Before visiting Gandhi’s Ashram, I had a sense of who Gandhi was and what he stood for, but I didn’t really understand how large a role he had in the public conscience. Martin Luther King Jr., who was inspired by Gandhi, left a similar legacy to us, but not nearly to the extent Gandhi has for India. His Ashram was an incredibly peaceful place.
An ashram is spiritual community, and we had gone to the one Gandhi had lived in for thirteen years. Before entering Gandhi’s house, the ITSA team sat outside while a woman showed us how to spin thread. It was a calming activity, and the Ashram itself was quiet, something you begin to value more when cars begin honking at five a.m.
It’s not only Gandhi’s political achievements that I find so remarkable. If Gandhi had lived the way he did and spent his entire life in a small village, he would be no less extraordinary. I’ve seen a quote of his, “My life is my message,” in multiple places around Ahmedabad, which, to me, sums up what I’m trying to say. He was able to live a meaningful life, and his achievements flowed out of that. So often the outside world appears to be incompatible with whatever peace I can find internally. How can someone be truly virtuous and at the same time stand to live in a world with so much suffering? For instance, state-sponsored torture is something that seems so empty of meaning that any religious experiences I’ve had in my life seem hollow. Gandhi’s Ashram was a very comforting place for me because it was the home of a man who was able to apply his ideals to hsi life so thoroughly.
A room in Gandhi’s house with a spinning wheel and chair.
Max Baird is a graduate of Bard College in New York and worked with ITSA as a Workshop Leader in 2011.