139th Birth Anniversary of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Manila Bulletin, October 2, 2008 | Go to article overview

139th Birth Anniversary of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi


ONLY a few individuals in the history of the world have been accorded close to universal recognition for their selfless leadership and immense contribution to the attainment of the fundamental virtues of humanity. One such man was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, also known as Mahatma Gandhi.Born on October 2, 1869 to a very conservative family in Porbanda, located in the present-day state of Gujarat in India, Mahatma Gandhi could have lived a life of comfort, without needing to involve himself in solving the concerns of his compatriots. But, a lawyer with a degree from the United Kingdom, he soon experienced how, despite his own familial endowments, he was denied opportunities due to his ethnicity when he worked for an Indian firm in Durban, South Africa. He was so appalled at the widespread denial of civil liberties and political rights to Indian immigrants to South Africa that he quickly involved himself in the struggle for elementary rights for Indians.

While he stayed on in South Africa fighting for the Indians' cause for 20 years, suffering imprisonment many times, he started to realize and talk about the value of passive resistance to, and non-cooperation with, those who wielded and abused their power. Part of the inspiration for this policy came from the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, whose influence on Gandhi was profound. Gandhi also acknowledged his debt to the teachings of Christ and to the 19th-century American writer Henry David Thoreau, especially to Thoreau's famous essay "Civil Disobedience." Gandhi considered the terms passive resistance and civil disobedience inadequete for his purposes, however, and coined another term, Satyagraha (from the Sanskrit "truth and firmness"). …

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