This paper was presented at
Psychology: The Indian Contribution
National Conference on
Indian Psychology, Yoga and Consciousness
organised by the Indian Council of Philosophical Research
at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education
Pondicherry, India, 10-13 December 2004

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On becoming purush: Excursions in Gandhi’s pursuit of seva

Kumar Ravi Priya — Department of Psychology, University of Delhi.

A sensitive youth in today’s world realizes that various social, economic and political systems regulated by the governments of nations have failed to offer a healthy and dignified life to its citizens. Desperate attempts are being made by NGOs to compensate for the failure of the governments. But, we all know that NGOs have fared no better than the GOs. So, there is a strong urge in the youth to make efforts to end inequality and oppression, and to ensure a healthy and dignified life for the people. In this quest, he/she soon realizes that such an effort to serve humanity entails resolving conflicts that arise out of clashes between his/her noble urge and concern for other ‘problems’ of existence like earning a livelihood, desires, personal ambitions, family roles and social roles. He/she then is in search of role models in whom he/she could mirror this struggle – to be able to serve humanity – which is ‘authentic’ to him/her. Mahatma Gandhi happens to be such a person in the history of humankind for whom the challenge of serving humanity became the way of or mission in life. This paper is an attempt to understand how Mahatma Gandhi took these apparent ‘conflicts’ (between his roles as a family member and a dedicated social reformer) as opportunities to further refine his methods of approximating the larger goals of service for societal development. Implications of Mahatma Gandhi’s struggles in the arena of personal life are analyzed and lessons for contemporary challenges are drawn. In particular, various struggles for mobilizing people for social cause are examined.

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