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8 Oct, 2013

Indian Ambassador Anil Wadhwa: Remember Gandhi’s Warnings of the Seven Sins


Remarks by Indian Ambassador to Thailand Anil Wadhwa on the occasion of the 144th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, on 2 October 2013 at Thai-Bharat Cultural Lodge, Bangkok

President of Thai-Bharat Cultural Lodge Professor Srisurang Poolthupya, Dr. Dhanet Charoenmuang, Advisor of the Minister of Education, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

1.        I am delighted to be here today at celebrations of the 144th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhiji organized by Thai-Bharat Cultural Lodge. Today, at the UN-ESCAP, we observed ‘Gandhi Jayanti’ as the International Day of Non-Violence.

2.      Mahatma Gandhiji or commonly known as ‘Bapuji’ was a multifaceted personality. The outward simplicity of his life and his focused devotion to non-violence covered countless deep currents of ideas, disciplines and aspirations. He was at once saint and revolutionary, politician and social reformer, economist and man of religion, educationist and satyagrahi; devotee alike of faith and reason, Hindu and inter-religious, nationalist and internationalist, man of action.

3.      Gandhiji’s life was one long and ceaseless saga of endeavour in which he added, bit by bit, to his stature culminating in the evolving fullness of his personality. There was nothing mystic or miraculous about his development and growth, from a common man into the unmatched Mahatma of our history. It is open to each one of us to see how he advanced, step by step, gathering countless fragments of truth one by one and piecing them together in the crucible of his life, ready to look at facts, understand their significance, face any consequence in the pursuit of a cause, suffer any penalty for a mistake, recover lost ground again, but always progressing, open-minded and without fear and dedicated selflessly to reach and hold the truth of a matter at any cost. He was, therefore, not born a Mahatma. He grew into one. He was a common man who pulled himself up to most uncommon heights. He knew this about himself and that was why he called his biography, “The Story of My Experiments with Truth”― experimentation was one of the deepest passions of his life.

4.      Many ingredients went into the experiment of Gandhiji in South Africa. One of them was his unalterable belief in God. To Gandhiji, God was truth, justice and love. Truth and justice were concepts, but love or hate furnished the motivation for action. When Gandhiji came to India from South Africa, the words prevalent for Indian politicians were ‘moderates’ and ‘extremists’. Some wanted to attain ‘Swaraj’ by means of the bullet or the bomb. To others independence was not only political but also contained spiritual dimension. Gandhiji synthesized in his ‘Satyagraha’, four different attitudes – the humility of the moderates, the intensity of the extremists, the readiness of persons like Bhagat Singh and Khudiram Bose to sacrifice themselves happily for the country and the superior ideology of Shri Aurobindo to raise patriotism to a higher level.

5.      Gandhiji showed the weak and the poor how to struggle without taking life. He spent years in jail for the national cause, and once he helped conduct the prosecution against himself after violence occurred in a civil-disobedience movement. He broke the system of indentured Indian labour in South Africa. He won respect for Indians and restored the self-respect of men who had humiliated them. He fought colour and racial discrimination everywhere. He laid the foundations for a national language which would bring men close together regardless of creed, and he nursed and tended the sick and the helpless to teach men kindliness and self-sacrifice. He opposed the bigotry and dogmatism and the hateful orthodoxy of the caste system with more success than any Indian since Gautama Buddha.

6.      Gandhiji had holistic view of life. Accordingly, his development philosophy revolved around man, his society and environment and their respective and simultaneous development. He believed that instead of man exploiting the society and both exploiting nature, there was a symbiotic way of life in which they were in harmony with each other. In his frame of reference for development, man is the centre of attention. The objective is the moral and spiritual development of man.

7.      The path outlined by Gandhiji lay through ethical, moral and spiritual disciplines. The key note of his ethics is “love” which means a near identity of interest with every sentiment. This love has to be expressed in the form of service and sacrifice. His ethics in relation to material things and property consisted in his concept of Trusteeship. Every human being is a trustee not only of his faculties and attainments but of everything he comes by. The trusteeship consists not only in using his powers and goods properly but in using them selflessly and for the well-being of others. All his policies and programmes were designed to secure full support and participation of the people and to develop capacities in them to work as members of a one world community.

8.      Gandhiji was a great communicator. He wrote in a manner that anybody could understand. He was writing for everyman so that everyman could understand him easily. He had no literary pretensions but what he wrote was literature. He clearly believed in the power of the word and used a space of his own newspapers, Navajivan and Harijan to mobilize public opinion. The people felt that he was talking to them directly rather than through impersonal means of communication.

9.      Many Nobel Peace Prize winners from different continents were inspired by Gandhiji’s philosophy and practice. Today, news relating to Martin Luther King Jr, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela and Adolfo Perez Esquivel keep coming with headlines referring as global Mahatma. Non-violence has achieved many successes. The American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s led by Martin Luther King Jr. culminated in political rights for African-Americans. Around 150 countries have depicted Gandhiji on their postal stamps. Nigeria came out with stamp showing Gandhiji and Einstein and Tajikistan depicted Gandhiji riding a bicycle.

10.    Perhaps never before in history has there been so much speculation and anxiety about the future of humanity as there is today. Will our world always remain a theater of violence? Will there always be poverty, starvation and misery? If there is to be a great transformation in society, how will that transformation be brought about? By war or revolution or will it come about peacefully as Gandhiji had wished? The one and only silver lining on the otherwise dark horizon is the belated recognition by the humanity that violence can’t be countered by violence and that the answers to the various questions and problems facing humanity could be found only through nonviolence.

12.    In Bapuji’s own words, “we have to make truth and nonviolence, not matters for mere individual practice, but for practice by groups and communities and nations. I shall live and die in trying to realize it. My faith helps me to discover new truth every day. Ahimsa is the attribute of the soul, and therefore to be practiced by everybody in all affairs of life.” This statement of Gandhiji, read along with two other brief messages he gave, one to a journalist and the other to his disciples in the government, reveal the essential Gandhiji. To the journalist he said, “My life is my message”. To the new rulers of India he gave this unfailing advice: “Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own destiny?”

13.    I would like to conclude with advice of Gandhiji on seven sins, which he had advised us to avoid are, “politics without principles, wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, and worship without sacrifice.” If we really care for the future of humanity, we have to pay heed to his advice.

Thank You.