Moreover, Gandhi wasnot skillful with any unusual artistic, scholarly, or scientific talents. Henever earned a degree or received any special academic honors. He was never acandidate 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, Gandhidemonstrated that a powerful human following can be assembled not only throughthe cunning game of the usual political maneuvers and trickery but through thecogent example of a morally superior conduct of life. Other tributes comparedGandhi to Socrates, to Buddha, to Jesus, and to Saint Fancis of Assisi. The lifeof Mahatma (great soul) Gandhi is very documented. Certainly it was anextraordinary life, poking at the ancient Hindu religion and culture and modernrevolutionary ideas about politics and society, an unusual combination ofperceptions and values.
Gandhis life was filled with contradictions. He wasdescribed as a gentle man who was an outsider, but also as a godly and almostmystical person, but he had a great determination. Nothing could change hisconvictions. Some called him a master politician, others called him a saint, andmillions of Indians called him Mahatma or Bapu (father). I on the other handcall him extraordinarily great. Gandhis life was devoted to a search fortruth.
He believed that truth could be known only through tolerance and concernfor others, and that finding a truthful way to solutions required constantattention. He dedicated himself to truth, to nonviolence, to purity, to poverty,to scripture reading, to humility, to honesty, and to fearlessness. He calledhis autobiography, My Experiments with Truth. Gandhi overcame fear in himselfand taught others to master fear. He believed in Ahimsa (nonviolence) and taughtthat to be truly nonviolent required courage. He lived a simple life and thoughtit was wrong to kill animals for food or clothing.
In his religious studies, hehappened upon Leo Tolstoys Christian writings, and was inspired. It statedthat all government is based on war and violence, and that one can attack theseonly through passive resistance. This made a deep impression on Gandhi. Gandhideveloped a method of direct social action, based upon principals of courage,nonviolence, and truth, which he called Satyagraha (holding on to truth).
Inthis method, the way people behave is more important than what they achieve inlife. Satyagraha was used to fight for Indias independence and to bring aboutsocial change. In 1884, he founded the Natal Indian Congress to fight forIndians rights and he used and perfected the tool of satyagraha (nonviolentresistance) in demanding and protecting the rights of the Indian community ofSouth Africa. He would later use this tool in fighting the British for Indiasindependence. He started his first two ashrams, (Hindu religious groups) inSouth Africa, one was named Phoenix and the other, Tolstoy. Men, women, andchildren lived at the Tolstoy Farm where they were schooled about fearlessness,self-reliance, self-denial, self-sacrifice, and suffering; and embracing povertyand living in harmony with other people and with nature.
Once educated theycould learn to practice brahmacharya, the creator God of Hindu, satyagraha, andahimsa, so they could attack their corrupt society and the government. He was abeliever in manual labor and simple living. He spun thread and wove the clothfor his own garments and insisted that his followers do so, too. He disagreedwith those who wanted India to become an industrial country. From 1893 to 1914he worked for an Indian firm in South Africa as a lawyer. During these yearsGandhis experiences of open, racial discrimination moved him into agitation.
His interest soon turned to the problem of Indians who had come to South Africaas laborers. He had seen how they were treated as inferiors in India, inEngland, and then in South Africa. In 1906, Gandhi began his peacefulrevolution. He declared he would go to jail or even die before obeying ananti-Asian law. Thousands of Indians joined him in this civil disobediencecampaign.
He started protest campaigns and organized demonstrations, but neverused violence. His philosophy was to never fight back against the atrocities,but still never retreat. This, he said, would decrease the hate against him andhis fellow believers, and increase the respect felt towards him. .