January 06, 2006

Gandhi Virtual Ashram

"Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth."

This is how Albert Einstein eulogized one of the most inspiring and influential men of the twentieth century, Mohandas Gandhi. Not only did Gandhi almost single-handedly free India and its five hundred million people from their long subjection to the British Empire, but he did so without raising an army, without firing a gun or taking a hostage, and without ever holding a political office. How could one slight, soft-spoken man accomplish such a remarkable feat? The answer lies in the overpowering force of his character.

Like George Washington one hundred and fifty years before him, Gandhi knew he could never defeat British colonial power in armed confrontation, but, at the same time, he had no interest in waging a Washington-style logistical war that would outlast the British forces, wearing them down to the point of relinquishing power. To be sure, it was not in Gandhi's nature to contemplate military resistance in any form. Gandhi's interests and talents lay in the area of personal diplomacy, or the skillful handling of people, and he instinctively sought to oppose the British Raj on humane, moral, even spiritual grounds. Gandhi believed that an entrenched political and economic system could only be revolutionized by spiritual ideas, and so, over a period of years, he developed and implemented his own NF style of civil disobedience, what he called "satyagraha," a nobly principled, highly disciplined, courageously ethical strategy of non-violent passive resistance. Simply and effectively, Gandhi brought the British to their knees with a moral power that author and Gandhi disciple William Shirer referred to as "soul force."

Gandhi's immediate objective was political freedom for India, and yet, for all his social activism, he never lost sight of a higher goal for himself and his people, the quest for divine truth and justice, for human dignity and integrity, for the true knowledge of God. Perhaps drawing on the ideas of Platonic Idealism, Gandhi wrote:

All that appears and happens about and around us is uncertain, transient. But there is a Supreme Being hidden therein as a Certainty, and one would be blessed if one could catch a glimpse of that Certainty and hitch one's wagon to it. The quest for that Truth is the summum bonum of life.
[Gandhi, An Autobiography, p 250.]


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