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151. Some Typical Letters of Gandhiji
To Ashram Children
Ordinary birds cannot fly without wings. With wings, of course, all can fly. But if you, without wings, will learn how to fly, then all your troubles will indeed be at an end And I will teach you that.
See I have no wings, yet I come flying to you every day in thought. Look, here is Vimala, here is Hari and here Dharmakumar. And you also can come flying to me in thought.
There is no need of a teacher for those who know how to think. The teacher may guide us, but he cannot give us the power of thinking. That is latent in us. Those who are wise get wise thoughts.
Tell me who, amongst you, are not praying properly in Prabhubhai's evening prayer.
Send me a letter signed by all, and those who do not know how to sign may make a cross.
To the Father of an Ailing Child
What can I possibly prescribe for a six months old baby suffering from paralysis? There is no prescription but prayer to God. Any medicine is for me unthinkable. You may gently massage the affected parts, put the baby in the sun and give him nothing but milk and fruit juices. And if God wishes, he will recover. If he does not you should courageously resign yourself to the separation.
He who gives, may also take away.
M. K. Gandhi
Duty of the Living to the Dead
[To Dr. Jal Pavry and Miss Bapsy Pavry, condoling them on the death of their father, Dastur Cursetji Pavry, the late Pars! High Priest]
"One must not grieve excessively over the one who is gone to the great beyond, for the departed one lives in spirit forever, but we who are left behind must live to die in the service of humanity.
"The only way to cause rejoicing to the soul of the departed one is to fulfill his most cherished dream in which the spirit of the departed, that is ever present with us, definitely gives strength to the living, and only when they fulfill that dream of the departed, then and then only they prove themselves worthy of the sacred heritage, and then and then only will the soul of the departed rejoice."
(The last of these letters ends with the words in Gujarati, "M. K. Gandhi's blessings".)
To Adolf Hitler
That I address you as a friend is no formality. I own no foes. My business in life has been for the past thirty- three years to enlist the friendship of the whole humanity by befriending mankind, irrespective of race, colour or creed.
I hope you will have the time and desire to know how a good portion of humanity who have been living under the influence of that doctrine of universal friendship view your actions. We have no doubt about your bravery or devotion to your fatherland, nor do we believe that you are the monster described by your opponents. But your own writings and pronouncements and those of your friends and admirers leave no room for doubt that many of your acts are monstrous and unbecoming of human dignity, especially in the estimation of men like me who believe in universal friendliness. Such are your humiliation of Czechoslovakia, the rape of Poland and the swallowing of Denmark. I am aware that your view of life regards such spoliations as virtuous acts. But we have been taught from childhood to regard them as acts degrading humanity. Hence we cannot possibly wish success to your arms. But ours is a unique position. We resist British Imperialism no less than Nazism. If there is a difference, it is in degree. One-fifth of the human race has been brought under the British heel by means that will not bear scrutiny. Our resistance to it does not mean harm to the British people. We will convert them, not defeat them on the battlefield. Ours is an unarmed revolt against the British rule. But whether we convert them or not we are determined to make their rule impossible by non-violent non-co-operation. It is a method in its nature undefeatable. It is based on the knowledge that no spoliator can compass his end without a certain degree of co-operation, willing or compulsory, of the victim. Our rulers can have our land and bodies, but not our souls. They can have the former only by destruction of every Indian, man, woman, and child. That all may not rise to that degree of heroism and that a fair amount of frightfulness can bend the back of the revolt is true, but the argument would be beside the point. For, if a fair number of men and women can be found in India who would be prepared without any ill-will against the spoliators to lay down their lives rather than bend the knee to them, they would have shown the way to freedom from the tyranny of violence. I ask you to believe me when I say that you will find an unexpected number of such men and women in India. They have been having that training for the past twenty years.
We have been trying for the past half a century to throw off the British rule. The movement of independence has been never so strong as now. The most powerful political organization, I mean the Indian National Congress, is trying to achieve this end.
We have attained a very fair measure of success through non-violent effort. We are groping for the right means to combat the most organized violence in the world, which the British power represents. You have challenged it. It remains to be seen which is the better organized, the German or the British.
We know what the British heel) means for us and the non-European races of the world. But we would never wish to end British rule with German aid. We have found in non-violence a force which, if organized, can without doubt match itself against a combination of all the most violent forces in the world. In non-violent technique, as I have said, there is no such thing as defeat. It is all "do or die" without killing or hurting. It can be used practically without money and obviously without the aid of the science of destruction, which you have brought to such perfection.
It is a marvel to me that you do not see it is nobody's monopoly. If not the British, some other power will certainly improve upon your method and beat you with your own weapon. You are leaving no legacy to your people of which they would feel proud. They cannot take pride in a recital of cruel deeds, however skillfully planned.
I, therefore, appeal to you in the name of humanity to stop the war. You will lose nothing by referring all the matters of dispute between you and Great Britain to an International Tribunal of your joint choice. If you attain success in the war, it will not prove that you were in the right. It will only prove that your power of destruction was greater, whereas an award, by an imperial tribunal, will show as far as it is humanly possible, which party was in the right.
You know that not long ago I made an appeal to every Briton to accept my method of non-violent resistance. I did it because the British know me as a friend, though a rebel. I am a stranger to you and your people. I have not the courage to make to you the appeal I made to every Briton. Not that it would not apply to you with the same force as to the British. But my present proposal is much simpler because it is much more practical and familiar.
During this season when the hearts of the peoples of Europe yearn for peace, we have suspended even our peaceful struggle. Is it too much to ask you to make an effort for peace during a time which may mean nothing to you personally, but must mean much to the millions of Europeans, whose dumb cry for peace I hear, for my ears are attuned to hearing the dumb millions? I had the privilege of meeting Signor Mussolini when I was in Rome during my visit to England as a delegate to the Round Table Conference. I hope he will take this as addressed to him also with the necessary changes.
Your sincere friend,
M. K. Gandhi
(The letter reproduced above was written by Gandhiji in the Christmas week of 1941, but the Government of India would not allow it to be transmitted to the Nazi dictator.)