Gandhi's Ascetic Activism
Renunciation and Social Action
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: State University of New York Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Quotes
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Notes on Symbols from Indian Language: Vocabulary and Transliteration
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This book is a close and comprehensive study of one of Mohandas Gandhi’s most controversial practices, brahmacarya, through his own words and actions. Brahmacarya is generally translated as celibacy, continence, and chastity, but for Gandhi it meant a comprehensive control of the senses and was laden with ethical, religious, and mythical connotations. Gandhi considered sexual control integral to...
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Mohandas Gandhi interlinked the ascetic practice of brahmacarya and other austere disciplines with his political aspirations. Traditionally, within a secular context and also in India’s spiritual traditions, the practice of sexual renunciation for attaining spiritual freedom (nivṛtti) and worldly engagement (pravṛtti) represent two separate categories. ...
Chapter One: Challenging the Philosophical Presupposition: Gandhi’s Unconventional Synthesis of Asceticism and Activism
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Many of Gandhi’s predecessors and contemporary religious, social, and political leaders and reformers had combined religious ideas with political, religious, and social reforms. However, Gandhi uniquely sought to directly apply and embody the elements of renunciation— ascetic practices of nonviolence, celibacy, nonpossession—to address...
Chapter Two: Gandhi’s Alternative Paradigm: From Traditional Principles to New Political Purposes
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Within the traditions of India, as discussed in the preceding chapter, the components of nivṛtti—including yama-niyamas and the notion of tapas—are aimed at personal liberation (mokṣa or nirvāṇa). Nevertheless, within the ancient religious narratives and even in the modern Indian context these disciplines have been practiced not only by ascetics...
Chapter Three: The Traditional Roots of Gandhi’s Brahmacarya
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Gandhi’s brahmacarya may appear to be a world-denying practice and a misplaced virtue in the political arena; nevertheless, Gandhi understood it to be essential to his nonviolent activism and also advocated its practice by others, especially by those who were committed to the service of humanity. Given that Gandhi himself asserted the essential ...
Chapter Four: Gandhi’s Unorthodox Brahmacarya: Reinterpreting Private Religious Practice for Public Service
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Gandhi upheld the traditional connotations of brahmacarya to advocate for the self-restraint and moral strength mandated by his nonviolent methods, yet in his personal application and public proclamation of brahmacarya’s value in addressing sociopolitical problems, Gandhi deviated sharply from its orthopraxis. In his sexual frankness and...
Chapter Five: Gandhi’s Embodiment of Legendary Heroes and Ascetics: Toward a Coherent Narrative for Nonviolent Activism
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Observers have responded in a multitude of ways to Gandhi’s image of an ascetic: caricature, mockery, suspicion, and worship. Nevertheless, many biographical studies of Gandhi suggest that his ascetic image was an essential factor in mobilizing millions of citizens during the struggle for India’s independence. Gandhi’s ascetic practices, atypical...
Conclusion: Gandhi’s Dynamic Synthesis of Renunciation and Social Action
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The comprehensive value of brahmacarya for Gandhi in the political arena was a surprise both to those within and those outside his cultural context. This book is an attempt to clarify some of the ways in which Gandhi’s applications of brahmacarya were too radical to be called traditional and, ironically, were too traditional for radicals,...
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Page Count: 309
Publication Year: 2013