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Gandhi Ji And Jainism

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Gandhi Ji And Jainism


Mohandas K Gandhi, whom many revere as the father of India , was not a jain by birth . His parents were vaishnavas and he was born into that Hindu sect in the city of porbander, Gujrat on October 2nd 1869 . Jainism has a strong influence in Gujrat because many jains live there . Growing up in that province with a pious mother , Gandhi was constantly exposed to Jain doctrine . Although he was not jain by letter , he was jain in sprit because of his ideals and philosophy . Therefore , Gandhi was and was not a jain.

Gandhi Ji, A Jain By Action

How can this be said? The principle of relativism, Syadvada , allows us to make this seemingly contradictory statement . Gandhi was not a jain from the viewpoint of his birth and what he considered himself to be . On the other hand , he could be called a jain if one consideres his actions and belifs . An example from Gandhi's life illustrates this wonderful , conflict- resolving principle of relativism.
    At the age of 18 , Gandhi travelled to England to study law. His mother was hesitant to let him leave because she had heard that young married men became corrupted when went to England . She consulted Becharji Swami, a jain monk , who said that Gandhi should take a solemn vow in front of his mother and then he can be allowed to go . "He administered the oath and I [Gandhi] vowed not to touch the wine, woman and meat . This done , my mother gave her permission ."In England , Gandhi adherence to the vow was tested many times. Once, someone recommended that he eat eggs because eggs were not meat. After taking them for some time, he realized that in his mother's interpretation of the vow, meat included eggs so he quit eating them. This taught the young Gandhi the importance of interpreting a vow in the spirit of a person who administered it; in this case his mother. "One golden rule is to accept the interpretation honestly put on the pledge by the party administrating it."

Gandhi had the choice of following the spirit of the vow or interpreting it explicitly. Both courses of action can be taken but for a pledge. it is necessary to follow the essence of the vow and not the letter to preserve fairness. Fairness and honesty prevent disputes and conflicts. Gandhi strove for this attitude of equality and that is how he was a jain in spirit.

Gandhi Ji & Nonviolence of Jainism

The central tenet of Jainism is Ahimsa [non- violence] and Gandhi's philosophy rested upon it. He developed a method of political activism cslled Satyagraha which was wholly based upon truth and non-voilance (Sat;truth,Agraha;firmness) . It has been translated as 'non-cooperation' and 'passive resistance'. Gandhi said ,"satyagraha is essentially a weapon of the truthful. A Satyagraha is pledge to non-violence...".He used this principle in the Kheda district when there was a crop failure. The officials wanted to collect taxes from farmers even though they knew the crop was bad and poor farmers couldn't pay the tax. After trying to petition the officials, the farmers and volunteer political activists signed a pledge saying that they would not pay the taxes because the crops had legitimately failed. They would also suffer any imprisonment or other legal action the government may impose on them. Instead of rioting and demonstrating, the farmers were for the most part civilized and non-violent so the government had no choice but to give in. The officials could not arrest everyone of course ; This victory demonstrated the power of truth and non-violence which Gandhi had instilled in the people.
   Like a jain, Gandhi was also a vegetarian. In fact, he became a complete fruitarian and lived on a purely diet. "[His]diet considered, among other things, of groundnuts, ripe and unripe bananas, lemon, olive oil, tomatos and grapes. [He] completely eschewed milk, cereals, pulses and other things ."This was how strongly he believed in Ahimsa . His entire autobiography was devoted to it. "The exercise been my fond hope that it might bring faith in Truth and Ahimsa to weavers ." Gandhi believed in the jain doctrines and without a doubt, this helped him to achieve greatness.