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Asian Civilization: “Gandhi: A Spiritual Biography” (Essay Sample)


Essay #1: Arvind Sharma, Gandhi: A Spiritual Biography (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2013)
Instructions: This assignment is designed to help you master the skill of reading secondary historical sources. For this essay, you will be analyzing a particular type of secondary source: historical biographies. Students must begin by consulting the document, “How to Read a Secondary Source,”.
Looking at the STAMP technique in the document mentioned above, try to answer the questions about the book's Thesis, Argument and to a lesser extent Motive. That is, begin by identifying the thesis, and then analyze the author's argument(s). What is the argument that Sharma is making? Is it convincing? How is the big argument (thesis) structured into little arguments? Is the reasoning valid? Does the evidence seem to support the conclusions? Can you detect the underlying assumptions in this argument? What are they? Why does he call it a “spiritual biography”? Lastly, if there is space in your paper and it is possible, consider the author's possible motives. Why did he write this book?
1. Papers must be at least 1,000 words (approximately 4 to 5 pages) in length; they must also be typed, double-spaced, and use 12-pt. font.
2. In the upper left-hand corner of the first page, write your name, followed by the assignment date on the next line, followed by the name of the class on the line below that. Begin writing your paper on the same page below the course name after skipping one line.
3. A new paragraph should be indented; do not skip an extra space between paragraphs.
4. Page numbers must be included.
5. The questions or prompts for the essay are designed to allow you to focus solely on the historical biography you were assigned without the need to consult other sources. HOWEVER…
6. Any information you get from another source that is not common knowledge or general historical knowledge must be cited. You must acknowledge the sources of quotations, paraphrases, arguments, and specific references that you use. However, you do not need to cite sources for information that most people would generally consider common knowledge (e.g., the fact that Lincoln won the Presidential election of 1860). Conversely, you must cite your source for any claim that appears to contradict common knowledge—for example, that Lincoln won the southern states in that election (since he wasn't even on the ballot in most southern states, this claim is controversial and must be supported). And you must cite matters of interpretation, such as an author's ideas for why Lincoln appealed to so many voters. If you are in doubt about citing "common knowledge" information, err on the side of giving a reference; even unintended failure to cite your sources constitutes technical plagiarism.
7. The only acceptable citation style for sources other than the book you were assigned is Chicago Style. For information about how to cite using this style (use the menu on the right to see models for different types of sources). Please use endnotes instead of footnotes, and you do not need a “Works Cited” page.
8. Every paper should have many citations to the book you were assigned. Without citations to specific page numbers, we have no way to check the references you are making to the author's ideas or arguments. Given how many times you will need to cite this specific work, you can just put the page number in parenthesis in the text. This applies to quotations, paraphrases, arguments, and specific references. Sometimes the author revisits an argument or issue, in which case you should include multiple page numbers separated by commas (7, 46), or talks at length about a single issue over several pages, in which case you should include a page range (84-89); occasionally, both would be called for (14-15, 162).
9. All papers will be submitted electronically through SafeAssign on the course website (UBLearns) in the Assignments folder. Late submissions will be penalized two points for each day they are late unless there is a documented and valid reason for failing to meet the deadline.


Asian civilization: An analysis of “Gandhi: A Spiritual Biography”


There is an array of biographies written by different authors including an autobiography by Gandhi himself, which focus on his political, economic, social and his familial disposition. Arvind Sharma in Gandhi: A Spiritual Biography takes a different approach, assessing the spiritual nurturing and attribution of Gandhi and the manner it contributed to Gandhi leading his country to political liberation. Arvind Sharma reviews Gandhi’s inner world and how it impacted his decisions and actions (Kannan 2015, 1). Sharma delves into the life of Gandhi as a child to identify what informed his belief in rebirth and Karma, understanding of freedom and tyranny, synchrony of religion and morals and his leadership qualities. Thus, the thesis argued in the book is that Gandhi’s leadership and strength were founded on spirituality, thus worth exploring.

Sharma structures the book in two different parts, which evaluate Gandhi’s spirituality from two views. The first part of the book examined Gandhi’s spirituality from his autobiographical writing and expressed messages and actions. This part also reviews his public speaking and events which gave insight into his spirituality and his motivation. Sharma reiterates Gandhi’s spirituality understanding of himself through different narrative styles and posing questions that prompt the introduction of a new idea. Such instances include Gandhi’s autobiographical expression, “God in his infinite mercy protected me from myself” reflected in the book contextually, as Sharma explains the ideology of Gandhi and his intuition (Sharma 2013, 19). Sharma examines the Hindu understanding which illuminates the importance of spirituality in the adult life of Gandhi.

Sharma is not limited to a Hinduism perspective but explores other religions such as Islam in a manner which expounds the understanding of spirituality in the book to elucidate on the theme. Sharma quotes Islamic ideologies such as God turning his face towards the people. The quotation serves a core function in explaining some of the recurrent beliefs in Gandhi’s life such as reincarnation. Readers who are not conversant with the Hindu culture are also able to get the scope of Sharma’s writing by explaining the different Hindu phrases expressed in the book. This achieved by offering a contextual explanation of Hindu theories such as “Dharma” and “Satya,” which the author elucidates as the spiritual differences that thrived in Gandhi’s beliefs such as “even hostility towards God can lead to salvation” (Sharma 2013, 23).

While Gandhi contributed to the liberation of India, he also provided global leadership with contemporary ideologies of leadership, which natured politics in different places where he traveled, such as South Africa. With his religious conviction being predominantly centered in moral teaching of Hinduism, Sharma identifies Gandhi as a contemporary traveler, who employed Christian and other religious influence such as Islam to explore his own Hindu beliefs (Toit 1996, 643). However, he remained skeptical of the missionaries who ridiculed Hindu beliefs, arg

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