Mohandas Gandhi is well known as a political activist and pacifist who played a key role in achieving India's independence from Great Britain. Although born in Porbandar, India, to parents of the Vaisya (merchant) caste, he was given a modern education and eventually studied law in London. After returning briefly to India, Gandhi went to South Africa in 1893, where he spent the next 20 years working to secure Indian rights. It was during this time that he experimented with and developed his basic philosophy of life. Philosophically, Gandhi is best known for his ideas of satyagraha (truth-force) and ahimsa (nonharming). Intrinsic to the idea of truth-force is the correlation between truth and being; truth is not merely a mental correspondence with reality but a mode of existence. Hence, the power of the truth is not what one argues for but what one is. He developed this idea in conjunction with the principle of nonviolence, showing in his nationalist activities that the force of truth, expressed nonviolently, can be an irresistible political weapon against intolerance, racism, and social violence. Although his basic terminology and conceptual context were Hindu, Gandhi was impressed by the universal religious emphasis on the self-transformative power of love, drawing his inspiration from Christianity, Western philosophy, and Islam as well.
Thomas Merton (1915-1968) entered the Cistercian Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, following his conversion to Catholicism and was ordained Father M. Louis in 1949. During the 1960s, he was increasingly drawn into a dialogue between Eastern and Western religions and domestic issues of war and racism. In 1968, the Dalai Lama praised Merton for having a more profound knowledge of Buddhism than any other Christian he had known. Thomas Merton is the author of the beloved classic The Seven Storey Mountain.