Mahatma Gandhi was a complex, many-sided personality. He was a religious saint, a politician, a patriot and nationalist, and economist, and a great freedom fighter, all in one. He was also one of the most profound and original thinkers that the modern age has produced. He has expressed his views practically on every sphere of life, and invariable what he has said is of far reaching significance even today after 50 years of his death.
Gandhiji stood for religious values in a materialistic age; he stood for renunciation and sacrifice in a world crazy for worldly wealth, power and pelf. Truth and non-violence were his religion. He saw God as truth; truth for him was the very basis and centre of the universe. Non-violence he considered to be the highest law, “the law of our species, as violence is the law of the brute”. He was never tired of emphasizing that non-violence is only for the brave; the cowards can never be non-violent.
His message was the message of love;”love thine enemy as thyself”. He loved all without distinction of caste, creed, religion or nationality. This makes him one with such religious thinkers as Buddha, Mahavir and Lord Christ and he is as reveling today as these great teachers of mankind who lived and taught thousands of years ago. Indeed, the world can be saved from total destruction only if it heeds his teachings of love and non-violence.
Gandhi was against the separation of morality and politics. He emphasized the importance of right means. He taught that only right means can lead to right ends. Our ends can be good only if we have used right means i.e. moral means to achieve them. He did not believe in the theory that ends justify the means; for him it was the means that justified the end. If Indians wanted freedom from the British rule, they must use only the right means to achieve their goal. The British rule, they must use only the right means to achieve their goal. They must wage a non-violent struggle to free themselves from the foreign rule. The British rule was an evil, and so they must non-cooperate with it. But at the same time they must hate only the evil and not the evil-doer. They must not hate the Englishmen. Rather they must love them and try to win them over through their love. In this way, he tried to bring religion and politics closer together. He moralized political weapon, by winning freedom for his country he showed that the weapon of non-violence knows no defeat. This is his greatest contribution to political theory. His message holds good even to-day.
Gandhiji gave due thought to economic problems that faced the country and suggested his own solution. He saw that the Indian masses were groaning under the crushing heels of poverty. They could not even enjoy two square meals a day. Their poverty was owing to their exploitation by the British imperialists. Spinning of the charkha and swadeshi were Gandhi’s ways to be self-dependent. They must lead a simple life. They must spin and weave their cloth, and shun the use of foreign cloth. They must wear only swadeshi. His economics was the economics of the charkha. This is not only given employment to the Indian farmer who is under-employed during the greater part of the year, but would also strike at the very roots of the British rule in India. If cloth manufactured in the mills of Lancashire found no market in India, if India was no longer economically worthwhile for the British, they would leave the country by themselves. Hence he emphasis on the boycott of foreign goods.
Gandhiji made a forceful plea for social justice for all. British rule was unjust, and justice demanded that the British should free the country. But if Indians wanted that justice should be done to them, they should first themselves do justice to their own brethren. He advised the rich to voluntarily give a part of their wealth to the poor. He thus taught them the lesson of renunciation. To the upper caste Hindus his advice was that they should do justice to a section of their own brethren whom they had enslaved and compelled to live like animals. The eradication of untouchability was the very corner-stone of his programmed of social reform. He also advocated the emancipation of women and equality of treatment for them. Since god is one, different religions are so many different ways leading to him. He stressed the oneness of all religions. This made him a staunch advocate of Hindu-Muslim unity. The world must follow the path shown by him.
Gandhiji sought to awaken the conscience of man. His appeal was to the heart and soul of mankind. In the age of the atom bomb, he had the courage to stand up for “Atma bal”. The only salvation for the world lies in heeding his message and following in his footsteps.