In the world of thorough compartmentalization dictated by industrialized division of labour in which humanity finds itself having lost the sense of purpose and identity, Gandhi showed a holistic way that leads us into experiencing life in its fullness.
He got this holistic perspective from the realization of Truth as God, which is eternal, an all encompassing reality. ‘Being part of the whole’, he acknowledged, ‘I too am a part of the Truth’. In the epistemological sense, it reflects the wisdom of Upanishad ‘Aham Brahmasmi’.
Functionally, his pursuit of Truth could be termed as an advaita (non-dualistic) practice. He saw a singular Truth in umpteen facets of life. Ekam Sat vipra Bahudha vadanti. For him, each of his efforts was some part of the truth or his endless quest for it. Even the means of his striving, nonviolence, according to him, was a form of Truth. Truth is God and Nonviolence the religion, he explained. Johan Galtung put it as ‘the way is the goal’.
This led him into a unique experience of an inclusive method, a comprehensive approach to life. He saw oneness in all and everything. That is how he could declare “I have no enemy” even while fighting against British imperialism. He then clarified, ‘my fight is against the wrong and not the wrong doer who is my brother’.
This perspective of endearing oneness is evident in all his endeavors right from his early years.
Be it his colleagues in South Africa, men and women from wide range of persuasions: Muslims, Parsis, Christians, Jews, north Indians and South Indians in equal measure; or his fellow satyagrahis as diverse as the mighty Pathans from the north-west frontier and the meekly peasants of Bihar; or is readiness to induct into his domestic fold Dalits and Leprosy Patients with equal elan, or his prayers that integrated the spirit of all religions, he led humans into a new social reality.
His non-dualistic vision helped him lay the conceptual foundation for a new nation. He interpreted ‘Purna Swaraj’ which originally meant as ‘complete freedom from the bonds of the British’,into a principle of liberation from all evils – of both what are within individual – value decay and lack of social sensibility, and between individuals – socio, economic political injustice and inequalities. His 18 constructive programs represent as many facets of liberation: freedom from alcoholism, communal enmity, poverty, sanitation problem, gender inequality so on.
Ideologically he harmonized Satya and Ahimsa as two sides of a coin; and functionally Satyagraha (struggle against the imperial power) and Constructive interventions (building a society of empowered masses) as two wings of a flight to freedom.
Civilization would however remember Gandhi for the all encompassing way of living he professed for the divided world. The guiding spirit is Truth. That enabled him to cultivate within him a triune dexterity called harmony between word, thought and deed; head heart and hand; and between ‘oneself, fellow beings and God.
His non-dualistic (seeing one in all) methodology led him further into a process of social amalgamation, and helped him see potential for human betterment in the same traits that divided humanity into water tight compartments. For instance, he could see the productive craftsmanship of the shudras, the material acumen of the Bania, the righteous indignation of the Kshatriya and the sagely scholarship of Brahmin are adorable human qualities equally important to every modern human.
And thus, he was happy being a shudra when needed to cultivate his grains, spinning out his own clothes and building hutments in the ashram; he was a typical bania (vaishya) while bargaining for freedom and mobilizing resources for it; as a satyagrahi he showed the valor of a Kshatriya fighting against the antagonistic powers for the sake of humanity even at the risk of his own life. As a seeker after truth he spoke with the clarity of a Brahmin (scholar and teacher). Thus he brought down the walls that stood between the classes and sailed from one class to another seamlessly.
Similarly, he translated the four stages of life (Ashramas) into four noble virtues to be adopted, not one after another, but all the time together. While being a grahastha (ashram being his large joint family), he was a brahmacharya all along; without retiring into Jungle he attained liberation. While living in the thick of the society, he informed, he carries a potable ‘cave’ (society) for spiritual contemplation every moment.
The same harmonizing perspective helped Gandhi braid the four yogic paths into one noble passage for holistic realization. His passion for Truth and Nonviolence that “transcended human reasoning” was the height of bhakti, equivalent to that of Mira, that fired him to be an invincible adherent of Truth. Be it his Khadi movement, Harijan campaign or striving for communal harmony, we see an unstoppable performer and his performance evinced the quality of a karma yogi. His conscious exploration into the inner recesses of Truth gave him the wisdom of a gyan yogi; empowered by the bhakti and gyan, his karma (action) invariably steered him to lead the masses out of man-made suffering. The making of the ‘father of the nation’ is certainly one of Raja Yoga.
Thus Gandhi in his advaita realization of Truth, saw life as a comprehensive experience, not to be realized in compartments, but all inclusively. The realization of oneness enabled him to see the worth of multifarious manifestations without deterred by their diversity, helped him sail between classes of society, phases of life and through diverse paths of life and ethical schools.
In the world of thorough compartmentalization dictated by industrialized division of labour in which humanity find itself having lost individual sense of purpose and identity, Gandhi shows in this manner, a holistic way to realize the fullness of life. Civilization would remember him for this forever.
**An alumnus of Gujarat Vidyapeeth, Dr D. John Chelladurai is currently the Dean, of Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, (Maharashtra), He is a social analyst and specializes in ‘Conflict Transformation’ and ‘Peace Building’. The views expressed are personal.