Gandhi: An Inspiration for All
by Krystalia Keramida
It is undeniable that Gandhi is one of the world’s greatest political and spiritual leaders. In India he is honoured as the father of the nation. He inspired his compatriots to fight for peace, freedom and democracy. He upheld the importance of human rights and non-discrimination. This is why he was named ‘Mahatma’, which means great soul.
Gandhi promoted Human Rights, which are part of every human being, independent of origin, religion, age, gender or social status. They are not just a history lesson or words without meaning, but include the essence of every single person all over the world. They allow us to live with safety, dignity, unity, love and of course peace. This latter is another word with deep meaning, because peace is not just a situation, it is the only way to joy, respect for diversity, and democracy.
But his influence has not ended. Gandhi was the light-guide for thousands of people, in order to fight against war, especially using his method of protest – ‘satyagraha’. Acceptance of suffering for the sake of truth and resistance to violence with nonviolence became a powerful movement all over the world and also a way of life. The first condition of nonviolence is justice all round, in every department of life. Justice, respect for diversity, unity and solidarity, love of nature, are the keys for a better world, according to Gandhi.
The question is how someone can achieve the complete development of body, soul and mind. Gandhi answered that it was through education. Only the right and congruous combination of these three elements could lead to an integrated person. The key is the growth of the five senses. Through the conscious exercise of the senses of touch, hearing, vision, smell and taste, a person acquires better contact with others, observes, meditates and feels, looks and discovers the essence of things. Education is important for everyone, regardless of age or lifestyle.
His theory of complete development of body, soul and mind was inspired by Plato, Aristotle and Socrates, three of the most significant Greek philosophers, who changed the history of the world and became founding figures in Western philosophy. Gandhi was always looking for historical figures who have sacrificed their lives for the sake of truth, so these Greek philosophers were a natural choice for him. Gandhi translated Plato’s Apology into Gujarati and titled the story of Socrates as The Story of a Soldier of Truth. In his translation summary, he described Socrates as a “heroic, extraordinary person with a fine moral character.” “We must learn to live and die like Socrates”, these were Gandhi’s words.
Socrates lived in Athens in the fourth century BCE. He altered Western thought, because he devoted his life to the search for Truth, existing in everyone’s soul. This Truth could become the ultimate knowledge and change the way we live. Gandhi called him a great Satyagrahi and emphasized, like Socrates, that we should not spend our time in finding faults with others, because only a pure person can fight evil with courage.
Plato, the student of Socrates and founder of the Academy in Athens, often characterized as the first university in Europe, developed a theory of knowledge that goes deep into the nature of knowledge itself. This is the true knowledge and it is permanent, unlike the knowledge based on appearance which is the untruth. This theory was adopted by Gandhi.
Last but not least, Aristotle, born in Macedonia and a member of Plato’s Academy, considered psychology to be the study of the soul and claimed that everything has a multitude of causes. These thoughts were the basis for Gandhi to say that hard work is necessary to succeed at anything in life and to be a socially active citizen, because nothing could be achieved on one’s own.
These were the inspiring reasons for UNESCO in Serres, a city in the north of Greece, which is a Club of people of different ages but with the same goal to promote culture, education, human rights, environment and innovation, to organize an educational program about Gandhi’s legacy. We want to help students of primary and elementary schools come close to Gandhi’s philosophy and understand the importance and the values of him, especially nowadays in a society that suffers from the economic, political and also moral crisis. As a team, we cooperate with Greek universities and significant institutions about Gandhi worldwide, because we believe that no one could achieve everything alone, but together we can move forward. Besides, as Gandhi claimed “the whole world is like the human body with its various members. Pain in one member is always felt in the whole body.”
Moreover, we think that in the century of knowledge, being racist only proves how low in society you really are. This is why Gandhi and his words inspire us to help children, who are the basis of every society, understand that humane education is the only way to overcome racism, discrimination, war and to broaden your horizons.
In order to achieve these goals and also make it fun for the students, we prepare different actions, such as music, theatre, painting, and writing. Every time, based on each one of the ten most important moral values of Gandhi, we plan one action. For example, according to the value “Learn to forgive”, we ask the students to play a role game. If someone hurts you, could you forgive him ? If not, why ? And if you hurt him, would you ask him to forgive you then ? Why ? Moreover, these actions aim to connect Gandhi’s values to the moral intelligence of the children. Creativity, self-control, respect, consciousness, justice are the parts of moral intelligence which helps children understand and express their feelings and have self-esteem.
Finally, this educational program is the tool to make clear that philosophy is one, commonly shared value that could change the way you think and live every day. So, despite the current difficult situation in Greece, we must look forward, try to be reborn from the ashes and get inspired by Gandhi and our ancestors in order to build the foundations of a world where peace, democracy and human rights will be the reality for all and not just a dream for a few.
Krystalia Keramida is a lawyer, a member of UNESCO in Serres, Greece, specializing in the field of Human Rights and project manager of the educational program for Gandhi.