Monday, May 1, 2017

Mahatma Gandhi


"The sacred warrior conquers the world not through violence or aggression, but through gentleness, courage, and self-knowledge. The warrior discovers the basic goodness of human life and radiates that goodness out into the world for the peace and sanity of others.......There is a basic human wisdom that can help solve the world’s problems. It doesn’t belong to any one culture or region or religious tradition—though it can be found in many of them throughout history. It’s what Chögyam Trungpa called the sacred path of the warrior."


"Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948) was the leader of the Indian independence movement in British-ruled India. Employing nonviolent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. The honorific Mahatma (Sanskrit: "high-souled", "venerable").... 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 practise nonviolence 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 a means of both self-purification and social protest.

"Gandhi's vision of an independent 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 Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority 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 when he was 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 was Nathuram Godse, a Hindu nationalist, who assassinated Gandhi on 30 January 1948 by firing three bullets into his chest."

"Gandhi grew up in an eclectic religious atmosphere and throughout his life searched for insights from many religious traditions. He was exposed to Jain ideas through his mother who was in contact with Jain monks. Themes from Jainism that Gandhi absorbed included asceticism; compassion for all forms of life; the importance of vows for self-discipline; vegetarianism; fasting for self-purification; mutual tolerance among people of different creeds; and "Anekantavada", the idea that all views of truth are partial, a doctrine that lies at the root of Satyagraha. He received much of his influence from Jainism particularly during his younger years."

"While at high school, Gandhi came into contact with students of other castes and faiths, including several Parsis and Muslims. A Muslim friend of his elder brother Karsandas, named Sheikh Mehtab, befriended Mohandas and encouraged the strictly vegetarian boy to try eating meat to improve his stamina. As experimenting with meat-eating and carnal pleasures only brought Mohandas mental anguish, he abandoned both......In May 1883, the 13-year-old Gandhi was married to 14-year-old Kasturbai in an arranged child marriage, according to the custom of the region at that time....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.....Mohandas and Kasturba had five children, all sons: Harilal, born in 1888; Manilal, born in 1892; Ramdas, born in 1897; and Devdas."

"In South Africa, Gandhi faced the discrimination directed at all people of colour. He was thrown off a train at Pietermaritzburg after refusing to move from the first-class..... Travelling farther on by stagecoach, he was beaten by a driver for refusing to move to make room for a European passenger.....He suffered other hardships on the journey as well, including being barred from several hotels. 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. Mr. Gandhi was kicked by a police officer out of the footpath onto the street without warning.....These events were a turning point in Gandhi's life and shaped his social activism and awakened him to social injustice. After witnessing racism, prejudice, and injustice against Indians in South Africa, Gandhi began to question his place in society and his people's standing in the British Empire."

"In 1906, Gandhi adopted his still evolving methodology of Satyagraha (devotion to the truth), or nonviolent protest, for the first time.....He urged Indians to defy the new law and to suffer the punishments for doing so......In 1910, Gandhi established an idealistic community called 'Tolstoy Farm' near Johannesburg, where he nurtured his policy of peaceful resistance.....Gandhi returned to India in 1915.....Gandhi took leadership of the Congress in 1920 and began escalating demands until on 26 January 1930 the Indian National Congress declared the independence of India. The British did not recognise the declaration but negotiations ensued, with the Congress taking a role in provincial government in the late 1930s. Gandhi and the Congress withdrew their support of the Raj when the Viceroy declared war on Germany in September 1939 without consultation. Tensions escalated until Gandhi demanded immediate independence in 1942 and the British responded by imprisoning him and tens of thousands of Congress leaders. Meanwhile, the Muslim League did co-operate with Britain and moved, against Gandhi's strong opposition, to demands for a totally separate Muslim state of Pakistan. In August 1947 the British partitioned the land with India and Pakistan each achieving independence on terms that Gandhi disapproved.

"In April 1918, during the latter part of World War I, the Viceroy invited Gandhi to a War Conference in Delhi.... Perhaps to show his support for the Empire and help his case for India's independence, Gandhi agreed to actively recruit Indians for the war effort..... Gandhi attempted to recruit combatants. In a June 1918 leaflet entitled "Appeal for Enlistment", Gandhi wrote "To bring about such a state of things we should have the ability to defend ourselves, that is, the ability to bear arms and to use them...If we want to learn the use of arms with the greatest possible despatch, it is our duty to enlist ourselves in the army." He did, however, stipulate in a letter to the Viceroy's private secretary that he "personally will not kill or injure anybody, friend or foe." .....Gandhi's war recruitment campaign brought into question his consistency on nonviolence. Gandhi's private secretary noted that "The question of the consistency between his creed of 'Ahimsa' (nonviolence) and his recruiting campaign was raised not only then but has been discussed ever since."

"In 1919, Gandhi decided to broaden his political base by increasing his appeal to Muslims. The opportunity came in the form of the Khilafat movement, a worldwide protest by Muslims against the collapsing status of the Caliph, the leader of the Suni branch of their religion. The Ottoman Empire had lost the First World War and was dismembered, as Muslims feared for the safety of the holy places and the prestige of their religion. Although Gandhi did not originate the All-India Muslim Conference, which directed the movement in India, he soon became its most prominent spokesman and attracted a strong base of Muslim support with local chapters in all Muslim centres in India. He believed that the British government was not being honest in its dealings with Muslims on the Khilafat issue. His success made him India's first national leader with a multicultural base and facilitated his rise to power within Congress, which had previously been unable to influence many Indian Muslims. In 1920 Gandhi became a major leader in Congress. By the end of 1922 the Khilafat movement had collapsed.....Gandhi always fought against "communalism", which pitted Muslims against Hindus in Indian politics, but he could not reverse the rapid growth of communalism after 1922. Deadly religious riots broke out in numerous cities, including 91 in Uttar Pradesh alone......

"In 1920, Gandhi had the base to employ non-co-operation, nonviolence and peaceful resistance as his "weapons" in the struggle against the British Raj. His wide popularity among both Hindus and Muslims made his leadership possible; he even convinced the extreme faction of Muslims to support peaceful non-co-operation.....Gandhi was arrested on 10 March 1922, tried for sedition, and sentenced to six years' imprisonment.....He was in prison two years.....Gandhi strongly favoured the emancipation of women, and he went so far as to say that "the women have come to look upon me as one of themselves." He opposed purdah, child marriage, untouchability, and the extreme oppression of Hindu widows, up to and including sati.

"In Britain, Winston Churchill, a prominent Conservative politician who was then out of office, became a vigorous and articulate critic of Gandhi and opponent of his long-term plans. Churchill often ridiculed Gandhi, saying in a widely reported 1931 speech: 'It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the East, striding half-naked up the steps of the Vice-regal parley on equal terms with the representative of the King-Emperor.'

When Muhammad Ali Jinnah called for Direct Action, on 16 August 1946, Gandhi was infuriated and personally visited the most riot-prone areas to stop the massacres....He made strong efforts to unite the Indian Hindus, Muslims, and Christians and struggled for the emancipation of the "untouchables" in Hindu society....India's partition and independence were accompanied by more than half a million killed in riots as 10–12 million Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims crossed the borders dividing India and Pakistan.... Gandhi, having vowed to spend the day of independence fasting and spinning, was in Calcutta on 15 August 1947 where he prayed, confronted rioters and worked with Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy to stop the communal killing..... the "plan to carve up British India was never approved of or accepted by Gandhi...who realised too late that his closest comrades and disciples were more interested in power than principle, and that his own vision had long been clouded by the illusion that the struggle he led for India's independence was a nonviolent one."

"Gandhi's views came under heavy criticism in Britain when it was under attack from Nazi Germany, and later when the Holocaust was revealed. He told the British people in 1940, "I would like you to lay down the arms you have as being useless for saving you or humanity. You will invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of the countries you call your possessions... If these gentlemen choose to occupy your homes, you will vacate them. If they do not give you free passage out, you will allow yourselves, man, woman, and child, to be slaughtered, but you will refuse to owe allegiance to them."....In a post-war interview in 1946, he said, "Hitler killed five million Jews. It is the greatest crime of our time. But the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher's knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs... It would have aroused the world and the people of Germany... As it is they succumbed anyway in their millions."..... Gandhi believed this act of "collective suicide", in response to the Holocaust, "would have been heroism"....In 1931, he suggested that while he could understand the desire of European Jews to emigrate to Palestine, he opposed any movement that supported British colonialism or violence. Muslims throughout India and the Middle East strongly opposed the Zionist plan for a Jewish state in Palestine, and Gandhi (and Congress) supported the Muslims in this regard. By the 1930s all major political groups in India opposed a Jewish state in Palestine....Gandhi thought the Zionists in Palestine represented European imperialism and used violence to achieve their goals; he argued that "the Jews should disclaim any intention of realizing their aspiration under the protection of arms and should rely wholly on the goodwill of Arabs."

"In the 1940s, in his mid-seventies, he brought his grandniece Manubehn to sleep naked in his bed as part of a spiritual experiment in which Gandhi could test himself as a "brahmachari". Several other young women and girls also sometimes shared his bed as part of his experiments.... Most of the girls were postpubertal, but some were younger..... Gandhi's behaviour was widely discussed and criticised by family members and leading politicians, including Nehru.




Mahatma Gandhi

************************** "The sacred warrior conquers the world not through violence or aggression, but through gentleness, ...