Mohandas K. Gandhi’s Bhagavad Gita is one of the best examples of “the extraordinary ethical and political power a story can have” (148). Gandhi had an enormous influence on the drive for India’s independence from the British Empire. As one of the major colonial powers, Britain had developed a professional administrative elite in India that exploited local Indians. This led to a backlash in India, in which the locals tried to protest and “raise up Hindu values through independence movements like the Brahmo Samaj and the Arya Samaj” (149).
The leader of the Indian movement towards independence was Mahatma Gandhi. He started out as an unsuccessful lawyer who suffered such severe anxiety that it led to his “inability to speak” (151). For this reason, he decided to try his luck in South Africa. On his way there, he was thrown off a train for refusing a white man’s order to leave his first-class compartment. The white man had not wanted to share the compartment with a ‘colored’ man. This was a major turning point in his life, inspiring him to fight for equality.
The first major protest that he led was in response to the passage of a law in South Africa that forced all Indians to register with the police and submit to fingerprinting (“Gandhi and Civil Disobedience”). Gandhi joined many other Indians in protest by refusing to comply with this demand, so he was put in jail (“Gandhi and Civil Disobedience”). This was the first time he was put in jail, for nonviolently protesting by violating an unjust law, but it would not be the last: this remained a strategy that he would use to fight for justice throughout his life (“Gandhi and Civil Disobedience”). Some of the other strategies that he practiced while protesting the unjust registration law in South Africa were organizing peaceful marches and supporting labor strikes (“Gandhi and Civil Disobedience”). Again, these nonviolent strategies were among those that he would later use in India to fight for independence.
Twenty years later, the shy lawyer from India returned home from South Africa, having been “transformed into the fierce spiritual and political leader” (151) who was ready to fight for independence from the British. He believed that the activities of the British were causing poverty among Indians, so when the British did not grant independence after World War I, Gandhi encouraged Indians to engage in civil disobedience, the way he had done in South Africa (“Gandhi and Civil Disobedience”). In this effort, Gandhi demonstrated a strong sense of ethics. The core of his philosophy was not obedience; it was “spiritual audacity” (159). While his ethos was similar to “the Socratic way of doubt” (159), Gandhi suggested reinforcement of the caste society and to obey Vishnu. The key message of Gandhi’s Gita was that people ought to “carry out the duties of the caste they were born into” (159). However, he opposed the unjust discrimination against the “untouchable” caste in India (“Gandhi and Civil Disobedience”).
To conclude, M. Gandhi was a political and spiritual leader who had ideas similar to those of Martin Luther King Jr. Both were ‘men of color’, who experienced racial discrimination and began fight against such oppression. They practiced non-violent civil disobedience and resistance, and shared the idea of peaceful solution through boycotts. Both of them were leaders who fought discrimination.