Gandhi said, "My life is my message." The most important aspect of Gandhi's life and thought is oneness in thoughts, words and deeds. The biggest appeal of Gandhi is that he did what he said and he said exactly what he thought. He was not a hypocrite. His thoughts and actions matched. Gandhi's transparency is his biggest currency. His words, life and behavior are an open book. His thoughts and actions are open for scrutiny, open for analysis and criticism. Gandhi has nothing to hide. He was not a critic, he was a mild talker and he was a bold doer.
The second important lesson from the life and views of Gandhi is his healthy combination of tradition and science. Gandhi was a modern man. He advocated scientific temper. He worked objectively. At the same time, Gandhi is the best personification of the sanatana tradition. The phenomenon of Gandhi could not have happened without sanatana flow of thought. Gandhi and his tools - truth, non-violence, non-stealing, non-hoarding, prayer and good health directly come from the sanatana tradition. The very meaning of the word sanatan is sada + nutan, something which is eternally new. Sanatana never goes out of fashion.
Gandhi repackaged satvic values according to the needs of the times. He did not take the warrior form of Rama or Krishna simply because he knew Indians could not defeat England militarily. He knew the might of the British army at that time. The sun never set in the British Empire. India was not independent. Any armed struggle would have resulted in defeat. Indians did not have their own army. The British had one of the most advanced armies in the world. How we could have defeated them. This is the practical reason why Gandhi chose the satvic, sober, soft model of protest. He made the British answer less. He took the battle of the ground to the level of mind. He took the fight to principles and ideals. He fought the intellectual war. Gandhi made the British realize the cruelty, the injustices of their position.
Many people do not realize that Gandhi's approach of non-cooperation brought Indian independence one century earlier. With armed rebellion, our independence would have come at least one hundred years later. That is the reason why the path of Subhas Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh did not work. That is the reason why Gandhi took centre stage. If we hit a person, he will hit back. But of we do not hit a person, what will he do? With a poor, naked, defenceless country at the backdrop, Gandhi could not have talked of war. Therefore, he shifted the focus and talked of conscience. He hit the mind of the oppressor.
Gandhi was a decolonised soul. Once someone asked him as to why he uses English extensively. He said, "I use English to defeat English." He used all possible communication channels in all possible languages to fight the colonial might. He brought out new papers, magazines and various books. He travelled extensively and spread his word. Gandhi was not in awe of the British and western culture at all.
As a young man in England, he tried to taste British wine. He tried British clothes. He tried to speak in their accent. He even tried British non vegetarian cuisine. Slowly but surely he realized the trap of slave mentality. He became his own person free from a slave's fascination for the master. Gandhi came towards his roots. Gandhi read Srimad Bhagwad Gita. Gita says that in the spiritual path, caste, creed, race, gender, age or region - nothing matters. All souls are equal and everyone has equal access to God. Differences do not matter. When Gandhi talked about a caste-less society or when he stressed upon gender equality, he was only following sanatana thoughts, eternal Indian values.
Today if we want to follow Gandhi in the truest sense, we should abandon out mental slavery of the West. Whatever is western need not be accepted blindly. Just twenty-five years ago, people mocked Yoga and Ayurveda. They called Yoga strange postures. Today the whole world celebrates Yoga Day, respects and follows Yoga. Yoga means addition, addition of souls, addition of conscience. Yoga means assimilation, inclusion and unity. Yoga unites humans spiritually. When we add human consciousness, we practice Yoga. Similarly Gandhi was a great follower of Ayurveda. Ayurveda is nothing but healthy life style based on the premise that prevention of the disease is better than its cure.
When Gandhi talked of cleanliness, he was referring to the self-respect of India. Cleanliness is directly linked to the self-esteem of a person. People spit on road or keep surroundings dirty because of a deep sense of inferiority. They think that this is India, this is not England or America and so it can remain dirty. People believe that they do not deserve good things in life. Gandhi taught people that Indians deserve the best in the world. Indians can be the best in the world. Indians are honest, spiritual, sensitive, hard-working, punctual and sincere. To be Indian is to be superior. To be Indian is to be better. Gandhi wanted to instil self-worth in Indians. He kindled the sensitivity of the people. He wanted Indians to awaken.
Today when the world is facing climate change and pollution, Gandhi's ideas of no corruption, no cheating and no hoarding become relevant. The eco system is collapsing because of human greed. Gandhi famously said, "The earth has enough for everyone's need but not enough for everyone's greed."
When Gandhi died, he had some annas, two pairs of clothes, one pair of spectacles, and one pair of chappals as his total property. Aparigraha. No hoarding. If we try to use less and less natural resources, we can defeat climate change. Gandhi's life style was in tune with Mother Nature. Gandhi lived and promoted sustainable life style.
Today when we remember Mohan Das Karamchand Gandhi, we must remember that we need not accept his ideas blindly. Gandhi experimented with everything. He wrote, "My Experiments with Truth". We do not have to make Gandhi a god. Gandhi was not a god or demigod. He made mistakes. He corrected himself. Therein lies his greatness. His being human is his greatness.
Today's problems are different. Gandhi did not see the problem of terrorism as it exists today. 9/11, 26/11, mass shootings in America, epidemic of cancer today, or rising number of depression patient today or internet addiction, virtual reality or artificial intelligence - Gandhi did not see these things. All these phenomena are new. Taking Gandhi's spirit of experiment forward, we should not shy away from finding new solutions. We should not shy away from innovation. We should be a brave, bold and daring nation. That would be a befitting tribute to Gandhi. We belong to a country which has a ten thousand year old tradition of questioning. Our Dharma allows us to think freely. Our tradition allows us to question everything, even the existence of God. We should approach Gandhi in this spirit. When we question Gandhi, we engage with him and we popularize him. More and more lively debates and discussions are needed on Gandhi. Gandhi is our cherished legacy. We must carry it forward. Our tradition is not to worship ashes. Our tradition is to worship fire.
Ho kahi bhi aag Lekin aag jalni chahiye...
The fire of Gandhi's thoughts must be kept alive.
The above address has been delivered by Prof. Shubha Tiwari on October10th 2019 at APS University, Rewa, Madhya Pradesh, India.