Lessons From the Mahatma's Book of Life

Published: 15th October 2014 06:01 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th October 2014 06:01 AM   |  A+A-


BANGALORE : Mahatma Gandhi lived a life of nonviolence, and with his strength of character  was able to lead an entire nation toward the dawn of independence. There are many interesting stories about Mahatma Gandhi related to nonviolence and non-attachment.

One such story describes how Mahatma Gandhi was boarding a train. One day, as he started to board, one of his shoes slipped off and became caught on the track.

He tried to loosen it but could not. People standing near him watched him. When they saw he was unable to free the shoe from the track, he took off the other shoe and threw it also on the track right at the spot where the first one was stuck.

The astonished passengers asked, “Why are you throwing the other shoe onto the track also?”

Gandhi sweetly replied, “The poor man who finds the shoe lying on the track will now have a pair he can use.”

Look at that high level of vision. There are many lessons in that one account. Firstly, most people would be so upset about losing their one shoe that their brain would only dwell on that loss.

They would be upset, hassled and distressed. If they had no other shoes with them, they would have to go barefoot, or wait to buy another pair. Their whole journey would be colored by the aggravation of losing the shoe.

What did Gandhi do? He did not let the loss of the shoe mar his clarity of thinking. Rather, he weighed the situation, and came up with a brilliant idea. If he could not benefit from having the shoe, then someone else who needed shoes might come along and find a pair to help them.

Rather than being stingy, he was generous and caring. He thought he could use this as an opportunity to make a contribution to some poor person who might need shoes and happen to have the good luck of finding them.

How many of us take a bad situation and turn it into a good one? How many of us can see the bright side of a difficult situation? How many of us can turn a negative into a positive? This attitude of Gandhi’s points the way for us to learn how to use problems to our benefit or the benefit of others.

The anecdote about Gandhi also shows us another aspect of his life, which is non-attachment. When we are not attached to anything, we are free. If someone were attached to his shoes, then his whole train ride and rest of the day would have been caught up in the web of anger, despair, and hopelessness.

That would have been all that the person would have thought about. That kind of thinking would have drained that person of several hours of his life.

By releasing his attachment to his shoes, Gandhi was showing that he was  free. He could give them up and move on. He could spend the rest of his time in productive thoughts and not be a victim to the circumstance.

Thus, Gandhi freed himself from attachment and gained all those extra hours of his day free from bondage to those shoes. Let us think about how many attachments we have in our lives that keep us in bondage. If India could declare its independence from British rule through nonviolent means, we can also declare our independence from the attachments that the mind sends us.

Some of us may be attached to our money and possessions. The loss of money might devastate us.

Instead of looking forward to how we can earn money in the future, we are caught up in the agony of the loss of money that we experienced in the past.

The current moment in which we can get to work to make more money is instead spent in worry and anxiety. We dwell on what we lost instead of turning it into an opportunity to continue to gain.

Some people are attached to name and fame. They are so concerned about their reputations and what others think of them that if someone says something critical about them, they crack.

They become upset, angry, and irate and lash out at others. Some become depressed and cannot function. They are so attached to their name and what others think of them that they lose their precious life breaths in anger when someone makes a suggestion to them, criticises them or their ideas, or wants to point something out to them.

They lose sleep over what others have said about them. Instead of taking the situation and turning it into a positive one, they are devastated.

Instead of losing their life’s breaths over worry and hurt, they could look at what was said about them in a calm, rational manner, and see if there is even a grain of truth there. They can use that as an opportunity to work on themselves to make their lives better. They can improve their lives.

If after examining what was said about them and they find no truth there, they can take it as a misunderstanding on the part of the other person.

They can choose to fix the misunderstanding and move on, or just ignore it if the other person said it without any basis. In this way, we can remain independent from the bondage of attachment to our name and fame.

We can find freedom in our lives from the bondage of habits that deplete our energies.

If we are not attached to money, possessions, name, and fame, we too can develop a state of independence from these habits and find the joy of freedom.

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