Moral Thinkers (1)

Moral thinkers

Rabindranath Tagore

The centre of Tagore’s philosophy was man of god. Even his concept of God was influenced by the humanism inherent in his outlook. The supreme reality thus according to Tagore, essentially human and could be realised only through love of man. Love of God was thus translated into love of human. Tagore in fact sought the origin of spiritual aspirations and the concept of god in the spirit of the unity expressed by the primitive man. In a discussion with Einstein, Tagore said, if there is any truth absolutely unrelated to humanity then for us it is absolutely non-existing. Tagore thus firmly believed that truth could be realised only in human society.

Politically Tagore believed that each nation and individual must have certain rights and through those rights he should be in a position to ‘his personality. At the same time he stressed people should have power and strength enough to realise their rights as without that strength it was impossible to retain rights even if extended by the rulers. He also stood for the individuals saying that States existed for the individual and its activities should aim at giving maximum freedom for attaining that liberty. He couldn’t reconcile himself with the then prevailing trend of british rule which was impersonal in character and which denied freedom, spiritual, economic and political, to the vast majority of the Indians. According to him freedom could be possible by adopting the policy of decentralisation of authority and giving, more powers to local self-government institutions.

Socially, Tagore believed that Indian society has very much degenerated mostly because of the policy of our social rulers who didn’t care to preserve our social institutions and allowed them to degenerate. He felt that social and political institutions should go side by side. He had faith in social solidarity and belief in ancient Indian culture and civilization. According to him political life was only a specialised aspect of social life and both could not be separated from each other. He quoted from Indian history that India always represented the synthesis of various philosophies and was very much broad-based. Therefore he believed that constructive efforts should be made to revive our ancient Indian culture.


He was educationally a revolutionary and strongly believed that there should be a system of education suited to India. It should be the system in which the cultures of east and the west should unite and where there should be a platform for understanding each other. In the words of G. Ramchandran, “Gurudev never accepted that the object of education was simply the accumulation of knowledge. He unhesitatingly proclaimed that education should give alround human personality in which the physical, the intellectual, the aesthetic and spiritual growth would be harmonised into one integral process. He, therefore, emphasised freedom and joy as of basic importance in the education of boys and girls. This meant elimination of physical punishment, examination and therefore of fear and everything humiliating restriction from Shanti Niketan system rather pattern of education”.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was one of the very few people who impressed an idea upon a historical epoch. That idea was nonviolence. Gandhi’s creed of non-violence insisted that people struggle for their rights should never violate their basic obligation to respect life.

Gandhi was both religious and open-minded, and saw all religions as paths to reach the same goal. He was inspired by the teachings of Jesus, in particular the emphasis on love for everyone, even one’s enemies, and the need to strive for justice. He also took from Hinduism the importance of action in one’s life, without concern for success.

Gandhi’s God was an immanent and his general philosophy of Hinduism becomes an ethic of political action. Gandhi’s approach to reality is religious rather than philosophical. He approached reality through non-violence. Non-violence is an integral part of every religion. He says that: “Non-violence is in Hinduism, it is in Christianity as well as in Islam. If non-violence disappears, Hindu Dharma disappears. Islam does not forbid its followers from following nonviolence as a policy.

After having studied the Bhagavad-Gita against the background of Indian culture and tradition, he has come to the conclusion that the central teaching of the Gītā is to follow truth and non-violence.  When there is no desire for truth, there is no temptation for untruth of violence but it maybe freely admitted that the Gita was not written to establish non-violence. The central teaching of the Gita is not violence but nonviolence. Violence is impossible without anger, without attachment, without hatred, and the Gita strives to carry us to the state beyond sattva, rajas and tamas, a state that excludes anger, hatred, etc., to one who reads the spirit of Gita, it teaches the secret of non-violence, the secret of realizing the self through the physical body.

Gandhi was not a visionary but he claimed to be a practical idealist. He was a man of action. It was the idealist that made him function as a practical man. He was also an irrepressible optimist. His optimism was based on the belief that man is endowed with infinite possibilities of development. His belief in the law as the ideal is unquestionable. It matters whether individuals fall short of the ideal. Though he was aware of the reality, his striving was always to reach the idea.

It is a means of focusing his attention to the ultimate goal. He has to tread the right path without digression. This is the yardstick by which man’s progress is measured. Gandhi’s philosophy was the direct result of human relations and it was in the sphere of human interaction that his plan of action took concrete shape. His approach was liberal and human. The world is there for all practical purposes. It is the field of greatest activity. No turning ones back to, or running away from, the world is Gandhi’s attitude. According to him:

“The world offers problems of man and he is made to solve them. This is what Gandhi thinks about man and the world. Thus, the world is an arena where man has to fight his battle for the conquest of life. The world is an active field. Man cannot remain inactive or static in it. His activity can be progressive as he is a progressive being pushed up by Nature which is never at a stand-still.”

Gandhi has faith in the fallible man who can improve his condition by cultivating a perfectly innocent heart incapable of evil. Thus, the fallible man, being a hindrance to his own self-development, can be corrected to follow the path of progress in the right spirit. It can only happen through life-education. Gandhi observes that: “It is not literacy or learning which makes a man but education for real life.”

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