Philosophy as a discipline presents innovative and logical arguments that have the potential to radically transform the lives of its readers. While the writings and philosophies of Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, Karl Marx, Amartya Sen and others have been transformative and are well known, Mohandas Gandhi can also be considered one among such philosophers.

In fact, scholars such as Akeel Bilgrami, Karuna Mantena, Bhikhu Parekh and others consider Gandhi’s writings philosophical. In terms of leading an ethical life, Gandhi’s writings inspire a philosophy of persisting, despite personal setbacks and struggles. Gandhi’s remedies can help the average person follow their ethics despite the inevitable frustrations of life.

There are several philosophies or ethics that an average person espouses in life. For example, one may agree with being generous, or pay taxes conscientiously, as part of their ethics or philosophy. However, while life can at times be joyful, it is unfortunately periodically marked by frustration and sadness. Who is not spared by illness of oneself or loved ones or professional and personal setbacks?

A person may want to lead an ethical life, but the personal and undeserved sufferings of life can cause them to be self-oriented and, as a result, forgo following ethics that help others. This realisation is missing in the writings of acclaimed philosophers, like John Rawls, but was highlighted by Gandhi.

The first remedy is humility. Though Gandhi was dedicated to righteous actions, he suffered several personal and professional setbacks. For example, historian Ramachandra Guha highlighted that despite Gandhi’s sacrifices for others, several Indians misunderstood and often publicly castigated him. Gandhi’s philosophy, in the face of this castigation, was that one must be humble and not desire any praise for leading an ethical life.

Praise for following an ethical life is not guaranteed and the desire for praise inevitably causes frustration and erodes the motivation to follow ethical principles. This is reflected in the Bhagavad Gita which says “focus on work and not the results of the work”. Gandhi interpreted this to mean that one must be dedicated to having an ethical life (karma), but not hanker for the result/praise for one’s ethical life.

The second remedy I interpret from Gandhi’s writings is solidarity. One must channel their sufferings to feel closer to those who are similarly suffering: the poor, the sick and the like. One must have solidarity with others, which will placate their own sorrows and bolster, instead of eroding, their ethical life.

The final remedy is patience. Gandhi noticed that his followers were impatient with the inordinate time it took to break the yoke of colonialism. He therefore insisted on patience. Patience could be harnessed with meditation or manual work. While Gandhi’s tools were for freedom fighters, they can apply to the ordinary person as well. This is because the ordinary man often aspires to have an ethical life, but it is inevitable that one will be disheartened by the never-ending suffering in the world. One must learn to have patience: their contribution to creating an ethical world may require time, but they must persevere nevertheless.

Undoubtedly, few can attain the sacrifices towards others, as Gandhi did. However, in their own small ways, several individuals aim to have an ethical life. The best tribute to Gandhi could be the persistence of an ethical life despite the hurdles in this quest.

Neha Tayshete is an Associate Professor at Shiv Nadar University, Chennai. She can be contacted at This essay comprises a small part reformulated from the author’s forthcoming article in the peer-reviewed journal Ethical Perspectives.