5 Things I Learn From Gandhi

Gandhi-d

First, two small stories:

#1: A woman walks with her son many miles and days to come to Gandhi. She is very worried about her son’s health because he is eating too much sugar. She comes to Gandhi and says, “please, sir, can you tell my son to stop eating sugar.”

Gandhi looks at her and thinks for a bit and finally says, “ok, but not today. Bring him back in two weeks.”

She’s disappointed and takes her son home. Two weeks later she makes the journey again and goes to Gandhi with her son.

Gandhi says to the boy, “you must stop eating sugar. It’s very bad for you.”

The boy has such respect for Gandhi that he stops and lives a healthy life.

The woman is confused and asks him, “Gandhi, please tell me: why did you want me to wait two weeks  to bring back my son.”

Gandhi said, “Because before I could tell your son to stop eating sugar. I had to stop eating sugar first.”

#2: One of Gandhi’s financial backers once said, “it’s very expensive to keep Gandhi in poverty.” Consequently, I suspect the financial backers felt they had some influence on Gandhi. But money means nothing to a spiritual leader.

One time Gandhi said to a group of his backers, “I need to set aside one hour a day to do meditation.”

One of the backers said, “oh no, you can’t do that! You are too busy, Gandhi!”

Gandhi said, “Well, then, I now need to set aside two hours a day to do meditation.”

Five lessons from this:

A)     Nobody can tell you what to do. No matter what they pay you. No matter what obligations you feel you owe them. Every second defines yourself. Be who you are, not who anyone else is. An entrepreneur, for instance, has investors, customers, partners, employees, competitors. Everyone wants their inputs heard. But only you can act to change the world with your ideas.

B)      If he was, in fact too busy, then it meant he was not devoting enough time to his spiritual life. Hence his backer inadvertently convinced him he needed two hours a day to devote to silence and contemplation. It is through silence that sound, activity, action erupts. It was through nothingness that the Big Bang and all creation, erupted. It is only through contemplation, that the hidden shades of reality can be seen and right action can be taken. Gandhi knew this, and singlehandedly brought down an empire. It’s only through stillness that one can be creative.

C)      I don’t give any advice on things I don’t know about first hand. Sometimes I find myself in a political conversation and I realize, “you know what. I don’t actually know anything here.” And I give up. Or when someone asks me a question on my Twitter Q&As held every Thursday between 3:30 and 4:30 PM EST, I don’t say anything unless I have personally experienced or seen the advice I am recommending.

D)      Sugar is bad. And since most processed carbs break down into sugar, it’s all bad for you if you want to live healthy. Almost every disease out there comes from extra weight. The extra weight comes from the sugars that the body breaks down so quickly it forgets to digest.

E)      Nothing is more important than the cultivation of yourself. So many people think they will save the world if they defeat “them” where “them” is some evil force  that is bringing the world down. But once you divide the world into categories, into an “us” versus “them” then you immediately become the “them” and you lose touch with who you really are. Society is made up of individuals. The only way to improve society is to come at it from a place of deep satisfaction. The only way to do that is to spend long periods of time just being silent. Ask yourself, “these thoughts that I am thinking, what is generating them” in order to find out who the real you is. They are not your thoughts. That is just the biological brain dancing in front of you. Who is the “you” they are dancing in front of. Then you can save the world.

Gandhi knew he could only be effective if he identified with the real “me”, which was deeper than the body named “Gandhi” that was supposedly saving the world. The world is made to be filled with strife. India is a mess now. No matter what Gandhi did. But Gandhi provided a beacon while he lived.

Both of these stories are about the same thing, even though they seem completely different. Gandhi once said, “You must first be the change you want to see in this World”.

Every day I try hard to live by that quote.  I hope you can also.

Read More: How To Be The Luckiest Guy On the Planet in 4 Easy Steps. 

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  • kamalravikant

    This one belongs in your hall of fame, James.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Thanks Kamal!

  • PlinytheElder

    “Almost every disease out there comes from extra weight” ……and stress.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jordanphoenix Jordan Phoenix

    “Nobody can tell you what to do. No matter what they pay you. No matter what obligations you feel you owe them.”

    This one insight changed the trajectory of my entire life several years ago. Feeling that we have to do something stems from the fear of losing something else that we are scared we can’t live without. Desperation is a state of mind that we create and only we can personally remove. We need to accept that death is coming for us at some point, and not fear it, in order to live in true alignment with who we really are.

  • Vinay

    Absolutely brilliant article.. I loved it :)

  • http://twitter.com/harshthakkar harshthakkar

    Great insights …
    ‘many people think they will save the world if they defeat “them” where “them” is some evil force that is bringing the world down.’ … the ‘evil forces’ are inside us – ‘greed’, ‘anger’, ‘jealousy’ – to name a few … so, we need not defeat anyone else – but just evil forces within us – and the world is a much better place :)

  • Priscilla P Wood

    Why did I do this to myself? I typed your name in the browser -on purpose- and voila! here I am. After a vacation from your blog I’m back! I’m dreading what’s coming, addiction, James, you’re like Meth.

    • priscilla

      Sorry for the double post, feel free to delete, I was playing with my Discuss account.

  • http://www.PriscillaPWood.com/ Priscilla P. Wood

    Why did I do this to myself? I typed your name in the browser -on purpose- and voila! here I am. After a vacation from your blog I’m back! I’m dreading what’s coming, addiction, James, you’re like Meth.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      You’re back!

      • Anon

        “James, you’re like Meth.”

        Is there anything a man would rather hear from a woman? :-)

  • chimera.swa

    yes, we Indians should now start learning from Gandhi. He did help in bringing Independence to India – that was the beacon that he showed. But you are right, now India is in a mess. we need another such beacon. Good lessons from a great leader.

  • Srikrishna

    India is a mess now. I wonder how you came to the conclusion. Failing to adopt western style of living seems to be a crime now. If we are in a mess, it is because we gave up our dharma and started aping something else, which is not ours. News papers report that, more than 30% of people in India have no access to latrine, I would say we do not need, we do not shit in our homes. I came from a village, where we never had a latrine, in fact we never felt we needed one. The urban middle class in India( which I hate to core) wants their opinions to be accepted as facts.

    I like Gandhi for the way he experimented with his life. He experimented on everything from dealing with Truth to finding alternative to milk.

    There is little secret hidden in our mythology , whenever the good guys needed to kill bad people , the good guys are sent to forest on some pretext over a period of 12-14 years ( this happens in both Bharatha and Ramayana) where they will discover themselves and truly courageous, What I read is if a person speaks truth nothing but truth for about 12 – 14 years the world will believe what he says and shall follow him. I guess Gandhi stumbled on that and succeeded in that experiment. You too can try that :-)

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      It’s just my opinion but I wish India had remain truly unified rather than dividing into three separate countries, all with ethnic strife along it’s borders. The despair and destruction in Kashmir alone undoes a lot of the good that Gandhi tried to bring.

      • Srikrishna

        Before the British came there was never a country called India. From Burma in East to Afghanistan in west and from Kashmir in North to Srilanka in East the different countries followed SAME dharma. It is the DHARMA that makes us united not geography or language. Even when British were leaving the so called India had 560 independent provinces. These are integrated to form India. We have 25 states , which do not speak same language, which have different cultures. It is like writing one program in different programming languages Basic, Java, C++, .Net, Python, Ruby etc…and trying to compile and run.

        Kashmir is a different issue, the state was acceded to India, but Pakistan invaded at the time of accession and India retaliated, some fools still think they can be part of Pakistan even today and create problems . Khanyar Rozabal, tomb in Kashmir is believed to be the tomb of Jesus. Interestingly the DNA of many kashmiris is similar to DNA of Israelite brethren.

      • http://www.facebook.com/TraderGang Trader Gang

        Destruction in Kashmir caused by dirty Pakis is out of scope..well I’m sure many of your followers support Hilary Clinton who tends to frequently fly to Pakistan build relations.  We get 60 years of independence but no respect from an article.  Gandhi wasnt allowed inside of a church bc of what he looked like…that’s the only thing I learned .    Keep judging and you are no different from the dirty pakis who destroy temples.  I’d pour petroleum on a British guy to set things off the right for the next 60 years.

    • Raj

      As a fellow Indian, I got to say this is a ridiculous post. Especially, the example you chose to describe your point (which is in itself pretty idiotic). If you want to live in the stone age nobody is stopping you, India is a free country after all. Also, feel free to be the change you want to see in the world and stop using a toilet:).

      Since you seem to not like western style of living, may I ask you…why are you using the Internet? Also, how about the computer? I could go on, please stop being a hypocrite and drop that holier than thou attitude.

      Everyone, don’t read this kind of nonsense and assume a lot of Indians think this way.

      • jai hind

        suprabhat MR. RAJ….its not about being hypocrite…..western style here means we r adobting cloths….eating rituals…..wedding rituals….even nude entwertainment without adobting their infrastructure or higher education……
        we r best in buying brand but poorest in disposing and dumping waste……we r dressed in western brand and cosmetics jst to bark good ‘charitra’ supposed to others only.

    • jai hind

      u’r right shri srikrishna….thats what i wanted to share………..
      today we world’s largest investors & infrastructure in meditation-yoga-spiritual sector….recently patanjali has initiated research in vedas and geeta for its proven methodology.
      america has accepted d power of our dharmic granth,therby gave 10 acres of land to research in medical benefit of mantras and slokas.land given to rishi bhramkkumar swamiji.
      anyone boredom of city pacing and pale life,come here to heavenly solace.
      so,dont shrink ur nose by facing d mess of unorganised colonies and cities devoid of coordinated humanly action.
      so dont mess with us all western chained people

  • srikrishna

    India is a mess now. I wonder how you came to the conclusion. Failing to adopt western style of living seems to be a crime now. If we are in a mess, it is because we gave up our dharma and started aping something else, which is not ours. News papers report that, more than 30% of people in India have no access to latrine, I would say we do not need, we do not shit in our homes. I came from a village, where we never had a latrine, in fact we never felt we needed one. The urban middle class in India( which I hate to core) wants their opinions to be accepted as facts.

    I like Gandhi for the way he experimented with his life. He experimented on everything from dealing with Truth to finding alternative to milk.

    There is little secret hidden in our mythology , whenever the good guys needed to kill bad people , the good guys are sent to forest on some pretext over a period of 12-14 years ( this happens in both Bharatha and Ramayana) where they will discover themselves and truly courageous, What I read is if a person speaks truth nothing but truth for about 12 – 14 years the world will believe what he says and shall follow him. I guess Gandhi stumbled on that and succeeded in that experiment. You too can try that :-)……….

  • nitish dutta

    nice article man,.,

    it will help me a lot .and many such peoples ….

    i think every one should do a bit for a better,good,and a safe change in the society….

    and i am happy to say u are doing well with your part… :-)

    regards

  • nitish dutta

    nice article man,.,

    it will help me a lot .and many such peoples ….

    i think every one should do a bit for a better,good,and a safe change in the society….

    and i am happy to say u are doing well with your part… :-)

    regards..

  • Subtle_Tyranny

    Someone’s getting a little lazy, perhaps? ’10 things I learned from..’ has now become ‘5 things I learned from…’. And soon you will just be tweeting names: ‘Gandhi’. ‘Gaddafi’. ‘Gonorrhea’!

    • http://www.PriscillaPWood.com/ Priscilla P. Wood

      I hate to admit this but your comment is hilarious, especially the tweeting gonorrhea part! thanks for the laughs

      • Anon

        Personally, I can’t wait to read “10 Things I Learned From Gonorrhea.”

    • Trader gang

      u weirdo…Shoot yourself

  • jlcollinsnh

    In a novel I read many years ago and the name of which I cannot recall, there is a wonderful exchange between a mayor and the police chief. The mayor is trying to influence the cop’s investigation and the cop is refusing to go along.

    “Don’t you realize I can fire you?” says the mayor.

    “That’s true,” says the chief. “But you can’t tell me what to do.”

  • 4thaugust1932

    1. Fasting is a cheap tool/trick invented by Gandhi to insult (not defeat) British.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/09/lyvita-gomes-illinois-wom_n_1194437.html
    2. Gandhi betrayed independence of Muslims/Christians/Anglo-Indians/Sikh/SC/ST communities in 4th August 1932 Round Table Conference.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communal_Award

  • rondo smith

    If you want to know more about Ghandi this is a fantastic essay

    http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/the-gandhi-nobody-knows/

  • SM

    I wonder what formed your opinion that “india is a mess”, because that is a uncharacteristic generalisation of an entire nation of over 1 billion opinions.

    lets correct that, if i may, india is not a mess. there are certain aspects of india that are mess, like politics or something else. you get the idea. with your unique perspective and massive following, i am appalled that you could write something like that without clarifying the reference, because lets be honest there are not many people who actually wait to think about what they just read (and blindly take someone else’s opinion to be theirs – exactly what this article is telling them not to do). so i am afraid that after reading this, being how lazy we are today not many will actually change how they act or behave but they will for sure remember that “india is a mess”.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I agree. I get just disturbed by the ethnic strife along the borders. But I guess that is common all over.

  • P. Venkatraman

    Great Write up and very well put. There are so many, SO MANY anecdotes of Gandhi and each one of them is amazing

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Yes, I agree. A book can easily be compiled of the anecdotes and their meanings.

  • 4thaugust1932
  • http://twitter.com/priteshdesai Pritesh Desai

    Gandhiji was truly a remarkable man, he wasn’t born great, rather he became great.
    His ideas which seemed absurd at first gradually led India to freedom.
    A country which was under foreign rule for over 250 yrs became free, without firing a single bullet…. truly amazing.

    • http://www.PriscillaPWood.com/ Priscilla P. Wood

      “he wasn’t born great, rather he became great.” Wise words. We tend to idolize greatness yet we are all capable of becoming great.

  • rocky

    thank you for the reminder.Silence is golden, getting more difficult to achieve in our current world , where noise rules most of the time

  • 4thaugust1932

    Gandhi betrayed Independence of Christians/Anglo-Indians/Sikh/SC/ST communities in 4th August 1932 Round Table Conference.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communal_Award

  • John

    A few years ago I realized that no matter what I did someone would be upset – sisters, mother, father, children, boss, co-workers, etc. So, just do what you think is right because the fallout will be the same.

  • http://www.facebook.com/laura.schopen Laura Dudenbostel

    well….I love you… but is anything “bad”… I mean… Gandhi could have just done that in service to the mother. I know of a story of another teacher ingesting heroine .. it was done to prove a point that nothing has power over us.. because the Mind is really in charge of the body.. another thing Gandhi showed in some ways. Yes, a bullet seemed to kill him… but what of the spirit of Gandhi that lives here? :-)

  • http://www.tradefx4lifelongincome.com/ Derek Lim

    I bet Harilal Gandhi learn lesson A from his dad too and he must be thinking nobody can tell me what to do not even my dad, Gandhi.

  • DesiGuru

    Here are five things about Gandhi which should drastically change your worldview. Drastically if you truly are an original thinker who is always wary of his own biases.

    1. While Gandhi was the leader of India, 2-5 million people died in the Bengal Famine in one year which was simply because the British stole the food away in full knowledge of everyone. Any other great world leader who had so many people die in their watch?
    2. Less than 1000 British at best were at all times managin India. Was non violence the best way to win independence for 350 million people from 1000 British ? The only way the British controlled India was through the Indian army with all Indian men. The British at all times were more afraid of a violent revolution than a non violent one.
    3. Another 1 million people died during partition which mainly happened because it was done on British terms as they wanted to run as fast as possible for their own sake. Gandhi still a great leader/man ?
    4. Gandhi made sure Muslims had equal rights in India but the only Muslims who did not go to Pakistan were those who could afford to do so. The Muslims as a group were always exclusivists and wanted Shariah if they were in a majority. Today the remaining Muslims are creating havoc and it is only a matter of time till the next civil war level crisis and millions of more deaths. A mess with the seeds laid by a brainless pacifist ?
    5. It was the British that started the Indian National Congress (Yes! Gandhi’s party and rulers of India till today) to make sure they could control the Indian freedom movement and keep it non violent and make it as a vent for the intellectual’s frustration hoping to keep any violence under control. Gandhi was indeed exactly what the British wanted. They kept him alive, secretly encouraged him and made sure they used India’s resources for world war 2. And when they realized they had enough land (Aussie, Canadian, et al) in their control but not enough people to occupy the value of their Indian holding was no longer worth the risk. Especially since trade would anyway continue if they left in peace.

    Anyone who still thinks highly of Gandhi after researching the above facts is simply someone whose brain is no longer open to new ideas and thoughts. In any case in less than 50 – 100 years Gandhi will be considered as one of the greatest lessons of human stupidity. I guarantee it. I would bet my life on this.

  • SC

    James, read your book. Wanted to point out about #1 I am somewhat intrigued by the story you have posted about sugar and Gandhi. An exactly similar story with Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, has been well-known for at least the last 14 centuries, with authentic citations of narrators. It is possible that Gandhi, a person who had studied the life of the Prophet of Islam very thoroughly and was a great admirer, might have followed the Prophet’s example before advising the little boy.

  • http://www.5toolgroup.com/ Jay Oza

    James,

    Excellent post.

    I hope it is ok to post two links that I think you and your readers may like about Gandhi.
    First one has to do with pivoting. Gandhi had to pivot to create a mass movement.
    http://bit.ly/1f0waX3

    The second one has to do with personal marketing. Gandhi was a great marketer.
    http://bit.ly/1oiJ8SW

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Jay, these are great. Thanks so much for posting these links and contributing to the conversation.