Gandhiji in his post-prayer speech referred to a letter from a correspondent which had lately reached him. It was in answer to that letter that he wanted to say that if a man abused him, it would never do for him to return the abuse. An evil returned by another evil only succeeded in multiplying it, instead of leading to its reduction. It was a universal law, he said, that violence could never be quenched by superior violence but could only he quenched by non-violence. But the true meaning of non-resistance had often been misunderstood or even distorted. It never implied that a non-violent man should bend before the violence of an aggressor. While not returning the latter's violence by violence, he should refuse to submit to the latter's illegitimate demand even to the point of death. That was the true meaning of non-resistance.
If, for instance, proceeded the speaker, someone asked him under
threat of violence to admit a claim, say, like that of Pakistan, he
should not immediately rush to return the violence thus offered. In
all humility he would ask the aggressor what was really meant by the
demand, and if he was really satisfied that it was something worth
striving for, then he would have no hesitation in proclaiming from
the housetop that the demand was just and it had to be admitted by
everyone concerned. But if the demand was backed by force, then the
only course open to the nonviolent man was to offer non-resistance
against it as long as he was not convinced of its justice. He was
not to return violence but neutralize it by withholding one's hand
and, at the same time, refusing to submit to the demand. This was
the only civilized way of going on in the world. Any other course
could only lead to a race for armaments interspersed by periods of
peace which was by necessity and brought about by exhaustion, when
preparations would be going on for violence of a superior order.
Peace through superior violence inevitably led to the atom bomb and
all that it stood for. It was the completest negation of
non-violence and of democracy which was not possible without the
The non-violent resistance described above required courage of a
superior order to that needed in violent warfare. Forgiveness was
the quality of the brave, not of the cowardly. Gandhiji here related
a story, from the Mahabharata, when one of the Pandava brothers was
accidentally injured while living in disguise in the home of King
Virata. The brothers not only hid what had happened, but for fear
that harm might come to the host if a drop of blood touched the
ground, they prevented it from doing so by means of a golden bowl.
It was this type of forbearance and courage which Gandhiji wished
every Indian to develop whether he was a Hindu, Mussalman,
Christian, Parsi or Sikh. That alone could rescue them from their
present fallen condition.
The lesson of non-violence was present in every religion but
Gandhiji fondly believed that perhaps it was here in India that its
practice had been reduced to a science. Innumerable saints had laid
down their lives in tapash-charya until poets had felt that
the Himalayas became purified in their snowy whiteness by means of
their sacrifice. But all that practice of non-violence was nearly
dead today. It was necessary to revive the eternal law of answering
anger by love and violence by non-violence; and where could this be
more readily done than in this land of King Janaka and Ramachandra?