Mahatma Gandhi, the great philosopher, educationist and experimenter expressed his views on everything from God to birth-control. He was deeply influenced by the humanist idealism of India’s past. Here is given a brief description of his philosophical doctrines-
Firm Faith in God- Like all idealists, Gandhiji had firm faith in God. To him, God is an all-pervasive Reality, immanent in man and also in the world. He is the Ultimate Reality and Supreme Ruler. He is Truth and Love, Ethics and Morality, Source of Light and Life. He is the creator, dissolver and recreater. Hence he advised having a living faith in the living and absolute God. The ultimate aim of life should be the realization of God.
Truth- To Gandhiji, God is Truth and truth is God. Truth is the inner voice. It is the call of conscience. He wanted to realize the truth himself. He also wanted everyone to be a seeker of truth. Ultimate Truth or God is the end of philosophy. Truth is the means to achieve that Ultimate Truth or God. Gandhiji himself said, “Truth which is the end and which is all-pervading can be realized only through truth- through a way of living characterized by strict discipline, poverty, non-possession, non-violence, sense of humility, a discipline of mind, body and spirit”.
Ahimsa or Non-Violence- Ahimsa or non-violence is the means to attain the goal of truth. Ahimsa implies complete freedom from Himsa (violence); freedom from hate, anger, fear, vanity and ill-will. Ahimsa includes humility, charity, love, patience, purity of the heart and freedom from a passion in thought, word and action. It inspires us to love all creatures. It purifies the spirit. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi non-violence is preferred to violence because of the following five reasons- (i)More effective- Non-violence proves to be more effective than violence. (ii)Triumph of moral principle- It is a triumph of the moral and spiritual principle over the physical brute force. (iii)Accordance with reality- Love and non-violence are in accordance with reality and it must triumph ultimately. (iv) Shakes opponent’s will- Non-violence shakes an opponent’s will. (v) Purification of spirit- Non-violence purifies the spirit. A non-violent person has to live a life of Tapasaya or austere living.
Satyagraha- Satyagraha is the practical application of Ahimsa. It is a method of securing a right by personal suffering and not by inflicting injury on others. The defence of peace can be constructed only through Satyagraha. A satyagrahi is one who has faith in Truth, Non-Violence, Brahmacharya, fearlessness and non-stealing or non-possession. Thus the life of a satyagrahi implies strict discipline.
Spiritual nature of Individual- Gandhiji believes that an individual has a divine spirit. He is a spiritual being. Therefore the aim of the individual must be spiritual and not material. For realizing this aim the individual must be considered as an end unto himself. He should not be used as a means.
Love- Gandhiji had a firm faith in the love for mankind. To him, love is the essence of morality. No morality is possible without love. Truth can be attained through love. Love takes him towards God. It makes all duties pleasant. Hence love should guide all life. The social and political revolution started by Gandhiji was prompted by his inherent love of humanity.
Concept of Spiritual Society- Gandhiji was anxious to establish a spiritual society based on the principle of love, non-violence, truth, justice and equitable distribution of wealth. Such a society will be free from any kind of exploitation- social, political, economic or religious. This society will be free from all types of conflicts and struggles. Moral force and moral sanction would be the guiding factors of such a society. Service of all should be the first fundamental of every human being. Service to God and humanity was the greatest creed of Mahatma Gandhi. We love and serve God when we love and serve his creatures.
It should be noted that Gandhiji tried his best to translate his philosophy into actual practice.