Many times in his writings, Gandhi talks about the profound effect that reading the works of Leo Tolstoy had on him as a young law student in London.
Tarak Nath Das, a leader of the early Indian independence movement and an advocate of violent revolution, wrote Count Tolstoy asking him for his support. Tolstoy responded with his famous "Letter to a Hindoo," in which he advocated nonviolent resistance based on principles of universal love.
The letter intrigued Gandhi, who by this time was a lawyer in South Africa, and it inspired him to write the world famous author. He asked for permission to translate the letter.
The two started a friendly correspondence in which they discussed religion, poverty, suicide, war, the practicalities of nonviolent resistance, and philosophy. It is interesting to hear a young Gandhi trying to make sense of the world. Tolstoy's final letter before his death was to Gandhi.
Before moving back to India to join the "Home Rule" independence movement, Gandhi set up "Tolstoy Farm" in South Africa, a cooperative colony based on simple living.
It is amazing that this mentoring relationship, which altered, for the better, the course of 20th century history, is rarely discussed in history class.
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