Mahatma Gandhi was born in 1869 in India. Being lucky to belong to a privileged caste allowed him to access formal education (Easwaran, 2011). He was brought up in a society that greatly valued tolerance, and non-violence to living beings, and vegetarianism. This culture has greatly inspired his love for humanity. Having received education, he spent two decades in South Africa during the rise of Apartheid, being exposed to the evil of racial hatred. Upon his return to India in 1916, he found a similar problem in India, as the country had been invaded by the British. Disappointed by the status of his country, he coined the idea of peaceful civic disobedience as a way of confronting the issue. He encouraged his fellow Indians to resist the colonial rule but in a peaceful manner and the wide acceptance and spread of his ideas earned him the name ‘Mahatma’ or ‘Great Soul’ (Easwaran, 2011). This essay seeks to discuss Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence, his belief in the power of peaceful actions driven by compassion, as well as the approaches used to persuade Indians not to use violence in their resistance to the colonial masters.
The writings and teachings of Gandhi provide a particular point of view regarding the social issues in the day-to -day life since most of his works date back to the colonial era when India was a British colony. The Indians were greatly dissatisfied with this form of government, and thus, the majority of the population pursued the idea of decolonization and independence. The Indians greatly disliked the colonial masters and the new social order imposed by the colonialists, and this hatred accumulated into the revolutionary moods throughout the country. Although Gandhi understood the desire of his people for freedom, however, he never conceived the idea of using violence as a tool for advocating for independence. Although he shared the common striving for freedom, his works call for the utilization of non-violent means, which forms the central concept of his arguments regarding various social issues addressed in his literary work.
The central principle of Gandhi ideology is advocacy for non-violence in the pursuit of solving the numerous disputes that people encounter in their lives. He, therefore, refuses the argument that violence can lead to any meaningful outcome: “That the British colonialists in the Indian nation may try to do what the natives do as opposed to imposing modern civilization unto them".
The Indians at that time faced significant difficulties and misfortunes, living as the slaves of the British colonial masters in their native land. In his works gathered in the book Facing the British in India, Gandhi describes the position and the predicaments that had befallen the Indians (Parel, 2009). He states that people are enslaved and under immense pressure to resist the colonialist force, as they perceive the British as evil. However, he maintains that Indians must refrain from violence and stick to non-violent alternatives, “If India adopted the philosophy of love, and extended its use in the politics, Swaraj/self-rule would come to India from Heaven” (Fischer, n.d).
Gandhi advocates for the concept of non-violence through the argument that the system bears the blame but not the British people. He states that the Indians cannot use violence to oppose Western civilization, and thus, they must change their attitude towards the British. He further states that "who rules" does not matter, but "how they rule" is more significant. Therefore, Gandhi puts no fault on the British people but rather the methods they use to rule: ". "I, therefore, have no problem with the British people in India but I have a problem with how they rule” (Fischer, n.d). He suggests that the Indians negotiate with the colonial masters in a bid to persuade them to govern according to the will and wish of the natives. He urges Indian people not to embrace violence but instead stick to their tradition of non-violence, as this will signify their resistance against the impacts of modernization, which was viewed as the major factor influencing the social changes.
The power of reason is provided as a way through which people can solve conflicts without engaging in violence. The concept presents the means for reinstating human dignity through the avoidance of bloodshed. Violence is regarded as inhumane since humanity implies caring for others and refraining from the use of force against other living creatures. Moreover, the practice of non-violence is described not as an alternative that people should choose at a given time but as a continuous process that should be adopted by the human beings as a lifestyle. It means that this concept should be ingrained within people’s culture and be the basis for making decisions in the society. This idea is reflected in his statement, “I felt that violent alternatives had no remedy for the ills affecting the Indian society and that it’s civilization needed a different and higher weapon for self-protection.” (Fischer, n.d) According to Gandhi’s philosophy, the concept of non-violence appears as something that is normative in the society. While his works mainly touch upon the non-violent approach in the pursuit of freedom from the British colonial rule, his philosophy in much more extensive. The concept is timeless and all-inclusive, and it should not only be applied in the fight for the decolonization of India, but it is an approach to life that should guide every action of an individual due to its universal nature. The concept must be practiced and instilled in the traditions and cultures of people not only in India but also in the world as a whole. This approach is advocated in different religions and philosophies, as well as social movements in various parts of the world, for example, Buddhism and Christianity, as well as in the peaceful fight of Martin Luther King. More and more people start sharing the philosophy, which is becoming a global trend that replaces non-peaceful means of resistance and life, in general.
Gandhi’s works depict the concept of non-violence as having the capability of bringing a meaning to life. His arguments state of the unusefulness of violence in conflict resolution, and thus, he seeks to discourage people from opting for such methods. Non-violence bears a message of hope to the numerous suffering and emarginated people that reason, compassion, and peace shall prevail over war. The concept acts as a light of hope for the people and prompts them to take action in a manner that does not support the application of violence in the pursuit of solutions. The message has been directed to the society which has endured suffering, and whose people’s hearts are filled with vengeance. Gandhi depicts vengeance as a source for more trouble and suffering.
Through advocating for the concept of non-violence, it is possible to create an element of change in people’s attitudes towards life. It remains critical to ensure that people take responsibility for the decisions they make. While they are oppressed and have a feeling of powerlessness, the concept implies that non-violence can give them the power to act. This power is obtained from compassion as opposed to force and is described as having the capacity to overcome the power of the vicious government. According to Gandhi, the respect for other people’s will brings respect from others. As long as individuals might condone revenge as a redress of the wrongs perpetrated towards them, it will not create peace for them. When civil disobedience and strikes are used as ways of fighting the government in a violent way, the reaction of the government in such situations at least results to force being applied to the population. While advising the laborers to go on strikes to have their voices heard and desires addressed, Gandhi urges people to make sure that their strikes do not involve violence. The concept calls the striking employees for upholding their moral values and avoiding corrupt or violent ways. Gandhi states, “Lying is the major cause of violence and a truthful man cannot remain violent for long” (Fischer, n.d). The argument, therefore, means that violence extends beyond the physical confrontations and covers the other forms of wrong actions that can result in further injustice.
The philosophy of non-violence remains closely related to the various religions. Religious dogmas and values are of paramount importance to the believers, and, consequently, people strive to comply with their respective religious beliefs through avoiding violence. The majority of religious do not tolerate aggression, and thus, religion forms a platform for creating an understanding in the minds of people that violence has no power to change the situation for better. Moreover, the use of violence in conflict resolution, in some religious practices, can be perceived as equal to abandoning the faith. This approach is the core aspect of the majority of the word religions, which the spiritual leaders declare at all times. According to Gandhi, “Religions are different avenues that converge at the same point”. He further asks, “What is wrong if we take different roads to the same goal”? These statements portray Gandhi’s strong belief that the values of non-violence are universal and apply to all living beings. His tolerance is reflected in the acceptance of various religious schools of thought. However, he also points out that the society is deeply affected by the system striving for power and control: “All religions bear the truth and they all come from God but they have the attribute of imperfection because they all reach the human kind through crooked human instruments.” (Fischer, n.d)
Another aspect of non-violence means overcoming the racial differences that people have and the realization that human beings represent a single creation of God. All people are one, and thus, it is crucial to keep the racial differences aside. This view of religious and racial differences incorporates the principle of non-violence not only in the political setting but also in religious teachings. It defines the concept as something that has been ingrained in religious teaching and which is continually ignored by corrupt individuals and systems. Therefore, Gandhi presents this concept to urge people to live by the principles of morality and ensure that they do no harm others and the society. Moreover, Gandhi persistently denounces violent ways that are adopted in the pursuit of the resolution of the numerous social conflicts. Throughout his works, the concept has been presented in a manner that seeks to depict its completeness and not just something that will be applied in the fight for independence within one society. It presupposes the use of non-violent alternatives as a normative practice that should be employed at all times. The philosophy applies to different social settings and various scenarios, in which non-violence should be applied to bring about practical solutions to the conflicts.
As evident from the research, the concept fits well into the general argument presented that supports the utilization and the adoption of the philosophy of non-violence in all actions that people undertake. The theory provides an explanation of the benefits that can be obtained through depicting violence as an element that will only generate more violence and suffering. The author gives an example of an ideal society in which social problems must be solved without creating suffering. The war is described as violence, and the participation in armed conflicts creates more devastation to the societies. Therefore, individuals are urged to refrain from utilizing violence in thinking and attitudes. The readings encourage people to put non-violent options before the violent approaches.
Through the continued advocacy for the use of non-violence in seeking solutions, one of the fundamental messages is that of love for other people despite being different. Gandhi, therefore, does not see the need of Indians fighting the British, and he goes further to remark, “We have no right to ruin lives that we are not capable of creating” (Fischer, n.d). The statement, therefore, shows Gandhi's firm belief that the Indians should not harm the British or attack them. It is a basis upon which the concept of non-violence has been born. People have been able to understand and adopt the message due to its simple presentation and the provision of examples that are relevant to the social setting targeted by the author. Because of its inherent truth and universality, it has become an inspiration throughout the history of humankind.
In conclusion, Mahatma Gandhi was an advocate for peaceful resolution of problems, and thus, he encouraged Indians to resist the forces of colonialism peacefully. He states that violence cannot benefit the society and further emphasizes that all religions see peace as the primary value. Therefore, people, irrespective of their race or religious affiliation should adopt peace and non-violence in their daily lives. He also states that the colonial masters are vicious in their nature, but their methods of ruling are wrong, and, the natives should not hate them. He also states that violence would lead to more violence while peace and respect cause respect and peace.