Essay on the Salient Features of Gandhism are as follows:
Truth is the most cardinal principle of Gandhism. Mahatma Gandhi was a worshipper of truth. He believed that there is no good higher than truth. “Truth is God and God is Truth.” He searched for truth throughout his life. He named his auto-biography, ‘My Experiments with Truth’. He achieved many successes by following the path of truth. He did not give up the path of truth even in times of failures.
He had to bear many sufferings for truth.
He was of the opinion that a truthful person will not harm his opponents but will make them friends. He always considered truth as the ideal, and continuously strived for its achievement. He firmly believed that only a society based on truth can become an ideal society. Truth and truthful living constitute the guiding principle of Gandhism philosophy.
Next to truth, Mahatma Gandhi expressed full faith in non-violence. Infact, non-violence and truth were to him two sides of the same coin. A seeker of truth always follows the path of non-violence. Non-violence means not to harm any person, not even to one’s opponent in any way. Gandhiji was against the propagation of violence in one’s thought, words, actions and deeds. A follower of non-violence does not torture others through his words, actions and deeds. He tries to change the heart of others by bearing sufferings for himself.
According to Gandhiji non-violence is of three types:
(i) Non-violence of the Brave:
It is the best form of non-violence. Here non-violence is not adopted under compulsion. The basis of the non-violence of the brave is morality and inner strength. Only a brave person can practise non-violence. This type of non-violence can achieve very good results.
(ii) Non-violence based on Expediency:
It is the non- violence of the weak. It is used as a matter of expediency or utility. It is the result of weakness and helplessness and not of moral conviction. It is used for the fulfillment of selfish interests. This form of non-violence can lead to a limited success only.
(iii) Non-violence of the Coward:
The non-violence of the coward is the worst form of non-violence Cowardice and non-violence can never really go together. A coward does not face danger, he runs away from it. Mahatma Gandhi would prefer violence instead of accepting the non-violence of the coward. He holds the view that if there is violence in one’s mind it is good to use it openly rather than to practise non-violence to hide one’s impotence. A violent man can become non-violent one day but there is no hope for a coward.
Gandhism favours non-violence of the brave. It always advocates the use of non-violence for securing the objectives dictated by Truth. Now the United Nations has decided to celebrate each year 2nd October (Birthday of Mahatma Gandhi) as World Non-violence Day. It is a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi’s love for Non-violence.
Mahatma Gandhism advocates dependence upon Satyagraha as the means to resist evil. It is a moral weapon which is based on soul force and not physical force. Satyagraha means, ‘Clinging to the Truth’. “Satyagraha is the vindication of truth, not by infliction of suffering on the opponent but on one’- own self. Satyagraha is nothing but Tapsya for truth.’ Satyagraha is a moral weapon with which one can successful meet the challenge evil, injustice, exploitation and untruthfulness.
4. Satyagrah and Non-Cooperation:
Gandhiji was of the opinion that oppression and exploitation were possible only through co-operation given by those who were being oppressed. When the people decide to refuse to co-operate with an unjust Government the unjust system sooner or later, comes to an end. Non-violent non-cooperation can even bend the absolute power of a despot.
When negotiations and petitions fail, the evil can be resisted only through non-cooperation. Even a despot government cannot continue in rule without the cooperation of the people. When the people adopt the path of non-cooperation after shedding all fear, the despot also becomes helpless, and he has to bow before the public. Gandhiji led the struggle for freedom by sing non-violent non-cooperation means.
Non-co-operation can assume three different forms:
(i) Stoppage of work:
The aim of the stoppage of work is to arouse consciousness in the minds of the people and the government against evil.
(ii) Social boycott:
The weapon of social boycott can he used against those people who do not join non-cooperation movement. But it does not mean a denial of the use of social service to the persons boycotted. Social boycott also does not mean insulting of the cooperator by the non-cooperator.
The aim of picketing is not to check the entry of a person to that place which is picketed but to arouse public indignation against the wrong doers.
Strike is another mode of Satyagraha. The objective of strike is stoppage of work to register protest against the government for focusing the attention of the public on specific public issues. But the strike has to be voluntary and non-violent.
Gandhiji was also against repeated strikes because he felt that these will reduce its efficacy. Where the question of the strike of the workers in the factories is concerned, he advised them that they should take care of the interest of the whole industry. Whenever they may go on strike, they should limit their opposition to injustice, corruption, inefficiency and undue greed of the owners. The strike should always be totally non-violent.
Fasting is another effective method of Satyagraha. According to Gandhiji, “the best and most acceptable method is that of fasting.” It can be used for self-purification, for opposing injustice, and for changing the hearts of the wrong doers. It is a means to arouse public opinion by self-suffering. But fasting can prove effective against injustice only when it is undertaken by one who is a noble, spiritual, self-disciplined and faithful person. An indolent and indiscipline person has no right to practice it.
It is the most drastic form of Satyagraha. Gandhiji called civil-disobedience, “a complete, effective and bloodless substitute of an armed revolt,” It means disobedience of immoral, unjust and oppressive laws. It includes non-payment of taxes and non-cooperation with the government in any way.
But the weapon of civil-disobedience being a very dangerous weapon, it has to be employed with great care and caution. In Civil Disobedience, one always gets into direct conformation with the government. Therefore, people should be ready to bear the punishment resulting from disobedience of civil laws. Further, civil disobedience movement has to be kept as a movement free from violence and lawlessness.
Hijrat is also a weapon of Satyagraha. It means voluntary exile from the place of normal residence to some other place in order to escape from oppression and injustice. The founder of Islam, Prophet Mohammad migrated from Mecca to Medina.
Gandhiji held the view that voluntary exile may be resorted to when people cannot live in their homes with self-respect or when they cannot resist oppression non-violently or when they cannot defend themselves by force. Thus, Satyagraha, as the fight for truth and fight against evil, could be practiced in several ways.
5. Relationship between Religion and Politics:
Gandhian Philosophy advocates the view than religion and politics are not entirely separate things. The relationship between the two is like the relationship between body and soul. Gandhiji entered politics for the sake of religion. He spiritualised politics. He held that the people who say that there is no relationship between religion and politics do not know the meaning of religion. For him there could be no politics devoid of religion.
However, by religion Gandhiji did not means any particular religion. He always respected all the religions and followed their values. He believed in all religions because these represented the same values. His God was truth, love, non-violence and selfless service of humanity and these constituted his religion. Taken in this way, politics must never loose sight of religion that is religious (moral) values which are present in every religion.
6. Faith in the principle of Purity of Means and Ends:
Gandhism firmly believes in the use of good means for the realisation of good ends. It firmly stands against the materialistic principle of end justifies means. Gandhism is totally against the use of bad means for the attainment of a good end. It supports the principle of moral ends through moral means. A good end can never be really secured through evil means. Good ends have to be achieved only by good means.
7. State as a Souless Machine:
Gandhism describes state as a ‘Souless Machine.’, “The state represents violence in a concentrated and organised form. The individual has a soul, but the state is souless machine. It can never be weaned away from violence because its basis has been force.” Gandhiji repudiated the state on historical, moral and philosophical basis. He argued that there was no illustration in history when the state had supported the case of the poor. State is based on force and its orders are enforced with coercive power. So it has no moral basis.
The state curbs the individuality of man and it creates hindrances in the way of economic progress. However, Gandhiji did not favour a complete abolition of the State. He accepted the role of state as an agency for providing security to the people.
8. State as a Means and not an End:
Gandhiji considered state as a means and not an end. In the words of Gandhiji, “The state is not an end in itself, but a means of enabling people to better their conditions in every department of life.” Gandhiji wanted the state to be a Service State. State should work for making the life of man better. Further, the state is not infallible and omnipotent. People can oppose the unjust laws and policies of the state.
9. Support for a Limited Functioning State:
Gandhiji wanted to limit the functions of the State. Like individualists, Gandhiji regarded the State as a necessary evil. He wished to assign to it minimum functions. Like Thoreau, he believed that government is the best which governs the least. Self-government really means greater freedom from the control of the State. Undoubtedly, there are certain functions which cannot be performed without the state. However, a large number of functions can be performed without the State. This can be done by the people solely through their own initiatives and mutual co-operation. Gandhiji did not look with favour the growing power of the State.
10. Ideal Society or Ram Rajya:
Gandhiji’s ideal was a stateless democratic society. This society was to be a federation of self-contained and self-regulated village communities. It was to work on the basis of peoples’ voluntary and peaceful co-operation. Every village was to be a small republic, having a panchayat with full powers.
Every village republic was to have the right to manage all its affairs. It was also to protect itself from foreign aggression through its own means. Such a society was to be highly civilized in which every individual was to be aware of its needs and necessity of working with others on the basis of equal labour. Gandhiji named his ideal society as ‘Ram Rajya’. Truth and non-violence were to be the basis of Ram Rajya. In the Ideal society people were to lead a happy and peaceful life on the basis of moral and spiritual values.
11. Democracy and Panchayats:
Gandhiji knew well that his ideal of stateless village based of self-government could not be realized in a short time. He therefore supported democracy as the best form of government. However, the central point of his concept of democracy was Village Panchayat system. Panchayats were to play a special role in the Gandhian Society. The members of Panchayats were to be directly elected by the people. The right to vote was to be given only to those persons who were performing one or the other type of physical labour.
Panchayats were to have sufficient powers to run the administration of villages. Above village panchayats there were to be district level panchayats whose members were to be elected indirectly by the members of the village panchayats. Each district panchayat was to manage the district administration.
Above the district administration there was to be the provincial government whose members were to be elected by the district panchajyats. Above the provincial governments, there was to be a central government. The members of the central parliament and the supreme executive were to be elected indirectly by all the provincial assemblies. The functions of the central government were to be kept limited. Thus the whole country was to be ruled by panchayats of the people.
12. Decentralization of Powers:
Gandhiji was in favour of a democratic state with its powers decentralised. He was of the opinion that the greater the centralisation the lesser was the democracy in the state. Centralisation leads to a misuse of power. Centralisation always acts as a big handicap in the way of moral growth. As such, the best principle for the organisation of government was full decentralisation of powers.
13. Principle of Bread Labour:
Gandhiji believed in the principle that every man should do some physical labour to earn his bread. “Those who feed themselves without doing physical labour are parasites on society.” Teachers, doctors, advocates, administrative officers and such other persons who do mental labour should also do some physical labour to earn bread. Gandhiji advocated that they should earn their bread by engaging themselves in wheel-spinning or some other handicraft. They should do mental labour for the society free of any cost. Ideal labour is that with which one grows something out of land.
14. Trusteeship theory of Private Property:
Gandhiji was not against the institution of private property as such. But he opposed the use of property as a means for exploiting others. He was of the view that every person must have a house to live in, proper food to eat and adequate clothes to cover his body. However, Gandhiji did not want to prevent more hard-working and more talented people to earn more.
He also did not want that rich people should be deprived of their property forcibly. He simply believed and advocated the view that the gap between the rich and the poor should be less. It can be bridged only if rich people may come forward to use their talent and wealth not for themselves but for the betterment of the society as trustees. This is his principle of ‘Trusteeship’.
Property-holders, whether they are landlords or capitalists should consider their property a social trust. They should use it in the interest of the society. As trustees, they could have only reasonable rate of earnings because of their service and usefulness to the society.
The rate of earning could be just only if the earners agreed to surrender their existing titles based on absolute ownership for a trusteeship. If, however, the landlords and the capitalists failed to accept the new principle of trusteeship as the basis of ownership, the weapon of non-violent non-cooperation could be used against them and social control over property be established. Trusteeship system could work as a mean for transforming the present capitalist system into an egalitarian order.
15. Decentralised Economy:
Gandhism is opposed to centralised economy Economic centralisation helps capitalism to flourish. It leads to economic exploitation of man by man and nation by nation. Big industries need raw materials in large quantities. The craftsmen do not get supply of raw-materials at proper rates.
Due to large scale production by machines, the demand for goods produced by craftsmen goes down and consequently they have to face unemployment. The search for raw-materials gives birth to colonialism and imperialism. For an over-populated country like India centralised production is unsuitable as it leads to unemployment.
Gandhiji favoured complete economic decentralisation. Each village should be a self-sufficient economic unit. Gandhiji was a supporter of small and cottage industries. He gave high priority to Khadi industry. He emphasized that through this industry, one of the major needs of the people can be fulfilled. Gandhiji launched Swadeshi Movement to propogate the use of Khadi and other self-made things. Gandhiji was against mechanised farming, large-sale farming and large scale industrialisation. He was in favour of personal intensive farming on a small scale. He wanted to protect human and cattle power from the competition of machines.
16. Views on Crime, Punishment and Justice:
According to Gandhiji, crime was a social disease. Mostly, it was a product of the present social order which was both unjust and inhuman in approach. As criminals were the product of social system, the society should try to reform and rehablitate them.
Criminals should not be treated inhumanly with a spirit of revenge. They should get psychological treatment and given education for leading a better life. Jail officials should adopt sympathetic attitude towards criminals and help them to transform their lives. His motto was: “Hate the sin and not the sinner.”
Regarding legal justice, Gandhiji was of the view that justice should be cheap and quick. Judicial system should be decentralised. He was in favour of entrusting judicial powers to the panchayats. He supported the method of arbitration for settling disputes.
17. Nationalism and Internationalism:
Gandhiji did not find any antagonism between nationalism and internationalism. He was opposed to narrow, violent and aggressive nationalism. He was a firm supporter of world peace and world brother-hood. He stood for positive and healthy adjustment between nationalism and internationalism.
He held the view that people should be patriotic but at the same time, they should have good will towards the people of other countries. Gandhiji considered nationalism as precursor of internationalism. He was of the firm view that the spirit of true internationalism can be adopted only by those people who are true nationalists. “Nationalism is the first step towards internationalism.”