In reference to his narrative, discuss the meaning of Gandhi's quote of “A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.”

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Gandhi's stress on transforming the spiritual configuration of human beings as being critical for any social or political change is evident in his quotation about how one's thoughts underscore one's actions.  For Gandhi, I don't think he would see a fundamental difference between "public" and "private."  Such distinction, he would argue, help to cloud the issue of how human beings can transcend what they are into what they can, and moreover, should be.  It is in this where Gandhi's teachings and political actions are seen in an ethical or moral context, as opposed to a strictly political one.  The basic belief in the quote is that human thoughts determine human actions.  If a person embraces violence in a political sense, there is little to stop them from doing so in a personal context.  In much the same way, the quote implies that if one embraces the notion of transcendental love in the subjective, their external actions will reflect that.  For Gandhi, there is no refuge of the private in which one can retreat to evade the responsibility of ensuring that action and thought are interlocking with the latter driving the former.  It is for this reason that Gandhi demanded that his followers embrace thoughts and actions that stressed and enhanced the vision of what India should be as opposed to what is.  Where Gandhi's appeals were most heard and most demonstratively evident were here, in the suggestion that thoughts influence actions.  Therefore, Gandhi was able to suggest that the caste system that enhances injustice can be eradicated if individuals' thoughts mirror their actions.  Accordingly, an individual that believed in the thoughts of equality and justice could not, in good conscience, embrace the caste system.  If the thoughts of justice and honor were intrinsic to an individual in how they perceived women, then there would be actions and policies that advocated for the equality of genders.  In both of these examples, Gandhi's ideas of how the thoughts of the individual influence and drive the actions of the individual became persuasive as not just merely political exercise but spiritual evolution and moral transformation.  In this, Gandhi becomes more than a political leader, but a spiritual one.

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