Mahatma Gandhi is considered as the father of Indian independence movement. He was born in October 2, 1869. He married at the age of 13 years and when his father died he was sent to England to study law. It is in England that he became interested in philosophy. He returned to India in 1891 and went to South Africa to assist in law suits. This paper will discuss Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy, his life in SA and his notion of satyagra and swarai. The paper will conclude on Gandhi’s assassination and its aftermath.
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Mahatma Gandhi’s Philosophy
Mahatma Gandhi developed some guiding principles and adhered to these philosophies which came to be called ‘Gandhism.’ His philosophies have inspired many people throughout the world and have been especially used as the basis of civil rights movements against perceived oppressive regimes. Hi philosophy is hinged on the truth and nonviolence principles.
The sovereign principle according to Gandhi is the truth or ‘satya’ he observed that life was an eternal conquest to discover the truth and his life’s journey was marked by experiments and learning from his own mistakes. Gandhi believed that the concept of truth is above and beyond any other considerations. He observed that every one of us needs to observe the truth as long as we are alive. He likened the truth to observe the truth and the absolute truth is God’s guiding principle.
The principle of nonviolence or ‘Ahimsa’ was integral to Indians and especially to Gandhi in advocating for nonviolence struggle for freedom in India. Gandhi was determined to eliminate satygra movements that accompanied any form of violence. Violent incidents in Uttar Pradesh and Chauri Chaura led him to disband civil disobedience movements. It is regarded that Gandhi adopted vegetarianism due to his manifestation of nonviolence principles (Colors of India).
British Colonialism in India
British rule in India changed the country’s history. The British arrived in India towards the end of the 17th century and it was during this time that the British East India Company was formed to increase trade between India and Britain while and break the Dutch monopoly. With time, BEIC had acquired more powers and started to administer the whole country. BEIC’s policies were disliked all over the country and people revolted against them resulting to its downfall and administration went to the queen. Britain annexed more of India’s states and formed laws that could govern them. Later the whole of the Indian subcontinent was under British rule. The mid 19th century saw Britain introduce railways, postal services and telegraph. Britain passed many acts that were met with a lot of resistance by Indians and as a result the Indians revolted against the British rule but each of India’s movement was brutally crushed by British forces. Leaders like Gandhi openly criticized and condemned the British ule through nonviolence mass rejection of the Britain rule (iliveindia.com).
Chronology of Significant Events in Gandhi’s Life
Mahatma Gandhi was born in October 2, 1869 and died in January 30, 1948. At the age of 18, he set out to study law in London. He attempted to fit into the English society by buying good suits, trying to talk good English and learning how to dance but after some time trying all this, he realized that he was only wasting time and money. He decided to just stay simple. He was also able to achieve his lifelong desire of being a vegetarian.
In 1893 at the age of 23 years, he left his family and set off to SA. He wanted to learn some law and make some few monies but it was while in SA that he transformed from the quiet and shy man to a resilient and potent leader. He was especially vocal against discrimination. After realizing that there was a lot of discrimination in SA, Gandhi spent some time working to better Indians rights. During this time he was particularly influenced by the Gita and leant about samabhava and aparigraha. His years in SA proved to be important for his spiritual and political development.
When World War I broke out in 1914, Gandhi went back to India and supported the British at first but changed his stance when he realized that the British had adopted Rowlatt Act in 1919. The act allowed the government to imprison Indians without trial and it is at this time that he developed the nonviolence disobedience or the satyagra. He succeeded in convincing Indians against his case of nonviolence agitation (Rosenberg).
Mahatma Gandhi’s Notion of Satyagraha and Swaraj
According to Gandhi, he believed that if he took the vow of chastity, this would allow him to focus on Satyagraha which can be translated as insistence of the truth or as passive resistance. He believed that British translation to ‘passive resistance’ did not give the intended Indian meaning as it was an act that could be conducted with anger. Satyagraha thus meant ‘truth force.’ He used the term to insist on a focused but forceful nonviolent resistance to British aggression and injustices. He believed that people who used Satyagraha could resist any injustices by not following the unjust law and never take advantage to each other opponents’ problems. He coined and used the term in 1907 while in SA during the black act. Indians in SA rejected the Black Act using Satyagraha (Rosenberg)
Swaraj means self-governance. Gandhi developed the concept of Swaraj during India’s struggle for independence. According to Gandhi, Swaraj means more than ‘just wanting English rule without the British’. He believed that the British rule was not just as it alienated Indians. It involves self governance through self rule and through community building. He stressed on the need by Indians to do away with British bureaucratic rule and its education system. Swaraj’s main principle was the questioning of moral inadequacy of western civilization as the model for free India. Thus the Swaraj meant the call for self rule and self respect from dehumizing institutions (Swaraj Foundation).
The role of Religious Faith and God in Gandhi’s philosophy
According to Gandhi, God is the creator of all that is onto the earth and is the power behind and above unity. He believes that God is the truth and he is the source of vision of the truth. This however he observed can be achieved by realizing of the nonviolence actions. This means that Gandhi declares God as the truth and the basis of that truth and unity. Nonviolence acts is the only way to conceive the truth. He believes that life, economic, political and religion cannot be divided into different compartments. According to him, religion was not just a matter of individual experience but rather a matter of humanizing religion and moralizing it. He interpreted different religions (Hinduism, Christianity and Islam) and said that they were federation of different religious faiths (20th WCP: Gandhi and Comparative Religion).
Experimentation with satyagraha and how he experimented with swaraj
- The first time Gandhi experimented with satyagraha was while he was in SA in 1907. He organized opposition of other Indians to reject the Asiatic Registration Law that required all Indians to get registration numbers and carry with them at all times. The act was later repealed in 1914 and he proved that nonviolent protests can be useful.
- He always remained truthful because he believed that was his best and strongest weapons. He thus never lost his satyagraha. In this way, he was able to earn the hearts of his opponents. He fought and won against the British through his nonviolence protests.
- He criticized the concept of western civilization and sets himself against it. He finds survival for the fittest as unacceptable.
- He also rejected imperial colonialism and was able to overcome it through nonviolent protests.
Gandhi's Death and its Aftermath
Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on January 30, 1948. He was shot by a hindu man who thought that Gandhi was harming Hindus by becoming friends with muslims. He was then cremated and his ashes scattered over sacred rivers. Aftermath of Gandhi’s death is caused violent attacks in the Pune city which was home of the assassin as well as other parts of India. Political parties associated with the suspected assassins were banned and violence broke against the Brahmins community from where the assassin hailed (Rosenberg).
Mahatma Gandhi was a great philosopher not only during his time but as a historian. His nonviolence philosophy and helped India gain independence through peaceful means and his philosophies are still relevant today despite his death in 1948. Gandhi’s legacy still lives on.