India, Its Concept of Peace and Gandhi

172

A tribute to Gandhi on the 61st anniversary of his death

If we go through the pages of world history, we find India’s status to be unique and extraordinary. In India, a country of unity in diversity, human activities go back to ancient times.

Indians have been filled of enthusiasm. They, passing through the inevitable process of struggles and cooperation, have been giving dimensions to the development constantly. Moreover, by strengthening harmony, one of the most practical aspects of Ahimsa, they have attracted the attention of the people of the world. And thus, they have been conveying the adaptable message of peace to all – in general and in particular.

Many pages of world history evidence those who desired peace and in search of it visited India from time-to-time. Influenced by the Indian concept of peace, not only Greeks and Chinese, but many others reached Indian soil. They stayed here for months and years, studied the Indian Way in which universal acceptance is nucleus and reached back to their respective countries with exemplary and welfaristic India’s message of peace.

Besides Chinese travellers Fa-hein, Sun-Yun, Hien Tsang and I-Tsing, or Greek travellers Megasthenese, Hippalus and Kosmas, many others too from Central, Southeast, Southwest and other places of Asia visited Nalanda, Texla, Varanasi and Vikramshila, the renowned Indian centres of higher education, knowledge and learning in their respective eras.

Indian Philosophy, knowledge and universal-acceptance became a source of inspiration for all of them. Furthermore, Ahimsa-based practices of Indians and their goal of achieving peace attracted them the most. During their visits and stays they perceived India’s concept of peace. They went to its depth and found it to be unique and exemplary.

II

Now it is but natural to discern what the Indian concept of peace is. In fact, the roots of this concept are found in that exemplary approach of universal acceptance which developed centuries ago in India.

Doubtless, the source of this concept has been the Vedic literature, and particularly Vedas and Upanishads. The development of this concept could also be seen in teachings of those philosophies which called upon the people to carry out their daily activities on the basis of Ahimsa and other values supplementary to it.

Moreover, there are other philosophies too, and it doesn’t matter if they were developed on Indian soil or they reached here from other parts of the world, more or less, strengthened the Indian concept of peace from time-to-time in prevailing conditions of the country.

According to the basic Indian concept of peace, or in other words from the Vedic point of view, peace does not mean something static or perpetuation of the status quo. It has nothing to do with inactiveness. Also compulsion has no place in it. Rather, peace is an active force. It is dynamic. It offers that force to the individual, which develops the dynamic strength of the people to a degree that will enable to meet any situation. Peace creates enthusiasm in man. It brings a human being out of the domain of individualism and inspires him to do something more. The essence of the Indian concept of peace remains in the reality of ‘achieving the goal.’

As I have already said, peace is not a situation of the status quo; inactiveness and compulsion have no place in it. Therefore, it accords courage to meet all those odd situations which emerge at different levels of all walks of human life. It clears the way of progress. Those who try to connect peace with inactiveness and compulsion, or those who take it to be static, they are not correct. Rather, by doing so, they show their childishness. Such people, I have no hesitation in saying, know the meaning of peace nor they are familiar with the Indian concept pertaining to it.

According to the Indian concept of peace the individual is the basic source of its creation and development. In other words, the human being is the first centre of peace. That is why, activities, behaviours and practices of man are firstly responsible for the creation and development of peace.

Thereafter, from individual to community-level is its furthering step. This very process has possibilities to further advancement and success in all circumstances. Therefore, from community-level to social-level and from national to international level this process can step-by-step achieve the set goal. Eventually, the great idea of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, which occupies the foremost place in Indian philosophy and the way, and which itself is the best dimension in the process of peace, can be feasible.

Those who hold a basic knowledge of Indian philosophy, are well aware of the fact that this philosophy makes Karmas [deeds] of a human being the basis of his fall and rise. A human being receives Fala [fruits], bad or good, according to his Karmas.

The Indian concept of peace too can be seen by connecting it with this idea of deeds and fruits of Indian philosophy. As is known to all, human being has been accepted the centre of deeds by almost all branches of Indian philosophy-Vedic-Hindu, Jain, Boddh and Sikh. True and virtuous deeds of a human being create peace. They develop it and categorically and continuously grant extensions to its process. These very extensions are the furthering steps of peace as discussed already.

III

Mahatma Gandhi was one of those great men of world history

recognized as the true peace-makers in their respective times. As a peace initiator in India he received respect equal to Tirthankara Mahavira, Gautama Buddha and Guru Nanak Dev. At the world level he was also known as one of those who were busy in search of truth and non-violence; whose aim had been the establishment of peace on this earth. He was declared the second Christ by Romain Rolland.

In the view of the great scientist Albert Einstein he was a man occupying the highest stage in a highly civilized society of imagination. He was fully capable of ending the cruelty by peaceful means.

In view of peace philosopher like Leo Tolstoy, Gandhi was the best contemporary committed to morality and ethics. He was an expert of countering inhumanity by high human values.

Clearly, not only in India but in the whole world Mahatma Gandhi was accepted as a unique propagator of peace. He became a role model for his contemporaries and the generations to come. Through his peaceful efforts he inspired many in the world. In this regard the enthusiasm and activeness shown by him became exemplary for millions. And without a doubt in the root of that enthusiasm and activeness was Gandhi’s harmony with the Indian concept of peace.

In his individual life, Gandhi incessantly moved forward in search of Truth. Constant development of Ahimsa was the means of that search. And it was during the course of that search that he worked for the welfare of the common people which was without a doubt a work for the establishment of peace. It was also a dimension on the way to peace.

It was his greatness that after doing exemplary work for humanity he neither made any claim over this nor desired a credit for this work. He simply said that he followed that Sanatana tradition of India which inspired a human being to carry out his/her duties for humanity. Furthermore he called upon all, in general and in particular, to follow this tradition as he did. It was clear from that statement of Gandhi in which he had said, “My life is my message.”

After taking inspiration from the life and work of the Mahatma, many people tried to follow his pathway not only in India but also in other parts of the world. They as per their ability and capability worked for the welfare of the people. And thus through their public services in different walks of life they proved themselves to be the makers and propagators of peace.

In these days of unprecedented development in all spheres we are witnessing an atmosphere which is full of uproar. In spite of increasing nearness at the global level we observe a rise in competition. In the process of steady development it is not an unnatural thing. But increasing disparity amongst the people is a matter of concern. Furthermore, the hurting exploitation by one another is a matter of serious concern. This tendency of exploitation destroys that human freedom for which Gandhi had taken initiatives in South Africa and later in India, and which is essential for the establishment and development of peace.

In this regard Mahatma Gandhi said:

“If I want freedom for my country, believe me, I do not want that freedom in order that I, belonging to a nation which counts one-fifth of the human-race, may exploit any other race upon earth, or any single individual. If I want that freedom for any country, I would not be deserving of that freedom if I did not cherish and treasure the equal right of every race, weak or strong, to the same freedom.”

The above statement of the Mahatma, which in fact is the beginning anew of the Indian concept of peace, is a ray of hope. Also it is the best message for those who are engaged in their work for peace.

Dr. Ravindra Kumar is an eminent writer, Indologist, political scientist and a former vice chancellor of Meerut University, India, who authored and edited over 100 works on great personalities like Mahatma Gandhi and on various social-cultural issues.