Mahatma Gandhi was an Indian activist and leader of the India independence movement against British rule. He lived from 1869 to 1948. In 1888, he traveled to Britain and studied law in London. He said, “When I was 18, I came in touch with a good Christian—who placed the Bible in my hand, and I became aware of the Sermon on the Mount, and it showed its practical relevance in the public affairs of the world.” Gandhi's eclectic mind assimilated the message of Jesus and made it his own. Consequently, he emphasized its relevance for peaceful living, including the practice of non-violence.
Gandhi returned to India in 1891 and was unsuccessful as a lawyer, so he took a job In South Africa. It was there he experienced racial prejudice and joined fellow Indians in working for their rights. He led them in challenging the British regarding civil rights, and in 1942, he led national campaigns for various social causes and for achieving self-rule. He was then imprisoned for many years in both South Africa and India. After numerous struggles, Britain granted independence to India in 1947, yet the British partitioned the land, simultaneously creating an independent Pakistan for the Muslims.
The Sermon on the Mount is the longest continuous discourse of Jesus found in the New Testament, and is one of the most widely quoted elements of the Canonical Gospel. It includes some of the best-known teachings of Jesus, such as the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer. The Sermon on the Mount is generally considered to contain the central tenets of Christian discipleship.
Indeed, the Sermon endeared Jesus to Gandhi— he greatly appreciated the spiritual and ethical ideals presented, seeing virtually no difference between Hindu and Christian tenets as regards this teaching. He saw “the grace of expression” and beauty in Jesus’s words—he called Jesus “a Supreme artist.” Gandhi often quoted, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who treat you badly. To the one who strikes you on the cheek, turn the other cheek; to the one who takes your coat, give also your shirt.”
This means we must not return evil for evil, and our response to evil must be good. How to respond to evil with goodness is a challenge. Gandhi often employed non-violence—a principle ingrained in Hindu life—to meet this challenge. I am aware that when I learned to respond to evil with goodness (for example when someone lied about my intentions, I forgave that person), my life became once more dedicated to peace.
Albert Einstein said that Gandhi’s greatest contribution was his determination to moralize politics. Gandhi insisted that you can apply the same moral values to politics, business, or industry as you do in private life. Love, truth, non-violence—all these ideals can be applied here and now to every aspect of life. It is perfectly possible, as Gandhi said, “for an in individual to adopt this way of life without having to wait for others do so.”
Dear readers in what way are you applying these ideals to your life—whether in politics, in your workplace, or with your family and friendships? Where do you feel you are succeeding and where do you struggle? All comments are appreciated!