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The Concept of Ahimsa and Satyagraha in Gandhian Philosophy and its relevance in the present day World.

Seminar Paper on:

Mahatma Gandhis historical accounts of Ahimsa.

Session-2011 Registration No:80187512100264

Supervised by Submitted by Mrs. Nava Kumari Devi Asstt. Prof. of Philosophy LOKD College, Dhekiajuli Sonitpur, Assam Dr.Dimbeswar Phukan Associate Prof & HOD, Philosophy, Biswanath College, Sonitpur ,Assam Pin-784176, Tel (M)9435486707

E-mail: m


Mahatma Gandhis historical accounts of Ahimsa.

Mrs. Nava Kumari Devi Asstt. Prof. of Philosophy LOKD College, Dhekiajuli Sonitpur, Assam

Mahatma Gandhi was born at Porbandar on the 2nd October 1869, India, on the west coast of Gujarat, to a rather wealthy family of the Vaishya merchant caste and Vaishnava religious affiliation (worshipping Lord Vishnu). Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of non-violent independence movement in India in the early 20 th century is an important figure in the non-violence movement. In India, Mahatma Gandhi is reverently and lovingly named Bapu (Father) and is officially honored as Father of the Nation ,with his birthday on October 2nd commemorated each year as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday. The United Nations General Assembly on June 15th, 2007 unanimously adopted a resolution declaring October 2 nd here after to be the International Day of Non-violence, in Gandhis memory. Mahatma Gandhis life and thought was a continuing a process of evolution ,an empirical testing and correcting as he translated his thoughts into action through his Experiments with Truth . It has been written in ancient Hindu scriptures that ahimsa , an ethical value, must be insisted on the harmony and unity of thought, word and deed. Mahatma Gandhis historical concept of Ahimsa first of all was influenced by house- maid Rambha ,his parents (Father-Karamchand Gandhi , MotherPutlibai ),Wife Kasturba and ancient Hindu tradition . Mahatma Gandhi wrote in his autobiography My Experiments with Truth that what I failed to get there I obtained from my nurse, an old servant of the family, whose affection for me I still recall. I have said before that there was in me a fear of ghosts and spirits. Rambha, for that was her name, suggested, as a remedy for his fear, the repetition of Ramanama. I

had more faith in her than in her remedy, and so at a tender age I began repeating Ramanama to cure my fear of ghosts and spirits. This was of course short lived, but the good seed sown in childhood was not sown in vain. I think it is due to the seed sown by that good women Rambha that today Ramanama is an infallible remedy for me. Mahatma Gandhis mother Putlibai, a lady of most devout temperament influenced his religious thought. The outstanding impression, says Gandhi, my mother has left on my memory is that of saintliness. She was deeply religious. She would not think of taking her meals without daily prayers. Gandhis mother Putlibai had strong commonsense. Gandhi learnt the Indian maxim that there is nothing higher than truth from his mother. He has also learnt that a state of harmlessness on non- violence is the highest religion and a supreme duty Ahimsa Paramadharma from his mother. Gandhi was influenced by his father Kaba Gandhi. He says that his rich experience of practical affairs stood him in good stead in the solution of the most intricate questions and in managing hundreds of men. Mahatma Gandhi learnt the lesson of nonviolence from his wife, when I tried to bend her to my will. Her determined resistance to my will, on the one hand, and her quiet submission to the suffering my stupidity involved, on the other, ultimately made me ashamed of myself and cured me of my stupidity in thinking that I was born to rule over her and, in the end, she became my teacher in non-violence. The doctrine that was guided my life is not one of inaction but of the highest action. Mahatma Gandhis concept of ahimsa was highly influenced by the Hindu tradition. Gandhi believed in Hindu Philosophy that all life comes from one absolute thing. He says, The chief value of Hinduism lies in holding the actual belief that all life is one i.e., all life coming from one universal source, called it Allah, God or Parameshwara. Though Mahatma Gandhi loved to call himself a Hindu, he did not subscribe to the pernicious and the cruel system of untouchability. Gandhi says that Hinduism has sinned in giving sanction to untouchability. Gandhi goes on to say that the Hindu practice of untouchability degraded us to the extent that we have become

pariahs. So, Gandhi did not believe in the caste system as it prevailed in India. Gandhi did not observe Hindu rituals. He rarely visited temples expect by way of courtesy. His Hinduism was based on the teachings of Upanishad and Gita. Mahatma Gandhi was also influenced by Vaisnava religion because he was brought up in a devout Vaisnavite family. Gandhi is monist who believed that God is one without a second just like Advaita Vedanta describe Brahman as ekam eva advaitm. At the age of twenty years, Gandhi had studied the Bhagavad Gita and since then the Gita became an infallible guide and dictionary of daily reference for him. To Gandhi, the Gita is the Eternal Mother. According to him, the theme of Gita is self-realization. He says: self-realization and its means is the theme of the Gita. Again he affirms, to one who reads the spirit of the Gita, it teaches the secret of non-violence the secret of realizing the self through the physical body. The main teaching of the Gita is the attitude of renunciation of the fruit of action which, according to Gandhi, cannot be cultivated without Ahimsa. On this basis, Gandhi calls the yoga of the Gita as anasakti yoga. In anasakti yoga ,it is clearly states that one who follows the central teaching of the Gita ,he should follow the path of truth and nonviolence . In Gita, such a votary is called sthitaprajna or Trigunatita, one who enjoys a state of blissfulness above all three gunas Rajas, Tamas and Sattva. Gandhi adopted the practice of anasakti and made it as the quality of a satyagrahi. Gandhi introduced satyagraha through the implementation of anasakti of Gita and of the teaching of Jesus Christ. Mahatma Gandhis concept of Ahimsa was also influenced by Tulasidas Ramayanana., Mahatma Gandhi studied Tulasidas Ramanaya and used to say, Ramayana to me is all sufficing. Gandhi has said, Thus, though my views on Ahimsa are a result of my study of most of the faiths of the world, they are now no longer dependent upon the authority of these works. They are a part of my life, and if I suddenly discovered that the religious books read by me bore a different interpretation from (he, one I have learnt to give them), I should still hold to the views of Ahimsa as I

am about to set forth here.

According to Mahatma Gandhi, the purpose of the

Mahabharata is to depict the struggle of man in his eternal ascent and to declare the way of right action. According to this interpretation of the Gita, the outer narrative form merely depicts Arjunas dilemma of duty in order to instruct those caught in the consequences of past actions and commitments .This raises no question of nonviolence. Gandhi considers Arjunas arguments for Pacifism to be valid if they are understood to support the universal moral doctrine of absolute non-violence and Pacifism. According to Mahabharata, Ahimsa is the highest dharma. Ahimsa is the best tapas. Ahimsa is the greatest gift. Ahimsa is the highest self-control. Ahimsa is the highest sacrifice. Ahimsa is the highest friend. Ahimsa is the highest truth. Ahimsa is the highest teaching. Gandhiji had also learnt many things from the Jainism and the Buddhism. In Jainism, the understanding and implementation of ahimsa is more radical, scrupulous, and comprehensive than in any other religion. Non violence is seen as the most essential religious duty for every one (ahimsa parama dharma, a statement often inscribed on Jaina temples). Gandhi in his childhood known some Jaina monks (Jainas were so absolutely non-violent that in order to avoid inadvertently killing a mosquito or a worm they would wear veils over their mouths and not walk outdoors at night). The traditional Buddhist understanding of non- violence is not as rigid as the Jaina one, but like the Jainas, Buddhists have always condemned the killing of all living beings. In most Buddhist traditions vegetarianism is not mandatory. Monks and lay persons may eat meat and fish on condition that the animal was not killed specifically for them. The principle of vegetarian path of Gandhiji was influenced by these two religions. In his childhood, Mahatma Gandhi was highly motivated by the book Shravana Pitribhakti (a book of Shravanas devotion to his parents) and a play named Harishchandra( a play of king Harischandra). They captivated his gentle spirit.