Take the 2-minute tour ×
History Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for historians and history buffs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I know that Gandhi was involved in the civil rights movement in South Africa during he beginning of the 20th century, but was there a specific person, or group, that he learned how to protest through non-violent means?

share|improve this question
You may find this article relevant. –  user833 May 14 '12 at 16:06
Jesus Christ? history.stackexchange.com/questions/9974/… –  Tom Au Nov 12 '13 at 21:56
The correct answer: From the culture, 'Sanathana Dharma'(Hinduism) which taught "Ahimsa Paramo Dharma" and originated long ago before any other culture or religion. –  AskingStory Nov 29 '13 at 6:04

4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Largely from Hinduism and Jainism. Adding onto this was his exposure to Buddhist and Theosophical thought while he was a student in London. His eventual philosophy of Satyagraha came to fruition from his experiences in South Africa.

share|improve this answer
I'd never heard the Jainisim angle (although it makes sense). What I had heard was that it was the influence of Thoreau and Tolstoy. So I went looking for some references. If you read through en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghandi#Influences , it turns out both are right. –  T.E.D. May 14 '12 at 6:06
Gandhi was born Hindu. Not Jain. His family religion is Hinduism. –  moonstar2001 Aug 28 '13 at 10:51
Totally misleading answer, and another example for twisting the facts based only on opinions in HISTORY.se. This is very dangerous to the whole community.. –  AskingStory Nov 29 '13 at 6:06
As others have pointed out, this overstates the facts; Ghandi was raised Hindu, with Jain influences. See influences –  Mark C. Wallace Dec 2 '13 at 12:33
Valid points about the imperfectness of this answer. But I want to make a point that, Jainism cannot be seen in the contradiction with Hinduism. Correct me if I am wrong, Jainism, like the other Indian religion, came out of Hinduism only. And it's true that Jainism talks about Ahinsa (non violence) like no other religion does! –  Rahul Gupta Dec 5 '13 at 9:31

From Hinduism into which he was born. He was influenced by Jainism later. Jainism borrowed the concept of "ahimsa" or non-violence from Hinduism. Jains adopted and followed it with much greater rigor.

share|improve this answer
How do we know that Jainism borrowed the concept of non violence from Hinduism? –  Monster Truck Jul 23 '13 at 13:50
The founder of Jainism was born a Hindu and borrowed several Hindu doctrines and attempted to reform them. One of the tenets of Hinduism is "ahimsO paramO dharmaha" meaning "Non-violence is the supreme moral rectitude (to be adopted by all)". Also see wiki.answers.com/Q/Impact_of_jainism –  moonstar2001 Jul 23 '13 at 14:32
Very interesting. I know that the doctrines of karma influenced Buddhism and Jainism and the temple architecture did definitely influence Jain templates but did not know that ahimsa was also a borrowed concept. Do you have any evidence that will prove that "ahimsa paramo dharmaha" is actually a Vedic concept (I believe the term Hindu was not used back then)? –  Monster Truck Jul 24 '13 at 0:07
@monster truck:"Do you have any evidence that will prove that "ahimsa paramo dharmaha" is actually a Vedic concept (I believe the term Hindu was not used back then)?" : It doesn't require a proof actually, when you can read the same in Vedas, what is the need of proof?. And the vedic culture is known as "Sanathana Dharma", which is the real name of Hinduism, You can see discussion on the proposal :Hinduism , discuss.area51.stackexchange.com/questions/11021/… –  AskingStory Nov 29 '13 at 5:54

While Indian traditions have certainly influenced Gandhi very much, one mustn't neglect the large influence that Western (broadly construed) thought had on him. For instance, he was very influenced by Tolstoy.

I am quoting the review of a new book that compares Gandhi to the Stoics:

Sorabji explains that Gandhi's biggest direct inspirations were John Ruskin's Unto this Last (1862), Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God Is Within You (1894), Christ's Sermon on the Mount, and Plato's Apology of Socrates which portrays Socrates as a soldier of truth fearlessly accepting death.

share|improve this answer

From understanding Gundhi learned his protest techniques by the Parihaka in New Zealand who did nonviolent protests before him.

share|improve this answer
Can you offer any evidence/citations/research to support this assertion? –  Mark C. Wallace Jul 2 at 10:52
From that webpage: "In 2003 the Parihaka leaders were recognised post-humously by an international delegation of representatives of Martin Luther King Jnr, Mahatma Gandhi and Daisaku Ikeda for their foundational work and sacrifice as fathers of non-violent action." Something does not sound right there. –  Rajib Jul 2 at 18:55

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.