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PHILOSOPHY > THE MIND OF MAHATMA GANDHI > My Mission
I AM not a visionary. I claim to be a practical idealist. The religion of non-violence is not meant merely for the rishis and saints. It is meant for the common people as well. Non-violence is the law of our species as violence is the law of the brute. The spirit lies dormant in the brute and he knows no law but that of physical might. The dignity of man requires obedience to a higher law-to the strength of the spirit.
There are more instances than one in my public life when, with the ability to retaliate, I have refrained from doing so and advised friends to do likewise. My life is dedicated to the spread of that doctrine. I read it in the teachings of all the greatest teachers of the world-Zoroaster, Mahavir, Daniel, Jesus, Muhammad, Nanak and a host of others. (YI, 9-2-1922, p85)
Non-violence is the first article of my faith. It is also the last article of my creed. (YI, 23-3-1922, p166)
I am but an humble explorer of the science of non-violence. Its hidden depths sometimes stagger me just as much as they stagger fellow-workers. (YI, 20-11-1924, p382)
Mission of Satyagraha
When I have become incapable of evil and when nothing harsh or haughty occupies, be it momentarily, my thought-world, then, and not till then, my non-violence will move all the hearts of all the world. I have placed before me and the reader no impossible ideal or ordeal. It is man's prerogative and birthright.
We have lost the paradise only to regain it. If it takes time, then it is but a speck in the complete time-circle. The Divine Teacher of the Gita knew when he said that millions of our days are equal to only a day of Brahma. (YI, 2-7-1925, p232)
Ahimsa is my God, and Truth is my God. When I look for ahimsa, Truth says 'Find it out through me'. When I look for Truth, ahimsa says 'Find it out through me'. (YI, 4-6-1925, p191)
I believe myself to be saturated with ahimsa - non-violence. Ahimsa and Truth are as my two lungs. I cannot live without them. But I see every moment with more and more clearness the immense power of ahimsa and the littleness of man. Even the forest-dweller cannot be entirely free from violence, in spite of his limitless compassion. With every breath he commits a certain amount of violence.
The body itself is a house of slaughter, and, therefore, moksha and Eternal Bliss consist in perfect deliverance from the body, and therefore, all pleasure, save the joy of moksha,is evanescent, imperfect. That being the case, we have to drink, in daily life, many a bitter draught of violence.
Application of Non-violence
My faith helps me to discover new truths every day. Ahimsa is the attribute of the soul, and therefore, to be practiced by everybody in all the affairs of life. If it cannot be practiced in all departments, it has no practical value. (H, 2-3-1940, p23)
My faith in truth and non-violence is ever growing, and as I am ever trying to follow them in my life, I too am growing every moment. I see new implications about them. I see them in a newer light every day and read in them a newer meaning. (H, 1-5-1934, p94)
I have not conceived my mission to be that of a knight-errant wandering everywhere to deliver people from difficult situations. My humble occupation has been to show people how they can solve their own difficulties. (H, 28-6-1942, p201)
My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents, and I lay them both at His feet. Why should He have chosen me, an imperfect instrument, for such a mighty experiment? I think He deliberately did so. He had to serve the poor, dumb, ignorant millions. A perfect man might have been their despair. When they found that one with their failings was marching on towards ahimsa, they too had confidence in their own capacity. We should not have recognized a perfect man if he had come as our leader, and we might have driven him to a cave. May be he who follows me will be more perfect and you will be able to receive his message. (H, 21-7-1940, p211)
No Gandhian Sect
I have presented no new principles, but tried to restate old principles. (YI, 2-12-1926, p419)
There is no such thing as 'Gandhism', and I do not want to leave any sect after me. I do not claim to have originated any new principle or doctrine. I have simply tried in my own way to apply the eternal truths to our daily life and problems .
I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and Non-violence are as old as the hills. All I have done is to try experiments in both on as vast a scale as I could do. In doing so I have sometimes erred and learnt by my errors. Life and its problems have thus become to me so many experiments in the practice of truth and non-violence.
By instinct I have been truthful, but not non-violent. As a Jain muni once rightly said, I was not so much a votary of ahimsa as I was of truth, and I put the latter in the first place and the former in the second. For, as he put it, I was capable of sacrificing non-violence for the sake of truth. In fact, it was in the course of my pursuit of truth that I discovered non-violence. (H, 28-3-1936, p49)
I myself do not know what is the Gandhian hue. I am sailing on an uncharted sea.. I have to take frequent soundings. (H, 17-12-1938, p385)
Gandhi-ites is no name worth having. Rather than that, why not ahimsa-ites? For Gandhi is a mixture of good and evil, weakness and strength, violence and non-violence, but ahimsa has no adulteration.
I come now to what is called the 'Gandhian' ideology and the means of propagating it. The propagation of truth and non-violence can be done less by books than by actually living those principles. Life truly lived is more than books. (ibid, p122)
There is always a saving clause about all my advice. No one need follow it unless it appeals to his head and heart. No one who has honestly the inner call need be deterred from obeying it because of my advice. In other words, it applies only to those who are not conscious of any inner call and who have faith in my riper experience and soundness of judgment. (H, 15-7-1939, p197)
Let Gandhism be destroyed if it stands for error. Truth and ahimsa will never be destroyed, but if Gandhism is another name for sectarianism, it deserves to be destroyed. If I were to know, after my death, that what I stood for had degenerated into sectarianism, I should be deeply pained
Let no one say that he is a follower of Gandhi. It is enough that I should be my own follower. I know what an inadequate follower I am of myself, for I cannot live up to the convictions I stand for. You are no followers but fellow-students, fellow-pilgrims, fellow-seekers, fellow-workers. (H, 2-3-1940, p23)
If there is one Gandhi-ite, it must be me. I hope, however, that I am humble enough not to arrogate any such claim. Gandhi-ite means a worshipper of Gandhi. There must be a God to worship. But I have never arrogated to myself any such claim. Hence there can be no devotee of mine. (H, 2-11-1947, p389)
Law of Suffering
The rishis, who discovered the law of non-violence in the midst of violence, were greater geniuses than Newton. They were themselves greater warriors than Wellington. Having themselves known the use of arms, they realized their uselessness, and taught a weary world that its salvation lay not through violence but through non-violence.
Non-violence in its dynamic condition means conscious suffering. It does not mean meek submission of the will of the evildoer, but it means putting of one's whole soul against the will of the tyrant. Working under this law of our being, it is possible for a single individual to defy the whole might of an unjust empire to save his honor, his religion, his soul, and lay the foundation for that empire's fall or its regeneration.
I want India to recognize that she has a soul that cannot perish and that can rise triumphant above every physical weakness and defy the physical combination of a whole world. (YI, 11-8-1920, pp3-4)
If I can say so without arrogance and with due humility, my message and methods are, indeed, in their essentials for the whole world and it gives me keen satisfaction to know that it has already received a wonderful response in the hearts of a large and daily growing number of men and women of the West.
Brotherhood of Man
My patriotism is not an exclusive thing. It is all embracing and I should reject that patriotism which sought to mount upon the distress or exploitation of other nationalities. The conception of my patriotism is nothing if it is not always, in every case without exception, consistent with the broadest good of humanity at large.
Not only that, but my religion and my patriotism derived from my religion embrace all life. I want to realize brotherhood or identity not merely with the beings called human, but I want to realize identity with all life, even with such things as crawl upon earth .because we claim descent from the same God, and that being so, all life in whatever form it appears must be essentially one. (YI, 4-4-1929, p107)
I have that implicit faith in my mission that, if it succeeds - as it will succeed, it is bound to succeed--history will record it as a movement designed to knit all people in the world together, not as hostile to one another but as parts of one whole. (H, 26-1-1934, p8)
Fraud and untruth today are stalking the world. I cannot sit as a helpless witness to such a situation ..If today I sit quiet and inactive, God will take me to task for not using up the treasure He had given me, in the midst of the conflagration that is enveloping the whole world. (BC, 9-8-1942)
I cannot impose my personal faith on others, never on a national organization. I can but try to convince the nation of its beauty and usefulness
It would be a calamity if by obstinacy I stand in the way of the country's progress by other means, so long as they are not positively mischievous and harmful. I should, for instance, rise, even if I was alone, against methods of actual violence. But I have recognized that the nation has the right, if it so wills, to vindicate her freedom even by actual violence. Only, then India ceases to be the land of my love even though she be the land of my birth, even as I should take no pride in my mother if she went astray.
I have not the capacity for preaching universal non-violence. I preach, therefore, non-violence restricted strictly to the purpose of winning our freedom and, therefore, perhaps for preaching the regulation of international relations by non-violent means. Before I can preach universal non-violence, I must be wholly free from passions, I must be wholly incapable of sin. (H, 25-1-1942, p15)
My preaching and teaching are not emotional or unpractical, for I teach what is ancient and strive to practice what I preach. And I claim that what I practice is capable of being practiced by all, because I am a very ordinary mortal open to the same temptations and liable to the same weaknesses as the least among us. (YI, 15-12-1927, p424)
While I prate about Universal Non-violence, my experiment is confined to India. If it succeeds, the world will accept it without effort. There is, however, a bit BUT. The pause does not worry me. My faith is brightest in the midst of impenetrable darkness. (H, 11-2-1939, p8)
Somehow or other, I dread a visit to Europe and America. Not that I distrust the peoples of these great continents any more than I distrust my own, but I distrust myself. I have no desire to go to the West in search of health or for sightseeing. I have no desire to deliver public speeches. I detest being lionized. I wonder if I shall ever again have the health to stand the awful strain of public speaking and public demonstrations.
If God ever sent me to the West, I should go there to penetrate the hearts of the masses, to have quiet talks with the youth of the West and have the privilege of meeting kindred spirits--lovers of peace at any price save that of truth.
But I feel that I have as yet no message to deliver personally to the West. I believe my message to be universal, but as yet I feel that I can best deliver it through my work in my own country. If I can show visible success in India, the delivery of the message becomes complete.
If I came to the conclusion that India had no use for my message, I should not care to go elsewhere in search of listeners even though I still retained faith in it. If I ventured out of India, I should do so because I have faith, though I cannot demonstrate it to the satisfaction of all, that the message is being received by India, be it ever so slowly. (M, II, p417)
When I have become incapable of evil and when nothing harsh or haughty occupies, be it momentarily, my thought-world, then, and not till then, my non-violence, will move all the hearts of all the world.
Millions like me may fail to prove the truth in their own lives, that would be their failure, never of the eternal law. (M, VIII, p23)