Tag Archives: Swaraj

How is Gandhi Still Relevant?

Dr. Rajesh Oza has created a profound and resonant work in Satyalogue// Truthtalk by allowing entry at multiple levels and providing ideas for growth. The book  is based on Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s life and autobiography, “The Story of My Experiments with Truth.”Oza’s writing draws us deep inside ourselves by providing questions and  answers to re-evaluate our lives. It indeed becomes a living text: one to interpret in multiple ways, revisit with increasing understanding and joy. It was in experiencing the same concept from multiple dimensions that I realized Oza’s book offers a never-ending journey of the self.

Oza uses Gandhi’s brilliant architecture that framed a path to India’s liberation in four concepts, Satyagraha, Swaraj, Sarvodaya and Ahimsa. He adapts this framework for living well in modern times. Satyagraha, the search for truth to give your life meaning, forcing differentiation between reality and illusion, lies and truth. Swaraj means self-rule: the capacity to discipline the self thoughtfully. As Oza points out, “Swaraj is…Gandhiji’s prerequisite for independent India’s self-rule movement.” He elaborates this as a moral governor  for rulers in any age. Too many world leaders are governed by ego, immorality, self desires and not by their constituents’ needs. Sarvodaya, understanding all world cultures, ensures we consider more options before choosing best life principles. Ahimsa, a concept of non-violence, the  author reminds us is to “be the change you want to see in the world.” The Scope of Gandhi’s principle spans beyond India’s Independence but resonates within our lives, even today.

While a lifetime is necessary to internalize these overarching principles, Oza also provides relevant examples. I was moved by the leadership section, since it includes daily questions of how to remain ethical in a  Nationalistic era. While effective leaders generally lead through thorny times, Oza wisely counsels us to remember that …”to be an effective leader, one must have self-rule (swaraj).”  But he also reminds us, “all that wealth does not belong to me.” He stresses the concept of “Stewardship,” which implies delayed gratification for long-term results; stewardship implies the benefit of all stakeholders – employees, management and community. After successes or failures, effective leaders learn the dance of moving forward and stepping back to create high-performing organizations. In the climate change section, we see the seriousness of the problem; he argues that “…the father of Independent India was also the father of modern India’s conservation movement. He powerfully spoke to our stewardship of the earth–not as a backward-looking inheritance from our forefathers that we can squander, but rather as a forward-looking loan from our children and our children’s children’s children.”

Oza’s work serves as a ray  of hope in dark times.

Satyalogue// Truthtalk: A Gandhian Guide to (Post) Modern Day Dilemmas.By Dr Rajesh Oza. Independently published (July 31, 2019). 296 pages Paperback $15.

 Dr. Jyotsna Sanzgiri, served as Program Director, Dean and Professor from 1989 to 2017 at Alliant International University.  She taught in the areas of Organizational Development and Change, often using principles from Gandhian philosophy for transformative change. Her parents worked closely with Gandhi and others for the Indian Independence movement, and Gandhi’s principles have shaped her life deeply.

Cover photo credit: A Creative Commons image by Eduardo Francisco Vazquez Murillo.

The Meaning of Swaraj on Independence Day

Independence Day fireworks and parades aside, many young friends and family members express their despair and disappointment in the moral bankruptcy of those elected to lead the world’s democracies by asking me, “Why vote?”

I open with a Gandhian quote: “The very essence of democracy is that every person represents all the varied interests which compose the nation.”

And then I follow-up with a little history from Amartya Sen, and then a little “my-story,” and finally a clarification that without Gandhiji’s sense of swaraj, independence would be meaningless.

In his wonderful book The Argumentative Indian, Sen writes: “Democracy is intimately connected with public discussion and interactive reasoning.  Traditions of public discussion exist across the world, not just the West… The Greek and Roman heritage on public discussion is, of course, rightly celebrated, but the importance attached to public deliberation also has a remarkable history in India… In the history of public reasoning in India, considerable credit must be given to the early Indian Buddhists, who had a great commitment to discussion as a means of social progress… ”

From Ashoka to Obama, from Akbar to Trump, we’ve had the opportunity to give voice to what matters. In 1968, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy seemingly took away hope from many American voices.  When my parents brought my siblings and me to the United States a year later, I was too young to lose hope. Indeed, I looked to the moon landing and could see only possibility. More than three decades later, I lost my voice in the aftermath of 9/11. I felt that I couldn’t speak up in public about racial profiling or write letters to the editor about a shameful war. Although I resided in a country that constitutionally ensured its citizens the freedom of speech, I lived in fear of a knock on the door in the middle of the night. So I became careful about what I said and what I wrote. Enough. It’s time to represent our “varied interests which compose the nation” by voting with our ballots, our pencils, our voices. That’s what happened in the United States in 2008, and the pendulum swung from McCain to Obama. And then again it happened in 2016, and the pendulum swung from Clinton to Trump. The 2020 elections will take place a mere 13 months after Gandhiji’s 150th birth anniversary, and the outcome is far from certain. Will the pendulum swing further right, over to the left, or a stabilizing center?

So why vote? If one considers Gandhiji’s concept of swaraj in its fullness, one realizes that political swaraj means self-government in a sovereign state, and individual swaraj means self-mastery in a private space. Voting is a wonderfully expressive means of conflating the public and the private, of integrating political and individual swaraj.

In honor of Gandhiji’s 150th birth anniversary, Dr. Rajesh C. Oza recently published “Satyalogue // Truthtalk: A Gandhian Guide to (Post)Modern-Day Dilemmas” which  is available on Amazon or at www.satyalogue.com.

Cover photo credit: A Creative Commons image by Eduardo Francisco Vazquez Murillo.