Today is the 150th birth anniversary of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi or popularly known as Mahatma Gandhi. The Father of a nation of the second largest population, India, is known all over the world for his revolutionary principles and ideologies.
While Gandhi has inspired several world leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and Dalai Lama with his fearless and unconventional political movements of ‘ahimsa’ and ‘satyagraha’, his core belief system is the outcome of deeper spiritual teachings.
I left India more convinced that nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.
∼ Martin Luther King Jr. (after his trip to India in July 1959)
‘ Ahimsa ’ is a word derived from Sanskrit, meaning compassion or non-violence. We live in a world where we strongly believe in the principle of Eye for an Eye, which has been grossly misunderstood as encouragement for retaliation. While retaliation appeared to be the most suitable way to drive the British out of the country, Gandhi chose the road less traveled of non-violence.
Why would you be compassionate or loving towards an enemy who has caused immense oppression and corruption, crippling an entire economy leading to poverty across generations ?
Two thousand five hundred years ago, the Buddha taught “ Do as much good as possible, avoid harm, and purify your mind ”, and it is the same ideology that Gandhi used to invoke the conscience in the enemy.
Our current times are a clear demonstration of the misinterpretation of eye for an eye, where world leaders showcase their strength in terms of the massive array and range of weapons manufactured. Being compassionate even during a crisis demands courage and fearlessness and although violence may seem like the solution to the problem, when has war ever produced a winner ?
Compassion works across all levels — from resolving major conflicts in world affairs to our daily woes and all the way to diminishing our inner demons. The movement of Ahimsa is less political and more spiritual requiring one to introspect and possess the ability to remain compassionate while the enemy awakes. While this movement may be slower and much more difficult, it is the intended nature of existence. This difficult journey of self-reflection is what can prevent massive wars or the restlessness you experience watching television in your living room after listening to the threatening comments from our world leaders.
Going hand in hand with the principle of Ahimsa, is the ability to insist on one’s truth, or ‘ Satyagraha .’ This principle showcases the unshaken faith in truth even in times of adversity. It is not just an ideology but a way of life, involving commitment to truth, hard work and the ability to detach oneself from one’s ego to look beyond. Gandhi chastised himself and denied various earthly possessions and owned only a handful of items at the time of his death. While our current leaders fight for power cruising through life in luxury, Gandhi was the living embodiment of the principle of minimalism.
Gandhi waged a non-violent, self-sacrificing holistic war for Truth — the truth that India deserved freedom from its oppressors who had misrepresented their intentions for too long. Fighting for truth requires perseverance and while his ways of Satyagraha drew some criticism, it received wide acceptance around the globe as a potent way of fighting for one’s freedom. Satyagraha instilled self respect in a stratified Indian society, treating all forms of work as equal while also recognizing the important role women play in our society.
The three wise monkeys embodying the proverbial principle “ See no Evil, Hear no Evil, Speak no Evil ”, that originated in ancient Hindu and Buddhist traditions were later also referred to as Gandhi’s Three Monkeys. He advocated these teachings ingrained in spirituality which simply translates to Don’t Do Anything Evil.
No religion or faith encourages the slightest form of violence and each one preaches the importance of strong moral values involving humility and kindness. Gandhi’s thoughts were governed by ethical and moral considerations which are evident through his movements in the struggle for freedom. He even criticized capitalism as the root of suffering and strongly encouraged a socio-economic development of the society.
I believe that Gandhi’s views were the most enlightened of all the political men in our time.
∼ Albert Einstein
If Mahatma Gandhi were to be born in a free India, he would probably be known as one of the greatest spiritual leaders for his ability to walk on the road less traveled, in search of truth. While our generation strives to understand spirituality, Gandhi was able to implement them on a massive scale to liberate India from the shackles of British Raj. We are all fascinated with quotes of wisdom, but how often do we truly act on those words ?
While Gandhi’s accomplishments are impressive, the bigger question lies in why our current generation of leaders fails to understand these core values and claims to destroy human life with absolute disregard. It is great to commemorate our historical world leaders in the most magnanimous ways, but wouldn’t it be better to act on their principles to create a world they fondly imagined ?
Our thoughts demand a revolution amid a world full of chaos, constantly distracting the mind with ceaseless insignificance. To lead ourselves in the right direction, we must first look within and act on our reflection.
A man is but a product of his thoughts. What he thinks he becomes.
∼ Mahatma Gandhi
The Road Less Traveled is arduous, with immense resistance, but it is what lays the foundation for the Great Difference we long to cherish.
Happy Gandhi Jayanti !