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India, Gandhi and the Relevance of his Ideas

India, Gandhi and the Relevance of his Ideas in the New World

-Dr. Ravindra Kumar

In the whole world India is a country of its own kind. It is the only nation, which for centuries has been the centre of great attraction for the people of every part of the globe. On the basis of its knowledge and spiritualism, India has drawn the attention of the world. Its cultural values have left their deep impression upon the whole world. India’s prosperity and the way of life of its people have attracted so many to it.

Since ancient times, India has been a centre of a rich and developed civilization. Many of its centres of education and learning have been universally renowned in their respective eras. Centuries before the Christ, India developed several high human values, and on the basis of them it kept its flag flying high. This country has from time-to-time given such world’s mentors, who reached the highest stage of human status, and who going ahead of nation’s boundaries became philosopher guides for the entire world. For their ideas and adaptable practices after passing of hundreds of years, they are still ideal teachers for all-general and particulars. Their ideas and works are capable of guiding the world even in current scenario of the world if they are applied according to demand of time and space.


Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, gave a new dimension to Ahimsa [non-violence]-an eternal, natural and highest human value, in theory and practice. As the best and true representative of Indian Culture in his own time, Gandhi was a peacemaker’s mentor. Like other mentors of the world who were born from time-to-time on the Indian soil, Gandhi’s ideas and practices became equally adaptable in his own time for lacs and crores on the one hand, and on the other they proved to be guiding force for people of many countries of the world. Particularly, they have provided guidance to those working for freedom and justice. Moreover, they are fully capable to guide the people today in a new world if they are applied accordingly. Furthermore, they will do so in the times to come.

How? Before knowing and understanding it, we need to consider some fundamental points, and in this chain the first one is: What are the ideas of the Mahatma? Or, in other words: What is the philosophy of Gandhi?

In briefest, we can well understand the ideas or philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi in his firm belief in “mutual-dependence of man’s activities on one other” and “unity of human-life”, which is an indivisible whole. In his own words:

“The whole gamut of man’s activities…constitutes an indivisible whole. You cannot divide life, social, economic, political and purely religious, into separate watertight compartments.”

Mahatma Gandhi believed that all human activities, essentially influencing each other, build ways for a life. In this regard, many philosophies also confirm the belief of the Mahatma. Intellectuals are well aware of interdependent development. These ways make the life of humans meaningful and effective; achieving the goal of life such as Truth. The Mahatma called upon humans to come forward in such a manner. He, by doing so, also emphasized upon adoption of Ahimsa [non-violence], which is the eternal, natural and supreme human value.

For Gandhi, non-violence is an active, pure and all-timely value. It is the best means to reach the Truth. In other words, only through Ahimsa human life can be made meaningful with goal achievement; one can complete the mission of his/her life. Gandhi had the firm opinion that except non-violence, there is no other means to reaching a goal. Without Ahimsa, one cannot obtain the Truth. In this regard Gandhi wrote the following while facing one of the issues of Young India:

“Means are after all everything. As the means so the end. There is no wall of separation between the means and the end.”

Non-violence is nucleus in Mahatma Gandhi’s ideas. In other words, his views revolved around Ahimsa. And as mentioned, it is the only means to achieve Truth, and to achieve Truth is the goal of one’s life, or to get completeness of life. This must be kept in mind first of all by those who desire to be familiar with Gandhi’s ideas.

In this chain, the second point relates to Mahatma Gandhi’s actions. The actions he undertook on the basis of non-violence consistently gave new dimensions to his views; they made them firm and mature. Therefore, it is particularly necessary to know the intention which had been in the root of his actions.

Some people believed that most of the actions [if not all], taken by Gandhi were dedicated to the welfare of Indians. Indians were in the centre of his actions in South Africa and India. To ascertain freedom of India and to accord justice to Indians was the prime objective of his non-violent actions. But this opinion is not true. In fact, the welfare of all human beings was the spirit in the root of his actions. And in that context, India was the first place of his actions.

This reality can be understood well through the actions undertaken by the world’s other mentors, including Gautama Buddha who although launched their actions from their own respective countries, but the spirit in the root of those actions remained the welfare of entire human world.

If it was not so, the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi would not have been within the scope of philosophies like “mutual-dependence of man’s activities on one other” or “unity of human-life”.

In this chain the third point relates to refining of Gandhi’s ideas according to demand of time and circumstances of the space. And, this can be perceived well only through the series of events pertaining to three mass actions-the Non-Cooperation [1920], the Civil Disobedience [1930] and the Quit India [1942]-launched to make India free from the British Empire. In this regard Mahatma Gandhi himself has written in one of the issues of Harijan:

“I am not at all concerned with appearing to be consistent. In my search after Truth I have discarded many ideas and learnt many new things. Old as I am in age, I have no feeling that I have ceased to grow inwardly or that my growth will stop at the dissolution of the flesh.”

It is clear that Gandhi’s ideas, in spite of staying within the domain of non-violence, and even while adhering in search of Truth, are dynamic. They are the subject of refining as per the demand of time and circumstances of the space.


Two thousand five hundred years ago, Mahatma Gautama Buddha had said on the Indian soil that every creation, and every object/thing-movable or immovable-was a subject of constant change. Besides Gautama Buddha other great men too ratified this reality-directly, or indirectly. But, it was only Mahatma Gandhi, who, after Gautama Buddha, proved this reality directly on the strength of his actions, and, thus, made his ideas relevant during his own life time on the one hand, and on the other he left the legacy of them as guiding force for generations to come.

This is the main reason that even after sixty years of his passing away when the world has changed in different manners, almost all spheres of human life have turned over, and due to unprecedented development a new world has emerged, Mahatma Gandhi’s ideas seem to be relevant; they call upon the anxious world to resolve newly created complicated problems in these days of unprecedented and suicidal progress, and, thus, to lead the world on the pathway to peace. How? It is a question which naturally emerges in our minds. Having a practical approach in our minds let us analyze it!

We are well acquainted of the reality of those inevitable struggles and problems, which constantly emerge in human-world in all walks of life and at different levels. Without becoming indifferent to these struggles and problems we also need to accept the reality of their resolution by ourselves. By doing so in the twenty-first century if we are honestly ready to sacrifice, as sacrifice is a must in the Gandhian way, and with it go ahead, without a doubt we would come upon wonderful results.

For sacrifice firm determination is essential. In it a strong will is necessary. Chivalry is needed for it. This is the call of the Mahatma and it is also the essence of his philosophy in the centre of which is non-violence-Ahimsa.

Without a doubt it is worth giving a thought. There is a need to adopt Gandhi’s ideas in daily practices as per the demand of time and space. And while doing so, there is a need to introspect that without firm determination, strong will and chivalry, no concrete result could be possible. Only by doing so, the significance and importance of Gandhi’s ideas in the new world can be perceived.

Ahimsa is nucleus in Gandhi’s ideas. Therefore, adoption of non-violent means is compulsory in Gandhism. Gandhism calls one to Truth; it appeals to accept the real state of affairs, and without relinquishing self-respect, it urges readiness to compromise. There is no room for destruction of evil-doers. It expects end of the evil. It promotes win-win situation for all the parities concerned, and not only for one party in dispute. It incorporates high morality in it and talks of good, healthy and welfaristic human behaviours. Now, ponder over it whether Gandhi’s ideas and non-violent means suggested by him in resolving disputes, problems or struggles are relevant and capable or not in the new world!

Let us analyze the situation of the new world! These are the days of globalization. Today, not a single country of the world, does not matter how mighty or rich is it, can think of its existence in a state of isolation. And, when in a state of isolation it cannot think of existence, how it can think of its development? In such a situation if a country exploits the people of another country or snatches freedom of it, or oppresses it, then bearing the wide interest of the people in mind and with care, if other countries of the world take the way of non-cooperation with that country, it is not possible for it to endure such an action.

Non-cooperation has its important place in the Gandhian views. It is also an aspect of the Indian Way. But it needs extra care during its application in the international sphere. Moreover, it demands all sincerity. Therefore, if under the leadership and guidance of the United Nations, a symbol of the Indian concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam at the international level, any such action is taken with honesty, it will definitely prove to be effective. Also, it will be within the scope of Gandhian ideas.

As much we take the course of non-violent means, as we get ourselves nearer to Gandhian ideas. Therefore, in all situations possibilities of non-violent means must remain. But when all such means fail, for protection of freedom and justice, if least possible violent means are applied in the larger public interest, it is not disregard to the Gandhian approach. Freedom and justice were supreme for Mahatma Gandhi. Therefore, he always advised to protect them if possible by non-violent means and if not by Ahimsa then by violent means. But such violence must be momentary and by heart there should not be an ill will towards the rival. Gandhi’s brief statement, ‘intent behind the act’ much remains present in mind during the course of indulging in momentary violence.

Mahatma Gandhi was an Indian-born world’s mentor. Great Indian values, particularly the supreme value Ahimsa, were the basis of his ideas. Practically, he desired solutions for all problems through the means of non-violence. His ideas based on non-violence are entirely important in the new world. They are completely relevant today and will remain so in future as well.


Dr. Ravindra is a renowned Indologist; he is a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Meerut in India.

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