Gandhi Teachings From Gandhi, to Gandhiji, to Mahatma and Bapu, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi has traveled the distance from being the national hero to a legend. Gandhi, in life, was much more. Gandhi was a thinker, a philosopher, and also a statesman. He believed he could lead only if he was a worthy leader. To be a worthy leader he had to be morally strong. As he used to say, “A liar could not teach his pupils to speak the truth, a coward can not train young men to be brave.” So to be morally strong, he believed one has to be strong in spirit.
To be strong in spirit, one must live in accordance with one’s beliefs, by a strict code of conduct. With such an all-encompassing vision of life, every area of human life was of interest to Gandhi. Very little escaped his attention. And a cursory glance would never do for Gandhi. He would mull over a subject, think about it during his periods of silence or incarceration, write about it, discuss it, experiment with it in his own life– whether it was the subject of fasting, giving up salt in his food, celibacy, abstinence or the use of non-violence as a political tool.
II. Gandhis Early Life Mahatma Gandhi was born on Oct 2, 1869, in Porbandar, India. His parents belonged to the Vaisya (merchant) caste of Hindu’s. Gandhi was a shy and serious boy and grew up in an atmosphere of religious tolerance and acceptance of teachings of various Hindu sects. When he was 13 years old, he married Kasturibhai, a girl of the same age.
The wedding was arranged according to custom by his parents. The Gandhi’s had four children. At the age of 19, Gandhi traveled to England to study law. In London he began develop his philosophy of life. He also studied the great Indian religious classic the Bhagavad-Gita and also turned to the New Testament of the Bible and to the teachings of the Buddha.
In 1891 Gandhi returned to India to practice law but met with little success. III. Gandhi in Africa In 1893,Gandhi went to South Africa to do some legal work. South Africa was then under British rule. Almost immediately, he was abused because he was an Indian who claimed his rights as a British subject. He saw that all Indians suffered from discrimination.
His law assignment was for one year, but he stayed on in South Africa for 21 years to work for Indian rights. Gandhi led many campaigns in South Africa and edited a newspaper, Indian Opinion. As a part of sahyagraha, he promoted civil disobedience campaigns and organized a strike among Indian Miners. Gandhi also worked for the British when he thought justice was on their side. They decorated him for medical work in the Anglo-Boer war.
Gandhi fully developed his philosophy of life in South Africa. He was greatly influenced by writings of Leo Tolstoy’s and John Ruskin but his greatest influence on him was Bhagavad-Gita, which became an unfailing source of inspiration. IV. Spiritual Reality in Africa Gandhi believed that all life was a part of one ultimate spiritual reality. The supreme goal was self-realization; the realization that one’s true self was identical with ultimate reality.
He believed that all religions contain some element of truth and this accounted for his own religious tolerance. Gandhi experimented with communal living at the Phoenix farm and the Tolstoy’s farm in South Africa, and later at the Sabramati ashram, in India. There he practiced voluntary simplicity, a way of life designed to offer an alternative to the increasingly competitive, stressful, and violent atmosphere of western civilization. Gandhi himself served as teacher, cook, nurse, and even scavenger. As a social reformer, he fought for the emancipation of women, the removal of the tradition of untouchability (low caste or caste status) and for Hindu Muslim unity.
In 1914 the government of the Union of South Africa made important concessions to Gandhis demands, including recognition of Indian marriages and abolition of the poll tax for them. His work in South Africa complete, he returned to India. V. Gandhi returns to India In 1915, Gandhi returned to India. Within five years, he became the leader of the Indian nationalist movement.
In 1919, the British introduced the Rowlatt bills to make it unlawful to organize opposition to the government. Gandhi led a peaceful protest campaign that succeeded in preventing one of the bills. The others were never enforced. Gandhi called off the campaign when riots broke out. He then fasted to make an impression on people and to convey the need to be nonviolent.
His belief in the cruelty of imperial rule became more intense after the Amritsar Massacre of April 13,1919 where a British general opened fire on an unarmed crowd and 400 people were killed. This made Gandhi even more determined to develop non-violent protest and to win independence through non-violent resistance. Gandhi remained in South Africa for 20 years, suffering imprisonment many times. In 1896, after being attacked and beaten by white South Africans, Gandhi began to teach a policy of passive resistance towards the South African authorities. Part of the inspiration for this policy came from the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, whose influence on Gandhi was great. Gandhi also acknowledged his debt to the teachings of Christ and to the 19th-century American writer Henry David Thoreau, especially to Thoreau’s famous essay “Civil Disobedience.” Gandhi considered the terms passive resistance and civil disobedience as not quite right for his cause. Gandhi coined another term, Satyagraha (Sanskrit, “truth and firmness”).
VI. Indian Cloth One of Gandhi’s causes was for homespun cloth. India’s cotton was exported to England where it was made into clothing and sold back to India cheap, which meant no profit for the cotton growers. Gandhi boycotted English-made clothing and urged everyone to learn how to make his or her own. Gandhi was often seen spinning cloth on his wheel, and what he made was all he wore. Gandhi began a program of hand spinning and weaving in about 1920.
He believed that the program helped fight for independence in three ways (1) it aided economic freedom by making India self sufficient in cloth; (2) it promoted social freedom through dignity of labor; (3) it advanced political freedom by challenging the British textile industry. VII. Satyagraha In 1930, Gandhi announced a new method of civil disobedience, refusing to pay taxes, especially taxes on salt. Gandhi is most famous for practicing non-violence, or passive resistance. He gave it the term Satyagraha, which translates into “holding onto truth.” Satyagraha was a way of life, a new way to bring about change without violence. Fighting injustice required one to love fellow beings and this love demanded non-violence.
Gandhi believed it was necessary to first feel for the oppressed then fight for justice, thus making Satyagraha a “truth” and “justice” seeking force. Gandhi knew that fear and hatred would only fuel more of the same, so he fought his wars with nothing more than courage and peace, staying true to himself. This showed that he and his followers were more truthful and courageous than the biggest army; for an army to use weapons on an unarmed crowd, that shows its weakness. VIII. A Free India Gandhi became a leader in the Indian campaign for home rule.
Following World War I, in which he played an active part in recruiting campaigns, Gandhi, again advocating Satyagraha, launched his movement of passive resistance to Great Britain. When, in 1919, Parliament passed the Rowlatt Act, giving the Indian colonial authorities emergency powers to deal with so-called revolutionary activities, Satyagraha spread through India, gaining millions of followers. A demonstration against the Rowlatt Act resulted in a massacre of Indians at Amritsar by British soldiers in 1920. When the British government failed to make amends …