This reflection paper on Stephen Murphy’s article “Brief Outline of Gandhi’s Philosophy” delves into Gandhian philosophy and how his social and religious ideas were developed by him. Here we look at the four- fold tradition of the Gandhian philosophy and its implications on the Indian legal jurisprudence and the world, from a legal lens. We shall also delve into the pillars of the philosophy and exploring on its complexities yet simplistic nature it is at its core.
Gandhi, Philosophy, Non Violence, Education, Empowerment
In his article “Brief Outline of Gandhi’s Philosophy”, author Stephen Murphy talks about the meaning of Gandhian philosophy and the ripples that it has sent into not just in India, but over the world. Gandhian philosophy needs no introduction, it has been the lacuna of many discussions about its effects over the world. It found its profounder in world leaders for its efficacy. Formulated around a few pertinent traditions including ahimsa that means non violence, civil disobedience, promotion of equity and equality, emphasis on sustainable living, inter-religious communal harmony, conflict resolution though negotiation and reconciliation, and most importantly, empowerment of those at the intersections through education – Gandhian philosophy has now taken the shape of a global symbol of peace, non violence and social justice. Its ripple can be felt through the modern world, the fact that his birthday on the October 2nd is observed as the International Day of Non- Violence by the United Nations and ought to be implemented over the world, speaks about how widely his philosophical ideas have moved the world.
In its essence, the Gandhian philosophy is the set of social and religious ideas that were adopted by Gandhi which he later applied in his efforts towards India’s freedom struggle from the British colonies. This philosophy looks at the entire world as a single entity, the development of which depends on the unification of a number of factors. Gandhi’s philosophy was not only political, but also spanned on the topics of spirituality, politics, economy, society and even on an individual level. On an individual level it calls for self discipline, simplicity in thought and lifestyle, a to be watchful towards one’s responsibilities towards one’s family, society, nation, and the world at large. Gandhi thought that developing oneself was a constant process.
He felt that the economy and political scenario of the nation should be decentralised lest we take the risk of an absolute concentration of power into a few hands. His idea of democracy was direct and participative of the citizens, calling for transparency of the government activities and the accountability of the state towards its people. He furthered the idea of trusteeship, advocating or wealth by the rich to be placed in trusts for the development of the society- giving to charity the remainder of what was left after their necessary expenditures. This way, the Gandhian philosophy was all encompassing in nature, catering to the needs of the poor and voicing the interests of the vulnerable. This philosophy not only emphasises on equality, but also on an equity-based approach, wherein those in need of help are provided so to the extent that they need it to bring them at par with the rest of the developed society. The minimisation of competition in the economic sphere.
The two pillars of the Gandhi philosophy are truth and non- violence, or satya and ahimsa respectively. This philosophy believes that that truth brings us closer to God, and so does the moral code of non violence. It places love to be at the centre of the existence of mankind. It wasn’t just a silent refusal of violence; it was also an active way to solve problems. Satyagraha was the core of this approach. Violence was not be resorted to as the first recourse of response. It is a concept and method of nonviolent opposition. It meant using reason and morality, along with willing self-suffering, to change people’s minds.
The fact that Gandhi’s works don’t always make sense shows that his ideas are not just a method. In order to understand Gandhi’s way of thought, it’s most important to know that people’s ideas of what’s true change over time. This is a developmental process. Gandhi’s theory isn’t just about how to be a good person; it also covers politics, economy, and changing society. The word “Sarvodaya” sums up his vision for the welfare of society. It emphasises that the welfare of everyone, including the poor and the marginalised, should be the main goal of any fair society.
However instead of being preachy, this philosophy is rooted in realism. It is centred around the realisation that the philosophy is inconsistent and that is acceptable to it. As times change and we move towards a more global idea of citizenship, this philosophy is more relevant than ever before. The philosophy asserts that while violence may seem like a better answer at times, People are getting better at being good over time. Conflict is seen as unavoidable, and not always a bad thing. However, violence is not seen as necessary even when there is conflict. Simply put, people do have the ability to solve problems without violence. Even though one might find it to be hard, it is not impossible. People think that getting out of a violent society will take at least a few decades, if not longer. However, this is not an impossible goal. Gandhi’s idea of pacifism was a powerful and innovative force. It wasn’t just a silent refusal of violence; it was also an active way to solve problems. Satyagraha was the core of this approach. It is a concept and method of nonviolent opposition. It meant using reason and morality, along with willing self-suffering, to change people’s minds. It is integral to remember that the sustenance of humankind has been based on non- violence, lacking which it would have been wiped out millions of years ago.
It is also interesting to note that while the pillars of the philosophy are resting on fundamentally religious beliefs, it emphasises that it is not essentially Hindu in nature. It’s both complex and timeless. It is based on the culture and faith of ancient India, but it also has Western effects. Even though it was made in the early 20th century, many people think its ideas were ahead of their time because they deal with problems like social justice and protecting the environment that are still important today. The philosophy holds extreme modern relevance as it stresses that its traditions are the undercurrent themes to almost all major religions of the world- making it truly global in nature.
This philosophy is also environmentally sound, advocating for reverence towards natural resources and to consider the planet earth as the mother that feeds us and takes care of us. Instead of violating her, and depleting her of her energy, Gandhi talked about environmentally conscious steps to be taken in favour of a holistic development of all- like production on the basis of need rather than green, whilst also paying attention to the eradication of poverty.
Another tradition of this philosophy is the presence of self reliance on an individualistic, village, region, and national level.
However, this philosophy is not one of its kind, it has a lot of commonalities with a number of western philosophies. People have said that the Gandhian social order is “communism without violence.”, and even liberal ideas from the West. But Gandhi doesn’t agree with many parts of liberalism, and he doesn’t agree with the modern, highly competitive, environmentally damaging, and selfish capitalism of the West at all.
Instead of being vague and arbitrary, this philosophy also provides a plethora of methods on attaining the philosophy’s ideals. Satyagraha campaigns can use many different tactics, but the main ones are not cooperating and fasting. The action is taken with the belief that the opponent is basically good and that he or she will be able to see how unfair the action is and stop it, or at least find a middle ground. In this way, Satyagraha is very creative. It doesn’t make enemies, hate, or anger that lasts. Instead, it leads to mutual respect. After a good campaign, there isn’t even a hint of bragging or a desire to make the other side look bad. The person who was once an enemy is now a friend. There are only winners, no losers. Even though it takes guts, self-discipline, and humility on the part of the ‘Satyagrahi’, a true Satyagraha campaign puts a lot of moral pressure on the opponent and can lead to amazing changes. However, it is necessary that the objects carry a moral code in its objectives and methods. No immoral gains may be achieved through these methods, nor would any insincere efforts succeed.
The philosophy thus is both timeless and modern, complex and extremely simple in nature. It is not only philosophical, or political, but all encompassing, including traditions into environment conservation and even religion. While being fundamentally religious, it is extremely secular in nature. However, its secularity does not base itself on the lack of religion in its philosophy, but the presence of almost all major religions in a revering manner in a unifying theory. Gandhi cared more about the spirit than the way things looked. If the spirit is in line with truth and nonviolence, the body will also be truthful and peaceful. Even though it is against the West, many people think its ideas are very modern and even ahead of their time. Maybe the best way to describe the concept is as a mix of the old and the new. Gandhi’s ideas have many different parts, which can make it easy to think that they are very complicated but they really are not if one understands the value of love and responsibility one owes to the elements around them. However, despite all of this deep analysis into what he propounded, Gandhi said that many of his ideas were just common sense.
Murphy “Brief Outline of Gandhi’s Philosophy” https://www.mkgandhi.org/articles/murphy.htm
Anandan S, “How Nehru Influenced the Making of Gandhi” (Hindustan Times, August 26, 2014) <https://www.hindustantimes.com/columns/how-nehru-influenced-the-making-of-gandhi/story-Q1qFWGQ8QeYUqpiMrq9rhI.html>