Integrating Gandhian Principles in G20 Dialogues

MyGov Team
28 Mar 2023

I do admit that the destructive energy is there, but it is evanescent, always futile before the creative, which is permanent. If the destructive one had the upper hand all sacred ties — love between parents and child, brother and sister, master and disciple, ruler and ruled — would be snapped. — Mahatma Gandhi

It is significant that India has assumed Presidency of G20 in the year when we will be paying tributes to Mahatma Gandhi on the 75th anniversary of his martyrdom. With conflicts at every level whether at individual level, family level, societal level, intra-state level and finally at the global level- especially the Russia-Ukraine war engulfing our ecosystems, Mahatma Gandhi’s ahimsa has to be a significant pillar of what we think and what we do. The essence of nonviolence is further underlined the theme of India’s G20 Presidency, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam or One Earth -One Family- One Future. The verse from the Mahopanishad, Chapter 6, verse 71–72 reflects the spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbaka: Ayam bandhurayam neti ganana laghuchetasam udaracharitanam tu vasudhaiva kutumbakam (It means: “Only small men discriminate saying: One is a relative; the other is a stranger. For those who live magnanimously the entire world constitutes but a family.”) To make the whole world a family, nonviolence is a powerful glue and force. It not only binds together other human beings, but also nature and all other living beings; it also offers solutions to many personal, social and global problems.

Nonviolence has been part of Indian tradition and culture. According to Upanisadic interpretations, the idea of nonviolence was essentially based on the doctrine of the unity and oneness of all life. The fundamental tenets of Jainism are ahimsa. For instance in Acarangasutras, it is said that ahimsa is pure and eternal dharma. In this tradition, nonviolence is not restricted to human beings but in in fact embraces the whole universe. Nonviolence is the first principle of higher life and all miseries arise from violence. It also says nonviolence is the crux of wisdom and not to kill or destroy is the good deed par excellence. Meanwhile Buddhism preaches nonviolence as a doctrine of supreme importance. In the context of different Buddhist texts, we can say that the Buddha’s teachings of nonviolence can be said to rest on three cardinal premises- i) emancipation can be only personal and individual; ii) that the feeling of compassion is the source of spiritual transcendence which would mean participation in the sufferings of others; iii) any active interest even in ethical actions would lead to formation of the will to live. While underscoring the essence of interdependence, Buddhism lays great emphasis on the sense of universal sympathy and treats nonviolence as composite ethics consisting of moral restraint, right behavior, compassion and friendliness.

Further in the epics, for instance, in the Mahabharata, nonviolence is considered to be the supreme ingredient of dharma. This is reflected in this verse from Adi Parva, “ahimsā paramo dharmah sarvaprāmabhrth smrtah tasmāt prānabhrtah sarvān na himsyād brāhmanah kvacit”

In modern times it is Mahatma Gandhi who should be credited to take forward this incredible tradition of nonviolence to the world. His ideas and philosophy of nonviolence has inspired a large number of people across the world and it is all encompassing. According to Gandhi, “Ahimsa is not the crude thing it has been made to appear. Not to hurt any living thing is no doubt a part of ahimsa. But it is its least expression. The principle of ahimsa is not to hurt by evil thought, by undue haste, by lying, by hatred, by wishing ill of anybody. It is also violated by holding on to what the world needs. (Truth is God)

Gandhi’s all-encompassing idea of nonviolence is further underscored by this: In its negative form, it means not injuring any living being, whether by body or mind. I may not therefore hurt the person of any wrong-doer, or bear any ill will to him and so cause him mental suffering. (…) In its positive form, ahimsa means the largest love, the greatest charity. If I am a follower of ahimsa, I must love my enemy. I must apply the same rule to the wrong-doer who is my enemy or a stranger to me, as I would to my wrong-doing father or son.” (From Yeravda Mandir)

The Mahatma pointed out that nonviolence was the most active soul-force. He said: Non-violence is an active force of the highest order. It is soul-force or the power of Godhead within us. Imperfect man cannot grasp the whole of that essence — he would not be able to bear its full blaze, but even an infinitesimal fraction of it, when it becomes active within us, can work wonders. The sun in the heavens fills the whole universe with its life-giving warmth. But if one went too near it, it would consume him to ashes. Even so, it is with Godhead. We become Godlike to the extent we realize non-violence, but we can never become wholly God. Non-violence is like radium in its action. An infinitesimal quantity of it embedded in a malignant growth, acts continuously, silently and ceaselessly till it has transformed the whole mass of the diseased tissue into a healthy one. Similarly, even a little of true non-violence acts in a silent, subtle, unseen way and leavens the whole society. (Harijan, 12–11-’38)

Why propagation and nurturing the ideals of nonviolence is essential for global peace?

Right from promoting inner peace, to peace in families and societies, the central philosophy to be promoted is nonviolence. It should be as Correta King said, “Nonviolence is a permanent attitude we bring to the breakfast table and bring to bed at night.”

A few years back, a group of young volunteers of The Peace Gong developed the idea of nonviolent footprints to self-reflect and self-introspect on the impact they are able to make by nurturing nonviolence. The volunteers pointed out the measure of nonviolent action in one’s daily lives will have to be an individual effort. It cannot be mechanical but has to evolve from within. It cannot be measured by others. In this regard, Mahatma Gandhi had pointed out, “It is not for us to sit in judgment over anyone, so long as we notice a single fault in ourselves and wish our friends not to forsake us in spite of such fault. Being myself full of blemishes, and therefore in need of charity of fellow beings, I have learnt not to judge anyone harshly, and to make allowance for defects that I might detect”. (Harijan, 11–3–1939, p. 47)

The idea of nonviolent footprints has to go beyond just individual self-reflections to family, institutional and societal level. Next, the idea of nonviolence should promote the concept of interdependence; it is significant in the backdrop of ecological threats and concerns of climate change. All attempts have to be made to intertwine the ideals of nonviolence in policies and practices so that issues of structural violence can be addressed. For instance, constructive work has to be promoted in the right spirit which is essentially a principle of structural nonviolence. A nonviolent economy can address issues of human dignity, unequal distribution of resources and unsustainability.

As Gandhi had said, nonviolence is a dynamic and all-encompassing compassing concept, it is an apt occasion to promote nonviolence in all its dimensions during India’s G-20 Presidency so as to promote real peace and mutual coexistence in the world.

Writer: Dr. Vedabhyas Kundu, Programme Officer, Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti

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