modern western civilization and articulated an alternative to it involving essentially retelling the basic values of the great teachers and seers of our classical Indian civilization in the context of our present technological age. It was his firm conviction that in the materialization of his vision lay the true freedom of India, and through India of the world at large. He considered the modern western civilization to be essentially an irreligious false civilization in the sense that selfless ethical love, which constitutes the essence of religious life, has no place or only peripheral place in it, and what it considers to be the ultimate goal of life is essentially false. It fails to see not only the true value of spirituality, i.e. of selfless ethical love, for human life but also the true value of many traditional ethical principles which all great religions accept to be eternal ethical principles. Gandhiji did not change his view about modern Western civilization till the end of his life.
Contrary to the widely accepted belief, Gandhiji is not against machinery or development as such. He is certainly not against study or research in human or natural sciences. He would not be against the use of machinery for development within the limits of ethics. But he is certainly against the replacement of body-labor by machine-work, but not against making physical work more joyful with the help of machine-work: it is his firm conviction that willing obedience to the law of body-labor brings contentment and health. He would certainly not approve the present culture of development of modern Western civilization which has caused disappearance of tens of thousands of plant and animal species and continues to cause greater and greater violence to our life-sustaining natural systems (in the form of causing pollution of air, water, land, global warming, depletion of ozone lair and non-renewable natural resources, etc.) which has devastating implications for our future generations as well as for the entire life-world in the long run. Gandhiji says: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated…It ill becomes us to invoke in our daily prayers the blessings of God the compassionate, if we in turn will not practice elementary compassion towards our fellow creatures.”
He would not support a culture of development, which consumes natural resources faster than it can be replaced. He firmly believes that nature has enough to meet our needs, but not to meet our greed. He explicitly accepts the view of the great seers and sages of our ancient Indian civilization that pursuit of wealth and pleasfure within the limits of ethics is essential not only for the pursuit of the ultimate goal of life, but also for sustainable development and prosperity in society.
Unlike in the ideal society of the modern Western society, in the Gandhian ideal society the villages constitute the core of a rational ethical society of Truth and Non-violence. Here each village is “ a complete republic, independent of its neighbors for its vital wants, and yet interdependent for many others in which dependence is a necessity..…. Here there is perfect democracy based on individual freedom. The individual is the architect of his own government. The law of non-violence rules him and his government.” Here people voluntarily lead simple life of exhilarating body-labour in an atmosphere of natural purity and natural beauty.
It was his firm conviction that classical Indian civilization, which is the only living great ancient civilization and which is the mother of so many great religions, has the moral and spiritual resources to provide the world a rational culture of Truth and non-violence in the context of our present technological age, where all religions could grow harmoniously, in spite of their differences in the realm of metaphysics, and where development could take place with loving care of our life sustaining natural systems and their countless kinds of invaluable flora and fauna. The first step we must take in the direction to have a rational spiritual culture will be to introduce a critical study of ethics from the very beginning of our education. It would certainly be a major step in the direction to have a rational culture of inter-religious harmony. We must study critically the views of great religions, and of great teachers and thinkers of mankind about various fundamental issues of ethics concerning the form and content of good life and good society, their value and their means. Gandhiji firmly believed that “A child before it begins to write its alphabet and to gain worldly knowledge, should know what the soul is, what truth is, what love is …. A child should learn that, in the struggle of life, it has to conquer hate by love, untruth by truth, and violence by self-suffering.”