Elsewhere in these columns the reader will see "A Seeker's" letter* in which he has asked a question which must have occurred to everyone. The beauty lies in the way in which he has introduced the question. He has depicted the present conflagration in such lurid colours that violence cannot but stink in our nostrils. The reader is sure instinctively to exclaim: "Even if it were possible to win the kingdom of the world by means of such violence, I would not have it."
But this exclamation will be of no avail to quench
the conflagration. No doubt it will someday quench itself but it
means mutual fratricidal slaughter like that of the Yadavas of old
who destroyed themselves and relieved the earth of so much burden.
And such a consummation would any day be preferable to a perpetual
conflagration. But no one would wish for this. What one would
devoutly wish for is some brave step to stop the conflagration
before there is total destruction. This can only be a non-violent
step. How and when it can be taken has to be discovered. The
"Seeker" will be satisfied when the discovery is made. In my opinion
the discovery has already been made. If India can win Swaraj
non-violently even while this conflagration is going on, the latter
is bound to be extinguished by that one event.
We read in our religious books that whenever, in the
days of old, all ordinary means failed to secure release from an
ordeal or a calamity, people resorted to tapasya (penance), i.
e., actually burnt themselves. I do not regard these stories as
legendary. Tapasya is of various kinds. Misguided men can
resort to it, as we find them doing today. The wise also can do it.
It is worth while understanding the implication of tapasya.
It was by dint of tapasya that Western scientists made their
discoveries. Tapasya does not simply consist of betaking
oneself to the forest and sitting down there surrounded by blazing
fires. That tapasya may even be the height of folly. We have,
therefore, to discriminate.
The question asked by "A Seeker" does not arise out
of despair. It is intended to quicken the conscience of those who
believe in Ahimsa. I have already shown the way. It is the
fulfillment of the thirteenfold constructive programme* described in
a recent article. Those who will carry it out in faith, in full
knowledge, and without the slightest fuss, will have done their
share in the tapasya to quench the conflagration. They will
achieve two ends at the same time. They will make India free, and
will also quench the conflagration. It is likely that the number of
such people is limited, so limited that it can have no effect. I
have maintained that, even if there is one individual who is almost
completely non-violent, he can put out the conflagration. But I have
suggested a tapasya which can easily be performed by the
average individual. In this age of democracy it is essential that
desired results are achieved by the collective effort of the people.
It will no doubt be good to achieve an objective through the effort
of a supremely powerful individual, but it can never make the
community conscious of its corporate strength. An individual's
success will be like a millionaire doling free food to millions of
starving people. We should, therefore, bend our energies to a
fulfillment of the thirteenfold constructive programme1.
It may or may not bring Swaraj, but we shall surely have the
satisfaction of having done our best.
There is a warning in the "Seeker's" letter to which
I should like to draw the reader's attention. He says papers and
broadcasts describe with devilish pleasure the amount of injury each
is able to inflict upon the other, and suggests that such news
should sicken people instead of providing pleasure, if they arc to
take part in the propagation of peace. I agree. Such people will not
be able to carry out even the constructive programme, for they will
have no faith in it.
However that may be, it is as clear as daylight that,
if this conflagration is to be put out through non-violent effort,
it will be done only by India.