Gandhi Compare and Constrast Essay

This essay has a total of 2289 words and 8 pages.


Gandhi: A Man of Principle George C. Wallace, the United States Secretary of State when
Mohandas K. Gandhi was assassinated, said that Gandhi “had become a spokesman for the
conscience of all mankind- a man who made humility and simple truth more powerful than
empires” (Gandhi, np). Gandhi is well known for his leadership in the liberation of India
from Britain, but his main goal and message transcends beyond the acts he did, into
everyday living. Gandhi promoted simple living, non-violence, and forgiveness as a way to
unite all people peacefully. These principles helped him to liberate his people and to
teach them a lesson that all can learn. Much of Gandhi’s philosophy is rooted in what he
learned as a child. From his mother, he learned Hindu teachings. She often took him with
her to care for the poor of the area and encouraged fasting as a way to achieve purity of
the soul (Logue, 6). Vegetarianism and simple living were also principles first given to
Gandhi by his mother and born religion, Hinduism. Gandhi’s father was the town diwan – the
man to settle disputes. When Gandhi was 15, he tried smoking and stole money from servants
as well as jewelry from his brother. He felt guilty for doing such things, however, and
wrote to his father in apology, asking for punishment. Instead of learning through
punishment, Gandhi learned forgiveness from his father. When the letter was received, his
father began to cry and forgave him (7). From his parents, Gandhi also received an “early
grounding” in toleration for all branches of Hinduism and similar religions. His parents
often took him and his siblings to different temples. Gandhi also often listened to his
father discuss religion with Jain monks (Gandhi, np). The lesson Gandhi learned as a child
was mirrored in his adult life, as he then learned first hand the importance of ahimsa, or
Truth. Gandhi encouraged people to live a simple life. Simple living to Gandhi meant
wanting less and sharing more. The Hindu faith he grew up with called him to free himself
from possessions and passions as a way to God (Gandhi, np). While living in England to
study law, Gandhi read many religious books. There he fully began to grasp the meaning of
the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, and found a personal reason to simplify his life.
He was called to achieve Moksha, the setting free of one’s soul. In order to do this, he
must refrain from using possessions as a means of happiness. This often included giving up
sex, as it was a hindrance to his drive in life. Gandhi was celibate for over four
decades. He strived for a more simple life in order to have more time for community
service. He gave back all compensation, including gifts that were given to him. His goal
in living simply was to know his own heart and to reach the hearts of others (Leigh, np).
Gandhi would never let another person serve him, not even a servant; he always served them
(Gandhi, np). Gandhi taught that happiness does not come with things, but with work and
pride in what you do. Knowing this, it was necessary for local skills to be revived in
their community (Gandhi, np). Under British rule, Indian principles of simple living had
been reduced. The Indians could be found adopting habits of the West such as expensive
clothing and tea. They even ate meat, despite it being often against their religion (The
Higher Taste, 28). In order for the country to gain independence from Britain, Gandhi
realized that they must be independent economically. Gandhi walked the country, offering
spinning wheels to people as an alternative to purchasing British goods (“Mohandas
Karamchand Gandhi”, 203). Part of Gandhi’s goal in living simply was to unite people as
equals. There were two kinds of slavery in India, as Gandhi claimed, the women and the
Untouchables, the members of the exterior castes. He strived to end both (Gandhi, np). He
saw women as people of great courage and intuition. He greatly believed in the concept
that “all men are brothers” and added that women are their sisters. He believed that they
deserved education just as men did, and that men and women complimented each other, not by
domination and submission (Leigh, np). He walked from town to town, meeting many of the
Untouchables to see what they needed (Logue, 15). Gandhi felt, that in order for India to
be united as one country, all must understand the place of those in most need, and of the
common man. He was often found “doing menial chores for unpaid borders of exterior castes”
(“Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi”, 202). He always rode third class on the trains and when
asked why he replied, “because there is no fourth class” (Leigh, np). His dress too, was
that of the common people, showing that all are equal. He often proclaimed that each man’s
labor is as important as another (Gandhi, np). The uniting of all people included those of
differing religions. When India was finally liberated from Britain, there was a dispute on
who would run the country, the Hindus or the Muslims. Gandhi wanted them to unite
peacefully, but they broke into war instead. Gandhi went on a 21 day fast in attempt to
persuade them from fighting (“Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi”, 203). He believed that there
was truth to all religions, if one would only look to see it. He reinforced his belief
that “all men are brothers” by adding that this Truth, also known as God, could be found
as well in all people (Leigh, np). Gandhi wanted to prove to the Hindus and Muslims that
“the only devils in the world are those running around in our own hearts and that is where
our battles ought to be fought” (Gandhi, np). This further meant that violence upon other
people or even animals would only prove to be unnecessary. On his way to a case in South
Africa, Gandhi was forced to leave a first class seat on the basis of his race. That
night, as he spent hours in the cold at a bus station because he refused to sit in third
class while possessing a first class ticket, he came to a decision. He vowed to himself
not to yield to force and not, in turn, to use force to get ahead (Leigh, np). He was
reminded of an old precept he learned as a child, “return good for evil” and allowed that
to become a guiding principle in his movement towards non-violence. Gandhi’s non-violent
movement took the name Satyagraha which literally means “holding onto truth” or “soul
force”. He believed that fear and hatred could only produce more of the same (Leigh, np).
He taught that when one is pushed towards injustice, one must simply refuse and not fight
back. To take the blows of their oppressors and not become servants would have both moral
and practical value. Morally, violence and hatred are wrong by most, if not all,
religions. Often though, some form of self-defense is considered excusable. Gandhi said “I
cannot intentionally hurt anything that lives, much less human beings, even though they
may do the greatest wrong to me” (Logue, 23). He also said of cooperation with Britain
that “non-cooperation with evil is a duty, and British rule of India is evil” (Gandhi,
np). That gave a moral basis for non-cooperation, and non-violence against Britain.
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