What are the slogans of Mahatma Gandhi
He embodied Jesus
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869 - 1948) is next to Buddha probably the most powerful Indian of all time, celebrated worldwide as the "apostle of non-violence". When he returned to India from South Africa in 1915, the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore greeted him as Mahatma, as the "Great Soul". This honorary title has become his own name.
Hindus believe that Gandhi's ethics are the beacon of their ethics in the 20th century. But what is so Hindu about Gandhi's ethics? The actual sources of his ethics are not to be found in Hinduism itself, but in Jainism and early Christianity. Gandhi embodied Jesus and especially Mahavira, the founder of Jainism. His ethics of non-violence are based on interreligious principles. That is precisely why it has always been transculturally compatible. For Gandhi's understanding of non-violence, three sacred texts were particularly important: the Bhagavad Gita, the teachings of Mahavira and the Sermon on the Mount. The Bhagavadgita (“God's song”) is a cycle of poems within the Mahabharata epic. In 1925, in the midst of the struggle to liberate India from colonialism, Gandhi confesses: “In the Bhagavadgita I find a consolation that I miss even in the Sermon on the Mount. When disappointment sometimes stares me in the face, when, abandoned, I see no ray of light, I reach for the Bhagavadgita. "
Of course, there is hardly any mention of peace and non-violence in this epic, on the contrary. The Gita was undeniably the central source for Gandhi, but a highly ambivalent one. Therefore he interpreted them allegorically. More precisely, Gandhi read the ambiguous Gita with “glasses” that did not come from Hinduism itself. Who actually convinced Gandhi of non-violence was Mahavira (died around 470 BC). Many Jainas have always lived in Gujarat, where Gandhi's birthplace is and where he grew up. Gandhi's parents were on friendly terms with them. Jain monks with their begging bowls were kindly entertained in his parents' house. The young Gandhi received a Jain monk as a teacher. These monks, who are a normal sight in Gujarat to this day, are in truth "the uncompromising apostles of non-violence", as the Gandhi biographer Heimo Rau notes. The contemporaries Buddha and Mahavira were the sharpest critics of the relativistic Hindu ethics, which, depending on the caste and external requirements, voted for violence or for non-violence.
For Mahavira, not hurting (ahimsa) was unconditional and universal: in all situations and towards all beings. This is the only way to break the cycle of violence. Gandhi owes this insight to Mahavira. And he had another source that inspired him to nonviolence: the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. Its influence on Gandhi was arguably more lasting than on many Christians. Martin Luther King said: "Gandhi was probably the first person in history to elevate Jesus' ethic of love beyond a mere relationship between individuals to a powerful and effective social force on a large scale." The essence of the Christian ethic of peace is found in the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus calls the peacemakers “sons of God” and calls to love one's enemies. That was what fascinated Gandhi. When he was arrested again by the British in 1924 for his nonviolent actions, he wrote: “I find no justification for war in the New Testament. In my eyes, Jesus is one of the greatest prophets and teachers the world has ever been given. "
Gandhi initially used other names for his method such as “passive resistance” or “civil disobedience”, but they did not get to the heart of his concern. Eventually he coined the term satyagraha - a new word for a new method. Satyagraha is composed of two Sanskrit words: satyam "(divine) truth" and agraha "seize, hold on". What do you mean with that? Five characteristics are named here. First: Truth, for Gandhi a synonym for God, was his main concern. Therefore he understood his life, the longer the more, as a "story (s) of an experiment with the truth", as Gandhi in 1929 titled his autobiography. Truth, for him, was something that had to be done, and thus something that could also be experimented with. Satyagraha as adherence to the truth is not a theorem, but the practice of truth, one could also say: realization of God. This is possible through a variety of actions: boycotts, strikes, campaigns, protest marches, fasts, vows. Second, Satyagraha sees itself as a nonviolent strategy in which the Ahimsa axiom is applied. If the goal is the realization of God, then nonviolence is the way to that goal. Like Mahavira, Buddha and Jesus, Gandhi is convinced that only a complete renunciation of violence can break the spiral of violence and convince the opponent to forego it on his part. But for Gandhi, nonviolence is more than renouncing violence. It begins long before any external conflict in the individual Satyagrahi in the form of self-purification and asceticism: “Identification with everything that is alive is impossible without self-purification; without self-purification, observance of the Ahimsa command must remain an empty dream. God can never be realized by someone who is not pure in heart. "
Third, Satyagraha is a political strategy. She seeks conversation because the Satyagrahi is convinced that the "enemy" is his potential partner. For Gandhi, the counter-model Duragraha (“clinging to violence and power”) was a kind of monologue, whereas nonviolence automatically aims at understanding. Gandhi left thinking in terms of enemy images behind. The Satyagrahi realize God through his nonviolent engagement because he thereby promotes the unity and peace of the indivisible human family. Unlike a Duragrahi who threatens, kills and destroys, the Satyagrahi seeks to convince and win. Gandhi was often misunderstood by his followers because they believed that a Satyagrahi was acting purely defensively, merely resisting injustice. But fourthly, Satyagrahis are constructive and creative in that they are committed to new forms of coexistence, social justice, the eradication of poverty and the improvement of education. The first places Gandhi experimented with these new forms were in the ashrams. He himself founded some in India as well as in South Africa. Some of them still exist today. After all, satyagraha is a strategy that requires fearlessness and a willingness to accept blows and pain, prison and death. This also and first of all applied to Gandhi himself, who recognized such an exemplary willingness to make sacrifices in the fate of Jesus.
Despite being nominated twelve times, Gandhi never received the Nobel Peace Prize. In the end, his work was even tragic. His strategy failed. It could neither prevent the religious division of the subcontinent into the predominantly Hindu India and the predominantly Muslim West and East Pakistan, nor the violence associated with it. Gandhi had helped the country gain independence and was proclaimed the “father” of the nation, but at a high cost in blood. The migratory movements in opposite directions, the religious purges and expulsions cost hundreds of thousands and ultimately his life, even on January 30, 1948.
Adored like never before
Its failure goes much deeper than that. Two of his closest disciples reversed his strategy once they came to power. Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister, set the course for nuclear armament in the country. Gandhi's companion Mohammed Ali Jinnah initiated the same development in Pakistan. The India expert Bernard Imhasly states: “Gandhi did not even survive half a year in independent India. Since then, the country has taken a direction that was in many ways not his. ”In India today, Gandhi is omnipresent, but only as a“ pillar saint ”. He is revered like never before, at the same time he is ignored like never before. In 2006, the movie Lage Raho Munna Bhai sparked a hype among the urban middle class. A new slogan came up that already appears in the film itself: "Gandhigiri." This Hindi expression, which can be translated as "Gandhi style", means acting in the spirit of the Mahatma. It was about a disarming non-violence, in order to counter the daily harassment and experiences of injustice and to practice more compassion and solidarity. Gandhi also had a certain renaissance outside of the small Gandhian movement. At the end of the film Gandhi himself says to the Indians: “The choice is yours. Live with the pictures of me or live according to my principles. "
After the hype, the pendulum swung in the other direction. A critical discourse broke out about Gandhi's relevance for today's India. Such debates were not new, as Gandhi is rejected by many Dalits (casteless Hindus) as well as Adivasis (the indigenous people of India), who together make up a quarter of the population. The new debate was sparked by writer and political activist Arundhati Roy. Celebrated as "India's conscience", Roy published the essay: "The one with the doctoral hat and the one with the halo." Allowing Dalits to vote was countered with a death fast. For Gandhi, the coexistence of the caste Hindus, of which he himself belonged, with Muslims and Jainas, as he knew it from Gujarat, was the main political goal in a free, undivided India. In this society, the Dalits would be welcome too. Gandhi endeavored to reduce the idea of untouchability to absurdity; he accorded the Dalits the same human dignity. Nevertheless, they should not be given equal rights and a reformed caste system should be preserved. The Dalits resent this to this day. Gandhi and Ambedkar became opponents because Ambedkar wanted to abolish the caste system. Together with around 400,000 Dalits, he demonstratively converted to Buddhism in 1956, because Hinduism was a horror cabinet for Dalits, which the Kastenhindu Gandhi could not understand.
Roy writes at the end of her essay: “Can the caste system be broken? Not until we have the courage to rearrange the stars in our firmament. Not until those who call themselves revolutionary develop a radical criticism of Brahmanism. Not until those who understand Brahmanism sharpen their criticism of capitalism. And not before we (sc. Instead of Gandhi) read Babasaheb Ambedkar. "
No matter how one evaluates Roy's criticism, in any case it remains to be seen what social relevance the controversial figure of Gandhi will develop in the future. Perhaps the celebrations for his 150th birthday will help awaken a dead statue into a living example. Which would mean thinking further about your principles and adapting them to today's conditions. Perhaps it will also happen that Ambedkar, celebrated by the Dalits as an idol, of whom there are just as many statues in India as there are of Gandhi, will continue to overtake him.
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