“You must be confident, patient and relaxed to spin cotton,” said my guide as we sat on the floor before Mohandas Gandhi’s charkha (spinning wheel). Yep, I mean the Gandhi – that little man who transformed a continent through non-violence and firey courage. When it comes to Soul Purpose, Gandhi-ji makes a perfect role model. He may have thought, in his early years, that he was to be a barrister (Lawyer), but life and outrageous, blatant injustice turned him quickly to his dharma path as spiritual leader and guide for an entire (rather large) nation.
A Colorful Land
I had the chance to find out, first hand, some very intimate details of the Mahatma’s (Literally, ‘Great Soul’ in Sanskrit) life and life work during a recent trip to Gujarat, India – this great man’s home state. Gujarat is a colorful land rich in history both spiritual and secular. And when it comes to the spiritual dimension, the people of Gujarat – whether they be Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Parsi or Christian – honor Gandhi in a number of ways. As a tourist, the most noticeable of these is that the entire State is alcohol-free. In honor of the man, Gujarati’s generally abstain from drinking the hard stuff. (But travelers fear not! you can get booze with an easy-to-obtain tourist alcohol license, available at many hotels).
Peace and Simplicity
At Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, I practiced spinning cotton, toured the compound where he and his wife, Kasturba Gandhi lived for 13 years, and explored the maze-like museum, packed with pictures and info telling the tale of the “Quit India” Movement.
That movement, in fact, was begun at Sabarmati. And it was also the place where heads of State visited, seeking counsel and wisdom from the man himself. The compound is peaceful, not surprisingly, and also incredibly simple. Simple, square rooms furnished sparsely, if at all, reflect the minimalist needs of a man intent to “Be the Change” he wanted to see in the world.
A Lion’s Courage
The simplicity of his living conditions surely humbled me, living as I do is such abundance here in the West. But what struck me most of all, after touring the museum, was this small man’s lion-sized courage. Courage to speak truth to power, and courage to face the punitive measures taken against him, time and time again. The man was imprisoned 13 times in both South Africa and India, and still he never stopped. He actually became a source of embarrassment for the British government, because no matter how hard they tried to surpress the man, his deep love for his people and even deeper conviction that there must be justice for his country, simply could not be put down.
In our world today, where we see our rights being pulled out from under us at an ever-accelerated clip, Gandhi’s courage gives me hope. If one single man could transform a nation and throw off the yoke of oppression while maintaining a strict practice of non-violence in word and deed, what might we do to uplift our world collectively, through acts of courage and love?
How do you practice courage in your life? What gives you hope of a better tomorrow? Let me know in the comments below.
– THE Best Tour operator and rock-star organizer for any visit to India is Mr. Uttej Rao of JN Rao Tours.
– For clean, safe and friendly accommodations right next to the old city, try the Keys Cama Hotel.
– For more information on all that Gujarat has to offer, from spiritual tours to real live lions, visit Gujarat Tourism.