Satyagraha literally means insistence on truth. This insistence arms the votary with
matchless power. This power or force is connoted by the word Satyagraha
, to be genuine, may be offered against parents, one’s wife or
one’s children, against rulers, against fellow citizens, even against the whole
Such a universal force
necessarily makes no distinction between kinsmen and strangers, young and old,
man and woman, friend and foe. The force to be so applied can never by physical.
There is in it no room for violence. The only force of universal application
can, therefore, be that of Ahimsa
or Love. In other words it is
Love does not burn others, it
burns itself. Therefore, a Satyagrahi
, i.e., a civil resister will
joyfully suffer even unto death.
It follows, therefore, that a
civil resister, whilst he will strain every nerve to compass the end of the
existing rule, will do no intentional injury in thought, word or deed to the
person of a single Englishman. This necessarily brief explanation of
will perhaps enable the reader t understand and appreciate the
, i.e., a civil register will harbor no anger.
He will suffer the anger of the opponent.
In so doing he will put up with
assaults from the opponent, never retaliate; but he will not submit, out of fear
of punishment or the like, to any order given in anger.
When any person in authority seeks to arrest a civil resister, he will voluntarily submit to the arrest, and
he will not resist the attachment or removal of his own property, if any, when
it is sought to be confiscated by the authorities.
If a civil resister has any
property in his possession as a trustee, he will refuse to surrender it, even
thought in defending it he might lose his life. He will, however, never retaliate.
Non-retaliation excludes swearing and cursing.
Therefore a civil resister will
never insult his opponent, and therefore also not take part in many of the newly
coined cries which are contrary to the spirit of Ahimsa
A civil resister will not salute the Union Jack nor will he insult it or officials, English or Indians.
In the course of the struggle if any one insults an official or commits an assault upon him, a civil resister
will protect such official or officials from the insult or attack even at the risk of his life.
Young India, 27-2-‘30, p. 69
, it is
never the numbers that count; it is always the quality, more so when the
forces of violence are uppermost.
Then it is often forgotten that
it is never the intention of a Satyagrahi
to embarrass the wrongdoer. The
appeal is never to his fear; it is, must be, always to his heart. The
’s object is to convert, not to coerce, the wrong-doer. He should
avoid artificiality in all his doings. He acts naturally and from inward conviction.
Keeping these observations before his mind’s eye, the reader will perhaps appreciate the following
qualifications which, I hold, are essential for every Satyagrahi
He must have a living faith in God, for He is his only Rock.
He must believe in truth and non-violence as his creed and therefore have a faith in the inherent goodness of
human nature which he expects to evoke by his truth and love expressed though his suffering.
He must be leading a chaste life and be ready and willing for the sake of his cause to give up his life and his possessions.
He must be a habitual Khadi-
wearer and spinner. This is essential for India.
He must be a teetotaler and be free from the use of other intoxicants in order that his reason may be always
unclouded and his mind constant.
He must carry out with a willing heart all the rules of discipline as may be laid down from time to time.
He should carry out the jail rules unless they are specially devised to hurt his self-respect.
Harijan, 25-3-‘39, p. 64
Some time ago I suggested
the formation of a Peace Brigade whose members would risk their lives in
dealing with riots, especially communal. The idea was that this Brigade
should substitute the police and even the military. This reads ambitious.
The achievement may prove impossible. Yet, if the Congress is to succeed in
its non-violent struggle, it must develop the power to deal peacefully with
Let us therefore see what qualifications a member of the contemplated Peace Brigade should possess.
He or she must have a living
faith in non-violence. This is impossible without a living faith in God. A
non-violent man can do nothing save by the power and grace of God. Without it he
won’t have the courage to die without anger, without fear and without
retaliation. Such courage comes from the belief that God sits in the hearts of
all and that there should be no fear in the presence of God. The knowledge of
the omnipresence of God also means respect for the lives of even those who may
be called opponents or goondas
. This contemplated intervention is a
process of stilling the fury of man when the brute in him gets mastery over him.
This messenger of peace must
have equal regard for all the principle religions of the earth. Thus, if he is a
Hindu, he will respect the other faiths current in India. He must therefore
possess a knowledge of the general principles of the different faiths professed
in the country.
Generally speaking this work of
peace can only be done by local men in their own localities.
The work can be done singly or
in groups. Therefore no one need wait for companions. Nevertheless one would
naturally seek companions in one’s own locality and form a local brigade.
This messenger of peace will
cultivate through personal service contacts with the people in his locality or
chosen circle, so that when he appears to deal with ugly situations, he does not
descend upon the members of a riotous assembly as an utter stranger liable to be
looked upon as a suspect or an unwelcome visitor.
Needless to say, a
peace-bringer must have a character beyond reproach and must be known for his
Generally, there are previous
warnings of coming storms. If these are known, the Peace Brigade will not wait
till the conflagration breaks out but will try to handle the situation in
Whilst, if the movement
spreads, it might be well if there are some whole time workers, it is not
absolutely necessary that there should be. The idea is to have as many good and
true men and women as possible. These can be had only if volunteers are drawn
from those who are engaged in various walks of life but have leisure enough to
cultivate friendly relations with the people living in their circle and
otherwise possess the qualifications required of a member of the Peace Brigade.
There should be a distinctive dress worn by the members of the contemplated brigade so that in course of time
they will be recognized without the slightest difficulty.
These are but general suggestions. Each centre can work out its own constitution on the basis here suggested.
Harijan, 18-6-38, p. 152
Although Satyagraha can
operate silently, it requires a certain amount of action on the part of a
Satyagrahi: A Satyagrahi, for instance, must first mobilize public opinion
against the evil which he is out to eradicate, by means of a wide and
intensive agitation. When public opinion is sufficiently roused against a
social abuse even the tallest will not dare to practice or openly to lend
support to it. An awakened and intelligent public opinion is the most potent
weapon of a Satyagrahi. When a person supports a social evil in total
disregard of unanimous public opinion, it indicates a clear justification
for his social ostracism. But the object of social ostracism should never be
to do injury to the person against whom it is directed. Social ostracism
means complete non-co-operation on the part of society with the offending
individual; nothing more, nothing less, the idea being that a person who
deliberately sets himself to flout society has no right to be served by
society. For all practical purposes this should be enough. Of course,
special action may be indicated in special cases and the practice may have
to be varied to suit the peculiar features of each individual case.
Young India, 8-8-29, p. 263
Ahimsa requires certain
duties which can be done only by those with a trained physique. It is,
therefore, most necessary to consider what kind of physical training a
non-violent person should receive.
Very few of the rules applying
to a violent army will apply to a non-violent body. A violent army will not have
its arms for show but for definitely destructive purposes. A non-violent body
will have no use for such weapons and will, therefore, beat its swords into
ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks, and will shrink from the thought of
using them as lethal weapons. The violent soldier will be trained in the use of
violence by being taught to shoot. The non-violent soldier will have no time for
this pastime. He will get all his training though nursing the sick, saving those
in danger at the risk of his own life, patrolling places which may be in fear of
thieves and dacoits, and in laying down his life, if necessary, in dissuading
them from their purpose. Even the uniforms of the two will differ. The violent
men will wear a coat of mail for his protection, and his uniform will be such as
can dazzle people. The uniform of the non-violent man will be simple, in
conformity with the dress of the poor, and betokening humility. Its purpose will
be just to keep him from heat and cold and rain. A violent soldier’s protection
will be his arms, no matter how much he takes God’s name. He will not shrink
from spending millions on armaments. The first and last shield and buckler of
the non-violent person will be his unwavering faith in God. And the minds of the
two will be as poles asunder. The violent man will always be casting about for
plans to work the destruction of his enemy and will pray to God to fulfill his
purpose. The national anthem of the British people is worth considering in this
connection. It prays to God to save the king, to frustrate the enemy’s Knavish
tricks, and to destroy him. Millions of Englishmen sing this anthem aloud with
one voice standing respectfully. If God is the Incarnation of Mercy, He is not
likely to listen to such prayer, but it cannot but affect the minds of those who
sing it, and in times of war it simply kindles their hatred and anger to white
heat. The one condition of winning a violent war is to keep the indignation
against the enemy burning fiercely.
In the dictionary of the
non-violent body there is no such word as an external enemy. But even for the
supposed enemy he will have nothing but compassion in his heart. He will believe
that no man is intentionally wicked, that there is no man but is gifted with the
faculty to discriminate between right and wrong and that if that faculty were to
be fully developed, it would surely mature into non-violence. He will therefore
pray to God that He may give the supposed enemy a sense of right and bless him.
His prayer for himself will always be that the spring of compassion in him may
ever be flowing, and that he may ever grow in moral strength so that he may face
Thus since the minds of both
will differ as the poles, their physical training will also differ in the same degree.
We all know more or less what
military training is like. But we have hardly ever thought that non-violent
training must be of a different kind. Nor have we ever cared to discover whether
in the past such training was given anywhere in the world. I am of opinion that
it used to be given in the past and is even now being given in a haphazard way.
The various exercises of Hatha Yoga1
are in this
direction. The physical training given by means of these imparts among other
things physical health, agility, and the capacity to bear heat and cold…. My
reference to Hatha Yoga is meant only with a view to showing that this ancient
type of non-violent training still exists, though I know that there is room in
it for improvement. I do not know either that the author of this science had any
idea of mass non-violence. The exercises had at their back the desire for
individual salvation. The object of the various exercises was to strengthen and
purify the body in order to secure control of the mind. The mass non-violence we
are now thinking of applies to people of all religions and therefore the rules
that may be framed must be such as can be accepted by all believers in Ahimsa.
And then as we are thinking of a non-violent army, that is to say, of bringing
into being a Satyagraha Sangha, we can but built a new accepting the old as our
foundation. Let us then think of the physical training required by a Satyagrahi.
If the Satyagrahi is not healthy in mind and body, he may have perhaps fail in
mustering complete fearlessness. He should have the capacity to stand guard at a
single spot day and night; he must not fall ill even if he has to bear cold and
heat and rain; he must have the strength to go to places of peril, to rush to
scenes of fire, and the courage to wander about alone in desolate jungles and
haunts of death; he will bear, without a grumble, severe beating, starvation and
worse, and will keep in his post of duty without flinching; he will have the
resourcefulness and capacity to plunge into a seemingly impenetrable scene of
rioting; he will have the longing and capacity to run with the name of God on
his lips to the rescue of men living on the top storeys of building enveloped in
flames; he will have the fearlessness to plunge into a flood in order to rescue
people being carried off by it or to jump down a well to save a drowning person.
This list can be extended ad
libitum. The substance of it all is that we should cultivate the capacity to run
to the rescue of people in danger and distress and to suffer cheerfully any
amount of hardship that may be inflicted upon us. He who accepts this
fundamental principle will easily be able to frame rules of physical training
for Satyagrahis. I have a firm conviction that the very foundation of this
training is faith in God. If that is absent, all the training one may have
received is likely to fail at the critical moment.
Let no one poohpooh my
statement by saying that the Congress has many people who are ashamed to take
the name of God. I am simply trying to state the view in terms of the science of
Satyagraha as I have known and developed. The only weapon of the Satyagrahi is
God, by whatsoever name one knows Him. Without Him the Satyagrahi is devoid of
strength before an opponent armed with monstrous weapons. Most people lie
prostrate before physical might. But he who accepts God as his only Protector
will remain unbent before the mightiest earthy power.
As faith in God is essential
in a Satyagrahi, even so in Brahmacharya. Without Brahmacharya the Satyagrahi
will have no luster, no inner strength to stand unarmed against the whole world.
Brahmacharya may have here the restricted meaning of conservation of the vital
energy brought about by sexual restraint, and not the comprehensive definition I
have given of it. He who intends to live on spare diet and without any external
remedies, and still wants to have physical strength, has need to conserve his
vital energy. It is the richest capital man can ever possess. He who can
preserve it ever gains renewed strength out of it. He who uses it up,
consciously or unconsciously, will ultimately be impotent. His strength will
fail him at the right moment. I have often written about the ways and means of
conserving this energy. Let the reader turn to my writings and carry out the
instructions. He who lusts with the eye or the touch can never conserve his
vital energy, nor the man who lusts after flesh-pots. Those who hope to conserve
this energy without strict observance of the rules will no more succeed than
those who hope to swim against the current without being exhausted. He who
restrains himself physically can sins with his thoughts will fare worse than he
who, without professing to observe Brahmacharya, lives the life of a restrained
householder. For he who lusts with the thought will ever remain unsated and will
end his life a moral wreck and burden on the earth. Such a one can never be a
full Satyagrahi. Nor can one who hankers after wealth and fame.
This is the foundation of the
physical training for a Satyagrahi. The detailed structure of the course can
easily be built in consonance with this foundation.
It should now be clear that in
the physical training of a Satyagrahi there is no room for lethal weapons like
the sword or the spear. For far more terrible weapons that we have seen are in
existence today, and newer once are being invented every day. Of what fear will
a sword rid him who has to cultivate the capacity to overcome all fear-real or
imaginary? I have not yet heard of a man having shed all fear by learning
sword-play. Mahavir and other s who imbibed Ahimsa did not do so because they
knew the use of weapons, but because, in spite of the knowledge of their use,
they shed all fear.
A slight introspection will
show that he who has always depended on the sword will find it difficult to
throw it away. But having deliberately discarded it he is likely to find his
Ahimsa more lasting than that of him who, not knowing its use, fancies he will
not fear it. But that does not mean that in order to be truly non-violent one
must beforehand possess and know the use of arms. By parity of reasoning, one
might say that only a thief can be honest, only a diseased person can be
healthy, and only a dissolute person can be a Brahamachari. The fact is that we
have formed the habit of thinking along traditional grooves and will not get out
of them. And as we cannot take a detached view, we cannot draw the right
conclusions and get caught in delusive snares.
Harijan, 13-10-40, pp. 318-19
Our motto must ever be
conversion by gentle persuasion and constant appeal to the head and the
heart. We must therefore be ever courteous and patient with those who do not
see eye to eye with us.
Young India, 29-9-21, p. 306
A Satyagrahi bids goodbye
to fear. He is therefore never afraid of trusting the opponent. Even if the
opponent plays him false twenty times, the Satyagrahi ready to trust him the
twenty-first times, for an implicit trust in human nature is the very
essence of his creed.
The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi, (1957), p. 170
The Satyagrahi, whilst he
is ever ready for fight, must be equally eager for peace. He must welcome
any honourable opportunity for peace.
Young India, 19-3-31, p.40
The Satyagrahi never
misses, can never miss, a chance of compromise on honourable terms, it being
always assumed that , in the event of failure, he is ever ready to offer
battle. He needs no previous preparation; his cards are always on the table.
Young India, 16-4-31, p. 77
Immediately we begin to
think of things as our opponents think of them, we shall be able to do them
full justice. I know that this requires a detached state of mind, and it is
a state very difficult to reach. Nevertheless for a Satyagrahi it is
absolutely essential. Three fourths of the miseries and misunderstandings in
the world will disappear, if we step into the shoes of our adversaries and
understand their standpoint. We will then agree with our adversaries quickly
or think of them charitably.
Young India, 19-3-25, p. 95
I have always held that it
is only when one sees one’s own mistakes with a convex lens, and does just
the reverse in the case of others, that one is able to arrive at a just
relative estimate of the two. I further believe that a scrupulous and
conscientious observance of this rule is necessary for one who wants to be a
An Autobiography, (1966), p. 356
There is no time-limit for
a Satyagrahi nor is there a limit to his capacity for suffering. Hence there
is no such thing as defeat in Satyagraha.
Young India, 19-2-25, p. 61
But if you believe in the
efficacy of Satyagraha, you will rejoice in this slow torture and suffering,
and you will not feel the discomfort of your position as you go and sit in
the boiling sun from day to day. If you have faith in the cause and the
means and in God the hot sun will be cool for you. You must not be tried and
say, ‘how long’ and never get irritated.
Not a single minute should be
wasted in idle conversation, but we must be absorbed in the work before us, and
if every one of us works in that spirit you will see that there is pleasure in
the work itself.
You may not waste a grain of
rice or a scrap of paper, and similarly a minute of your time. It is not ours.
It belongs to the nation and we are trustees for the use of it.
Young India, 19-3-25, p. 95
My advice is Satyagraha
first and Satyagraha last. There is no other or better road to freedom.
Harijan, 15-9-46, p. 312
The conviction has been
growing upon me, that things of fundamental importance to the people are not
secured by reason alone, but have to be purchased with their suffering.
Suffering is the law of human beings; war is the law of the jungle. But
suffering is infinitely more powerful than the law of the jungle for
converting the opponent and opening his ears, which are otherwise shut, to
the voice of reason.
Young India, 5-11-31, p. 341
True suffering does not
know itself and never calculates. It brings its own joy which surpasses all other joys.
Young India, 19-3-31, p. 41
A Satyagrahi has nothing to
do with victory. He is sure of it, but he has also to know that it comes
from God. His is but to suffer.
Young India, 13-10-27, p. 345
Self-sacrifice of one
innocent man is a million times more potent than the sacrifice of a million
men who die in the act of killing others. The willing sacrifice of the
innocent is the most powerful retort to insolent tyranny that has yet been
conceived by God or man.
Young India, 12-2-25, p. 60
. A system of yoga in which he exercises of physical
postures poses and breathing are chiefly treated to discipline body and mind