For decades, the people of India have revered and honored Mahatma Gandhi as the “father of the nation”. The moral lessons that he left behind for future generations of Indians, demonstrate that only through actions of love and peace can the world truly change.
A Symbol of Peace in India
Despite never being awarded a Nobel peace prize, Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948) is today considered one of the most influential figures of the 20th century. Gandhi gained worldwide recognition after leading India to independence from British colonialists. More incredible still, he did this with the sole principle of “nonviolence”.
This principle is called “Satyagraha” (upholding truth), which means objecting to all forms of violence, terrorism, and brutality, in other words, all that which oppresses. He inspired his people to uphold the highest moral standards. And for the first time in history, their peaceful message was enough to topple the strangle hold the British had over them.
“Those who uphold the truth would not harm their opponents nor seek to eradicate him. The pursuit of truth does not permit violence on one’s opponent,” Gandhi is quoted to have said.
Satyagraha is the absence of physical force. A satyagrahi does not inflict pain on their adversary; he does not seek his destruction. A satyagrahi never resorts to firearms. In the use of satyagraha, there is no ill-will whatsoever.
The Humble Man
Gandhi, who was born Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, is commonly referred to as ‘Mahatma’ meaning Great Soul. It was the soul of Gandhi that inspired so much faith, trust and admiration, long after his death in 1948.
One of the aspects of the man, that made his countrymen and in fact the wider world admire him, was his simple way of living with asceticism. He was a vegetarian, he practiced abstinence from sexual intercourse and dressed in the humble, traditional clothing of his culture. Gandhi was often seen wearing a simple Dhoti and sometimes only wrapping himself in a shawl, on occasion even staying bare.
After the meeting with the King of England a reporter asked him if he felt cold and ashamed to stand in front of the Emperor in his simple dress. “Why should I feel ashamed? The Emperor was wearing enough clothes for both of us,” came Gandhi’s simple response.
The Nobility of Gandhi
One day Gandhi stepped aboard a train as it started to move, and one of his shoes slipped off and dropped on the tracks. Unable to retrieve it, he calmly took off his other shoe and threw it back along the track to land close to the first.
When an amazed passenger asked why he had done that, Gandhi smiled and said, “First, only one shoe left would not work. They are a pair so should stay together. The poor man who finds the shoe lying on the track will now have a whole pair to use.”
With the eyes of his imagination, Gandhi saw a man with bare feet, coming across a lone shoe and desperately searching for the other and saw the disappointment on his face when he didn’t find it. Upon seeing these things, Gandhi did what he could to help.
Love can save the world
All that Gandhi did carried good intention, with a strong sense of his own social morality. He devoted a lot of his time to aid the lives of the lower ‘untouchable’ classes of society, who were always treated unfairly. Instead, he treated them with loving equality, and was revolutionary in doing so. Just a small gesture from Gandhi showed the compassion of his great heart, and has influenced many others to behave in the same way.
In today’s world, we seem to have grown accustomed to violence being the major power and the only thing able to truly transform the world and nature along with it. No matter how powerful your punch is though, the return force is always the same. If one hurts others, he also hurts himself. This is one of the major lessons Gandhi brought to the world, that there is another way. If you lash out in anger, all you will receive is anger. But if you push back with peace, peace will surely follow.
Gandhi taught us another lesson and all of his life is evidence of this truth… : Love can heal the world and compassion can save humanity. Gandhi once said, “Satyagraha is pure soul-force. Truth is the very substance of the soul. That is why this force is called satyagraha. The soul is informed with knowledge. In it burns the flame of love. If someone gives us pain through ignorance, we shall win him through love.”