The Relevance Of Gandhi-2
Jawaharlal Nehru once called Mahatma Gandhi ?the great peasant?. He had a peasant?s limitations. He, like Leo Tolstoy, appreciated nature more than art. The term ?great peasant? must be regarded as a compliment, for after all more than 80 per cent of the people of India live in the villages. Gandhiji knew that industrialization by itself would not cure their ills. Sometimes he is made out as an uncompromising opponent of machinery. ?How can I be against machinery when I know that even this body is a delicate piece of machinery??, he said. ?The spinning wheel is a machine; the little tooth pick is a machine. What I object to is the craze for machinery, not machinery as such.?
?Today,? he said, ?machinery merely helps a few to ride on the backs of the poor.? And he fully echoed Leo Tolstoy?s call to the rich: ?Get off the backs of the poor.
Gandhiji judged all problems with reference to the plight of the hapless millions living in villages. ?I cannot own a dozen houses and go about in a motor car and preach socialism. I must descend to the level of the poorest of the poor?. And therefore he adopted the loin cloth as a grand gesture of identification with the people.
Gandhiji had a mind which was free from dogma. He was a great apostle of nonviolence, and yet he said: ?Between violence and abject surrender I would prefer the former.? He deplored the fact that the Revolution of 1917 was attended with so much violence and yet he said that ?a Revolution sanctified by the sacrifices of such pure spirits as Lenin cannot go in vain?.
Gandhiji?s permanent relevance lies not only in what he said and did but in what he was. Jawaharlal Nehru was once asked whether in moments of crisis, he would ask himself how Gandhiji would have reacted to it. He replied: ?No. I would like of Gandhiji and recapture his balance and composure and come to my own conclusion.?
That is what Buddha, the greatest Indian of all ages, advised men to do. ?Do not believe,? said Gautama Buddha, ?in what you have heard; do not believe in tradition simply because it has been handed down from generation to generation; do not believe in any thing because it is rumoured and spoken of by many; do not believe merely on the authority of your elders and teachers. After observation and analysis, when it agrees with reason and is conducive to the good of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.? Gandhiji?s relevance for all time consists in the fact that he was a man who, after observation and analysis, adopted certain principles after making sure that they agreed with reason and were conducive to the general good and then lived up to them, even to the extent of laying down his life for them. Therein lies Gandhiji?s relevance to India and the world.