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PHILOSOPHY > THE MIND OF MAHATMA GANDHI > The choice before India
The Choice Before India
I AM not pleading for India to practice nonviolence because it is weak. I want her to practice nonviolence being conscious of her strength and power. No training in arms is required for realization of her strength. We seem to need it because we seem to think that we are a lump of flesh. (YI, 11-8-1920, p3)
India has to make her choice. She may try, if she wishes, the way of war and sink lower than she has....If India can possibly gain her freedom by war, her state will be no better and will be, probably, much worse than that of France or England....
The Way of Peace
But the way of peace is open to her. Her freedom is assured if she has patience. That way will be found to be the shortest even though it may appear to be the longest to our impatient nature. The way of peace insures internal growth and stability. We reject it because we fancy that it involves submission to the will of the ruler who has imposes himself upon us. But the moment we realize that the imposition is only so called and that, through our unwillingness to suffer loss of life or property, we are party to the imposition, all we need do is to change that negative attitude of passive endorsement. The suffering to be undergone by the change will be nothing compared to the physical suffering and the moral loss we must insure in trying the way of war. And the sufferings of war harm both the parties. The sufferings in following the way of peace must benefit both. They will be like the pleasurable travail of a new birth....
The way of peace is the way of truth. Truthfulness is even more important than peacefulness. Indeed, lying is the mother of violence. A truthful man cannot long remain violent. He will perceive in the course of his search that he has no need to be violent, and he will further discover that, so long as there is the slightest trace of violence in him, he will fail to find the truth he is searching. (YI, 20-5-1926, p154)
Nonviolence is not an easy thing to understand, still less to practice, weak as we are. We must all act prayerfully and humbly and continually asking God to open the eyes of our understanding, being ever ready to act according to the light as we daily receive it. My task as a lover and promoter of peace, therefore, today consists in unflinching devotion to nonviolence in the prosecution of the campaign for regaining our liberty. And if India succeeds in so regaining our liberty. And if India succeeds in so regaining it, it will be the greatest contribution to the world peace. (YI, 7-2-1929, p46)
No Imitation of West
The fashion nowadays is to take for granted that whatever America and England are doing is good enough for us.....War has become a matter of money and resourcefulness in inventing weapons of destruction. It is no longer a matter of personal bravery or endurance. To compass the destruction of men, women and children, it might be enough for me to press a button and drop poison on them in a second.
Do we wish to copy this method of defending ourselves? Even if we do, have we the financial ability? We complain of ever-growing military expenditure. But if we would copy America or England, we would have to increase the burden tenfold....
The nation cannot be kept on the nonviolent path by violence. It must grow from within to the state it may aspire to. The question, therefore, for us to consider is, "What is our immediate aspiration?" Do we first want to copy the western nations and then, in the demand distant future, after having gone through the agony, retrace our steps? Or do we want to strike out an original path, or rather retain what to me is our own predominantly peaceful path and there through win and assert our freedom?
Here there is no question of compromise with cowardice. Either we train and arm ourselves for destruction, be it in self-defence, and in the process train for suffering too, or we merely prepare ourselves for suffering for defending the country or delivering it from domination. In either case bravery is indispensable. In the first case personally bravery is not of such importance as in the second. In the second case, too, we shall perhaps never be able to do without violence altogether. But violence then will be subservient to nonviolence and will always be a diminishing factor in national life.
At the present moment, though the national and is nonviolence, in thought and word at least, we seem to be drifting towards violence. Impatience pervades the atmosphere. We are restrained from violence through our weakness. What is wanted is a deliberate giving up of violence out of strength. To be able to do this requires imagination coupled with a penetrating study of the world drift. Today the superficial glamour of the West dazzles us, and we mistake for progress the giddy dance which engages us from day to day. We refuse to see that it is surely leading us to death. Above all, we must recognize that to compete with the Western nations on their terms is to court suicide. Whereas, if we realize that, notwithstanding the seeming supremacy of violence, it is the moral force that governs the universe, we should train for nonviolence with the fullest faith in its limitless possibilities. Everybody recognizes that, if a nonviolent atmosphere had been maintained in 1922, we could have completely gained our end. Even as it is, we had a striking demonstration of the efficacy of nonviolence crude though it was, and the substance of Swaraj then gained has never been lost. The paralyzing fear that had possessed the nation before the advent of Satyagraha has gone once for all. In my opinion, therefore, non-violence is a matter of patient training. If we are to be saved and are to make a substantial contribution to the world's progress, ours must emphatically and predominantly be the way of peace. (YI, 22-8-1929, pp276-7)
Alternative to War
I feel in the innermost recesses of my heart, after a political experience extending over an unbroken period of close upon thirty-five years, that the world is sick unto death of blood-spilling. The world is seeking a way out, and I flatter myself with the belief that, perhaps, it will be the privilege of the ancient land of India to show that way out to the hungering world.
I venture to suggest, in all humility, that if India reaches her destiny through truth and nonviolence, she will have made no small contribution to the world peace for which all the nations of the earth are thirsting and she would also have, in that case, made some slight return for the help that those nations have been freely giving to her. (YI, 12-3-1931, p31)
If in the glow of freedom, India could live up to that creed [of nonviolence, non-dependence on physical force], no power on earth would ever case an evil eye upon her. This would be India's crowning glory and her contribution to the world's progress. (H, 14-4-1946, p90)
Nonviolence of the Brave
Our nonviolence has brought us to the gate of independence. Shall we renounce it after we have entered that gate? I for one am firmly convinced that nonviolence of the brave, such as I have envisaged, provides the surest ad most efficacious means to face foreign aggression and internal disorder just as it has done for winning independence.
I see clearly that, if the country cannot be turned to nonviolence, it will be bad for it and the world. It will mean goodbye to freedom. It might even mean a military dictatorship. I am day and night thinking how nonviolence of the brave can be cultivated.
India is now free, and the reality is now clearly revealed to me. Now that the burden of subjection has been lifted, all the forces of good have to be marshaled in one great effort to build a country which forsook the accustomed method of violence in order to settle human conflicts, whether it is between two States or between two sections of the same people. I have yet the faith that India will rise to the occasion and prove to the world that the birth of two new States will be not a menace, but a blessing to the rest of mankind. It is the duty of Free India to perfect the instrument of nonviolence for dissolving collective conflicts, if its freedom is going to be really worth while. (H, 31-8-1947, p302)
[Nonviolence] has enabled a mighty nation of forty cores to shake off the foreign yoke without bloodshed. It is the freedom of India that has brought freedom to Burma and Ceylon. A nation that has won freedom without the force of arms should be able to keep it, too, without the force of arms. This in spite of the fact that India has an army, a navy in the making and an air force, and these are being developed still further. I am convinced that, unless India develops her non-violent strength, she has gained nothing either for herself or for the world. Militarization of India will mean her own destruction as well as the whole world. (H, 14-12-1947, p471)