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
machines.

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