MAHATMA GANDHI



MAHATMA GANDHI   “GANDHIJI - REVERENCE”

MOHANDAS KARAMCHAND GANDHI

October 21, 1946.  Preston Grover of the Associated Press of America asked Gandhi, during an interview in New Delhi, if he had any message for America. This was 1946.  He described the financial situation today.

Gandhiji (Indian spelling of reverence) replied, " Dislodge the money God called "Mammon" from the throne and find a corner for a poor God.  I think America has a very big future but in spite of what is said to the contrary, it has a dismal future if it swears by "Mammon"."Mammon" has never been known to be a friend of any of us to the last. He is always a false friend". 

Mohandas K. Gandhi  also said: " I believe in equality for everyone, except reporters and photographers".  Today he would be dealing with not only the opposition but soothsayers, talking heads, blogsters, TV personalities, Hollywood, spin, lies and anyone today that qualifies for Rupert Murdock's payroll. And now add phone hacking, eves dropping and sabotage, fake news, and going soft on nuts and allies. 

He wrote many of my favorite passages. I am a fan of Gandhi, his ability to see truth clearly, and express it, is a gift few others have ever had. He was a gift to the world.  

It is when he asks:  “What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy".   

He also said: "One of the most dangerous thoughts spiritually perilous to humanity is Politics without Principle".  Wow, what a clear vision of today.

In another story I quoted Gandhiji. I find so many answers in the words of Mohandas Gandhi.  Again, he seemed to address all the questions that are posed by minds that see and question and converts them into simple truth, obviously something Washington hasn't a clue about.  

Our system is like the oil in your car, each day the oil gets a little dirtier. Not as noticeable as you might think, just a little dirtier. One day is it goes on long enough the engine will seize, already it seems we are down a quart.  He understood the oil theory but spoke of the ocean in a positive term. 

He said, "You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty".  If that’s true, possibly all of the Congressional elected officials are not corrupt. But that oil slick sure looks like bunker fuel number three these days and the name Exxon Valdez is painted on the rear wall of Congress.


MAHATMA GANDHI, (MOHANDAS KARAMCHAND GANDHI)  2 OCT 1869 – 30 JAN 1948
He was the preeminent leader of Indian nationalism in British-ruled India. Employing non-violent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. 

The honorific Mahatma in Sanskrit means "high-souled," “venerable” was first applied to him in 1914 in South Africa, and is is now used worldwide. He is also called Bapu which is Gujarati: endearment for "father, "papa." in India.

Born and raised in a Hindu, merchant caste, family in coastal Gujarat, western India, and trained in law at the Inner Temple, London, Gandhi first employed non-violent civil disobedience as an expatriate lawyer in South Africa, in the resident Indian community's struggle for civil rights. 

After his return to India in 1915, he set about organising peasants, farmers, and urban labourers to protest against excessive land-tax and discrimination. Assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921, Gandhi led nationwide campaigns for easing poverty, expanding women's rights, building religious and ethnic amity, ending untouchability, but above all for achieving Swaraj or self-rule.

Gandhi famously led Indians in challenging the British-imposed salt tax with the 400 km 250 mi.  Dandi Salt March in 1930, and later in calling for the British to Quit India in 1942.  He was imprisoned for many years, upon many occasions, in both South Africa and India. Gandhi attempted to practice non-violence and truth in all situations, and advocated that others do the same. 

He lived modestly in a self-sufficient residential community and wore the traditional Indian dhoti and shawl, woven with yarn hand spun on a charkha. He ate simple vegetarian food, and also undertook long fasts as means of both self-purification and social protest.

Gandhi's vision of a free India based on religious pluralism, however, was challenged in the early 1940s by a new Muslim nationalism which was demanding a separate Muslim homeland carved out of India. Eventually, in August 1947, Britain granted independence, but the British Indian Empire was partitioned into two dominions, a smaller Hindu-majority India and Muslim Pakistan. 

As many displaced Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs made their way to their new lands, religious violence broke out, especially in the Punjab and Bengal. Eschewing the official celebration of independence in Delhi, Gandhi visited the affected areas, attempting to provide solace. In the months following, he undertook several fasts unto death to promote religious harmony. 

The last of these, undertaken on 12 January 1948 at age 78, also had the indirect goal of pressuring India to pay out some cash assets owed to Pakistan. Some Indians thought Gandhi was too accommodating.  Among them, Nathuram Godse, a Hindu nationalist, who assassinated Gandhi on 30 January 1948 by firing three bullets into his chest at point-blank range.

Gandhi is commonly, though not officially, considered the Father of the Nation in India. His birthday, 2 October, is commemorated there as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday, and world-wide as the International Day of Non-Violence.


HIS EARLY LIFE AND BACKGROUND
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi  was born on 2 October 1869 to a Hindu Modh Baniya family in Porbandar (also known as Sudamapuri), a coastal town on the Kathiawar Peninsula and then part of the small princely state of Porbandar in the Kathiawar Agency of the Indian Empire. His father, Karamchand Uttamchand Gandhi (1822–1885), served as the diwan (chief minister) of Porbandar State.

Although he only had an elementary education and had previously been a clerk in the state administration, Karamchand proved a capable chief minister.   During his tenure, Karamchand married four times. His first two wives died young, after each had given birth to a daughter, and his third marriage was childless. 

In 1857, Karamchand sought his third wife’s permission to remarry; that year, he married Putlibai, who also came from Junagadh, and was from a Pranami Vaishnava family. Karamchand and Putlibai had three children over the ensuing decade: a son, Laxmidas (c. 1860–1914); a daughter, Raliatbehn (1862–1960); and another son, Karsandas (c. 1866–1913).

On 2 October 1869, Putlibai gave birth to her last child, Mohandas, in a dark, windowless ground-floor room of the Gandhi family residence in Porbandar city. As a child, Gandhi was described by his sister Raliat as "restless as mercury, either playing or roaming about. One of his favorite pastimes was twisting dogs' ears."

The Indian classics, especially the stories of Shravana and king Harishchandra, had a great impact on Gandhi in his childhood. In his autobiography, he admits that they left an indelible impression on his mind. He writes: "It haunted me and I must have acted Harishchandra to myself times without number." Gandhi's early self-identification with truth and love as supreme values is traceable to these epic characters.

The family's religious background was eclectic. Gandhi’s father Karamchand was Hindu and his mother Putlibai was from a Pranami Vaishnava Hindu family.  Gandhi’s father was of Modh Baniya caste in the varna of Vaishya. His mother came from the medieval Krishna bhakti-based Pranami tradition, whose religious texts include the Bhagavad Gita, the Bhagavata Purana, and a collection of 14 texts with teachings that the tradition believes to include the essence of the Vedas, the Quran and the Bible.

Gandhi was deeply influenced by his mother, an extremely pious lady who "would not think of taking her meals without her daily prayers...she would take the hardest vows and keep them without flinching. To keep two or three consecutive fasts was nothing to her."

In 1874, Gandhi’s father Karamchand left Porbandar for the smaller state of Rajkot, where he became a counsellor to its ruler, the Thakur Sahib; though Rajkot was a less prestigious state than Porbandar, the British regional political agency was located there, which gave the state's diwan a measure of security. In 1876, Karamchand became diwan of Rajkot and was succeeded as diwan of Porbandar by his brother Tulsidas. His family then rejoined him in Rajkot.

Gandhi (right) with his eldest brother Laxmidas in 1886.

At age 9, Gandhi entered the local school in Rajkot, near his home. There he studied the rudiments of arithmetic, history, the Gujarati language and geography. At age 11, he joined the High School in Rajkot. He was an average student, won some prizes, but was a shy and tongue tied student, with no interest in games; his only companions were books and school lessons

While at high school, Gandhi's elder brother introduced him to a Muslim friend named Sheikh Mehtab. Mehtab was older in age, taller and encouraged the strictly vegetarian boy to eat meat to gain height. He also took Mohandas to a brothel one day, though Mohandas "was struck blind and dumb in this den of vice," rebuffed the prostitutes' advances and was promptly sent out of the brothel. The experience caused Mohandas mental anguish, and he abandoned the company of Mehtab.

In May 1883, the 13-year-old Mohandas was married to 14-year-old Kasturbai Makhani Kapadia (her first name was usually shortened to "Kasturba", and affectionately to "Ba") in an arranged marriage, according to the custom of the region at that time.  In the process, he lost a year at school, but was later allowed to make up by accelerating his studies.

His wedding was a joint event, where his brother and cousin were also married. Recalling the day of their marriage, he once said, "As we didn't know much about marriage, for us it meant only wearing new clothes, eating sweets and playing with relatives." However, as was prevailing tradition, the adolescent bride was to spend much time at her parents’ house, and away from her husband.

Writing many years later, Mohandas described with regret the lustful feelings he felt for his young bride, "even at school I used to think of her, and the thought of nightfall and our subsequent meeting was ever haunting me." He later recalled feeling jealous and possessive of her, such as when she would visit a temple with her girlfriends, and being sexually lustful in his feelings for her.

In late 1885, Gandhi's father Karamchand died. Gandhi, then 16 years old, and his wife of age 17 had their first baby, who survived only a few days. The two deaths anguished Gandhi.  The Gandhi couple had four more children, all sons: Harilal, born in 1888; Manilal, born in 1892; Ramdas, born in 1897; and Devdas, born in 1900.

In November 1887, the 18-year-old Gandhi graduated from high school in Ahmedabad. In January 1888, he enrolled at Samaldas College in Bhavnagar State, which was then the sole degree-granting institution of higher education in the region.
But he dropped out and returned to his family in Porbandar.


ENGLISH BARRISTER
Gandhi came from a poor family, and he had dropped out of the cheapest college he could afford.  Mavji Dave Joshiji, a Brahmin priest and family friend, advised Gandhi and his family that he should consider law studies in London. 

In July 1888, his wife Kasturba gave birth to their first surviving son, Harilal.  His mother was not comfortable about Gandhi leaving his wife and family, and going so far from home. Gandhi's uncle Tulsidas also tried to dissuade his nephew. Gandhi wanted to go. To persuade his wife and mother, Gandhi made a vow in front of his mother that he would abstain from meat, alcohol and women. 

Gandhi's brother Laxmidas, who was already a lawyer, cheered Gandhi's London studies plan and offered to support him. Putlibai gave Gandhi her permission and blessing.

On 10 August 1888, Gandhi aged 18, left Porbandar for Mumbai, then known as Bombay. Upon arrival, he stayed with the local Modh Bania community while waiting for the ship travel arrangements. The head of the community knew Gandhi's father. After learning Gandhi's plans, he and other elders warned Gandhi that England would tempt him to compromise his religion, and eat and drink in Western ways. Gandhi informed them of his promise to his mother and her blessings. The local chief disregarded it, and excommunicated him an outcast. But Gandhi ignored this, and on 4 September, he sailed from Bombay to London. His brother saw him off.


GANDHI IN LONDON AS A LAW STUDENT
In London, Gandhi studied law and jurisprudence and enrolled at the Inner Temple with the intention of becoming a barrister. His childhood shyness and self withdrawal had continued through his teens, and he remained so when he arrived in London, but he joined a public speaking practice group and overcame this handicap to practice law.

His time in London was influenced by the vow he had made to his mother. He tried to adopt "English" customs, including taking dancing lessons. However, he could not appreciate the bland vegetarian food offered by his landlady and was frequently hungry until he found one of London’s few vegetarian restaurants. 

Influenced by Henry Salt’s writing, he joined the Vegetarian Society, was elected to its executive committee, and started a local Bayswater chapter.  Some of the vegetarians he met were members of the Theosophical Society, which had been founded in 1875 to further universal brotherhood, and which was devoted to the study of Buddhist and Hindu literature. They encouraged Gandhi to join them in reading the Bhagavad Gita both in translation as well as in the original.

Gandhi, at age 22, was called to the bar in June 1891 and then left London for India, where he learned that his mother had died while he was in London and that his family had kept the news from him. His attempts at establishing a law practice in Bombay failed because he was psychologically unable to cross-examine witnesses. He returned to Rajkot to make a modest living drafting petitions for litigants, but he was forced to stop when he ran afoul of a British officer.

In 1893, a Muslim merchant in Kathiawar named Dada Abdullah contacted Gandhi. Abdullah owned a large successful shipping business in South Africa. His distant cousin in Johannesburg needed a lawyer, and they preferred someone with Kathiawari heritage. Gandhi inquired about his pay for the work. They offered a total salary of £105 plus travel expenses. He accepted it, knowing that it would be at least one-year commitment in the Colony of Natal, South Africa, also a part of the British Empire.


CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST IN SOUTH AFRICA (1893–1914)
In April 1893, Gandhi aged 23, set sail for South Africa to be the lawyer for Abdullah’s cousin. He spent 21 years in South Africa, where he developed his political views, ethics and politics.

Immediately upon arriving in South Africa, Gandhi faced discrimination because of his skin color and heritage, like all people of color   He was not allowed to sit with European passengers in the stagecoach and told to sit on the floor near the driver, then beaten when he refused; elsewhere he was kicked into a gutter for daring to walk near a house, in another instance thrown off a train at Pietermaritzburg after refusing to leave first class seating    

He sat in the train station, shivering all night and pondering if he should return to India or protest for his rights. He chose to protest and was allowed to board the train the next day. In another incident, the magistrate of a Durban court ordered Gandhi to remove his turban, which he refused to do. Indians were not allowed to walk on public footpaths in South Africa. Gandhi was kicked by a police officer out of the footpath onto the street without warning.

When Gandhi arrived in South Africa, according to Herman, he thought of himself as “  Briton first, and an Indian second".  However, the prejudice against him and his fellow Indians from British people that Gandhi experienced and observed deeply bothered him. He found it humiliating, struggling to understand how some people can feel honor or superiority or pleasure in such inhumane practices.  Gandhi began to question his people's standing in the British Empire.

The Abdullah case that had brought him to South Africa concluded in May 1894, and the Indian community organized a farewell party for Gandhi as he prepared to return to India. However, a new Natal government discriminatory proposal led to Gandhi extending his original period of stay in South Africa. He planned to assist Indians in opposing a bill to deny them the right to vote, a right then proposed to be an exclusive European right. 

He asked Joseph Chamberlain, the British Colonial Secretary, to reconsider his position on this bill.  Though unable to halt the bill's passage, his campaign was successful in drawing attention to the grievances of Indians in South Africa. He helped found the Natal Indian Congress in 1894, and through this organization,  he molded the Indian community of South Africa into a unified political force. In January 1897, when Gandhi landed in Durban, a mob of white settlers attacked him and he escaped only through the efforts of the wife of the police superintendent. However, he refused to press charges against any member of the mob.organization

Pic: Gandhi with the stretcher-bearers of the Indian Ambulance Corps, during the Boer War, Gandhi volunteered in 1900 to form a group of stretcher-bearers as the Natal Indian Ambulance Corps. According to Arthur Herman, Gandhi wanted to disprove the imperial British stereotype that Hindus were not fit for “ manly" activities involving danger and exertion, unlike the Muslim "martial races".

Gandhi raised eleven hundred Indian volunteers, to support British combat troops against the Boers. They were trained and medically certified to serve on the front lines. They were auxiliaries at the Battle of Colenso to a White volunteer ambulance corps; then at Spion Kop Gandhi and his bearers moved to the front line and had to carry wounded soldiers for miles to a field hospital because the terrain was too rough for the ambulances.  Gandhi and thirty-seven other Indians received the Queen’s South Africa Medal.


GANDHI AND HIS WIFE KASTURBA (1902)
In 1906, the Transvaal government promulgated a new Act compelling registration of the colony's Indian and Chinese populations. At a mass protest meeting held in Johannesburg on 11 September that year, Gandhi adopted his still evolving methodology of Satyagraha (devotion to the truth), or nonviolent protest, for the first time.  

According to Anthony Parel, Gandhi was also influenced by the Tamil text Tirukkuṛaḷ because Leo Tolstoy mentioned it in their correspondence that began with “  Letter to a Hindu".  Gandhi urged Indians to defy the new law and to suffer the punishments for doing so. Gandhi's ideas of protests, persuasion skills and public relations had emerged. He took these back to India in 1915.


ON WARS AND NON-VIOLENCE - SUPPORT FOR WARS
Gandhi participated in South African war against the Boers, on the British side in 1899.  Both the Dutch settlers called Boers and the imperial British at that time discriminated against the colored races they considered as inferior, and Gandhi later wrote about his conflicted beliefs during the Boer war. 

He stated that, “ When the war was declared, my personal sympathies were all with the Boers, but my loyalty to the British rule drove me to participation with the British in that war”. According to Gandhi, he felt that since he was demanding his rights as a British citizen, it was also his duty to serve the British forces in the defense of the British Empire.

During World War I (1914–1918), nearing the age of 50, Gandhi supported the British and its allied forces by recruiting Indians to join the British army, expanding the Indian contingent from about 100,000 to over 1.1 million.  He encouraged his people to fight on one side of the war in Europe and Africa at the cost of their lives.   Pacifists criticized and questioned Gandhi, who defended these practices by stating, according to Sankar Ghose, "it would be madness for me to sever my connection with the society to which I belong".

According to Keith Robbins, the recruitment effort was in part motivated by the British promise to reciprocate the help with swaraj (self-government) to Indians after the end of World War I.  After the war, the British government offered minor reforms instead, which disappointed Gandhi.  He launched his satyagraha movement in 1919. In parallel, Gandhi's fellowmen became skeptical of his pacifist ideas and were inspired by the ideas of nationalism and anti-imperialism.

In a 1920 essay, after the World War I, Gandhi wrote, "where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence." Rahul Sagar interprets Gandhi's efforts to recruit for the British military during the War, as Gandhi's belief that, at that time, it would demonstrate that Indians were willing to fight. Further, it would also show the British that his fellow Indians were "their subjects by choice rather than out of cowardice." In 1922, Gandhi wrote that abstinence from violence is effective and true forgiveness only when one has the power to punish, not when one decides not to do anything because one is helpless.

After World War II engulfed Britain, Gandhi actively campaigned to oppose any help to the British war effort and any Indian participation in the war. According to Arthur Herman, Gandhi believed that his campaign would strike a blow to imperialism. Gandhi's position was not supported by many Indian leaders, and his campaign against the British war effort was a failure. The Hindu leader, Tej Bahadur Sapru declared in 1941, states Herman, “  A good many Congress leaders are fed up with the barren program of the Mahatma”. Over 2.5 million Indians ignored Gandhi, volunteered and joined on the British side. They fought and died as a part of the allied forces in Europe, North Africa and various fronts of the World War II.

TRUTH AND SATYAGRAHA
"God is truth. The way to truth lies through ahimsa (nonviolence)" —Sabarmati 13 March 1927

Gandhi dedicated his life to discovering and pursuing truth, or Satya, and called his movement as satyagraha, which means “appeal to, insistence on, or reliance on the Truth".

The first formulation of the satyagraha as a political movement and principle occurred in 1920, which he tabled as “ Resolution on Non-cooperation" in September that year before a session of the Indian Congress. 

It was the satyagraha formulation and step, states Dennis Dalton, that deeply resonated with beliefs and culture of his people, embedded him into the popular consciousness, transforming him quickly into Mahatma.

Gandhi based Satyagraha on the Vedantic ideal of self-realization, ahimsa (nonviolence), vegetarianism, and universal love. William Borman states that the key to his satyagraha is rooted in the Hindu Upanishadic texts.  

According to Indira Carr, Gandhi’s ideas on ahimsa and satyagraha were founded on the philosophical foundations of Advaita Vedanta.

Bruce Watson states that some of these ideas are found not only in traditions within Hinduism, but also in Jainism or Buddhism, particularly those about non-violence, vegetarianism and universal love, but Gandhi’s synthesis was to politicize these ideas.   Gandhi's concept of satya as a civil movement, states Glynn Richards, are best understood in the context of the Hindu terminology of Dharma and Ṛta.

Gandhi picking salt during Salt Satyagraha to defy colonial law giving salt collection monopoly to the British. His satyagraha attracted vast numbers of Indian men and women.

Gandhi stated that the most important battle to fight was overcoming his own demons, fears, and insecurities. Gandhi summarised his beliefs first when he said "God is Truth". He would later change this statement to “Truth is God". 

Thus, satya (truth) in Gandhi’s philosophy is "God".  Gandhi, states Richards, described the term “ God” not as a separate power, but as the Being (Brahman, Atman) of the Advaita Vedanta tradition, a nondual universal that pervades in all things, in each person and all life. 

According to Nicholas Gier, this to Gandhi meant the unity of God and humans, that all beings have the same one soul and therefore equality, that atman exists and is same as everything in the universe, ahimsa (non-violence) is the very nature of this atman.


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