Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who was born on October 2, 1869, was one of the great spiritual and peace leaders of the 20th century. He was a staunch advocate of non-violent social change, first in South Africa and later as the leader of the movement for Indian independence from British colonial rule.
Throughout his life, Gandhi stood for the dignity of all people, even those who fought against him. He was a champion of the rights of the “untouchables” in India and a persistent opponent of the Indian caste system. Gandhi also worked to peacefully resolve the conflicts between Hindus and Muslims and prevent the break up of India into Hindu and Muslim countries.
Gandhi believed that non-violence has great spiritual power and that spiritual power is reflected in non-violence. He was influenced in his philosophy of non-violence by the Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy and, in turn, influenced the American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
When asked his opinion in 1949 of the 1945 US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Gandhi replied, “What has happened to the soul of the destroying nation is yet too early to see. Forces of nature act in a mysterious manner.”
Gandhi was a great peace hero. On this anniversary of his birth, it is worthwhile to reflect upon how Gandhi’s philosophy and life of non-violence has changed the world and given us a model to aspire to as individuals and as a human community. Here are a few of Gandhi’s statements for reflection:
“You have to stand against the whole world although you may have to stand alone. You have to stare the world in the face although the world may look at you with bloodshot eyes. Do not fear. Trust that little thing that resides in your heart.”
“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world that is the myth of the ‘atomic age’ as in being able to remake ourselves.”
“Consciously or unconsciously, every one of us does render some service or other. If we cultivate the habit of doing this service deliberately, our desire for service will steadily grow stronger, and will make not only for our own happiness, but that of the world at large…all of us are bound to place our resources at the disposal of humanity.”
*David Krieger is the president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org). He is the editor of Hope in a Dark Time (Capra Press, 2003).