Mahatma Gandhi - a brief profile

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in 1869 in the small princely state of Porbander where his father was the Diwan (prime minister) to the ruler. Mohandas was a rather shy and timid child. At the age of thirteen he was married to Kasturba. When he was 19, he went to England to study law. In 1893, when he was only 24, Mohandas went to South Africa in connection with a legal case. What shocked him there was the way the Africans and Indians were treated by the white settlers. Gandhi decided to stay on in South Africa and for the next 22 years he devoted himself to improving the humiliating conditions under which Indians and Africans lived there. He showed the people a new way of fighting injustice without violence, for what one believed to be right. This, he called 'Satyagraha.'

Upon his return to India in 1915, Gandhiji went on a tour of the country to see, for himself, the conditions of the people. The poverty and ill-treatment of the people under British rule, shocked and appalled him. He decided that unity of purpose against foreign rule would be the most powerful weapon against the British. He called on the people of India to participate in the non-cooperation movement to demand self-rule which eventually culminated in the Quit India Movement of 1942. The British finally decided to leave. Whilst the entire nation broke out into Independence celebrations in August 1947, the one man most responsible for it Gandhiji, was away in Calcutta comforting victims of communal riots. He vowed to devote himself to eradicating communalism. However within a few months, on 30 January 1948, Gandhiji was shot dead while he was on his way to attend evening prayers in Delhi. On his death Jawaharlal Nehru said, "The light has gone out of our lives, and the best prayer we can offer is to give ourselves to truth and carry on the noble work for which he lived and for which he died. He lives in the hearts of millions and will live for immemorial ages."

Bapu, as Mahatma Gandhi endeared himself to the nation, is no more. But the light that he had shown during his lifetime will continue to guide this afflicted humanity, suffering from divisiveness and distrust which inevitably leads to bitterness and perpetration of violence. Like Buddha and Jesus Christ, he provided us with what Dr Radhakrishnan called a "moral axis". He bequeathed to the world a philosophy capable of being applied, adapted and assimilated to every situation. His philosophy is very simple - a commitment to allay suffering and resist anything that leads to suffering, resisting it even to death. His message of non-violence, truth and justice, sounds prophetic in the present day situation as well.


QUOTATIONS

PEACE

"I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any..."

"One thing is certain. If the mad race for armaments continues it is bound to result in a slaughter such as has never occurred in history. If there is a victor left the very victory will be a living death of the nation that emerges victorious."

"If we want to cultivate a true spirit of democracy we cannot afford to be intolerant. Intolerance betrays want of faith in one's cause."

"All the religions of the world, while they may differ in other respects, unitedly proclaim that nothing lives in this world but Truth."

"The greater the institution, the greater the chances of abuse. Democracy is a great institution and therefore it is liable to be greatly abused. The remedy therefore is not avoidance of democracy but reduction of the possibility of abuse to a minimum".


NON-VIOLENCE


"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.

"Non-violence and cowardice are contradictory terms.

· Non-violence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice.
· Non-violence springs from love, cowardice from hate.
· Non-violence always suffers, cowardice would always inflict suffering.
· Perfect non-violence is the highest bravery.
· Non-violent conduct is never demoralising, cowardice always is.

"However much I may sympathise with and admire worthy motives, I am an uncompromising opponent of violent methods even to serve the noblest of causes."

"I did not move a muscle, when I first heard that an atom bomb had wiped out Hiroshima. On the contrary I said to myself. 'Unless now, the world adopts non-violence, it will spell certain suicide for mankind."'

"Non-violence and cowardice go ill together. I can imagine a fully armed man to be at heart a coward. Possession of arms implies an element of fear, if not cowardice. But true non-violence is an impossibility without the possession of unadulterated fearlessness."

 


JUSTICE

"Non-cooperation is directed not against men but against measures. It is not directed against the Governors, but against the system they administer. The root of non-cooperation lies not in hatred but in justice, if not in love."

"My experience has shown me that we win justice quickest by rendering justice to the other party."

"The symbol of a court of justice is a pair of scales held evenly by an impartial and blind but sagacious woman. Fate has purposely made her blind, in order that she may not judge a person from his exterior but from his intrinsic worth."

"'Might is right', is the last word of 'Justice and nothing but justice'".

"All the world over, a true peace depends not upon gunpowder but upon pure justice. When Government perpetrates injustice and fortify, it by the use of arms, such acts are a sign of anger and they add injustice to injustice. If people also become angry by reason of such acts on the part of government, they resort to violence and the result is bad for both; mutual ill-will increases. But whenever people regard particular acts of government as unjust and express their strong disapproval by self-suffering, government, cannot help granting redress."


FREEDOM

"Freedom of a nation cannot be won by solitary acts of heroism even though they may be of the true type, never by heroism so called. The temple of freedom requires the patient, intelligent and constructive effort of tens of thousands of men and women, young and old."

"Whether we are one or many, we must refuse to purchase freedom at the cost of our self-respect or our cherished conviction. I have known even little children become unbending when an attempt has been made to cross their declared purpose, be it ever so flimsy in the estimation of their parents."

"Freedom battles are not fought without paying heavy prices. Just as man would not cherish the thought of 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."

"If I want freedom for my country, believe me, if I can possibly help it, I do not want that freedom in order that I, belonging to a nation that counts one- fifth of the human race, may exploit any other race upon earth, or any single individual. If I want that freedom for my country, I would not be deserving of that freedom if I did not cherish and treasure the equal right of every other race, weak or strong, to the same freedom."