Gand­hiji Gave Me Courage And Con­fi­dence

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - An Epiphany Of Ideas - The XIV Dalai Lama

In 1950, while I was still fif­teen years old, I had to as­sume the tem­po­ral author­ity of the in­sti­tu­tion of the Dalai Lama. The Chi­nese threat to Ti­bet was grow­ing, and we con­fronted a full-scale war. As a peace­ful Bud­dhist na­tion, we had never pre­pared for any­thing like this. I had heard of Ma­hatma Gandhi and his role in In­dia’s strug­gle for free­dom. I had learnt from him that it might take time, but the best ap­proach is non-vi­o­lence. I was de­ter­mined to adopt this strat­egy.

In 1956, on the first morn­ing of my first visit to Delhi, i first went to Ra­jghat. I wanted to get close to Gand­hiji. I wished i had met him in per­son. I thought about what ad­vice he would have given me. As i stood there in con­tem­pla­tion and prayer, i felt con­fi­dent that he would have urged me to fol­low the path of non-vi­o­lence. If he were alive, he would have sup­ported our strug­gle. It was a defin­ing mo­ment for me. It gave me courage and con­fi­dence. I have con­tin­ued to put this into prac­tice in my ef­forts to re­store the hu­man rights and free­doms of the Ti­betan peo­ple.

The phi­los­o­phy of Ahimsa, non-vi­o­lence, is a pro­found and pow­er­ful ex­pres­sion of com­pas­sion. To prac­tise it is to de­velop a feel­ing of close­ness to oth­ers. It in­cludes a sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity for their wel­fare, even for those who op­pose us. Gand­hiji demon­strated that non-vi­o­lence is es­sen­tial not only in pol­i­tics but in our day-to-day lives. It is not cow­ardice or be­ing pas­sive. It means ac­tively re­sist­ing vi­o­lence with­out hos­til­ity or fear. It is the essence of courage

Gand­hiji evolved this into a mul­ti­pronged, lay­ered strat­egy he called Satya­graha – en­ergy gen­er­ated by the power of truth to change the heart of the op­pres­sor. It in­cluded civil dis­obe­di­ence, while re­spect­ing the law. Satya­graha also im­plied a com­mit­ment to the truth in all its di­men­sions.

Gand­hiji’s life was an open book, an ex­tended es­say on trans­parency, hon­esty and courage. He doc­u­mented and ac­knowl­edged in de­tail his suc­cesses, strug­gles and fail­ures, both per­sonal and po­lit­i­cal, so we could all learn from them. It is an as­pi­ra­tion vir­tu­ally no one to­day, in­deed in pub­lic life any­where, even as­pires to.

Gand­hiji em­braced the ‘un­touch­ables’ as Har­i­jan or chil­dren of God, as his own. He did not reach out to the poor and the dis­en­fran­chised as a po­lit­i­cal con­stituency but from deep com­pas­sion. He recog­nised that un­less the con­di­tions of all In­di­ans im­proved, In­dia might get in­de­pen­dence, but it could not be free. He em­pha­sised not just phys­i­cal hy­giene, but men­tal hy­giene and dis­ci­pline as well.

Al­though Gand­hiji had re­ceived a western ed­u­ca­tion, he re­turned to his In­dian roots and ways of liv­ing. I ad­mire the sim­plic­ity and dis­ci­pline of his life. A de­vout Hindu, he was in­spired by the Gita and its phi­los­o­phy of self­less ac­tion. His com­mit­ment to an In­dia that em­braced and nur­tured all re­li­gions by adopt­ing a sec­u­lar con­sti­tu­tion was ab­so­lute. He drew on In­dia’s an­cient tra­di­tion of plu­ral­ism and its long his­tory of re­li­gious diver­sity and as­sim­i­la­tion. The prayers and hymns at Gand­hiji’s ashrams res­onated with the sa­cred from across faiths.

In 1989, I ac­cepted the No­bel Peace Prize “as a trib­ute to the man who founded the mod­ern tra­di­tion of non­vi­o­lent ac­tion for change – Ma­hatma Gandhi – whose life taught and in­spired me”. He re­mains the Ma­hatma, the great soul, for all peo­ple, ev­ery­where.

As told to Ra­jiv Mehro­tra

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