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Updated: October 4, 2011 20:03 IST

Philosophy of the Mahatma

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Mahatma Gandhi engrossed in a document, while proceeding to the Working Committee Meeting. With him are Jawaharlal Nehru and Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan. Photo: The Hindu Archives
The Hindu
Mahatma Gandhi engrossed in a document, while proceeding to the Working Committee Meeting. With him are Jawaharlal Nehru and Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan. Photo: The Hindu Archives

October 2 is Gandhi Jayanthi. Even after all these years, we continue to find that the Mahatma is relevant.

In an essay titled “Gandhiji's political significance,” Gene Sharp, Professor Emeritus of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth looks at why the Mahatma is still relevant.

Prof. Sharp is known for his writings on nonviolent struggle, and which have had a bearing on various anti-government resistance movements across the world. He especially shot into the limelight during the first phase of the ‘Arab Spring'. He has also founded the Albert Einstein Institution, “a non-profit organisation devoted to studies and promotion of the use of nonviolent action in conflicts worldwide”.

Prof. Sharp quotes the Mahatma as saying: “‘I claim,' Gandhiji once wrote, ‘to be no more than an average man with less than average ability'.”

“My Mahatmaship is worthless,”, he added. “I have become literally sick of the adoration … I lay no claim to superhuman powers. I want none. I wear the same corruptible flesh that the weakest of my fellow-beings wears, and am, therefore, as liable to err as any.”

But it is an undisputable fact that Gandhiji deserves a great amount of credit in getting non-violent action accepted as the technique of struggle in the freedom movement. “Nonviolence,” said Gandhiji in 1920, “does not mean meek submission to the will of the evil-doer, but it means the pitting of one's whole soul against the will of the tyrant …. I want India to practise nonviolence being conscious of her strength and power.” Thus, we have seen non-violence being a great weapon in bringing about change. The point is, will it work in the 21st century?

A great feature of the 20th century, and as we have seen in the 21st century, says Prof. Sharp, is to follow how the technique of nonviolence has developed. It includes forms such as non-violent resistance, satyagraha, strikes, boycotts, political non-cooperation, civil disobedience and non-violent obstruction, to name a few. It also derives its strength from the truth.

Recently, the enormous success that Anna Hazare enjoyed in leading a fight against the issue of rampant corruption, led many to compare him to being a modern-day Gandhian in his technique — a non-violent fight against an issue.

There was no violence at any phase, and the government finally took notice of what he was trying to highlight. In the end, what is the significance of this movement of non-violence? Perhaps, a part of that answer, says Prof. Sharp, lies in the point that by choosing to be non-violent, it increases the strength of a mass movement by giving it “an aura of moral superiority. It becomes morally more uplifting to society and to each participant in the movement.”

It would be right to look at what Jawaharlal Nehru said, says Prof Sharp. “After seeing the movement of non-violence, I feel more and more convinced that it offers us some key to understanding and resolving conflict. Gandhiji's way has shown achievement,” said Nehru.

That may be the final answer.


Mixed emotions over Mahatma GandhiOctober 9, 2011

It is unfortunate that anything that comes with non-violence, people attach it with Gandhi which is not true, because the Idea of Non-voilance has been generated by Gautama Buddha but Gandhi himself refused to accept that reality. therefore we must stop giving all credit to Gandhi for everything....

from:  Pravin
Posted on: Oct 4, 2011 at 16:19 IST

On October 2, I saw a Marathi film MI SINDHUTAI on a TV channel. It is true life story of an illiterate, meek and humble woman Sindhu Tai Sapkal. She is neither aware of non-violence nor Gandhi. But the agony and repression she experienced at the hands of her husband and his kins, forced her to organise similarly circumstanced women and her life story became a legend. She is living Mahatma for orphans in Maharastra.
Immediately after MI SINDH TAI, another Marathi film MASTER EKE MASTER >was telecast by the channel. A primary school teacher, by foul means gets his promotion and employment for his first wife and turns a model school into den of all kinds of vices but still bags IDEAL TEACHER AWARD. Chairman of the model school who happened to be Gandhian was forced to quit on his own because the master corrupts and wins over others in the management body. On seeing total collapse of values, the Gandhian goes mad but the teacher becomes leading educationist and leads lavish life.

from:  Chamaraj B.
Posted on: Oct 4, 2011 at 11:07 IST

Mahatma Gandhi is still relevant and Prfessor Sharp has highlighted the truth. This has Been proved to the whole world by the developments in Egypt resulting in the overthrow Of the Mubarak regime. The executive of a multinational organization who sowed the seeds Of the resolution in the African country openly declared that he was influenced by Mahatmaji and till the ouster of the Muslim dictator, the movement was peaceful. Another Example, we have witnessed in south Africa , where Mandela proved that nonviolence will Pay dividends in the long run. Hazare's experiments in again, speaks volumes in favor of the ahimsa doctrine.

from:  C.p.Chandra das
Posted on: Oct 4, 2011 at 07:20 IST

I am an honest atheist and enjoy dying like this,but these amazing people like Mahatma, who make me wonder and also believe that allowed and entertained common mans thought process to believe in existence of God. Human being should never be measured by success alone, but his greatness does not lie only in his success instead its the exemplary life he led to be trusted as a leader. Its tough to compare personalities and persons of different era, but what Anna is doing is even tougher at least in certain aspects. Whether non violence works in 21st century or not, Gandhi's principles are time less but unfortunately the only contribution we gave him was calling him as our Father of Nation, but miserably failed to understand his philosophy. We are left only with politicians and no True Leaders, we are left with vote bank tricks and no True visionary.Oh God save my country or at least give us strength to erase leaders like Mahatma from our heart and mind, a prayer from an atheist.

from:  Kiran Maddu
Posted on: Oct 4, 2011 at 02:22 IST

Nice and true article. But it should still be added that even Mahatma Gandhi should not be taken for granted. His philosophy should also be scrutinized and if your conscience does finds greater power in it, only then should it be followed.

from:  Amber Jain
Posted on: Oct 3, 2011 at 20:50 IST
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