Mahatma Gandhi
Throughout history most national heroes have been warriors, but Gandhi was a
passive and peaceful preacher of morals, ethics, and beliefs. He was an outsider
who ended British rule over India without striking a blow. Moreover, Gandhi was
not skillful with any unusual artistic, scholarly, or scientific talents. He
never earned a degree or received any special academic honors. He was never a
candidate in an election or a member of government. Yet when he died, in 1948,
practically the whole world mourned him. Einstein said in his tribute, "Gandhi
demonstrated that a powerful human following can be assembled not only through
the cunning game of the usual political maneuvers and trickery but through the
cogent example of a morally superior conduct of life". Other tributes compared

Gandhi to Socrates, to Buddha, to Jesus, and to Saint Fancis of Assisi. The life
of Mahatma (great soul) Gandhi is very documented. Certainly it was an
extraordinary life, poking at the ancient Hindu religion and culture and modern
revolutionary ideas about politics and society, an unusual combination of
perceptions and values. Gandhi’s life was filled with contradictions. He was
described as a gentle man who was an outsider, but also as a godly and almost
mystical person, but he had a great determination. Nothing could change his
convictions. Some called him a master politician, others called him a saint, and
millions of Indians called him Mahatma or Bapu (father). I on the other hand
call him extraordinarily great. Gandhi’s life was devoted to a search for
truth. He believed that truth could be known only through tolerance and concern
for others, and that finding a truthful way to solutions required constant
attention. He dedicated himself to truth, to nonviolence, to purity, to poverty,
to scripture reading, to humility, to honesty, and to fearlessness. He called
his autobiography, My Experiments with Truth. Gandhi overcame fear in himself
and taught others to master fear. He believed in Ahimsa (nonviolence) and taught
that to be truly nonviolent required courage. He lived a simple life and thought
it was wrong to kill animals for food or clothing. In his religious studies, he
happened upon Leo Tolstoy’s Christian writings, and was inspired. It stated
that all government is based on war and violence, and that one can attack these
only through passive resistance. This made a deep impression on Gandhi. Gandhi
developed a method of direct social action, based upon principals of courage,
nonviolence, and truth, which he called Satyagraha (holding on to truth). In
this method, the way people behave is more important than what they achieve in
life. Satyagraha was used to fight for India’s independence and to bring about
social change. In 1884, he founded the Natal Indian Congress to fight for

Indian’s rights and he used and perfected the tool of satyagraha (nonviolent
resistance) in demanding and protecting the rights of the Indian community of

South Africa. He would later use this tool in fighting the British for India’s
independence. He started his first two ashrams, (Hindu religious groups) in

South Africa, one was named Phoenix and the other, Tolstoy. Men, women, and
children lived at the Tolstoy Farm where they were schooled about fearlessness,
self-reliance, self-denial, self-sacrifice, and suffering; and embracing poverty
and living in harmony with other people and with nature. Once educated they
could learn to practice brahmacharya, the creator God of Hindu, satyagraha, and
ahimsa, so they could attack their corrupt society and the government. He was a
believer in manual labor and simple living. He spun thread and wove the cloth
for his own garments and insisted that his followers do so, too. He disagreed
with those who wanted India to become an industrial country. From 1893 to 1914
he worked for an Indian firm in South Africa as a lawyer. During these years

Gandhi’s experiences of open, racial discrimination moved him into agitation.

His interest soon turned to the problem of Indians who had come to South Africa
as laborers. He had seen how they were treated as inferiors in India, in

England, and then in South Africa. In 1906, Gandhi began his peaceful
revolution. He declared he would go to jail or even die before obeying an
anti-Asian law. Thousands of Indians joined him in this civil disobedience
campaign. He started protest campaigns and organized demonstrations, but never
used violence. His philosophy was to never fight back against the atrocities,
but still never retreat. This, he said, would decrease the hate against him and
his fellow believers, and increase the respect felt towards him. Gandhi’s one
aim was that everybody - Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Christians, black, white,