Mahatma Gandhi was an amazing and hugely influential figure in history. He is renowned for his beliefs and teachings in regards to civil rights, religion, education, non-violence, and the list goes on.
In this analysis I will attempt to relate Gandhi’s principles to my own, grounded in the faith and teachings of Jesus Christ. In doing so I will discuss three over-arching topics specifically: social issues, money/career, and the nature of God.
A huge topic that must be continually dealt with in our world is the topic of social issues, and within that category I believe education is one of, if not the single most important. Gandhi had some very specific views on education. It was his belief that all people, regardless of circumstances or social standing, had a right to basic education. The term for the education system Gandhi promoted is Nai Talim – which translates to “basic education for all”.
Deeper than simply advocating education for all however, Gandhi proposed a total overhaul of the education system, in direct contrast to the British Imperialistic system that was in place at the time in that area of the world. Gandhi’s focus was on teaching practical and basic skills which could be useful at the community and village level. This is where I somewhat disagree with Gandhi’s view.
I certainly see the historical reasoning for Gandhi to propose this kind of system in India; however I believe that in our world today his system is not superior to the development of highly specialized skills, beyond basic and practical skills.
That small disagreement aside, Gandhi’s overall view on education does mirror my own. Education is a basic human right, and everyone should be granted this right. I believe that today more specialized education is needed than Gandhi advocated for, but our principles are completely aligned, and Gandhi’s over-arching ideas on education as a social issue can and should still be held today.
As Damm (2005) states, “The end of all education should surely be service, and if a student gets an opportunity of rendering service … he should consider it as a rare opportunity and treat it not … as a suspension of his education but rather its complement.” (p.8)
Branching out from education and social issues, the next important topic to consider in studying the life and works of Gandhi is his views on a career. In the western world we live in today the goal is simple, money. Everything comes down to money. In a western, capitalist civilization money is the key to happiness.
To have a comfortable living, you must be educated and obtain a great job, along with a great salary, in order to fund a happy lifestyle. This is the reality of our world today. Based on Gandhi’s teaching and writings, he was in staunch opposition to this way of thinking. Gandhi, in his preaching, never spoke of how to better yourself or your own situation, but instead spoke of how to better others and help them.
Dear (2005) quotes Gandhi, “If we would listen to the voice of God, I assure you we would hear God say that we are taking God’s name in vain if we do not think of the poor and help them…Try to identify yourself with the poor by actually helping them.” (p. 335) In examining the words of Gandhi, exemplified by the quote above, his thoughts on money and a career become clear.
His total and complete focus on others, with complete and total disregard for himself and his own happiness and comfort in life, is nothing short of Jesus-like. Like Christ, Gandhi sought no reward for helping others. He looked for no personal gratification for his efforts, thus shunning the westernized “me-first” view that is the norm of our society today. On this, at least in theory if not in complete practice, Gandhi and I are in total agreement.
My goal in my future career as a teacher is to help people. I want to educate. I am not looking to become overly wealthy; instead I am looking only to obtain my happiness through helping others. While not going to the extremes that Gandhi did, seeing as I do seek a paycheck for my services, I do still believe I can model myself after his teachings and beliefs on money and a career. Like him I aim to help others, not to just seek the best opportunity for myself to gain riches and wealth.
Gandhi was not a Christian, but a practicing Hindu; however Gandhi surprisingly had a very Christian-like view on the nature of God. Certainly there are tenants of Hinduism that I, as a Christian, do not accept; but Gandhi through his life, works, and writings comes across to me as a great Christian teacher, regardless of his stated religion. Gandhi even addressed Christians directly at times.
Dear (2005) again quotes Gandhi, “I suggest that all Christians must begin to live more like Jesus Christ” (p. 335) I have already outlined how Gandhi was Christ-like in his own actions, and also how he exemplified the Christian ideal of selflessness. Non-violence was also a major tenant of Gandhi’s teachings, much the same as it is a major tenant in Christianity through the teachings of Jesus.
Following strictly to the teachings of Christ in the bible, Gandhi’s was a proponent of strict non-violence, not matter the situation. Howard (2011) writes, “Johnson recapitulates Gandhi’s thought that ‘counter-terrorism stimulates terrorism . . . each side justifying their violence as a necessary response to the terrorism of the other side’ (p. 109). He emphasizes the need to explore alternative approaches to confront violence and insecurity in the twenty-first century.” (p. 234)
Here, I must disagree with Gandhi’s view. This quote shows that, just like Jesus, Gandhi was in favor of a strict non-violence policy. In today’s world, I just cannot agree with that. While non-violence is a great philosophy, and one I do agree with in the majority of situations, I do believe that in certain situations violence is necessary. Cases of terrorism are a perfect example.
While Gandhi encourages seeking of a different solution than retaliatory violence, I see it differently. Regardless of the justification from each side, a terrorist attack on innocent and defenseless people, like that of Sept. 11, 2001 in New York, are a situation where non-violence as a practice must be set aside.
Violence may beget more violence in the short run; however sitting idle will accomplish nothing at all in those types of situations. Non-violence is a great philosophy, one that I as a Christian support whole-heartedly, but my view is that exceptions must be made to every rule when the circumstances are extreme enough.
While not being a Christian himself, Gandhi’s ideals and principle strongly coincide with those of Jesus. Christians today can learn a lot from the philosophy and teachings of Gandhi, and proudly take him as a role model.
As a Christian, I have done exactly that through my research for this assignment. Gandhi’s views have only served to reinforce my faith in the teachings of Christ. I can firmly and whole-heartedly recommend that other Christians take on this great man as a role model and example of the Christian way of life, just as I have now done.
Damm, A. Mahatma Gandhi and Character Education in Non-Violence: Its Relevance in Religious Studies Today. Teaching Theology & Religion (2011) 14.1. 3-12.
Dear, J. Mahatma Gandhi: Nonviolence Leader. Cistercian Studies Quarterly. (2005) 40.3. 333- 336.
Howard, V.R. The philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi for the twenty-first century. Philosophies East & West. (2011) 61.1. 231-236.