Mahatma Gandhi was an Indian lawyer, activist, and political ethicist, best known for employing non-violent resistance principles that ultimately enabled India to gain its independence in the 1940s. He inspired several other similar civil rights movements around the world, most notably in the US by way of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.
Born Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (the honorific ‘Mahatma’ or ‘venerable’ was first used in 1914 in South Africa but has now replaced his original name all over the world) into a Hindu family of the Vaishya varna (third in the order of the caste hierarchy in place in India at the time), he developed an affinity for truth and love as supreme values thanks to epic characters he learnt about in Indian classics (Shravana and king Harischandra) that he read as a child.
Gandhi also developed a respect for various religions owing to the diverse religious background of his family and was heavily influenced by his pious mother who belonged to the Krishna-based Pranami tradition which uses various religious texts, such as the Bhagavad Gita, and whose teachings are said to include the main concepts contained in the Quran and the Bible, thus allowing Gandhi to become acquainted with the diversity of religions from an early age. At the age of 18, he decided to pursue law studies in London despite his family’s disapproval.
Completing his studies at the age of 22, he was called to the bar and returned to Bombay where his ambitions to practice law proved futile as he was unable to cross-examine witnesses. Luckily for him, he was asked to represent an Indian merchant in South Africa where he remained for 21 years and which heavily influenced his beliefs and life in general.
As a person of colour, he was discriminated against and successfully organised a non-violent protest in Johannesburg in 1906 for the first time. This is when his devotion to truth – satyagraha – concept developed as it was subsequently promulgated following his return to India in 1915 at the request of the Indian liberal leader Gopal Krishna Gokhale. He assumed leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1920 and introduced the concept of non-violent protest in the fight for Indian self-rule.
He was imprisoned several times for his efforts by the British but continued to fight for the independence of India which was achieved in 1947, however, not according to his wishes as the Western part of India was partitioned to become present-day Pakistan. His resistance thereto ultimately led to his violent assassination in 1948 but his ideas continued to live on in the US Civil Rights Movement and other non-violent-protest-based movements for various causes.
- That he was unable to find work in India as a lawyer so he moved to South Africa in 1893 and only returned to his homeland 21 years later;
- That he first tried out his non-violent resistance principles in South Africa;
- He decided to live modestly to relate to the poor (especially the so-called ‘Untouchables’) and advocated for women’s rights, fought against poverty and self-rule;
- He challenged the salt tax with the famous 400-kilometre Dandi Salt March;
- He underwent several fasts in order to help combat religious unrest upon the partitioning of India and Pakistan which led to his untimely assassination by a Hindu nationalist in 1948?
Famous and Inspiring Mahatma Gandhi Quotes
If we could change ourselves,
the tendencies in the world would also change.
As a man changes his own nature,
so does the attitude of the world change towards him.
We need not wait to see what others do.
A man is but a product of his thoughts.
What he thinks he becomes.
I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.
Nobody can hurt me without my permission.
Happiness is when what you think,
what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
The weak can never forgive.
Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.
An ounce of practice is worth a thousand words.
A coward is incapable of exhibiting love;
it is the prerogative of the brave.
Live as if you were to die tomorrow.
Learn as if you were to live forever.
Freedom is not worth having if it does not include
the freedom to make mistakes.
Service which is rendered without joy helps
neither the servant nor the served.
If we are to teach real peace in this world,
and if we are to carry on a real war against war,
we shall have to begin with the children.
The best way to find yourself is to
lose yourself in the service of others.
In a gentle way, you can shake the world.
If I have the belief that I can do it,
I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if
I may not have it at the beginning.
Hate the sin, love the sinner.
Glory lies in the attempt to reach one’s goal and not in reaching it.
Whenever you are confronted with an opponent, conquer him with love.
Permanent good can never be the outcome of untruth and violence.
The future depends on what you do today.
To give pleasure to a single heart by a single act
is better than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.
Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs,
but not every man’s greed.
It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important.
You have to do the right thing.
It may not be in your power,
may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit.
But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing.
You may never know what results come from your action.
But if you do nothing, there will be no result.
Strength does not come from physical capacity.
It comes from an indomitable will.
You don’t know who is important
to you until you actually lose them.
I object to violence because
when it appears to do good,
the good is only temporary;
the evil it does is permanent.
You may never know what results come of your actions,
but if you do nothing, there will be no results.
I cannot conceive of a greater loss
than the loss of one’s self-respect.
You must not lose faith in humanity.
Humanity is like an ocean;
if a few drops of the ocean are dirty,
the ocean does not become dirty.