The Paradox of Mahatma Gandhi
A Blog Post
Mahatma Gandhi said, "Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were
to live forever." Then he went on eating peanuts, drinking goat milk, and fasting
occasionally to lighten up his body, and spent a large part of his life in jails or penance
to protest against the British. From a bohemian perspective it is debatable whether
he lived as if there was no tomorrow, while it is true that he spent his whole life
learning and experimenting. 70 years after independence, Mahatma Gandhi draws more
criticism from political groups than admirers. People blame him for almost everything,
from the formation of Pakistan to the ascendance of certain families and people
in Indian politics.
Almost no one reads his writings or his autobiography. Only a few people are
interested in his social and economic theories to uplift the poor or consider them
to be relevant to today’s world. After Richard Attenborough’s famous film, he gained
many followers in various parts of the world. They often drop his name in their
speeches, or claim that they have been inspired by him. However, if you examine
closely, you will realize that most of them may use his name to impress their audience
but they do not truly follow his teachings or ideals.
In today’s world, Mahatma Gandhi has many admirers, but not many followers because
it is difficult to follow the example he set or the programs and ideas he proposed.
He also attracts widespread criticism, not only in India but also in countries such
as South Africa where he lived and dedicated a part of his life for public service.
He is criticized there as a racist for supporting the British and making some statements,
which were perfectly normal in his times, but seem to be too conservative or orthodox
to the progressive minded.
Although he was deeply religious and spent his whole life as a devout Hindu,
and although his worldview and political ideas were largely shaped by his religious
beliefs, he is admired more by the secular Left than by the religious Right in India
as well as abroad. It is an interesting paradox worth studying. Despite this oddity,
there is still a lot we can learn from Gandhi, ignoring whatever weaknesses or mistakes
and errors he might have committed in his life for any reason, and paying attention
to the best and brightest ideas and values he preached and which are still useful
and relevant to us and the world in which we live.
People like Gandhi are rarely born. Small minds may project into him their own
prejudice and contorted views, but there is little doubt that he has done a great
service to India, often ignoring his own personal interests and family welfare.
Compared to present day politicians, he was far better.