Mohandas Gandhi



 



Born into a merchant family in 1869, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was



under the influence of powerful people. Members of his family had served as



prime ministers of an Indian state for several generations. His parents



were strong in their religion, being devout and earnest Hindus. They were a



part of a Hindu sect that worshipped Vishnu and promoted non-violence.



 



Apparently, he was most influenced by his mother, a gentle and



intelligent person. According to Hindu custom, he married at an early age



and grew to love his wife greatly. Together, they had four children and



adopted a fourth.



 



Later, in 1888, he travelled to England to become a barrister-at-law.



There were several important influences that he encountered here: the



Western material style of life, which he decided not to follow, and in the



simple Russian way of living he found: the New Testament, and the



Bhagavadgita, the bible of the Hare Krishna movement. It was here that he



developed a sense of the presence of God in his life and the lives of men.



 



Gandhi then returned to India and studied law in Bombay, but he



quickly denounced it, feeling that it was immoral and could not satisfy



one\'s conscience. Despite this, he used his schooling to help plead for



Indian settlers in South Africa that were being oppressed by the white



population. His personal experiences, including being ejected from a train



in Maritzburg, of not being allowed the same rights as others lead him to



begin a movement to help his people.



 



While in South Africa, Gandhi made himself poor so that he could



identify with his the peasants. He then proceeded to start a colony that



consisted of abused labourers. The colony became very large and many cities



were crippled by the lack of labourers. The government reacted to this by



jailing Gandhi several times along with many other of his followers. The



war he fought was one without weapons, already Gandhi was on his way to



starting his career of non-violent campaigns.



 



The main idea behind Gandhi\'s teachings was non-violence. The words of



the Sanskrit language: ahinsa and sayagraha clearly express Gandhi\'s



beliefs. The former means non-killing, non-destructive and the latter means



the force of universal truth. He believed that the killing of man or beast



is an unforgivable sin. Many who promoted these teachings of Gandhi simply



believed that it was their only option for resisting imperialism rather



than having a moral conviction towards his teachings. He taught that the



weapon that could be used was the conscience of the aggressor. This ahimsa



is, to some degree, in the tradition of Hinduism.



 



Hinduism teaches to stay away from temptation through various



exercises that test one\'s ability to perform a difficult task, this



devitalizes a person and causes him to act on a non-violent level.



 



In addition, he taught that one should act rather be held under



subservience. Gandhi himself once stated, "Mere knowledge of right and



wrong will not make one fit for salvation...the Gita says: \'No one has



attained his goal without action...\' From this quotation, we learn that his



teachings are influenced by the Bhagavadgita and that he believes that one



must act to reach a goal. But, he believed that one should denounce the



rewards and simply devote one\'s life to acting on the behalf of others and



that life should be lived near the soil, away from the influence of



machines.



 



Also, Gandhi strongly believed in upholding the caste system,



believing that a person of one caste should stay a part of that caste. He



also upheld the old Hindu tradition of segregation of castes, indicating



that, "Interdining and intermarraige have never been a bar to disunion,



quarrels or worse." According to Hinduism, the caste system lies in respect



for one another\'s individuality.



 



Gandhi is well known for his efforts in fighting imperliasm in India



and South Africa. His methods were, unique in that they did not involve the



use of weapons.



 



During the South African War of 1899-1902 and during the Zulu



rebellion in 1906, Gandhi organised an ambulance corps consisting of



Indians to help the British fight. He believed that duty dictated that the



Indian population had a responsibity to help the British when they were in



a time of need. Perhaps he was trying to show them that the Indians put an



effort into helping the British forces just like everyone else and deserved



the same rights as everyone else.



 



It is interesting to note that Gandhi did not promote fighting, but he



helped those who were in need of assistance.



 



After the law was passed that all Indians were required to carry an



identity card with them at