Civilization, which is Sabhyata in Indian term, is derived from the word Civil, Sabhya. From its word meaning viewpoint, it generally denotes the skillfulness in practice. Undoubtedly, when this word is associated with man, it identifies his characteristics. As culture introduces attributes or qualities [Samskaras] of an individual, a group of individuals, community, society or nation, approximately in the same manner through civilization evolutionary characteristics of people of a particular region or a country are known. In other words, practices and development of people is observed.
Civilization is a subject of continuous development and this development, as Radhakrishnan describes, is a matter of mind. [Kumar, Fundamentals of Civilization, page 17/ Radhakrishnan, Speeches and Writings, May 1962-May 1964, page 430] With a firm and constructive approach, stepping forward on the pathway to advancement at all levels and in all walks of life is an essential condition of making a civilization. A state contrary to it can emphatically be the ground of fall of a civilization. The pages of the whole available history verify this fact. So many civilizations developed in different parts of the world from time-to-time. Some of them touched such heights that even their remains, and particularly ruined structures fill us with great surprises today. They force us to rethink about their unique system and techniques used in those days, when despite the lack of development in the field of science and technology and limited available resources in which making arrangement was not an easy task, they added dimensions one after the other to the pathway to progress. They urge us to study and analyze fundaments of thousand years’ old civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, China, Babylonia and India.
For years, archeologists and historians have been studying and analyzing all of these civilizations. They have been adopting different methods for the purpose. But, still they have not arrived at any unanimous conclusion in this regard. Despite all this, one thing is quite clear, and that is for the making of civilization development is necessary, and for development a high mentality is essential. I repeat that this is the only truth about those civilizations, which developed in various parts of the world from time-to-time. Moreover, the fall of various civilizations could also be analyzed having the above arguments in the centre.
For the development and stability of a civilization it is necessary that it should be free from the state of isolation. Furthermore, it goes forward on the basis of coordination with others as per the demand of time. Despite numerous differences, it adopts liberal attitude and accepts and assimilates whatever is good in others. In this regard, the following statement of Mahatma Gandhi is worth mentioning:
“This is not to say that we may not adopt and assimilate whatever may be good and capable of assimilation by us…”
Mahatma Gandhi seems fully in consonance with all the three chief fundamentals of civilization-Ahimsa [non-violence], morality and freedom while he talks, discusses and ventures to analyze it. In other words, he himself seems committed to develop civilization having these three in the centre. Moreover, everybody knows Gandhi’s commitment to Ahimsa. Despite this, his following short statements in context of non-violence, which besides being an eternal and natural human value, is also the first and essential fundamental of civilization, makes everything clear in this regard:
“Man has made constant development toward Ahimsa.”
“For progress, humanity paced forward towards non-violence.”
Mahatma Gandhi was determined to make Ahimsa conducive in prevailing situations and on the basis of it to step forward on pathway to development. This was the way of making and stabilizing civilization. In this regard particularly in Indian context he said:
“I believe absolutely that India has a mission for all in the world. She is not to copy…blindly, but showing way of peace and progress on the strength of Ahimsa.”
Not only this, in context of a new building of Swarajya in India, or in other words in context of the remaking of a refined and evolutionary civilization, he also clarified:
“In my Swarajya basic genesis of civilization will remain intact. I will write many new things for India, but on my own slate [in its own circumstances and the basis of its traditions and values].”
His indication is clear. He is all for Ahimsa, which has from ancient times been an accepted Dharma in India. Moreover, it is the means of security of existence and development.
Morality is the second fundamental of civilization. Like Ahimsa morality was also important for Mahatma Gandhi, which is evident from his commitment to it. In this regard his following statement is worth quoting:
“If Swarajya was not mean to civilize us, and to purify and stabilize our civilization, it would be nothing worth. The very essence of our civilization is that we give a paramount place to morality in all our affairs, public or private.”
In fact, superior human virtues are discovered through morality. That is why; morality is a value dedicated to one’s duty and to the welfare of all. Simultaneously, it is an essential condition of humankind; therefore, one of the chief fundamentals of civilization. In the Vedic-Hindu philosophy and the way of life it is an indispensable part of duties to be performed by its followers. Along with this, wellbeing of civilization is possible by keeping it intact in day-to-day human practices. Hence, it has been said that if morality is accepted as a supreme law of being, “all other laws will get clear automatically.”
Freedom is the third among the chief fundaments of civilization. It is an important condition of life not only for human beings but all living beings. Although, through the ages different opinions or views have been put forth by thinkers or philosophers about it; Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Marx and many others have defined it from their own respective viewpoint, but undoubtedly freedom, in its real meaning, completes when the one assures others’ freedom at the time of enjoying it for self. Enjoying freedom on the cost of others is of no worth; it is not fruitful. If someone does so, “he goes against the basic spirit of freedom.”
How much Mahatma Gandhi was concerned of freedom, whole world knows. The whole Gandhian philosophy and actions of the Mahatma well prove his sincerity, longing and commitment to freedom. In this regard his following statement is worth mentioning here:
“If individual freedom goes, then surely all is lost; for, if the individual ceases to count, what is left of society? Individual freedom also can make a man voluntarily surrender himself completely to the service of society. If it is wrested from him, he becomes automation and society is ruined. No society can possibly be built on denial of individual freedom.”
Thus, freedom is necessary for growth or development. Freedom with equality is inevitable for each and everyone for the making of a true civilization and its stabilization. Therefore, accepting all the three chief fundamentals of civilization as the nucleus, Gandhi steps forward in this regard and draws the attention of the world in general and India in particular to the following three points:
- Civilization is a subject of conformity according to time and space;
- Civilization is not a subject of imitating others; blind following in the name of civilization never brings fruits; and
- In the making and developing of civilization only that should be accepted from others, which contributes in strengthening indigenous civilization and simultaneously, which suits in prevailing circumstances, and helps in coordination with basic indigenous elements.
Undoubtedly, Gandhi’s views in the making, developing and strengthening civilization seem important. Furthermore, the relevance of these ideas of Gandhi for the whole world in general, and especially for a country of diversity like India becomes more important today when India is ready to play the vital role in the world affairs and the whole world is looking towards India.