Gandhi's Invincible Weapon

Published: 20.01.2008
Updated: 12.03.2009


Gandhi's Invincible Weapon

Deprivation as part of poverty is very painful and therefore it can never be justified. Nor can affluence be acceptable since inherent in it is attachment-yet another painful experience. A third alternative will have to be found and that is what Anekant (non-absolutism) accepts. None will object to call poverty a curse. Likewise everyone seems to agree that affluence is a blessing. Every proposition, statement or principle is relative. This is the high watermark of anekantvad (non-absolutism). From a relative point of view it can be conceded that poverty is a curse. Food, housing, clothing and medicine are essential for life and these essential needs cannot be fulfilled when one is poor. From this point of view poverty can be said to be a curse. Again an affluent person can have all things useful for living and from this point of view it can be said that affluence is a blessing. Every thing has two sides and on the basis of the above factor poverty is a blessing and affluence is a curse. A socialist can never accept the view that poverty is a blessing. Ordinarily it does not behove even me to call poverty a blessing but truth cannot be viewed from a single angle. The seeds of sensitivity and compassion sprout only in the soil of poverty. Affluence, on the other hand, provides a barren soil for them. Profit invariably results in greed and attachment, and greed results in cruelty.

I look upon poverty as a mentality. Therefore, it will be appropriate to view affluence also as a mentality. Not getting enough to eat creates a state of deprivation. It is from all points of view improper. One who lives below the line of poverty leads a life of deprivation. Even those who suffer from deprivation are deprived of the mentality of poverty. On the other hand one can clearly see in their behaviour qualities of sublimity and morality. They are not found in the mentality of affluence or if at all in a very small measure. From this point of view it will not be improper to call poverty a blessing and affluence a curse. Behind the above principle there is no attempt to advocate the perpetration of poverty. All that is intended to do is to highlight the need for studying the collateral mentality of poverty. We should direct research into this area. One would wonder how a poor person living an ordinary life can have faith in morality and likewise how an affluent person can be far removed from morality.

Sustaining poverty cannot be an acceptable alternative because the pain of deprivation is inherent in poverty. The same applies to affluence because it breeds the discomfort of attachment and spiritual apathy. Hence a third alternative will have to be discovered and this is what Anekant does. The eternal is one alternative and the ephemeral is another. The third one is eternal cum ephemeral. Anekant accepts the third alternative. In a similar manner the two alternatives of affluence and poverty are unacceptable. What is acceptable is affluence cum poverty. The third one is not devoid of the essential means of sustaining life. And at the same time it is free from an attachment to wealth. Thus the third alternative comprises the presence of essential means and the absence of attachment. In order to build a proper economic and social order we need to train people of the third type. They alone can be agents of new or non-violent social order. Many attempts have been made in this direction in the past. They concentrated on changing the social system without changing the inner mentality of those responsible for the change. Exclusive attention to the change of mentality is also one-sided effort. But Anekant believes in simultaneous change of both of them. This simultaneity is the quintessence of Anekant. It, at once, accepts both the alternatives - their togetherness. By so doing a new direction can emerge. Reforms in the area of labour, self-reliance, indigenous economic order, polity, agriculture, industry and similar physical resources cannot by themselves bring about the new order without first developing the awareness of the dignity of labour and self-reliance and very little effort is being made in the direction of creating such awareness. That is why the desired results are not forthcoming. An activity uninformed by awareness, according to Bhagwan Mahavira is merely dravya kriya (sheer materialistic activities). The experiments made by Mahatma Gandhi were based on inner transformation of the individual psyche. He never gave any importance to experiments devoid of awareness. The spinning wheel cannot outdo machines by itself unless it is backed by an accompanying awareness. It applies to all products like khadi and village industries. The viewpoint relating to satyagrah (passive political resistance) has now disappeared. Only the word survives. That is why it holds no attraction for anyone today. A comment by Vinoba Bhave in this regard is quite important. He remarked, "I confess the Gita has profoundly influenced me. Next to it no one else except Mahavira has had a greater impact on me, the reason being that Mahavir's injunction is perfectly acceptable to me. The injunction is that everyone should become a satyagrahi (practiser of passive political resistance). Today everyone claims to be a satyagrahi. Mahatma Gandhi presented me also as an individual satyagrahi but I knew that I was not a satyagrahi but a satya grahi (one who is wedded to truth). Everyman is endowed with a fraction of truth and it is that which makes his life worthwhile. Therefore, the fraction of truth existing in all religions, sects and individuals must be imbibed. We should all become satya grahi (wedded to truth). This precept of Mahavir has had the greatest impact on me next to that of the Gita. But from a deeper point of view the two do not appear dissimilar to me. "

The SAARC summit adopted a resolution aiming at complete eradication of poverty in a period of seven years. Those holding political powers resolve many things but no such resolution can ever succeed without an active cooperation of the people. Official resolutions are published but no effort is made to create a parallel awareness among the people. As a result the resolutions and the dreams remain unrealised. We should think more about the intrinsic connection between an activity and its awareness. The secret of Mahatma Gandhi's success lies in integrating awareness with the broomstick and the spinning wheel. That made both the broomstick and the spinning wheel his invincible weapon. The Bharat of Gandhi's dreams could not take a concrete shape simply because people's awareness could not become an integral part of those dreams. Gandhi had said, "I shall try to create a Bharat in which the poorest of the poor would also take pride in their own country and would feel that they too had something to contribute to it. I shall strive for the creation of a Bharat in which there will be no distinctions of the rich and the poor and of various sects. In such a Bharat there will be no place for alcoholic drinks and other intoxicating drugs. Women will have equal rights with men. We will have peaceful relations with the rest of the world, which means neither we will exploit others nor will we allow others to exploit us. All those interests which do not impinge upon the rights of others whether Indians or foreigners shall be respected. This will be the Bharat of my dreams. Anything less than that will not satisfy me."

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anekant
  2. Anekantvad
  3. Bhagwan Mahavira
  4. Cooperation
  5. Dravya
  6. Gita
  7. Greed
  8. Kriya
  9. Mahatma
  10. Mahatma Gandhi
  11. Mahavir
  12. Non-absolutism
  13. Pride
  14. Satya
  15. TerapanthInfo
  16. Vinoba Bhave
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