Mahatma Gandhi: On his 150th birth anniversary, a look back at his ideals and the 11 vows he took

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Updated: October 02, 2019 10:52 AM

Mahatma Gandhi Jayanti in India: His revolutionary idea of winning Indian Independence with non-violence brought people together.

Gandhi Jayanti 2019, Mahatma Gandhi Jayanti 2019Few could match his philosophy combining activism and morality in the modern era.

Gandhi Jayanti 2019: It is well known that Mahatma Gandhi swore by the deals of non-violence, satyagraha and truth, however, few could match his philosophy combining activism and morality in the modern era. In contrast, some even present him as more complex and contradictory. His revolutionary idea of winning Indian Independence with non-violence brought people together. As per Indira M. Carr and others in Biographical Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Philosophers, Vaishnavism, Jainism and Advaita Vedanta influenced Gandhi while Bhikhu C. Parekh’s book Gandhi says that the leader was influenced by Hinduism, Jainism, and his studies on Sermon on the Mount of Christianity, Tolstoy and Ruskin.

Bapu, as he is often called had 11 vows and the Mani Bhavan Gandhi Sangrahalaya describes them in detail –

Ahimsa (Non-violence)

Mahatma Gandhi’s name will always be synonymous with non-violence, so much so that now the term is mentioned as “Gandhian”. Gandhi in his various campaigns practiced nonviolence as a means to bring about political and social change.

Satya (Truth)
As per S. E. Jones, Gandhi, Portrayal of a Friend, Gandhi held the truth as God, and felt that integral to Satyagraha.

Describing Satya, he once said, “The world rests upon the bedrock of satya or truth; asatya meaning untruth also means “nonexistent” and satya or truth, means that which is of untruth does not so much exist. Its victory is out of the question. And truth being “that which is” can never be destroyed. This is the doctrine of Satyagraha in a nutshell,”

Brahmacharya (Self Discipline)
Many books have been written about MK Gandhi’s idea of Brahamchraya, however, he defined self-discipline as a means control of all the organs of sense.

In one of his letters to Mira, he says, “He who attempts to control only one organ, and allows all the others free play is bound to find his effort futile.”

Asteya (Non Stealing)
Asteya is not just restricted to not stealing from others but as a concept based on our needs. As per Bapu, humans are not always knowledgeable of their needs, and hence end up multiplying our wants and thus, make ourselves “thieves.”

Aparigraha (Non-possession)
One of his 11 vows is Aparigraha which means Non-possession. As per him, the less you have, the less you want and the better you would be. This, he says, is because then it would be not for your enjoyment but for the enjoyment of your service to your fellow beings and service to which you could dedicate yourself , body, mind and soul.

Sharirshrama (Bread Labour)
Bapu, as he is fondly called, wrote in Young India, November 1925, “Earn thy bread by the sweat of the brow- says Bible . Bread labour means that everyone is expected to perform sufficient body-labour in order to entitle him to his living. It is not , therefore, necessary to earn one’s living by bread labour , taking living’ in its broader sense. But everyone must perform some useful body-labour.”

Aswada (Control of the Palate)
Gandhi had Aswada as one of the 11 vows. Besides a healthy mind, the leader was also very particular about abstaining from gluttony.

He had famously said, “Unless we are satisfied with foods that are necessary for the proper maintenance of our physical health, and unless we are prepared to rid ourselves of stimulating heating and exciting condiments that we mixed with food. We will certainly not be able to control the over-abundant, unnecessary, and exciting stimulation that we may have. If we do not do that, the result naturally is that we abuse ourselves, and become less than animals and brutes.

Sarvatra Bhayavarjana (Fearlessness)
While the dhoti-clad leader was soft-spoken and talked of non-violence, he also understood leadership. He spoke of Fearlessness as thus in November 1946, “It does not mean arrogance and aggressiveness. That in itself is a sign of fear. Fearlessness presupposes calmness and peace of mind. For that it is necessary to have a living faith in God.”

READ ALSO | Gandhi Jayanti 2019: Top 5 famous speeches by Mahatma Gandhi and the impact they had on India

Sarva Dharma Samantva (Equality of the religions)
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi considered himself as Hindu but he stood for equality of the religions. His views have had profound influence on the Inidan psyche and also reflects in the Fundamental Rights of the Indian Constitution.

He said in February of 1934, “For I believe in the fundamental truth of all great religions of the world. I believe that they are all God-given, and I believe that they were necessary for the people to whom these religions were revealed. And I believe that, if only we could all of us read the scriptures of the different faiths from the standpoint of the followers of those faiths we should find that they were at bottom all one and were all helpful to one another”

Swadeshi (Use Locally Made Goods)
While many expressed their inhibition over limiting business within a certain boundary, Mahatma Gandhi made his views clear on what is Swadeshi to him in Young India in march 1925. Hed said, “My definition of Swadeshi is well known . I must not serve my distant neighbour at the expense of the nearest. It is never vindictive or punitive. It is in no sense narrow , for I buy from every part of the world what is needed for my growth. I refuse to buy from anybody anything, however nice or beautiful, if it interferes with my growth or injures those whom Nature has made my first care.”

Asprishyatanivarana – Removal of Untouchability.
While he was at loggerheads with religious heads over his stance, he presented his views often in a cautious manner, however, Asprishyatanivarana, is one of the 11 vows he took. In one of his speeches in 1920 in Nagpur attending a conference, he termed untouchability as hypocrisy and Satanism.

He said, “If, therefore, I ever feel that I have been mistaken, I will admit my error; at the moment, however, I am ready to declare that I see nothing but hypocrisy, nothing but Satanism, in those who have been defending the practice of untouchability. It is Satanism which they are defending.”

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