Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, commonly known as Mahatma Gandhi, was the preeminent leader of Indian nationalism in British-ruled India. Employing non-violent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for non-violence, civil rights and freedom across the world.
The son of a senior government official, Gandhi was born and raised in a Hindu Bania community in coastal Gujarat, and trained in law in London. Gandhi became famous by fighting for the civil rights of Muslim and Hindu Indians in South Africa, using new techniques of non-violent civil disobedience that he developed. Returning to India in 1915, he set about organizing peasants to protest excessive land-taxes. A lifelong opponent of "communalism" (i.e. basing politics on religion) he reached out widely to all religious groups. He became a leader of Muslims protesting the declining status of the Caliphate.
Assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921, Gandhi led nationwide campaigns for easing poverty, expanding women's rights, building religious and ethnic amity, ending untouchability, increasing economic self-reliance, and above all for achieving Swaraj—the independence of India from British domination. His spiritual teacher was the Jain philosopher/poet Shrimad Rajchandra.
Interview with Mahatma Gandhi...
"If my faith burns bright, as I hope it will, even if I stand alone, I shall be alive in the grave, and what is more, speaking from it."
Visiting one of the hundreds of internet sites dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi, -and it must have probably been the one site closest to better portray this colossus of our world's modern history, the above quotation is the first thing that catches the reader's eye. Reading it I reacted almost impulsively. I had suddenly found out the persona for this issue's interview. Not an imaginary person this time and yet... I already feel a lot of you thinking of this as a rather unorthodox choice...
Try to look it my way, though!! Mahatma Gandhi has been a great leader, whose work and wisdom marked one of earth's biggest nations; a figure easily recognisable and most certainly respected by a global audience. It must have been every journalist's dream to talk to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, as his full name was, and be able, even for a few minutes or hours, to be transfused with some of his ideas and passion. Unfortunately, (or is it fortunately?) Gandhi lived in times when the media omnipotence was still something like science fiction. So what is that I am doing, more than 50 years after his assassination? Before you start doubting my motives and consider the whole thing disrespectful or macabre, I would first ask you to read the quotation on top of this page again and then go carefully through all those things written below. A man still "alive" and still speaking to the world with words of endless wit and wisdom will be pouring his spiritual inheritance (to be more exact just a small fragment of it) to us all. To me this is an alternative way of journalism. The times are a-changing though in every aspect and what is surprising today, might be natural in the days to come, the days when spiritual draught will lead to the total demoralization and corruption of the vast majority of the mass media world.
QUESTION: All people familiar with your history Mahatma Gandhi know that you studied law in England and practiced it in South Africa, a member then of the Brittish Empire. What turned a servant of the dominant legal system into its powerful opponent?
ANSWER: There are times when you have to obey a call which is the highest of all, i.e. the voice of conscience, even though such obedience may cost many a bitter tear, and even more, separation from friends, from family, from the state to which you may belong, from all that you have held as dear as life itself. For this obedience is the law of our being.
Q: Your whole life, starting from your fight against racial discrimination in South Africa, continuing with your struggle for India's indipendence and ending with the most cruel and unexpected way to physically die, seems to have cost you a lot of suffering.
A: Suffering cheerfully endured ceases to be suffering and is transmuted into an ineffable joy.
Q: Having to face a strong conqueror and ruler you never stopped disavowing violence. What was your idea when you chose the path of non-cooperation with the brittish?
A: Non cooperation was directed not against men but against measures. It was not directed against the governors but against the system they administered. The roots of non-cooperation lie not in hatred but in justice, if not in love. You see however much I may sympathise with and admire worthy motives, I have always been an uncompromising opponent of violent methods even to serve the noblest of causes.
Q: Were you certain about your method's effectivity right from the start?
A: I had faith in them, yes! But you see, indeed one's faith in one's plans and methods is truly tested when the horizon before one is the blackest. That happened with me as well
Q: Where was your disbelief in violent methods based?
A: Violent means will give violent freedom. That would be a menace to the world and of course India as well.
Q: 50 years later India is free, but the vast majority of its people are still poor, illiterate and living in conditions not acceptable. Was it really a wise thing to do to to cut off association with England?
A: I did not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I wanted the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refused to be blown off my feet by any. I refused to live in other people's houses as an interloper, a beggar or even worse a slave.
Q: You have been a nation's leader even if you never became a politician in the strict sense of the word. Yet you had hundreds of millions of people either adoring you or, sometimes, hating you. What was your attitude towards the plain, usually illiterate, usually living in misery citizen of India?
A: Ah... Whenever I saw an erring man, I said to myself I have also erred; when I saw a lustful man I said to myself, so was I once; and in this way I felt kinship with everyone in the world and felt that I could not be happy without the humblest of us being happy.
Q: You have been lustful in your life?
A: I will not lie denying it, but at the process I came to understand that I would rather see the race of man extinct than that we should become less than beasts by making the noblest of God's creation, woman, the object of our lust.
Q: How do you estimate the presence of women in a man's life?
A: Woman is the companion of man, gifted with equal mental capacities. She has the right to participate in the minutest details in the activities of man and she has an equal right of freedom and liberty with him.
Q: Mahatma... Big soul... Probably symbolizing the soul of your nation. Your way of living has seemingly been rather ascetic.
A: It has always been my firm belief that the strength of the soul grows in proportion as you subdue the flesh. I made my choices, hasn't this been obvious?
Q: Judging by the result your fight for India's freedom was more than succesful, wasn't it?
A: You might say so. I allways believed though that glory lies in the attempt to reach one's goal and not in reaching it. I any case it was my firm belief that my work would only be finished if I succeeded in carrying conviction to the human family, that every man or woman, however weak in body, is the guardian of his or her self-respect and liberty, and that this defense prevails.... Have I succeeded in that? I still wonder....
Q: What is the basic principle in a man's life? Or to be more precise what should the basic principle be?
A: It is the law of love that rules mankind. Had violence, i.e. hate, ruled us we should have become extinct long ago. And yet, the tragedy of it is that the so called civilized men and nations conduct themselves as if the basis of society was violence.
Q. That should be my next question. I do not see love to be dealt as the basic principle in modern societies. So where does your point of view stand?
A: A principle is a principle and in no case can it be watered down because of our incapacity to live it in practise. We have to strive to achieve it, and the striving should be conscious, deliberate and hard.
Q: You often spoke about your quest for truth and God. Have you found the truth about God Mahatma?
A: I allways have worshiped God as Truth only. In my living in flesh years I was seeking after Him. I was prepared to sacrifice the things dearest to me in pursuit of this quest. Even if the sacrifice demanded my life.... Well it actually did demand my life, so to speak...
Q: Yes, but have you actually found Him, the Truth about Him?
Mahatma Gandhi smiled in his own special peaceful way and slightly bowed with his palms united before his chin. It was obvious that this strange conversation was over. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine him, in his living years, with that unrivalled style of his, facing giants and making them look dwarfs. He has been history's most important activist... He did not fight on a horse waving his sword or rifle, he did not call the millions of his people on riots and violent acts, he just called them to passively resist, to non-cooperate, being the first example of how this was done. And in a miraculous way this had allways a very strong effect. Mahatma Gandhi was..... or should I say is a milestone in global history. Mahatma Gandhi is.... I guess it is pointless to say more. Each one of you can find his/her own way to discover him...
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