Mahatma Gandhi and his Enduring Influence
The life and philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi continue to inspire self-examination and deep introspection. More than two decades into the 21st century, the father of the nation lives on in various forms and manifestations. Some choose to don the clothing he advocated, others act upon his principles, and institutions bear his name. Plays and films have depicted his ideas, but only a few hold him close to their hearts, silently cherishing his legacy.
Gandhiji remains an enduring phenomenon, possessing a unique quality that resonates with all. To truly grasp Gandhi’s essence, one must not merely follow him but strive to understand and assimilate his teachings. Today, many exploit his name for personal gain, highlighting the remarkable power of one person’s dedication to truth in benefiting countless others.
Even beyond his mortal existence, Gandhi’s influence transcends borders. Many seek salvation by following his path, raising questions about whether to rejoice or lament this state of affairs. It is a reflection of the human struggle, torn between ideals and reality, yearning for happiness and fulfilment.
Gandhi’s desires were distinct; he ardently sought the progress and happiness of the masses. His aversion to personal injustice extended to a refusal to witness it in others. To champion truth, one must possess unwavering faith in facts and a deep understanding of Gandhiji’s non-violence principles. Truth, whether individual or collective, rises above mere facts. This concept requires contemplation and transformation, resisting the temptation to use practical reality for selfish ends.
Few possess the strength to transform themselves into a Mahatma amidst the harsh conditions of Peter Maritzburg in Africa at the tender age of 24 in 1893. True leadership seeks to comprehend the scale of Gandhi’s influence and the depth of his love and social service, devoid of political motivations. Clear vision emerges not from polishing mirrors but from cleansing one’s own glasses. Beauty becomes apparent when one purifies and uplifts oneself.
In 1915, Gandhiji, already an established leader, returned to India with Kasturba, choosing to roam the nation and understand its people and their lives at the grassroots level. The cultivation of humane values and self-reliance is a journey of prolonged reflection, and Gandhi’s dedication allowed him to initiate powerful protests at Sabarmati Ashram and Champaran.
India’s independence was not solely due to Gandhiji but owed much to the atmosphere he fostered. He mobilized women, recognizing their pivotal role in the struggle. Yet, when some argue that Gandhiji’s non-violence has no place in politics, silence often prevails over debate.
As time passes, it is natural for leaders’ contributions to be forgotten, but questioning their ideas and ideals poses a dilemma. Striking a balance between rash chatter and silent apathy is a challenge that few can accomplish effectively. Moreover, it remains uncertain how many will listen to such voices of reason.
The fear of isolation often deters individuals from speaking out, but the time has come to transcend this fear. Gandhi’s ideas open the doors to salvation, allowing us to contemplate the relevance of non-violence in today’s world. Recently, 17 Indian soldiers died at baseline in Kashmir, which moved the entire country. Unanimously, everybody said we should attack our neighbouring country and teach them a good lesson. But is it the only way? Even elders said we should not bite but at least show them our power; otherwise, others will think we are weak and will never count on us. How do we teach lessons of non-violence between these two extremes? Non-violence gives results of long-term. It transforms you from within. Violence carried out as a reaction result in temporary solutions. It begins a long journey of mutual attacks, one after the other. The victory becomes the cause of a long time of pain and restlessness. During such a time, rather than criticizing non-violence, we should understand its meaning and history on a broader scale. The freedom that we have got through non-violence instead of bloodshed also gave us a stable society. Recent events may tempt us towards retaliatory violence, but understanding the enduring significance of non-violence can lead to lasting change.
After all these years, Gandhiji and his ideas continue to resonate, urging us to ponder his intellectual journey and the gaps in our political systems. His prayers, steeped in peace and secularism, held immense power. His speeches, however, were often more critical. Gandhiji attributed the simplicity of his language to his literary works, although those around him often struggled to grasp his profound wisdom. When power led him astray, he left Congress and advocated for its dissolution, warning of the intoxication of power – a suggestion that merits contemplation on a broader scale.
In conclusion, I may not possess anything beyond reverence for you, Bapu, but I offer homage through this conversation with you – a way to keep your legacy alive and your wisdom accessible to generations to come.
Dr. Sejal Shah (Ph.D.)