My brain has been occupied this very question from the moment I started reading about this great man, “how Gandhi became who he was ? ” I have been trying to emulate him in my life,so whenever I evaluate his actions, I just ask this question to myself how difficult it is for me to emulate him.
As I started reading Louis Fischer biography on Gandhi. I again got awestruck by how Gandhi transforms himself so many times right through his life. If I can take one thing from Gandhi’s life its the way he applies all his learning into action.
Gandhi lived in the early twentieth century in London, a time of great churning and transformation. London was the breeding ground for revolutionary ideas, Marxian ideas were sweeping through the whole of Europe. But these things never had any impact on Gandhi’s early writings when he stayed in London . From his writings it seems Gandhi was really interested in transforming his day-to-day life, not to transform the world. He was very much interested in vegetarianism , and mainly religious studies . Compare this with anyone of his age who visited Europe for studies during that time , say for instance Nehru . Nehru was the torch bearer of European modernism , a socialist by belief. These things never had any impact on Gandhi , Gandhi himself said he had no interest in abstract things. This crucial difference tells a thing or two about Gandhi . First of all he was a man of independent intellect , not a one who gets carried away with ideas that are labelled ‘modern’. He believed in the importance of transforming once learning into action .
He started off as a vegetarian , who yearned for meat to become stronger and when he died he was an ascetic eating nuts and juices to survive.
Gandhi’s time between learning and action :
The time that Gandhi takes to transform any idea into action into is one of the key points to understand him . Gandhi when in London got initiated towards natural curing techniques such as using water and mud to heal from diseases . We see himself applying the very same technique to heal Manilal, Gandhi’s son during a severe pneumonia attack . He was steadfast in rejecting the Doctor’s suggestion to give Manilal meat . Gandhi once was tricked to have a insurance , this he did in a real commotion because he was not sure whether if anything happens to him , his family would be able to survive . After pondering over the message of Gita and once he felt that for a person in eternal belief in God , he decided to cancel the insurance policy incurring a loss in paid premium . He was such complete believer in ideas , that he openly suggested to it everyone . He once suggested Nehru to practice celibacy . This rare mix of naivete and stubbornness made him the Mahatma .
How he became a man of so much strength and audacity ? Think this simple fact Gandhi was inspired by two books which had a radical impact on him .
One was the book by Tolstoy ‘The Kingdom of God is within you’ and “Unto this Last” by John Ruskin .
Ruskin was a thinker , a social critic but rarely a man of action as Gandhi . Gandhi himself noted that ‘Ruskin just revolutionised his mind not his life’ . Tolstoy was constantly trying to be a better person , but was stuck and pull down by family relations and personal quagmire . This made Tolstoy a man of internal contradictions on what he preached and what he could really achieve .
How was Gandhi able to overcome this problem and successfully transforming ideology into action . I think the magic lies in the Gita , the idea of detached action , to be level headed in success and failure was the greatest strength of Gandhi . This enabled him to constantly strive and make it his duty to be a karmayogi as Gita prescribes . Gandhi had a tumultuous life , he had to transform his whole family in the path he has decided to walk which was challenging . But he never had any sense of doubt or guilt in what he was doing . It seems as if he was very clear in carrying out his duty and this he got it from the Gita .
Gandhi is being rediscovered in the whole world , he is a beacon of light for environmental movements , tribal rights movements , symbol of freedom against dictatorship all over the world . This makes him more important than abstract thinkers like Marx , because he being an ideology embodied in action , makes him a more than a man – infact a legend .