Mahatma Gandhi has been one of the greatest heroes in the practice of spirituality in Indian history – a spirituality that is dynamic to facilitate facing injustice, fear and violence with fairness, honesty, loving-kindness, self-control, courage and non-violence.
Popularly known as Bapu, his amiable and religious mother Putlibai and his equally devout nurse Rambha were key religious influences around young Gandhi. He was also greatly enthused by noted Jain philosopher and scholar, Shrimad Rajchandra. The scholar is known for his philosophical thoughts on Jainism and as a spiritual leader of Gandhi. Reading the Bhagavad-Gita, one of the world’s greatest scriptures, messages like “Love thy enemy” and “turn the other cheek” from Jesus in the New Testament, along with Tolstoy’s non-fiction, The Kingdom of God is Within You, and Henry David Thoreau’s essay Civil Disobedience, encouraged Gandhi to initiate a non-violent movement against the pitiless government of South Africa and the then prevalent racism and ethnic injustice being done against the dark-skinned people.
Tolstoy’s book, A Letter to a Hindu, had a profound effect on Gandhi and his organisation. Non-violence that drew the concept that simply by showing love as a weapon of choice could Indians bring down a mighty colonial British Empire. Later, Gandhi sent a letter to Tolstoy looking for approval to re-publish A Letter to a Hindu in Gujarati. Tolstoy approved the request and the two were in regular touch until the former’s death in 1910. Gandhi rejected the award of Nobel Peace Prize several times since being recommended for the first time in 1937. The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to no one in the year 1948 as the Nobel committee had intended to award the prize to Gandhi who was assassinated in that year.
Gandhi’s central part to spirituality was his conviction in the power of non-violence and he proved that this is can’t be compromised on.
We miss you, Bapu.