What Would Gandhi Do?

By: Ian Desai

Source: New York Times

GANDHI has been all over New York lately. First he appeared at Occupy Wall Street as a patron saint of sorts, inspiring the protest’s nonviolent tactics. (The demonstrators even named a lane for him.) Then he emerged at the Metropolitan Opera as the star of Philip Glass’s opera “Satyagraha.”

But with the Zuccotti Park encampment removed, and the opera closing on Dec. 1, is that it for Gandhi in New York? Or is it worth asking, what would Gandhi do in the world today?

Throughout his life, Gandhi was preoccupied with putting universal morals into practice. In doing so, he attempted to dissolve the division between ideas and action. This blend of ideas and action animates Mr. Glass’s “Satyagraha.” During the almost four-hour performance, Gandhi’s career as a young freedom fighter is set in the context of his intellectual debts to Tolstoy, Tagore and above all the Bhagavad Gita.

Along the way, the opera reveals the often-overlooked fact that Gandhi’s accomplishments were enabled by a core group of spirited collaborators amid a larger body of followers. In capturing the political drama of Gandhi’s life, the roots of his intellectual universe, and his reliance on the community he led, “Satyagraha” gives us a richer vision of Gandhi than most contemporary portraits of the Mahatma.

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Categories: Asia, India, United States

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