Relevance of Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings in 21st century

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By Yaqoob Murtaza

Mahatma Gandhi was a personality of exceptional quality in all regards. He was a man of peace but never compromised to fight for truth and right cause. He was a philosopher and thinker but first of all a man of action. He was a great political leader who shunned conventional politics but held no office. He was extraordinarily pragmatic and adapted himself to changing situations without compromising his basic values and believes.  He was a deeply religious but his religion was drew from every faith and was all – inclusive.

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He embodied spiritually which was having an abiding concern for poor and marginalized specially it was rooted to empower underprivileged and disadvantaged. He was a teacher of moral values who advocated that education without character has no use. He was a leader and a revolutionary who played leading role in freedom movement of India. His personality was full of lightness and humour. By his teachings he inspired from ordinary to extraordinary men in the world. The words cannot be enough to explain his best teachings. His teachings are not to be confined in text books only but they are to be fallowed in our practical life.

His teachings and their relevance

Message of Non-violence

Mahatma Gandhi was one of the greatest figures of history who changed historical discourse by his actions. He was an inventor of a unique way of protest, of struggle for freedom, rights, justice and equality, of emancipation and of empowerment. But at the same time he never thought of waging war and violence but in making peace. His weaponry was not arms and ammunition but “truth force”, “satyagraha” as he called it. The moral universe was his field of action.

His teachings were very simple, unique and still today they are relevant for our state of affairs. The recent Delhi riots that destroyed the properties of many people and a number of human beings have lost their lives and additionally that caused a threat to peace, communal harmony, weakening of love and unity among people gave us a call to re-read the life of Mahatma Gandhi and to imbibe lesson from it.

In 20th century at the time of world wars Gandhi’s insistence on nonviolence as one of the most basic precepts of life became remarkable and unparalleled idea that changed the discourse of history and gave a solution to come out from conflicts.

Tibetan leader Dalai Lama saidMany ancient Indian masters have preached Ahimsa, non-violence as a philosophy. That was mere philosophical understanding. But Mahatma Gandhi, in this twentieth century, produced a very sophisticated approach because he implemented that very noble philosophy of ahimsa in modern politics, and he succeeded. That is a very great thing”.

Gandhi ji was an apostle of peace. For him the process of change was very important which must be ethical and democratic giving rights to all minorities. He was completely against violence. Because Violence cannot bring about peace. Violence only begets violence.   He has given a clarion call for nonviolent resistance against racial discrimination, oppression and injustice. He described Satyagraha as a force born of truth and the love of nonviolence, a moral equivalent of war. In his own words “non-violence is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction, devised by the ingenuity of man”.

Message of struggle for justice and truth

There is no doubt that we are in great need of a new paradigm for solving conflicts. We are confronting the challenge of growing inequality, gossip truth, rampant injustice and a strong threat to freedom of speech and expression. We are living in an era where to get justice and equality is very hard and triumph of truth seems to be very difficult.

In this bizarre situation, we tend to look to our forbearer like Mahatma Gandhi whose experiment with truth starts with his relentless effort in far-away South Africa fighting for human rights and civil liberties. This effort has great significance for his stand of truth, justice and equality. This effort was also a fight against racial discrimination and injustice done on the ground of colour. The uniqueness of this struggle was that it was based on nonviolence that ultimately has inspired not only Nelson Mandela but many great dealers of world too.

Mahatma Gandhi has given us a clear message not to compromise with injustice, inequality, discrimination, subjugation, and exploitation happening anywhere and to stand always with truth and right cause. Mahatma Gandhi has gone but still he is alive among us and hopefully will be ever as in recent we have seen how teachings of Gandhi is relevant and alive today.

When Supreme Court of India found Prashant Bhushan guilty for contempt of court because of his two twitter posts and ordered to change his statement. In reply, Bhushan, a renowned lawyer and activist said while quoting Mahatma Gandhi: “I do not ask for mercy. I do not appeal for magnanimity. I cheerfully submit to any punishment that court may impose.”

This statement once again reminded us the relevant of Gandhi’s teachings in 21st century.

Message of moral and ethical values

Mahatma Gandhi was also a religious man following moral values and the teachings of all religions. He fervently believed in the pivotal role of religion in every-day life. His faith drew from every religion, a faith that was all-inclusive. When asked about his religious belief, he said, “Yes I am a Hindu. I am also a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist and a Jew”.

This was the quality of Gandhi ji and his perception about other religions. He was a man who accepted the good teachings of all religions and in back respected each and every religions. Gandhi ji with his far-reaching ideas and tremendous moral force inspired all of us.

In our time where there is lack of morality among common people especially among youths that sometimes leads to them to commit crimes. And undoubtedly it sometimes engages them in bad activities that are not only harmful for them alone but also harmful for the pillars of society.

For many, Mahatma Gandhi was and continues to be the ultimate touchstone of moral authority.

Social responsibility of business and the idea of Gandhi Ji

The doctrine of trusteeship is very remarkable and significant doctrine of Gandhi ji. This idea talks about social responsibility of business. In the era where environmental challenges have affected the life of human beings and animals and where private ownership of business is on its continuous rise, the social responsibility of business has globally become one of leading issues at world economic forums.  This doctrine says business does not only have financial accountability but also has social and environmental responsibility.

This doctrine of Gandhi ji is based on the principle that those who have money, property and are owner of any business, they have some obligations and responsibilities towards the welfare of the society. Because all individuals can never be equal in any society. There always will be some more intelligent and some less intelligent and some will have more wealth and others not.

So in order to balance the society, those who are owners of business or have wealth, they should help underprivileged and disadvantaged people for the benefit of society. Gandhi ji has justified it with reliable reason as he wrote in ‘issue of young India “My idea of society is that while we are born equal, meaning thereby that we all have a right to equal opportunity, all have not the same capacity. It is in the nature of things impossible. For instance, all cannot have same height, colour or degree of intelligence. Therefore, in nature of things, some will have ability to earn more and others less. Normally, people with talents will have more. Such people should be viewed to exist as trustees and in no other terms”.

The company and individuals who earn more money or generate more wealth by means of trade and industry, they should spend for their needs and rest should also be used in welfare of society as part of their social responsibilities.

The Bhagwat Gita has also given similar views on social responsibility of business as it strictly mentioned “as much as is necessary for one’s own living only that much one is entitled to have. One who excess of this is a thief and deserves punishment”. If we have a look at world economic situation, we find that total wealth of world is only in the hands of very few people and only those few people who are richest, they have control on economic means. The situation is similar as the Karl marks viewed that “the history of mankind is the history of conflict” and that conflict is between haves and have nots. The world especially India is moving towards private ownership of social means of economic and that is not a good sign and ultimately will lead to destruction, poverty and increase more unemployment.

We must follow the words of Gandhi ji in our day to day life as he expressly said “I must know that all that wealth does not belong to me; what belongs to me is right to an honorable livelihood… The rest of my livelihood belongs to the community and must be used for the welfare of the community”.

In the present pandemic of Covid-19 when people and government were facing financial crisis and in need to financial aids, we have seen that many corporate bodies involved themselves in discharging social responsibilities and came forward for financial aids. Without mentioning any name, celebrities, Bollywood superstars, cricketers, TV hosts and actors, designers, corporate bodies, several FMCG companies, private companies and sectors, ministers, political leaders, defense personnel, employees and so on have donated their valuable wealth to fight the coronavirus pandemic. They are true followers of trusteeship theory of Gandhi ji. And this shows how much, the ideas and teachings of Gandhi ji are relevant in 21st century.

Quality of a leader and his duties

Mahatma Gandhi was great leader with exceptional quality of leadership. Unlike other political leaders of today’s world, he never tried to promise more and more to the people of his country but instead of this, he devoted himself to spreading the principles of non-violence, simplicity, truth, perseverance, justice, prioritising the needs of the poorest, decentralisation, creation of local self-reliant economies, respecting labour, protecting sustainable livelihoods and standing with the people in pain and pleasure.

The essence of Mahatma Gandhi’s political philosophy was the empowerment of every individual, irrespective of class, caste, colour, creed or community. To him, extreme poverty was itself a form of violence.

Mahatma Gandhi should be a role model for political leaders of our time. They should follow the teachings of Gandhi in this critical condition where India’s GDP is going down day by day and unemployment is on its continuous rise. It is time to stand this people of this country and to provide solution for their genuine problems as Gandhi ji did.

His teachings should be followed  

Mahatma Gandhi bequeathed to us three guiding principles: Ahimsa (nonviolence), Satyagraha (the force born of truth and nonviolence) and Sarvodaya (upliftment of all). These are valuable principles that should be followed by us if we want to deal effectively with today’s challenges.

The question is not how far Gandhi’s teachings are relevant in 21st century? The real question from all of us is that whether we are ready to follow his teachings? Whether we are prepared to live a lifewhat he preached and what he practiced? His teachings are not only to be confined in text books but they should be fallowed in all circumstances. What a nicely someone remarked about why his teachings are important to follow. “If humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable. He lived, thought, acted and inspired by the vision of humanity evolving toward a world of peace and harmony”.

(Yaqoob Murtaza is a student of law at Aligarh Muslim University)

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