My faith in Non-violence
I have found that life persists in the midst of destruction and, therefore, there must be a higher law than that of destruction. Only under that law would a well-ordered society be intelligible and life worth living. And if that is the law of life, we have to work it out in daily life. Wherever there are jars, wherever you are confronted with an opponent, conquer him with love. In a crude manner I have worked it out in my life. That does not mean that all my difficulties are solved. I have found, however, that this law of love has answered as the law of destruction has never done. In India we have had an ocular demonstration of the operation of this law on the widest scale possible. I do not claim therefore that nonviolence has necessarily penetrated the three hundred millions, but I do claim that it has penetrated deeper than any other message, and in an incredibly short time. We have not been all uniformly nonviolent; and with the vast majority, nonviolence has been a matter of policy. Even so, I want you to find out if the country has not made phenomenal progress under the protecting power of nonviolence.
It takes a fairly strenuous course of training to attain to a mental state of nonviolence. In daily life it has to be a course of discipline, though one may not like it-like, for instance, the life of a soldier. But I agree that, unless there is a hearty cooperation of the mind, the mere outward observance will be simply a mask, harmful both to the man himself and to others. The perfect state is reached only when mind and body and speech are in proper coordination. But it is always a case of intense mental struggle. It is not that I am incapable of anger, for instance, but I succeed on almost all occasions to keep my feelings under control. Whatever may be the result, there is always in me a conscious struggle for following the law of nonviolence deliberately and ceaselessly. Such a struggle leaves one stronger for it. Nonviolence is a weapon of the strong. With the weak it might easily be hypocrisy. Fear and love are contradictory terms. Love is reckless in giving away, oblivious as to what it gets in return. Love wrestles with the world as with the self and ultimately gains a mastery over all other feelings. My daily experience, as of those who are working with me, is that every problem lends itself to solution if we are determined to make the law of truth and nonviolence the law of life. For truth and nonviolence are, to me, faces of the same coin.
The law of love will work, just as the law of gravitation will work, whether we accept it or not. Just as a scientist will work wonders out of various applications of the law of nature, even so a man who applies the law of love with scientific precision can work greater wonders. For the force of nonviolence is infinitely more wonderful and subtle than the material forces of nature, like, for instance, electricity. The men who discovered for us the law of love were greater scientists than any of our modern scientists. Only our explorations have not gone far enough and so it is not possible for everyone to see all its workings. Such, at any rate, is the hallucination, if it is one, under which I am laboring. The more I work at this law the more I feel the delight in life, the delight in the scheme of this universe. It gives me a peace and a meaning of the mysteries of nature that I have no power to describe.
On the 25th April 1891, Gandhiji wrote in " The Vegetarian", a magazine being published from London an article titled " Holi". While narrating the significance of the festival and the customs followed during the festivities, his discerning eyes do not fail to see the bad customs even at that young age also. This quality of an impartial observer and narrator reached its peak in the latter years. The reader is invited to glance through the following passage from the Introduction of his Autobiography "The Story of My Life or My Experiments with the Truth".
"Only those matters of religion that can be comprehended as much by children as by older people, will be included in this story. If I can narrate them in a dispassionate and humble spirit, many other experimenters will find in them provision for their onward march. Far be it from me to claim any degree of perfection for these experiments. I claim for them nothing more than does a scientist who, though he conducts his experiments with the utmost accuracy, fore-thought and minuteness, never claims any finality about his conclusions, but keeps an open mind regarding them. I have gone through deep self-introspection, searched myself through and through, and examined and analyzed every psychological situation. Yet I am far from claiming any finality or infallibility about my conclusions. One claim I do indeed make and it is this. For me they appear to be absolutely correct, and seem for the time being to be final. For if they were not, I should base no action on them. But at every step I have carried out the process of acceptance or rejection and acted accordingly. And so long as my acts satisfy my reason and my heart, I must firmly adhere to my original conclusions."
Next in importance to the Divali holidays are the Holi holidays, which were alluded to in The Vegetarian of the 28th March.
Holi holidays, as will be remembered, correspond to Easter in point of time. Holi takes place on the full moon day of the fifth month, Falgun, of the Hindu year. This is just the Spring-time. Trees are budding forth. Warm clothes are put off. Light clothes are the fashion. That the Spring has come is even more manifest when we have a peep at one of the temples. The moment you enter a temple (and you must be a Hindu in order to gain admittance there into, you smell nothing but sweet flowers. Pious persons are sitting on the steps, making garlands for Thakorji (god). Among the flowers you see beautiful roses, champeli, mogra, etc. When the doors are flung open for darshan (literally seeing), you observe the fountains in full play. You enjoy soft and fragrant breezes. Thakorji has worn light costumes of delicate shades. Piles of flowers before him, and garlands round his neck almost hide him from your view. He is swung to and fro. The swing, too, is covered with green leaves sprinkled with fragrant waters.
Outside the temple the sight is not edifying. You here meet with nothing but obscene language during the fortnight preceding the Holi. In small villages, it is difficult for ladies to appear without being be spattered with mud. They are the subject of obscene remarks. The same treatment is meted out to men without distinction. People form themselves into small parties. Then one party competes with another in using obscene language and singing obscene songs. All persons men and children, but not women take part in these revolting contests.
Indeed, it is not considered bad taste to use obscene words during this season. In places where people are steeped in ignorance they even pelt one another. They paint obscene words on your clothes, and if you wear a white garment and go out, you are sure to return home with plenty of mud about you. This reaches its climax on the Holi day. Whether you are in the house or out of it, obscene words are jarring on your ears. If you happen to visit a friend, you are sure to be bathed in foul water, or in fragrant water as the case may be.
In the evening, a big pile of wood or dried cow-dung is made and set on fire. These piles are often as high as twenty feet or more. And the pieces of wood used are so thick that the fire is not extinguished for seven or eight days. On the day following, people heat water on these fires and bathe with it.
So far I have spoken of the way in which the Holi holidays are abused. It is a relief to be able to say that with the progress of education and civilization such scenes are slowly, though surely, dying out. But the richer and refined classes use these holidays in a very decent way. Coloured water and fragrant waters take the place of mud. Throwing pails of water is replaced here by a little sprinkling only. Orange-coloured water is most used during these days. It is made by boiling dried flowers, called kesuda, which have the colour of an orange. Rose water, too, is used where people can afford it. Friends and relations meet and feast one another, and thus enjoy the Spring in merriment.
In many respects, the Divali holidays present a beautiful contrast to the, for the most part, unholy Holi holidays. Divali holidays begin soon after the monsoon season which is also the time of fasting. So the feasting during the Divali holidays is all the more enjoyable. While the Holi holidays follow the winter which is the time for taking concentrated foods of all sorts, such foods are left off during the Holi holidays. Obscene language of Holi follows the most sacred songs of the Divali. Then again people begin to wear winter clothes in the Divali, while they put these off in the Holi. The Divali proper takes place on the fifteenth day of the dark half of the month Aswin and consequently there is much illumination; while on account of the Holi taking place on the full-moon day, illumination would be out of place.
The Vegetarian, 25-4-1891
Source: "The Power of Nonviolence Writings By Advocates of Peace" Page 45-46