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Mahatma Gandhi drew inspiration from beliefs in both Hinduism and Jainism (via his devout mother); these included vegetarianism and the ahimsa, “do no harm,” concept. He was also influenced by Buddhism and Christianity.

In terms of texts, he referenced the Bhagavad Gita (including Edwin Arnold's English verse translation) and the "Sermon on the Mount." Gandhi also drew on the foundations of the British legal system, in which he had been trained as an attorney. He was also influenced by several literary figures, including Russia's Leo Tolstoy; England's John Ruskin, particularly his essay "Unto the Last"; and the US transcendentalists, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Although his reading of Henry David Thoreau's essay on civil disobedience influenced his political strategies, Gandhi insisted that he had developed the concept of satyagraha, Sanskrit for "truth-force," before learning of Thoreau's work.

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One of the people who inspired the Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi was the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, with whom Gandhi corresponded for many years. This correspondence is contained in Letters from One: Correspondence (and more) of Leo Tolstoy and Mohandas Gandhi. Tolstoy was a believer in the power of non-violence in resistance movements, and he rejected belief systems built on violence. Tolstoy also believed in the essential power of love over the ideologies of violence that many leaders subscribed to, and these beliefs influenced the way Gandhi led his resistance movement against British rule.

In addition, Gandhi was inspired by Raychandbhai, a Jain poet and philosopher. He was Gandhi's spiritual guide, and the two corresponded when Gandhi was living in South Africa. Ruskin, the British art historian, also influenced Gandhi. Ruskin's book Unto this Last had a profound effect on Gandhi. The book spoke of the moral unjustness of economic inequality and the unspiritual nature of modern methods of production. Ruskin believed work had a spiritual component and that modern work was often unjust and dehumanizing. Ruskin's ideas had a profound impact on Gandhi's economic ideas.

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