The writer says Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings are more relevant now than ever.     
Picture: Supplied
The writer says Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings are more relevant now than ever. Picture: Supplied

Opinion - Gandhi preached on the simplicity of living

By Selvan Naidoo Time of article published Oct 4, 2019

Share this article:

Opinion - October 2 marked 150 years since the birth of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

Indeed, there will be much written and said about the history of Gandhi in commemorating his birth anniversary.

In view of a world at pains with itself, evidenced by growing right-wing political sentiment, growing environmental crises, and high levels of moral decay, perhaps the application of Gandhi’s teachings will make for more meaningful dialogue.

“In my search after truth, I have discarded many ideas and learnt many new things. Old as I am in age, I have no feeling that I have ceased to grow inwardly or that my growth will stop at the dissolution of the flesh.” - Gandhi.

At the dissolution of my flesh, my wife was given strict instructions on my funeral procession when I depart this mortal world.

She knows very well that I shall return to haunt her without question should I arrive at the Clare Estate Crematorium in a hearse - whose doors open out like the wings of a 4IR eagle - in an ostentatious silver coffin that spins while Scottish bagpipes are played to take me to Harichandra (the Hindu mythological guardian of the cemetery).

Going a step further, my good friend and I have a pact that whoever goes first, a song with the lyrics, “I’m burning up, I want the world to know”, should be played to liven up proceedings.

In my search for truth, the desire to live a simple life without excess is a struggle that challenges me regularly.

This desire will clearly inform the proceeding of my earthly departure as already stated.

Gandhi’s philosophical teachings of ahimsa (not to injure living beings), Satyagraha (non-violent resistance), seeking truth and simple living, have always inspired my own journey in life.

To be fair, this desire to live simply is made easier given my indentured ancestral roots, but this is a topic for another column.

In commemorating 150 years since the birth of Gandhi, it is clear that his teachings are more relevant now than ever.

Today, close to 160 years since our ancestors first arrived here in 1860, the consciousness of dignified living practices that Gandhi started in South Africa, should be used as a truth-force to correct what we have become.

The perfect example of how we can practically apply Gandhi’s philosophy to gauge how he lived his life is embodied at the Phoenix Settlement - the place where he started his journey of transforming from a successful lawyer to a simple peasant with a passion for liberation, non-violence and spirituality.

Here on this land, Gandhi began his experiments with communal living, minimal possession, interfaith harmony, simplicity, environmental protection, conservation, manual labour, social and economic justice, non-violent action and principles of education and truth.

Today, albeit in a depressed economy, we see grandiose weddings, birthdays, baby showers, baby naming ceremonies, funerals and ceremonies being celebrated with excess that Gandhi eschewed.

Today crass commercial obscenity denies that simplicity of living that Gandhi preached. Even when we look back at our indentured ancestry we recall simpler yet meaningful and spiritual celebrations.

On most occasions, the kutum (family) would have spent precious time together, sitting down to enjoy a simple meal that brought momentary joy to their hard-working existence.

To them little was a feast. In fact, in most weddings up to 1970, guests would have tea and lovingly-prepared snacks as part of the catering arrangement in a one-pole tent in the backyard.

Trestle tables covered with rolls of paper with stackable wooden folding chairs were good enough because the traditional celebrations were of more importance than worrying about the decor.

Today, the lack of a padded Olivia or Tiffany dining chair would most certainly postpone most weddings.

Perhaps as we commemorate these 150 years since, we ought to also remind ourselves of the basic tenets of Gandhi’s teachings and that the beauty of a meaningful life lies in simplicity.

Today also brings into renewed focus the activation of dharma (human duty) in fighting against the forces of tyranny and abuse.

This duty highlights the power of mobilisation in fighting amoral living, child abuse, gender violence, rampant crime, xenophobia, racism and corruption. The power of mobilisation that Gandhi led ordinary people in fighting against the tyranny of any kind must never be underscored.

Let us use this power to continue the dharma that Gandhi started in South Africa so that we can truly grow this country for all our children.

Naidoo is the curator of the 1860 Heritage Centre.


Share this article:

Related Articles