Dr. Shruti Shankar Gaur
The article is adapted from the interview of Gandhi published in Hindi Swaraj where Gandhi was the editor (retrieved from ‘The collected works of Mahatma Gandhi’, New Delhi: Publication Division, Govt. of India, 1958 onwards-hereafter CWMG), Volume 10, pp. 47-53. It is an interaction between the Hindi Swaraj reader and Gandhi as Editor where he answered questions that are relevant even today. We are reproducing Gandhi’s response while modifying the reader as the millennial of today seeking questions to Gandhi. We are sure; it will be of great interest to Millennials.
Millennial: Is there any historical evidence as to the success of what you have called Satyagraha (soul-force or truth-force)? No instance seems to have happened of any nation having risen through soul-force. I still think that evil-doers will not cease doing evil without physical punishment.
Gandhi: …..The force of love is the same as the force of soul or truth. The universe would disappear without the existence of that force. But you ask for historical evidence. History in Gujarati means ‘It so happened’. Now History is an account of facts & figures, events and rules or invasions, or battles of kings & emperors.
Thus, History is a record of wars, invasions, annexations. If the story of the universe is commenced with wars, not a man would have been found alive today. The fact that there are so many men still alive in the world shows that it is based not on the force of arms but on the force of truth or love. Thus, the greatest & most unimpeachable evidence of the success of this force is to be found in the fact that, in spite of the wars of the world, it still lives on. History cannot & does not take note of this fact. In fact, History is the record of every interruption in working of the force of love or force of soul.
Millennial: According to what you say, passive resistance is not to be found in History. It is necessary to understand this passive resistance more if you enlarge upon it.
Gandhi: Passive resistance is the method of securing rights by personal suffering; it is the reverse of resistance by arms. When I refuse to do a thing that is repugnant to my conscience, I use soul force. For example, the Government passed a law which I don’t like. If by using violence, I force the government to repeal the law, I am employing what may be termed body-force. If I don’t obey the law and accept the penalty for its breach, I use the soul force. It involves the sacrifice of self…….
Millennial: You would then disregard laws-this is rank disloyalty. We have always been considered a law-abiding nation……
Gandhi: A man who has realized his manhood, who fears God, will fear no one else. Man-made laws are not necessarily binding on him. Even the government does not expect any such thing from us. They do not say: ‘you must do such a thing’ but they say: if you do not do it, we will punish you’. We are sunk so low, that we fancy it is our duty and our religion to do what the law lays down. If man will only realize that it is unmanly to obey laws that are unjust, no man’s tyranny will enslave him. This is the key to self-rule or home-rule……
Millennial: From what you say, I deduce that passive resistance is a splendid weapon of the weak, but that, when they are strong they take up arms.
Gandhi: This is gross ignorance. Passive resistance is soul force and is matchless. It is superior to the force of arms. Physical force men are strangers to the courage that is required in passive resistance…..Who is the true warrior- he who keeps death always as a bosom friend or he who controls the death of others? Believe me, a man devoid of courage and manhood can never be a Satyagrahi.
I want to tell you this: that even a man weak in the body is capable of offering this resistance. Both men & women can indulge in it. Control over the mind alone is necessary, and when that is attained man is free like the king of the forest and his very glance can wither the enemy. That is the power of soul force.
Millennial: From what you say, then, it appears that it is not a small thing to become a Satyagrahi, and if that so, I would like you to explain how a man can become passive resister.
Gandhi: To become a Satyagrahi is easy yet difficult. Anyone who wants to be a Satyagrahi for life must observe perfect chastity, adopt poverty, follow truth and cultivate fearlessness. Chastity is one of the greatest disciplines without which the mind cannot attain requisite firmness. Poverty means being indifferent regarding the money. Truth-force is the soul-force and therefore, must be followed and that too at any cost. Last without which Satyagrahi cannot proceed a step ahead is fearlessness. Those alone can follow the path of truth or soul forces is free from fear, whether as to their possessions, false honor, relatives, the government, bodily injuries, death.
Are Gandhi’s ideals easy to be followed? Not at all. They seem to be a daunting task but are easy for a true seeker. The question arises: Why do we need Gandhi or his ideals? Are Gandhian ideals of Satyagraha even relevant today? Yes, of course. We live in the times of heightened intolerance, cultural and social turmoil where the thread of society based upon pluralistic dimensions is under threat worldwide. Probably, that’s why the world is less tolerant, peaceful, kind, contented than a century ago (Global Peace Index Report, 2018). At the individual level, we must question: Why do we invoke soul-force or truth force? As Gandhi would have said: because that’s the natural state of being, soul-force is truth force or love that binds us all as one universal energy.
How do we become Satyagrahi? How do we invoke truth-force or soul force? To be Satyagrahi requires peeling every layer of falsehood, fear, greed, fake, desire, bonding from one’s personality. It is the most challenging yet the most common path of ‘Moksha’ or salvation that sages have always echoed.
Gandhi is Mahatma because he was able to rip off all the bondages in one lifetime. To us, lesser mortals, being Gandhi means a lifelong journey of self -learning, self – evolution and being self – critical, which is the path of Satyagraha. Let’s begin by questioning our beliefs, habits, and mindset. Let us become Satyagrahi for life, to question and cleanse our being and the society in large. ‘For the change begins with self’.
• World’s Greatest Speeches, published by Finger Print Classics (2018), ISBN: 978 93 8777 941 2.
• Lapierre, Dominique & Collins (Larry). (2007). Freedom at Midnight. ISBN: 978-81-259-3186-7
• Guha Ramchandra (2010). The Makers of Modern India. Published by Penguin Books India. ISBN: 978-06-7008-385-5
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• Global Peace Index Report (2019) published by The Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) retrieved from https://visionofhumanity.org/…/06/Global-Peace-Index-2018-2.… on 27.7.2019