Love for Humanity: A Gandhian View

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Through the ages, philosophers, scholars and thinkers have been writing about love for fellow beings. But even two of them have not been in unanimity in this regard. Each and every one of them had his own view or definition of love. Karl Marx [1818-1863] and his teacher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel [1770-1831] had two different views of love, especially when having to do with ‘love for humanity.’ They looked at it with two different angles. Those who are familiar with Hegel’s views of love – surely they know how confused he was in this regard? Similarly, Karl Marx, despite the infinite love of Johanna Bertha Julie [Jenny: 1814-1881], defined it in different way.

Besides philosophers and thinkers, the founders, propounders and preachers of religious-communities have also talked of love – and some of them at length. They have connected it with high moral values like human-unity, service, equality and protection. The name of Jesus Christ, Prophet Muhammad and Guru Nanak Dev can particularly be mentioned in this context.

Love and affection for all humanity occupies a unique place in ancient Indian philosophy, spiritual thinking and traditions. It has been defined excellently and matchlessly there. Especially its sensitivity and effects, which besides attracting attention, has become a subject of curiosity for so many all over the world.

Undoubtedly, love is the vital issue and if we desire to analyze concepts related to it, or explain its effects and experiences, we would need to produce volumes which would still leave us with the unlikelihood of arriving at any concrete conclusion in this regard. Therefore, accepting the effect, importance and vitality of love, let’s analyze the issue in hand.

Like other great men, Mahatma Gandhi also wrote occasionally about love for all human beings. He did not believe in discrimination on grounds of caste, color, creed or religion. To him all humans under the sky are children of God and thus have the right to be loved and cared for equally. Moreover, in his writings and speeches, he not only discussed it, but, side-by-side mentioned its importance in man’s life. In this context, in one his inscriptions, he went to the extent of saying, “If you want to give a message to the West, it must be the message of love…” [Harijan, April 20, 1947]

Although the above short statement of the Mahatma is a part of his speech in the Inter-Asia Relations Conference, the way he conveyed the message of love as being equality-based teachings of great men, and particularly those of propounders of various religious-communities was, and is, worth mentioning. He had exhorted people to establish mutual equality by their hearts. He had also called the attention of people from the West to connect love with wisdom and argument. His call was a clear expression of his broad-based perception of love.

Not only this, Gandhi stressed going forward on the pathway to love in an atmosphere of mutual respect for each other’s feelings, explicated his desire for certainty of love free from egotism, prejudice and selfishness. He had put forth, “An atmosphere of mutual respect [of each-other’s sentiments] and trust is the first step in this direction.”

Hence, making equality and mutual respect of one-another’s sentiments the basis of love, Mahatma Gandhi added a new dimension to its practical aspect. For Gandhi, it doesn’t matter if we agree to his viewpoint of love or not, or even if it seems significant or important in the current perspective.

Furthermore, the first aspect of the Gandhian concept of love could be traced in its indivisible association with truth. In other words, unconditional truth pervades in love and therefore becomes boundless. To quote Gandhi himself, “True love is boundless like the ocean and rising and swelling within one spreads itself out and crossing all boundaries and frontiers envelops the whole world.” [Young India, September 9, 1928]

Secondly, the love Gandhi’s speaks of is connected to service. In his own words, “Service is not possible unless it is rooted in love; in Ahimsa.”

In fact, Gandhi stressed connecting humility with service. As humility itself is a high moral value and one of the superior characteristics of human beings, it is necessary that in service to humility, one must love all living beings, and particularly to make sure humanity remains intact. It is also necessary that sacrifice is inevitable in love; in it priorities remain for others’ pleasure and prosperity, even readiness to sacrifice one’s life for others. Particularly, in the context of humility Mahatma Gandhi has put forth, “A life of service must be one of humility. He, who would sacrifice his life for others, has hardly time to reserve for himself a place in the sun.” [India of My Dreams, page 63]

Thirdly, in Gandhism, love is the basis of peace. In other words, pathways to peace go through love. This is a broad concept in its roots and without a doubt, it can be connected to Gandhi’s commitment to Ahimsa. Moreover, those who are familiar with Gandhi’s ideas know that he sees Ahimsa in love; for him non-violence and truth are two sides of the same coin, and reaching the truth is the ultimate goal of human life.

Hence, love is the ornament of life and simultaneously an unambiguous and practical way to human unity. Moreover, it is the pathway to peace. That is why; Gandhi said, “We shall go from love to love and peace to peace…For, until at least crores from all the corners of the world are covered with that love and peace for which, the whole world is hungering.” [Young India, November 19, 1931]

Hence, love must multiply many times, because “love breeds love” and leads human beings towards their own true union.

Love for humanity is something worth striving for.