It is with utmost delight that we present the fifth installment in the series of articles written by our friend, Solomon Rajaram Hariharan, a member of the “Dream team 2012” of “Sri Lanka Unites”( A youth movement for hope and reconciliation).We’re sure that this soulful article which interprets Mahatma Gandhi’s words would inspire you to a deeper level than you would imagine…
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. He is known in India as the Father of the nation. Gandhi’s philosophy was not theoretical but one of pragmatism, that is, practicing his principles in real time. Asked to give a message to the people, he would respond, “My life is my message.”
Gandhi’s life was based on two very important principles and values; one is love and the other is forgiveness. He was considerate of even his enemies. ‘A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave’. Gandhi followed the preaching of Lord Buddha, Jesus, Prophet Mohammed and many other teachers. ‘The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.’ We can see that the values of forgiveness and love were driving Gandhi. He believed that ‘An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.’ Throughout his lifetime, Gandhi was imprisoned, tortured and tested. But still he did not resolve to violence. He chose non violence above violence. As a result he impacted several others to join him in the cause he stood up for. It takes a lot of courage and presence of mind to forgive someone. We usually find it hard to forgive someone who had done something against us. But Gandhi defines that to be a true leader, you have to forgive and then take the step of reconciliation.
We commonly find injustice triumphing over justice. Sometimes we may even conclude that justice will never prevail. But when we carefully look into that subject, people who seem untouchable having wrong motives finally succumb and they lose all what they had earned so far. ‘When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for some time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, the always fall. Think of it-always’. This quote of Gandhi is true. The world has seen Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, recently Osama Bin Laden and Prabakaran. These leaders resolved to arms instead of negotiation. Maybe they thought that there was no other way in getting their causes voiced. There is always a way to voice the opinion instead of taking arms. Many leaders fail to realize and find that. It is only a few like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, etc. who understood the futility of war. They knew that violence would not help them achieve their goals.
‘It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom, it is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err’. When we climb the ladder of success, we try to convince ourselves that we are the best. When this attitude starts maturing, we start thinking and acting as if others are inferior. We forget that depending solely on our strength and wisdom can lead to our downfall. When we treat others as inferiors, we start isolating ourselves. We lose valuable man power as well as knowledge. Leaders should know the art of having the people with them at all times, else it will be just a long walk down the beach. ‘Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever’. We should strive to do our best before we die. This will make us be perfect and hyped up to do successful things. We should learn to fulfill our duties even if we were to die tomorrow. Keeping arrears for the next day would increase the stress and workload of the next day. Gandhi practiced finishing the day’s job before retiring to bed.
‘You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind.’ Gandhi speaks on the power of the human mind. As leaders we should train our mind and keep it updated. People often prefer a well prepared, intelligent leader. Education opens the mind to the broader world. It shapes one’s perspectives such that the individual will know the difference between the right and wrong. Leaders fall into traps when they do not differentiate the right and the wrong. Thus education is important. Our minds can only be tormented by ourselves. Others cannot torment it. Do we have the ability to think straight even when everything around us seems difficult? Leaders should ask this question. If we, as leaders do not think properly and start acting against our values during the hard times, it will affect the people who follow. Leaders should have a stable mind even in the toughest times. Panicking will make the followers panic and it might lead to violence. Then the leader would have no have control over the people and it would make the situation worse.
Gandhi said ‘Peace is the most powerful weapon of mankind. It takes more courage to take a blow than to give one. It takes more courage to try and talk things than to start a war’. He was always ready for negotiation and open debate with the British. Gandhi could have used the man power he had to throw the Englishmen away. A few hundred Englishmen were ruling a country of millions. But still Gandhi did not resolve to violence. He respected the enemies, even when they had done so many cruel things to him. Do we have the courage to respect our enemies? We should take a minute and think of how we react when someone does something against us. Do we respond aggressively or do we take the effort to talk the problem with the opponent and come to good terms with the individual?
With what kind of a mindset do we approach the negotiation? Do we enter talks with firm holds on some petty issues? Or are we flexible? Has anyone ever tried going to the negotiation table with all give and no take policy? Gandhi believed that ‘All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is surrender. For it is all give and no take.’ We should try giving our best to the society without expectations. This is not an easy thing to do. People expect the society to provide them things. It may be material, or fame or any kind. People live expecting something in return for whatever they do. Gandhi teaches us a different approach to community service; to give the best to the society without expecting anything in return.
Many leaders and teachers preach what is right and what is wrong. They talk a lot but we can see many faults in their lives. A leader should set an example to others. ‘An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching’. To be a leader, you should practice your values. What separates an exceptional leader from a nominal leader is the way they practice what they stand for. ‘Be the change you that you wish to see in the world’. This is a famous quote by Gandhi. This quote has changed many people to be the change for tomorrow. Gandhi’s words impacted a large number of youths in India. It still continues to inspire millions around the world to be the difference they want to see in the world. He trusted that though there might be evil people around, humanity is not lost. ‘You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.’ He believed that by impacting the people around him, the cause can have a better foothold. ‘A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.’ Gandhi made sure that the people clearly understood the cause. He motivated them to unite and move towards a better nation.
Gandhi died over 60 years ago, but we still talk about his life and teachings. Why and how was his life special? What were his personal values? Gandhi lived a life for the people. He wanted a social benefit, instead of the personal benefit many leaders vie for. Personal benefit is always found in social work. It is hard to deny this truth, but many social workers do social work for personal benefits. Gandhi used the peoples’ power effectively. He was able to bring together Nehru and Jinnah; two completely different people and provided a platform for these people to work together. We can see Nelson Mandela who could have become the King because the people thought that after all the trauma he had been through, it was the least the country could do. But Mandela denied that post. We can see Mother Teresa who worked for social benefits. These leaders are just a few to be named.
When doing social work, the desire to gain personal benefits always interferes. One should go to the field with a pure heart if you want to do social work for the people. ‘Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.’ Our name becoming popular is not important, nor our work being visible to others. It is the impact of the work we do that matters. Your work shouldn’t be as popular as the work you do. In social work, a single person should not get the credit; the whole team should deserve the credit. Gandhi planned for the long run. His unique personality and the simple life style which he followed attracted millions. Gandhi used the weapon of non violence-‘Ahimsa’ which gave the nation liberation from the British. Though Gandhi was well educated he associated with the poor. Many leaders fail to accomplish this feat. They tend to forget about the poor when they are in power. The leaders feel that it was a waste of effort to meet the needs of the poor because they would not be getting anything in return. We can see the leaders working for personal benefits. This hinders the progress of the nation and affects the whole nation. We as future leaders should all endeavor to live a life such that people would want to follow our lives even after we die. This was how Gandhi thought and lived.
‘Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.’