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Mahatma Gandhi And Non-violent Resistance

Bijoy Misra

Mahatma Gandhi and Non-violent Resistance

October 2 would be the 149th birth anniversary of that weak bespectacled bare-bodied man who caused the fall of an Empire through pure conviction of human freedom.  Raised as an average young man in a religious family in Gujarat, he had his own shortcomings and his share of juvenile mischief.  He had to support his family and meet his personal obligations financially and socially.  An incident, which may appear ordinary in a class-conscious society, led him to change the course of his life.  From Mohandas he became Mahatma, from Gandhi he became Bapu.  He is revered as the “the Father of the Nation” in India.  Gandhi brought freedom to millions in India and around the world by being a voice against colonial oppression and discrimination.

Gandhi was the last among the trio in the modern world who wanted to explore the human condition through personal life and living.  The first was Henry David Thoreau, the hermit of Concord, who declared the human being has a right to live with total freedom on the planet.  Through reams of writing, he renounced the vanity and pretension in the slavery-driven economy of the nineteenth century US.   Rowing his boat through the riverways, Thoreau witnessed the play of nature and marveled at the harmony of the sky and earth.  The mystic man had his spiritual communion through the Bhagavadgita, which he kept by his bedside and studied frequently.

Thoreau was followed by Tolstoy in Russia.  Born to a wealthy and aristocratic family, Tolstoy became an author of renown before he had his spiritual awakening.  Being exposed to Indian philosophic thoughts through the writings of the German philosopher Schopenhauer, Tolstoy reflected on the oppression of colonialism and the freedom of man, particularly in India.  Exploring his personal Christian beliefs in empowerment and resurrection, Tolstoy powerfully espoused the principle of nonviolent resistance in his writings.

It came upon Gandhi in South Africa to experiment on the principles put together by Thoreau and Tolstoy.  Gandhi was personally affected and he witnessed the unfair practices of exploitation by the colonial rulers.   Gandhi interpreted nonviolence from his Jaina roots and coined the word “satyagraha”.  A nonviolent resistance as thought by Thoreau and Tolstoy was to refrain using force against force, but the Satyagraha volunteer was supposed to refrain from harboring any ill-feeling towards the oppressor.  One opposes the action but retains friendship with the person conducting the action.   Through this, Gandhi made his movement as an experiment in discovering truth in humanity. 

Gandhi’s experiment succeeded.  In modified forms it has been tried out in various other situations in the world.  October 2 is observed as International Non-violence Day in the world through the United Nations. 

India Discovery Center recalls Gandhi and his life in a special Gandhi Memorial Meeting scheduled at Lexington Public Library on Sunday, October 7, 2018 at 2 PM.  We will have readings from Gandhi’s Autobiography and a lecture entitled “Jaina Influence in Gandhi’s Life” by Professor Vimal Prakash Jain, a veteran Gandhi scholar.  The event and the lecture are free.  Please contact Sri Chandu Shah at chandu420@gmail.com or Mr. Sanjeev Tripathi sanjeevkt@hotmail.com  to participate in the readings.

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