M.K Gandhi

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M. K. Gandhi

Around the year 2000, TIME magazine organised a vote on the most influential person of the century. One of the favorits to win that title was Mohandas Karanchand Gandhi (for the rest of this paper refered to only as Gandhi). He didn’t win it though, but finished at a split second place together with Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
I’ve known about Gandhi my entire life, but only what (almost) everybody knows, that he liberated India from the British imerialism and that he used non-violence in order to do so. But after the counting of votes had finished, I started getting more and more interested in Gandhi and his doctrine. I had seen the movie fight club earlier that year, and in one the scenes, Tyler Durden (played by Brad Pitt), uses non-violence to defeat an opponent who is protected by bodyguards. The impact this has on his opponent has fascinated me ever since. When this opportunity came of further understanding the way of non-violence, I didn’t have to think long before taking it.
To end this introduction, I would like to correct to errors commonly made by people unfamiliar with Gandhi. For starters, his was Mohandas Karanchand, not Mahatma. Mahtma is sanskrit fir “Great Spirit”, a title given to him from people who admired his, you’ve already guessed it, great spirit. The second correction is of his marriage. Gandhi was married to Kasturba, not Indira who would later become prime minister. In fact, Gandhi and Indira were not related at all.

Satyagraha = Satya means truth in sanskrit and graha means force, so Satyagraha means “truth force”. This is a very essential term in Gandhi’s philosophy and has has three different meanings:
1) The form of non-violent struggle which Gandhi developt, containg militant actions but is clear on the point that the opponent must be respected. The goals for the struggle is to convert the opponent and to change the conditions of power.
2) Satyagraha is also a way of life, namly that the satyagrahi, or users of satyagraha, should improve their life conditions (mainly on a mental level) and to use non-violence to fight injustices.
3) Special forms of non-violent struggle is also included under satyagraha, such as the Saltmarch.
Another way of explaining satyagraha is as fight without evil intention.

Ahisma = Non-violence in a very broad meaning, including truthfullness and loving. Ahisma is a negation of hisma, meaning violence in a broad meaning.

Brahmacarya = selfcontroll. Together with satya and ahisma the foundation on which Gandhi’s philosophy is based upon.

On the 2nd October of 1869, Kaba Gandhi’s 4th wife gave birth to her last son. The infant was named Mohandas Karanchand. This took place in the town of Porbander, in what is now Gujarat but at this time was Rajkot, one of the semi-independent states in the Briton ruled India. His family belonged to the Vaisnava caste (the merchant caste) and his father worked as an advisor or prime minister for the maharadja.
At the age of thirteen he was married to Kasturba who was equaly young. She was uneducated, not very loving and stubborn. In 1888 they had their first child.
Gandhi enrolled at the university of Bombay in1887. He dreamed of becomming a doctor but his mother found it impossibel to combine with his worship of Vishnu. His father then advised him to study law, an advice he followed. In 1888 he left India for studies in London, leaving his wife and son with his family. In England, apart from studying law, he met people who introduced him to Christianity, socialism and theosophy.
He graduated in 1891 and returned to his home land, but buisness was slow when he recieved a job offer in South Africa, he once again left India. The job took only a few months to complete but he was to remain there for almost 20 years.
The years in South Africa were crucial for the course his life would take. For the first time in his life, he met racism. The conditions the native, black community lived under are well know throughout the world, but the asian community’s conditions were just as bad. Gandhi spent most of his time lobbying for the abolish of discriminating laws. He was threwn in jail several times, and during those cold, lonely nights he began understanding that a goverment is depending on an obidiant people to rule. With this new enlightenment, he began developing the principles of non-violence.
In 1915, Gandhi left South Africa for India. He there came to realise that the same type of principels that he had used in his fight for civil rights in South Africa could be used for the liberation of India. He returned to South Africa and succeded in abolish one of the degrading laws.
When he returned to India, he took up the fight for liberating India. In 1930, he embarct on the famous “saltmarch”, as a protest against the British monopoly for making and selling salt. Sort of a Boston tea-party, if you’d like.
He spent the last of his years wandering around in India, and helping the refugees Hindu and Sikh from Pakistan in Delhi.
Gandhi was assinated on January 30th 1948 by Nathuram Godse, a hindu fantic. The last words he spoke was a blessing over his assassin.

The liberation of India
17 century – The europeans arive in India, forming trade companys.
1707 – A vacuum of power appear after the death of the greatmogul Aurangzeb.
Middle of 18 century – The nawab of Bengal and other pro-french lords are defeated by Robert Clive, making East Indi Company a great power in i east and South India.
1818 – The British finaly defeat the maraths.
1857-58 – The sepoy revolt against the British in northern India.
1858 – India becomes a British crowncolony, with the exeption of the prince states.
1885 – The Indian National Congress is formed and start their work for civil rights.
1906 – The muslim league is formed.
1920-22 – INC graduly becomes a great movement, much thanks to Gandhi’s first non-cooperation campains during these years.
1942 – The “Leave India” campains is started by Gandhi.
1947 – India is finaly liberated and devided into the Muslim Pakistan (including Bangladesh) and the hindu dominated India.
1948 – Gandhi is killed during the evening prayers.


The orgin
Something as great and complex as the ahisma is of course too much to just be made up but any person, even someone as great as Gandhi. During his stay in London he was introduced to Christianety, and the philosophy of Jesus. He also studied many other religions, such as Islam, Judaism as well as the religion of his parents, Hinduism. As a boy his father often had friends over with beliefs, so it became natural for him to be very tolerant. He discovered that all the major religions had in common the belief of non-violence as something great and noble.
He was also avare that non-violence had been practised during revolts in China, India, Russia, America and South Africa.
Two people which he never met but who were from the same era were Lev Tolstoj and Henry David Thoreau. Their way of life and beliefs in how a civilization should look like were very similar to Gandhi’s so it’s safe to say that they all have influensed each other.
In his youth, Gandhi was something of an atheist. After he left India for England, he began searching for God. This search was probably the reason for him studying so may different religions and moral problems. During those searches, he came to the conclusion that God was not so much love, but even more truth. He also learned that all the major religions encourage ahisma. So if that was the case, then violence would be against God’s will, and if THAT was the case, then using violence would be a revolt against. And since no one who believes in God would go against will, violence is atheism. He realised that ahisma was the only road towards the truth and God. Amongst other things, we learned that nothing good can come from something bad. If the way is the seed than the goal is the tree, if you plant one kind of seed, you will get one kind of tree, if you use one kind of way, you will get one kind of tree. The diffrent trees and goals may appear similar, but they are very much different.

The principles of non-violance
Gandhi once said “To describe this noble philosophy is quite simple, to feel it and to practise it in a world full of ununity, confusion and passions, is a mission whose difficulties I realise more and more for each day”. The process of truly understanding ahisma is a long one, it may take a whole lifetime or even several reincarnations before the goal is reached. However, he also says since God and ahisma are so titly linked and no man has been able to describe God, no man can describe ahisma.
So what is non-violence then? Most people would say that when protest without violence, you practise non-violence. But by saying that, you’re missing the core of ahisma. The goal of ahisma is not only to protest against what you think is wrong a make you point heard, it’s to make your opponent understand that what he’s doing is wrong. This is done by showing him love and respect and by appealing to his conscience.
Since you appeal to his conscience, the cause must be just. You can not make a person act against his conscience with ahisma. Critics may say that this limits ahisma to concerns about big issues, such as civil rights. The answear to that is simple, isn’t those the only concerns worth fighting for.
There are many ways to appeal to someones consciense. The final one is to fast. By doing so you’re sending the following message to your opponent “look, this is how firm I belive in on my cause and how far I’m willing to go for it”. Your opponent will then feel that you must have a point and at least sit down and listen to it.
Non-violence is a known throughout the world as a way to protest against injustices, but the truth is that it is much more. Ahisma is a way of life. Gandhi belived that by using ahisma, you can make war end for all eternaty and you can defeat all forms of violence. But to do that you would have to cleanse your mind from all forms of violence. You can not hurt any living thing, not even in your mind. This demands a very a high degree of self-control.
As I’m sure you have realised by now, ahisma demands a lot of it’s follower. First of all, you must can a living faith in a living god. This belief will give you all the power you need to do what you have undertook. By beling in a living god, you belive that every man or woman has a soul. Since the soul is imortal, you have nothing to fear from anybody since they can only hurt you mortal flesh. The understanding that every person has a soul also gives you the conclusion that everybody is capabel of the basic emotions such as love and compassion, and also that each human being has the same value. Also, if every person has a soul, than everybody i s capabel of practising ahisma.
In the book “For Pacifists” Gandhi lays out the following ethic rules which are important to have in mind while practising ahisma:”
1. Ahisma in thought and mind.
2. Identify yourself with who you struggle for.
3. Give the struggle a positive content.
4. Don’t widen the goals for the struggle.
5. Show trust for the opponent. Meet him personaly and don’t judge him harder than yourself.
6. Be willing to compromise.
7. Thou shalt not kill.
8. Convert insted of force. Direct the struggle towards the issue and not persons. Don’t use your opponents weaknessess.
9. Be willing to make sacrefices.
10. Ahisma in talk and writing.
11. Evade the wicked from his victim.
12. Don’t perform sabotage.
13. Be as loyal as possibel.
14. Chose violence instead of cowardice. “
As a comment on the last one, I should say thata Gandhi thought is was better to use a limited degree of violence instead of using non-violence because you scared. The reason is obvious, by using violence you make difference, but by using non-violence because beacause you are scared only disgrace yourself.
These understandings are however not enough. In order for ahisma to truly work, one must live by it and practise it every day. For example, people who during South Africa’s days of apartheid refused to buy fruits from South Africa practised ahisma in it’s purest form. A satyagrahi must never support a goverment that rules with undemocratic or imperialistic means. But it doesn’t end there. A satyagrahi must live under the same rules as the catholic nuns, namely poverty, chastity and obedience.
Poverty, because the way of ahisma is much to demanding for one to have economic ambitions at the same time . But that’s not the main reason. A non-violence fighter understands that all men are equal, therefor he must never live better than the least of his brother.
Chastity, for the same reason boxers stay away from sex, satisfying your sexual desires makes you cowardly and weak.
The last of the rules is necessary only during larger actions, such as a mass-protest or, if there ever would be such a thing as a non-violence state, during a foreign attack. Since ahisma is something that is hard to fully understand, there will always be people who are more enlightened than others. The people who can understand ahisma better than others should direct and teach the others.
Many reject ahisma claiming that it’s something unnatural, and maybe they are right. After all, we are animals, and the only strenght an animal knowns is the strenght of violence. But if you think about, many things have happen since we became human. In the most primitiv form of civilization, man ate man. But as we grew more civilized, we became desgusted by this habit and moved on into hunting, having to kill almost every single day. But as time went by, we became more and more civilized, and set so that we could use less and less violence. The pattern is clear. We naturaly develop towords ahisma. However, we stand at a cross-roads. Nothing in this world is eternal, everything is at constant motion. So, if we don’t take the next step towards ahisma, we have to take a step in the other direction, towards violence, hate and chaos. But make no misstake, violence IS a part of us, making ahisma something noble.
When ahisma has become a way of life, it can be used to stop violence, even in it’s most purest forms. The thought behind this is that, as we understod earlier, since every person is capabel of loving, she responds with love when love is offered. You would also have to assume that the user of violence eventually would grew tired of killing and then become fascinated of what force it is that can make people risk their own lives trying to persuade them to not use violence.
Of course, this method is combined with high risks. But since a true follower of ahisma is not afraid to to die, this is not a real problem. The great risk is also the strenght of this method. You COULD fight back, or more likely, run away, back you don’t. Instead you stay, not even defending yourself, trying to talk the violent person to stop. Almost anybody would be moved by such an action.

The impact of Gandhi’s philosophy
The world of today is very distant the non-violent society Gandhi dreamed about. The news are flooded with riots, terrorist acts and reports of war. But every now and then, a report of a non-violence protest somewhere in the world is broad cast. Image of the chinese student who stod infront the tank during a military parade comes to mind. If I have failed to make you understand what ahisma is, then the stundent’s action sums up ahisma quite good.
Many opposition leaders and civil right activists through out the world have used some form of non-violence protest. The people who flew down to Iraq during the latest war to protect schools and hospitals, greenpeace, Nelson Mandela (although he later abandoned it) and Martin Luther King are good examples. The last person said the following words about Gandhi: “The moral and intellectual satisfacion I never found in the utilitarism, in Bentham and Mill, in Marx’ and Lenins revolut...

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Inactive member [2004-03-23]   M.K Gandhi
Mimers Brunn [Online]. https://mimersbrunn.se/article?id=2863 [2020-03-30]

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