Mohandas Gandhi

Mohandas Gandhi


Born into a merchant family in 1869, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was

under the influence of powerful people. Members of his family had served as

prime ministers of an Indian state for several generations. His parents

were strong in their religion, being devout and earnest Hindus. They were a

part of a Hindu sect that worshipped Vishnu and promoted non-violence.


Apparently, he was most influenced by his mother, a gentle and

intelligent person. According to Hindu custom, he married at an early age

and grew to love his wife greatly. Together, they had four children and

adopted a fourth.


Later, in 1888, he travelled to England to become a barrister-at-law.

There were several important influences that he encountered here: the

Western material style of life, which he decided not to follow, and in the

simple Russian way of living he found: the New Testament, and the

Bhagavadgita, the bible of the Hare Krishna movement. It was here that he

developed a sense of the presence of God in his life and the lives of men.


Gandhi then returned to India and studied law in Bombay, but he

quickly denounced it, feeling that it was immoral and could not satisfy

one\'s conscience. Despite this, he used his schooling to help plead for

Indian settlers in South Africa that were being oppressed by the white

population. His personal experiences, including being ejected from a train

in Maritzburg, of not being allowed the same rights as others lead him to

begin a movement to help his people.


While in South Africa, Gandhi made himself poor so that he could

identify with his the peasants. He then proceeded to start a colony that

consisted of abused labourers. The colony became very large and many cities

were crippled by the lack of labourers. The government reacted to this by

jailing Gandhi several times along with many other of his followers. The

war he fought was one without weapons, already Gandhi was on his way to

starting his career of non-violent campaigns.


The main idea behind Gandhi\'s teachings was non-violence. The words of

the Sanskrit language: ahinsa and sayagraha clearly express Gandhi\'s

beliefs. The former means non-killing, non-destructive and the latter means

the force of universal truth. He believed that the killing of man or beast

is an unforgivable sin. Many who promoted these teachings of Gandhi simply

believed that it was their only option for resisting imperialism rather

than having a moral conviction towards his teachings. He taught that the

weapon that could be used was the conscience of the aggressor. This ahimsa

is, to some degree, in the tradition of Hinduism.


Hinduism teaches to stay away from temptation through various

exercises that test one\'s ability to perform a difficult task, this

devitalizes a person and causes him to act on a non-violent level.


In addition, he taught that one should act rather be held under

subservience. Gandhi himself once stated, "Mere knowledge of right and

wrong will not make one fit for salvation...the Gita says: \'No one has

attained his goal without action...\' From this quotation, we learn that his

teachings are influenced by the Bhagavadgita and that he believes that one

must act to reach a goal. But, he believed that one should denounce the

rewards and simply devote one\'s life to acting on the behalf of others and

that life should be lived near the soil, away from the influence of



Also, Gandhi strongly believed in upholding the caste system,

believing that a person of one caste should stay a part of that caste. He

also upheld the old Hindu tradition of segregation of castes, indicating

that, "Interdining and intermarraige have never been a bar to disunion,

quarrels or worse." According to Hinduism, the caste system lies in respect

for one another\'s individuality.


Gandhi is well known for his efforts in fighting imperliasm in India

and South Africa. His methods were, unique in that they did not involve the

use of weapons.


During the South African War of 1899-1902 and during the Zulu

rebellion in 1906, Gandhi organised an ambulance corps consisting of

Indians to help the British fight. He believed that duty dictated that the

Indian population had a responsibity to help the British when they were in

a time of need. Perhaps he was trying to show them that the Indians put an

effort into helping the British forces just like everyone else and deserved

the same rights as everyone else.


It is interesting to note that Gandhi did not promote fighting, but he

helped those who were in need of assistance.


After the law was passed that all Indians were required to carry an

identity card with them