Who was Thoreau? Impact of Thoreau's philosophy on Gandhi

How did I come to know about Thoreau?

I was reading about an American pacifist - Richard Barlett Gregg when I came to know that Martin Luther King jr was influenced by Richard's pacifism. Martin Luther King jr was inspired particularly by 5 books. Those are as follows; 

  1. My Experiments with Truth by Mahatma Gandhi
  2. Gandhi biography by Fischer 
  3. Civil Disobedience by Thoreau 
  4. Rauschenbusch on the social gospel
  5. Power of non-violence by Richard B Gregg 

Gandhi and Gregg are closely related. I already know much about them. So I decided to find out about Thoreau. I did a bit of research about him.

Henry David Thoreau was born in 1817 in Boston, USA. He attended Harvard in 1833. He was influenced by Ralph Waldo Emerson. 

He wanted to learn about transcendentalism, that is spirituality. To practice spirituality, he decided to live alone in a forest. 

In 1845, Thoreau rented space from his Guru, Ralph Waldo Emerson. He writes about his experience in the book Walden. 

The space where Thoreau rented a piece of land was beside a pond named Walden. The title of the book Walden was inspired by the name of the pond. 

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In 1954, Thoreau published a book about his experiments in the woods. Thoreau became a naturalist and minimalist. He would argue that it is relatively easier to walk a distance of 30 miles than to earn money to travel the same distance by train. It will take more hours of work to earn money for the fare. 

Before publishing 'Walden', Thoreau published a historic essay. The same essay that Martin Luther King junior was fond of reading. Thoreau published the essay 'civil disobedience in the year 1849. 

The essay was inspired by Thoreau's experience with the US government. 

Thoreau was an anarchist. He would consider no ruler over him. He was against the government's policy for tax collection. He disobeyed the law of tax collection. 

Thoreau was a pacifist. He did not want to see violence among people. He considered every living being the same. 

Therefore to stop communal riots, Mexican American war and slavery, he refused to pay taxes. Thoreau did not want the government to promote violence with the money collected from the innocent public. 

In the year 1845, James k Polk was elected as the President of America. He acted as a catalyst to promote violence and division among the people. 

In July 1846, Thoreau did not pay poll tax duty, as a representation not to follow the government blindly. For this mutiny, Thoreau was put into prison for one night. He was released on bail. 

During the mid-1800s, the Mexican-American war and slavery were at their top. 

Thoreau wanted to stop this. He fought the government differently, in a nonviolent manner, which is termed civil disobedience. Inspired by the same, Mahatma Gandhi also started a movement in 1930 in Bharat. 

Thoreau disliked technology!

Thoreau was not a fan of technology. He would call technology a distraction. He says that technology cannot provide happiness. 

Technology is a distraction because it is used in violence. And the money necessary for technology advancements come from the common man's pocket. 

According to Thoreau, technological advancements are a waste of one's time and money, as they are often used against the public. The ones which are used for the benefit of the public are mere illusions.  

Thus, Thoreau played an important role in American political philosophy.

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