Mohandas Gandhi

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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...
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