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Gandhian Philosophy- Part IV

Gandhi has and always will have importance as far as preparation of civil service is concerned.
In this 4 part series, we are trying to cover Gandhi and his philosophies as lucidly as possible.
It has great importance for almost all papers of UPSC exam.
  1. Part I
  2. Part II
  3. Part III
  4. Part IV

Mahatma Gandhi is a universally accepted as an exemplary model of ethical and moral life, with a rare blending of personal and public life, the principles and practices, the immediate and the eternal. He considered life to be an integrated whole, growing from truth to truth every day in moral and spiritual status. He believed in a single standard of conduct founded on dharma of truth and nonviolence. He successfully led nonviolent struggles against racial discrimination, colonial rule, economic and social exploitation and moral degradation. So long as these manifestations of violence remain, Gandhi will remain relevant. Gandhi was a good man in a world where few resist the corroding influence of power, wealth and vanity. Among the vital messages of Gandhi’s leadership are: even one person can make a difference; strength comes not from physical capacity but from an indomitablewill.

Mahatma Gandhi was not an armchair academician or a cloistered visionary. He was deeply concerned with the world around him. He disclaimed being a visionary. Gandhi spoke in a low tone and was a hesitant public speaker. Yet people of all classes were drawn to him and instinctively felt him to be a leader of deeply spiritual and moral perceptions, which he sought to realize through the pursuit of Truth. Over 54 years of Gandhi’s public life were lived as an open book. He lived in South Africa for 21 years and then in India from 1915. All through his life he remained a seeker after Truth.

*This was asked in UPSC Mains Exam 2016 and most of the students wrongly interpreted it and wrote it.Many have written the biblical version of seven deadly sins –  pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth (Supposedly drawing influence from the Hollywood movie Seven)

The following seven sins are deadly sins according to Gandhi. They are

1.Wealth without work.

2. Pleasure without conscience.

3. Knowledge without character.

4. Commerce without morality.

5. Science without humanity.

6. Religion without sacrifice.

7.Politics without principle.

Mahatma Gandhi says that Non-violence means to keep oneself completely away from such action which may hurt others physically or mentally. Non-violence is the most effective means to fight against discrimination and falsehood. Nonviolence is not the outward strength. Non-violence is the internal power.

1)Nonviolence promotes vegetarianism and reverence for all life.

2)Non-violence prevents murder, war, capital punishment in the world.

3)Non-violence avoids abortion, mercy killing, suicide and infanticide in human society.

4)Non-violence creates freedom from physical and psychological violence, exploitation, injustice, inequality and discrimination.

5)Non-violence develops love, co-operation, forgiving, help, and kindness in humanity.

6)Non-violence is fundamental to the discovery of truth. Truth is God and non-violence is God’s love.

7)Truth is the ultimate goal of human life and non-violence is the means to achieve ultimate goal.

Mahatma Gandhi tells that the non-violence of my conception is a more active and more real fighting against wickedness than retaliation whose very nature is to increase wickedness. Non-violence is one of the major moral qualities of human being. Non-violence is a power force than violence because it is linked with the bravery of mind. Non-violence is a powerful weapon of the strong. Mahatma Gandhi used non-violence not only for the purification of his soul, but to purify the conduct of the human society. He practiced non-violence in mass action and devised means to fight out injustice

Mahatma Gandhi says that truth is the law of our being.He explicitly mentions the six deadly enemies which cause prejudice, malice and ill-will to arise, on account of which the person is unable to see or feel the truth. These deadly enemies are desire, anger, greed, attachment, pride and jealousy.

Therefore, in order to practice truth one must constantly endeavor to oneself from these evils, one must cultivate moral purity and courage and must not allow these enemies to cloud his vision.

Gandhi tells us that that the truth should be spoken in a pleasant way. If the truth is expressed in an unpleasant, blunt and rough manner, it may be socially injurious as a might give rise to anger and quarrels. In fact, in the ancient Indian philosophy there is a maxim which says, ‘speak the truth, and speak the pleasant; but do not speak the unpleasant truth’. Mahatma Gandhi seems to be influenced by the element of practically contained in this maxim. Therefore, he says that truthfulness has to be practiced, that it is an art which has to be developed by rigorous and constant discipline and practice.

Non-stealing is not to take by thought, word and action anything to which one is not entitled. There are two senses of the word non-stealing; it popularly means the observance of the rule of not taking away the belonging or the property of anybody unless it is given by that person. But, there is a more rigorous meaning of the word nonstealing; it forbids the keeping or holding in possession of such things that are not needed. Mahatma Gandhi uses the non-stealing in both these senses.

In fact, in conceiving the nature of this virtue he is influenced by Jainism which believes that stealing is also a kind of violence. Property is, in fact, outer life, because bodily existence depends upon property. Therefore, to rob one of his properties is to take away his outer life. Non-stealing is a virtue also because stealing is not compatible with the highest virtue of love. Therefore Mahatma Gandhi recommends that a truly moral individual has to take a solemn vow to cultivate the virtue of non-stealing.

Mahatma Gandhi expresses that Celibacy is abstention from self-indulgence by thought, speech and action. Mahatma Gandhi uses the celibacy both in its popular sense, and in its traditional sense. He emphasizes the importance of sexual control. Celibacy is putting a check and restraint over all the senses and the mind. Senses often delude us and misguide us. Immorality is basically born out of a desire to satisfy the demands of the senses.

Therefore, we must cultivate a discipline by which we, instead of being led astray by the senses, may be able to keep the senses under control. In fact, even sexual control cannot be practiced unless senses are put in check. For example, Mahatma Gandhi feels that our food habits have to be changed. The palate is responsible for our taking delicious and rich food, which, in its turn, causes sexual urge to arise. Therefore, Mahatma Gandhi experimented with different kinds of food, just in order to evolve a food pattern, which, without reducing the health value of food, would not allow amorous and undesirable urges to arise. The name celibacy is given to a discipline of this kind.

Mahatma Gandhi says that Non-possessiveness is renunciation of possessions by thought, word and deed. Non-possessiveness is restricted to contentment. Mahatma Gandhi feels that the tendency to possess things is the cause of all evils. Therefore, one must cultivate the discipline of living with what one has. Mahatma Gandhi is aware that it is not possible to practice this virtue in the absolute way, because absolute non-possession is impossible in life; even the body is a possession- the things needed for the preservation of the body are also possessions, and therefore, so long as we are alive we cannot completely do away with possessions. Even so, non-possessiveness has to be practiced to the best of one’s capacity because this does away with the cause of rift in social life and provides a solid foundation for a universal love to flourish

Mahatma Gandhi expresses that Character is moral and ethical strength. Character comes from within. Character is the key to success. A man of character will make himself worthy of any position he is given. Character, not brains, will count at the crucial moment. Character is any day more eloquent than speech. Character must be above suspicion and truthful and self-controlled. The truest test of civilization, culture and dignity is character and not clothing. Success is the certain result of suffering of the extremist character voluntarily undergone. Sorrow and suffering make for character if they are voluntarily borne, but not if they are imposed.

Men of stainless character and self-purification will easily inspire confidence and automatically purify the atmosphere around them. In the times to come the people will not judge us by the creed we profess or the label we wear or the slogans we shout but by our work, industry, sacrifice, honesty and purity of character. If you express the requisite purity of character in action, you cannot do it better than through the spinning wheel. If you have no character to lose, people will have no faith in you. Character alone will have real effect on masses Character cannot be built with mortar and stone. It cannot be built by other hands than your own. The principal and professors cannot give you character from the pages of books. Character building comes from their very lives and really speaking it must come from within you. Mahatma says that if wealth is lost nothing is lost; if health is lost something is lost; if character is lost everything is lost.

*These teaching can be used as quotes in any places(essays, ethics paper or any other general studies paper) that you may find suitable.

Mahatma Gandhi expressed life moral teachings in his writings and speeches. Life moral teachings presented here are drawn from Gandhi’s writings and speeches. Perhaps in our time there will be even greater opportunities to put them to good use. They are:

1) Our aim is the establishment of the kingdom of Righteousness on earth.

2) Peace has its victories more glorious than those of war.

3) Real disarmament cannot come unless the nations of the world cease to exploit one another.

4) No matter how insignificant the thing you have to do, do it as well as you can, give it as much of your care and attention as you would give to the thing you regard as most important.

5) Nonviolence, in the very nature of things, is of no assistance in the defense of ill-gotten gains and immoral acts.

6) Nonviolence is never a method of coercion, it is one of conversion.

7) Nonviolent struggle is impossible without capital in the form of character.

8)Gandhi’s Talisman – Recall the face of the poorest and the most helpless man whom you may have seen and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he be able to gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny?

9) Religions are different roads converging on the same point.

10) Religion which takes no account of practical affairs and does not help to solve them is no religion.

11) Rights that do not flow directly from duty well performed are not worth having.

12) Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment. Full effort is full victory.

13) No human being is so bad as to be beyond redemption.

14) Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.

15) Strength of numbers is the delight of the timid. The valiant in spirit glories in fighting alone.

16) Terrorism and deception are weapons not of the strong but of the weak.

17) That line of action is alone justice which does not harm either party to a dispute.

18) The acquisition of the spirit of nonresistance changes one’s outlook upon life. It puts different values upon things and upsets previous calculations. And when it is set in motion, its effect can overtake the whole world. It is the greatest force because it is the highest expression of the soul.

19) The best politics is right action.

20) The danger is greatest when victory seems nearest.

21) The fabled godly Elephant King was saved only when he thought he was at his last gasp.

22) The first principle of nonviolent action is that of noncooperation with everything humiliating.

23) The fullest life is impossible without an immovable belief in a Living Law in obedience to which the whole universe moves.

24) The highest moral law is that we should unremittingly work for the good of mankind.

25) The movement of noncooperation, if it may be considered a revolution, is not an armed revolt; it is an evolutionary revolution, it is a bloodless revolution. The movement is a revolution of thought, or spirit.

26) The problem is a world problem. No nation can find its own salvation by breaking away from others. We must all be saved or we must all perish together.

27) There is a power now slumbering within us, which if awakened would do to evil what light does to darkness.

28) The right to err, which means the freedom to try experiments, is the universal condition of all progress.

29) To believe that what has not occurred in history will not occur at all is to argue disbelief in the dignity of man.

30) To benefit by others’ killing and delude oneself into the belief that one is being very religious and nonviolent is sheer self-deception.

31) True morality consists not in following the beaten track, but in finding out the true path for us and fearlessly following it.

32) Truth never damages a cause that is just.

33) Violence is suicide.

34) We are all children of one and the same God and, therefore, absolutely equal.

35) We hug the chains that bind us.

36) We leave things to Fate after exhausting all the remedies.

37) We may attack measures and systems. We may not, we must not, attack people. Imperfect ourselves, we must be tender toward others and slow to impute their motives.

38) We may not be God but we are of God — even as a little drop of water is of the ocean.

39) We must combat the wrong by ceasing to assist the wrongdoer, directly or indirectly.

40) Western democracy as it functions today is diluted Nazism or fascism. At best it is merely a cloak to hide the Nazi and fascist tendencies of imperialism.

41) What is possible for one is possible for all.

42) When we disobey a law, it is not for want of respect for lawful authority, but in obedience to the higher law of our being, the voice of conscience.

43) Where Love is, there God is also.

44) Where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence.

45) Conscience is a good guide for individual conduct, imposition of that conduct upon others would be an insufferable interference with their freedom of conscience.

46) Whomsoever you follow, howsoever great he might be, see to it that you follow the spirit of the master and not imitate him mechanically.

47. You should be pioneers in presenting a living faith to the world and not the dry bones of a traditional faith which the world will not grasp.

48) A Government that is evil has no room for good men and women except in its prisons.

49) All faiths constitute a revelation of Truth, but all are imperfect.

50) All fear is a want of faith.

51) All other pleasures and possessions pale into nothingness before service which is rendered in a spirit of joy.

52) A nonviolent resister cannot wait or delay action till perfect conditions are forthcoming.

53) A nonviolent revolution is not a program for the seizure of power. It is a program for the transformation of relationships ending in a peaceful transfer of power.

54) A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.

55) By our actions we mean to show that physical force is nothing compared (to) moral force.

56) Capital as such is not evil; it is its wrong use that is evil.

57) Civil disobedience without constructive programs is bound to fail.

58) Cooperation with good is as much a duty as noncooperation with evil.

59) Do not undertake anything beyond your capacity, and at the same time do not harbor the wish to do less than you can. One who takes up tasks beyond his powers is proud and attached. On the other hand, one who does less than he can is a thief.

60) Do not worry about what others are doing. Each of us should turn the searchlight inward and purify our own hearts as much as possible.

61) Each step upward makes me feel stronger and fit for the next step.

62) Every one of my failures has been a steppingstone.

63) Every right carries with it a corresponding duty.

64) Everything is done openly and aboveboard, for truth hates secrecy.

65) Evil can only be sustained by violence.

66) Exploitation is the essence of violence.

67) Faith does not admit of telling. It has to be lived and then it becomes self-propagating.

68) Faith is nothing but a living, wide-awake consciousness of God within.

69) Fearlessness is the first requisite of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral.

70) For a nonviolent person the whole world is one family. He will thus fear none, nor will others fear him.

71) Freedom won through bloodshed or fraud is no freedom.

72) Given the opportunity, every human being has the same possibility for spiritual growth. God is conscience.

74) God reveals Himself daily to every human being but we shut our ears to “the still small voice.”

75) Good government is no substitute for self-government.

76) He who is ever brooding over results often loses nerve in the performance of duty.

77) I am a Christian and a Hindu and a Moslem and a Jew.

78) I am an uncompromising opponent of violent methods even to serve the noblest of causes.

79) I believe in the essential unity of man and, for that matter, all that lives. Therefore, I believe that if one man gains spiritually, the whole world gains with him; and, if one man falls, the whole world falls to that extent.

80) I believe that no government can exist for a single moment without the cooperation of the people, willing or forced, and if people suddenly withdraw their cooperation in every detail, the government will come to a standstill.

81) I can retain neither respect nor affection for a government which has been moving from wrong to wrong in order to defend its immorality.

82. I did not move a muscle when I first heard that the atom bomb had wiped out Hiroshima. On the contrary, I said to me, “unless now the world adopts non-violence, it will spell certain suicide for mankind.”

83. If a father does an injustice, it is the duty of his children to leave the parental roof. If the headmaster of a school conducts his institution on an immoral basis, the pupils must leave the school. If the chairman of a corporation is corrupt, the members thereof must wash their hands clean of his corruption by withdrawing from it; even so, if a Government does a grave injustice, the subjects must withdraw cooperation wholly or partially, sufficiently to wean the ruler from his wickedness.

84. If one takes care of the means, the end will take care of itself.

85. I hate privilege and monopoly. Whatever cannot be shared with the masses is taboo to me.

86. Individuals or nations, who would practice nonviolence, must be prepared to sacrifice [everything] except honor.

87) In matters of conscience, the law of majority has no place.

88) In nonviolent resistance, success is possible even if there is only one nonviolent resister of the proper stamp.

89) In the secret of my heart I am in perpetual quarrel with God that how He should allow such to go on ?(Written in September 1939 at the start of World War II).

90) Intolerance betrays want of faith in one’s cause.

91) It has always been a mystery to me how men can feel themselves by humiliation of their fellow beings.

92) It is a million times better to appear untrue before the world than to be untrue to ourselves.

93) It is not nonviolence if we love merely those who love us. It is nonviolence only when we love those who hate us.

94) It is sinful to buy and use articles made by sweated labor.

95) I want freedom for the full expression of my personality.

96) A civilization is to be judged by its treatment of minorities.

97) Love is the law of life.

98) Love never claims it ever gives.

99) Nothing enduring can be built on violence.




February 4, 2017

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