Gandhi, the Mahatma, was truly a citizen of the world though he worked for the freedom of the Indian nation from foreign yoke. Though a Brahmin by birth, humanity was his religion.
He believed that for victory, war was the most blunt weapon and the sharpest one was obviously non-violence. He abhorred the concept of might being the right.
The obiter dictum of Gandhi, "Most religious men I have met are politicians in disguise. I, however, who wear the guise of a politician, am at heart, a religious man," remains the key to the value system of the political philosophy that he adhered to.
What Gandhi, till he breathed his last, lamented, was that despite challenging irreligion, he found that irreligion cemented its greatest stronghold in politics. In fact Gandhi entered politics to fight irreligion. He also accepted the fact that he might not be absolutely accurate as regards his words used - hallmark of a true great.
"My religion has no geographical boundaries," he explained to Kakasaheb Kalekar once. "If I have a living faith in it, it will transcend my love for India herself," said Gandhi. It was that brand of religion that taught to believe absolutely in the soul and rely solely on soul force for fighting all the ills in human hearts or in human society.
Truth for him was God. And non-violence, or soul force, his only means of fighting the ills of life. He was not a nationalist in the narrow parochial sense in which the word is used.
Gandhi was at pains to explain to American writer Jeanette Eaton that his nationalism was in reality intense internationalism. "Our nationalism can be no peril to other nations inasmuch as we will exploit none, just as we allow none to exploit us."
In her Gandhi: Fighter Without A Sword, Eaton narrates that the greatest influence of Gandhi on her was Gandhi's notions on oneness of the world.
Gandhi told C.R. Das once: "How heartening it is to imagine that when there is One World and no militarised boundaries and all the natural and human resources, all the sciences and technology which are today marshalled and arrayed for destructive purposes, will be used for the elimination of poverty, ill health and ignorance".
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad in his "India Wins Freedom" states that Gandhiji is universally acknowledged as the greatest man of his age simply for the reason that despite affecting the destiny of the whole sub-continent, he held no high office nor was he a statesman ruling the destinies of countries.
By sacrificing political gains, he bought peace like all true thinkers and philosophers. He was above all the frivolities of political life as he drew his strength from what he termed "soul force", an inner strength that comes only when ones believes in non-violence, truth and an abiding faith in the innate goodness lurking in all fellow beings. It was this quality of Gandhi that made him a leader of the world leaders.
Gandhi had the courage of a statesman for initiating reforms. He, however, did not live long enough to see his ideas implemented as the life of this saint who advocated non-violence was cut short by the most horrendous and heinous act of violence (Jan 30, 1948).
Duty to Gandhi was of paramount importance. He said, "Duties to self, to the family, to the country and to the world are not independent of one another. One cannot do good to the country by injuring the world at large.
Tagore had believed that Gandhi would fail like all saints who had also failed. Wrote Tagore, "Perhaps he will not succeed. Perhaps he will fail as the Buddha failed, as Christ failed and as Lord Mahavira failed to wean men from their inequities, but he will be remembered as one who made his life an example for all ages to come."
The teachings of Gandhi are still relevant today, will remain for posterity and his wider significance to a world torn with violence may yet await their fulfilment.
(29-01-2013- Firoz Bakht Ahmed is a commentator on educational and social issues, grandnephew of Maulana Kalam Azad and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed are personal.)