Mahatma Gandhi: Ultimate benchmark for human beings

NS Venkataraman

NS Venkataraman

By NS Venkataraman

CHENNAI, India, 1 October 2018

On 2 October 2018, the 150th birth anniversary celebration of Mahatma Gandhi commences. On his birthday India remembers this great man for all that he did for the country and the world, and for providing leadership of a great ethical and moral standard.

While Mahatma Gandhi had great achievements to his credit, and has millions of admirers around the world, there is no dearth of critics.

Gandhi has been strongly criticized by people for some of his political decisions, and what the critics term as excessive efforts to appease Muslims and keep Jinnah in good humour to prevent the partition of India — even though Mahatma Gandhi could not prevent the partition of India. Even in his own lifetime, Mahatma Gandhi saw huge religious riots in India at the time of partition, when thousands of Hindus and Muslims were massacred, and he could not prevent this. This made many critics say that Mahatma Gandhi’s efforts to advocate non violence as a desirable concept had failed. Several writings of Mahatma Gandhi after India attained freedom reveal that Mahatma Gandhi was sad and disappointed at this turn of events. And ultimately he himself became a victim of religious fanaticism.

All said and done, Mahatma Gandhi was a multi-faceted personality who expressed his thoughts on a variety of issues and practised his thoughts sincerely, setting himself as a role model for others.

With several decades now gone by since his passing, what stands out clearly is the exemplary standards of probity that he maintained in private and public life, with no difference in his inner thoughts and outer actions.

Mahatma Gandhi conclusively showed that it is possible to practice truth as a philosophy and way of life in full measure. With such highest level of commitment to truth, every action of Mahatma Gandhi reflected his glorious standards as an individual.

With great commitment to the concept of truth, Mahatma Gandhi always said that the end does not justify the means to it: The means should justify the ends — which is possible only if one will have total adherence to truth and honesty in spirit and action.

Today, all over the world, dishonesty and double talk seem to have become the order of the day among political leaders at various levels, as well as among individual citizens in different walks of life. Most people seem to be gaining an impression that clever schemes and maneuvering practices are the essential needs to achieve material success and happiness in life, which often call for practices of deceit.

While Mahatma Gandhi and his way of life and philosophy are now admired all over the world, many seem to think that Mahatma Gandhi was a unique and out of ordinary person — that his life style should be admired but cannot be practised. One often hears the remark that if one were to practice Mahatma Gandhi’s concept of truth and probity, it inevitably would result in the sacrifice of comfort and progress.

On Mahatma Gandhi’s 70th birthday, in a fitting tribute, the great German scientist and philosopher Albert Einstein wrote, “Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth.”

It seems to be extremely doubtful, at present and in future, whether world citizens would even attempt to reach the benchmark and standards in personal life and conduct that Mahatma Gandhi set for himself and showed for the world.

Nevertheless, humans do now have a benchmark and standard for life that Mahatma Gandhi’s way of living created. For worthy individuals wherever they are in the world, it should be a desirable goal to reach.

About the author

NS Venkataraman is a chemical engineer as well as a social activist in Chennai, India. He is the founder trustee of Nandini Voice for the Deprived, a Chennai-based not-for-profit organisation serving the cause of the deprived and down-trodden, and working for probity in public life.

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