Gandhian philosophy is a double-edged weapon. Its objective is to transform the individual and society simultaneously, in accordance with the principles of truth and non-violence. Gandhi as leader of Indian national movement, and as prolific writer has commented on almost every aspect of human life and society. His thoughts are multidimensional and cover political, social, economic, religious and ethical aspect of human life. He was not only influenced not only by Tolstoy, Carlyle, and Thoreau but also by ethical principles embedded in Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism and Christianity.
The twin cardinal principles of Gandhi’s thought are truth and non-violence. Evolution of Gandhian ideas took place within a matrix of non-violent mass political struggle. Gandhi is not an academic thinker, he is a mass leader. Hence, his emphasis is not on practical idealism.
Gandhi on moral behaviour:
According to Gandhi, an action is moral if it is volitional, intentional, universal, practical, selfless and free from fear and compulsion simultaneously. The cultivation of calmness, wildness and tranquility of personality; fostering of good habits; observance of chasity; altruism and righteousness, etc. are elements of moral life in Gandhian ethics. Similarly, the moral law in Gandhian ethics is a pious,universal, eternal, immutable, independent of space and time, objective, self-imposed dwells in the heart and deals with inner being of one’s personalities.
Gandhi and Non-violence:
Non-violence in Gandhi’s thinking was a tool that anyone could( and should ) use and it was based on strongly religious thinking. Non-violence, in its active sense, includes truth and fearlessness. Vandhi insists that non-violence is not a creed of inaction. Nor is it for the weak or the timid. Non-violence does not signify meek acceptance of evil. It is better to be violent than to be cowardly. Gandhi naturally feared that non-violence may become a convient alibi for avoiding confrontation with the British rulers.
According to Gandhi, many prerequisites are necessary for persistent pursuit of ahimsa. Foremost among these are truthfulness and fearlessness. Except God, men should not fear anyone else. If men obey God, they need not worry about any human agency. From this follows the doctrine of Satyagraha is the name which Gandhi gave to the peaceful protests against British rule in India. And peaceful protestors are called as satyagrahis.
Gandhi gave follow instructions to satyagrahis:
- A satyagrahi will harbour no anger.
- He will suffer the anger of the opponent.
- In so doing, he will put up with assaults from the opponent, never retaliate; but he will not submit out of fear of punishment or the like, to any order given in anger.
- Non-retaliation excludes swearing and cursing.
- Therefore, a satyagrahi will never insult his opponent, and therfore, also not take part in many of newly coined cries which are contrary to the spirit of ahimsa.
- A civil resister will not salute the union jack, nor will he insult it or officials, English or Indian.
Gandhi’s Economic Ideas:
Gandian ethics cover economic sphere also. Gandhi says that everyone should earn his bread with his own hands or through manual labour. He calls it bread labour, and it alone gives man his right to eat. It is impossible for a few amass wealth without exploiting the rest. Exploitation is a form of violence. As men have right to live, they are entitled to the means of securing food, shelter and clothing.
Gandhi does not propose drastic or violent means of bringing abiut economic equality. Ideally, wealth should be distributed equally among all members of the society. As this is impracticable, Gandhi proposes that wealth should be shared equitably. He urges that people should reduce their wants and live a simple life. This process will release resources which can be used to help the poor.
Doctrine of Trusteeship:
Gandhi has introduced a comcept in which the rich are regarded as trustees of wealth. Ultimately, as all property belongs to God, the excess or surplus wealth which the rich possessbelong to society and should be used for welfare of poor. Wealthy people have no moral right to what is more than their proportionate share in national wealth. They simply belongs for this disproportionate share of God’s property they hold. They have to use it for helping the poor.