Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the great spiritual and political leader, father of the Indian Independence movement was man who preached and practiced non-violence, and inspired millions around the world — including America’s own apostle of non-violence, Martin Luther King. Although one may not typically think of Gandhi as a philosopher, he was, in fact, a profound philosophical thinker. He wasn’t an academic philosopher but he wrote a lot of what could be called philosophy. But he himself confesses in his autobiography “My Experiments with Truth” that non-violence or ‘ahimsa’ was not his inborn virtue.
He simply states: “In the journey searching for Truth I find ahimsa. I have only retrieved it, never discovered a new.” Actually truth and ahimsa are closely integrated with his philosophy of life. He used to believe that ahimsa lies within the truth and similarly truth is in ahimsa. Once he thought that God is truth but later he observed that truth is God. He studied Bhagwad Gita, the Holy Quran and the bible. ‘I see the same God in Gita whom I see in the Bible or whom I want to see in the Quran’. According to him, the best religion of the world is one which contains the best elements of all the creeds of the world.
For Gandhi, truth is the relative truth of truthfulness in word & deed, and the absolute truth – the Ultimate Reality. This ultimate truth is God (as God is also Truth) and morality – the moral laws and code – its basis. Ahimsa, far from meaning mere peacefulness or the absence of overt violence, is understood by Gandhi to denote active love – the pole opposite of violence, or “Himsa”, in every sense. The ultimate station Gandhi assigns nonviolence stems from two main points.
First, if according to the Divine Reality all life is one, then all violence committed towards another is violence towards oneself, towards the collective, whole self, and thus “self”-destructive and counter to the universal law of life, which is love.
Second, Gandhi believed that ahimsa is the most powerful force in existence. Had himsa been superior to ahimsa, humankind would long ago have succeeded in destroying itself. The human race certainly could not have progressed as far as it has, even if universal justice remains far off the horizon.
From both viewpoints, nonviolence or love is regarded as the highest law of humankind.