For Global Peace with Social Justice in a Sustainable Environment
Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav
Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India
Contact No. – 09404955338, 09415777229
Indian Civilization and Mahatma Gandhi
Indian civilization was one of the best civilizations in the world. Mahatma Gandhi knew it very well. He read a lot of books. He had deeply knowledge in this subject. So he told to Indian men and women always about it. Mahatma Gandhi described, “Nobody mistakes them for ancient civilization. They remain in spite of it. Attempts have always been made and will be made to remove them. We may utilize the new spirit that is born in us for purging ourselves of these evils. But what I have described to you as emblems of modern civilization are accepted as such by its votaries. The Indian civilization, as described by me, has been so described by its votaries. In no part of the world, and under no civilization, have all men attained perfection. The tendency of the Indian civilization is to elevate the moral being that of the Western civilization is to propagate immorality. The latter is godless; the former is based on a belief in God. So understanding and so believing, it behoves every lover of India to cling to the old Indian civilization even as a child clings to the mother’s breast.”1
Mahatma Gandhi described, “It is only those Indians who are imbued with real love who will be able to speak to the English in the above strain without being frightened, and only those can be said to be so imbued who conscientiously believe that Indian civilization is the best and that the European is a nine days’ wonder. Such ephemeral civilizations have often come and gone and will continue to do so. Those only can be considered to be so imbued who, having experienced the force of the soul within them, will not cower before brute-force, and will not, on any account, desire to use brute-force. Those only can be considered to have been so imbued who are intensely dissatisfied with the present pitiable condition, having already drunk the cup of poison.”2
Mahatma Gandhi described, “The pandemonium that is going on in Europe shows that modern civilization represents forces of evil and darkness, whereas the ancient, i. e., Indian, civilization represents in its essence the divine force. Modern civilization is chiefly materialistic, as ours is chiefly spiritual. Modern civilization occupies self in the investigation of the laws of matter, and employs human ingenuity in inventing of discovering means of production and weapons of destruction; ours is chiefly occupied in exploring spiritual laws. Our shastras lay down unequivocally that a proper observance of truth, chastity, scrupulous regard for all life, abstention from coveting others’ possessions and refusal to hoard anything but what is necessary for our daily wants is indispensable for a right life; that without it a knowledge of the divine element is an impossibility. Our civilization tells us with daring certainty that a proper and perfect cultivation of the quality of ahimsa which, in its active form means purest love and pity brings the whole world to our feet. The author of this discovery gives a wealth of illustration which carries conviction with it.”3
Mahatma Gandhi described, “We often think that changes of the kind that take place in Europe will also occur in India; that when some big transformation comes about, people who know beforehand how to prepare themselves for it win through and those who fail to take account of this are destroyed; that mere movement is progress and that our advancement lies in it. We think that we shall be able to progress through the great discoveries that have been made in the continent of Europe. But this is an illusion. We are inhabitants of a country which has so long survived with its own civilization. Many a civilization of Europe is destroyed, but India, our country, survives as a witness to its own civilization. All scholars agree in testifying that the civilization of India is the same today as it was thousands of years ago. But, now, there is reason to suspect that we no longer have faith in our civilization. Every morning we do our worship and prayer, recite the verses composed by our forbears, but we do not understand their significance.
Our faith is turning in another direction. So long as the world goes on, the war between the Pandava and the Kauravas will also continue. The books of almost all the religions say that the war between the gods and Satan goes on forever. The question is how we are to make our preparations. I have come here to tell you that you should have faith in your civilization and keep to it steadfastly. If you do this, India will one day hold sway over the entire world. Our leaders say that, in order to fight the West, we have to adopt the ways of the West. But please rest assured that it will mean the end of Indian civilization. India’s face is turned away from your modern trend; that India you do not know. I have travelled much and so come to know the mind of India and I have discovered that it has preserved its faith in its ancient civilization. The swaraj of which we hear will not be achieved the way we are working for it. The Congress-League Scheme, or any other scheme which is even better, will not get us swaraj. We shall get swaraj through the way in which we live our lives. It cannot be had for the asking. We can never gain it through copying Europe. That European civilization is Satanic we see for ourselves. An obvious proof of this is the fierce war that is going on at present.
It is so terrible that the Mahabharata War was nothing in comparison. This should be a warning to us and we should remember that our sages have given us the immutable and inviolate principles that our conduct should be godly and that it should be rooted in dharma. We should follow these principles alone. So long as we do not follow dharma, our wish will not be fulfilled, notwithstanding all the grandiose schemes we may devise. Even if Mr. Montagu offers us swaraj today we can in no way benefit from that swaraj. We must make use of the legacy left us by our rishis and munis. The whole world knows that the tapasya that was practiced in ancient India is found nowhere else. Even if we want an empire for India, we can get it through no other method but that of self 378 disciplines. We can be certain that once the spirit of discipline comes to pervade our lives, we shall be able to get anything we may want. Truth and non-violence are our goal. Non-violence is the supreme dharma; there is no discovery of greater import than this. So long as we engage in mundane actions, so long as soul and body are together, some violence will continue to occur through our agency. But we must renounce at least the violence that it is possible for us to renounce.
We should understand that the less violence a religion permits, the more is the truth contained in it. If we can ensure the deliverance of India, it is only through truth and non-violence. Lord Willington, the Governor of Bombay, has said that he feels greatly disappointed when he meets Indians for they do not express what is in their minds but only what would be agreeable to him, so that he never knows the real position. Many people have this habit of hiding their own sentiments while in the presence of an important person and suiting their talk to his pleasure. They do not realize how cruelly they deceive themselves and harm the truth. One must say what one feels. It is impertinence to go against one’s reason. One must not hesitate the least to tell what one feels to anyone, be he a Minister of the Government or even a more exalted person. Deal with all with truth and non-violence. Love is a rare herb that makes a friend even of a sworn enemy and this herb grows out of non-violence. What in a dormant state is non-violence becomes love in the waking state. Love destroys ill will.
We should love all whether Englishmen or Muslims. No doubt, we should protect the cow. But we cannot do so by fighting with Muslims. We cannot save the cow by killing Muslims. We should act only through love; thus alone shall we succeed. So long as we do not have unshakeable faith in truth, love and non-violence, we can make no progress. If we give up these and imitate European civilization, we shall be doomed. I pray to Suryanarayan1 that India may not turn away from her civilization. Be fearless. So long as you live under various kinds of fears, you can never progress, you can never succeed. Please do not forget our ancient civilization. Never, never give up truth and love. Treat all enemies and friends with love. If you wish to make Hindi the national language, you can do so in a short time through the principles of truth and non-violence.”4
Mahatma Gandhi described, “We have our sisters in the Punjab. Those ladies who believe that Nadiad and Gujarat are not the whole country that our country is India and so the Punjab, too, is our land, for them the Punjab is their land. There, they spin and weave with their own hands and wear the clothes so made. This was formerly the practice all over India. Even women in big wealthy families used to spin. People of every caste did so. Our people, the elders among them, discovered that, if they would clothe the millions in the country, they should learn to make cotton into yarn. We cannot go without food, and so women should know cooking; this is so everywhere on the earth. We cannot go without clothes and everyone should know weaving. This was the way Indian civilization was built. The elders in the country did not think that they would import cloth from abroad and use it here. A country which does so will go to ruin.”5
Mahatma Gandhi described, “Indian civilization is so liberal that it is not considered the least indecent if anyone wears, as I do, a very short loin-cloth. In our country, we do not judge a man by his dress. The loin-cloth would not, however, be looked on with favour in other countries. If I had to go to a foreign land, I would by all means put away my loin-cloth in a trunk. In foreign countries, it is necessary to cover the legs up to the knee. ‘Do in Rome as the Romans do’ is no idle saying. Everyone would consider us guilty of lack of consideration if we unnecessarily do something that offends the susceptibility of people in foreign lands. I would regard such conduct as a form of violence. There is certainly violence in showing no consideration for others.”6
Mahatma Gandhi described, “A critic has fallen foul of my remark made before the meeting of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce at Delhi that the Indian civilization must not be allowed to be wiped out by the inroads from the West. The critic has confused Indian civilization with the loin-cloth and then condemned it. Here then there is no question of loin-cloth civilization. The adoption of the loin-cloth was for me a sheer necessity. But in so far as the loin-cloth also spells simplicity let it represent Indian civilization. It is a mingling of the cultures represented by the different faiths and influenced by the geographic and other environment in which the cultures have met. Thus Islamic culture is not the same in Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and India but it is itself influenced by the conditions of the respective countries. Indian culture is therefore Indian. It is neither Hindu, Islamic nor any other, wholly. It is a fusion of all and essentially Eastern. I had in mind that culture. And every one who called himself or herself an Indian is bound to treasure that culture, be its trustee and resist any attack upon it.”7
Mahatma Gandhi described, “The true Indian civilization is in the Indian villages. The modern city civilization you find in Europe and America, and in a handful of our cities which are copies of the Western cities and which were built for the foreigner, and by him. But they cannot last. It is only the handicraft civilization that will endure and stand the test of time. But it can do so only if we can correlate the intellect with the hand. The late Madhusudan Das used to say that our peasants and workers had, by reason of working with bullocks, become like bullocks; and he was right. We have to lift them from the estate of the brute to the estate of man, and that we can do only by correlating the intellect with the hand. Not until they learn to work intelligently and make something new every day, not until they are taught to know the joy of work, can we raise them from their low estate.”8
Mahatma Gandhi described, “I learnt one new fact from you, namely, that Gujarat is the only linguistic region now left without a regional university. I must admit that this fact weakens my case. Even so, I do wish that this last regional university to be established would help in the progress of Indian civilization, which means the civilization of the country’s villages. You may, if you wish, describe this desire as a form of greed or ignorant attachment on my part.”9 On this way we can say that Mahatma Gandhi was very much influenced by Indian civilization.