Gandhiji, A Man of Ideals and Ideas


Gandhiji was not a philosopher in academic sense of the word but life forces every thinking man to evolve his own ways of living and thinking. Gandhiji was by all accounts a man of ideals and ideas, a thinking man, who practised what occurred to him as useful for himself and his fellow beings. He has not expounded his principles of life, but has laid down definite rules for conduct which go to make a coherent philosophy. 

H. N. Brailsford has said that Gandhi's Ashram was a retreat to which men came for teachings and inspiration. Seldom have men of refinement and learning reduced life to such elementary simplicity as he did. Christian and Buddhist monasteries are embellished with architecture and paintings, but Gandhi's Ashram consisted of simplest huts and cells; Gandhi's own cell contained nothing meriting special mention, except two - three dozen books, on different topics, giving no clue to his mental make – up.

His Philosophy Reflecting in His Vows: 

Gandhiji's philosophy of life was fully reflected in the vows that all the inmates of the Ashram had taken. The first vow was to speak the truth in all circumstances. Gandhiji's concept of truth firmly ruled out secrecy, conspiracy or any such thing even in politics. Resorting to falsehood for any purpose, private or public, was but an abomination.

Ahimsa, the Rule of His Life: 

The second highest rule of his life was Ahimsa which enjoined charity even for those whom he was called upon to oppose. His Ahimsa did not admit of animosity against anybody. Even an evil thought was a form of himsa or violence. When Gandhiji was confronted with the question whether he would advise Ahimsa to the people who had the charge of protecting the honour and lives of the people, Gandhiji said that “violent resistance would only increase the aggressor's wrath, and after killing the protectors, the aggressor would wreak his anger upon those who would be left defenceless. On the other hand, if the protector receives the blows without retaliating, the whole of the anger would be expended on the protector, and those left behind defenceless would in all probability he left unscathed. Gandhiji would often quote the following stanzas from Shelley's “Masque of Anarchy”

“With folded arms and steady eyes, 
And little fear and less surprise, 
Look upon them as they slay, 
Till their rage has died away 
Then they will turn with shame 
To the place from which they came, 
And the blood thus shed will speak, 
In hot blushes on their cheek.” 

The third great principle of his life was celibacy. It did not mean that Gandhi was opposed to the institution of marriage. In fact he held it in high esteem and considered it as an indissoluble bond of life. But still he insisted that sexual intercourse should be restricted to the purpose of procreation. He held that truthful man would not be able to see the verities of spiritual life.

The fourth vow that was administered to all the inmates of the Ashram was that they would control the palate. He was of the view that one should eat to live, not live to cat. He always took the simplest diet which he considered wholesome. He remained vegetarian throughout his life, and never felt tempted to take the delicious dishes.

Principle of Non-Thieving: 

The fifth principle of his life was non - thieving. He thought that possession of anything which one did not require for the sustenance of life had been stolen from one who needed it. Therefore he asked the inmates of the Ashram to keep with them only things of bare necessity. Kalenback had a couple of binoculars which he threw into the sea because Gandhiji said that they were not necessary for existence. Gandhiji himself would not enjoy anything that he could dispense with. He has said, “In India we have got three millions of people having to be satisfied with one meal a day, and that meal consisting of chapati containing no fat in it, and a pinch of salt. You and I have no right to anything that we really have, until these three millions are clothed and fed better. You and I who ought to know better, must adjust our wants, and even undergo voluntary starvation, in order that they may be nursed fed and clothed.”

Under the influence of Ruskin's “Unto This Last”, he thought everybody should earn his bread by the sweat his brow. It was with this view in mind that he started spinning. He explained to Rabindra Nath Tagore in a letter, “I am living on the spoliation of my countrymen. Trace the source of every coin that finds its way into your pocket and you will realise the truth of what I write. Everyone must spin.”

Principle of Non-Attachment: 

The sixth principle was non - attachment, which enjoined the suppression of desire for materialistic things. It is closely related to his vow of living an ascetic life, which he thought that all saints had accepted as their way of life. Gandhiji has written in his article “Prosperity versus Poverty” that prosperity is in inverse proportion with culture. He notices that fall of Rome began when they became rich and that Nanak, Buddha and Mahavir embraced poverty of their own volition. For this reason also Gandhiji proposed to live an ascetic life.

His Emphasising on Swadeshi: 

 Mahatma Gandhi also laid emphasis on the use of Swadeshi products. The boycott of foreign goods was one of the several methods he employed to put pressure on the British Government. It is said that Gandhi's insistence on using Swadeshi products was a double - edged weapon. It embarrassed the British masters and suited the Indian industry. At the same time, Gandhiji was of the opinion that India's progress depended largely on the villages. He thought of village republics, having their own economy and Panchayats to govern them. The use of Swadeshi was, in a way, a corollary of his dream of village republics. Moreover, Gandhiji was moved by the abject condition of Indian villages. Therefore he thought that the idea of Swadeshi would encourage cottage industries in villages.

His Love for All Living Beings:

Gandhiji had love for all living beings including animals. He had not accepted Hinduism as he had found in his time, yet he considered cow protection necessary to maintain the sentiment about the sub - human world. He thought that by learning to respect animals, man reaches out to other species. His love for fellow - beings was beyond measure. He went to prison several times and suffered physical assaults for those who were tyrannized and exploited. Gandhi's biography is a veritable record of his struggle for emancipation of his fellow beings. All these principles and rules of his living formed the essentials of his philosophy.

Saurabh Gupta

My name is Saurabh Gupta. I have designed this blog to help those students and people who are greatly interested to get knowledge about English Literature. This blog provides precious knowledge and information about English Literature and Criticism.

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