Gandhi's Perception of His Religion Term Paper

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In 1934, they created the Government of India Act, "which allowed large areas to govern themselves with a degree of local independence" (Leathem 8). During the war, the government reduced many freedoms, and Gandhi and his followers continued to protest British intervention. During the war, Gandhi was jailed several times, and once, his wife protested so she would be jailed alongside her husband. Gandhi's health began to deteriorate as he conducted more fasts. In 1944, his wife died, and by 1947, Britain was on the verge of leaving India, but they insisted on creating the Muslim territories of Pakistan before they left India to govern herself. Gandhi and his followers had won, but the British created a rift that has never healed.

Gandhi was known as "Mahatma" later in life. The word is Hindu and means "of great soul" or "revered one" (Leathem 8). Gandhi died at the age of seventy-eight in January 1948. A Hindu assassin who opposed Gandhi's tactics and beliefs killed him. An historian remembering the event notes, "Gandhi's violent death stands in stark contrast to his own non-violent protests, especially in the form of civil disobedience. However, that he was killed in this way highlights the resentment that his beliefs and policies aroused in certain sections of Indian society, and particularly among more extreme Hindus" (Bates). Thus, while it seems today that Gandhi was a model Indian, adored by all, that was not the case. However, Prime Minister Nehru wrote at his death, "the light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere, I do not know what to tell you and how to say it, Our beloved leader, Bapu as we called him, the Father of the Nation, is no more" (Nehru). Gandhi now stands as one of the world's greatest leaders, who fought diligently for what he believed in, and changed the course of history. His beliefs led him and influenced him his entire life, and he still stands as a model of non-violent political reform.

Gandhi's Religious Beliefs

Gandhi's religious beliefs clearly colored his entire life, and created the backbone of his non-violent ways of protesting Indian oppression by the English. He defined religion in his own eloquent way:

By religion, I do not mean formal religion, or customary religion, but that religion which underlies all religions, which brings us face-to-face with our Maker. Let me explain what I mean by religion. It is not the Hindu religion which I certainly prize above all other religions, but the religion which transcends Hinduism, which changes one's very nature, which binds one indissolubly to the truth within and which ever purifies. It is the permanent element in human nature which counts no cost too great in order to find full expression and which leaves the soul utterly restless until it has found itself, known its Maker and appreciated the true correspondence between Maker and itself ("Life and Thoughts" 56).

This is why Gandhi worked so diligently to bring accord between Muslims and Hindus. He knew that a break between religious groups would eventually weaken his country, and he was correct. The Muslims split into a separatist group removed from the National Congress, and their leader, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, went on to rule Pakistan after the British left the area. Gandhi's faith was with him every day, and he wrote about it often, because besides leading political protests and hoping for reform, Gandhi was also a prolific writer who often wrote about his own political and religious beliefs, and how they meshed with his non-violent ideas for reform and protest.

Gandhi was true to his religious beliefs his entire life, but there were many Hindus who did not agree with the division of India, and they felt Gandhi was at least partly responsible. His assassin called Gandhi "a political and ethical impostor' and a 'curse for India, a force for evil'" (Bates) at his trial. Thus, even though Gandhi struggled for non-violent reform, more traditional Hindus did not accept his moderate religious beliefs, which may be surprising to some people. Gandhi believed his religious beliefs also necessitated a life of service to his country and his people. He wrote in his Autobiography, "I had made the religion of service my own, as I felt that God could be realized only through service. And service for me was the service of India" ("Autobiography" 197). Gandhi took his religious and moral obligations quite seriously, and placed them above all other obligations in his life - even his family. Gandhi always believed that the religions of the world could co-exist peacefully, and some of his greatest torment came after India gained independence, and there was widespread violence and rioting because of Pakistan and her Muslim population. Pakistan was created out of Indian territory, and so millions of Indians left Pakistan for India, while millions of Muslims quit Indian for a new life in Pakistan. It created many problems for people on both sides, and created intense resentment on both sides. Gandhi was distraught at the violence it created, and spent his last days before his death alternately thankful for Indian independence, and mourning the violence and hatred it had created in his people. It was one instance where his intense religious beliefs did not serve him, or serve him well.

Gandhi's Belief in Indian Independence

Just as his feelings on religion were quite strong, so where his feelings about independence, democracy, and how people should attain these necessary freedoms. Gandhi is most known for his strong belief in non-violent reform, but he also had very strong ideas about human beings and how they reacted to difficulties. He wrote,

According to Gandhi, there are three types of human beings: (1) the coward, (2) the brave, (3) the superior. The coward, in order to save his skin, supinely acquiesces in injustice and wrong. The brave hero, on the other hand, violently resists injustice and wrong in order to re-establish justice and right. The superior person is he who, in the fullness of his strength, forgives the wrongdoer and tries to redeem him and convert him to the ways of doing good

Muzumdar ix).

While his ideas about democracy sometimes seemed socialistic, they were deeply felt. He worked his entire life to bring democracy and self-rule to India, and actually lived to see it happen. His ideas on independence created a new way of living in India, and gave Indians new opportunities they never had before. The first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, was a committed follower of Gandhi's. While he did not run the country exactly as Gandhi would have liked, his rule did bring a new era of success to the country that would last for decades. Nehru later wrote of him, "Parlour socialists are especially hard on Gandhiji as the arch-reactionary, and advance arguments which in logic leave little to be desired. But the little fact remains that this 'reactionary' knew India, understood India, almost was peasant India, and had shaken up India as no so-called revolutionary has done" (Nehru 20).

Two men who played quite important roles in Gandhi's life were Jawaharlal Nehru, who was India's Prime Minister until his death in 1964, and Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Gandhi and Nehru disagreed on many things, but they both respected each other and their right to their opinions. Nehru strongly believed for future success, India must grow and industrialize, while Gandhi believed in small-scale, village-based industry that would feed and clothe Indians while creating marketable products for sale. Once, Gandhi wrote of Nehru, "He [Nehru] believes in industrialization; I have grave doubts about its usefulness for India'" (Ishii 297). However, Nehru was a long-time supporter and follower of Gandhi, and Gandhi often relied on him to lead many of his non-violent protests in the country. Gandhi and Nehru had their differences, but Nehru wrote of Gandhi with respect and affection after Gandhi's assassination, and it was quite clear he honored and revered the man he called "Bapu."

Jinnah too broke with Gandhi, but had worked hard with him to create a view of independence that was acceptable to both Hindu and Muslim. In 1944, Gandhi and Jinnah held talks attempting to reach a compromise between Hindu and Muslim interests, but talks broke off. It was not until 1947 that the two came to an accord, and signed a joint appeal asking the people to end their violence, but the appeal did no good. As an Indian historian notes, "This appeal, signed as it was by the two most influential men in India, did not stop acts of aggression on innocent people in the Punjab, in the Frontier Province and later in other parts of India" (Talib). Jinnah and Gandhi did not always agree, but they both worked for peace and for independence, they just did it in different ways. Jinnah was a huge influence on Gandhi because he held so much power with the Muslim people, and Gandhi always hoped…

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