Throughout history most national heroes have been warriors, but Gandhi was a passive and peaceful preacher of morals, ethics, and beliefs. He was an outsider who ended British rule over India without striking a blow. Moreover, Gandhi was not skillful with any unusual artistic, scholarly, or scientific talents. He never earned a degree or received any special academic honors. He was never a candidate in an election or a member of government. Yet when he died, in 1948, practically the whole world mourned him.
Einstein said in his tribute, “Gandhi demonstrated that a powerful human following can be assembled not only through the cunning game of the usual political maneuvers and trickery but through the cogent example of a morally superior conduct of life”. Other tributes compared Gandhi to Socrates, to Buddha, to Jesus, and to Saint Fancis of Assisi.
The life of Mahatma (great soul) Gandhi is very documented. Certainly it was an extraordinary life, poking at the ancient Hindu religion and culture and modern revolutionary ideas about politics and society, an unusual combination of perceptions and values.
Gandhi’s life was filled with contradictions. He was described as a gentle man who was an outsider, but also as a godly and almost mystical person, but he had a great determination. Nothing could change his convictions. Some called him a master politician, others called him a saint, and millions of Indians called him Mahatma or Bapu (father). I on the other hand call him extraordinarily great.
Gandhi’s life was devoted to a search for truth. He believed that truth could be known only through tolerance and concern for others, and that finding a truthful way to solutions required constant attention. He dedicated himself to truth, to nonviolence, to purity, to poverty, to scripture reading, to humility, to honesty, and to fearlessness. He called his autobiography, My Experiments with Truth. Gandhi overcame fear in himself and taught others to master fear. He believed in Ahimsa (nonviolence) and taught that to be truly nonviolent required courage. He lived a simple life and thought it was wrong to kill animals for food or clothing.
In his religious studies, he happened upon Leo Tolstoy’s Christian writings, and was inspired. It stated that all government is based on war and violence, and that one can attack these only through passive resistance. This made a deep impression on Gandhi.
Gandhi developed a method of direct social action, based upon principals of courage, nonviolence, and truth, which he called Satyagraha (holding on to truth). In this method, the way people behave is more important than what they achieve in life. Satyagraha was used to fight for India’s independence and to bring about social change.
In 1884, he founded the Natal Indian Congress to fight for Indian’s rights and he used and perfected the tool of satyagraha (nonviolent resistance) in demanding and protecting the rights of the Indian community of South Africa. He would later use this tool in fighting the British for India’s independence.
He started his first two ashrams, (Hindu religious groups) in South Africa, one was named Phoenix and the other, Tolstoy. Men, women, and children lived at the Tolstoy Farm where they were schooled about fearlessness, self-reliance, self-denial, self-sacrifice, and suffering; and embracing poverty and living in harmony with other people and with nature. Once educated they could learn to practice brahmacharya, the creator God of Hindu, satyagraha, and ahimsa, so they could attack their corrupt society and the government.
He was a believer in manual labor and simple living. He spun thread and wove the cloth for his own garments and insisted that his followers do so, too. He disagreed with those who wanted India to become an industrial country.
From 1893 to 1914 he worked for an Indian firm in South Africa as a lawyer. During these years Gandhi’s experiences of open, racial discrimination moved him into agitation. His interest soon turned to the problem of Indians who had come to South Africa as laborers. He had seen how they were treated as inferiors in India, in England, and then in South Africa.
In 1906, Gandhi began his peaceful revolution. He declared he would go to jail or even die before obeying an anti-Asian law. Thousands of Indians joined him in this civil disobedience campaign.
He started protest campaigns and organized demonstrations, but never used violence. His philosophy was to never fight back against the atrocities, but still never retreat. This, he said, would decrease the hate against him and his fellow believers, and increase the respect felt towards him. Gandhi’s one aim was that everybody – Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Christians, black, white, and yellow – could live together in peace and harmony.
On January 13, 1948, at the age of 78, Gandhi began his last protest. On January 18, British leaders pledged to stop fighting and Gandhi ceased his nonviolent attack. Twelve days later, on January 30, 1948, in Delhi, while on his way to his regular prayer meeting, Gandhi was shot and killed by a Hindu fanatic opposed to partition.
Mohandas Ghandi was the source of many changes throughout, India, Britain, and the world. With all that Ghandi has done in our world it becomes overwhelming when I think about his life. What Ghandi did in terms of opening the minds of the people of India is almost analogous to what Christ did to open the minds of the people around him. With all that can be said about Ghandi, I would like to now shift focus upon his economic impact in Britain and India.
Britain’s self-glorifying empire building was a great hindrance on the Indian economy. Britain employed the “Mother Country” system in Indian. This is a system where the raw materials of the colony (i.e. India) are harvested and shipped to the Mother country (i.e. Britain.) The raw materials are manufactured into goods that are shipped back to the colony where they can be sold for a great profit. Britain had a firm grasp on the cotton market in India. The Indians were forced to sell their raw cotton to the British, and the British would manufacture it into clothes that were sold back to the Indians. Ghandi saw how England was able to railroad the Indian population with its strangle hold on the cotton market. As stated earlier, Ghandi hand-spun his own cloth and inspired others to do as well. By making and using their own cotton the Indian people were protesting the British way of doing things. Ghandi, and his followers, rejected Western style clothing because they had strong feelings of nationalism and proclaimed they were not westerners, thus they would not wear their style of clothing.
The Western style of clothing was just one of many things Ghandi rejected while he was developing into the man that we remember. Had Ghandi accepted the traditional Western style clothing he would not have been able to reach all Indians since a large number of Indians could not afford British clothes.
Ghandi’s policy of non-cooperation and peaceful disobedience is one that would be very difficult to follow through with. I do believe that peaceful protest is a very effective means of getting what you want. When people see a group protesting in a non-violent fashion and then they see that group beaten to the ground by police, it tends to build public support for those in protest.
Ghandi’s defiance towards British rule brought forward a primal emotion that exists in all people, fear. Ghandi undoubtedly had some fear of what might come of him because of his actions, but that did not stop him from pursuing his goal. Ghandi’s ability to inspire the Indian nation certainly caused fear in the British. Approximately 50,000 British were in a foreign land trying to control 300 million Indians, those are not good odds when the people you are controlling start to rebel. Ghandi would not let his fears stop him, regardless of how he felt he continued to stand for equality and justice.
Mahatma Gandhi was an astounding example of someone who was pass and misunderstood, and yet had great determination and beliefs. Throughout his life he brought attention to his beliefs of equality and nonviolence , two main factors of world peace. His teachings, thoughts, and beliefs hold great knowledge and will be forever left as his legacy.
Hopefully, when his life accomplishments and beliefs are looked at and considered by all masses, Gandhi’s true intention could result causing a powerful effect on humanity; a rebuilding of government and society and in effect world peace.
Cite this The life and times of Ghandi
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