Culture Magazine

Gandhi: The Rebel in the Name of Truth

By Emcybulska
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” Matthew 10:34-36
“It is the stillest words that bring the storm. Thoughts that come with doves' feet guide the world” Friedrich Nietzsche, The Stillest Hour, Zarathustra.
For Gandhi, Truth was God and God was Truth. For this he would live and he would die: and die he did! Much inspired by the Bhagavad Gita, he considered that human life was worth only in Truth. He carried the book with him wherever he went and that the following passage became a theme of his life: “among thousands of men hardly one strives after perfections; among those who strive hardly one knows Me in truth” Krishna; Chapter 7, verse 3; Mahatma Gandhi translation.
Gandhi was a deeply religious man who spent his life looking for God, in himself and in other people. The Indian greeting gesture namaste means ‘I bow to the divine in you’.
“I am endeavouring to see God through the service of humanity, for I know that God is neither in heaven, nor down below, but in every one”, he wrote to a friend in 1927. His was the ‘God of the spheres’, a God of humanity. A passage from Immanuel Kant, that most moral of Western philosophers, comes to mind: “Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me...” Critique of Practical Reason.
Gandhi’s genius was the political and social application of that life-long pursuit of truth. He coined the term Satyagraha, which means ‘truth-force’. It required from everyone who subscribed to it a tremendous personal courage and dedication. “Be fearless. So long as you live under various kinds of fears, you can never progress, you can never succeed. Never, never give up truth and love. Treat all enemies and friends with love” (Gandhi speaking at a Hindu conference on March 30, 1918).
Truth has an inherent force which eliminates the use of violence. Gandhi saw injustice and corruption of values ‘when he saw it and as he saw it’ (as Nietzsche would have put it), never turning his head and pretending that he just didn’t see. “To tread the path of Truth and non-violence implies an active life. In the absence of such activity, there is no occasion for either pursuing or swerving from truth. The Gita has made it clear that a person cannot remain inactive even for a single moment... (July 24, 1932). To be able to see and articulate the truth one needs the sward of intellect, not of steel. Gandhi said things, many were too frightened to even imagine.
For Gandhi, nonviolence achieved a religious status. ‘Nonviolence succeeds only when we have a living faith in God’ he wrote (January, 1939). It involves deeds was well as words. He was deeply influenced in this moral stance by Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, as well as the Bhagavad Gita. Non-violence is not a position of passivity but the most active force in the world (see his Nonviolence in Peace and War’ 1935). It has no room for enemy and all men are brothers. It has no room for resentment and implies loving those who hate us (loving those who love us is easy!). ‘Evil is sustained through the cooperation, either willing or forced, of good people’ he wrote in 1938.
Gandhi’s provocativeness knew no bounds. It is as if he lived by the dictum of great American thinker, Ralph Waldo Emerson who stressed that what one soul can offer another is not instruction but provocation. Provocation stirs up inner resources in the other and offers an opportunity for change. During the Great Trial of 1922, Gandhi was charged with sedition and he was allowed to make a statement in court before sentencing. What he said was a masterstroke that electrified the nation: “Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good. But in the past, non-cooperation has been deliberately expressed in violence to the evil-doer. …Withdrawal of support to evil requires complete abstention from violence. Nonviolence implies voluntary submission to the penalty for non-cooperation with evil. I am here, therefore, to invite and submit cheerfully to the highest penalty that can be inflicted upon me for what is deliberate crime, and what appears to me to be the highest duty of a citizen. The only course open to you, the Judge, is either to resign your post and thus dissociate yourself from evil, if you feel that the law you are called upon to administer is an evil, and that in reality I am innocent; or to inflict on me the severest penalty, if you believe that the system and the law you are assisting to administer are good for the people of this country, and that my activity, is therefore, injurious to the common weal.” Gandhi was sentenced to 6 years but no British judge ever allowed him to make a statement in the court again! This sentence was later shortened. However, in total, Gandhi spent 6 years in various South African and Indian jails and this he regarded as an opportunity to do a lot of reading, meditation and prayer.
Few words on the issue of India’s partition. Gandhi’s deep faith in the underlying unity of existence was at the heart of his ecumenical stance on religion and his strong opposition to the partition of India. Ultimately, people of small heart (which included some Hindus as well as Muslims) showed themselves to be bent on violence and separation rather than love and unity.
Gandhi was shot dead by a Hindu extremist on 30 January 1948, an end to life which he anticipated. These are his last steps to a prayer meeting in Delhi, immortalised in stone:
Own photo, taken in Delhi in December 2017

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog