Role models and moral exemplars

Hindus may look to characters in their sacred texts or saints from their history as role models along with the founders, leaders and teachers of particular traditions. Several examples, both male and female, can be found in other sections of this essay. These include deities, avatars of Vishnu such as Rama, founders of philosophical traditions such as Shankara, founders of sampradayas such as Chaitanya, saints from the modern period such as Ramakrishna, and the many female role models from Gargi in the Upanishads through Sita and Savitri in the Epics to ascetics, gurus and activists in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries listed in Gender and the role and status of women. Hindus may also admire and seek to emulate members of their own community and others with outstanding qualities.

Many Hindus find in Mahatma Gandhi a role model whose moral example has been a source of inspiration in their lives. One of his closest disciples and colleagues, Vinoba Bhave (1895-1982), has become a role model in his own right, having taken up Gandhi’s commitment to sarvodaya (universal welfare) and applied it in the form of Bhoodan Yajna (Land Gift Movement) in which he set about persuading landowners to donate land to landless labourers. Gandhi’s influence extends beyond Hindus and he has also been a role model for Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela who were impressed by his belief in ahimsa (non-violence) and his advocacy of Satyagraha (Truth Force) as a practical method of non-violent action.

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Hindu Worldview Traditions


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