On January 30, 1948 Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi) was shot three times at point-blank range by a Hindu assassin as he walked through a garden in New Delhi to take evening prayers. He died instantly.
Today he is remembered as an anti colonialist, an advocate of nonviolence, a pioneer of civil disobedience, and the father of the world’s largest democracy.
Believers in his vision used Gandhi’s tactics during America’s civil rights movement, to end apartheid in South Africa, and, at Tiananmen Square in 1989, to challenge China’s autocratic government.
He achieved a great deal as a political leader, working against discrimination, poverty, and the caste system. He expanded women’s rights, religious tolerance, and economic self-reliance.
For all these things he is rightly honored. But in the long run, Mahatma (literally “Great Soul”) may be best remembered for his contribution to humanity’s inner life.
Gandhi advocated a simple, humble and unassuming lifestyle. He had lived modestly, wore traditional Indian dhoti and shawl, and ate plain vegetarian food. He said it does not require money to be neat, clean, and dignified.
He suffered many hardships and was imprisoned several times and for many years in both South Africa, where he employed nonviolent disobedience, and again in India.
It was during these periods that he took the time to write down his key principles. Here are a few of my favorites:
- “In matters of conscience, the law of the majority has no place.”
- “Whenever you are confronted with an opponent. Conquer him with love.”
- “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed”
- “You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind.”
- “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
- “All of your scholarship, all your study of Shakespeare and Wordsworth would be in vain if at the same time you did not build your character and attain mastery over your thoughts and your actions.”
- “Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”
- “Strength does not come from physical capacity. it comes from an indomitable will.”
- “A man of few words will rarely be thoughtless in his speech. he will measure every word.”
More than 60 years after his death, Gandhi is still viewed as one of the world’s great spiritual leaders.
Gandhi taught tolerance and love for all people. Albert Einstein offered that “generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked the earth.”
Gandhi asked that his writings be cremated with his body. He wanted his life to be his message, not what he had written or said.
In the end, he believed that words are meaningless, and that our actions alone show our true priorities.
Or as he famously said: “You must become the change you wish to see in the world.”
WHAT TO DO NOW? Contemplate how you can apply Gandhi’s teachings to your life.