SELECTED LETTERS FROM SELECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA
To Maganlal Gandhi
To Maganlal Gandhi
You have been frightened by Raojibhai as he was by me. He read too much into my words.
No, my ideals have not changed. Despite my bitter experiences. in India, my conviction remains the same as ever, that we have but little to learn from the West. The evils I have seen here have made no change in my fundamental idea nor has this war. The old idea has developed into something purer. I have certainly not come to feel that we shall have to introduce Western civilization. Nor do I suppose that we shall have to take to drinking and meat-eating. To be sure, I have felt, in all seriousness, that Swaminarayana [The Vaishnava sect whose founder was Swami Sahajanand (1781-1833)] and Vallabhacharya [Vallabhacharya (1473-1531) - Religious Teacher, principally responsible for spreading the Bhakti cult in Gujarat.]have robbed us of our manliness. They made the people incapable of self-defense. It was all to the good, of course, that people gave up drinking, smoking, etc; this, however, is not an end in itself, it is only a means. If a smoker happens to be a man of character his company is worth cultivating. If on the contrary, a man who has never smoked in his life is an adulterer, he can be of little service. The love taught by Swaminarayana and Vallabh is all sentimentalism. It cannot make one a man of true love. Swaminarayana and Vallabh simply did not reflect over the true nature of non-violence. Non-violence consists in holding in check all impulses in the chitta. (mind) It comes into play especially in men's relations with one another. There is not even a suggestion of this idea in their writings. Having been born in this degenerate age of ours, they could not remain unaffected by its atmosphere and had, in consequence, quite an undesirable effect on Gujarat. Tukaram and Ramdas had no such effect. The Abhangas (Devotional metrical composition in Marathi Poetry) of the former and the shlokas (Devotional Metrical verse or composition) of the latter admit ample scope for manly striving. They, too, were Vaishnavas. Do not mix up the Vaishnava tradition with the teaching of Vallabh and Swaminarayana. Vaishnavism is an age-old truth. I have come to see, what I did not so clearly before, that there is non-violence in violence. This is the big change which has come about. I had not fully realized the duty of restraining a drunkard from doing evil, of killing a dog in agony or one infected with rabies. In all these instances, violence is in fact nonviolence. Violence is a function of the body. Brahmacharya (Continence. Literally, conduct that leads one to God.) consists in refraining from sexual indulgence, but we do not bring up our children to be impotent. They will have observed Brahmacharya only if, though possessed of the highest virility, they can master the physical urge. In the same way, our offspring must be strong in physique. If they cannot completely renounce the urge to violence, we may permit them to commit violence, to use their strength to fight and thus make them nonviolent. Nonviolence was taught by a kshatriya (A member of the military or second caste among Hindus) to a Kshatriya.
The difference between the West and the East is what I have explained to be, and it is a great one. The civilization of the West is based on self-indulgence, ours on self-control. If we commit violence, it will be as a last resort and with a view to lokasangraha (That which promotes the conservation of society). The West will indulge in violence in self-will. My taking part in (the movement for) a parliament and similar activities is not a new development; it is quite an old thing and is only intended to ensure a check on these bodies. You will see this if you read my article on Mr. Montagu's scheme. I simply cannot bring myself to take interest in the movement, but I can spread my ideals by working in it. When I saw that I could continue in it only by sacrificing my ideals, I decided to retire from the movement.
I think you have your reply in what I have said. I cannot explain much when I am there for a day and so I have set down the thing in writing. This will enable you to think and ask me questions, if fresh doubts occur to you.
I continue to be in Navagram. I wanted to leave from here today, but perhaps I may not be able to do so.
Source: Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XIV, pp. 504-5