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Living Nonviolence: The Wisdom of Gandhi (in his own words) A time for learning and shared reflection
Nonviolent Peaceforce – Greater Boston
Preamble Hope for and Vision of This Program: This two hour (or longer) program has been designed for small groups to use in a variety of settings (living rooms, churches or civic centers, back yards, workshop rooms, etc.). The following guide offers detailed suggestions for structure and content, so that a facilitator or leader need not have studied Gandhi, but may simply be comfortable with guiding the group process. The participants in this contemporary experience, having been exposed to the “raw Wisdom” of Gandhi, would be encouraged to think about ways in which they could apply Gandhi’s principles in their own individual lives and in the groups with which they work. With Gandhi’s words in their minds, they might want to speak in the group about their own “Truth-Force” and at the end of the evening people might choose to take an oath or pledge of non-violence. Some people might like to communicate to others (perhaps as a reinforcement) what an oath of non-violence would mean in changing their lives or furthering their already-begun work. In some cases it might be very simple: i.e. the force of Truth, when humbly listened to, causes them to recognize that they continually shout at their spouse or children. Their oath of non-violence might be one of non-violent speech, a speech that carries Gandhi’s mandate of always communicating Love (ahimsa) above all else. Other people might be called to help implement non-violent training in their children’s schools (as has been successfully done in one Dorchester school). Some might want to join a nuclear disarmament movement. Others might want to contribute financially to the victims of violence in Darfur or to the Nonviolent Peaceforce itself. Our hope is that each person might leave the evening with a bit of Gandhi in himor herself—all of us motivated and strengthened to live out Gandhi’s ideals in our own present lives. ...everyone is encouraged to think about how Gandhi’s Truth Force (Satyagraha) and Nonviolence might be expressed here in the present moment.
Notes: 1. Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) was conceived in 1999 as a continuation of Gandhi's vision of a "Shanti Sena," or peace army. NP recruits, trains and financially supports civilians from around the world who deploy in areas of conflict. NP teams are nonpartisan and unarmed. NP peacekeeping forces apply proven nonviolent strategies to protect human rights, deter violence, and help create space for local peacemakers to carry out their work. More information about the Nonviolent Peaceforce can be found at www.nonviolentpeaceforce.org. 2. NP takes Mohandas K. Gandhi as one of its chief spiritual leaders and guides in its support of collective nonviolence. This program has been created to help NP members and others to appreciate and internalize Gandhi’s considerable spiritual and philosophical contributions to nonviolence. It is our fervent hope that it will be used to further peaceful and respectful dialogue among us all, on all levels from the personal to the global. 3. This packet was prepared by members of the Greater Boston chapter of the Nonviolent Peaceforce. Any errors or omissions are solely the responsibility of NPGB. NPGB can be reached through Sherry Zitter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978-562-1801. 4. This packet is available on line through www.usnpca.org or workadayforpeace.org. We request that a $10 donation be sent to Nonviolent Peaceforce when it is downloaded; we hope you will then use it many times over in different venues. We use the honor system for payment: please mail your taxdeductible check to Nonviolent Peaceforce, 425 Oak Grove, Minneapolis MN 55403. Thank you!!
Living Nonviolence: The Wisdom of Mohandas K. Gandhi, 1869 – 1948 --A time for learning and shared reflection-This page is intended as a suggested order for the evening. Various people or groups who use this packet should feel free to adjust and modify this suggested order as they see fit according to their particular situation and needs. Two attachements are available on the website, one providing additional quotes about Satyagraha and the other on various topics about which Gandhi spoke and wrote, which can make the focus broader or more “activist” if desired. The Setting: -Ten to 20 participants are seated in a circle: everyone is visible to everyone else. -Ragas from a Ravi Shankar CD provide musical background. [see reference in Bibliography] -A picture of Gandhi may be displayed. [One could enlarge the one attached to this document, or find another.] -Chai (Indian tea), grapes and nuts are served to symbolize the simple Gandhian life-style. -Each attendee receives a personal copy of the prepared readings. Suggested Structure: “Homage to Mahatma Gandhi”, Ravi Shankar: 2 minutes and then continuing softly in background during the reading. [Introduction by facilitator: 3 minutes] - Text to be read aloud begins on p. 5. [Reading of Gandhi excerpts: 57 minutes] – 1 hour has elapsed Participants read one section in turn (up to dashed line) until text is finished. There should be a pause of about 30 seconds between the readings of each person. There should be a 1-minute pause between each noted subtopic during which the background Ravi Shankar raga will increase in volume. -3-
[Serving of chai in silence, or with soft music: 10 minutes.] It is suggested that Chai, alone, be served here in ceremonial fashion, as participants digest and reflect on what they have heard. The grapes and nuts can be made available during the following discussion periods. [Global reflections: 20 minutes.] Group members offer their initial, general responses to the readings, pointing out particular ideas that seemed to impress them. [Personal reflections: 20 minutes.] Group members offer insights as to ways Gandhi’s words may inspire or change their lives at a personal level. [Opportunity to offer personal pledges: 10 minutes] – Individuals, or the group as a whole, suggest pledges they may wish to take. Total elapsed time:: 2 hours M.K.Gandhi Glossary [The words below appear in bold the first time they appear in the selected texts.]
Ahimsa: Bhakti Chit: Sat, Satya: non-violence devotion Knowledge Truth
Satyagraha: [has been translated in a variety of ways, including] holding fast to Truth; Truth-Force; any effort to discover, discern, obtain or apply Truth; civil or non-violent disobedience or resistance; the force that is born of truth and love. Satyagrahi: a follower of Satyagraha Swaraj: self-government, home-rule
Wisdom of Mohandas K. Gandhi, 1869 – 1948 --- Living Nonviolence: An evening of learning, introspection and sharing --Introduction to the evening by the facilitator: Mohandas K. Gandhi is, perhaps, most prominently remembered by historians for successfully leading the movement known as Hind Swaraj* (Indian Self-Rule) during the 1930’s and 1940’s. [*all boldfaced words are in glossary on p. 4] However, Gandhiji, as he was affectionately known by his millions of followers, also created and bequeathed to the whole world a spiritual philosophy known variously as: Nonviolence, Reverence for Truth, and Respect, even Love, for one’s enemies as well as for one’s individual self. On this occasion we have chosen not to focus on the considerable social and political accomplishments of the movements that Gandhi led. Rather, the materials here presented are fragments of the words Gandhi used to guide and influence his followers. It is hoped that our reflection on these words will inspire us to follow, according to our own Light and circumstances, the wisdom of Gandhiji. As we go around the circle, each person in turn will read ONE section, up to the dashed line. Between readings we should pause for about 30 seconds to silently reflect on what we have heard. When the readings are finished, chai will be served in silence. After this, we will have the opportunity to share with each other responses to what we have heard and, perhaps, suggest some insights we have gained regarding our own lives and the situation of the world in which we find ourselves. Special Note #1: Gandhi lived before the women’s liberation movement and so always used the masculine pronoun when referring to a generic “person”. What follows, this evening, are direct quotes from the recorded words of Gandhi from years between 1906 and ca. 1930. If you have problems with his repeated use of the generic “he” please feel free to read “he or she”. It is the consensus of NPGB that you will not be violating the “spirit of Gandhi” in doing this. Special Note #2: Please do not read the words between brackets [ ], which are generally references. -5-
Introduction to the life of M.K. Gandhi by the first reader: As a youth and young adult Gandhi was influenced by the Bhagavad Gita, a central Hindu scripture as well as the scriptures of Islam and Christianity and the writings of Tolstoy, Thoreau and John Ruskin on nonviolence. As he learned, Mohandas Gandhi internalized a deep spiritual foundation. Gandhi was educated as a lawyer in London and admitted to the bar in South Africa. He never lost respect for the British legal system. In South Africa from 1893 to 1914 Gandhi practiced law, and engaged in a wide variety of activities to build up the Indian community. Gandhi, himself, as a member of the Indian minority experienced repeated insults and discrimination from his earliest days in South Africa. And it was there that the spiritual/political movement known as Satyagraha (a relentless search for Truth) was born, first tested as a populist force, and matured as a powerful political tool. Fortunately, Gandhiji has left behind a large and significant body of writings for us to appreciate, reflect upon and, perhaps, incorporate in some way into our own lives. _________________________________ [1-minute Raga pause]
Satyagraha: Part 1 - My Faith In Non-Violence Satyagraha is a law of universal application. Beginning with the family, its use can be extended to every other circle. (M.K.Gandhi) 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 wellordered 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 wars, 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 non-violence 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 non-violent; and with the vast majority, non-violence 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 non-violence. _________________________________ 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 co-operation 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 co-ordination. 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 non-violence deliberately and ceaselessly. Such a struggle leaves one stronger for it. Non-violence 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 non-violence are, to me, faces of the same coin. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ -7-
[From a talk enroute to the Round Table Conference, 1931] [1-minute Raga pause] Satyagraha: Part 2 – Satyagrahi’s Duty Satyagraha is a relentless search for truth and a determination to search truth. (M.K.Gandhi) I am considering their condition of mind from their point of view and not my own. … (When) we begin to think of things as our opponents think of them, we shall be able to do them full justice. I know 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 of 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. In our case there is no question of our agreeing with them quickly as our ideals are radically different. But we may be charitable to them and believe that they actually mean what they say. … Our business, therefore, is to show them that they are wrong and we should do so by our suffering. _________________________________ Mixing up of motives is damaging in any species of Satyagraha; but in religious Satyagraha it is altogether inadmissible. It is fatal to use or allow religious Satyagraha to be used as a cloak or a device for advancing an ulterior political or mundane objective. As with regard to the goal so with the means, unadulterated purity is of the very essence in this species of Satyagraha. The leader in such a movement must be a man of deeply spiritual life, preferably a brahmachari (celibate) – whether married or unmarried. He must be a believer – as in fact everybody participating in such a movement must be – and practiser of a particular religious observance for which the movement is launched. The leader must be versed in the science of Satyagraha. Truth and ahimsa should be transparent through and through. Diplomacy and intrigue can have no place in his armory. _________________________________
Absolute belief in ahimsa and in God is an indispensable condition in such Satyagraha. In religious Satyagraha there can be no room for aggressiveness, demonstrativeness, show. Those who take part in it must have equal respect and regard for the religious convictions and susceptibilities of those who profess a different faith from theirs. The slightest narrowness in their outlook is likely to be reflected magnified multifold in the opponent. Religious Satyagraha is, above all, a process of self-purification. _________________________________ [27 May, 1939] [1-minute Raga pause] Satyagraha: Part 3 – Q & A on the Risk of Violence Facilitator: Q. Will not your movement lead to violence? A. It may, although I am trying my best to prevent any outbreak of violence. Today there is a greater risk of violence, in the absence of any safety-valve in the shape of a movement of non-violence like the one I am contemplating. Facilitator: Q. Yes, I have heard you say that you are launching this campaign for the very purpose of stopping violence. A. It is one argument, but that is not the most conclusive argument. The other and most conclusive argument for me is that if non-violence has to prove its worth, it must prove its worth today. It must cease to be the passive or even impotent instrument that it has come to be looked upon in certain quarters. And when it is exercised in the most effective way, it must be in spite of the most fatal outward obstructions. In fact, non-violence by its very nature must neutralize all outward obstruction. On the contrary, inward obstacles in the shape of fraud, hatred, and ill-will would be fatal to the movement. Up to now I used to say, ‘Let me get control over the forces of violence.’ It is growing upon me now that it is only by setting the force of non-violence in motion that I can get those elements under control. [20 March, 1930] _________________________________ -9-
[1-minute Raga pause]
Truth [from Satyagraha: Non-violent Resistance, Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1951, pp. 38 - 40] The word Satya (Truth) is derived from Sat, which means ‘being’. Nothing is or exists in reality except Truth. That is why Sat or Truth is perhaps the most important name of God. In fact it is more correct to say that Truth is God, than to say that God is Truth. But as we cannot do without a ruler or a general, names of God such as ‘King of Kings” or ‘the Almighty’ are and will remain generally current. On deeper thinking, however, it will be realized, that Sat or Satya is the only correct and fully significant name for God. _________________________________ And where there is Truth, there also is knowledge which is true. Where there is no Truth, there can be no true knowledge. That is why the word Chit or knowledge is associated with the name of God. And where there is true knowledge, there is always bliss (Ananda). Sorrow has no place there. Even as Truth is eternal, so is the bliss derived from it. Hence we know God as Sat-chit-ananda, One who combines in Himself Truth, Knowledge and Bliss. _________________________________ Devotion to this Truth is the sole justification for our existence. All our activities should be centered in Truth. Truth should be the very breath of our life. When once this stage in the pilgrim’s progress is reached, all other rules of correct living will come without effort, and obedience to them will be instinctive. But without Truth it would be impossible to observe any principles or rules in life. … _________________________________ But how is one to realize this Truth, which may be likened to the philosopher’s stone or the cow of plenty? By single-minded devotion (abhyasa) and indifference to all other interests in life (vairagya) – replies the Bhagavadgita. In spite, however, of such devotion, what may appear as truth to one person will often appear as untruth to another person. But that need not worry the seeker. Where there is honest effort, it will be realized that what appear to be different truths are -10-
like the countless and apparently different leaves of the same tree. Does not God Himself appear to different individuals in different aspects? Yet we know that He is one. But Truth is the right designation of God. Hence there is nothing wrong in every man following Truth according to his lights. Indeed it is his duty to do so. Then if there is any mistake on the part of any one following Truth, it will be automatically set right. For the quest of Truth involves tapas – self-suffering, sometimes even unto death. There can be no place in it for even a trace of selfinterest. In such selfless search for Truth nobody can lose his bearings for long. Directly he takes the wrong path he stumbles, and is thus redirected to the right path. Therefore the pursuit of Truth is true bhakti (devotion). It is the path that leads to God. _________________________________ [1-minute Raga pause]
Ahimsa [from Satyagraha: Non-violent Resistance, Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1951, pp. 40 - 42] It appears that the impossibility of full realization of Truth in this mortal body led some ancient seeker after Truth to the appreciation of ahimsa. The question which confronted him was: ‘Shall I bear with those who create difficulties for me, or shall I destroy them?’ The seeker realized that he who went on destroying others did not make headway but simply stayed where he was, while the man who suffered those who created difficulties marched ahead, and at times even took the others with him. The first act of destruction taught him that Truth which was the object of his quest was not outside himself but within. Hence the more he took to violence, the more he receded from Truth. For in fighting the imagined enemy without, he neglected the enemy within. _________________________________
We punish thieves, because we think they harass us. They may leave us alone; but they will only transfer their attentions to another victim. This other victim however is also a human being, ourselves in a different form, and so we are caught in a vicious circle. … But whilst we may bear with the thieves, we must not endure the infliction. That would only induce cowardice. So we realize a further duty. Since we regard thieves as our kith and kin, they must be made to realize this kinship. And so we must take pains to devise ways and means of winning them over. This is the path of ahimsa. It may entail continuous suffering and the cultivating of endless patience. Given these two conditions, the thief is bound to turn away from his evil ways. Thus, step by step we learn how to make friends with all the world; we realize the greatness of God – of Truth. … _________________________________ Ahimsa is not the crude thing it has been made to appear. Not to hurt any living thing is no doubt a part of ahimsa. But that is its least expression. The principle of ahimsa is hurt by every evil thought, by undue haste, by lying, by hatred, by wishing ill to anybody. It is also violated by our holding on to what the world needs. But the world needs even what we eat day by day. … The body will cease to be only when we give up all attachment to it. This freedom from all attachment is the realization of God as Truth. … _________________________________ It is perhaps clear from the foregoing, that without ahimsa it is not possible to seek and find Truth. Ahimsa and Truth are so intertwined that it is practically impossible to disentangle and separate them. … Nevertheless ahimsa is the means; Truth is the end. Means must always be within our reach, and so ahimsa is our supreme duty. If we take care of the means, we are bound to reach the end sooner or later. When we have grasped this point, final victory is beyond question. Whatever difficulties we encounter, whatever apparent reverses we sustain, we may not give up the quest for Truth which alone is, being God Himself. _________________________________ [1-minute Raga pause]
The Pledge: Part 1 – Implications & Possible Consequences [Excerpts from a speech delivered by Gandhi to a meeting of thousands in Johannesburg, South Africa, 11 September, 1906. The proposed ‘Black Acts’ would have required those present, as well as the entire Hindu and Muslim population, to “register” -- thus institutionalizing the discrimination already being experienced.] I wish to explain to this meeting that there is a vast difference between this resolution and every other resolution we have passed up to date and that there is a vast divergence also in the manner of making it. It is a very grave resolution we are making, as our existence in South Africa depends upon our fully observing it. _________________________________ We all believe in one and the same God, the differences of nomenclature in Hinduism and Islam notwithstanding. To pledge ourselves or to take an oath in the name of that God or with Him as a witness is not something to be trifled with. If having taken such an oath we violate our pledge we are guilty before God and man. _________________________________ I know that pledges and vows are, and should be, taken on rare occasions. A man who takes a vow every now and then is sure to stumble. But if I can imagine a crisis in the history of the Indian community of South Africa when it would be in the fitness of things to take pledges that crisis is surely now. There is wisdom in taking serious steps with great caution and hesitation. But caution and hesitation have their limits, and we have now passed them. The government has taken leave of all sense of decency. _________________________________ A few words now as to the consequences. Hoping for the best, we may say that if a majority of the Indians pledge themselves to resistance and if all who take the pledge prove true to themselves, the Ordinance may not be passed and if passed, may soon be repealed. … I want to give you an idea of the worst that might happen to us in the present struggle. … We may weaken at the first trial. -13-
We may have to go to jail, where we may be insulted. We may have to go hungry and suffer extreme heat and cold. Hard labor may be imposed on us. We may be flogged by rude wardens. We may be fined heavily and our property may be attached and held up to auction if there are only a few resisters left. Opulent today we may be reduced to poverty tomorrow. … But I can declare with certainty, that so long as there is even a handful of men true to their pledge, there can only be one end to the struggle, and that is victory. _________________________________ [1-minute Raga pause]
The Pledge: Part 2 – Gandhi’s Responsibility A word about my personal responsibility. If I am warning you of the risks attendant upon the pledge, I am at the same time inviting you to pledge yourselves, and I am fully conscious of my responsibility in the matter. It is possible that a majority of those present here may take the pledge in a fit of enthusiasm or indignation but may weaken under the ordeal, and only a handful may be left to face the final test. Even then there is only one course open to someone like me, to die but not to submit to the law. It is quite unlikely but even if everyone else flinched leaving me alone to face the music, I am confident that I would never violate my pledge. Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying this out of vanity, but I wish to put you, especially the leaders on this platform, on your guard. I wish to respectfully suggest it to you that if you have not the will or the ability to stand firm even when you are perfectly isolated, you must not only not take the pledge yourselves but you must declare your opposition before the resolution is put to the meeting and before its members begin to take pledges and you must not make yourselves parties to the resolution. Although we are going to take the pledge in a body, no one should imagine that default on the part of one or many can absolve the rest from their obligation. Every one should fully realize his responsibility, then only pledge himself independently of others and understand that he himself must be true to his pledge even unto death, no matter what others do. –0–0–0–0–0–0–0–0–0–0–0–0–0–0–0–0Chai is served in silence, or with soft Raga music: 10 minutes. -14-
Discussion Period: “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” (M.K.Gandhi) NOTE: The questions associated with each heading below are only ‘prompts’ to get the discussion started. They need not be answered literally, or even at all. General responses to the readings: 20 minutes -Do you believe that acts of violence only serve to perpetuate the cycle of violence and that acts of sacrificial non-violence serve to restore permanent conditions of peace? -Can you love your opponent while repudiating his actions? -Will you love & respect your opponent after your political objectives have been met? -Do you believe that respect leads to love? Individual responses to the readings: 20 minutes -What would you be willing to die for? -Is there some aspect of your life that would be amenable to Satyagraha (the relentless search for Truth)? -In your daily life and dealings with others, how does Gandhi's approach impact you personally? How might you deal differently with yourself and others after this program? Becoming a Satyagrahi: Discussion of Possible Pledges -Could you take an oath or pledge regarding your personal search for Truth? [for example, any part of the following:: “I choose to break the cycle of violence. I will seek to resolve my own conflicts without violence; and I will encourage nonviolent responses to conflict by my neighbors, governments, and civilians worldwide.” or would you prefer to choose a resolve that is more specific?] -Can you imagine a group of people with whom you are associated taking a collective oath regarding their individual searches for Truth?
Bibliography SATYAGRAHA [NON-VIOLENT RESISTANCE], M.K. Gandhi, Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmadabad, 1951. This is the primary source from which the excepted readings, above, were taken. SELECTED WRITINGS OF Mahatma Gandhi, Ronald Duncan, ed., Beacon Press, Boston, 1951, Contains a rich bibliography of the books available on Gandhi at the time. AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY: My Experiments With Truth, M.K. Gandhi, Beacon Press, Boston, 1957 Topics include: Truth: clear personal motivations Celibacy: purity of self Ahimsa: personal compassion Nonpossession: personal sacrifice Control of the palate: ethical vegetarianism Service: Duty; freely giving of personal labor SATYAGRAHA IN SOUTH AFRICA, M.K. Gandhi, Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1928. THE ESSENTIAL GANDHI: His Life, Work, and Ideas, Louis Fischer, ed., Vintage Books, New York, 1962. THE WORDS OF GANDHI, Selected by Richard Attenborough, Newmarket Press, New York, 1982. THE TOLSTOY FARM: GANDHI'S EXPERIMENT IN "COOPERATIVE COMMONWEALTH", Surendra Bhana, Published in South African Historical Journal, No. 7, November 1975, available on-line @ HYPERLINK "http://www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/history/people/gandhi/ bhana.html" http://www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/history/people/gandhi/bhana.html See also: HYPERLINK "http://www.mkgandhi.org/" http://www.mkgandhi.org/ for a rich trove of Gandhi-related resources. HOMAGE TO MAHATMA GANDHI, Ravi Shankar, available from Universal Classics Group, 825 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10019. This CD contains three ragas performed by Ravi Shankar. The first raga, Mohan Kauns, was composed by Ravi Shankar “in feverish inspiration” just days after Gandhi’s asassination. -16-