Lessons from Mahatma Gandhi

January 30th, 2017, is the 69th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. We can be rightly proud to have this exceptional human being as the Father of our Nation. Albert Einstein said of him, “Future generations will scarce believe that such a one as this in flesh and blood walked the earth.” He considered Gandhiji, “the greatest human being alive.” The only photo in his office in his later years was that of Mahatma Gandhi. The following points are taken from American writer and activist John Dear’s book, Mohandas Gandhi: Essential Writings (Orbis Books / Motilal Banarsidass, 2006)
1. Non-violence:
Gandhiji considered non-violence (ahimsa) essential if our faith is to be sincere. He saw Jesus as the greatest practitioner of active non-violence.
2. Non-cooperation with evil as much a duty as cooperation with good.
He insisted that non-cooperation with evil is a moral obligation, and he saw British rule in India as evil.
3. The essential role of suffering:
“Non-violence in its dynamic condition means conscious suffering. It does not mean meek submission to the will of the evildoer, but it means the pitting of one’s whole soul against the will of the tyrant.” For this we need to die to ourselves. When asked to sum up the meaning of life in three words or less, “That’s easy: Renounce and enjoy.” He testified that the more he denied himself and sought God and the good of humanity, the greater his peace and joy.
4. Prayer as the most powerful weapon:
He spent time every day in prayer and meditation. He considered it more important than even food. His total reliance on God saved him from anger and anxiety. He radiated peace. He laughed much.
5. Radical purity of heart:
Mahatma Gandhi believed that radical purity of heart has enormous positive effects. And hence, if we want to help others, we must purify ourselves. This was one reason for his fasts.
6. A living solidarity with the poor and oppressed:
As we know, he gave up career, money and possessions. He dressed and lived like the poor Indians of his time. He said: “Self-realization I hold to be impossible without service of and identification with the poor.” A part of this commitment was his defense of Dalits. He gave his followers a criterion for judging when they were in doubt: “Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her]… Will it restore him [her] to a control over his [her]t own life and destiny?…Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away.”
7. Every religion has a piece of the truth
He respected all religions, and believed every faith has some good points. He also saw that many hatreds have religious roots.
8. The role of Truth
The spiritual life, as well as the political life, required a fearless pursuit of truth. For him, the best definition of God was truth (Satya). Clinging to the truth was like clinging to God.
9. Let go of results:
Do the right things, and let go of the results. This is the great teaching of the Bhagavad Gita. Our task is to do what is right. We leave the results to God.
10. Truth and non-violence are actual laws of the universe:
Gandhiji believed this; hence he was sure of the outcome. We all reap what we sow. Violence breeds violence. Goodness and non-violence build a peaceful world. “Whether humanity will consciously follow the law of love, I do not know. But that need not disturb me. The law will work just as the law of gravitation works, whether we accept it or not. The person who discovered the law of love was a far greater scientist than any of our modern scientists.”

John Dear

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