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Life & teaching of Mahatma Gandhi

Mohandas Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869 to Hindu parents in Western India. In India, the people are divided into five castes:  Brahmin (priests), Kshatriya (warriors), Vaisya (merchants), Sudra (artisans), and the Untouchables. Mohandas’s family belonged to the caste of Merchants. His father was the town’s diwan. His father’s employment was similar to a town judge that would settle problems between the citizens. Mohanda’s spiritual education actually began at home observing his mother praying before each meal, visiting the temple every day, and fasting during holy times. His marriage to Kasturbai Makanji was arranged when they were both 13 years of age. Mohandas often tried to command Kasturbai, but she resisted him. He learned how effective this quiet resisting was and used it later against the British.

At the age of 18, Mohandas decided to leave his family to study law in London. The government officials in Bombay informed him that if he traveled abroad, he would ruin his standing as a Hindu. Mohandas knew that he would become an outcast for leaving, but he was determined to go. Before leaving, he promised his mother that he would stay away from meat, alcohol, and women. He kept his promise.

Life of Mahatma Gandhi:

After passing the bar, he changed his lifestyle and began to live a very modest way of life. He saved money by cooking his own food and walking where ever he needed to go. This simple existence brought harmony to his inward and outward life.

In 1893, Gandhi was sent to South Africa to try a case. While there, he grew to understand the oppression of the Indian people living in South Africa. The government wanted to enforce “The Black Act” which would require all Indians to be registered and fingerprinted like criminals. Mohandas gathered the people and persuaded them to disobey the law even if it meant going to jail. Many people described this as “passive resistance.” As a Hindu, Gandhi was deeply committed to the doctrine of Ahimsa, or nonviolence. The name Satyagraha was used to explain this new concept. This word means “firmness with truth and love.” Gandhi spent the rest of his live refining the meaning of Satyagraha.  In 1908, Gandhi was arrested and imprisoned for not registering. This was not his last trip to what he called “His Majesty’s Hotels.”

In 1911, Gandhi returned to India. The British still ruled the country. They were interested in India’s great wealth of spices, cloth, and other material. They took these products from India and forced the people to buy them back at higher prices. The great mission of Gandhi’s life was to help the people of India free themselves from British rule. He believed that people should free themselves from domination without using violence. Gandhi encouraged the people to become self-sufficient by weaving their own cloth and growing their own food instead of buying high priced British goods. Gandhi was developing a way of life that would eventually earn him the name Mahatma. In Sanskrit, the ancient language of India, the word means “Great Soul.” Gandhi was not comfortable being viewed as a saint.

Independence from Britain came in 1947. Gandhi, with his walking staff, his round glasses, and his spinning wheel, had become the symbol of free India. When war broke out between the Hindu and Muslim factions, Gandhi fasted for 21 days until the fighting ceased. Gandhi wished for all people of India to be equal and live in peace. Sadly, the country of India was partitioned into Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan. Millions of people were forced to give up their homes and businesses and move. Gandhi never recovered from the collapse of India. He felt that he had not worked hard enough to prevent it.

Gandhi was assassinated on January 30, 1948 on his way to a prayer meeting. His compassionate nature allowed him to forgive his killer before his died. He will always be remembered as the father of the Indian nation.

Gandhi wrote speeches, sermons, and letters to deliver his message of peace to the people. His speeches contained political and economic platforms but the underlying message was about preserving humanity. Gandhi was concerned not only about the people of India but people all over the world. While India was governed by Britain, the culture of his people had been diluted. Freedom for India would not only be good for the country but good for all humanity. He felt that human life is whole and cannot be divided into different compartments, social, economic, political and international. He held nations to the same rules of morality that guide individuals in everyday life.

Two important social principles for Gandhi were central to his thinking: Sarvodaya (the welfare of all) and Antodaya (the welfare of the least).   Gandhi once said the world has enough resources to meet the needs of everyone, though not to satisfy everyone’s greed.  Many famous activists followed the Gandhian method of non-violence (ahimsa). Martin Luther King was strongly influenced by Gandhi. At that time, blacks weren’t allowed to eat in certain restaurants or ride in the front of the bus. Dr. King taught his people to fight discrimination in America the same way Gandhi had in India. Dr. King taught black Americans to fight back peacefully, openly, and cheerfully. Gandhi and Dr. King both hoped to live in a community that was at peace with itself.  Gandhi although deserving, never won a Nobel Peace Prize.

Gandhi felt that education should develop the body, mind, and soul. Religion served a very important part of the educational process. He believed that religion should mold our social, economic, educational, and political lives. The role of the teacher should be more as a guide to the student so that they may develop a skill useful to society. A person that feels beneficial to society will not easily be lead astray. Gandhi claimed that what is really needed to make democracy function is not knowledge of facts, but the right education. Craft, art, health and education should all be integrated into one balanced system. Memorizing countless facts would not help a child function in the world. He believed that children needed experiences and character education to truly receive a holistic education. He also believed that by learning the English language, the students in India had become mere imitators of the western world. When thoughts were transposed into English, they lost their power. He hoped to see his heritage uncorrupted by commercialism and politics. Learning English also divided the castes in India. The well-educated upper castes spoke English unlike the untouchables who could not. This was another example of the political and economic separation happening in India.

I was very excited to research Gandhi. Before beginning my exploration, I knew very little about his life’s work. Along this educational journey, I learned that he was a gentle man who cared for the whole human race, especially the sick and homeless. Everywhere he went, he impressed people with his willingness to sacrifice himself for the good of others. He had strong religious and political viewpoints concerning the people of India. Most of all, I learned that he used the idea of passive resistance to effect change. Of course, this process did not yield immediate results. Gandhi and his followers had to remain loyal to the cause. I found his Gandhian philosophy to be inspirational. Wouldn’t the world be a wonderful place if people solved their problems peacefully?

I also feel that education should be more holistic. Our schools focus on training the mind. The body and the spirit are to be nurtured at home. Our current education system is producing tomorrow’s leaders. If we want them to be well-rounded individuals that can problem-solve in any situation, then students need to be part of a variety of educational experiences.

Gandhi’s humble and non-violent ways changed the course of India and the rest of the world. His greatest work is probably the legacy that he left behind for future generations to follow.

 

Mahatma Gandhi’s Teachings :

“If humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable. He lived, thought, acted and inspired by the vision of humanity evolving toward a world of peace and harmony.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Have you ever dreamed about a joyful world with peace and prosperity for all Mankind – a world in which we respect and love each other despite the differences in our culture, religion and way of life?

I often feel helpless when I see the world in turmoil, a result of the differences between our ideals. This leads to grief and sorrow being inflicted on millions of innocent victims by a few who abuse the power of their convictions.

“How can I make difference so that I may bring peace to this world that I love and cherish so much? A name flickers instantly in my mind.”  – Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi inspired the world with his faith in truth and justice for all Mankind. He was a great soul who loved even those who fought against his ideals to bring about peace with non-violence.

How could a meek and fragile person of small physical stature inspire millions to bring about a profound change in a way the mightiest had never achieved before? His achievements were nothing less than miracles — his creed was to bring peace to not only those who suffered injustice and sorrow but to espouse a new way of life for Mankind, with peace and harmony. His life was a message — a message of peace over power, of finding ways to reconcile our differences, and of living in harmony with respect and love even for our enemy.

Teaching 1: Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment. — Mahatma Gandhi

The force of power never wins against the power of love. At this hour of greatest unrest and turmoil in our world, the greatest force to be reckoned with lies within our hearts — a force of love and tolerance for all. Throughout his life, Mahatma Gandhi fought against the power of force during the heyday of British rein over the world. He transformed the minds of millions, including my father, to fight against injustice with peaceful means and non-violence. His message was as transparent to his enemy as it was to his followers. He believed that, if we fight for the cause of humanity and greater justice, it should include even those who do not conform to our cause. History attests to his power as he proved that we can bring about world peace by seeking and pursuing truth for the benefit of Mankind. We can resolve the greatest of our differences if we dare to have a constructive conversation with our enemy.

Teaching 2: What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?

A war always inflicts pain and sorrow on everyone. History has witnessed countless examples of dictators, including Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin to name but a few, who inflicted sorrow and destruction on our world. A world of peace can be achieved if we learn the power of non-violence, as shown by the life of Mahatma Gandhi.

Mahatma Gandhi has proven that we can achieve the noble causes of liberty, justice and democracy for Mankind without killing anyone, without making a child an orphan, and without making anyone homeless with the damage caused by war.

Teaching 3: There are many causes that I am prepared to die for but no cause that I am prepared to kill for. — Mahatma Gandhi

We live for our values and passion but at the core of our existence lies our innate desire to live a peaceful life. The greatest noble cause is to display our desire to bring about peace in this world by our own sacrifice and not that of those who oppose our views. The strength of cowardice is in using power to cause death and destruction for others. The strength of courage is in self-sacrifice for the benefit of all.

Mahatma Gandhi sacrificed his own lucrative law practice in Durban, South Africa to lead a simple life and to share the pain of the powerless and destitute. He won over the hearts of millions without ever reigning power over anyone — simply with the power of altruism. We too can bring peace to our world by showing our willingness to sacrifice our self-centered desires. Our utmost cause in life should be to win the hearts of others by showing our willingness to serve causes greater than ourselves.

Teaching 4: An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind — Mahatma Gandhi

History can attest to the fact that most human conflicts have been as a result of a stubborn approach by our leaders. Our history would turn out for the better if our leaders could just learn that most disputes can be resolved by showing a willingness to understand the issues of our opponents and by using diplomacy and compassion.

No matter where we live, what religion we practice or what culture we cultivate, at the heart of everything, we are all humans. We all have the same ambitions and aspirations to raise our family and to live life to its fullest. Our cultural, religious and political differences should not provide the backbone to invoke conflicts that can only bring sorrow and destruction to our world.

Teaching 5: We must become the change we want to see in the world. — Mahatma Gandhi

A great leader always leads with an exemplary life that echoes his ideals. Mahatma Gandhi sacrificed his thriving law practice and adopted a simple life to live among the millions who lived in poverty during his freedom struggle. Today, we see modern leaders cajoling the masses with promises that they never intend to keep – let alone practicing what they preach in their own lives. One cannot bring world peace to all unless a leader demonstrates peaceful acts of kindness daily. Mahatma Gandhi believed that we are all children of God. We should not discriminate amongst ourselves based on faith, caste, creed or any other differences.

“Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.” – Albert Einstein on Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi taught us that we can bring harmony to our world by becoming champions of love and peace for all. The task is daunting, but he has shown that a fragile, meekly man of small physical stature can achieve feats of incredible magnitude with a staunch belief to practice peace through non-violence. Will you make a pledge to become the change that you would like to see in this world? I have.

Let the first act of every morning be to make the following resolve for the day:

  • I shall not fear anyone on Earth.
  • I shall fear only God.
  • I shall not bear ill will toward anyone.
  • I shall not submit to injustice from anyone.
  • I shall conquer untruth by truth. And in resisting untruth, I shall put up with all suffering.

An outstanding example of Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership was his famous Salt March, which brought about a profound change. On March 2nd 1930, as a protest at tax on salt, Gandhi wrote a remarkable letter to Lord Irwin, the Viceroy of India. He wrote, “Dear Friend, I cannot intentionally hurt anything that lives, much less fellow human beings, even though they may do the greatest wrong to me and mine. Whilst, therefore, I hold the British rule to be a curse, I do not intend to harm to a single Englishman or to any legitimate interest he may have in India…” With these words, he inspired millions to fight for this righteous cause and eventually forced the British to leave India without inflicting harm to any Englishman. Such were the quintessential qualities of justice and peace that made Mahatma Gandhi the man who changed our world for the better with his ideals of faith, love and tolerance.

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