Mainstream Weekly

Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2019 > Mahatma Gandhi and World Peace

Mainstream, VOL LVII No 42 New Delhi October 5, 2019

Mahatma Gandhi and World Peace

Rrlevance of his approach in changing times

Saturday 5 October 2019


by Jayanta Kumar Dab

As we have entered the new age, we have become more stronger towards ourselves. If we examine our life-style, we will find our new phase of life different from our past. No doubt that we started our civilisation with the violent ways but slowly and with proper growth we began adopting the non-violent ways and means of living. Mahatma Gandhi, the millennium man and a person of the 21st century, a man with the weapons of truth and non-violence, a man who is regarded as a messenger of peace and the actual follower of non-violence, had showed at many levels that only through non-violence can peace and brotherhood and togetherness be attained.1

Gandhi’s philosophy, based on truth and non-violence, has been admitted by the statesmen of the world as a viable source of strength for resolving conflicts not only in the present world but also in the future. Due to this reason Nelson Mandela in his speech referred once that “the 21st century is going to be the Gandhian century”. It was also realised by scientists like Albert Einstein in the early 1950s that the “Gandhian philosophy would be the light-house for the future generation”. Vindicating these leaders’ statements, the present world leaders are seriously considering the concepts of Gandhiji. As a result, the United Nations has already declared the 21st century as the century of peace.2

Mahatma Gandhi was acclaimed as a practical dreamer, a political reformer, and a man of peace. He not only loved peace, he was a creator of peace and he played this role in spite of opposition and indifference on all sides.3 As a responsible leader, he dreamt of an India in which the poorest shall feel that it is their country in whose making they have an effective voice, an India in which there shall be no high class or low class people, an India in which all communities shall live in perfect harmony. There can be no room in such an India for the curse of untouchability or the presence of intoxicating drinks and drugs; women will enjoy the same rights as men. This is an India envisaged by Mahatma Gandhi. Is it a myth or a reality today?4

According to the Mahatma, the role of a peace-maker is an exacting one. A peace-maker must sow first in his own mind and heart the seeds of peace. The flowers of harmony will not bloom in the land, unless the sower sows thoughts of peace: thoughts of peace, living memories, desires of peace, the outpourings of the human heart that are unmistakably in the interest of peace. Such an outlook is not possible unless a man has the right concept of the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. It is true that man fundamentally desires peace. Witness the endless conferences and peace talks and diplomatic initiatives all leading towards its achievement.5 But the great mission of the peace-maker is to touch he responsive chord in the heart of man. This was what the Mahatma did throughout his life: in the speeches he delivered, the prayer meetings he presided over and through the example of his personal life. In the India of today, the achievement of peace seems almost a superhuman effort. But we know that in life we must so work as if all depended on ourselves and so pray as if all depended on God. It was in this spirit that Mahatma Gandhi worked and prayed towards the realisation of peace among men.6

In the context of world peace a lot is being spoken about development, human rights, ecological balance, basic needs and so forth. The most serious problem before humanity is the preparation of war coupled with heavily stockpiled nuclear arms.7 Although tremendous efforts are being undertaken by a few peace-loving nations, peace movements and the hard labour of the United Nations, the possibility of a nuclear war cannot be ruled out. A change of attitude in favour of peace has to be established in the human mind. The UNESCO preamble reads: “The defence of peace must be constructed in the human mind.”8 This coincides with Gandhi’s view:

“Danger of sudden outburst of violence is always present so long as the violence of the heart is not eradicated. The one lesson the Western nations teach the world in flaming letters is that violence is not the way to peace and happiness. The cult of violence has not made them or those who contact with them happier or better.”9 While motivating the Indian Satyagrahis for a non-violent social change, Gandhi observes:

“If we, as a nation, reach that living faith in non-violence and banish violence from our hearts, we would not even need a sort of civil disobedience. The latter is required whilst we are trying non-violence as a mere policy or expedient.”10

Taking his life and people’s action as an example with relative success of his mass non-violent campaign, enlisting people’s active participation, Gandhi justified that the cult of non-violence has been progressively increased in the human society.11 In this context, Mahatma Gandhi explains:

“My experience in non-violence daily growing stronger and richer tells me that there is no peace for individuals or for nations without practising truth and non-violence to the uttermost extent possible for man. The policy of retaliation, has never succeeded. We must not be confounded by the isolated illustration of retaliation, including frauds and force, having attained temporary and seeming success. The world lives because there is more love than hate and more truth than untruth in it.”12

What contributes to the secret of world peace and the way for establishing it? Gandhi observes as an earnest non-violent activist:

“It may be long before the law of love will be recognised in international affairs. The mechanisms of governments stand between the hide and hearts of one people from those of another. Yet, we could see how the world is moving steadily to realise that between nation and nation, as between man and man, force has failed to solve problems, but that economic sanction of non-cooperation is far more mighty and conclusive than armies and navies.”13

Further, Gandhi asserts that “it may take long to lay wires for international love, but the sanction of international non-cooperation in preference to continued physical compulsion... is a distinctive progress towards the ultimate real solution”.14

Gandhi diagnoses the causes of the arms race, which is a cancerous growth among all nations and puts humanity at the brink of death and doubt of survival.

I. “Nations armed themselves out of fear of each other and to guard their imperialist possessions,” Gandhi asserted in Hind Swaraj. “...force was used when people were under the spell of fear and what is gained through fear is retained only for as long as fear is present.”15

II. One of the root causes of the arms race, Gandhi observes, is the greed of nations, which necessitates exploitation of any form.16 Therefore, he opined, “I have no doubt that unless big nations shed their desire of exploitation and the spirit of which war is the natural expression and atom bomb the inevitable consequence, there is no hope for peace in the world.”17

Mere physical reduction of arms does not make disarmament realistic. On the contrary, it should be based on the law of love. Total world disarmament, the only material safeguard for peace, should be the outward and visible sign of that inward mental disarmament on which alone outward peace can be constructed. Gandhi propounded that disarmament could be achieved only through the adoption of non-violence.18 He was optimistic enough to advocate unilateral disarmament. If even one great nation was unconditionally to perform the supreme act of renunciation many of us would see in our life-time visible peace established on earth. His call for unilateral disarmament betrayed his idealism, while the realist Gandhi appreciated that with the establishment of a democratic world federation disarmament would be practicable in all countries.19 In a message to American Christians, Gandhi said:

“Peace and disarmament are not a matter of reciprocity. When real peace and disarmament come, they will be initiated by a strong nation like America, irrespective of the consent and cooperation. As Thoreau has said so well, all reform all the world over always began with one person taking it up.”20

Gandhi has often been described as an apostle of peace. He strove and died for peace. He saw peace as integrally related to justice. Peace is not a mere cessation of hostilities. He did not share the diplomatic view of peace. Peace for him meant a positive state of affairs, the pre-condition being freedom from exploitation. In his opinion, only non-violent and just peace could ensure lasting peace.21 Gandhi says : “Peace will never come until the Great powers courageously decide to disarm themselves. Exploitation and domination of one nation over another can have no place in a world striving to put an end to all wars. In such a world only the militarily weaker nations will be free from the fear of intimidation or exploitation. I have no doubt that unless big nations shed their desire of exploitation and the inevitable consequence, there is no hope far peace in the world.”22

In this context, Gandhi says:

“It seems to me that recent events (dropping of atom bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the after-math) must force that belief on the great powers. I have an implicit faith that today burns brighter than ever, after half-a-century’s experience of unbroken practice that mankind can only be saved through non-violence.”23

Practice of non-violence in the international arena is the first and foremost condition for world peace. Gandhi’s ideal of non-violence of course inspired many leaders like Vinoba Bhave, Martin Luther King, and so on. Martin Luther King once stated that it is from Gandhi that he learned the operational technique of non-violence which is an effective means to counteract injustice. In the words of Martin Luther King, “the choice before mankind is between non-violence and non-existence”. To abolish war, we must get rid of our anger, hate, passion, pride, fear, egotism and inordinate ambition and lust for power.24

One may argue that the Gandhian declarations on peace contain some practical difficulties for them to be implemented in the present-day world. But Gandhiji would not countenance such a ‘practical’ difficulty. He would counter-pose by saying: “that if an individual can practice non-violence, why not whole groups of individuals and whole nations?“25 He believed that one must make a beginning and the rest would follow. The Gandhian concept of world peace should be viewed as an integral part of his philosophy of life and one should try to appreciate his attitude within the general framework of philosophy of ahimsa. Good means alone can lead us to ever lasting peace. If peace is established by violence it will be of no use. Nowadays, quite often we read in the newspaper that the police, in some places the Army, marching into an agitating place and peace being established. But that peace is undoubtedly that of the graveyard. But when the non-violent person wins, he wins the heart of the foe.26 Besides, Gandhi’s concept of peace on earth and goodwill among mankind has led to the development of ‘sarvodaya social order which is India’s distinctive contribution to the world of thought.27

For Gandhi, the ultimate happiness lies only in peace whether it was conferred on the individual or extended to the whole of society. He wanted his weapon of non-violence to abolish wars, to destroy all conflicts, and to settle all tensions. Gandhi held that peace should emanate from the individual nations. Maybe he would even go so far as to suggest that peace must spring directly from the village or emanate from the individual.28 Only a nation, whose very foundations are peace, has the power to bring about peace in the world. That is why he advocated an independent India which would make the largest contribution of any single nation towards world peace. Her success in securing peace through peaceful means would pave the way for progress and the peaceful coexistence of mankind. He desired to bring about peace not only between Britain and India, but also between warring nations on earth. In order to work out his peace ideals, he founded ‘Shanti Sena’ (Peace Brigade) which he desired to become a world movement.29

Finally, for the attainment of international peace, Gandhiji laid down certain conditions too, and they are as under:

I. All nations should be independent;

II. The equality of all nations should be recognised;

III. Disarmament should be accepted by the nations both in principle and in their practice.30

In this context, the question arises: Is peace the real answer to solve conflict and violence? The problem arises as to how man can realise peace. According to Arnold Toynbee, “the source of peace and war is the interior of life of each individual human spirit”.31 We should not forget that man is the source and the centre and purpose of all life. Peace begins in our own hearts. The universality of spirit lies not in knowing much, but in loving extensively. Peace is really the reflection of heaven upon earth.

From the foregoing analysis it can be said that the predominant figure in this study of peace is Mahatma Gandhi who defined and redefined the very concept of peace which is channelising abundance of energy resources for the resolution of conflicts. Gandhi, as the apostle of peace, had rendered the most remarkable service in the field of peace for humanity.32 I always thought: Why did the Nobel Committee ignore his service? Is there any possibility that the Committee would correct its shortcomings?

Gandhi has shown us the path of peace through his exalted principles of non-violence which are of vital importance in the context of the present political situation of the world. It is true that peace in the world cannot be achieved without the concept and techniques of Mahatma Gandhi. Therefore, it is much more important to understand his techniques and try to replace those with the present techniques which advocate violence all over the world.33 Moreover, there is a need for converting an increasingly militarised global culture into a culture of peace or a deliberate policy of ‘weaponless deterrence’. What we need today is a comprehensive alternative understanding, an integrated vision of the world without nuclear weapons. To ensure peace the polity must be fearless, full of equality, providing protection to all eternal values and only then it can be pro-people. The Gandhian principle of non-violence is very much significant in the modern system of government from this point of view.34

Gandhiji suggested that ‘love’ could be adopted as the ‘means’ for achieving ‘perfect peace’. Peace without love, as he pointed out, is violence. And love without peace is also violence. Therefore, as he asserted, the concept of love should work for replacing the use of force concept as to create the cycle of love all over.35

According to Gandhiji, the ultimate goal of any peace-maker should be the building of a peace army. It is necessary to quote here Gandhiji’s statement, “... the moral principles on which civilisation rests are truth and love. If people everywhere respond to them truthfully, the world will be brought closer together and the darkness which we see around us, may be dispelled.”36 On the basis of his proposition, if the world leaders direct the world, conflict resolution for all the problems of the present can be achieved and the world in the 21st century will be the century of love and not of violence. We also know that human nature is essentially peace-loving. The way of world peace lies in cultivating the spirit of non-violence and peace in the hearts of men.

Last, but not the least, let me sum up by saying that humanity needs today a deep, comprehensive and total revolution, objective and subjective, in man and material, so as to ensure a growing change of all the aspects of human nature in harmonious relation to world peace.


1. V.C. Sinha (1982), “The New World Order : Gandhiji’s Ideas and their Relevance” in Journal of Gandhian Studies, Vol.9, No.34, January, Gandhi Bhawan University, Allahabad, p. 101.

2. Cited in Gunvant Shah (1982), Gandhi for the New Generation, Navajivan, Ahmedabad, pp. 10-11.

3. Velerin Cardinal Gracias (2009), “Man of Peace” in S. Radhakrishnan (ed.) Mahatma Gandhi : 100 Years, Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi, p. 99.

4. Richard B. Gregg (1960), The Power of Non-violence, Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, p. 118.

5. Velerin Cardinal Gracias (2009), op. cit., p. 99.

6. Ibid., pp. 99-100.

7. D. Cortright (2008), Peace : A History of Movements and Ideas, Cambridge University Press, p. 72.

8 Ibid., pp. 72-73.

9. Harijan, April 10, 1946.

10. M.K. Gandhi , The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. 35, p. 298.

11. D.R. Bhagwat and D. Kanchan Bhagwat (2018), “Philosophy of Truth and Non-violence in Gandhian Thought” in The Indian Journal of Political Science, Vol. LXXIX, No.1, January-March, p. 54.

12. M.K. Gandhi, The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. 35, p. 385.

13. Ibid., p. 386.

14. Young India, June 23, 1919, p. 51.

15. M.K. Gandhi (1962), Hind Swaraj, Navajivan Publishing, Ahmedabad, chapter 16.

16. Harijan, vol. 3, p. 273.

17. Ibid., vol. 19, p. 441.

18. Manish Sharma (1998), “Gandhi’s Approach to Peace” in Janardan Pandey (ed.), Gandhi and 21st Century, Concept Publishing, New Delhi, pp. 340-41.

19. Ibid., p. 341.

20. M. K. Gandhi, The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol. 38, pp. 160-61.

21. Manish Sharma (1998), op. cit., pp. 336-37.

22. V.C. Sinha (1982), op. cit., p. 105.

23. M. K. Gandhi, The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol. 38, pp. 162-63.

24. Manish Sharma (1998), op. cit., p. 336.

25. Ibid., p. 344.

26. Ibid., pp. 344-45.

27. Bindushree Mishra (2018), “Relevance of Gandhian Sarvodaya in Emerging India” in The Indian Journal of Political Science, vol. LXXIX, No.1, January-March, p. 56.

28. T. K. Unnithan (1979), Gandhi and Social Change, Rawat Publishers, Jaipur, p. 112.

29. Ibid., pp. 112-13.

30. Manish Sharma (1998), op. cit., p. 343.

31. Ibid., pp. 343-44.

32. Thomas Weber (1991), “Conflict Resolution and Gandhian Ethics” in The Gandhian Peace Foundation, New Delhi, p. 55.

33. A. Chandrasekaran (1990), “Gandhian Techniques of Conflict Resolution in International Politics” in Gandhi Marg, January-March, vol. II, pp. 470-74.

34. S.R. Bakshi (1986), Gandhi and Ideology of Non-violence, Criterion Publications, New Delhi, pp. 25-36.

35. M. Maharajan (2001), Mahatma Gandhi and the New Millennium, Discovery Publishing House, New Delhi, pp. 21-22.

36. M. Aram (1989), The Future of Mankind, Shanti Ashram, Coimbatore, pp. 16-17.

Dr. Dab is an Assistant Professor of Political Science, Tamralipta Mahavidyalaya, Tamluk, Purba Medinipur (West Bengal).

ISSN (Mainstream Online) : 2582-7316 | Privacy Policy|
Notice: Mainstream Weekly appears online only.