“Harshness is conquered by gentleness, hatred by love, and darkness by light.”
Born Mohandas (Mahatma) Karamchand Gandhi in Porbandar, West India on October 2nd, 1869, Mahatma Gandhi grew to be educated in the field of law at University College in London, England. He spent some time there but later was retained as a legal advisor for an Indian firm in South Africa and it was there that he became aware of the discrimination against Indian immigrants world-wide. Mahatma spent 20 years in South Africa, opposing greatly against the discrimination, because of which he was imprisoned many times. He recalled liking his imprisonments, saying they were “wonderful islands of privacy“, where he spent much of his time writing poetry and literature. While he harmed no one in any way, Gandhi was attacked and beaten in 1896, and thus began his teaching of “passive resistance” towards South African authorities. He campaigned some more, then later returned to India in 1914.
Upon his return to India, ruled by the British, he continued his movement of passive resistance in order for the Indians to gain rule over their home land. Many Indians were killed by British soldiers during this attempted at independence. After these mass killings, there were many boycotts made by the Indians- children were taken from their schools, public officers resigned from office, British goods remained in stores because Indians refused to buy them, and the streets were many times blocked by Indians refusing to let soldiers through. These boycotts resulted in Gandhi’s use of the spinning wheel to inspire Indians to return to the simple village lives they once knew before cotton and goods were produced in factories.
The British did not give in and Gandhi again returned to his passive resistant ways. He called upon his fellow Indians to refuse to pay taxes, especially taxes on salt, which was a natural earth-given substance that authorities had no right to put taxes on. Gandhi led a 200 mile march to the sea, the natural source of salt, in which thousands followed him. There the Indians made their own salt by evaporating sea water. Arrested again, Gandhi vowed to “fast unto death” to try to improve the status of the Untouchables. This would surely have an effect on his followers if he had died, as a revolt would have most likely broken out by his followers.
When World War II began, Gandhi and his followers declared they would not support Britain in the war unless they were granted complete independence from British rule. Britain refused, but later said that if the Muslim League and the Congress party resolved their differences, India could have it’s independence. India and Pakistan became two separate states when India finally gained it’s independence in 1947. Conflicts arose between Muslims and Hindus, and again Gandhi fasted for peace. Then on January 30th, 1948, on his way to a prayer service, Gandhi was assassinated by a crazed Hindu fanatic by the name of Nathuram Godse.
Gandhi believed in many ways of achieving a life full of non-violence, truth, and love. There are eleven vows as a basis of this kind of life. Truth and Love are the main attributes to ahimsa. With these two present, “all things will right themselves in the end.” Seeking truth is the first vow; to Gandhi, it has to do with seeing God as the one and only truth within the world.
Non-violence comes next; he called this ‘Satygraha’, which meant many things, such as “truth and firmness”, “non-cooperation”, and “force of righteousness”. Gandhi believed that this was a way to let the authorities hurt the people without their complaints, and eventually authority would find no point in violence if it has no effect on the people. Chastity, self-restraint, non-possession, non-stealing, bread-labor, control of palate, fearlessness, equality of religions, use of home produced goods, and removal of untouchability were also included in these vows. The last vow had to do with following all of the previous vows with humility and resolve. Gandhi believed in taking care of present conflicts rather than worrying about future ones. He believed solely in God, though he admitted that he had not yet found God.
Throughout his life, Gandhi was seen as a symbol for the free India. He led much of his life through means of fasting, meditation, and prayer. Gandhi believed greatly in self-sacrifice. He believed it showed dedication and discipline within not only one’s mind, but also within one’s body. Fasting and purposely living without essentials, such as shelter and clothes, were pretty big attributes in Gandhi’s ways of getting his inspirational message across to millions around the world. He did not wish to possess earthly things, and because of this, many thought of him as a saint, giving him the now-famous name “Mahatma”, which means “great-souled”. Mahatma Gandhi was surely the ‘little man’ that began the ‘big’ start of an era of many political justice movements that have lasted even throughout our time today.