Online Mahatma Gandhi Essay
Generations to come will wonder that
such a one as this ever walked upon this earth.
Mohandas Karamchand "Mahatma" Gandhi was perhaps the most influential person of the 20th Century, yet, held no office or title, and possessed no wealth. Mahatma Gandhi's Influence and accomplishments were largle responsible for India's Indepence from Britian. He won no elections, and claimed no scientific discoveries or inventions. His legacy, a philosophy of nonviolence and non-cooperation, continues to this day with an profound effect on the world. It was the inspiration for Martin Luther King's fight for racial equality, the environmental movement's strategy, and Burmese dissident and Nobel Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi's fight for democracy in Burma.
Mahatma Gandhi's fifth grandson, Arun, continues his grandfather's legacy at the Institute for nonviolence in Memphis, Tennessee. Arun was born in Durban, South Africa, and grew up under the Apartheid regime. For a young man of Indian heritage, Apartheid was difficult, humiliating, and dangerous. When he was 12, his parents took him to live with "The Mahatma" (great soul). They hoped his grandfather could help control his rage and deal with prejudice and discrimination through nonviolent means. For 18 months he lived with his grandfather, watching world history unfold as India freed itself from British colonial rule. These events created a lifelong commitment to social change through nonviolence. The Institute offers educational programs aimed at conflict prevention, anger management, and community building. Arun lectures across North America on nonviolence and his grandfather's contribution. He spoke with me from Memphis.
In some ways, today's problems are similar to the confrontations between your grandfather and the British Administration though it seems more diverse. There are multinational corporations with boards of directors who are responsible to shareholders. They want the bucks and don't care how they get them. There is injustice, but it is more difficult to confront.
AR: There are many different techniques. Grandfather was more concerned with the British Administration so he used a particular technique. When confronted with unscrupulous business persons or companies destroying the environment, there are different ways of doing it. One has to have that understanding and the capacity to decide which technique applies. The most important thing in nonviolent action is bring about a change in the other persons thinking, in their attitude. That can only be done through a person's heart, then they understand. Going back to your example of the man who murdered 15 people. It is very challenging to love people like that. I feel I could forgive many people, but others seem beyond my capacity.
AR: We think it is beyond our capacity because we don't want to do it. When we decide we want to, we can. He showed it is possible to forgive and bring about a change in people. It is a question of wanting to, and being determined. If we say to ourselves, well, this is something I can never do, then we are never going to be able do it.
My understanding is practicing nonviolence is something you do without expecting results. You do it because you know it is right. It would be easy to become very neurotic or self-righteous with that kind of attitude.
AR: It requires a lot of discipline. It could easily become heady as you say. Humility is part of the exercise. Humility must be cultivated and become part of your life.