Bernard Shaw and Gandhi - Vegetarianism and other similar traits

George Bernard

Regardless  of  where  the  rivers   originate, they  in  their   long  journey,  altogether  follow  different  paths  and  terrains, but  their  ultimate  point  of  confluence  is  the  sea, where  their arduous journeys  end.  So are  the  various religions  and  great   like-minded  leaders  who choose  different  methodology  and  strive hard for  a  common  goal - welfare of the humanity.

In  this  respect, the  great  personalities  of  the 20th century - Mahatma Gandhi, ''an apostle of

Lal Salaam -
Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948)

non-violence''  and  George Bernard Shaw, ''the voice of  the  voiceless'' of labor classes of  the  British society, surprisingly  share  similar  traits. Hence, among world  personalities, they stand  apart  and  remain  immortal  figures - shinning stars  in  the  firmament along  with a  host  of  remarkable  human  beings like  Abe Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther king, Jr (the list goes on).
Through  out  his  life  never  had  Gandhi  advocated  violence,  for  he  knew   very  well,  ''violence  begets  violence'' and  the  net result  is zilch! Definitely,  one  will  end  up  in  a  blind  alley.
 As  a  young  lawyer  in  South Africa,  in  the  early part  of  20th  century, his  idea  of non-violence  and  strict  adherence  to  the  moral principles of  satyagraha (non- cooperation) became  his powerful tools (which became  handy  during  India's  freedom struggle)  to  fight  against  the tyrannical  leaders of  apartheid  South  Africa  who  classified people  on  the  basis  of  their skin  color  and  racially  segregated  them. His  political  methodology  had  a  great  impact  on South Africa  that  had touched the conscience  of  every  moral  white human being world  over.

Shaw, like  Gandhi, was  a  true  believer in non- violence - killing  animals  as well  as  people.  He was  against war. During his tour in India in January, 1933,  meeting  the  media  in Bombay, about  the  looming  world  war, Shaw said,'' would have the advantage of wiping out  several millions. War  is  the  thing  people  get enthusiastic  about.  It is  a  curious  thing, people whom  you  admire  most  are  people  who  kill most. One  reason  why people  not  admire  me  or  Gandhi  is  we  have not  killed  anybody. If Gandhi  were  to  kill six million people, he  will at once  become a great hero.'' However,  Shaw  was  against disarmament. "If you disarm  them, they rearm themselves"
Caricature - George Bernard ShawCartoonStock
Both  Gandhi  and  Shaw  were  advocates  of vegetarianism  and  remained  vegetarian through out life. To both of them  Vegetarianism also  played a  key role i n  their  humanitarian  spiritual development. Both  of them  had  long innings - healthy life  because  of  vegetarianism. Incidentally Gandhi  was  fond  of  peanuts  and  preferred  goat's milk  to cow's milk. Shaw  hated  beef eaters. When Shaw  was  shown  Western style eateries in Bombay, he  immediately  remarked, ''Oh, they   are  the  place where  men and women eat animals.''  Shaw became a  vegetarian  in his  early  twenties  after  listening  to  a lecture  by H.F.Lester. He  strongly believed  that  Vegetarianism  would  positively improve  the  quality  of  human  life   and  get  rid of  the vestiges  of  inherent  animal instincts in humans.

Gandhi,  once  tried  beef  eating  in  order  to  be   strong. while  studying  laws in London, he remained a  vegetarian  and  never tried  western food. To Bernard Shaw, vegetarian  food  was  good  for spiritual  orientation  and  clear  thinking. “But death is better than cannibalism'.

 In  the  early  part  of  20th  century  and   much before, untouchability  was  practiced  across India and  at  one  point of  time  it became  a  scrooge. People  doing  menial  jobs  were  

Bernard Shaw(1856-1950).inspirationalquotes.galleryAdd

marginalized and underwent  untold sufferings. Gandhi  was  very upset  and  told  in  no  uncertain  words  that untouchabilty  should  go. He  called  the  untouchables ''Harijans'' (God's people).

Shaw, on  the  other  hand,  very much  resented  the presence  of  classes  in  the  English  society. The labor  classes  who  were  being  treated  like untouchables. The  workers  were  living  in  abject poverty  and  in  poor  living  quarters - something like  ghettos. While  the  English  aristocrats and  royals with  palatial  palaces were   wallowing in  money and  luxury. Shaw  hated  the squandering  of  public  money for  the luxury of eccentric, arrogant   aristocrats  with  fancy  titles  and  the  vast disparity  between the poor  labor force  and  the rich. To him  ''The  higher  classes  were  least enlightened.'' Though  he  was   not  a  communist, he  was  a  staunch  supporter  of  labor. To  him, in    Parliament  democracy,  people  talk (rather yap) a lot  and  do  nothing  for  the  ordinary  people. 

Both  Gandhi  and  Shaw  had  great  admiration  for each  other.  When Gandhi attended the Second Round Table  Conference  in March 1931  in  London, Shaw visited  him  and  hailed him  as ''Mahatma Major,” while  calling  himself “Mahatma Minor.''   Shaw wrote to Nancy Astor, ''He is not a crook; he is  a  saint . .under  the  covenant  of grace. He  described  Gandhi  as  a  charming  man  and  exceptionally  clear-headed. During his stay in Bombay ( that time Gandhi was in Yervada jail in Pune)  Shaw said of Gandhi, ''the second  greatest  man  in  the  world!'' However,  Shaw  was against Gandhi's 'fast  unto  death' method of drawing the Government's attention. He said, '' If I see Gandhi again I would tell him to give it up (fasting).

 Many surveys say that consumption of non-vegetarian food - beef, goats, pigs  etc is not conducive  to  good  health  and  our  body constitution  is  not fit for it and  people who are vegetarians  live longer without any major medical problems. Bernard Shaw and Gandhiji, noted vegetarians,  not only give inspiration to the people who love natural, vegetable food and shun animal killing, but  also  to  the  people  who  believe  in equality  of  men  and  women  and  human  dignity.

 Archibald Henderson, George Bernard Shaw: Man of the Century (N.Y.: Appleton-Century-Crofts,

 Louis Fischer, The Life of Mahatma Gandhi (N.Y.: Harper & Bros., 1950), 280.

 M.K.Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth (Ahmedabad: Navjivan Publishing House, 1931),

GBS by  N. Salivateeswaran, Bhavan's journel. oct. 28, 1962 page 100 to 106.