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Mahatma Gandhi And Peace Education : An Analysis
- Dr. Ravindra Kumar*
Gandhism, in quite simple and clear words, is an amalgam of Mahatma Gandhi’s views and practices. In other words, it consists of the ideas which Mahatma Gandhi put before the world, and side by side, to the maximum possible extent, treated his individual life in accordance with these ideas. Those who hold merely his theory to be the Gandhism, they are not correct, because simply his theory cannot be accepted as Gandhism.
Gandhism revolves around ahimsa-non-violence1, which is the most ancient, perpetual, individual as well as social, all timely and welfaristic value; it is an active force, connected with God and, thus, stays to be true, and it is a dharma in grandeur.2 Along with this, non-violence is permanently present in human nature, and it is an essential condition for existence, the basis for development and the achievement of the goal.
Now, what is the goal? From both, the spiritual and social, point of view, it is peace. Peace is a purpose behind the creation3 for all most all, whether atheists or theists. And it is because of this, emphasis has been laid on the continuing awakening and adoption of non-violence, individually and collectively in our day-to-day practices.
Not only by Tirthankara Mahavira, in whom manifestation of ahimsa-the non-violence took place in the best possible manner4, or the Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi5, but also by other apostles of peace, philosophers and thinkers of the East and the West made efforts for the construction of a culture accepting non-violence to be the fundamental point so that the existence of mankind is assured, the path of development is smoothened and the ultimate goal is well within sight and approach. There is no let-up in these endeavours; and this process shall continue with the same gusto in future as well.
History of mankind which is very old, running into millions of years and divided in different ages, proves the fact, time and again, that among all other beings only man has the quality of intellect and creativity. And it is due this that he has been able to pass through the process of leaning by doing, or in other words, especially from Gandhian point of view, the real education, which played a very vital role and made a sizeable contribution in awakening of non-violence and its application in daily practices, whatsoever method may have been adopted with the changed times. It was necessary from the point of view of those who define education as “Sa Vidyaya Vimuktey.”6
As the whole world knows, in this very chain, in the 20eth century, Mahatma Gandhi made a momentous contribution showing a wonderful, simple and justifiable way for awaking and practicing of non-violence in the routine chores of life. When I say the above way of Mahatma Gandhi to be wonderful, simple and justifiable, it is because Mahatma Gandhi, by establishing co-ordination and synthesis between all concepts of the East and the West, old and new, makes non-violence well worthy to be grasped by all. Everyone can, more or less, find non-violence of his imagination in Gandhi’s principle pertaining to it, and also in his practices, and it is only the great characteristic of his non-violence and due to this it is unique as also of special recognition.
To make non-violence the basis of maximum day-to-day practices of man, Mahatma Gandhi, right from the beginning considered it to be an indivisible, important and essential part of education. Development of morality and ethics in a man since his childhood, by imparting moral and ethical education, right from his primary studies, is the most important step in this regard; as it is the first of the four pillars7of that educational plan which I have tried to propose and is necessary for all round-development of personality in general and to proceed on the way to peace in particular. Also it is one of the two aspects8 of that unique and refined approach of Mahatma Gandhi, pertaining to value education, which provides us with a new dimension of development in the matter.
And that’s why an education system that lack these two-morality and ethics- cannot be termed as good and complete in its term and objective. The reason behind such a thought is that without morality and without ethics, no student, or in later stage a man, in a real sense, can be considered to be healthy in both, the mental and physical, terms, because for it, self-control and good character is essential. A person who is not a moralist, and who does not differentiate between rights and wrong, cannot rise to the essential level of true student, and who does not rise to this level, he surely cannot contribute towards the development of the culture of peace.
In fact, for construction of a culture of peace the attainment of spiritual growth, that has been described by Mahatma Gandhi as an essential part of education, can be gained only through morality and ethics. Seeing it through another viewpoint also proves the same thing, because when we consider education as a means of attaining salvation and also as a support on the pathway to complete peace, the liberation, we cannot differentiate it from spiritualism. And it is for this reason that Gandhism also laid down some rules for students so as to ensure that morality and righteousness always be considered as an essential and undifferentiable part of their education, and they gain in terms of knowledge and spirituality. In this regard he clearly mentioned that, on the one hand, where students should gain education under the strict regimen of high morals-self-control and right thinking; on the other they should also be expected to provide service to the society in general that includes their respect toward mother, father, teachers, and others, adoration towards younger, and following of social traditions and constant awareness towards their duties and responsibilities.
The purpose behind Mahatma Gandhi’s advocacy of the introduction of religious studies in education can also be seen in his intention to strengthen morality and ethics in students. This kind of education brings the values of forbearance, tolerance, and reverence in one’s character. And, in tern, these values are supplementary to and within the domain of great value of ahimsa-the non-violence. In this very context, explaining the importance and need of religious education, Mahatma Gandhi even went to the extent in one of the issues of Young India:
“A curriculum of religious instructions should include a study of the tenets of faiths other than one’s own. For this purpose the students should be trained to cultivate the habit of understanding and appreciating the doctrine of various great religions of the world in a spirit of reverence and broad minded tolerance.”9
Although to make it sure that moral and ethical education is imparted to students, and later it has permanent place in men, Mahatma Gandhi fixed responsibility of each and every concerned individual, whether parents, teachers, leaders of society, student or a man himself, but he especially called upon all teachers to impart proper knowledge of morality and ethics to students at the primary, secondary and higher level of education.
In this regard suggesting some guidelines for teachers, he said that it is the duty of teachers to develop high morals and strong character of their students. If teachers fail to do so, it means that they depart from their social and national responsibility and, as such, they are also insincere towards their noble profession. He said that a teacher should lay an example, to be followed, before society and students. This can only be done when he himself leads his life with high standards of morality and strong character. An ideal teacher should be free from any addiction. He needs to be polite and should set an ideal example of simple living and high thinking. He should also remember that wasting time is a sin; therefore, he should be aware of his duties towards students and society. Moreover, he should have a good reputation in the society from moral and ethical point of view.
Along with teachers he called upon students and said that it would be their foremost duty to make it certain that moral and ethical knowledge continues to be the integral part of education process. By doing so, they can contribute to the development of value education that is essential for building of an ideal peaceful and prosperous society. Simultaneously, he equally emphasized on its continuation after finishing formal education, and called upon each and every one to acknowledge it till the last breath of life.
The other aspect of Gandhian approach relating to value education is also important for construction of a sustainable culture of peace. This aspect is basic or technical education, no matter if the word buniyadi (or basic) which Mahatma Gandhi used in the third and the fourth decades of the twentieth century meant the knowledge or education that could help people in the promotion of handicrafts or to establish cottage industries. As the ultimate purpose behind his thoughts and attempt was to make young men and women self-reliant in the economic field, even in the modern perspective, his idea of buniyadi or basic education is well-worthy, it has no clash with the concept of today’s job-oriented or technical education; it make a man self-dependent and prosperous. No doubt, a self-reliant and prosperous person can, definitely, contribute towards peace and prosperity of society and the nation and can equally be helpful to create a stable and real culture of peace.
This Mahatma Gandhi did so that every human being living on this planet, without fear, and equally marching towards development process, was assured of safe and secure life having peace, and strengthening the culture of peace.
In fact, Gandhism and its system of education, especially its viewpoint pertaining to value education is, ultimately, the education of peace and to make a man fully developed, and it is according to Mahatma Gandhi, “is an unending process divided into different stages…” Its worth lies in the fact that education should necessarily be helpful to make a man self-dependent and its foundations should be laid on sound morality and ethics.
It is, undoubtedly, ever relevant for achieving the goal-peace-or for construction of a real and sustainable culture of peace, especially under the democratic system of government. In this context its relevance and importance of its role can never be underrated. It should be applied in wider perspective. The need of the day is to take up, adopt and understand Gandhian approach according to time and space and to put it into practice in the process of education the world over. Indeed it is the demand of time.
*Dr. Ravindra Kumar is a Former Vice-Chancellor of CCS University, Meerut, India. ALSO HE HAS BEEN A CONSULTANT TO UN UNIVERSITY OF PEACE FOR GANDHIAN STUDIES.
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