Personality of Mahatma Gandhi.
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world”
Who was Gandhi?
Mahatma Gandhi was an Indian politican, leader and revolutionary, as well as one of the greatest thinkers and peacemakers of the 20th century. He is the figure most closely associated with championing the rights of South African Indians, following the struggle for India’s independence from Great Britain and the end of colonialism in the country. He was aproponent of the passive method of resistance, i.e.nonviolent revolution against authorities and injustice. His exclusively peaceful methods shone a light at a time when humanity was overwhelmed by war and violence.
Gandhi’s appearance did not reveal his dynamic character. He was delicate, with a thin bodydue to his modest diet and frequent fasting. His attire was simple: aloincloth, a shawl and a pair of sandals. He had thin, tight legs and long hands. His chocolate-coloured skin was clear and bright, as indeed was his whole appearance. He had awide head with prominent ears and a small, a lively face, with a big nose, a mustache, and twoexpressive eyes. His lips gave a sense of strength and self-control and often showed a toothless smile. His eyes were framed by a pair of round, metal glasses. He had a quiet musical voice. He was sweet and good in his disposition.Although his appearancewas not impressive,his words and actions guaranteed his fame across the world.
“Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi” was Gandhi’s full name. Later in his life, he acquired the nickname Mahatma, which in Sanskrit means “great soul”. And he was a great soul, indeed, for love was the basis of all his relationships, as well as his political accomplishments. He faced all people with confidence and affection, even his opponents, and expected the same in return. He was characterised by an unwavering belief in the goodness of humanity. He influenced others not through theories, but through his passion, actions and sincerity.He had the rare gift of spreading joy to those who surrounded him, as well as broadening the spirital horizons of all who crossed his path.
Gandhi was the definition of mind over matter. He was passionate about his beliefs, values and social ideals. Having managed to fully control all too human weaknesses, such as gluttony and ambition, he had a great deal of energy for all his social interactions. In the way he lived his life, he was the beginning of the change he wanted to see in the world?
Was he a politician or saint?Gandhi was in the political sphere for many years, but people came to love and respect him almost as a saint. They came from all regions of India to ask for his blessing and guidance. Many people evenconsidered him to be a figure analogous to Christ or Muhammad. All the same, Gandhi remained asimple man.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Examining Gandhi’s life and attitudes, Gandhi may be classified as a “Giver” according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. A “Giver” is one who places “giving” at the core of his existence.
Gandhi seems to have focused more on othersthan himself. He defended and helped relatives, friends – even an entire nation. The people who knew him personally described him as a warm, loving and friendly. He was generous, offering up his material goods and money to the poorest of India. He was characterised by extroversion, as he liked to be surrounded by people. He communicated with immediacy and honesty, and led an active lifestyle. It seems, however, that his constant contact with others and his spiritual and material offerings to them eventually led to increasing introversion. He was distinguished for his ability to connect with other people and to speak to their hearts, regardless of their social class or character.He won the affection of people from all walks of life.
Gandhi seems to have trusted his instinct, as he acted more intuitively than logically. He followed the way of love and not the usual practices of most politicians.He was good at analysing and settling complicated issues. This was one of the reasons why everyone, from ordinary peasants to the most important politicians of the country, would come to him for advice. He had a talent for diplomacy, since he could negotiate effectively while achieving his own aims. He avoided conflicts and solved problems peacefully. He made decisions based on his personal values and he was faithful to his moral principles. His life was characterised by discipline and self-control.All these made him a “Giver”.
“I have also seen children successfully surmounting the effects of an evil inheritance. That is due to purity being an inherent attribute of the soul.”
From birth to adulthood
Gandhi’s family came from the Vaisya caste, the third of the four castes of the Indian social pyramid, which is traditionally engaged in trade, agriculture and crafts. In the Hindi language, “Gandhi” means “greengrocer”, suggesting the family’s original occupation. Gandhi’s grandfather, Uttamchand, had been the prime minister of the principality of Porbandar, a small state in western India.His son Karamchand, Gandhi’s father, took up this same position in time.
Gandhi’s father may not have been highly educated, but he was reputed for his honesty, sincerity and bravery. However, he was not only an irritable person reputedly, but alsoone rather prone to earthly pleasures. He was married four times.Gandhi was born in Porbandar on October 2nd, 1869 and he was the fourth and final child of his family.
Gandhi’s status as the youngest child of the family may have influenced his development, as he realised very early that he would need to fight for attention and success. It is well known that younger children feel weak in comparison to their older siblings, who are stronger and fully-grown, so they try to distinguish themselves in other ways, such as developing special social skills and fluent speech.
Mohanya, as he was called by his relatives, grew up in a wealthy family.He was interested in religion and mythology, and also played the accordion.He liked playing with balloons and spinners and he participated in sports, such as tennis and cricket. His nanny, Rambha, was significantly involved in his upbringing, but his love for his mother, Putlibai, was unrivalled. He admired her for her “holiness” and her “deep religiousness”.She always prayed before the meal, visited temple regularly, and was consistent and devoted to regular fasting.
Gandhi as a student
Gandhi was a moderate student, but conscientious enough that he would complete his work on time, and to an acceptable standard. He did not have many friends, as he avoided the other children for fear they would make fun of him. As he grew up, he made some friends by playing on the street or on the beach. Out of school he began to rebel, even stealing money from his family to feed a smoking habit. Once, fed up with his obeyinghis parents, he contemplated committing suicide by smoking poisonous cannabis seeds with a friend. They ultimately decided against the idea, fearing that they would suffer a drawn-out and painful death.
Since his early age, therefore, Gandhi needed to go against the rules imposed on him. The only rules he accepted were his own.
In fact, even though his family was strictly vegetarian, he often ate meat. A friend encouraged him to do so, arguing that eating meat would make him tall, muscular and courageous. Gandhi, who was weak and afraid of ghosts and the dark, was terribly envious of his braver peers and strapping older brother.
At the age of thirteen, while he was still a student, Mahatma married the daughter of a merchant, Kasturbai. The Indian custom of child marriage, however, thrust children sharply into the adult world, which they were often not mature enough to manage. Gandhi was jealous of his wife and incredibly strict and authoritarian towards her. He did not allow her to go out to play with her friends, causing them to fight and sometimes not to talk to each other for many days. But he loved her and often thought of her, even while at school.
He lusted after his wife, but felt guilty for doing so when it interfered with his duties. An incident when he was sixteen marked him for life. Every evening he massaged and treated his father, who suffered from fistulas. One evening, his uncle offered to take care of the father and Mahatma decided to visit his wife’s bedroom. That night, his father died in the presence of his uncle, while Gandhi was with his wife. He never got over this fact. At the same time, Kasturbai was also pregnant. The baby died three days after its birth, and Gandhi considered it as punishment for their sexual encounter that evening.
How could he enjoy love in the rest of his life when it was associated with death and guilt so closely?
Gandhi’s aspect about religion in his childhood
As for Gandhi’s relationship with religion, he did not often visit temples and felt that Hinduism imposedrestrictions that didn’t cohere with his radical nature. He did not particularly believe in God, since the creation of the world remained a mystery, despite his avid reading. But he was interested in religion, as a cognitive field, and he liked listening to his father’s conversations with people of other religions, such as Muslims and Jainists.
In addition, a Jainist monk urged Mohandas’s mother to allow him to go to England in order to study Law. Although Gandhi’s deepest desire was to become a doctor, he was willing to attend the three-year law school in England in order to become a prime minister. His mother and uncle were worried that if he studied in England, he would forget theprinciples of Hinduism. To changehis mother’s mind, on the advice of the monk, he gave a triple pledge before leaving: not to touch wine, women and meat. Thus, Gandhi left India to study, with the financial support of his brother.
“To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.”
Gandhi’s student life
Before the age of eighteen, Gandhi began his legal studies at the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, considered the most aristocratic of the four Inns of Court in London. His studieslasted for two years and eight months. In later accounts Gandhi recalled much about his lifestyle at the time: his diet, his outfit, his shyness and his religious practices. He tried to get used to the English way of life, but he did not renounce his Hindu origin. He was well-groomed, sophisticated and fashionable. His English friends often urged him to eat meat, but he insisted strictly on the principles of vegetarianism. Luckily he found some vegetarian restaurants in London where he used to take his lunch. Gradually he forgoedeggs, spices and sweets and settled intoa modest diet. As for his studies, he learned French, Latin, Physics, Common and Roman Law and he was successful in his exams. He left England immediately after graduating, since he never felt comfortable in the country or its way of life; nor was he close to the acquaintances he had met. He realised he was an Indian at heart. The observance of his triple pledge was a small rehearsal for the devotion and the courage he would show later in his life.
Gita and Gandhi
During the second year of his studies, Gandhi read for the first time the Bhagavad Gita or simply Gita, which means “God’s song”, a holy book of Hinduism. Its value is analogous to that of the New Testament for Christianity. This book dates between the 5th and the 2nd century BC and is a dialogue between Krishna, the central hero of Gita, and Arjuna. Krishna is the incarnation of God into man and a symbol of the world’s self. In this book, he appears to live as a common mortalwhile using his superhuman powers to save his fellowmen from dangers and disasters. When he grew up, he killed his uncle, who ruled as a tyrant, and became famous. During the last years of his life he lived alone in a forest, where a hunter accidentally killed him with his arrows. While dying, Krishna smiled and forgave the hunter, who had understood his mistake and mourned.
At one point in the book, Arjuna describes the suffering he experiences on a battlefield with his cousins. It is so unbearable for him to murder his familythat he prefers to himself to be killed by their weapons without even fighting. Krishna interferes and stops it by saying that it is futile to mourn, since the soul is eternal and immortal and not offended by human weapons. The death of the living and the rebirth of the dead is certain. He recalls Arjuna’s duty to fight. According to Gandhi’s himself, the point of this story is not to applaud violence, but to allegorise the internal conflicts taking place in the human soul, which is symbolised as a battlefield. Arjuna is the man who is fighting against evil.
Gita was for Mahatma his gospel, his spiritual guide. He soughtguidance and consolation from it every time he was in trouble. He saw much of his own values in the book.Gita similarly supports action in the achievement of goals and also includesteachings on how to avoid sin.It suggests that onehas to pay the same attention to pleasure and pain in order not to commit sins and to act selflessly.The man who can control his own mind and overcome fleshly desires, such as sexual pleasure and wealth, and pursue only spiritual pleasure, will fine bliss. For in this way, he can be unaffected by the sufferings of the body, such as poverty and hunger. The curbing of physical desires and the complete disconnection from them was Gandhi’s primary aim. The reward provided by Gita for those who follow these principles is to be united with the divine and to cease successive reincarnations. Gandhi often remarked that he hoped not to be reborn.
It seems that Gandhi found in Gitanot only the spiritual but the practical guidance he was looking for. Through the adventures of the mythical figures of Krishna and Arjuna, he may have probed his own personal myth, the heroes with whom he was identified, at an age when his identity was still being formed. Perhaps this need for guidance was related to the fact that his father was no longer alive to advise and support him.
“Man is supposed to be the maker of his destiny. It is only partly true. He can make his destiny, only in so far as he is allowed by the Great Power.”
Gandhi’s return to India
When Gandhi returned to India, he learned that his mother had died when he wasaway, but that his relatives had chosen not to reveal it because of his special love for her. His son, Harilal, who was born just before he left, was now four years old. He spent time with his wife and child, but he was unable to support them financially.Despite the expectations of his older brother, he was not successful as a lawyer, as he was unable to speak fluently in a court. He then suffered humiliation with a British officer, which caused him such disappointment that he decided to leave India. Thus, after two very difficult years, he decided to go to South Africa to represent a companyof some Muslims from Porbandar, as a lawyer. Kasturbaistayed in India with their two sons: the second one was then one year old. In South Africa, Gandhi began to turn into a completely different person, as if he had been reborn.
“The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.”
Gandhi’s first year in South Africa
Mahatma arrived in Durban, South Africa, in May 1893, to defend a Muslim entrepreneur in court. To attend this trial, he needed to go to Pretoria, Transvaal. During the night, while travelling by train in first class, a white man and two police officers told him he had to move to the third class. Understandably, Gandhi was not happy. In the end, they pulled him off the train along with his luggage. The next day,aftertalking with other Indians, he found that they had experienced similar incidents, but no one complained about racial discrimination against them. For them, it was an established situation, as people of Indian origin in the English colonies of South Africa were considered as “coolies” (blue-collar workers), although some of them could practise prominent professions, such as lawyers and traders. Over the next few days, he encountered similar problems in finding a room in a hotel to stay overnight. He understood, however, that not all whites were biased towards him. At the inn he stayed in one night, all customers were allowed to dine in the same area.On the train, similarly, an English passenger was happy to sit on the same wagon with him, despite the objections of the police.
Gandhi’s first public speech
After a few days, Gandhi held his first public speech, inviting all Indians of Pretoria to meet in order to discuss their situation and the changes that could be made. He even started teaching English to some. In the days that followed, he met withall the Indians in the area, and struck an agreement with the railway authorities: all Indians suitably attired would be able to travel to the first or second class. In addition, through the other lawyers, he came in contact with many Christians, with whom he developed friendships and enjoyed discussing religious matters.
As for his work, Gandhi had become a significantly better lawyer. He learned how to keep business accounts in order, and kept himself informed about important legal issues. In the cases he undertook, he always preferred out-of-court settlements in order to avoid trials and maintain a calm state of mind.
While preparing to return to India, he was informed about a government proposal to remove the right of Indians to elect parliament members. Gandhi urged his compatriots to protest against this proposal, but he needed to stay in South Africa for the time being, in order to fight for the Indians there.
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
Gandhi’s fight for rights
The beginning of the fight
In August 1894, Gandhi decided to stay for a while in South Africa to help Indians secure their rights. They faced two major problems. Firstly, the Indians who originally came to the country as blue-collar workers, for a pre-determined period of time, and then wished to stay as free workers, were obliged to pay very high taxes. In addition, in 1894, voting rights were granted to a few eminent and affluent Indians by Queen Victoria herself, but were then removed by the Parliament of Natal. Other difficulties included the fact that Indians had to carry their passports if they wished to be in public after 9pm. Otherwise they could be arrested, as they were not allowed to trade, own certain land, cultivate land, or even buy gold or walk on certain paths.
To deal with these issues, Gandhi organised conferences, published articles, collected signatures, and spread the word to English, African and Indian peoples. His tactic was to appeal to the rationality and the ethics of his opponents.His main aim was equality for Indian citizens of Great Britain and its colonies.
For a period of six months Gandhi returned to India, where he wrote a booklet on India’s difficulties in South Africa and sent it to the newspapers and prominent personalities in India, he returned to South Africa along with his wife, their two sons, one nephew, and two ships carrying about eight hundred Indians. The ships were initially quarantined, as the locals believed that Gandhi wanted to fill the area with his compatriots. However, 23 days later,they were allowed to disembark.
While Gandhi had left the ship and was walking to a friend’s home two children recognised him and called his name. Soon, a crowd of furious whites had gathered around him. They isolated him from his fellows,threw stones and punched him. Eventually, the police chief’s wife, who saw the incident, protected Gandhi. Another boy called the police to accompany Gandhi home. Mahatma categorically refused to denounce the men who attacked him, as he believed it was a mistake of the government of Natal that filled their hearts with hate and fear for him. On the contrary, he forgave them and devoted himself to his serious work. In 1897, the government of Natalacknowledged equal voting rights for all British citizens, including the Indians.
Gandhi’s stunning ability to maintain his self-control even in adverse situations is obvious at this point. He could have let his anger of those who mocked him and his desire for vengeance overwhelm him. Instead, he chose to understand these people. He recognised thattheir government made them afraid, and he readily forgave them.With forgiveness, one is released from thoughts and emotions that burden one’s mental and physical health, which divert attention from the important things in life. Thus, Gandhi managed to maintain his balanced state of mindthrough forgiveness and continued to direct his energy towards his noble aims.
Gandhi’s great change: the beginning
During his stay in South Africa, Gandhi had a fairly high income, from his work as a lawyer, and led a prosperous life.
He used toinvolvehimself in housework, which bothered his wife. He tried to impose his own strict and often dysfunctional rules, not only on himself but also on his wife and children.Theirhouse had no running water, and each room had a chamberpot that was removed and cleaned every day by Gandhi and Kasturbai, as Gandhi did not hire a servant. Sometimes the couple quarrled when Kasturbai refused to clean the pot of a guest. Gandhi insisted that his wife had to do this job, and when she broke into tears, he was particularly critical of her, telling her that he would not tolerate such silly behaviors in his house. The quarrel ended with Gandhi pushing her out of the house and her shouting that she had nowhere else to go and no one else to support her there.
There was a second greatquarrel between the couple in 1901, when Gandhi’s family returned to India and many Indians in the area offered them jewellery, gold, silver and diamonds as gifts. Mahatma, urged by his longing to get rid of the burden of private property, and because he himself hadencouraged people not to pay attention to material goods, decided to offer these precious gifts to the Indian community. So he removed all these treasures from his home, even a gold necklace he had given to his wife.
Gandhi wanted to pursue a simple life without luxuries. He was strictly committed to vegetarian diet and preferred natural medical treatments.He often adhered tolongfastsand restricted his diet to nuts and fruits. When he stayed in Johannesburg, he walked the 5-mile way to and fromhis office.
In the trials he undertook, he insisted that the client should reveal to him the whole truth, and if he realised that some incidents were being hidden, he would refusethe case. He believed that a good lawyer was the one who helped the court discover the truth and to confer justice, not the one lying to the benefit of his client.
In 1903, Gandhi read a book by John Ruskincalled‘UntoThis Last”. The ideas of this book caused him to radically change his life. He bought a farm in Phoenix, a vast estate that included various fruit trees, as well as his own house. The offices of Indian Opinion, a magazine to which Gandhi had contributed greatly, would also be headquartered there. However, for a few years his family moved back and forth between Phoenix and Johannesburg, where his work as a lawyer still called him.
Gandhi was constantly trying to practise self-control. For this reason, he had made a decision to curb his appetite for food, with the ultimate aim of releasing him from the intense human passions, such as anger, vanity and sexual desire. He believed that the body should only be provided with what is necessary for its survival, and that fleshlydesiresshould be controlled so that man can develop spiritually and engage in his superior aims. He argued that a person wishing to offer unselfish service had to devote himself totally to his aim, even forgoing the interests of his own family. As part of this effort for self-control, he also took the decision to abstain from sexual intercourse, to whichKasturbai did not protest.
Gandhi’s first imprisonment
In September 1906, the Indian Community headed by Gandhi convened a meeting of about 3,000 people at the Imperial Theatre, Johannesburg. They came to discussa new law that compelled all Indians to give their fingerprints, declare their stay in South Africa and bring with them the certificate of their declaration. Offenders of this law would be fined, imprisoned and would be deprived of their right to reside in the country. At Gandhi’s instigation, all those who were present pledged not to obey this deceptive law, even if they needed to pay the price.
Gandhi initially disapproved of the term “passive resistance” because he was not passive. In order to characterise this resistance movement at the Imperial Theatre, he preferred the term “Satyagraha”, meaning truth or holding firm to the truth. He wished to emphasise the peaceful nature of their movement, the absence of violence and hostility towards the opponent, and an attitude of sincerity, patience and compassion.
A few days after the meeting, the government of Transvaal exempted women of Asian origin from the law. Then, Gandhi travelled to London to hold meetings with political figures to negotiate the law. Among them was Lord Elgin, Secretary of the Colonial State. On his way back, he was informed that Elgin would not approve the application of the law against the Asians, but since Transvaal would cease to be an English colony fromJanuary 1st1907, his government could implement voluntarily the law. So it was implemented in July 1907.
When that law came into force, some Asians rushed to get a residence permit, but most refused, so they were brought to court. Among them was Gandhi, who was given two months’ imprisonment. He even managed to use his time in prisonprofitably, mainly by reading books. However, his imprisonment was interrupted in less than 20 days as the government made him a proposal: ifthe Indians declared their stay on a voluntary basis, there would be a revocation of the law.
Gandhi accepted the proposal, thinking that the statement would not be humiliating, since it would be voluntary and not coercive. He tried to persuade the rest of the Indians that accepting this proposal would be the most favourable choice for them. Although he received numerous negative reactions from his compatriots, he was the first to make this statement.
On the day he was to make his statement, a group of Indians who had been dissatisfied with his political attitude followed him and attacked him. Gandhi endured the assault and, once again, did not prosecute his opponents. When he recovered, he managed to complete his statement. His movement was imitated by other Indians. In the end, however, the government violated its promise and did not withdraw the law. Consequently, the Indians who did not have a residence certificate were considered to be illegal immigrants and deported.
It was imperative that the Indians claim the right to live and enter freely in Transvaal. To achieve their aim, they decided, under the Gandhi’s guidance, to protest: they entered in Transvaal without certificates in order to be arrested. Among them was the older son of Gandhi, Harilal. These people were arrested and sentenced to three months’ imprisonment.
Gandhi was also arrested and taken to Volksrust Prison, where more than 75 Indians were held. He as glad to serve as a cook to them, and spent time on other manual tasks such as scraping, digging, cleaning the premises. He could simply pay the fine but he considered that to be the coward’s way out. In addition, he observed that he was enjoying some privileges as a prisoner, such as his discharge from worries and responsibilities and the extra time available for pray. He also enjoyed the feeling that he suffered for the sake of his homeland and his religion.
At this point, it could be observed that Gandhi’s self-sacrifice for a superior, noble aim, beyond his own limits, reaches the limits of moral masochism. He did not hesitate to be deprived of his temporary personal satisfaction in order to defend the rights of the South African Indians. Moreover he seemed to be pleased with the fact that he was imprisoned to serve a higher social good as well as his own values.
The period of consecutive imprisonments
During the following period, many of Gandhi’s supporters were either punished with imprisonment or deported and returned to India, losing their property in South Africa. Some of them may be imprisoned five times, one sentence after another. In addition, a new federal union opposing to the equality of Indian rights, headed by Botha and Smuts, was created in the country.
Gandhi tooka five-month trip to England in order to gain the favour of important political figures, as well aspublic opinion. He soon succeeded in winningthe ordinary people and politicians of England to the Indian cause. Whilst coming into contact with Indians of various political beliefs on this trip, he began to reflect on the issue of the political independence of India.
When he returned to South Africa, he decided that it was necessary to offer accommodation to the people and their families who resisted. The farm in Phoenix was a long way from the outbreak of the race at Transvaal, so his friend and partner, Herman Kellenbach, bought an enormous plot of land in a city near Johannesburg for this aim. Gandhi named it Tolstoy Farm, in honour of the friendship and exchange of ideas he had with Leo Tolstoy.
The farm contained over 1,000 fruit trees, springs, wells and a house around which other smaller ones were built. There, Gandhi and Kellenbach settled with their families. They made their own food and their own wooden furniture. Gandhi learned to make bread, jam and coffee from caramel wheat. There were no chairs and beds. They allslept together on the ground with their blankets.
The situation seemed to be settled when, in October 1912, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, the President of the Servants of Indian Society in India, visited South Africa. After a meeting with Botha and Smuts, head of the country’s government, he informed Gandhi that the ban on immigration and the taxes paid by former blue-collar workers would cease to apply. However, this decision was withdrawn. In addition, according to a new law, only Christian marriages were recognised as legal in the country, excluding all other religions.
A new wave of resistance burst out, and for the first time, many women also participated. Along with mass arrests of Indians entering and leaving Natal, Indian miners declared a strike. As they were housed in the buildings of the companies they were working for, their companies stopped supplying water and electricity to them. Upon Gandhi’s command, the workers gathered around the house of some of their friends who tookcare of them. But their number and need for food was too great.Gandhi therefore suggested moving across the Transvaal-Natal border to be taken to prison, where they would have at least food and shelter. Arriving near the border, trains were carrying them back to Natal, where they were tried and imprisoned.
Meanwhile, a wave of Indian revolution had spread throughout the country. The striking workers were brought back to the mines, where their bosses tried to force them to work. The strikes multiplied and, in the attempts of the army to suppress them, some workers injured or killed.The English government intervened to resolve the situation.
Gandhi has decided to takeanother course with his compatriots, but it coincided with a strike by European rail workers. As a sign of respect for the opponent’s weakness, the course was suspended. Gandhi’s aim was to assert the rights of the Indians, not to harm his opponent or exploit his weakness. This move of humanity seemed to have touched the African government and brought support messages from England and the whole of South Africa.
Smuts finally extended Gandhi an opportunity to negotiate. Gandhi once again demonstrated his ability to forgive and reconcile. Finally, they came to an agreement. Hindu weddings were declared legitimate. The taxes demanded by the former blue-collarworkers who remained in Natal were abolished. The work of Indians under slavery would be stopped few years later. The ban on the free movement of Indians from one side of the country to another remained. Both sides, in order to reach an agreement, made some compromises. Gandhi’s real victory, however, was not only the withdrawal of laws, but his ability to speak to the hearts of his opponents and find the peace and humanity within them.
“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”
Gandhi’s action in India
Gandhi, the supporter of the poor
When World War I began, Gandhi, although he disliked violence, offered to set up a group of stretcher-bearersfor the British Army. He believed that as an Indian, resident in a place protected by Great Britain, he owed something to the country.
He returned to India in January 1915. There, he wrote his first book, “Indian Home Rule”, which was a dialogue on the arguments for Indian independence. He argued that it was not hostility but a fair attitude towards the English that would make India an independent state. The real conqueror, according to Gandhi, was not England, but modern civilisation.The advance of industry and machinery was being worshipped as a god, and people were forgetting their culture and morality.Despite his intense patriotism, which was mainly due to his religiosity, he was open to accepting influences from other cultures, such as that of the English.. What most resonated with Gandhi about Britain was the fact that citizens were free to focus their energy to wherever their consciences directed them.
Gandhi’s house in India
Gandhi’s housein India was a hermitage in a village beside the Sabarmati River.There was no private space for himself and his family, since all the people of India he now considered a part of his family. His room looked like a cell: small, with bars on the window. He would sleep and work in a small courtyard, whatever the weather conditions. Many of his students built their houses around his own.He wore poor clothes, often just a loincloth, to get closer to the Indian peasants.
According to Gandhi, the independence of the country had to begin by improving the situation of peasants, living in villages in poverty and ignorance. To achieve this, politicians had to better understandthecommon folk, speak their language and wear their clothes.
In February 1916, Gandhi held a public speech at Hindu University Central College before politicians and officers in the country, where he openly accused the English and Indian governments of exploiting peasants to live their affluent lives. He argued that university education should be carried out not in English, but in their mother tongue, in order to preserve their cultural identity. He emphasisedthe responsibility of each Indian for the material and moral decline of the country: its dirty and ruined temples, their abusive attitudes, the anarchist groups that caused the government’s suspicion. The speech, of course, caused negative reactions from the public, but Gandhi’s reputation as a supporter of the poor began to spread.
“Untouchables”, the peasants who worked as blue-collar workers and lived in degraded conditions, were so named because they were not allowed to touch any person that was within the Indian caste system. For this reason, they were forbidden to enter Indian houses, temples and shops.
Gandhi disapproved of the social prejudices against them. He believed that Indians had to show humanity to each other before calling out the humanity of England.
He had also worked with the untouchables during his time in South Africa. Once, an untouchable family asked Gandhi to settle in his hermitage. He not only accepted them, but also adopted their daughter. This was so upsetting to his wealthy supporters that many withdrew their financial support.
Fortunately, however, there were other wealthy Indians who rushed to offer. Kasturbai also complained about having an untouchable in her household, but Gandhi would have none of it. Gandhi began to live as untouchable himselfand cleaned the toilets of the hermitage. Since all of them lived as untouchables, they did not need to fear being infected by their contact.Gandhi called them “Harijans” or “Children of God”. This love for the untouchables cost him the loss of many Indians. At the same time though, many well-born Indians were proud to be his guests.
The support of Champaran growers by Gandhi
In 1917, Gandhi defended Champaran’s employed growers against the British landowners of the region. In particular, the farmers had agreed to cultivate 15% of their land and to pay it to the landowners. When, however, Germany released the synthetic lute, the crops were useless and the landowners demanded compensation from the growers in order to exempt them from the 15%. Some farmers refused to pay and others, who initially paid, asked for their money back. Landowners began to abuse and intimidate the farmers.
Gandhi arrived at Champaran and began investigating the matter. Asking for evidence from the British Landlord Association and the British Commissioner of the region, they tried to expel him by intimidating him. Instead of just leaving the area, he continued his investigations. He received a written mandate from the police to leave the region and signed that he would not obey. The next day he was brought to trial. Soon, the area was overwhelmed by villagers who rushed to support him. He was asked to pay a guarantee to be released, but he refused. A group of lawyers arrived in support of him and declared him willing to be imprisoned. Gandhi showed that the English could not rule him within his own country. Other Indias took heart in his example and began to forgo their fear of British sovereignty. Gandhi was released and after a few months the landlords accepted to negotiate with the growers and eventually to pay them a compensation.
Once again, Gandhi did not hesitate to deprive himself of his pleasures, even his own freedom, for the service of a superior aim and for the benefit of an injured group. Shortly after the incidents at Champaran, the impoverished Ahmedabad mill workers demanded higher wages and fewer hours of work, but mill owners refused their requests. At Gandhi’s instigation, the workers went on strike, with no effect. As the workers were ready to give up and start working again, Gandhi announced that if they stopped the strike, he would go on a hunger strike. For three days Gandhi fasted. On the third day the owners, who greatly admired him, accepted to negotiate with the workers. His act of self-sacrifice caused shame on the part of the owners, who were forced to reflect on their own seflishness.
“If co-operation is a duty, I hold that non-co-operation also under certain conditions is equally a duty.”
Gandhi against English domination
Gandhi’s Satyagraha and Hartal
During the World War I, many Indians were joined the British/Allied cause. However, in India, important Indian and Muslim leaders were imprisoned. There was hope that after the end of the war these actions would be revoked. However, in February 1909, the Government proposed a bill for the continuation of these enforcement measures.
Gandhi was unwell at the time and suffering from dysentery. But despite his difficulties, he began visiting several cities in India to organise a massive Satyagraha national movement, as resistance to the bill aimed at the violent imposition of English domination in India. A month later, the law passed and Gandhi suggested that the Indians react with a tactic known as “hartal”,meaning cessation of any economic activity.Workers of all levels and businesses would abstain from their work, and dedicate the day to fasting and pray.erThis act was the first move by Gandhi against the British in India. Not so long ago, he had believed in a more harmonious approach.
Hartal was applied in many regions of India, resulting in the country’s economy grinding to a halt. In Mumbai, the approach was succesful was great, but in Delhi there were violent incidents and shootings. A few days later, Gandhi publicly denouncedthis kind of behaviour, stating that it was in total opposition to peaceful Satyagraha.For atonement, he submitted himself to 72 hours of fasting and asked his followers to fast for 24 hours.
In April, the government of Punjab, one of the states of India, condemned two party leaders, a Muslim and an Indian, to exile.This resulted in great anger among the ordinary people, who raided the streets violently and killed prominent members of English society. A few days later, in Armtsar, the city of Punjab, courses and meetings were banned by proclamation. However, this proclamation appears not to have been communicated to all regions of the city. So the next day, a great meeting was held in a closed area, a kind of unused land surrounded by buildings. When the authorities were informed about the meeting, shooters arrived in the area and opened fire against unarmed attendants who, due to the enclosed space, could not escape. Approximately 379 people were killed and 1137 injured.
An even more humiliating command followed. The English director of a school had been brutally assaulted by the mob. All who passed through the area in which the incident took place were forced to crawl on their hands. Of course, all these inhuman measures did not leave Gandhi indifferent.
Gandhi’s first political party
Gandhi did not engage in politics for reasons of ambition. Themobilisations in South Africa and India were motivated by moral and humanitarian reasons. He wanted thewarm affectionof simple people, not the coldness of a political party. However, in 1920, in order to claim the autonomous governance of India, he led a political party representing that idea. The Indians trusted him as a leader but also as a human being.He was absolutely frank towards them, and did not hesitate to admit and even publicly denounce his own mistakes.
During this period, the Muslims of India were increasingly disatisfied with British rule. In particular, they were aggreieved by the humilitating sanctions imposed on Turkey, a leading Muslim nation, by Britain and her allies after WWI. This led to the creation of the Khilafat Movement. The common feeling of disappointment with English policy brought together the Muslim and the Indian party, helping to create a relationship of mutual support.
Gandhi, in support of the Khilafat Movement, proposed a move that he described as “Non-cooperation”. The Indians were asked to exclude from their tradeEnglish exports, especially textiles, as well as to abstain from anything that could be thought of as English, from schools and courts to jobs and offices.
The first “Diarchy” between England and India, February 1921
In February 1921, the United Kingdomproposed a system of government, known as the “Diarchy”, that is, the co-existence of the UK and India. The Indians would have supervised sub-sectors such as agriculture and health, and Britain would retain the administration of finance and policing, and the right to bypass the decisions of Indian politicians. Although this plan was not particularly conducive to the Indians, Gandhi, trusting the British and believing that they had good intentions and aspirations to further improve the situation, asked Congress to accept the proposal.
It seems that Gandhi blindly trusted other people, even his opponents. Perhaps, since he was characterised by sincerity and kindness, he believed that these characteristics were inherent in others too.
However, the changes to India’s expected autonomy did not occur.In September 1920, a congressional meeting was held which Gandhi chaired, where the “Non-cooperation” movement was brought to the fore.
Gandhi, as a middle-class Indian himself, gained the goodwill of many from similar backgrounds who also hoped for Indian independence. Even the most skeptical were drawn to his courage and selflessness.
Thus, they willingly implemented the “Non-cooperation” strategy. Gandhirenounced some medals he had received for his actions in South Africa, a number of Indians abanoned their titles and offices, and students dropped out of their studies in British foundations. Educated Indians moved to the provinces to engage in peer education. Peasants stopped paying their taxes and buying products that made a profit for the government.
In September 1921, Muslim party leader Mohamed Ali was arrested and imprisoned, leading to a wave of unrest. At the same time, the new King of England was crowned. When he visited India, he was confronted with the hostility of the people. The government has arrested politicians and their supporters. Within a few months, 20,000 Indians were in prison for acts against the government.
Gandhi in jail, March 1922
In March 1922, Gandhi was arrested and taken to prison. In the court he made a speech that stirred the attendees, even the judge, who with heavy heart gave him the minimum sentence of six years imprisonment. He accepted the sentence once again without protest, as he had predicted that the “Non-cooperation” movementwould lead to his improvement. Importantly, he thought his fate would inspire other Indians to claim their freedom.
“I claim to be a simple individual liable to error like any other fellow mortal. I own, however, that I have humility enough in me to confess my errors and to retrace my steps.”
Gandhi was always sweet and lenient with all who surrounded him except his wife and sons. And himself, of course He was strict with them and demanded discipline. His relations with Kasturbai were initially strained, but over time theymellowed. Kasturbai had her own personality and did not hesitate to follow some habits that Gandhi considered unacceptable, such as drinking tea or coffee. The fact that she was his wife did not make mean she could claimdifferent privileges.
It seems that he showed care and understanding to his followers that he did not have for his children. Despite his bad relationship with them, he enjoyed playing and spending time with others’ children. He even claimed that the son of a friend, who followed the “Satyagraha”, was more affectionate to him than his biological sons. He did not wish his oldest son, Harilal, to marry at the age of 18. His son Manilalhad a relationship with a married woman in South Africa, and when Gandhi learned of it, he talked about the situation publicly and forbade the son to marry until he was 35. His sons were also hurt that they were not given a university education, although Gandhi had sent their two cousins to England to study.One of them, Maganlal, Gandhi had considered his spiritual heir, since he was faithful to his spiritual suggestions and embraced the virtue of temperance that Gandhi preached.
When Manilal lent his brother money without informing his father, Gandhi felt that his son had deceived him and banished him from the house. He then sent him to South Africa to manage the Indian Opinion. He writes that in his life he spent little time with his father and did not express tenderness to him, as he did later with his followers. After the death of his son’s wife, Gandhi denied him the possibility of remarrying. Manilalthen became addicted to alcohol and women, an even became a Muslim, perhaps in an effort to disturb his father.
Gandhi imposed stringent rueles upon his household with respect to personal hygiene, time management and manual labour. He did not demand that others follow his own ideologies however. Having accepted his own imperfections, he could embrace the defects of the others.
It seems that Gandhi was another person with his family, tougher and indifferent, and another one with his followers and associates, more affectionate and friendly. In particular, he did not treat his sons as autonomous individuals. He almost considered them as extensions of himself, who were obliged to live according to his suggestions and to assimilate his values. He took a cruel approach to their human, fleshlydesires, such as the lust of Manilal, perhaps because he had renounced his own physical needs. He showed a preference to his nephew simply because he was simulating the pattern of temperance and virtue he had so idealised. Why, however, could he have this attitude towards his own children, while being loving and cheerful to the children of others? One possibility is that his early marriage and fatherhood were not his own decisions. Perhaps he felt hisfamilyto bea burden on his shoulders or an obstacle to his duty to serve the common good with dedication
“Just as a man would not cherish living in a body other than his own, so do nations not like to live under other nations, however noble and great the latter may be.”
Gandhi’s action after release
In January 1924, after 22 months of imprisonment, Gandhi suffered from acute appendicitis and was transferred to hospital for surgery, which was successful. Because of this fact and the delay that led to the recovery of an abscess in the intervention area, the Government made the decision to release him in February of the same year.
He was informed by his partners about the situation the country that had suffered during his absence. The cooperation between Indians and Muslims has been weakened and the “Non-cooperation” movement has been dismantled.At a congressional meeting he understood that most of his followers no longer supported his peaceful methods and he publicly cried. Considering the unity of Indians and Muslims indispensable to India’s independence, in September 1924, he announced that he would fast for 21 days in order to emphasise the important issue. During his fasting, he stayed at Mohamed Ali’s home, offering up himself as an example of an Indian trusting in a Muslim for such a solemn purpose. However, his attempt failed, since the conflict between the people remained.
Having been disappointed by his inability to bridge the gap between Indians and Muslims, as well as to win over educated Indians, Gandhi decided to leave Congress. He stated that he was not pleased at all for the fact that his members relied on him to settle all the issues presented.However, he relented after outcry, and remained in his position for another year.
During this time, he travelled throughout India. In all the regions he visited, he was metby a crowd of people, who were eager to see him, bow to him – even to touch him. Many came fromfrom remote areas, exclusively for him. The people had deified him so much that a whole doctrine devoted to his worship had been set up. Many people considered him to be a reincarnation ofGod.
In the trips he made, he raised money to invest in the looms, handmade textiles and textiles industries of the country, which would allow for self-sufficient fabric production with no need of modern machinery. Women, even young girls, often donated their jewels, which was particularly gratifying to him. He encouraged the inhabitants of the provinces and the villages to deal with woven fabric every day. He stressed the importance of buying such fabrics, in order to stimulate the economy and hence the autonomy of the country. Even Gandhi sold these fabrics. He was efficient in collecting money, but used it to empower the poor, not himself.
A time of “political silence”
Exhausted he was by his intense activism, at the end of the year, he pledged to observe a year of “political silence”, during which he would not depart from his homeand would not go out of Ahmedabad. During this time, on Mondays he remained in absolute silence in order to be able to rest his body and spirit. On the other days of the week he avoided the crowds, but he spoke, wrote, had home visits and contacted many people inside and outside India.
His correspondence often contained conversations with men who wanted his advice on matters of their sexual life. He argued that frequent sexual intercourse exhausted Indians and resulted in overcrowding of the country. He was in favor of birth control, but through self-control and not by other means of contraception. He believed that by abstaining from sexual intercourse, a man keeps valuable energy, which he can invest in other activities. He totally despised the institution of child marriage, because it also contributed to overcrowding.
Return to politics
When the time of political silence ended, Gandhi began rejoining meetings and participating in the annual congressional meeting. During the following months, he travelled through many cities and villages to spread word throughout the world, resulting in his physical and intellectual collapse. His doctor recommended two months of rest. Years later, another doctor told him that he had suffered a mild stroke. Although his heart seemed healthy, his blood pressure rose when he had to make important decisions.
The British Commission
In October 1927, England’s new Regent, Lord Irwin, invited Gandhi to a meeting. Other Indian politicians took part and informed them of the establishment of a British commission to investigate the situation in India and to propose political reforms. Gandhi was disappointed at the meeting. The committee was concerned with the problems of the Indians, but none of them were actually Indians. The “Non-Cooperation” movement has spread again throughout India. The Indians would refuse to assist the committee in conducting its investigations. So when the committee arrived in India, it confronted black flags, slogans and complete isolation from the world.
In February 1928, a new Satyagraha movement was organised in the Bardoli area, where villagers refused to pay a 22% increase in taxesimposed by the British government. Gandhi guided the movement remotely, but a confidant was placed in the lead. The villagers were deprived of their possessions for months and were imprisoned, but they did not yield. In the end, the movement proved to be successful, and the government decided not to pursue the tax hike.
However, the question of the country’s independence remained. Congress called for an immediate war. After negotiations with Gandhi, it was agreed to give the English governmen a one yearperiod to bring about Indian independence. A few months later, following a terrorist attack on the New Delhi Legislative Council, the committee left India. But the year was reaching its end, and Irwin still could not assure whether Great Britain would allow India to secede from its empire. A new peaceful protest movement began which, among other things, included the abstention of members of Congress from their responsibilities and the refusal to pay taxes from the people.
Peaceful protest, March 1930
At this stage, Gandhi’s protest began by trying to break the monopoly of salt. Great Britain retained the monopoly of salt in India, while prohibiting law-abiding citizens from freely exporting salt. But as the sale prices of salt were too high, the poor people could not readily afford this very important commodity.
In March 1930, Gandhi, at the age of 61, took a journey from his home, accompanied by 78 people. They marched heading south of Ahmedabad. The course lasted 24 days and took a total of 200 miles, passing through many villages where people left their jobs to accompany Gandhi to the next village. When Gandhi arrived at the sea at the end of the journey, his followers were in the thousands.
Gandhi gathered salt from the sea with his own hands, breaking the law banning Indians from obtaining salt. Soon, the residents from the surrounding areas came to the shore, holding utensils to gather salt. The police arrived at the shore and started beating the attendees and capturing them. They did not resist their arrest, but refused to give the salt they had gathered. They were beaten violently.
The wave of protest spread to areas throughout India. In many seaside locations, people were heading to the shore to gather salt and many of them were violently punished or arrested by the state. In Calcutta, revolutionary texts were read publicly and the mayor was imprisoned. In various regions, there was a boycott of imported fabrics and clothes and a ban on the purchase of alcoholic products. Women and girls in the upper classes publicly removed their headscarves in protest. In other places,peasants abstained from paying their rent and taxes, rebels were attacking the British Guard and stealing weapons from arsenals. Exceptfor these incidents, however, there was no other violence on the part of the rebels.
A month later, on May 5th, Gandhi was arrested once again and taken to prison.
Gandhi’s imprisonment was a serious problem for the English government, as it was a movement that had caused a massive popular uprising that was difficult to control. Under these circumstances, Irwin released Gandhi and other members of the Congresson January 26th.
As a sign of gratitude for this act, Gandhi asked Irwin for a meeting. There followed a series of meetings, ending with the Delhi Agreement, which provided the end of the peaceful protest and the law banning the extraction of salt from the seas. However, the issue of India’s independence was not yet settled. It was expected to be discussed at a next conference with the Congress, to be held in London.
The conference in London
Gandhi stayed in London from mid September to early December. During this time, he was staying at the house of a friend.
When he arrived at Buckingham Palace to dine with the King and Queen, he impressed the others by his guise: loincloth, sandals, scarf and a pendant watch. He also visited the former Prime Minister of England on his farm, where the servants gathered together to meet him, something they had never done for a guest. He also received invitations from other celebrities who wished to meet him, such as Charlie Chaplin, George Bernard Shaw and Maria Montessori, which he accepted. Professor Lindsay, inwhose house Gandhi stayed when he visited Oxford, likened him to a saint who treated everyone with respect, regardless of their social class.Professor Thomson, who also met Gandhi in Oxford, expressed he had something of Socrates’ “daemon”, which remained unshaken even when attacked by others.
In addition to his other activities in London, Gandhi also participated in the conference meetings for which he had come in the first place. Butthey seemed dull to him and far from his own way of thinking. The members of the conference were an extremely heterogeneous group, where everyone supported the interests of the group he represented and did not seem to be moving towards a common aim. Great Britain’s representatives had clearly stated their intention to maintain their country’s leadership in India. Also, the divisionamong the Indians, the Muslims and the others remained unbridgeable. Gandhi left London disappointed, as there had been no substantial improvement in the situation.
Gandhi’s return to India
When Gandhi returned to India, he was welcomed by an enthusiastic crowd. It did not matter if he had not achieved anything great. It was enough for them that he had returned safe and sound and that he had preserved his honour and his faith in the freedom of India. Gandhi was now the symbol of India’s freedom.
However, there were some unpleasant surprises for him. The Government of Irwin and the Labor Party, with whom Gandhi had achieved a certain degree of freedom, was succeeded by the Conservative Party. This party was much more insistent on imposing English domination in the country. Some members of the Indian Congress had been arrested and penalised with seizures of buildings and bank accounts.
When informed of the situation, Gandhi stated that it was probably his Christmas giftfrom the Regent. At this point, it seems that Gandhi enjoyed turning to humour in difficult situations.
Gandhi requested a meetin with the Regent to discuss these incidents, but the latter denied any negotiation. Instead, a few days later, he led Gandhi to jail. There the governor tried to equip him with furniture and other utensils as he considered him to be anhonoured person. But Gandhi asked all of these items from his cell. In his opinion, they were an expense that the people of India were carrying and he did not want to burden them.
During his imprisonment, he found once again an opportunity for creation: he completed a book that had begun in the previous sentence he had executed in Yeravda Prison, with the title “From Yeravda Mandir”. In this book, he expresses his feelings about God. For Gandhi, God is identified with truth, life and love. He states, in fact, that his actions are not based on logic and instinct, but on the guidance of God. According to Gandhi, God dwells in the hearts of men and the union with Him is accomplished by the abandonment of selfishness and devotion to mankind.
It seems, therefore, that the prison bars are not enough to limit Gandhi’s inexhaustible energy. On the one hand, he used writing as a way of expressing his creativity and, on the other hand, in order to externalisehis troubles and his service to God. He was also clearly a person of excellent mental resilience, since even in the most difficult and restrictive conditions, such as his imprisonment, he managed to adapt, draw something positive from them, and even find pleasing ways to endure them.
Gandhi’s almost fatal fasting
In September 1932, while Gandhi was in prison, he read in a newspaper that Britain proposed the election of representatives separately for the Indians and for the untouchables. Gandhi was totally opposed to this suggestion, as he did not want the gap between the untouchables and others in the country further widened. For this reason, Gandhi announced he would fast to death.
At this point, one could observe the way in which Gandhi expresses his aggression. He does not channel his anger in the form of protest or violent insurrection, as other rebels of his time would do. He also does not use it against those that have caused it, in this case the English government, perhaps because he knows that such an act would be futile. Instead, he turns his aggression and anger against himself. It hurts his body, tortures it with the exhausting fasting that he follows. In this way, he tries to express his anger. He does not even hesitate to flirt with death in order to achieve this aim.
The English government was not prepared to negotiate the matter. However, when the fast began, the negotiations soon followed. The death of such a beloved figure would have wrought great shame on the government.
The final plan proposed was that the Indians and the untouchables participating in the Parliament would be elected jointly by the Indians and the untouchables, but a certain number of seats would be reserved for the untouchables. The untouchables would indicate which candidates they favoured, and together the two groups would choose among these favoured candidates. Gandhi accepted the proposal and followed the negotiations on the number of positionsthat would be allocated to the untouchables. As soon as the project was completed, it was sent to the English government to be checked and approved. Both the Indian and the English governments had been alerted, and Gandhi’s fast did not turn out to be fatal.Within a few hours, the British government was prevented from examining the plan and announcing its approval. Gandhi broke his fast in front of friends, politicians, journalists and his wife.
Gandhi’s most important achievement through this actionwas not the modification of the plan, but the fact that, being willing to sacrifice himself, he managed to bridge the gap between the Indians and the untouchables. During the days of fasting, the untouchables were allowed to enter many Indian temples, while on the streetsthe Indians and the untouchables ate and spoke together. Public services that were banned for the untouchables suddenly became accessible. An entire social transformationwas achieved, which would have been impossible with a simple political agreement.
The Gandhi’s non-political action
Gandhi’s mainaim was always social reconstruction. Dealing with politics did not please him. Thus, until 1939, he dealt exclusively with actions related to the welfare and education of the lower social class. He visited Indian provinces to help peasants improve their quality of life. He advised them on simple and healthy eating, such as eating green leafy vegetables, cow’s milk and paddy rice. He argued that the villages should be self-sufficient and cover their basic food and textile needs.Surplus land should be used for the cultivation of exportable products, such as tobacco and opium. They should also have their own places for entertainment and education, as well as their own water supply system. Still, the peasants should learn to react by non-cooperation, such as strikes and non-payment of their rent, in order to protect their rights.
As for his religious beliefs, he accepted and incorporated into his lifestyle characteristics from different religions. He considered all religions as equal, but they all had some vulnerabilities. On the wall of his house, there was even a painting of Jesus Christ.
Although he was receptive to influences outside of Hinduism, he did not easily abandonHindu customs. For example, when his son, Devadas, fell in love with a girl from another caste, Gandhi initially did not allow them to marry, as Hinduism denounced marriages among people from different castes. Only when, after five years of separation, the young couple insisted on getting married, Gandhi approved their marriage.
Gandhi also had the courage to revise his views when he thought it would bring him closer to the truth. Returning to the example among different castes, he initially disapproved them, and later warmly welcomed them. The same happened with marriages among people of different religions. Over the years, his attitude that men should be single in order to be able to perform their social work unhinderedwas also moderated.
He did not hesitate to publicly admit his moments of weakness. For example, at the age of 67 he wrote in a magazine, which he edited, that a few months ago he had felt in his sleep the need of a woman, despite apledge of sexual abstinence that he had taken years ago. This feeling scared him, but he managed to rein in it. He wanted the world to know every side of him and learn through his experiences.
“I believe that a man is the strongest soldier for daring to die unarmed.”
Gandhi’s views on World War II
In the mid-1930s, as Gandhi observed the unfavorable conditions prevailing in countries such as Germany, China and Czechoslovakia, he realized that World War II was not far. Even then, he did not lose his faith in the power of pace. Gandhi’s pacifism arose, on the one hand, from his disappointment with his country’s relationship with Britain, which was to be an opponent of Axis forces, and, on the other hand, from his mental development and peaceful relationship with himself.
He was particularly aware of the suffering of the Jews of Germany and the people of Czechoslovakia, whosecountry had been betrayed to Hitler. He suggested that the Czechoslovaks refuse to fight, since their defeat by the German army was certain, and adopt a non-violent attitude. He argued that the sovereign tendencies of the Germans and the Italians had nothing to offer to the moral evolution of humanity. He expressed his sympathy for the Jews, who were like the untouchables of the Christian world. And for them, he suggested that a Satyagraha attitude should be maintained, as it could even evolve into heroic self-sacrifice, against Hitler’s mood. He believed that defending the rights of a people should be done with his own blood and not with the blood of his opponents.
In December 1938, a representative of the Japanese Parliament visited India in search of the alliance between the two countries. He argued that Asia should only be governed by Asians. Gandhi said he would not give his consent to the alliance if it meant war against the Europeans.
At the beginning of the World War II
Since the beginning of the war, Gandhi had declared his moral support to Great Britain for its defense against the Axis forces, but he was not prepared to join them or to defend India with an army. On the other hand, Congress was willing to join forces with the army if the United Kingdom in return met India’s independence claim. Although he was opposed to this apsect, Gandhi supported it in negotiations with Britain, but he said that it could not promise their independence. As a result, Congress denied assistance to England.
Britain’s Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, could not even think of his country separating from its colonies.However, having been pressured by both the Government of the United Kingdom and the United States, he decided to send his representative to New Delhi to hold meetings with representatives of the Indian Congress, in March 1942. Finally, Churchill’s proposal in the negotiations was rejected by the Indians, as he gave India political and administrative independence, but stipulated that much of the Indian Parliament would come from the princes of India, on whom England was influential. England would therefore maintain a degree of control over the country’s political affairs. The same proclamation stipulated that any province that did not wish to cooperate with the Indian state that was to be established could be separated from it, a move that would lead to the fragmentation of the country, which Gandhi wanted to avoid.
Gandhi’s imprisonment in the time of war
During the World War II and while the Japanese army approached India, England was unable to protect its colony against a possible invasion. In the mainland of India there was turmoil as the Indians were immobilised and unable to protect themselves and their country.
Under these circumstances, the Indian Congress decided that the end of British sovereignty in the country was imperative. If full independence was given to India, Allied forces would be able to use areas of the country as the bases of their troops. If they did not accept their request, they would hold a peaceful protest with Gandhi guiding them.
A few days later, Gandhi and other members of Congress were taken to prison. This triggered a violent popular revolt throughout India, with disasters of buildings and railroads, as well as attacks on the police, which had lost control of the situation.
While in prison, Gandhi started a correspondence with Regent Linlithgow. Gandhi made it clear that Congress’s decisions until then were friendly to the Allied forces, so the English Government led the people to the Revolution with the imprisonments. The Regent, though, accused Gandhi of the violence. As a sign of protest and apparently affected by the unfair accusations, Gandhi decided to start a 21-day fast. He managed to complete this test even though his health suffered greatly.
The fact that Gandhi was imprisoned at a time when India needed him so much, and that he was unable to suppress the violence of the people, was a huge psychological burden. This burden was exacerbated by the death of his beloved friend and counselor, Mahadev Desai, in prison. Moreover, Gandhi’s wife, who had been infected with chronic bronchitis, also died while he was in prison. Gandhi said he could not imagine his life without her, but he was excited as she died on his feet. A few weeks after her death, Gandhi suffered malaria with alarmingly high fever. After a few days, he and his partners were released.
Gandhi’s negotiations with the Muslim party
Gandhi has always believed that friendship among Indians and Muslims was a basic prerequisite for India’s independence. Thus, in September 1944, negotiations began between him and the leader of the Muslim party, Mohamed Ali Jinnah. Jinnah claimed the formation of two nations, one Indian and one Muslim. Gandhi proposed, after India’s independence was proclaimed, that elections would be held in the areas inhabited by many Muslims and the residents would decide whether they preferred to remain united with the rest of India or to form a separate Muslim state. Jinnah insisted on this decision to be taken prior to India’s declaration of independence, and only Muslim residents of these provinces to vote in those elections. This was impossible, according to Gandhi, since it was impossible for the Muslims to decide the fate of all the inhabitants of their regions. In this way, Jinnah, who was not in a hurry to get the autonomy he wanted, tried to pressureGandhi, who saw a unique opportunity in that time for India to become independent.
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
Independence of India
The consent of England for independence
In March 1945, Lord Wavell took over as the Viceroy of India. After a few months, he released the remaining members of the Indian Congress. Negotiations had then begun to form a new India governance plan.
Wavell proposed the establishment of an Executive Council, which would make decisions on important issues, such as the country’s economy and security. All members of the Council would be Indians, Hindus and Muslims, while only the Regent and the Chief of Staff would be English. Jinnah obstructed the Council’s recommendation because he wished all Muslims who participated in the Council to be chosen by him. What he was asking was impossible, as many prominent Muslims who could become members did not belong to his party.
Meanwhile, World War II ended and Churchill was succeeded by Clement R. Attlee as Prime Minister. The new Labor government officialised the establishment of an autonomous government in India in September 1945.
Jinnah made it clear that he would work together to set up the new government if Gandhi accepted that some provinces wouldseperate from India and join the state of Pakistan. Of course, Gandhi, whose dream was to bring togetherIndians and Muslims, wished to avoid this division at all costs.
The proposal for a temporary government
In February 1946, a Mission composed of British politicians arrived in New Delhi to discuss with India’s party leaders the terms of independence of India. Gandhi participated throughout the meetings.
After a period of fruitless effort, the Mission called the Congress and the Muslim party to send their representatives for negotiations. As the situation had reached a dead end, Gandhi asked the British Mission to propose a solution. This proposal was ready in May 1946 and, according to Gandhi, there were very favorable terms. However, the Muslims remained suspicious. Eventually, after a few days, they agreed to Wavell’s proposal to set up a provisional government. What was left was the consent from Congress, which was not given. As the sides had reached an impasse, Wavell decided to choose the members of the Temporary Government.
Vote on the Temporary Government
In July of the same year, a vote of the Congress Committee was held to decide whether they would be reconciled with the creation of a temporary government. Before the proceedings began, Gandhi made a speech, admitting that the particular proposal of England should be accepted. However, he also harboured some doubts, which were shared by his associates. Nevertheless, he urged the members of the Commission to trust the English, despite the negative experiences of the past.The majority of members voted in favor of the agreement with the English proposal, but there was also a considerable number of those who voted against, bringing to light the doubts they still had about their former conquerors.
Course for restoring peace
Wavell once again asked Congress and Jinnah to nominate people to form a government. Jawaharlal Nehru, a Gandhi’s student and friend, who succeeded him as the head of the congress, gathered the people they needed, but Jinnah refused to cooperate. Instead, a few days later, his party announced an “Instant Action Day”, where battles and violent blows took place between Muslims and Hindus in Calcutta, which lasted 4 days and resulted in thousands of deaths and even more injuries. On September 2nd, Nehru was declared a Prime Minister of India, and Jinnah declared a day of public mourning. After pressure from the Regent, Jinnah eventually nominated five people for the Government. However, the division between Muslims and Hindus within the Government was evident and created further hate and violence among the citizens.
Gandhi constantly preached against the violence between the two religions. Congressional members and local leaders visited him for his guidance. In October, he was informed about Muslim attacks on Hindus in the Noakhali area: Hindus deaths, female kidnappings, arson wrought onhouses and temples. Gandhi decided to go to the area to better assess the situation, despite the danger this respresented. He felt that his life would not have value if he did not succeed in restoring peace.
When the news from Noakhali arrived in Bihar’s neighbouring area, where there werea majority of Hindus, they launched attacks on Muslims of the regionin a frantic situation, ending in massacres. There were officially about 5,000 deaths, mostly Muslims, unofficially twice as many.
Under these conditions and at the age of 77, Gandhi went to Noakhali to undertake an attempt, which, according to him, was the most difficult of his life. He was even ready to die in his attempt to eradicate violence. So he started a journey, where he walked barefoot from village to village, staying in each for a few days, talking to the residents and praying with them. Many times, sharp objects, glasses and mudslides obstructed his way, but he insisted on walking barefoot, as it was a journey of repentance for the sins not only of the inhabitants but also of himself. He tried to show the peasants, especially those who were suspicious, that his intentions were pure.
The best solution would be to find two people, a Muslim and a Hindu, from each village and appoint them peacekeepers.During the four-month period spent in Noakhali, he visited a total of 49 villages. The Muslims joinedhis group prayers and many hosted him in their houses. However, he received negative criticism from Calcutta’s politicians and Muslim priests. Sometimes, he encountered banners with threatening messages for himself, calling onhim to give up his efforts. However, the crowd gathered in his meetings grew more and more, reaching as many as 5,000 people.
The situation gradually began to ease. Muslims voluntarily returned spoils stolen from Hindu houses. The incidents of violence felldramatically, and now the Hindus who had left the region could return without risking attacks. Gandhi, having restored peace, felt it was time to leave Noakhali.
The partition of India
Jinnah exerted pressure to divideIndia and build Pakistan. The proposal of the Mission was to divide India into three federal units. This proposal was approved by a majority of Congress members. Nehru was aware of the fact that this move would mean the future establishment of the independent state of Pakistan, but he gave his assent to a desperate attempt to escape the civil war. Gandhi never approved this partition.
Congress was not willing to allow large geographical areas, where most of the people were Hindus, to be annexed wholeheartedly to the state of Pakistan. Therefore, the proposal of the new Referee Mountbatten to Jinnah included the following: some provinces would be separated from India and to be annexed to Pakistan. Two of these provinces, however, Punjab and Bengal should be divided, too. A section of them would be annexed to Pakistan and the rest would remain in the territory of India. Jinnah, after a long argument, agreed.
After a few days, Gandhi and Jinnah in a public statement condemned aggression between the two peoples. During that time, Gandhi called prayer meetings open to the public and asked for quorums to be read from the Koran, attempting in this way to cultivate tolerance for the Muslim religion in Hindus.
Eventually, Pakistan was seceded from India. On August 17th, 1947, India was proclaimed an independent state. However, Gandhi could not participate in the celebrations, since he considered itspartition as a tragedy. He felt that all the attempts of the previous decades had been lost. The people now considered Gandhi as a divine being, something like Christ or Muhammad. They worshiped his name and sought his blessing, but rejected his sermons.
“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.”
Gandhi’s healing work
Gandhi, when he was a teenager, used to treat his sick father with love and commitment. When he grew up, his desire was to become a doctor, but his family’s tradition of engaging in politics made him turn to legal studies. It is not, therefore, surprising that during the last two years of his life he decided to deal with natural methods of healing. He founded a centre in a village where he and other partners offered peasants natural medical treatments.
Gandhi was characterised by great compassion for those who suffered, and was pleased to relieve others from their pain and heal them as if it was his natural tendency. This was a role he had taken from an early age in his family and he was happy to keep it in his whole life, both in the family, by taking careof his own family members every time they were sick, and in the context of social justice, byproviding knowledge and medical treatment to those in need.
“Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is.”
Gandhi after the partition of India
After Pakistan was separated from the rest of India, disputes between Hindus and Muslims started again, which often resulted in bloody incidents. The followers of the religion that was a minority in each region were attacked by the followers of the other religion.
Gandhi decided to visit Calcutta in August 1947, one of the areas where upheavals were frequent. The violence disappeared from the places he visited, and the two peoples came together peacefully.
One night, a multitude of Muslims gathered around the house that was hosting him.They were furious, because an Indian had stabbed a Muslim. They entered the house violently and struck Gandhi and his friends. The police arrived and suppressed the situation, but Gandhi started fasting.
After a few days, Gandhi was informed that no incident had taken place in the city over the last 24 hours, while the leaders of the assailants and intimidation groups promised they were reluctant to put an end to this brutality. People from all religions and social classes pledged the same. Gandhi demanded a written promise, which was given to him, resulting in the end of his fasting, which lasted 73 hours.
He then visited Delhi, where millions of Hindus refugees from Pakistan were arriving, often displaced the Muslims from their houses and occupied them. Gandhi denied these actions and urged Muslims to stay in their houses. He had a meeting with Hindus militias who had been accused of violence and urged them to use their power to pacify the situation and not to worsen it. Finally, he went to refugee camps, where he advised them to keep their discipline as well as their cleanliness and tried to gather blankets and clothingfor them.
With these actions, Gandhi was able to restore peace to a significant extent. He awakened people’s consciousness, spoke in their hearts and was able to cultivate respect for any difference, raising their hopes for a better world.
Gandhi’s last fasting
During his childhood, Gandhi often listened to his father’s conversations with friends about different religions and disagreements. Since then he desired to see the faithful people of all different religions coexist harmoniously. This desire seems to inspire his perpetual attempt to reconcile the Hindus with the Muslims, whichremained until the end of his life.
After the situation in India normalised to a certain extent, Gandhi wished to go to Pakistan to deal with the fate of the Hindu minorities. But the fact that the outbursts and discrimination against Muslims in India had not been completely eradicated prevented him from doing so. He felt helpless and decided to fast until death, until absolute peacecame to Delhi.
From the very first day of his fast, in the house of Congressional President Dr Rajendra Prasad, meetings of representatives from all religious communities and the army startedtaking place in order to find a solution for the establishment of real peace.
On the sixth day of his fasting, a conference was held, attended by the majority of Congressmen, Prasad, Nehru, representatives of the Indian Army, the police chief, the ambassador of Pakistan, as well as individuals of all religions. They pledged to protect the Muslims’ life, property and religion and to eradicate outbreaks of violence. Gandhi, having learned of new incidents in the Allahabad region, stressed that the government should also be interested in the situation arising in Delhi. He expressed his sorrow bycrying publicly, a fact that made his audience to cry too. After assurances and requests from all attendees, he decided to end his fasting.
“The good man is the friend of all living things.”
On January 30th, 1948, Gandhi, at the age of 78, was shot three times with a small pistol by his fellow countryman, while walking toward the afternoon prayer meeting by supporting his two grandchildren, Abha and Manu. As the bullets penetrated his body, he fell to the earth murmuring “Hey Rama” (Oh, God). It was fatal!
The offender was a 35-year-old Hindus named Nathuram Godse. He was dissatisfied with the decision taken after Gandhi’s fasting to remove the Muslim mosques from the Indian refugees, who had found shelter there by displacing the Muslims from their places of worship. He belonged to a group of Indians who planned to kill Gandhi. A few days ago, another member of his team had made an unsuccessful attempt of murder with a grenade at the time of a prayer meeting.
Gandhi’s death rocked India. His funeral procession was followed by 1.5 million people and even more were attended the ceremony. Thousands of soldiers, sailors and policemen were also present. His body was deposited on the raised ceiling of a bulky vehicle of the army, so that it was visible to the public, carried by 200 Indian soldiers pulling ropes in a two-mile course. Gandhi’s son, Ramdas, lit his pyre.
The murder of Gandhi, a simple, peaceful man who loved and respected even his enemies, caused unprecedented pain and shock to the Indian nation.A moment after the fatal shots, Nehru choked his tears back whilst announcing on the radio the death of the father of the Indian nation, the man who led India to freedom. He described his death as a light that died out of their lives.Others described his death to a second crucifixion.Millions of people worldwide mourned for him. No matter how familiar they were with his life and work, all appreciated Gandhi as a person of exemplary character.
Quotes and Mottos of Mahatma Gandhi
See the collection of Mahatma Gandhi’s quotes and mottos by clicking on this link:
Mahatma Gandhi’s Quotes and Mottos Collection.
Get inspired from Mahatma Gandhi most important quotes and mottos:
- Where there is love there is life.
- The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
- First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
- Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
- Prayer is the key of the morning and the bolt of the evening.
- You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
- The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.
- An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.
- Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
- When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator.
- It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.
- Nobody can hurt me without my permission.
- A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.
- Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.
- You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.
- In a gentle way, you can shake the world.
- Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment, full effort is full victory.
- Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding.
- Action expresses priorities.
- The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
- A man is but the product of his thoughts what he thinks, he becomes.
- There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed.
- Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.
- Poverty is the worst form of violence.
- I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.
- A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.
- Anger is the enemy of non-violence and pride is a monster that swallows it up.
- It may be possible to gild pure gold, but who can make his mother more beautiful?
- The real ornament of woman is her character, her purity.
- No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive.
- The essence of all religions is one. Only their approaches are different.
- Morality is the basis of things and truth is the substance of all morality.
- Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.
- Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth.
- 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.
- If patience is worth anything, it must endure to the end of time. And a living faith will last in the midst of the blackest storm.
- There is more to life than increasing its speed.
- My life is my message.
- Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress.
- All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender. For it is all give and no take.
- The moment there is suspicion about a person’s motives, everything he does becomes tainted.
- An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.
- If I had no sense of humor, I would long ago have committed suicide.
- You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind.
- A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.
- Non-violence requires a double faith, faith in God and also faith in man.
- To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.
- Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is.
- We may stumble and fall but shall rise again; it should be enough if we did not run away from the battle.
- Service which is rendered without joy helps neither the servant nor the served. But all other pleasures and possessions pale into nothingness before service which is rendered in a spirit of joy.
- Truth stands, even if there be no public support. It is self-sustained.
- Jesus is ideal and wonderful, but you Christians – you are not like him.
- Self-respect knows no considerations.
- It is the quality of our work which will please God and not the quantity.
- There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supercedes all other courts.
- Glory lies in the attempt to reach one’s goal and not in reaching it.
- Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good.
- The good man is the friend of all living things.
- Gentleness, self-sacrifice and generosity are the exclusive possession of no one race or religion.
- Peace is its own reward.
- Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.
- A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.
- Confession of errors is like a broom which sweeps away the dirt and leaves the surface brighter and clearer. I feel stronger for confession.
- A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.
- I think it is the height of ignorance to believe that the sexual act is an independent function necessary like sleeping or eating. Seeing, therefore, that I did not desire more children, I began to strive after self-control. There was endless difficulty in the task.
- When restraint and courtesy are added to strength, the latter becomes irresistible.
- Intolerance betrays want of faith in one’s cause.
- It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.
- I am prepared to die, but there is no cause for which I am prepared to kill.
- God, as Truth, has been for me a treasure beyond price. May He be so to every one of us.
- I believe in equality for everyone, except reporters and photographers.
- I claim that human mind or human society is not divided into watertight compartments called social, political and religious. All act and react upon one another.
- I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and Non-violence are as old as the hills. All I have done is to try experiments in both on as vast a scale as I could.
- Nearly everything you do is of no importance, but it is important that you do it.
- The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.
- The human voice can never reach the distance that is covered by the still small voice of conscience.
- Non-violence and truth are inseparable and presuppose one another.
- In matters of conscience, the law of the majority has no place.
- I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.
- Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French.
- Non-violence is the article of faith.
- It has always been a mystery to me how men can feel themselves honoured by the humiliation of their fellow beings.
- Everyone who wills can hear the inner voice. It is within everyone.
- The main purpose of life is to live rightly, think rightly, act rightly. The soul must languish when we give all our thought to the body.
- Partition is bad. But whatever is past is past. We have only to look to the future.
- Ours is one continued struggle against degradation sought to be inflicted upon us by the European, who desire to degrade us to the level of the raw Kaffir, whose occupation is hunting and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with, and then pass his life in indolence and nakedness.
- Prayer is a confession of one’s own unworthiness and weakness.
- There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.
- God sometimes does try to the uttermost those whom he wishes to bless.
- A policy is a temporary creed liable to be changed, but while it holds good it has got to be pursued with apostolic zeal.
- Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.
- I did once seriously think of embracing the Christian faith. The gentle figure of Christ, so full of forgiveness that he taught his followers not to retaliate when abused or struck, but to turn the other cheek – I thought it was a beautiful example of the perfect man.
- Faith is not something to grasp, it is a state to grow into.
- Before the throne of the Almighty, man will be judged not by his acts but by his intentions. For God alone reads our hearts.
- Let us all be brave enough to die the death of a martyr, but let no one lust for martyrdom.
- Whatever you do may seem insignificant to you, but it is most important that you do it.
- My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God. Non-violence is the means of realising Him.
- The only tyrant I accept in this world is the still voice within.
- I am in the world feeling my way to light ‘amid the encircling gloom.’
- Where love is, there God is also.
- Morality which depends upon the helplessness of a man or woman has not much to recommend it. Morality is rooted in the purity of our hearts.
- Non-violence is not a garment to be put on and off at will. Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our being.
- Truth is by nature self-evident. As soon as you remove the cobwebs of ignorance that surround it, it shines clear.
- Healthy discontent is the prelude to progress.
- We do not need to proselytise either by our speech or by our writing. We can only do so really with our lives. Let our lives be open books for all to study.
- We win justice quickest by rendering justice to the other party.
- It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.
- Prayer is not an old woman’s idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action.
- Violent means will give violent freedom. That would be a menace to the world and to India herself.
- I believe that a man is the strongest soldier for daring to die unarmed.
- Religion is more than life. Remember that his own religion is the truest to every man even if it stands low in the scales of philosophical comparison.
- Are creeds such simple things like the clothes which a man can change at will and put on at will? Creeds are such for which people live for ages and ages.
- An unjust law is itself a species of violence. Arrest for its breach is more so.
- I will far rather see the race of man extinct than that we should become less than beasts by making the noblest of God’s creation, woman, the object of our lust.
- But for my faith in God, I should have been a raving maniac.
- Capital as such is not evil; it is its wrong use that is evil. Capital in some form or other will always be needed.
- I look only to the good qualities of men. Not being faultless myself, I won’t presume to probe into the faults of others.
- Violent men have not been known in history to die to a man. They die up to a point.
- As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.
- 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 or democracy?
- Fear has its use but cowardice has none.
- Man’s nature is not essentially evil. Brute nature has been known to yield to the influence of love. You must never despair of human nature.
- The law of sacrifice is uniform throughout the world. To be effective it demands the sacrifice of the bravest and the most spotless.
- To deprive a man of his natural liberty and to deny to him the ordinary amenities of life is worse then starving the body; it is starvation of the soul, the dweller in the body.
- An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it.
- Let not the 12 million Negroes be ashamed of the fact that they are the grandchildren of slaves. There is dishonor in being slave-owners.
- Each one prays to God according to his own light.
- It is any day better to stand erect with a broken and bandaged head then to crawl on one’s belly, in order to be able to save one’s head.
- I claim to be a simple individual liable to err like any other fellow mortal. I own, however, that I have humility enough to confess my errors and to retrace my steps.
- Nonviolence is the first article of my faith. It is also the last article of my creed.
- Infinite striving to be the best is man’s duty; it is its own reward. Everything else is in God’s hands.
- There is nothing that wastes the body like worry, and one who has any faith in God should be ashamed to worry about anything whatsoever.
- I took the vow of celibacy in 1906. I had not shared my thoughts with my wife until then, but only consulted her at the time of making the vow. She had no objection.
- Man falls from the pursuit of the ideal of plan living and high thinking the moment he wants to multiply his daily wants. Man’s happiness really lies in contentment.
- Sense perceptions can be and often are false and deceptive, however real they may appear to us. Where there is realization outside the senses, it is infallible. It is proved not by extraneous evidence but in the transformed conduct and character of those who have felt the real presence of God within.
- I believe in the fundamental truth of all great religions of the world.
- Non-violence, which is the quality of the heart, cannot come by an appeal to the brain.
- It is my own firm belief that the strength of the soul grows in proportion as you subdue the flesh.
- Freedom is never dear at any price. It is the breath of life. What would a man not pay for living?
- Man can never be a woman’s equal in the spirit of selfless service with which nature has endowed her.
- Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of man as self-sufficiency. Man is a social being.
- The spirit of democracy is not a mechanical thing to be adjusted by abolition of forms. It requires change of heart.
- I am a humble but very earnest seeker after truth.
- A principle is the expression of perfection, and as imperfect beings like us cannot practise perfection, we devise every moment limits of its compromise in practice.
- A vow is a purely religious act which cannot be taken in a fit of passion. It can be taken only with a mind purified and composed and with God as witness.
- I wear the national dress because it is the most natural and the most becoming for an Indian.
- For me every ruler is alien that defies public opinion.
- Spiritual relationship is far more precious than physical. Physical relationship divorced from spiritual is body without soul.
- I do all the evil I can before I learn to shun it? Is it not enough to know the evil to shun it? If not, we should be sincere enough to admit that we love evil too well to give it up.
- Freedom is not worth having if it does not connote freedom to err.
- To give pleasure to a single heart by a single act is better than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.
- Morality is contraband in war.
- Commonsense is the realised sense of proportion.
- God cannot be realized through the intellect. Intellect can lead one to a certain extent and no further. It is a matter of faith and experience derived from that faith.
- Let everyone try and find that as a result of daily prayer he adds something new to his life, something with which nothing can be compared.
- Only he can take great resolves who has indomitable faith in God and has fear of God.
- Moral authority is never retained by any attempt to hold on to it. It comes without seeking and is retained without effort.
- That service is the noblest which is rendered for its own sake.
- Constant development is the law of life, and a man who always tries to maintain his dogmas in order to appear consistent drives himself into a false position.
- God is, even though the whole world deny him. Truth stands, even if there be no public support. It is self-sustained.
- We should meet abuse by forbearance. Human nature is so constituted that if we take absolutely no notice of anger or abuse, the person indulging in it will soon weary of it and stop.
- There is an orderliness in the universe, there is an unalterable law governing everything and every being that exists or lives. It is no blind law; for no blind law can govern the conduct of living beings.
- The pursuit of truth does not permit violence on one’s opponent.
- Religion is a matter of the heart. No physical inconvenience can warrant abandonment of one’s own religion.
- Measures must always in a progressive society be held superior to men, who are after all imperfect instruments, working for their fulfilment.
- Purity of personal life is the one indispensable condition for building up a sound education.
- I know, to banish anger altogether from one’s breast is a difficult task. It cannot be achieved through pure personal effort. It can be done only by God’s grace.
- What is true of the individual will be tomorrow true of the whole nation if individuals will but refuse to lose heart and hope.
- Action is no less necessary than thought to the instinctive tendencies of the human frame.
- Increase of material comforts, it may be generally laid down, does not in any way whatsoever conduce to moral growth.
- I have also seen children successfully surmounting the effects of an evil inheritance. That is due to purity being an inherent attribute of the soul.
- All the religions of the world, while they may differ in other respects, unitedly proclaim that nothing lives in this world but Truth.
- .. must be enforced by reason… when faith becomes blind it dies.
- Just as a man would not cherish living in a body other than his own, so do nations not like to live under other nations, however noble and great the latter may be.
- We may have our private opinions but why should they be a bar to the meeting of hearts?
- A religion that takes no account of practical affairs and does not help to solve them is no religion.
- A weak man is just by accident. A strong but non-violent man is unjust by accident.
- Fear of death makes us devoid both of valour and religion. For want of valour is want of religious faith.
- One’s own religion is after all a matter between oneself and one’s Maker and no one else’s.
- I would heartily welcome the union of East and West provided it is not based on brute force.
- If a man reaches the heart of his own religion, he has reached the heart of the others, too. There is only one God, and there are many paths to him.
- Though we may know Him by a thousand names, He is one and the same to us all.
- If co-operation is a duty, I hold that non-co-operation also under certain conditions is equally a duty.
- Unwearied ceaseless effort is the price that must be paid for turning faith into a rich infallible experience.
- Rights that do not flow from duty well performed are not worth having.
- Man is supposed to be the maker of his destiny. It is only partly true. He can make his destiny, only in so far as he is allowed by the Great Power.
- I claim to be a simple individual liable to err like any other fellow mortal. I own, however, that I have humility enough in me to confess my errors and to retrace my steps.
- Man lives freely only by his readiness to die, if need be, at the hands of his brother, never by killing him.
- Every formula of every religion has in this age of reason, to submit to the acid test of reason and universal assent.
- I reject any religious doctrine that does not appeal to reason and is in conflict with morality.