2023 Sugden Fellow, Bindu Puri, Professor of Contemporary Indian Philosophy at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi delivered the Sugden Oration on Mahatma Ghandi. At a time when parts of the world are experiencing war or the threat of war, the 75th anniversary of the death of Ghandi is a timely opportunity to revisit his message of the pursuit of truth and non-violence as an active social technique.
Professor Puri explored views on Satya – or truth implying openness, honesty and fairness – and Ahimsa, which is an ancient Indian concept best expressed as non-violence. In his pursuit of non-violence, Gandhi drew particularly from Russian author, Count Leo Tolstoy, with whom he exchanged letters. Ultimately, though, Gandhi’s thinking on non-violence was rooted in ancient Indian philosophy.
Professor Puri noted that in a world where there is freedom to think, there will inevitably be a world categorised by difference. Hence, the importance of Ghandi’s philosophy to meet difference with non-violence and a love that transforms hostility into kinship and a family feeling.
Professor Puri reminded us that Ghandi turned the Indian vows of truth and non-violence into virtues. He stated that you cannot find truth without non-violence, and that human beings have a unilateral obligation to show kinship or family feeling to the those most distant from us: “It is not love if you only love those who love you, it is only love if you love those who hate you.”