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PEACE, NON-VIOLENCE & CONFLICT RESOLUTION > MY NON-VIOLENCE > Before the Gandhi Seva Sangh
47. Before the Gandhi Seva Sangh
The Test of Genuineness
“You will examine every action of yours in the light of the creed. That does not mean that you will be morbid or pernickety. Your conduct will have to be natural. When I began observing silence it meant an effort on my part. Now it has become part of my nature, and to break my silence means an effort. In the same way acting non-violently must be part of your nature. It is likely that your relating everything to non-violence may be logically wrong, but it is not wrong for you. I may be wrong, in the eyes of others, in my belief that with every thread that I draw I am bringing Swaraj nearer, but for me the belief is as true as the fact that I exist. That saves me from losing my sanity. This spinning wheel is a symbol of non-violence for me. The wheel as such is lifeless, but when I invest it with symbolism it becomes a living thing for me. Its sound, if it is musical, is in tune with non-violence. If it is unmusical, it is not in tune with it, for it indicates carelessness on my part. The steel spindle one can use as a deadly weapon, but we have put it there for the best possible use. So we have to be meticulously careful about every part of the wheel. Then and then only will it produce fine music and spinning will be a true sacrificial act.
"But this kind of sadhana, you will say, may take thousands of years. It may take some a thousand years, and it may take some others only one year. Don't think that, if in spite of my fifty years' practice of it I am still imperfect, it must take you many more years. No, there is no rule of three here. You may succeed quicker than I. I meant what I said to Prithwisingh: 'You had at any rate the violence of the brave. I had nothing of it. Now if you believe in cultivating non-violence of the brave, you will do so much more quickly than I, and you will leave me behind.' This applies to every one of you. In South Africa I was the first to learn shoemaking, and so I taught it to others. But those others soon left me behind. It was because I was a true teacher. Now if I am a true teacher of Ahimsa, I am sure you will soon leave behind your teacher. If that does not happen, it will only mean that I was an unfit teacher. But if my teaching fructifies, there will be teachers of Ahimsa in every home.
"I want to know how many of you are with me. If none goes with me, I am ready to tread my path alone. For I know that I can never be alone as God is there with me. You are all companion sadhaks (seekers) with me. I am old, but you have many years before you. And yet let me tell you that I do not feel the weight of my years. I do not think my power of growth or capacity for research has come to an end.
"So you have to go forth and find out how many actual believers in Ahimsa there are among Congressmen. The Working Committee members are your representatives. If they were mistaken in assessing the faith of their electors, you have to correct their judgment. My position was different from theirs. I consider myself a confirmed representative of Ahimsa and so I severed my connection with the Congress in 1934. I could not help doing it. If I had not done so, I should have been untrue to my creed.
"No one knows my imperfections better than I, but what little power I possess is derived from my Ahimsa. What is it but my Ahimsa that draws thousands of women to me in fearless confidence? But neither you nor I can trade on cur capital. We have to be up and doing every moment of our lives, and go forward in our sadhana. We have to live and move and have our being in Ahimsa even as Hitler does in Himsa. It is the faith and perseverance and single- mindedness with which he has perfected his weapons of destruction that commands my admiration. That he uses them as a monster is immaterial for oar purpose. We have to bring to bear the same single-mindedness and perseverance in evolving our Ahimsa. Hitler is awake all the twenty-four hours of the day in perfecting his sadhana. He wins because he pays the price. His inventions surprise his enemies. But it is his single-minded devotion to hi* purpose that should be the object of our admiration and emulation. Although he works all his waking hours, his intellect is unclouded and unerring. Are our intellects unclouded and unerring? A mere belief in Ahimsa or the Charkha will not do. It should be intelligent and creative. If intellect plays a large part in the field of violence, I hold that it plays a larger part in the field of non-violence."
Why an Imperfect Man Chosen?
To those who have been saying that, if Gandhiji has failed in perfecting his Ahimsa failure is certain in their case, he had already given the answer. But in the concluding part of the speech he presented another aspect of his imperfection. He said: "In placing civil disobedience before constructive work I was wrong, and I did not profit by the Himalayan blunder that I had committed. I feared that I should estrange my co-workers, and so carried on with imperfect Ahimsa. But I am not sorry for my blunders. 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 who follows me will be more perfect and you will be able to receive his message. May be some one of you may be that perfect teacher who is to come."
An Impossible Ideal?
But are we not being driven to philosophical anarchism? Is that not an impossible ideal? These questions were asked by a philosophic friend some months ago, and Gandhiji gave him replies which, I think, will be useful today.
"Does anyone know true non-violence?" he asked.
Gandhiji immediately replied: "Nobody knows it, for nobody can practise perfect non-violence."
"Then how can it be used in politics?"
"It can be used in politics precisely as it can be used in the domestic sphere. We may not be perfect in our use of it, but we definitely discard the use of violence, and grow from failure to success."
"You would govern non-violently. But all legislation is violence."
"No, not all legislation. Legislation imposed by people upon themselves is non-violence to the extent it is possible in society. A society organized and run on the basis of complete non-violence would be the purest anarchy."
"Do you think it is a realizable ideal?"
"Yes. It is realizable to the extent non-violence is realizable. That State is perfect and non-violent where the people are governed the least. The nearest approach to purest anarchy would be a democracy based on nonviolence. The European democracies are to my mind a negation of democracy."
"Do you think that non-violence of the democracy which you visualize was ever realized in the olden times?"
"I do not know. But if it was not, it only means that we had never made the attempt to realize the highest in us. I have no doubt in my mind that at some stage we were wiser, and that we have to grow wiser than we are today in order to find what beauties are hidden in human nature. Perfect non-violence is impossible so long as we exist physically, for we would want some space at least to occupy. Perfect non-violence whilst you are inhabiting the body is only a theory like Euclid's point or straight line, but we have to endeavour every moment of our lives."