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									     A Context for Organizing:
Reflections on Gandhi’s Approach to
     Satyagraha (Non-violence)
                 Volume 1

            Nashid Fareed-Ma’at
A Context for Organizing: Reflections on Gandhi’s Approach to Satyagraha (Non-violence)
Volume 1 (April 2010)

by Nashid Fareed-Ma’at
Copyright © 2010
                            A Context for Organizing:
                       Reflections on Gandhi’s Approach to
                            Satyagraha (Non-violence)
                                  TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction   .      .       .      .       .      .       .      .    .     .   7


Chapter One: Transcending Historical Amnesia        .       .      .    .     .   13

Chapter Two: The Spiritual Foundation (of Satyagraha)       .      .    .     .   27

Chapter Three: Walking the Path of No Harm          .       .      .    .     .   41


Chapter Four: Swaraj (Self-rule) is Part of the Search for Truth   .    .     .   66

Chapter Five: A Force More Powerful than Violence           .      .    .     .   95

Chapter Six: The Satyagraha Approach to (Self-)Suffering .         .    .     .   121

Chapter Seven: From the Power of One to the Power of Many          .    .     .   146

Chapter Eight: The Satyagraha Approach to Education         .      .    .     .   168


Chapter Nine: The Temperament of Civil Resistance           .      .    .     .   190

Chapter Ten: In Search of a Comprehensive Definition of Civil Disobedience    .   234

Chapter Eleven: Civil Disobedience: Application of a Last Resort - Part One   .   250

Chapter Twelve: Civil Disobedience: Application of a Last Resort - Part Two   .   290

Chapter Thirteen: The Closing        .       .      .       .      .    .     .   310

         where there is Truth, there can be no harm


        all (genuine) strength emanates from humility
the deeper the humility, the more pure and potent the strength


               a soul that knows its strength
          can conquer all the violence in the world
               without lifting a single finger

            how much more can be accomplished
                when that soul commits to act
          when many such souls form a community
         to live the collective strength of their souls

        A Context for Organizing:
   Reflections on Gandhi’s Approach to
        Satyagraha (Non-violence)
                   “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, forethought 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
                   analysed every psychological situation. Yet I am far from
                   claiming any finality or infallibility about my conclusions.”1

        Welcome! Peace and Blessings!

        This book is an in-depth examination of Gandhi’s approach2 to Satyagraha, more often
translated as “non-violence” in English. As indicated in the above quote, Mohandas
Karamchand Gandhi approached Satyagraha as a science: a spiritual science that moved him to

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. xxvii.
          Throughout the book I use the term “Gandhi’s approach,” but it should be understood that his approach
was not arrived at in a vacuum. His approach was definitely influenced by others, including fellow seekers of Truth
who contributed to his understanding of Satyagraha (non-violence). Please keep this mind as you read the book, that
these unnamed persons may be remembered -- even if not by name.

conduct social actions, which he deemed as experiments, in the political and social realms. But
do not let the humility of his scientific approach fool you: although he refrained from making
many final conclusions about Satyagraha, I, as an observer and student of Satyagraha, firmly
declare that there are many definitive lessons to be learned from Gandhi’s approach. Looking at
the state of the community organizing, peace, and social justice fields, and their significant
decline in influence and impact upon communities throughout the world, I have been moved to
write this book as a way to encourage today’s (and future) activists to look back to Gandhi and
his approach for useful guidance. Many contemporary presentations and applications of “non-
violence” have departed drastically from Gandhi’s approach, even as many modern activist
streams point back to or have been significantly influenced by Gandhi’s work in India and South
Africa. Some contemporary approaches to “non-violence” have even ignored or omitted key
foundational elements of non-violence (Satyagraha) while claiming to still be “non-violence” or
“non-violent.” Instead of writing a book that bashes the arrogance and foolishness of such
approaches, I follow Gandhi’s example of his never ending work of educating the masses about
what Satyagraha truly is and how it can be lived. Satyagraha is a way of life, not a set of tactics
to be employed to wage protests, resistance, or discontent -- or to garner media attention. Its
foundation is clearly spiritual, not political. It is a way of life that demands its followers to
embrace it completely, not partially in certain aspects of life that wade between Truth and
delusion. I have no doubt that if readers genuinely understand what this book conveys, there will
be a major shift in our approach to community organizing, peace, and social justice work. We
will embrace, as Gandhi did, a way of life that seeks Truth in complete humility, empowered by
the genuine strength of our souls, that transforms ourselves and others to expand the blessings of
beneficence and justice in ways that honor ahimsa (no harm) and shed all forms of delusion,
compulsion, violence, fear, and weakness.

        This book is written primarily for people in America, but this doesn’t render it useless for
people in other parts of the world. As I witness the unfolding realities that shape our embrace of
the second decade of the twenty-first century, Gandhi’s lessons call to me like a candle flame
flickering in the wind. American culture has become so increasingly violent that even many who
proclaim to be “peaceful” do so in very violent ways. This issue is addressed repeatedly
throughout the book, so I won’t go into it now, but as Gandhi taught: it is virtually impossible to
realize Truth living a life that is immersed in violence and harm. If we do not remove violence
and harm from our lives, it is extremely unlikely that we will see Truth. And without Truth, it is
extremely difficult -- if not impossible -- to be peaceful. Thus, there is a pressing need for
people in America to re-evaluate and examine our cultures and values. (The same applies to

many people throughout the world, particularly with the exportation of American culture via
globalization.) This evaluation and examination of our cultures and values are very important
aspects of Satyagraha (non-violence), aspects often removed from contemporary presentations of
it. But even when these aspects are acknowledged, some ignore Gandhi’s approach to
actualizing these: for Gandhi, his first aim was to radically transform who he was as he sought
Truth, and then seek to extend this transformation outward to others, beginning with his family
and neighbors in quest of reaching all people within India. His approach was based in humility
and enduring patience, which informed his great willingness to suffer for others that they may
realize the power and beauty of transforming to live and seek Truth. In many respects, it is the
absence and abandonment of this approach that has rendered the community organizing, peace,
and social justice fields weak. And I say weak, because even our apparent strengths rarely
emanate from cultivated souls that humbly embody the great power of Truth. Thus, a method
that unified and empowered masses of people to seek justice and beneficence -- including the
liberation of colonized countries -- struggles to merely address injustice and destruction today.
We have abandoned and ignored the lessons that will enable us to realize the genuine strength of
the Satyagraha way. But it is not too late to return to these lessons and apply them, that we may
contribute to re-establishing and advancing the spiritual science of Satyagraha.

         This book draws heavily from three main sources. The first is Gandhi’s autobiography,
titled: An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth. (The original autobiography
was actually written in Gujarati, an Indian language; I have utilized an English translation by
Mahadev Desai.) Like much of Gandhi’s writings, his autobiography was written primarily to
the people of India and, thus, there was a shared context for understanding his words given his
ongoing public discussion with the masses through various newspapers, writings, and
community organizing. It’s interesting to note that his autobiography is not typical of most
biographies that seek to catalog and explain various notable experiences in a person’s life.
Instead, his autobiography seeks to convey the predominant theme in his life: his unending,
humble pursuit of Truth. Even his various experiments (or experiences) with Truth, as he called
them, sought to impart to readers that the most important lesson he had to offer them is: seek
Truth. This pursuit can be done in a wide variety of ways since Truth can be approached in a
wide variety of ways, but he implored readers -- explicitly and implicitly -- to set on their own
individual quests for Truth. This point is a fundamental cornerstone of Satyagraha, which
literally means holding on to Truth. There is much from this autobiography that shaped and
guided the writing of this book.

         The second main source is a book titled: Non-violent Resistance (Satyagraha). The book
is a collection of various writings from Gandhi throughout his Satyagraha work. It is mostly
filled with articles and excerpts from two newspapers Gandhi published and wrote for: Young
India and Harijan. Gandhi used these newspapers to engage in public dialogue with the Indian
masses, writing articles to expound on the facets of Satyagraha as well as respond to letters sent
to him by readers. He realized the engagement of public opinion was a powerful tool in
Satyagraha, and sought to inform public sentiment as well as provide a forum for the public to
voice their own thoughts and opinions. Excerpts from these newspapers in this book will be
indicated in the footnotes of quotes, also stating the original publishing date. Non-violent
Resistance (Satyagraha) also includes excerpts from other books such as Hind Swaraj (which
will be addressed in the next paragraph) and From Yeravda Mandir (which includes letters
Gandhi wrote to his ashram while imprisoned). Non-violent Resistance (Satyagraha) seeks to
portray the scope of Gandhi’s Satyagraha work in his own words as reflected through writings he
wrote to the Indian people during the course of his life. The collection is a valuable resource as
it presents Gandhi’s efforts to explain various components of Satyagraha to a population that, at
times, challenged the validity of his teachings. The book also allows readers to get a sense of the
evolution Gandhi went through in his many years of living Satyagraha: many core elements
remain constant while the depth of his practice drove him to make adjustments in his quest to
make Satyagraha more efficient and powerful.

         The third main source is a book titled: Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule). This short book
(75 pages) was originally published in 1909 and lays out Gandhi’s insistence that Indian quests
for independence be rooted in traditional Indian culture. Swaraj, which means self-rule or home-
rule, rejected any approach that sought to Europeanize Indians or their quest to liberate
themselves from British colonialism. This rejection of European culture, particularly for its
glorification of commerce (economic exploitation) and violence, is probably a major factor in
why Swaraj is absent from most European and American presentations of Satyagraha (non-
violence). Yet, Gandhi saw Swaraj as a vital part of Satyagraha. His insistence on embracing
ancient Indian values (as rooted in traditional Indian morality and religions) strongly informed
his pursuit of and holding on to Truth as a way to affect just and beneficent change.

       And let me encourage readers to read these books for themselves: An Autobiography: The
Story of My Experiments with Truth; Non-violent Resistance (Satyagraha); and Hind Swaraj
(Indian Home Rule). These books are available at many libraries and bookstores, and online.

        Mainly using these sources, this book takes a progressive manner to examining Gandhi’s
approach to Satyagraha. Each chapter builds upon the previous ones, first exploring the roots of
Satyagraha. The next set of chapters then examines how the roots shape and define the
fundamentals of Satyagraha, that we may see how the roots are realized through the
fundamentals to become a way of life. The last set of chapters explores civil disobedience, a last
resort to be used only after all other reasonable means to affect just and beneficent change have
been appropriately tried and failed. Among these reasonable means is the personal
transformation Satyagrahis (those who follow Satyagraha) must attain that will sometimes
transcend the chains of injustice, allowing them to live and cultivate a reality of justice and
beneficence without evoking civil disobedience (and the risks involved in such). I encourage
readers to give this book a careful and patient read: some of Gandhi’s points can be confused
given the differing cultural and time contexts between now and when he lived. With such points,
I make precise efforts to explain Gandhi’s teachings in ways that capture the fullness of his
meaning that speak to contemporary understandings. If I have failed to fully convey any his of
points adequately, let the fault lay with me and not with Gandhi. But I trust, given the
carefulness of my writing, that the majority of his lessons are presented with a clarity that
supports understanding.

        Just a few points about language. Gandhi lived under British colonialism and, thus, his
English has a late nineteenth century British style. (He was born in 1869 and his schooling
adhered to late 1800s norms although he lived and wrote until 1948.) For the most part, this
difference in style is not a barrier to contemporary readers, but there are some points where the
differences are more pronounced. At times he used a word that is rarely used today and utilized
British spellings of words. Also, some of his uses of punctuation differed from contemporary
grammar rules. But for the most part, I leave Gandhi’s quotes untouched that you may read them
as he wrote them. The only consistent change I make to some of his quotes is to replace male-
gender references with gender neutral words: for example, changing “man” (as it refers to all
humanity) to “human.” As this was a trait of the writing of his time, it belittled his intent in
using the word “man” to refer to men and women. This paternalistic approach to writing also
doesn’t reflect his endorsement of equality and respect for both genders. So when implanting
gender neutral words (in brackets) doesn’t confuse Gandhi’s statements, I do so. But a number
of quotes are unchanged with their male references; with these let the women not exclude
themselves from the quotes’ relevance to them. And in my commitment to shift contemporary
English from its continuing paternalistic tendencies, I use gender neutral terms when possible or
“she and / or he” when necessary.

        I also want to apologize in advance for any typos and mistakes that may be in the book.
This project, for the most part, was embarked upon with little assistance from others -- and I take
time to acknowledge my wife previewing drafts of the first few chapters to ensure I was going in
the right direction. But this book did not undergo a professional editing process and, despite my
aspiring eagle eye for mistakes, I’m pretty sure I missed some miscues. Also, as this book is
read by others, I may realize from others’ comments ways to be more effective with the writing.
For this reason, I am approaching this book as an evolving project. Any major changes in
content will be updated as a new volume: with this being Volume 1, any major revisions will be
labeled as Volume 2, 3, 4, etc. But any set of minor changes, such as a bunch of corrected typos,
will be labeled as editions of the same volume: for example, Volume 1a will indicate I have
made a set of minor corrections to Volume 1 -- and Volume 1b, 1c, 1d, etc., will indicate
subsequent sets of minor corrections. So please excuse any typos on my part, I pray anything I
missed does not confuse Gandhi’s points. And any new editions of the book will be posted on
my website for free.

        So with that, I’m done with the housekeeping stuff for this book. Proceed on, enjoy, and
read with a careful eye and open heart. Even today, Gandhi’s teachings remain abundant
treasures -- even if they challenge us to rip the delusional coverings from our eyes that we may
see for ourselves the indescribable beauty of Truth...

Nashid Fareed-Ma’at
April 2010


                                               CHAPTER ONE
                         Transcending Historical Amnesia
                   “[Many] are playing at non-violence. They think in terms of civil
                   disobedience anyhow, meaning the filling of jails. This is a
                   childish interpretation of the great force that civil disobedience
                   is. I must continue to repeat, even though it may cause nausea,
                   that prison-going without the backing of honest constructive
                   effort and goodwill in the heart for the wrong-doer is violence
                   and therefore forbidden in Satyagraha.”1

        The room was full yet undercut with a tension. It was always ironic to me that “the
people’s house” (the U.S. Capitol) is more plush than many people’s homes. But they weren’t
there to admire the decor, they had a bolder mission. A gavel was banged to call the
congressional committee meeting to order, and even they quieted in anticipation of their
moment. After minutes of normal committee business discussing funding for the latest war, they
seized their moment. One of the protesters stood up in the guest seating area and began to
scream out loudly, “Stop the war! Stop funding the war! I’m here to demand a stop to the war!”
The committee chairperson banged the gavel and called for order. Other protesters joined in
exclaiming their dissent. Within moments, police officers approached and arrested the
protesters. They did not physically resist but continued to “let their voices be heard” as they
were escorted away, yelling as they disappeared behind the chamber doors. And within days,
they would post a link to video of the protest on their website for others to adore.

        The atmosphere at the march was a stark contrast. A sense of comradery had been
inspired by the earlier speeches, some filled with as many insults as there were demands to end
the war. People laughed, danced, sang, and cheered in individual and collective demonstrations

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 307, excerpt from Harijan, June 1,

of “speaking truth to power.” Signs and canvases displayed a range of symbols and slogans,
from peace signs to posters containing images of politicians under phrases such as “Wanted For
Mass Murder” or “So-and-so Is A War Monger.” There were even people costumed as human
bobble heads wearing large masks of certain politicians: the human puppets portraying mocking
impersonations of the faces they donned. But the adrenaline rose to another level as the
marching began: now there would be motion added to the vocalizations of protest. With the
vigor of a joyous parade, people chanted a barrage of slogans - short and sensational enough to
be exhibited on the nightly news as sound bites. The parade even passed a small group of
counter protesters who supported the war. They engaged numerous “peace protestors” in
passing arguments and flying insults from both sides. But the thing that caught my eye, and
caused me the greatest pain, was the parading of mock caskets through the street. As much as I
understand the intent in seeking to symbolize the mass amount of deaths caused by the latest
war, it hurt me to reduce the sacredness of a funeral rite to a public spectacle -- especially since
the intent of their symbolism could be fulfilled in ways that are more respectful of the dead.

        I could go on and on with other examples of what has become acceptable forms of so-
called “peaceful protest.” There are mass rallies that have the feel of a pop music concert, where
the masses of people serve as spectators to a range of speeches and performances -- and
sometimes even a celebrity appearance. Protesters have selected the homes of high profile
persons (from politicians to corporate figures) as locations for protests -- a clear shift from the
decades’ old tradition of keeping protests in public spaces. Others have committed “die-ins,”
where protesters literally gather at a spot, lay on the ground, and pretend to be dead -- sometimes
with simulated blood painted on their bodies. Some have even tossed around dollar bills with
fake blood on them to symbolize the connections between war spending and profit with the
violence of war. And let me not forget the keen group of people who impersonate or present
themselves as corporate or government representatives to make false statements at official
meetings or to bid at auctions (such as for public land). These tactics and more have been done
in the name of non-violence, peace, and justice. Although their intentions may be good-spirited
and rousing in the eyes of some, are these truly non-violent, peaceful, and just? Are these
genuine manifestations of non-violence, peace, and justice?

       Some will definitively say yes, and if so this book may be of little use to you. Even
Mohandas K. Gandhi acknowledged in his day that there were (at least) three distinct streams in
what we now call grassroots activism and organizing. During the course of his lifelong work, he
used some terms interchangeably but for the sake of discussion I will classify the terms into three

categories. The first being that of Passive Resistance which Gandhi described as “a weapon of
the weak.”2 This approach embodies a refusal to comply with dominant powers (government,
corporate, oppressive social groups, etc.) often in the form of protest, although sometimes what
the resisters are against completely overshadows what they are for. Much of their approach is
based on seeking power and confrontation, and less on a genuine morality and seeking Truth.
Gandhi cited the following criticism of this approach:

                    “Whilst it avoids violence, being not open to the weak, it does not
                    exclude its use if, in the opinion of a passive resister, the occasion
                    demands it.”3

Be aware that for Gandhi violence goes beyond just physical acts but also includes “every form
of violence, direct or indirect, veiled or unveiled, and whether in thought, word or deed.”4 Thus,
angry words and hateful thoughts fit in Gandhi’s definition of violence. In looking at many in
the passive resistance stream: if, in protesting war, passive resisters could kill the political and
military leaders orchestrating a war, they probably would. And many of them would consider
such murders a justifiable means to end war -- even in using tactics they condemn in protest.

        The second stream is that of Civil Disobedience, which Gandhi attributed, in part, to the
teachings of Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau was active in efforts to abolish slavery in the
United States and called for those with moral objections to slavery and other social evils to
engage in civil disobedience: not being bound to an obedience of unjust laws. For him, this was
a stand based in conscience and essential to fulfilling what it means to be a human being. Thus,
it was a moral duty to not engage in acts that provide allegiance and support to evil laws and
positions. In keeping with this principle, Thoreau refused to pay taxes to a government that
supported the continuation of moral wrongs (such as slavery) and was even jailed for such. His
moral stand refrained from performing wrongful acts in protest to other wrongs, this would be

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 3, excerpt from Young India, March
23, 1921. Note, this statement does not mean that people are weak as an unchangeable characteristic, rather that they
are in a position of weakness. Gandhi, of all people, held in high regard the transformative abilities of human
beings, including that of being weak to become strong.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 3 excerpt from Young India, March
23, 1921.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 202, excerpt from Harijan, April
15, 1933.

hypocritical. Rudeness and untoward behavior was also ruled out since, as the name implies,
civil disobedience should be civil. Yet, Thoreau was sharp in his criticism of individuals who
conceded to the will of majorities who supported unjust practices. He argued that the “law never
made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are
daily made the agents of injustice.”5 He chastised conscientious (statistical) minorities who
rendered themselves powerless by conforming to majorities, even if the minorities sought to
persuade or patiently wait for the majorities to see their wrongs. He proclaimed that “action
from principle, the perception and the performance of right, changes things and relations...”6
That “truth is stronger than error,”7 even if embodied by only one honest person: that “any man
more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one already.”8 As much as Gandhi
praised Thoreau, he saw this approach as only a branch (part) of the Truth-Force needed to
transform human societies.

        The third stream is Satyagraha, which literally means “holding on to Truth”9 or Truth-
Force. Satyagraha, often called non-violence in English, is a path of humility. This is the path
Gandhi devoted his life to, a life-long experiment with Truth. It goes beyond just withholding
cooperation from evil, it embraces the responsibility of making one’s life a vindication of Truth.
Gandhi held that since humans do not hold absolute truth, there is an onus upon our actions to
ensure that others are not harmed by our mistakes: even mistakes made in the form of our chosen
morality. Therefore, his path to address evil stands upon the pillars of self-purification, self-
suffering, and seeking to convert his opponents through these means. Self-purification allows us
to see more clearly the dictates of Truth, even a belated realization that what we held previously
to be right may be wrong. Those who walk this path rely more on Truth (and our ongoing
realization and understanding of it) than a fixed, unchanging morality. Self-suffering, in

        Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, essay originally titled Resistance to
Government, 1849.
        Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, essay originally titled Resistance to
Government, 1849.
        Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, essay originally titled Resistance to
Government, 1849.
        Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, essay originally titled Resistance to
Government, 1849.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p.3, excerpt from Young India, March
23, 1921.

conjunction with self-purity, is embraced as a way of converting our opponents (and the larger
society): because to see a pure person suffering for a just cause can have a transformative impact
on those who hold to, support, and cooperate with wrong. This is often embraced after other
reasonable efforts at cooperation and negotiation have been pursued. The effectiveness of this
path of conversion is not based on a dramatic display of suffering or compulsion (forcing others
to do something): it is a path of patience that appeals to the hearts of others in which success is
derived, in part, from the purity of those who are willing to suffer; and if they do, how much they
suffer. (I will deal with suffering in much more depth in Chapter 6 because Gandhi’s
understanding of suffering differs from many contemporary concepts of suffering. But to give a
brief definition, suffering is the willingness to endure hardships, challenges, and loss -- and, in
fact, Gandhi would say to do so cheerfully and without malice or bitterness.) The path of self-
suffering also serves to protect others from being harmed by mistaken causes: for if a person
engaged in self-suffering is wrong the only person who suffers for that cause is that person. But
Satyagraha is not meant to be engaged for selfish reasons, Gandhi was adamant in declaring it
“cannot be resorted to for personal gain, but only for the good of others.”10 And as much as it
can be embraced alone if necessary, genuine Satyagraha (through its transformative powers) will
often draw others to its cause. In this way, Satyagraha was developed to be as community-
oriented as it is individually focused. In fact, Gandhi used ashrams as places to develop devotees
to Satyagraha to become members of this Truth-abiding community.

       And I would be remiss to not state what is probably obvious to many: Satyagraha
unequivocally renounces all violence in all its forms -- from thought, word, deed, and more.

       Although brief, the above descriptions point out significant differences in approach. This
book is not here to serve judgement upon any of the approaches even as it clearly advocates in
favor of Satyagraha. Each approach has the opportunity to offer some benefit to those who
engage in the various streams. But I do declare the need for activists and organizers to be very
clear about what approach they embrace, and not to make misleading associations with other
streams. The examples of “peaceful” protest I opened this chapter with are clearly not
Satyagraha (non-violence) and, therefore, should not be linked with Gandhi or Satyagraha in any
way. Gandhi vehemently defended his stream from misconceptions and sometimes blatant
attempts to link his stream with activities that contradicted with his approach. If we respect

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 313, excerpt from Young India,
September 30, 1926.

Gandhi and his contributions to humanity, we will avoid doing this. Thus, to spew angry or
hateful words at a “peace protest” under the banner of non-violence is something Gandhi would
take offense to. The same holds for interrupting a meeting (even of our opponents), trading
insults with others, demeaning others with mocking impersonations, carrying mock coffins
through the street, committing die-ins, and other uses of compulsory force. (And it is interesting
to note that many of the protesters who do such things would be angered if these were done to
them.) Even attending a protest as a spectator who will not carry the work of Truth-holding and
conversion (of self first, then possibly others) beyond rallies and marches falls short of the
Satyagraha path -- and is not rightly identified with non-violence.

        This point is of utter importance because Satyagraha was not devised as a toolkit of
strategies from which protesters can pick this or that tool when they feel it is appropriate.
Satyagraha is a way of life: a comprehensive approach which must be embraced in fullness, as
determined by one’s present state of maturity, to be effective. (Note that effectiveness, in terms
of Satyagraha, is not reduced to social achievements and victories; rather it is the transformation
of devoted individuals and how their transformation beneficently impacts, if not transforms,
others.) The modern age has normalized the commercialization of many things, even reducing
ways of life to consumable entities. Even many activists and their supporters have reduced the
Satyagraha way of life to a product to be bought in the commerce of social action. Many, even if
with sincere intentions, have reduced non-violence to a brand name and Gandhi to a shallow
celebrity, ignoring his teachings. Both the brand name and rock star can be adorned on
movements without any due consideration, to sate the appetite for appearance over substance.
By such practices, the rich depth and transformative science of Satyagraha is rendered mute and
ineffective. And instead of looking at this approach as the problem to why the contemporary
community organizing, peace, and social justice fields have had such a limited impact, protesters
remain committed to the same ineffective approach, thinking more intense (and sometimes
extreme) tactics will render long overdue success.

        There are clear reasons why Gandhi has such an appeal as a social celebrity. Given the
lessening importance of history and historical context in this present age, some may not fully
comprehend the importance of what many hold to be Gandhi’s greatest achievement: serving a
key role in India’s independence from Britain. He probably would not hold this to be his
greatest achievement, yet even he realized the significance of his role. For centuries Britain held
firm to the dictate that “the sun never sets on the British empire,” alluding to the large expanse to
which British colonization and oppression reached across the globe. And India was considered a

top prize of the empire, because it was its most populous and profitable colony. Even as the
British hold on its empire was weakening throughout the world, many in Britain saw it of utter
importance to never relinquish India for reasons of economics and national pride. But due to
decades of community organizing throughout India and other historical factors, Britain
eventually conceded. Gandhi played a major role in overseeing, inspiring, and educating such
local organizing that eventually culminated into a national force. India’s independence ranks as
one of the most profound historical occurrences in modern history, if not all time. In fact, many
who lived in India and Britain prior to this independence thought it inconceivable that Britain
would willingly release its colonizing hold on India -- and even then, only on the brink of
extinction. Gandhi’s leadership and commitment to Swaraj (Indian Home Rule) made his face
synonymous with India’s independence. He became a symbol for liberation, anti-colonial, and
social justice movements throughout the world, even by some groups that embraced violence as
a tactic. Many regard Gandhi’s Satyagraha work as an essential factor in India attaining

        Given Gandhi’s impact and notoriety on the international stage, he makes a convenient
icon for those seeking to attract attention to their cause, much like a good logo -- even if people
embrace this logo in ignorance of his teachings. Dead people make for easy trademarks because
they are not alive to demonstrate their resistance to how their likeness is misused. But if we
sincerely admire Gandhi’s contributions to world history, should not our admiration include an
in-depth study of his approach? Such study would go beyond merely memorizing some key
facts about Gandhi and then posting his name or non-violence on our activities the way a
corporation posts its logo on its products. An in-depth study would go deeper, to not learn just
the manner of his approach but the underlying values and principles that shaped it. We would
take advantage of the writings he left where we can read his words as he wrote them. We would
also need to accompany the reading of his words with studying the context in which he wrote
them, since the historical and cultural contexts of his life are different than what current times
present.11 An in-depth study would also embrace the comprehensive scope of his approach, and
refuse the temptation to reduce Satyagraha into components that conveniently fit within our
ways. Such study does not require us to agree with or accept everything that Gandhi taught, nor
does it bind us to do things only as he did. But an in-depth study will put us in a wiser place to
decide if we wish to embrace Satyagraha as our approach. Then we may work through any

           Much of Gandhi’s writings were written specifically to the people of India during the decades of
organizing that led to their independence from Britain.

disagreements we have with Gandhi and make changes to his approach that meet the present
challenges in ways that still uphold the foundational values and principles of Satyagraha.

        The above paragraph describes the approach of this book. An emphasis will be placed on
the values and principles that shape and form Satyagraha as a way of life. It will not be a
theoretically-based book that spews poetic scholarly jargon or philosophical fodder for café
discussions. Instead, it will focus on the practical building blocks of an everyday Satyagraha
approach. This book draws heavily from three of Gandhi’s books: Non-Violent Resistance
(Satyagraha); Gandhi’s autobiography, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with
Truth; and Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule). I certainly encourage people to read these
carefully and with care, since there is much that might be lost with superficial or speed readings
of these books. I do not consider this work as a replacement for Gandhi’s books, but this work
takes on the task of placing some of his teachings in a contemporary context. (Plus it’s free.)
Note, much of Gandhi’s teachings transcend the particulars of his time. But certain things differ,
even if slightly, in contemporary times -- such as understandings of suffering, sacrifice, and
community. And some things have been interpreted through a scope that differs from Gandhi’s
since components of Satyagraha have been “rewritten” in the vein of movements inspired by him
that did not stay true to the Satyagraha path. These include things such as protests and political
activism which, for example, have been reinterpreted through the U.S. Civil Rights Movement of
the twentieth century but differ from the Satyagraha approach. (I know some may find the
previous sentence disturbing but if you read this book you will see why I say it.) Also, the
impact of some things has shifted due to the success of Satyagraha. Much of Gandhi’s writings
were written as the experiment of social Satyagraha was being carried out throughout the
national landscape of India (and to a lesser extent, during his stay in South Africa). The shift
from experimental to proven thus places some things in a different context, even if proven
approaches need to be proven effective again or sometimes adjusted to meet contemporary

        Although the scope of this book is expansive, let no one think that it is by any means
complete. Even Gandhi emphasized that whatever theoretical concepts may be derived, the most
sure proving ground is the lives we live. With that in mind, I do not hesitate to leave questions
in places often reserved for definitive answers. Ultimately, my wish is not to have readers
conform to a certain set of dictates, but instead let those who wish to continue the work of
Gandhi do so with a living knowledge of the foundations the house of Satyagraha stands upon.
As mentioned earlier, this is a path of self-purification and self-suffering -- one that may require

a humble release of much we have built our understandings (and misunderstandings) of what
Satyagraha is.

        If the standard is Truth (and not the many interpretations of truth we have given credence
to), then the worthiness of our work will become evident in who we become and what impact
this has on others. Such an approach challenges us to drop the facades of this or that stance and
instead become living examples of what we wish to see in the world. Thus, letting our voices be
heard becomes less important than what our voices say, how we say it, and what actions we take
that speak with our voices. Thus, speaking truth to power is less significant than living Truth in
genuinely powerful (and honest) ways. Thus, any ineffectiveness will not be amplified by more
intense and extreme actions toward others, but instead a careful examination of ourselves that we
may address our own shortcomings in living Truth. Thus, let those who seek Truth be genuine
seekers of Truth, this is the Satyagraha way.

                 “A Satyagrahi [a follower of Satyagraha] has faith that the silent
                 and undemonstrative action of truth and love produces far more
                 permanent and abiding results than speeches or such other
                 showy performances.”12


        Which is better suited to affect societal change: a community or a movement?

        If you are like me and do not limit your possibilities to offered multiple choice options,
you may consider selecting both as a plausible answer. But in this case, one option is better than
the other or both options combined. Gandhi’s teachings clearly inform that a community is the
better way to affect societal change. Yet the importance of community building and community
engagement has been lost in many interpretations and explanations of Satyagraha. In fact, the
building and sustenance of healthy, thriving communities are major aims of Satyagraha. But
most modern understandings of community differ much from traditional understandings of

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 77, excerpt from Young India,
August 8, 1929.

community, including the traditional Indian values of community Gandhi held to. Community
was so much (and may still be) a part of the Indian way that Gandhi saw little need to focus on it
in his writings about Satyagraha (to mostly Indian audiences), but it needs to be examined and
placed in context by contemporary students of Satyagraha.

        Have you ever asked yourself: what is a community? For many in the modern age, it
includes people who live in a certain neighborhood or members of a social group --for example,
all (or most) Blacks are considered members of the Black community, all Muslims are
considered members of the Muslim community, etc. There may be noted subgroups in
communities that are treated as distinct, such as Catholics being treated as a distinct community
among the (larger) Christian community. In many respects, community has become a means of
social and group classification. In this vein, hundreds of people can live in an apartment
complex and not even know each other’s names (let alone greet each other) and still be
considered part of the same community. This group of strangers surely falls short of Gandhi’s
concept of community.

        For Gandhi, and even earlier times in America, community went deeper than social
classification. It involved the building and sustaining of beneficial relationships among shared
groups. For those living in a neighborhood, it would include engaging in beneficial interactions
and taking on shared responsibilities to address the collective needs of all who live there, such
as: keeping the streets clean, tending to sources of water, providing public education for the
children, providing charity to those in need, etc. Even the custom of greeting others when
passing them on the street was designed to encourage a sense of familiarity and closeness among
community members. Gandhi recognized the interdependence of community members directly
affects the overall state of the community and the individual well-being of those in the
community. This understanding of community also includes communities that form around
specific beliefs and values, such as religious or political organizations. In these groups, the
cultivation of beneficial relationships is joined with living shared ideologies and value systems
that further shared goals and aspirations. In Gandhi’s time, communities also included
subgroups that were identified as distinct communities. And, outside of conflicts, the subgroups
were seen as being part of the whole community, not in isolation of the whole. Also, Gandhi’s
understanding of community incorporated past and future members of the community. In this
vein, Satyagraha is derived, in part, from past community members who discovered the
principles of ahimsa (no harm) and presented them in ancient Hindu texts. And the

determination of Gandhi’s Satyagraha drove him to work for outcomes he knew he would never
see in his lifetime yet would be available to future generations of his community.

        Understandings of community are very much influenced by one’s cultural context.
Modern (European) cultures clearly emphasizes individualism, while traditional Indian culture is
more concerned with communal well-being. Thus, modern cultures address social problems
such as racial discrimination and inequality by providing (limited) opportunities for individuals
to attain success, even if large numbers of people remain negatively affected by these social
problems. This individual orientation might be accompanied by some group work that seeks to
eliminate systemic barriers to individual success but does not look to transform the system into
one that promotes fairness and equality for all -- and do not confuse rhetoric that claims to
transform systems with work that only seeks to reform unjust systems. In many respects, the
U.S. Civil Rights Movement of the twentieth century sought this as an aim: the removal of unjust
barriers so individuals will have opportunities to attain individual (and sometimes very limited
group) success. Gandhi’s approach was different: his understanding of community guided him
to go beyond the removal of unjust barriers to individuals seeking success. His aim, though not
fully realized in India’s independence, was to create a new system where ALL people in India
would have the opportunity to live fruitful lives. Thus, his work toward Swaraj (Indian Home
Rule) was based upon practices that would end poverty and inequality, not just help some poor
and discriminated persons succeed. He was adamant in his calls to end untouchability, resolve
conflicts among the Hindus and Muslims (and other religious groups), and have people spin
khadi (homemade cloth) and only buy clothes made from this cloth in India. He saw these as
ways to enable the poor to move out of poverty and discriminated groups to be free from
oppression and conflict. Gandhi saw that in addition to transforming government systems in
India, people in communities must also address how they relate to and interact with each other,
especially with the “least” of society. This work was essential if India was to attain communal
harmony and truly be free. For Gandhi, a genuine seeking of Truth would transform
communities to reach this state.

        Imagine, if you can, a community of people seeking Truth. The diverse paths of
individual and collective journeys do not deter all from seeking the same destination, even if the
destination is a little fuzzy and seen from different perspectives. Understanding the link between
honesty and Truth, all social problems in such a community would be dealt with openly to be
resolved as a normal part of its functioning. This reality alone would make the need for
movements unnecessary. Why do I say this: because movements generally respond to problems

and seek corrective action or changes. Movements are usually more concerned with coalescing
concerned groups for a period of time, not forming a lasting community of such groups. These
points are evident in the constant in-fighting and internal conflicts that plague most movements,
whether made public or kept in-house. With movements, emphasis is usually placed on finding
ways to have these groups achieve a temporary unity (to work together) instead of transforming
how they relate to and interact with each other to form lasting, harmonious relationships. Thus,
once a movement has achieved its goal or failed, participating groups usually move on in their
own directions, making movements temporary, not on-going like well-functioning communities.
Sometimes, if there are other shared interests that warrant continued working relationships,
movements will continue on to pursue these. But rare is the movement that will remain intact
beyond addressing targeted issues to enjoy the benefit of groups engaging in lasting beneficial
relationships with each other.

        Gandhi acknowledged that some movements can be quite beneficial but that ultimately
everything a movement can attain a well-functioning community will achieve in a more lasting
manner. Would there be a need to organize a series of protest actions in a community that is
genuinely willing to resolve social problems? Satyagraha dictates that were there is a genuine
willingness to address problems, co-operation is a duty. And from the perspective of a
community that considers future generations as its members, it would be better to engage in
building a Truth-seeking community instead of participating in movements that will require
future movements to address future problems -- or even sometimes re-emergence of the same
problems. The implementation of laws to address racial problems confronted in the U.S. Civil
Rights Movement has only seen that many of these same problems continue to manifest: either in
different ways (more subtle and veiled) or in the same ways since many civil rights laws have
been eliminated, weakened, or ineffectively enforced over time. To quote a common saying,
“you cannot legislate the hearts of people.” But if a community genuinely embraces beneficent
change, they will willingly root such change in their hearts, mind, words, actions, interactions,
and more.

        From the existence of thriving local communities, a community of communities can be
built that extends to an entire nation -- and maybe even a community of nations throughout the
world. Although possible, this aim is not likely to be achieved in one generation. Instead, it is
through the work of successive generations continuing genuine work toward this goal (through
ongoing community building and sustenance) that it can be achieved. Gandhi acknowledged this
in commenting about his work in Sevagram, a village in India:

                      “My present ambition is certainly to make of Sevagram an ideal
                      village. I know that the work is as difficult as to make of India an
                      ideal country. But while it is possible for one man to fulfil his
                      ambition with respect to a single village some day, one man’s
                      lifetime is too short to overtake the whole of India. But if one
                      man can produce one ideal village, he will have provided a
                      pattern not only for the whole country, but perhaps for the
                      whole world. More than this a seeker may not aspire after.”13
                      (emphasis mine)

If we understand the work of Satyagraha as community building not movement building, the
paradigm of our work shifts immensely. Gandhi’s experience shows that even the work of
community building may result in the creation of some movements, since certain barriers to
community building may require the force of movements. But the engagement of such
temporary movements must not replace the focus of long-term community building and
sustenance. Although the work of community building and movement building share some
overlap, there is one key difference: movements usually respond to problems whereas
community building builds communities, a lasting resource. Community building builds on and
develops the strengths of its members, not merely addresses problems as most movements do.
And the work of community building and sustenance continues on even when there are no
problems. There is ongoing social debate about the effectiveness of resolving problems through
problem-based approaches. For example, can you really end drug abuse by merely treating drug
abuse? As much as some people may be helped by this approach, treating drug abuse does not
address the reasons people turn to drugs and abuse them until after they have began using drugs.
And if these reasons are only addressed after people use drugs, you will continue to have people
turning to drugs. A Satyagraha community building approach will seek to address the reasons
people turn to drugs by building a community of beneficial relationships and interactions. If
communal relationships are strong and our pursuit of Truth sincere, we will find ways to address
the hardships that drive many to drug use. By building strong communal relationships that
progress on the path of Truth, we will become examples to others of a life blessed with purpose
and direction, another living deterrence to drug use. In instances of high drug use, there may be
a need for a movement to provide widespread drug treatment, and such a movement can coincide
with community building. But in the end, successful Satyagraha community building will

                Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 377, excerpt from Harijan, August
4, 1940.

cultivate a people who will not turn to drug use even if the drugs are provided for free. Such a
community will be a lasting asset that transcends the problems of drug use.

        Thus, in the Swaraj efforts that delivered independence to India, there were movements.
And some of these receive great flair in the historical accounts of Gandhi’s work: the Salt
March, his walks across India, local and national boycotts, large protests resulting in mass
arrests. These played a role in India achieving independence from Britain but should not
overshadow Gandhi’s ongoing community building work. He planned to continue this work
after India’s independence but was killed shortly thereafter. Yet much of his community
building work remained relevant after India’s independence: including his continued advocacy
of khadi spinning and commerce of Indian-made clothing and goods, religious and ethnic unity,
building up impoverished villages and rural towns, promoting literacy through education,
hygiene and sanitation improvement, and more. Gandhi realized that freedom must emanate
from communities, not be given to them. As he said himself, “Swaraj will come when it does,
from within, by internal effort, not as a free gift from above or by simple argument.”14

        I spent the time to emphasize the community building aspects of Satyagraha because it is
drastically missing from much of the “non-violent” community organizing, peace, and social
justice work being done today. Organizers have sought to create and manufacture movements,
ignoring the example of Gandhi that community building is a more effective way. In the same
way that self-suffering, self-purification, humility, and seeking Truth are pillars of Satyagraha,
community building is also a vital pillar of the Satyagraha house. This often neglected aspect of
Satyagraha is essential to reaching the fullness of Gandhi’s approach to Satyagraha. The
community building lense will also empower you to better understand what this book presents as
it delves into the depths of the Satyagraha path.

                 “Indeed, if all of us regulated our lives by this eternal law of
                 Satya [Truth] and Ahimsa [no harm], there will be no occasion
                 for civil or other resistance.”15

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 282, excerpt from Young India,
March 19, 1931.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 105, excerpt from Young India,
March 30, 1922.

                                               CHAPTER TWO
                                 The Spiritual Foundation
                                     (of Satyagraha)
                   “But for me, truth is the sovereign principle, which includes
                   numerous other principles. The truth is not only truthfulness in
                   word, but truthfulness in thought also, and not only the relative
                   truth of our conception but the Absolute Truth, the Eternal
                   Principle, that is God. There are innumerable definitions of
                   God, because His manifestations are innumerable. They
                   overwhelm me with wonder and awe and for a moment stun
                   me. But I worship God as Truth only. I have not yet found
                   Him, but I am seeking after Him.”1 (emphasis mine)

                   “Quite selfishly, as I wish to live in peace in the midst of a
                   bellowing storm howling round me, I have been experimenting
                   with myself and my friends by introducing religion into
                   politics.”2 (emphasis mine)

                   “I can say without the slightest hesitation, and yet in all humility,
                   that those who say that religion has nothing to do with politics
                   do not know what religion means.”3

       Satyagraha, depending on one’s perspective, is a religion / spiritual path or a direct
outgrowth of religion / spirituality. Religion has become a “loaded” term in the modern age,

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. xxvii - xxviii.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 109, excerpt from Young India, May
12, 1920.
            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 366.

often politicized by groups that seek religious supremacy or to retain power via religious
oppression and divisiveness. But Gandhi’s thoughts on religion differ significantly:

                  “Let me explain what I mean by religion. It is not the Hindu
                  religion, which I certainly prize above all other religions, but the
                  religion which transcends Hinduism, which changes one’s very
                  nature, which binds one indissolubly to the truth within and which
                  ever purifies.”4

Gandhi, clearly valuing his religion, acknowledges an essential aim many religions and spiritual
paths aspire to: Truth and purification. Without surrendering or diminishing his appreciation for
the path he took in quest of these (Hinduism), he saw value in other paths leading to these same
goals. These are essential components of the Satyagraha way and so much of the development
of Satyagraha is due to Satyagrahis (followers of Satyagraha) seeking and cultivating these. And
certainly present and future reclamations and advancements of Satyagraha will be ineffective
without Truth and purification. This chapter will explore these goals with particular attention to
their impact upon Satyagraha.


        As the opening quote of this chapter stated, for Gandhi God is Truth (or Absolute Truth).
God, like religion, has been extremely politicized and personalized in the modern age. Even
within a single religious sect different conceptions of God may abound. Thus, Gandhi’s
references to God may be construed in ways that differ from his perspective, and may affect how
others interpret (or misinterpret) any references in which he mentions God. For example,
consider how you may understand the following Gandhi quote if your concept of God is that of a
supreme, all-powerful male deity:

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 109, excerpt from Young India, May
12, 1920.

                 “A Satyagrahi has no power he can call his own. All the power he
                 may seem to possess is from and of God.”5

You may interpret this quote to mean Satyagrahis are dependent, if not utterly weak, upon a male
super-deity. That they have no power to change things, and this powerlessness may seem even
more severe for women who do not even share a gender identity with the male deity. That
Satyagrahis should basically devote their lives to calling on, if not pleading with, God to do
everything that needs to be done for them since all of their power comes from God. These
interpretations do not align with Gandhi’s intent. Now consider the quote if I change it in
context with Gandhi’s earlier words of God being Truth:

                 “A Satyagrahi has no power he can call his own. All the power he
                 may seem to possess is from and of Truth.”

The meaning changes drastically. Even with contemporary concepts of Truth (some which differ
from how Truth was understood in Gandhi’s time), the understanding of the quote suggests a call
for Satyagrahis to do something. That Truth is not so much an entity to be called upon with
expectations that it will deliver fulfillment to our wishes, Truth is something to be lived. Truth
requires the strength and courage to be honest, a willingness to even face things that may be
uncomfortable yet true. That there is a code of conduct to be lived if all our power comes from
Truth since doing anything false leads to our powerlessness.

        Now I do not want to give the impression that Gandhi only regarded God as an ideal
abstraction void of any characteristics -- he did not. But even with his personal view of God,
Truth (as an universal virtue) should not be removed Gandhi’s understanding of God. Some will
have different views of God than Gandhi. And some, like myself, live spiritual paths that do not
embrace God even as they embrace Truth. But in seeking the meaning of Gandhi’s words, we
are able to extract meanings free from the filters of our religious / spiritual lenses if we
understand God as Truth. And to emphasize this point, I will at times follow Gandhi’s use of the
word God with “{Truth}.”

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 251, excerpt from Young India,
April 3, 1930.

       An overall comprehensive definition of Truth is something that has been pondered by
humans for ages. And as someone who committed his life to seeking Truth without claiming the
quest complete, Gandhi does not offer such a definition. But his pursuit of Truth has certainly
discovered some truths about Truth that can be employed to further our pursuit of Truth. Let us
explore some of these “truths.”


                   “Truth is like a vast tree, which yields more and more fruit, the
                   more you nurture it. The deeper the search in the mine of truth
                   the richer the discovery of the gems buried there, in the shape
                   of openings for an ever greater variety of service.”6

       In sharing his understanding of Truth, Gandhi reflected: “The word Satya (Truth) is
derived from Sat, which means ‘being.’ Nothing is or exists in reality except Truth.”7 He
acknowledged that “Devotion to this Truth is the sole justification for our existence”8 and that
everything we do should be centered in Truth. But for Satyagrahis, it is imperative that we
understand Truth in a wider sense than conventional views: it includes not just our words but
also our thoughts, actions, and approach to life. As Gandhi stated:

                   “To the [human], who has realized this Truth in its fulness, nothing
                   else remains to be known, because all knowledge is necessarily
                   included in it. What is not included in it is not Truth, and so not
                   true knowledge; and there can be no inward peace without true

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 218.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 38, excerpt from From Yeravda
Mandir, 1932, Chapter I: Truth.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 38, excerpt from From Yeravda
Mandir, 1932, Chapter I: Truth.
         Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 38, excerpt from From Yeravda
Mandir, 1932, Chapter I: Truth.

Consider the weight of these words regarding true knowledge as many in the community
organizing, peace, and social justice fields engage (or have engaged) in extended studies of
things that have little or no relation to Truth. Many seek college degrees in institutions that
clearly do not honor or engage a genuine study of Truth. Some organizations even deem such
degrees as requirements or preferences for jobs in these fields. In evaluating people for such
jobs, do we consider applicants’ understanding of Truth, as Gandhi did? Are we even able to
make such an evaluation if we have not progressed in our pursuits of Truth and, thus, not
attained the true knowledge needed to realize others who seek Truth? Gandhi stated, “every
problem lends itself to solution if we are determined to make the law of truth and non-violence
the law of life.”10 These problems range from societal injustices to interpersonal conflicts to
issues of personal development: for Gandhi, the solution always involves Truth.

        Gandhi noted that once we have reached the level of realizing and living Truth:

                   “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.”11

This explained, in part, Gandhi’s call for strict adherence to proper living rooted in morality. It
also explained his call for “ceaseless striving after perfection.”12 But shortcomings to these calls
are not to be addressed by dwelling on why we are not able to live perfect morality (the
problem), it lays in addressing our ability to realize and then live Truth (the solution). To
achieve this solution, we may rely on religious / spiritual teachings that deal with how to realize
Truth. For Gandhi, the Bhagavad Gita was his “infallible guide of conduct.”13 But for others of
different religious and spiritual paths, he acknowledged that they can consult their teachings for
how to realize Truth:

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 384, excerpt from The Nation’s
Voice, 1947, p. 109 - 110, Part II.
         Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 38 - 39, excerpt from From
Yeravda Mandir, 1932, Chapter I: Truth.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 89.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 265.

                   “Where there is honest effort, it will be realized that what appear
                   to be different truths are like the countless and apparently different
                   leaves of the same tree. Does not God Himself {Truth} appear to
                   different individuals in different aspects? ... Hence there is nothing
                   wrong in every man following Truth according to his lights.
                   Indeed it is his duty to do so.”14

        Gandhi noted that “a votary of truth must exercise the greatest caution.”15 To be a person
of care is vital to not compromising Truth and our pursuit of it. Even something such as
exaggeration, to “allow a [person] to believe a thing which one has not fully verified is to
compromise truth.”16 One of the greatest dangers in pursuing Truth carelessly is that we may
become hypocrites. Not only will people be less inclined to value what we say, but many
hypocrites, from the place of hypocrisy, cannot decipher Truth from illusions of “truth.” Gandhi
along with many spiritual teachers throughout the ages declared that “ultimately a deceiver only
deceives himself.”17 In our cautiousness, we must be ever-vigilant in insisting on Truth: first
with one’s self, then with others. Do not let cautiousness be a masquerade for a fear that
prevents us from exploring the landscapes of our experiences to deepen our realization and
understanding of Truth. We should not be afraid to make mistakes, we should just avoid making
mistakes because of carelessness. And to avoid harming others by our mistakes, the emphasis of
the Satyagraha path embraces a code of self-suffering to help ensure others are not harmed by
our actions. Within this emphasis, care must be exercised to evaluate the potential impact of our
actions before doing them. Then when non-violent actions are chosen, we must carry them out
with care to fulfill their purpose without harming others. In the world today, so much suffering
(and sometimes death) occurs because of a little carelessness here, a preventable mistake there.
Carefulness combined with wise courage will go a long way to eliminating so much needless
suffering, as well as bettering our understanding of Truth.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 39, excerpt from From Yeravda
Mandir, 1932, Chapter I: Truth.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 298.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 298.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 352.

        Let me stress the importance of embracing courage over fear, for as Gandhi said: “When
a man abandons truth, he does so owing to fear in some shape or form.”18 This is part of why
fearlessness is a necessity for the Satyagrahi, one who holds to Truth. Neither should
Satyagrahis surrender to convenience:

                   “A devotee of Truth may not do anything in deference to convention. He
                   must always hold himself open to correction, and whenever he discovers
                   himself to be wrong he must confess it at all costs and atone for it.”19

Fear, attempts to hide and not correct wrongs, and deference to prevailing conventions have
created and sustained a lot of suffering in the world. To think if we simply ceased doing these
things, how much suffering would disappear from present and future human existence. One of
the greatest barriers to the expansion of happiness and peace in this world is the predominance of
needless suffering.

        By living Truth, we may navigate the flowery meadows and minefields of Karma.
Gandhi observed that humans sow what they reap. Thus, the genuine pursuit of Truth will
deliver Truth to those seekers. Within such a state, we are able to rely on the “inner voice” of
Truth and heed its guidance. But do not let this become a reason for arrogance or self-pride. For
Gandhi warned:

                   “The seeker after truth should be humbler than dust. The world
                   crushes the dust under its feet, but the seeker after truth should so
                   humble himself that even the dust could crush him.”20

Do not confuse humility with weakness. Humility, in the sense that Gandhi use the term,
involves removing barriers of selfishness, egotism, and our (limited) self-power to fully embrace
Truth. Remember the earlier quote in which Gandhi stated all of a Satyagrahi’s power comes
from Truth (or God). By realizing our strength in Truth, as opposed to ourselves, we are able to
embody the (greater) strengths of Truth. Therein we will find a happiness that subsides not even

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 59, Chapter XVII: Passive Resistance.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 350.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. xxviii.

in the midst of suffering. As Gandhi discovered, “even as Truth is eternal, so is the bliss derived
from it.”21 And Truth has a strength and happiness that can be embraced from many directions:

                   “But far be it from me to suggest that you should believe in the
                   God {Truth} that I believe in. Maybe your definition is different
                   from mine, but your belief in that God {Truth} must be your
                   ultimate mainstay. It may be some Supreme Power or some Being
                   even indefinable, but belief in it is indispensable. To bear all kinds
                   of tortures without a murmur or resentment is impossible for a
                   human being without the strength that comes from God {Truth}.
                   Only in His {Its} strength we are strong.”22


                   “Satyagraha is a process of self-purification, and ours is a sacred
                   fight, and it seems to me to be in the fitness of things that it
                   should be commenced with an act of self-purification.”23

                   “True beauty after all consists in purity of heart.”24

        This section will only briefly address purity since it is encompassed throughout so much
of Satyagraha and will be addressed throughout this book. But as the above quote indicated,
purity involves dealing with the heart. Many religions and spiritual traditions address the heart
in different ways, so I will avoid dealing with specifics of the heart and keep my words on a
more general level.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 38, excerpt from From Yeravda
Mandir, 1932, Chapter I: Truth.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 364, excerpt from Harijan, June 3,
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 459.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 67.

       Gandhi spelled out very clearly the necessity of purification for Satyagrahis when he
wrote “God {Truth} can never be realized by one who is not pure of heart.”25 He went on to say:

                  “Self-purification therefore must mean purification in all the walks
                  of life. And purification being highly infectious, purification of
                  oneself necessarily leads to the purification of one’s surroundings.

                  “But the path of self-purification is hard and steep. To attain to
                  perfect purity one has to become absolutely passion-free in
                  thought, speech and action; to rise above the opposing currents of
                  love and hatred, attachment and repulsion.”26

Passion and attachment are terms whose meanings do not always capture the Hindu context in
which Gandhi meant them. These terms have been the center of debates and spiritual
exploration for millennia, so far be it for me to definitively define them. But on a general level,
passions speak to preferences, likes and dislikes, that sometimes manifest as lusts (which some
may call loves) and hatreds. We sometimes experience passions as strong emotions such as
anger, (self-centered) joy, sadness, fear, etc. Attachments are the connections we form to things
(beings, material entities, sometimes concepts) based on our passions. These connections are
often formed without any consciousness of the attachments made or the passions driving their
formation. Attachments include not only seeking things we like but also avoiding things we do
not like. For example, my passion to prefer feeling “powerful” may drive my attachment to
money -- and all the things I am able to buy, do, and feel (e.g., like I’m important) through my
use of money. The flip side of this attachment would move me to do things that avoid being
without money -- such as being wasteful, not going to work (even if I hate my job). This same
dynamic can apply to even more altruistic passions and attachments, such as helping people for
how it makes me feel and not as a service rendered without regard to how it impacts me.

        Passions and attachments can render much confusion because even selfish altruism can
be beneficial to others and sometimes indistinguishable from selfless altruism. There may be a
slight difference between doing a good deed that makes a selfish person happy and a selfless
person performing a good deed and experiencing (with a restrained ego) the happiness that

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 504.
            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 504.

emanates from the act being performed. (This may seem like a foreign concept to someone who
does not regard actions as “living beings” unto themselves that are able to impact other beings
and environments the same way humans can.) Even Gandhi acknowledged the challenge of
distinguishing between the two when he said, “But who is to determine where selflessness ends
and selfishness begins? Selflessness may be the purest form of selfishness.”27 Yet we need not
get lost in the quest of trying to decipher selfishness from selflessness. The cultivation of purity
is clear in instilling that we should not live (think, speak, act, etc.) in ways based in personal
(ego) reasons, even if the reasons seem unselfish because they benefit others. The responsibility
of a Satyagrahi is to live in ways based in Truth: despite our passions until we are able to
extinguish (or greatly minimize) our passions; despite our attachments until we are able to attain
a life with no (or very few) attachments. The eradication of selfishness to cultivate selflessness
is a vital part of the search for Truth.

        Obviously, the path of purity calls for never-ending introspection and self-examination.
We must develop the means to sufficiently observe and analyze ourselves, even without the
critique of others, so that we can identify our passions and attachments to address them. We
must also see that we do not create new passions or attachments. One way to address these
challenges is to pursue and live Truth. The responsibility of introspection is one that never ends
despite how much progress we make. Gandhi admitted to continuing to struggle with his
passions throughout his life despite the great progress he made regarding them:

                   “I am trying every moment of my life to attain the requisite purity
                   of thought, word and deed. As it is, I confess that I am swayed by
                   many passions. Anger wells up in my breast when I see or hear
                   about what I consider to be misdeeds. All I can humbly claim for
                   myself is that I can keep these passions and moods under fair
                   subjection, and prevent them from gaining mastery over me. But
                   the standard of purity that I want, for any such heroic measure is
                   not to have such passions at all and yet to hate the wrong.”28

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 193, excerpt from Young India,
March 19, 1925.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 71, excerpt from Young India, July
14, 1927.

      Passions and attachments present a great danger for those seeking Truth. Gandhi
acknowledged such when he wrote:

                  “A man who is swayed by passions may have good enough
                  intentions, may be truthful in word, but he will never find the

Passions and attachments can have such an influence on us that they can virtually control us,
often without us being aware of them or their control. They also affect our ability to see things
clearly, in the same way anger (or any strong emotion) can cloud our perception of events, even
mistaking harmless actions as threats. More subtle passions and attachments can even weave
their influence into our pursuit of Truth. For most of us, we begin such pursuit from a place of
ignorance: lacking a genuine understanding of Truth. Thus, the path to Truth often involves
releasing layer after layer of ignorance for what may be a lifelong process. Humans have a long
history of confusing the release of ignorance as being closer to Truth -- and sometimes Truth
itself. Such release may bring us “closer” to Truth in that it allows us to realize portions of Truth
we were previously unable to see. But we should not confuse proximity with the destination,
this leaves the door open for passions and attachments to take root. In a similar manner to
pursuing Truth, for most of us the path to selflessness may progress through various stages of
releasing selfishness. Selfishness is often anchored in passions and attachments and, therefore,
every stage of release usually uncovers more passions and attachments to be relinquished. If we
do not release these passions and attachments at a particular stage, thinking we have attained
selflessness simply because we have attained a more subtle form of selfishness, we will deter (if
not completely end) any continued progress toward a selflessness that will enable us to be free of
passions and attachments. This challenge is further confounded by the difficulty in
distinguishing selflessness from more subtle and evolved forms of selfishness. For these reasons
Gandhi saw the task of maturing to selflessness as a lifelong responsibility that must be explicit
in our work and overseen with a careful, introspective observation. And, again, he emphasized
the pursuit of Truth as a viable way to address this challenge: for few things can better
distinguish selflessness from selfishness than Truth.

         The purification process of moving from selfishness (with its passions and attachments)
to selflessness will bring many of our weaknesses to the surface. And, even at times, many will

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 345.

make mistakes and commit wrongs as they work through this process. To this point, Gandhi

                 “To err is human, and it must be held to be equally human to
                 forgive if we, though being fallible, would like rather to be
                 forgiven than punished and reminded of our misdeeds.”30

It is amazing how much committing wrongs and feeling wronged can act as veils for passions
and attachments to continue their reign over us. To confront this, Gandhi accepted that even in
pursuing Truth with great care (seeking not to create harms by carelessness) he would commit
some wrongs, even some “Himalayan miscalculations.” In acknowledging this about himself, he
knew others would also commit wrongs that he would inevitably be affected by. Thus, the
importance of forgiveness was made evident to him: the honesty to forgive himself for
committing wrongs he attempted not to commit yet still did, and to forgive others who wronged
him. From the perspective of purification, this involves not forming attachments to committing
wrongs (e.g., feeling guilty, punishing one’s self) or being wronged (i.e, making others feel
guilty, seeking to punish them). Rather than assigning guilt or punishments, both which usually
inflict some form of harm upon someone, Gandhi sought to purify a situation of wrong. This
may include making amends, performing acts of love to affected parties to share the beneficence
of love. I stress the importance of making amends, since this has been removed from many
modern understandings of forgiveness, many which seem to accept wrongs without performing
any corrective and healing actions -- or limit such actions to merely paying money or doing jail
time. Forgiveness should not be used as a cloak to excuse wrongs committed by one’s self or
others, and it is only by one’s sincerity that forgiveness will not be played as a charade. But to
respond to all wrongs in ways that seek to bring purity to all affected so all may then seek Truth
lays at the heart of the Satyagraha way.

         I will also add that Gandhi’s approach to forgiveness does not get caught up in
distractions such as assigning blame, glorifying victimization, comparing the severity of wrongs,
etc. Gandhi’s approach was simple: there is a wrong, let it be addressed in ways that bring purity
to all affected (those who caused the wrong, those harmed by the wrong), and then let all who
are willing continue to seek Truth.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 107, excerpt from Young India,
February 18, 1920.

       In the same way that we seek to move beyond the possession of passions and
attachments, this quest toward “non-possession” should be reflected in all aspects of a
Satyagrahi’s life. Gandhi described his understanding of non-possession in the following way:

                  “I understood the Gita teaching of non-possession to mean that
                  those who desired salvation should act like the trustee who, though
                  having control over great possessions, regards not an iota of them
                  as his own. It became clear to me as daylight that non-possession
                  and equability presupposed a change of heart, a change of

As a result of this realization, Gandhi engaged the practice of owning few material possessions.
He lived the art of embracing all experiences, from joyous occasions to great tragedy, with an
equanimity of disposition: to not be moved (via passions or attachments) by whatever he faced,
remaining steadfast in encountering everything from his place on the path to Truth. He sought to
only possess what he needed, reduce (if not extinguish) his wants, and be content (at peace) with
this non-possession approach to life. By doing so, he discovered a greater joy (peaceful
contentedness) than can be found by living the tumultuous duality of joy and sadness in the
realm of passions and attachments. The former (greater joy) is an inner, cultivated state of being
not dependent on anything other than one’s own pursuit of Truth; the later is a reactive,
temporary state always in flux and beyond one’s control, instead controlled by things one often
has no awareness of. Later in the book, I will explore how Gandhi applied this renunciation to
many aspects of his life, even his dietary practices. While acknowledging the ideal state of non-
possession, he left it up to each Satyagrahi to determine for themselves how much non-
possession should be part of their lives. Possessions of all forms (things, thoughts, deeds,
desires, beliefs, etc.) can serve as veils for passions and attachments.

        I will close this section by reiterating the infectiousness of purity. It is by this contagious
power of purity that Satyagraha can have a profound transformative effect on others. Gandhi
devoted much study to the (spiritual) science of Satyagraha to increase the pace and depth of the
purification process to then be able to affect change in communities, societies, nations, and the
world. But it must never be forgotten that for every individual Satyagrahi, the process of purity
begins within one’s self. A process that challenges us to uncover our passions and attachments

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 265.

that we may free ourselves from them. Only then will we develop a purity which emanates a
genuine joy that will infect others and inspire them to seek their own purity. And only people
who have attained such purity should occupy leadership positions in Satyagraha work.


        The previous pages only serve as a general introduction to the vast studies of Truth and
purification. In many respects, the pursuit of Truth and cultivation of purity are so essential to
Satyagraha it is virtually impossible to live and apply Satyagraha without genuinely embracing
these. Although the following pages will certainly deal with these in more depth, I do encourage
the readers to do their own research on these subjects. Such research can surely include
Gandhi’s writings and a study of Hinduism, which greatly influenced his understanding of Truth
and purification. But readers may also consult their own religions and spiritual traditions to
learn more about these virtues. Such study is vital to one’s moral development, and Gandhi
held: “[Humans] of ordinary abilities also can develop morality.”32 It is important to remember
that Satyagraha is a spiritual science applied to the social and political realms. Therefore, those
who walk the way of Satyagraha should be rooted in spiritual foundations that will allow them to
carry Truth-force to the social and political realms.

                   “Let hundreds like me perish, but let truth prevail. Let us not
                   reduce the standard of truth even by a hair’s breadth for judging
                   erring mortals like myself.”33

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 33, excerpt from Young India,
February 4, 1920.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. xxviii -

                                              CHAPTER THREE
                            Walking the Path of No Harm
                   “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 to be 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.”1 (bold emphasis mine)

                   “I have repeatedly admitted my imperfections. I am no
                   example of perfect ahimsa. I am evolving.”2

        Ahimsa. Ahimsa. Ahimsa...

         Ahimsa is an essential component of Satyagraha. As Gandhi stated in the opening quote,
it is the means through which Satyagrahis approach the goal of Truth. Some aspects of ahimsa
are less tangible than a specific road to Truth, such as Hinduism as Gandhi’s specific religious
path. But in many religious and spiritual paths we can find elements of ahimsa; and for those
without such a path, ahimsa can be incorporated into how we live. Although ahimsa and Truth
are interwoven, we should not confuse the two as identical. As much as the means and the end
(goal) are part of the same journey, there are certain elements of the means that must be
embraced as means to reach the end of the journey.

         Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 42, excerpt from From Yeravda
Mandir, 1932, Chapter II: Ahimsa Or Love.
            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 297, excerpt from Harijan, July 8,


        Ahimsa has had a place in Indian religions since ancient times. It has evolved in
meaning within and among different religious groups. The Sanskrit word ahimsa has two
components: himsa, which is often translated as “violence” or “injury;” and a which is often
translated as “no” or “not.” The combination of the two components makes ahimsa the negation
of violence or injury. Himsa is regarded as a part of life, even for those who live ahimsa,
because it is virtually impossible to live without killing other beings. Even for those who have a
vegetarian diet and completely peaceful lifestyle, the act of walking can result in a human killing
countless unseen microorganisms with each step. As Gandhi explained:

                  “We are helpless mortals caught in the conflagration of himsa.
                  The saying that life lives on life has a deep meaning in it. Man
                  cannot for a moment live without consciously or unconsciously
                  committing outward himsa. The very fact of his living -- eating,
                  drinking, and moving about -- necessarily involves some himsa,
                  destruction of life, be it ever so minute. A votary of ahimsa
                  therefore remains true to his faith if the spring of all his actions is
                  compassion, if he shuns to the best of his ability the destruction of
                  the tiniest creature, tries to save it, and thus incessantly strives to
                  be free from the deadly coil of himsa. He will be constantly
                  growing in self-restraint and compassion, but he can never become
                  entirely free from outward himsa.”3

The path of ahimsa examines the extent to which one partakes in the cycles of violence
(destruction) that are part of existence in this world. The follower of ahimsa will seek to reduce,
as much as possible, one’s participation in such violence. This has particular importance in
affecting the state of the world in the context of karma (cause and effect). To put it in very
simple terms: the more violence that exists in the world, the more this “effect” will “cause” other
violence in the world, even if this dynamic is not realized by those unfamiliar with this spiritual
law. Thus, if we seek to reduce the amount of violence in the world, the reduction of our acts of
violence is important to reaching this aim. It also follows that if we seek to have more peace in
the world (which goes beyond the mere elimination of violence), the law of karma encourages us

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 349.

to manifest such peace since the “effect” of more peace will “cause” more peace to exist in this
world. It is the study of this principle that has driven students of ahimsa to explore what it is
beyond its most basic sense.

       Ahimsa, in its most elementary sense, includes not killing or causing physical violence
and injury. Gandhi echoed this sentiment when he wrote:

                “Not to hurt any living thing is no doubt a part of ahimsa. But it is
                its least expression.”4

Different religious and spiritual groups varied in how they extended this principle from one’s
self to other humans, to animals, and some to all other beings in the universe. Some groups
further extended the principle beyond just physical acts to also include words, thoughts, and
deeds -- similar to the scope of Gandhi’s definition of violence. It is for this reason I prefer the
term “no harm” as a translation for ahimsa, particularly since the words “violence” and “injury”
in today’s context tend to emphasize only physical and property damage.

        Yet some “spiritual scientists” expanded the study of ahimsa even further: to explore
what it means to live ahimsa beyond the negation of harm. Even Gandhi’s experiments in
Satyagraha included searching for more affirmative aspects of what ahimsa is when it goes
beyond the abstinence of violence. This brought Gandhi and these spiritual scientists to the
reality of love. Not love as perceived within the paradoxical parameters of passions as the
opposite of hatred, but love as a pervading reality beyond the reach of passions and attachments.
In this manner, it is not merely enough to refrain from killing and harming other beings.
Ahimsa, in this fuller sense, requires an affirming embrace of other beings that works toward a
collective benefit. Thus, similar to seeking Truth and purity, the path of ahimsa requires:
selflessness, sacrifice, honest and unending effort, carefulness, courage and fearlessness,
humility, introspection, forgiveness, sincerity, non-possession, and more.

        But Gandhi’s embrace of love was not unconditional. He wrote:

                “I accept the interpretation of ahimsa, namely, that it is not merely
                a negative state of harmlessness but it is a positive state of love, of

         Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 41, excerpt from From Yeravda
Mandir, 1932, Chapter II: Ahimsa Or Love.

                doing good even to the evil-doer. But it does not mean helping the
                evil-doer to continue the wrong or tolerating it by passive
                acquiescence. On the contrary, love, the active state of ahimsa,
                requires you to resist the wrong-doer by dissociating yourself from
                him even though it may offend him or injure him physically.”5

Love does not include a surrender of one’s values as informed by seeking Truth. In fact, love is
an active fulfillment of these values. And the purity of love dictates that seekers of Truth do not
support or cooperate with evil, destructiveness, or harm. I am reminded of what a mystic once
told me: that it only takes one stain to dirty a clean cloth. One of the lessons I derived from this
parable is that those seeking or living purity must be ever-vigilant in keeping their “cloth” clean
-- this includes what we tolerate, accept, and support. Later in the book, I will explore in detail
how Gandhi approached the process of non-cooperation as a last resort after other possible
cooperative means were exhausted. But know that his approach to non-cooperation focused on
self-suffering and sacrifice as ways of not inflicting harm on others, even if the removal of his
cooperation left others open to being harmed by their own actions.

       In the same vein that love (in Satyagraha) requires us not to cooperate with those who
commit harm, it requires us to forgive and embrace those who turn away from committing harm.
To continue the above Gandhi quote, he gave the following example:

                “Thus if my son lives a life of shame, I may not help him to do so
                by continuing to support him; on the contrary, my love for him
                requires me to withdraw all support from him although it may
                mean even his death. And the same love imposes on me the
                obligation of welcoming him to my bosom when he repents. But I
                may not by physical force compel my son to become good.”6

Gandhi and other followers of ahimsa accept that in this world himsa and evil exist, even as they
work toward the elimination of these. They accept that people are free to commit himsa and, in
all honesty, cannot be compelled to not commit such acts. Compulsion often creates another set

         Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 161, excerpt from Young India,
August 25, 1920.
         Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 161, excerpt from Young India,
August 25, 1920.

of harms which is contrary to the way of ahimsa, and “a lesser of two evils” approach to benefit
has no place in ahimsa: we must refrain from committing all harm and evil regardless of our
intentions. The challenge for us is to live the fullness of pure ahimsa, for as Gandhi said, “When
such Ahimsa becomes all-embracing, it transforms everything it touches. There is no limit to its
power.”7 For those who may doubt, even slightly, this premise I would encourage you to search
the large expanse of spiritual, religious, philosophical, and anecdotal writings that address the
transformative, far-reaching impacts of love -- especially pure love.

        One of the challenges of living love is becoming aware of and addressing the imprint of
violence. Consider a child who has been fortunate to never be a victim of violence: such a child
may be open to a wider range of experiences, explorative, courageous, less inhibited, and
possibly happy. But if that child experiences even a single act of violence these traits may be
diminished forever, especially if no healing process occurs. With every subsequent experience
that child faces, she or he may be haunted by the possibility of harm and be less inclined to
engage experiences in which the potential for harm is evident or cannot be clearly deciphered.
The child may be less trusting, more fearful, more defensively closed-minded, and bound to
suffering -- often without realizing that these developed traits are a lasting imprint from violence.
The child may also carry these traits and tendencies into adulthood, sometimes crafting the
fundamentals of her or his adult identity around these traits and tendencies -- a regular
occurrence in many modern societies.

         The imprint of violence also affects those who inflict violence upon others. An example
is the significant portion of modern American social dialogue addressing the lingering effects
war has on soldiers. Many soldiers exposed to combat struggle with a range of issues, such as:
responding to non-threatening situations with aggression and violence, guilt, self-destructive
behaviors (i.e. substance abuse, suicide), seeking power and control by oppressing and / or
harming others (i.e. abusive relationships), and more. Often these issues are more profound for
those who have participated in or witnessed extreme or repeated violence. There is much
wisdom in the saying, “No one experiences harm without being harmed.” And just because
modern social codes have made experiencing certain harms commonplace (i.e. rudeness, hurtful
words) does not mean we are not affected by such harms.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 28.

        The imprint of violence poses a major barrier to living love and extending acts of love to
others. The imprint of violence is often, in part, a factor in why there is resistance to love and
the benefits that accompany it. Gandhi sought to address these challenges through compassion.
Various religions and spiritual traditions emphasize particular aspects of compassion, but at the
heart of compassion is an acknowledgment of the sufferings of others with a sincere wish to
alleviate such suffering. For Satyagrahis, this wish is carried forth by serving others with
beneficent actions. Gandhi extended this even to those who considered him an enemy: that as he
engaged in efforts to transform those who committed wrong (destruction), he looked to see how
their suffering may have influenced them to commit harmful acts. In Satyagraha, the work of
compassion goes beyond just treating individual suffering, particularly in societies engulfed in
cycles of violence. It would be incomplete to merely treat people for smoke inhalation if they
live in a burning house. Even if you alleviate the harms of smoke inhalation, they are still at risk
for a multitude of other harms such as being burned, having the burning house collapse upon
them, and possibly suffering from smoke inhalation again. Gandhi realized that the scope of
compassion must treat not only individual suffering but also address communal and systemic
causes of suffering so that individuals may not only be free form specific instances of suffering
but be free from suffering altogether. And when one is free from suffering, she or he is more
likely to be receptive to love and the ways of ahimsa.

        Awareness of the imprint of violence also challenges us to exercise great care with our
own actions toward others. For those who are suffering or have experienced suffering (which
includes most people in modern America, if not much of the world), a single act of harm can
result in such persons engaging in “defensive” reactions to prevent further harm. These
reactions, in their intent to not be harmed, may even reject subsequent acts of love; and there
may be little that can be done to reach a person engaged in such a reactive state. Instead, if we
engage such persons with unending love, we avoid committing harmful acts, even if
unintentional, that put these persons in a defensive reactive state. Also, the transformative power
of love may transform persons in such states to abandon them and be open to love and its
benefits. The strength of unending love, demonstrated in the living example of a person who
lives such love, can teach others how to be strong and thus attain the benefits of love.


Webster’s Dictionary defines enemy as “a person who hates another, and wishes or tries to injure
him.”8 It should be clear by now that Gandhi, based on ahimsa, would not hold anyone in this
regard. He explicitly said, “It is against my religion to regard any one as an enemy”9 and that “In
the dictionary of the non-violent there is no such word as an external enemy.”10 As lofty as these
virtues may seem, they are based in a logic he challenges all Satyagrahis to not only accept but
meditate and reflect upon:

                      “[A Satyagrahi] will believe that no [human] is intentionally
                      wicked, that there is no [human] 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.”11

Thus, Gandhi held as an objective in all adversarial interactions to address the moral faculties of
those who committed wrongs that they may mature to embrace ahimsa (non-violence). One of
the aims of transforming others is to have them become more morally mature. We are less likely
to achieve this aim if we engage them in typical enemy-oriented ways, a lesson that seems to be
forgotten by some in the community organizing, peace, and social justice fields. Think about it:
is name calling and personality-based confrontations likely to support the moral maturity of
those who commit destructive acts? Or is it more likely to reinforce their (immoral) stance in
destruction as they defend themselves from such attacks?

        One step in fulfilling the objective of moral transformation and maturity is to see things
as our opponents do.12 To be clear, this does not entail conceiving our opponents’ perspectives

               Webster’s New World Dictionary: Third College Edition, 1994, p. 449.
               Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 155, excerpt from Young India, June
2, 1920.
                Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 93, excerpt from Harijan, October
13, 1940.
                Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 93. excerpt from Harijan, October
13, 1940.
           I use the word “opponent” because it reflects that although Satyagrahis have no enemies, there may be
people who are opposed to Satyagrahis and the work of Satyagraha. But Satyagrahis approach adversarial relations
with those who oppose them without the hatred or ill-will people usually have for enemies.

from how we would fabricate them: for example, it is not to imagine the thoughts of a war-
monger from my negative views of war. Instead, the challenge is to see why a person who
wages war does so for their reasons, not my construction of their reasons as influenced by my
values. Gandhi acknowledged this is no easy task:

                 “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

If our opponents’ perspective proves to be right, then Satyagraha obligates us to acknowledge
such and adjust our stance and actions appropriately. If our opponents’ perspective is flawed and
we realize how and why it is flawed, we must work to have these flaws corrected in ways that do
not create harm. Remember, compulsion often creates other sets of harms even if for “good”
intentions. It is for this reason Gandhi emphasized compassion and patience as ways of
engaging opponents who hold to wrong. He usually explored if there were ways cooperation
could be utilized to address these flaws, including being a living example of one who has shed
the flaws and lives a correct (Truth-aligned) approach. Such cooperation may also include
working with one’s opponents to address social conditions: for example, working with criminals
who steal to survive to create job opportunities and a more equitable distribution of wealth so
that they no longer steal from the community. But if cooperative ways failed to address the
flaws, then Gandhi embraced non-cooperation. This sometimes included embracing self-
suffering as a way to highlight the flaws of his opponents. When embraced with purity, the
willingness to suffer for others’ wrongs (flaws) can be a powerful way to have others realize
their flaws. And Gandhi held the following as a guiding principle: one who is able to fully
mature their ability to discriminate between right and wrong will embrace ahimsa as a way of

       I want to emphasize the importance of being a living example of the peace and beauty of
ahimsa. Too often, many with good intentions fall short of cultivating ahimsa within themselves,

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 193 - 194, excerpt from Young
India, March 19, 1925.

and the beauty and peace they proclaim to be part of the ways of ahimsa are absent in their lives.
To give a metaphor: what’s the point of being a saint if the life of a saint is as miserable as being
a heathen? But if that saint reflects an unconquerable happiness, even in the midst of great
suffering, this genuine happiness will be noted by others as something the saint has that is sacred
and worthy. Some will be moved beyond merely noticing this sacred something to a curiosity
about what it is. And, particularly among those who have ongoing beneficial contact with this
saint, some will develop the wish to also attain this sacred something so they too may acquire a
genuine unconquerable happiness. The transformative effect of this saint will be tied very much
to the saint’s purity. This dynamic speaks, in part, to the often quoted Gandhi remark: “be the
change you seek to be.” That when Satyagrahis mature their ahimsa approach to the point that
they emanate the beauty and peace of ahimsa, this will contribute greatly to transforming their
opponents and others -- even if the transformation moves steadily ahead a snail’s pace. But
usually it moves faster, especially when Satyagrahis more fully mature ahimsa in their lives with

        For Gandhi, there was another factor that informed his approach to supposed “enemies:”
the unity of all life. He explained:

                  “Then again, because underlying ahimsa is the unity of all life, the
                  error of one cannot but affect all, and hence man cannot be wholly
                  free from himsa. So long as he continues to be a social being, he
                  cannot but participate in the himsa that the very existence of
                  society involves.”14

We live individual lives in a collective (planetary or universal) experience; and for more
community-oriented societies, we live communal lives in a larger collective experience. This
makes the actions of others relevant to our lives: that even if their actions do not have a direct
influence on my life, it does affect my experience -- what is happening on the experiential plane
I presently exist within. Lack of awareness of this dynamic may be influenced by the
individualistic conditioning of modern societies, but a multitude of religious and spiritual
teachings acknowledge this collective dynamic of planetary and universal experience. There are
lineages of spiritual practices that seek to cultivate the awareness of this dynamic among
aspirants. These practices often use extensive meditative reflection to cultivate one’s

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 349.

observation beyond the limitations of one’s ego. And perhaps for Gandhi, it was his countless
hours of meditation that allowed him to realize this reality for himself.

        Therefore, there is a clear benefit to transforming the moral flaws of others that their lives
may contribute to a more beneficial experience for us all. In the same way the imprint of
violence may resist love (and its benefits), an overall experience of violence may do the same.
All of our individual and communal lives contribute to shaping the overall experience that
engulfs all of our lives. The realization of this connection is a strong factor in why Gandhi
refused to regard anyone as his enemy. In the context of the unity of all life, we are all on the
same team contributing to our collective experience, even if we don’t realize we’re all wearing
the same uniform. And if we come to realize the more subtle yet profound impact our collective
experience has on the more recognizable components of our individual and collective lives, we
would most likely cease to inflict harm upon others for our “supposed benefit.”

        To examine this dynamic on a societal level, a little boy who goes around hugging trees
will be looked down upon in a society that glorifies violence and aggression. There will be less
acceptance and support for this little boy when the larger society is engaged in activities that
glorify violence, such as watching TV shows and films where acts of violence are made more
common than saying hello to a stranger. In the collective ignorance of this societal dynamic,
many would not even question why they are less comfortable around a boy who hugs trees than a
boy who plays with toy guns. But if the societal dynamic was reversed, and most people in the
society hugged trees instead of watching violent media, the society would be more supportive
and receptive of the tree-hugging boy. This support would be manifested by the collective
societal experience that welcomes and encourages the little boy hugging trees as well as the
individual acts of people who live lives that appreciate the hugging of trees.

       The unity of all life is affected by universal laws. One of these laws is the law of love.

               “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 non-violence is infinitely more
               wonderful and subtle than the material forces of nature, like, for
               instance, electricity. The [humans] 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 every one to see all its working.”15

Gandhi sought to assist others in realizing the workings of the law of love and other laws that
affect the unity of all life. To the extent we achieve this goal we can bring an end to the illusions
of having enemies and that our individual existences are not affected (or significantly affected)
by others. For Gandhi, Satyagraha is a science seeking to better understand, apply, and increase
awareness of these laws -- even if Satyagrahis must take on pure self-suffering to advance this
science. For if we succeed in sufficiently advancing the spiritual science of Satyagraha, we will
cultivate a world without enemies: a world (and possibly an universe) that rests upon the
foundation of a collective beneficent experience.

                   “I know that nothing is impossible for pure love.”16

                   “The force of love is the same as the force of the soul or truth.”17


                   “Non-violent action without the co-operation of the heart and
                   the head cannot produce the intended result. The failure of our
                   imperfect ahimsa is visible to the naked eye.”18

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 384, excerpt from The Nation’s
Voice, 1947, p. 109 - 110, Part II.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 13.
           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 55, Chapter XVII: Passive Resistance.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 298, excerpt from Harijan, July 8,

        The heart is tied to the search for Truth, the mind greatly informs how this search is
carried out. This makes their beneficent cooperation essential to living ahimsa. The human
heart is already attuned to Truth, and if we honor it, listen to it, and do not cover it with
impurities it will naturally fulfill its role in the search for Truth. Similar to how the physical
heart will pump blood throughout the body if maintained with health and left unimpeded, the
“spiritual” heart will serve its function. But the mind: oh, how countless human societies have
conditioned and polluted generations of human minds with selfishness, destruction, and evil. We
must address the mind if we wish to attain its necessary cooperation to live ahimsa and embrace
Truth. To this point, Gandhi stated, “Victory will be ours in the end, if we non-cooperate with
the mind in its evil wanderings.”19

        Gandhi embraced brahmacharya, in part, as a method to address the mind. Brahmacharya
is often perceived as a vow of celibacy, but this is only a partial understanding. Gandhi
explained, “Brahmacharya means control of the senses in thought, word and deed.”20 And there
are ways to attain such control outside of oppressive methods, ways that are instead rooted in
beneficence and (inner) strength. To bring further clarity to his definition of brahmacharya,
Gandhi wrote:

                   “Brahmacharya means control of all the organs of sense. He, who
                   attempts to control only one organ, and allows all the others free
                   play, is bound to find his effort futile. To hear suggestive stories
                   with the ears, to see suggestive sights with the eyes, to taste
                   stimulating food with the tongue, to touch exciting things with the
                   hands, and then at the same time expect to control the only
                   remaining organ is like putting one’s hands in the fire, and
                   expecting to escape being burnt. He therefore who is resolved to
                   control the one must be likewise determined to control the rest. I
                   have always felt, that much harm has been done by the narrow
                   definition of brahmacharya [as celibacy]. If we practise

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 44, excerpt from From Yeravda
Mandir, 1932, Chapter III: Brahmacharya Or Chastity.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 210.

                   simultaneous self-control in all directions, the attempt will be
                   scientific and possible of success.”21

Gandhi, as influenced by his religious path of Hinduism, sought self-control through various
practices of self-restraint. And such restraint is necessary. Think about it: if one has little or no
control over what enters one’s mind, the case for many humans, what is there to stop a person
who receives an angry thought from acting out on that thought with violence? Restraint. And
restraint can be carried beyond merely addressing thoughts that appear in one’s mind, it can
mature to the stage of restraining certain types of thoughts (i.e. destructive) from even entering
one’s mind. Gandhi affirmed this with the following remark about brahmacharya:

                   “It [brahmacharya] begins with bodily restraint, but does not end
                   there. The perfection of it precludes even an impure thought.”22

For Brahmacharya, this is pursued by controlling one’s senses. Other religions and spiritual
traditions may provide other means to develop and spiritually mature the benefits attained
through brahmacharya. Thus, I will not focus so much on the specifics of living brahmacharya,
but instead on what is to be gained through this approach that is required to live ahimsa and

        Let me take a moment to comment on the shift of language from Gandhi’s time to now.
In dealing with brahmacharya, Gandhi made references to passions, animal passions, lusts, the
carnal mind, brutes, and self in various contexts. The spiritual vocabulary has shifted since his
time such that some of what he referred to with these terms are now more commonly connected
with the term “ego.” I will leave his words unchanged but, when appropriate, I will use ego in
my writing to contextualize Gandhi’s points.

        Brahmacharya begins with taking a vow. Vows are not things to be made lightly or
created from a place of ignorance. Many religious and spiritual traditions of vows have been
carefully developed and perfected over time through the trial and experimentation of many
aspirants, so that lessons acquired can be applied by future aspirants. For this reason, it is

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 45, excerpt from From Yeravda
Mandir, 1932, Chapter III: Brahmacharya Or Chastity.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 317.

strongly suggested that anyone seeking to take on a vow consult guides or teachers.23 They will
be able to discuss what is entailed, so possible vow aspirants can seriously reflect on if they
sincerely wish and are ready to embrace a vow process. Guides and teachers will also be able to
provide guidance and support to fulfill the vow(s) and attain the benefits to be gained from the
process. To share a mystic saying that has some relevance, “a student draws the teacher right for
her or him.” If the student is sincere, she or he will draw (or be drawn to) a teacher or guide who
can serve that sincerity. If a student is not sincere, well, many false teachers and guides

         Vows are commonly associated with restraints and limitations on behavior. To this
Gandhi responded, “I realized that a vow, far from closing the door to real freedom, opened it.”24
The brahmacharya vow includes refraining from actions that feed and sustain the inability to
control one’s senses. If we accept this as the full extent of brahmacharya, then it is we who have
prematurely limited its scope. It is by working within appropriate restraints that we cultivate
(personal) space, skills, understanding, and abilities to realize the extent to which we surrender
control of our senses, so we may then acquire (or re-acquire) such control for ourselves. The
restraints of vows should be crafted with great care so that they guide aspirants away from
actions and practices that are counter to the goal. And they should include practices that will
move us toward the goal, even if the purpose of such practices is not evident to those of us in the
early stages of living the vows. To give an example, a person who has taken a vow of celibacy
may not be aware how food directly affects one’s senses and behavior. Thus, a vow condition
that restricts choice of food (i.e. no spicy food, no meat) may seem absurd to this person. But if
the person adheres to the vow condition, she or he may come to see the wisdom of this
restriction. Even if the person does not realize it, she or he still receives the benefit of fulfilling
the vow condition. This same dynamic played out with many who doubted Gandhi’s early calls
to affect social change non-violently: they did not realize until after the fact how a path of
ahimsa and Truth-holding (Satyagraha) could transform persons and structures rooted in

          And these need not always be human, as mystics throughout the ages have had non-human teachers and
guides. But for most humans, they should probably seek human teachers and guides.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 207.

        “A pledge once taken, I argued, must not be broken afterwards...”25 This is important,
especially since inclinations to break vows are usually only encountered when we face difficulty.
Think about it: who breaks an easy vow? Gandhi stated the following regarding some of his
difficulties with brahmacharya:

                  “Let no one think that it is impossible because it is difficult. It is
                  the highest goal, and it is no wonder that the highest effort should
                  be necessary to attain it.”26

A vow aspirant rarely realizes the full scope of transformation required to move from a
destructive state to a beneficent state. For brahmacharis (one who has taken the brahmacharya
vow), they rarely fully realize the extent to which they do not control their senses -- and often
how much their senses control them -- until they progress in fulfilling the vow. The same is true
for those who seek to free themselves from the reign of their ego. Addressing these unforeseen
challenges can seem quite daunting, especially when these may bring one to face the core of who
one is -- or perceives one’s self to be. Rare is the selfish person who is willing to release who
she or he is to fulfill a vow, let alone anything else. For this reason, Gandhi constantly preached
the importance of selflessness. But even for difficulties that emanate from causes other than
selfishness and ego, commitment to fulfill the vow will go a long way to carrying vow aspirants
through difficult periods. And for those who fulfill the vows, the difficulties encountered are
often seen as minimal to the benefits attained by completely fulfilling the vow.

       Gandhi also offered another valuable piece of advice regarding vows:

                  “The ideal of truth requires that vows taken should be fulfilled in
                  the spirit as well as in the letter.”27

The letter of a beneficent vow keeps us clearly away from destructive acts; but it is the pursuit of
the spirit of the vow that leads us to the bountiful beneficence that lays beyond the mere
abstinence of destruction. In this way, living the spirit AND letter of the vow, we are able to

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 461.
            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 211.
            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 455.

discover and embrace the fullness of the vow. This leads to wholeness and completeness, this
transforms vow aspirants into something more than they were prior to fulfilling the vow.

        Many vow processes will look to affect beneficent shifts in the fundamental life
approaches of aspirants -- which also sometimes elicits resistance from some aspirants unwilling
to release destructive fundamentals. An example of a fundamental life approach is how Gandhi
dealt with his diet in the context of brahmacharya:

                  “Control of the palate is the first essential in the observance of the
                  vow. I found that complete control of the palate made the
                  observance [of brahmacharya] very easy, and so I now persued
                  [pursued] my dietetic experiments not merely from the
                  vegetarian’s but also from the brahmachari’s point of view. As
                  the result of these experiments I saw that the brahmachari’s food
                  should be limited, simple, spiceless, and, if possible, uncooked.”28

As a result, Gandhi shifted from eating merely “to please the palate, [instead] just to keep the
body going.”29 The “limited, simple, spiceless” approach to eating also permeated into his
general way of life. He embraced a path of limited possessions, taking only what he needed. He
embraced living in simplicity: from his way of dress to his actions, refraining from extravagance
and luxuries. He even embraced a spiceless, or what some may call a “boring,” way of life that
focused on seeking Truth and living ahimsa - shedding the pursuit of adventure and “having
fun.” This, in part, reflected his sincerity to his vow: that when a vow is embraced with depth,
more profound lessons can be gained from living seemingly basic tenets. Consider how many
people have embraced the diet restriction as merely that: a restriction on food selection, not a
lesson to be applied to the whole expanse of one’s life.

         The search for depth in the dietetic vow tenet led Gandhi to another significant
realization: “As an external aid to brahmacharya, fasting is as necessary as selection and
restriction in diet.”30 Much has been made of some of the public fasts Gandhi undertook to

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 209.
            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 321.
            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 209.

affect change in India, examples including his fast almost till death to end violence among
Hindus and Muslims. But there was something deeper Gandhi discovered in fasts:

                   “A complete fast is a complete and literal denial of self. It is the
                   truest prayer.”31

Referring to fasts as prayer clearly makes fasts a spiritual act. And the complete denial of self
may be interpreted in modern vocabulary as a complete denial of the ego. The pursuit and
embrace of selflessness, even if only temporarily, may allow us to realize the extent of our
selfishness. And selfish beings often crave and seek out pleasures, acting on passions that lack
restraint and willingly seek satisfaction through even harmful means. But following pleasures
and passions to their source leads to the mind.

        Gandhi’s self-examination of himself in living the dietetic vow tenet brought him to
realize: “the real seat of taste was not the tongue but the mind.”32 He further expounded upon
this point:

                   “Passion in [humanity] is generally coexistent with a hankering
                   after the pleasures of the palate. And so it was with me. I have
                   encountered many difficulties in trying to control passion as well
                   as taste, and I cannot claim even now to have brought them under
                   complete subjection.”33

Lack of complete control does not mean we should compromise our efforts in seeking complete
control or the various stages of control we develop in quest of the ultimate goal. And certainly
every progressive step toward the goal should be well maintained so that we do not regress.
Even in striving for and progressing toward the goal we are able to learn lessons that bring us
closer to it -- an important aspect of the vow process.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 318, excerpt from Harijan, April
15, 1933.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 56.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 320.

      But back to the mind as being the seat of pleasures and passions. As much as fasting led
Gandhi to his own mind, he realized there are limitations for using fasting to address the mind:

                  “Though I have made out an intimate connection between diet and
                  brahmacharya, it is certain that mind is the principal thing. A
                  mind consciously unclean cannot be cleansed by fasting.
                  Modifications in diet have no effect on it. The concupiscence of
                  the mind cannot be rooted out except by intense self-
                  examination, surrender to God {Truth} and, lastly, grace. But
                  there is an intimate connection between the mind and the body,
                  and the carnal mind always lusts for delicacies and luxuries. To
                  obviate this tendency dietetic restrictions and fasting would appear
                  to be necessary. The carnal mind, instead of controlling the
                  senses, becomes their slave, and therefore the body always needs
                  clean non-stimulating foods and periodical fasting.”34 (bold emphasis

I would caution readers against taking the previous quote as a blind endorsement of fasting. As
will be addressed later in the book, Gandhi put certain preconditions in place before engaging in
fasts -- notably that anyone who fasts be in good health. But whether we engage in fasts or not,
intense self-examination, personal cleansing and development, surrender to Truth, grace, and
refraining from “feeding” passions and attachments (and the ego) are practices we can embrace.

        Effective vow processes bring an aspirant to face one’s self, and provide the opportunity
(some say invitation) for the aspirant to understand who she or he truly is and has become.
Aspirants who embrace the vow process with depth will not only fulfill the vow tenets, but
engage the process as one of self-discovery. Gandhi was brought face to face with his carnal
mind, in which his fixation with taste and other selfish passions were rooted. He confessed such
in his autobiography:

                  “I have considered myself to be a heavy eater. What friends have
                  thought to be my restraint has never appeared to me in that light.
                  If I had failed to develop restraint to the extent that I have, I should

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 329.

                   have descended lower than the beasts [animal passions] and met
                   my doom long ago.”35

He also confessed to struggles with sexual passion and lusts at various points in his life. These
can be very difficult things to face, but be faced they must lest they prevent us from seeking and
living Truth. Passions and wants for pleasure very rarely extinguish themselves and vow
processes will seek to have these addressed so aspirants do not remain bound to them. Gandhi
gave the following warning to those who will allow passions and desires to remain in their
minds, even if they refrain from acting them out:

                   “We are told in the [Bhagavad] Gita, and experience will
                   corroborate the statement, that the foolish man, who appears to
                   control his body, but is nursing evil thoughts in his mind, makes a
                   vain effort. It may be harmful to suppress the body, if the mind is
                   at the same time allowed to go astray. Where the mind wanders,
                   the body must follow sooner or later.

                   “... we must put forth a constant endeavour to bring the mind under
                   control. We can do nothing more, nothing less. If we give way to
                   the mind, the body and the mind will pull different ways, and we
                   shall be false to ourselves.”36

To further emphasize the importance of dealing with one’s mind, Gandhi cautioned:

                   “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.”37

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 320.
          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 44, excerpt from From Yeravda
Mandir, 1932, Chapter III: Brahmacharya Or Chastity.
          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 95 - 96, excerpt from Harijan,
October 13, 1940.

Thus, the importance of a pure, clean mind that holds nothing contrary to its purity is made

       As helpful as fasts are in cultivating benefits of the brahmacharya vow, no vow tool is
without dangers. Gandhi explained, “There is no doubt that, like everything that is good, fasts
are abused. That is inevitable.”38 He acknowledged:

                   “Fasting is a potent weapon in the Satyagraha armoury. It cannot
                   be taken by every one. Mere physical capacity to take it is no
                   qualification for it. It is of no use without a living faith in God
                   {Truth}. It should never be a mechanical effort nor a mere
                   imitation. It must come from the depth of one’s soul. It is
                   therefore always rare.”39

This genuine living of Truth, which comes from one’s soul, that is necessary for fasting also
guided Gandhi’s approach to Satyagraha. And such genuineness can be cultivated through a
vow process. The warnings of “mechanical effort” and “imitation” apply as much to fasting as
to Satyagraha work -- or what is sometimes referred to as “non-violent” work modeled after
Satyagraha. Fasting and Satyagraha are potentially powerful weapons that have a science of
their own. They have limitations that are shaped by self-restraint and humility. They require
careful planning, preparation, and training -- not training in its more limited contemporary
context, but in the moral / spiritual development approach of Satyagraha. Purity and a living
confidence in Truth are mandatory. Also, “Infinite patience, firm resolve, single-mindedness of
purpose, perfect calm, and no anger must of necessity be there.”40 In fact, Gandhi went on to
declare: “no one who has not devoted himself to following the laws of ahimsa should undertake
a Satyagrahi fast.”41 And I stress: all the above conditions apply not only to fasting but to
embracing Satyagraha too.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 318, excerpt from Harijan, April
15, 1933.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 320, excerpt from Harijan, March
18, 1939.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 322, excerpt from Harijan, October
13, 1940.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 322, excerpt from Harijan, October
13, 1940.

        By the above standards, Gandhi regarded:

                   “the majority of fasts do not at all come under the category of
                   Satyagraha fasts and are, as they are popularly called, hunger-
                   strikes undertaken without previous preparation and adequate
                   thought. If the process is repeated too often, these hunger-strikes
                   will lose what little efficacy they may possess and will become
                   objects of ridicule.”42

Consider this proclamation in light of the dwindling impact of protest tactics by many in the
community organizing, peace, and social justice fields: marches that used to galvanize whole
communities and nations now have no more impact than a traffic jam. Not only have they been
overused without adequate thought and preparation, they are often done without the essential
purity, depth of soul, and genuine living of Truth. Such careless action has wreaked great
damage on the community organizing, peace, and social justice fields. The lesson of this
dynamic Gandhi learned from fasting:

                   “Unscientific experimentation with it [fasting] is bound to be
                   harmful to the one who fasts, and it may even harm the cause
                   espoused. No one who has not earned the right to do so should,
                   therefore, use this weapon.”43

       Gandhi further warned that, “Ridiculous fasts spread like plague and are harmful.”44 This
doesn’t mean Satyagrahis should abandon misused tactics. As Gandhi related about fasting:

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 321, excerpt from Harijan, March
18, 1939.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 321, excerpt from Harijan, October
13, 1940.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 324, excerpt from Harijan, April
21, 1946.

                   “Like all human institutions, fasting can be both legitimately and
                   illegitimately used. But as a great weapon in the armoury of
                   Satyagraha, it cannot be given up because of its possible abuse.”45

Those of us who will use Satyagraha tactics must approach them in a proper way. In practice,
this means that before we even begin pondering the use of non-violent tactics, we must have
made considerable progress in living the laws of ahimsa and seeking Truth.

       Another significant realization Gandhi discovered through brahmacharya is the
connection of one’s vital (or creative) energy and the mind. This vital energy is often associated
with sexual activity -- and why celibacy is part of the brahmacharya vow -- but it goes beyond
that. Gandhi stated:

                   “This vitality is continuously and even unconsciously dissipated by
                   evil, or even rambling, disorderly, unwanted, [sic] thoughts. And
                   since thought is the root of all speech and action, the quality of the
                   latter corresponds to that of the former. Hence perfectly controlled
                   thought is itself power of the highest potency and can become self-
                   acting. That seems to me to be the meaning of the silent prayer of
                   the heart.”46

Understanding this dynamic, we will clearly understand why Gandhi said:

                   “Many aspirants after brahmacharya fail, because in the use of
                   their other senses they want to carry on like those who are not

Consider how “normal” it has become to engage in evil (destructive) acts and thoughts, to
engage in rambling and disorderly thinking and activities. Continued participation in such

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 320, excerpt from Harijan, May 6,
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 97, excerpt from Harijan, July 23,
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 210.

weakens our vital energies and the power these can infuse into our beneficent thoughts and
actions. It is for this reason, Gandhi spoke forcefully to the need for unwavering discipline. It is
also why Gandhi strongly declared:

                   “There should be a clear line between the life of a brahmachari
                   and of one who is not. The resemblance that there is between the
                   two is only apparent. The distinction ought to be clear as daylight.
                   Both use their eyesight, but whereas the brahmachari uses it to see
                   the glories of God {Truth}, the other uses it to see the frivolity
                   around him. Both use their ears, but whereas the one hears nothing
                   but praises of God {Truth}, the other feasts his ears upon ribaldry.
                   Both often keep late hours, but whereas the one devotes them to
                   prayer, the other fritters them away in wild and wasteful mirth.
                   Both feed the inner man, but the one only to keep the temple of
                   God {Truth} in good repair, while the other gorges himself and
                   makes the sacred vessel a stinking gutter. Thus both live as the
                   poles apart, and the distance between them will grow and not
                   diminish with the passage of time.”48

Enough said.


                   “As faith in God {Truth} is essential in a Satyagrahi, even so is
                   brahmacharya. Without brahmacharya the Satyagrahi will have
                   no lustre, no inner strength to stand unarmed against the whole

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 210.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 95, excerpt from Harijan, October
13, 1940.

        The above quote is a recurring theme in Gandhi’s writing but should be understood in
context. Much of his writing was geared specifically to Indian people in India for whom
brahmacharya was an accepted part of their cultural, religious, and spiritual practices. For those
outside the Indian experience, they may have other vow processes that attain the above stated
benefits Gandhi acquired through brahmacharya. Remember, it is the person one becomes by
living the brahmacharya vow that is essential to living Satyagrahi.

        I, myself, live a different spiritual path than Gandhi, living a traditionally African
Kemetic way of life. This spiritual way of life requires one to face and overcome the reign of the
unbalanced ego in quest of living a pure heart. Thus, many of the benefits Gandhi attained
through brahmacharya I attained through Kemetic purification practices. And I can attest with
complete confidence how this has transformed who I am to be better able to seek, embrace, and
live Truth.

         Whatever path (or no path) you choose, make sure it deals with the ego. I will venture to
say there are few, if any, greater barriers to living Satyagraha than egotism: not only how it
manipulates those who are harmful and destructive, but even controls those who proclaim to seek
a life that reduces and seeks to eliminate harm in the world. Addressing the ego may require
those on the Satyagraha path to explore the mystic aspects of their religious and spiritual
traditions, especially since many modern mainstream approaches to various religious and
spiritual traditions make a place for harm and ego within their practice. Satyagrahis must face
their harmful practices from the roots: this requires an in-depth introspective examination of
one’s self which may lead one to one’s ego, the source from which many destructive acts and
thoughts emanate. When this is the case, Satyagrahis must then embrace a process of addressing
their egos and cultivating their entire being (including their minds) to ways of ahimsa (no harm).

        Do not doubt the possibility of transformation, of even radical transformation. When
Gandhi was young and more concerned with his law profession and marriage (including making
children), he would have doubted -- if not outright rejected -- the lessons regarding ahimsa he
later dedicated his life to living and teaching. It is these lessons that he talked about more than
any tactics, strategies, political objectives, etc. -- and often, he only mentioned these in the
context of ahimsa and seeking Truth. This may be surprising to some, given the way many quote
only certain elements of Gandhi’s teachings. But a wider and more careful examination of his
life shows that he was a ceaseless propagator of ahimsa, seeking Truth, and the spiritual
components needed to live these virtues.

       It is only by an openness of being, which Gandhi attributed in part to Truth (God), that he
was able to embrace a path that allowed him to learn the lessons of ahimsa for himself. This is
very much required for every Satyagrahi: that one learns the lessons of ahimsa for one’s self. So
be open to these lessons. A well-designed vow process will contribute greatly to developing the
means to learn and live these lessons. It is these lessons, in large part, that transformed Gandhi
from an ego-centered lawyer controlled by selfish passions to a selfless seeker of Truth who shed
many passions in order to pursue and live Truth, share the lessons of Truth with others, and serve
them with the goal of transforming and building a nation guided by Truth.

                  “In trying to cure one old disease, we give rise to a hundred
                  new ones; in trying to enjoy the pleasures of sense, we lose in
                  the end even our capacity for enjoyment. All this is passing
                  before our very eyes, but there are none so blind as those who
                  will not see.”50

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 322.

                                             CHAPTER FOUR
         Swaraj (Self-rule) is Part of the Search for Truth
                 “Satyagraha is search for Truth; and God is Truth. Ahimsa or
                 non-violence is the light that reveals that Truth to me. Swaraj
                 for me is part of that Truth.”1

                 “It is Swaraj when we learn to rule ourselves. It is, therefore, in
                 the palm of our hands. Do not consider this Swaraj to be like a

                 “So long as the superstition that men should obey unjust laws
                 exists, so long will their slavery exist.”3

       In Chapter 1, I stated Satyagraha was developed to be as community-oriented as it is
individually focused. I also emphasized how much community building is a pillar of Satyagraha
and must include community engagement. For Gandhi, one of the goals of this approach
included India becoming an independent nation governed by Indian people: an aspiration
summed up in the word Swaraj, which is often translated as “home-rule.”

       Swaraj literally means self-rule: swa meaning self, raj meaning rule. But, as informed by
the previous chapters, Gandhi did not intend this to be a compulsory rule based in an egotistical,

         Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 176, excerpt from Young India,
December 26, 1924.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909, p.
47, Chapter XIV: How Can India Become Free?

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909, p.
57, Chapter XVII: Passive Resistance.

destructive self. It is a self (or no self)4 in alignment with Truth that is best-suited to rule itself.
In fact, without Truth one is not able to rule one’s self. I will explain this point in the following

        Let me first make a shift in the use of vocabulary. Gandhi repeatedly used the word
“rule” in English translations of Swaraj regarding to self-rule and home-rule. But contemporary
understandings of the word “rule” imply autocracy, such as one person having an overwhelming
dominance and authority over whole groups of people. This certainly does not speak to
Gandhi’s intent. I will instead use the word governance: it implies group responsibility for
maintaining public order and serving the collective welfare. Even in acknowledging this concept
in present understandings of the word “governance,” I realize examples of such are rare in the
current age. But this word speaks more to Gandhi’s intent when he used the word “rule” in
relation to Swaraj (self-rule): that there is a group responsibility of one’s heart, mind, and body
to maintain (a moral) order and serve their collective welfare in the quest of Truth. This same
approach can be applied to the “community” of one’s actions, words, and thoughts. And for
some spiritual paths, such as mine, the “community” of heart, mind, and body can be
supplemented with the emotional body, the energetic body, the experiential body, the spirit /
soul, and other components one may acknowledge as composing the community of self. It is
from the basis of a governed self that one can connect with other governed selves to collectively
govern their community.

         Also essential to a comprehensive understanding of Swaraj is how Gandhi viewed the
self in context to Truth. Remember, Gandhi’s religious path was Hinduism. And, to be
simplistic for the sake of discussion, anything that is not true (emanating from and in alignment
with Truth) is illusion (maya). Within the entrapments of illusion, people embrace delusion,
egotism, self-deception, and other things that are not true. These separate people from Truth and
often leave them in a state of confusion -- not to mention these also manifest destructive
outcomes. Think about it: if you are deluded, selfish, confused, deceive yourself, and accept
what is false to be true, can you truly govern yourself (or others)? How can you affirm that any
supposed control of yourself is not an illusion? And if you do such things to yourself, do you

           Some spiritual, particularly mystic, traditions embrace an approach of living with “no self,” often
understood today as having no ego. In the context of seeking Truth, Truth would replace the limited (and often
deluded) ego in guiding who a person is and how one’s components (i.e., heart, mind, body) function in relationship
to each other.

think you can adequately prevent others from doing these same things to you? Or you doing
these to others?

        Hinduism places an emphasis on moving beyond illusion, so one may then perceive
things as they are. If we cannot do this, our every act is liable to further the entanglements of
illusion. We may perform an act with the intent of helping others that actually harms them, and
we may not even realize it because we are deluded, confused, deceiving ourselves, etc. Gandhi
found it necessary to seek and embrace Truth, that the clarity of this pursuit enabled him to
perceive things as they are. With such clarity, we can realize a beneficial act to be beneficial and
not confuse destructive acts as beneficial or vice versa. With this, we won’t confuse chaos for
order and can genuinely assess if we are fulfilling the necessary responsibilities to serve the
well-being of ourselves and others. Acquiring the clarity derived from seeking Truth is often a
process that moves from imperfection in quest of perfection. But even in such an evolving
imperfect state, of which Gandhi confessed to be in throughout his Satyagraha days, an evolving
clarity offers more benefit than the trappings of illusion. Within illusion, one is almost
guaranteed to fail in beneficently governing one’s self (and others) -- the widespread presence of
destruction in the world serves as testament of this. Seeking Truth offers us the opportunity to
develop the means to beneficently govern ourselves (and others). And this opportunity can be
made into a guarantee of success if the quest of Truth is pursued with purity and within the path
of ahimsa. Thus, we can see how Swaraj and Satyagraha (seeking and holding on to Truth) are
intricately linked.

        The beneficial governance of one’s self is a fundamental basis of Swaraj. The approach
taken to establish order and serve the collective welfare of the community of self (the
components of one’s self) can be applied to a community of persons. To quote Gandhi, “Real
home-rule is self-rule or self-control.”5 And if you are not able to govern your self, you are in no
position to adequately govern others. Consider this statement in light of the proliferation of
governments that aspire to serve their citizens yet fail. Most of these governments are run by
people who fail to adequately govern themselves: they do not seek Truth and, thus, remain bound
to the entrapments of illusion despite what other qualifications they possess. Some are
straightforward enough to confess their desires for greed, fame, power, and other selfish aims.
But some profess more noble aims of national service, yet still fail to genuinely serve the people

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909, p.
68, Chapter XX: Conclusion.

often because they are bound to illusion and, consequently, unable to achieve their stated goals.
They often cannot see that their so-called attempts to serve others are misguided without the
ability to see things as they are, and they are often unaware that their actions are more self-
serving than beneficial to others. Yet, in a state of delusion, some of these people genuinely
believe that they are committed to serving others. This illusion-based dynamic plays out not
only in government but all realms of life, including many involved in contemporary community
organizing, peace, and social justice work.

       But the work of Swaraj does not stop at the attainment of self-governance: one of the
main aims of Swaraj is to build a community of self-governing individuals. As Gandhi wrote:

                 “The Swaraj that I wish to picture is such that, after we have once
                 realized it, we shall endeavour to the end of our life-time to
                 persuade others to do likewise. But such Swaraj has to be
                 experienced, by each one for himself. One drowning man will
                 never save another. Slaves ourselves, it would be a mere
                 pretension to think of freeing others.”6

Those who have attained the human maturity of self-governance are better suited to help others
attain self-governance than those who have not attained it. And it takes a community of self-
governing persons to collectively govern themselves. It has been shown repeatedly throughout
past and current history that attempts at governance by persons who have not attained self-
governance will fail -- and often drastically. Such attempts are plagued by constant violence,
conflict, ineptitude, wastefulness, corruption, hypocrisy, and other destructive symptoms and
outcomes. But a group of self-governing individuals is at least prepared for the task of collective
governance. It is to the aim of building and maturing communities of self-governing individuals
that Gandhi devoted much of his efforts around Swaraj.

       At the risk of being overly repetitive, Gandhi first and foremost emphasized that
Satyagraha is essential to Swaraj: seeking Truth and using Truth-force to govern one’s self,
community, and nation. This, of course, is combined with the commitment to practice ahimsa:

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909, p.
47, Chapter XIV: How Can India Become Free?

because violence (to one’s self and others) impedes the ability of people to fulfill the individual
and communal components of Swaraj.

        Swaraj also acknowledges there is a value in government as a way to organize collective
governance -- otherwise why seek to engage and convert governments? Some have mistaken
some of Gandhi’s harsh criticisms of the British colonial government in India as him being
against all forms of government, some even citing him to be an anarchist. This is a great
mistake. A comprehensive study of Gandhi shows that his pursuit of Truth was a fundamental
guiding force in his life and informed how he approached most, if not all, of his efforts after he
committed himself to the quest for Truth. It is contrary to Truth to seek something counter to
Truth as a way to attain it. In other words, Gandhi would not embrace a lie, even temporarily, to
attain Truth. And as the opening quote of this chapter said, Swaraj is part of Truth. Therefore,
in seeking Swaraj, Gandhi would avoid all work with government if it had no place in Swaraj.
Instead, he put forth much work in seeking to engage and convert the government in India --
from local entities to the national British-run colonial government. Take note of the following

                  “Co-operation with a just Government is a duty; non-co-operation
                  with an unjust Government is equally a duty.”7

                  “Do not, therefore, concentrate on showing the misdeeds of the
                  Government, for we have to convert and befriend those who run

                  “In Kheda, a population that was cursing the Government now
                  feels that it, and not the Government, is the power when it is
                  prepared to suffer for the truth it represents. It is, therefore, losing
                  its bitterness and is saying to itself that the Government must be

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 159, excerpt from Young India,
August 18, 1920.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 305, excerpt from Harijan, March
30, 1940.

                  a Government for people, for it tolerates orderly and respectful
                  disobedience where injustice is felt.”9 (emphasis mine)

If government fell outside the scope of Swaraj (and Truth), Gandhi would not utter these and
other statements. In fact, if he sought the elimination of government as a goal he would seek it
directly. But he obviously did not. Much of Gandhi’s criticism of government must be seen in
the context of his strong objections to the British run-government in India and other regional /
local governments that operated in the British style and contrary to Swaraj.

         But seeing a value in government as a way to organize collective governance does not
mean that all governments should be blindly accepted and honored. To the contrary, Gandhi was
very critical of the British colonial government which fell short of the Swaraj measure: it was not
run by self-governed persons, it oppressed millions of India’s citizens, it imposed unjust laws, it
concentrated power among a select elite, it made profit a priority over serving the Indian masses,
it propagated violence of all kinds among the Indian people and in the world abroad, etc. Gandhi
felt that such a government must be transformed or abandoned by cultivating Swaraj, via
Satyagraha, among the Indian masses. Let’s examine some of the components of this


        Gandhi taught incessantly that a government must be for the people. This statement can
be interpreted many ways, but it surely includes the virtue of service. For Gandhi, this service is
best rooted in (the pursuit of) Truth:

                  “If I found myself entirely absorbed in the service of the
                  community, the reasons behind it was my desire for self-
                  realization. I had made the religion of service my own, as I felt
                  that God {Truth} could be realized only through service. And
                  service for me was the service of India, because it came to me
                  without my seeking, because I had an aptitude for it.”10

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 449.
            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 159.

Much service not based in Truth has rendered more harm than good. It is through such service
many oppressed people have been kept in states of dependency, instead of truly being served to
cultivate the means to become self-empowered, self-sufficient and self-governing individuals
and communities. In contrast to many European structures of government, Gandhi saw that a
government could be designed and operated to assist people in cultivating the governance of
their individual selves and communities.

         Another thing to note about the above quote is Gandhi’s focus on India. Most of his
service in India was carried out by focusing on specific local-based approaches to community
issues, even if success in certain local efforts had a national (or even international) impact. Even
much of his “national” work is often confused as being nation-wide campaigns when in actuality
such campaigns were usually simultaneous local (and sometimes regionally) based efforts.
Central to this work was the specific focus on local communities. He realized there was a danger
in setting the scope of one’s service too broad:

                 “Our difficulties are of our own creation. God set a limit to a
                 man’s locomotive ambition in the construction of his body. Man
                 immediately proceeded to discover means of overriding the limit.
                 God gifted man with intellect that he might know his Maker. Man
                 abused it so that he might forget his Maker. I am so constructed
                 that I can only serve my immediate neighbours, but in my conceit I
                 pretend to have discovered that I must with my body serve every
                 individual in the Universe.”11

Many may be surprised to realize Gandhi’s Satyagraha work very rarely went beyond the
borders of India and the Indian community in South Africa (when he resided there). He didn’t,
as some do today, advocate and work for the betterment of people in foreign countries halfway
around the world while people in his own country (let alone his community) were in need of
such service. It is hypocritical to seek to eliminate poverty around the world without first
completely eliminating it in your own neighborhood first: why seek to eliminate a problem you
do not see with your own eyes while ignoring a problem that is right before your eyes? Gandhi’s
approach focused on addressing the problems in one’s community first, making that community

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 37, Chapter X: The Condition Of India: The Hindus And The Mahomedans.

an example of how such problems can be overcome. Then it may make sense to expand to one’s
city, region, and nation. And, for Gandhi, such work went beyond merely treating the symptoms
of problems, but cultivating the means for people to move beyond the grips of problems. This
was fulfilled by developing people to become self-empowered and self-sufficient. The following
pages will speak more to this.

        A strength of the local-based approach to service is that it can be catered to the specific
needs of those being served. Too often with contemporary service models, generic approaches
are made in which many service providers expect those suffering to adjust to a generic remedy in
order to be served. This insistence is made even if it means ignoring local factors the providers
are not aware of but are serious challenges to those in need of service. Catering service to the
specific needs of people renders such service more relevant and effective to those receiving it.
The emphasis then is placed on those receiving the service, not the service provider. And such
service is honestly evaluated as effective if it actually provides an empowering and sustaining
benefit to those served.

        To this end, Gandhi rooted Indian Swaraj efforts in the embrace of traditional Indian
culture and values. He didn’t hesitate to advocate that seekers of Swaraj should look back to
their ancestral ways:

                 “The tendency of the Indian civilization is to elevate the moral
                 being, that of the Western civilization is to propagate immorality.
                 The latter is godless, the former is based on a belief in God
                 {Truth}. So understanding and so believing, it behoves [sic] every
                 lover of India to cling to the old Indian civilization even as a child
                 clings to the mothers’s breast.”12

       Gandhi was against the Europeanization of India, in part, because of how European
values conflicted with traditional Indian values. He made statements such as:

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 46, Chapter XIII: What Is True Civilization?

                 “It is worth noting that, by receiving English education, we have
                 enslaved the nation.”13

                 “If India copies England, it is my firm conviction that she will be

He is careful to note that, “I bear no enmity towards the English but I do towards their
civilization.”15 These words may seem harsh to some but remember: it was European
civilization (and values) that carried out and justified the colonization of India and many other
countries throughout the world, and the consequent brutal oppression that resulted in the
exploitation, abuse, and murder of millions of human beings.

        In his advocacy of Indian culture, Gandhi encouraged India to return to traditional Indian
definitions of civilization and to resist British attempts to have India embrace Western values.
He felt this was best for the people of India. Thus, he rejected British concepts of civilization
that glorified commerce, technological advancement, and luxurious comfort. (Also note that
even some British rejected these concepts as a number of philosophical, moral, religious, and
other writings and artistic expressions attest.) Instead, Gandhi spoke of civilization in ways that
reflected traditional Indian values:

                 “Civilization is that mode of conduct which points out to
                 [humanity] the path of duty. Performance of duty and
                 observance of morality are convertible terms. To observe morality
                 is to attain mastery over our mind and our passions. So doing, we
                 know ourselves. The Gujarati [an Indian language] equivalent for
                 civilization means “good conduct”.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 61, Chapter XVIII: Education.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 28, Chapter V: The Condition Of England.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 68, Chapter XX: Conclusion.

                 “If this definition be correct, then India, as so many writers have
                 shown, has nothing to learn from anybody else, and this is as it
                 should be. We notice that the mind is a restless bird; the more it
                 gets the more it wants, and still remains unsatisfied. The more we
                 indulge our passions the more unbridled they become. Our
                 ancestors, therefore set a limit to our indulgences. They saw that
                 happiness was largely a mental condition. A man is not
                 necessarily happy because he is rich, or unhappy because he is
                 poor. ... Observing all this, our ancestors dissuaded us from
                 luxuries and pleasures.”16 (emphasis mine)

The duties spoke of by the Indian ancestors include living and upholding moral and religious
laws. And, for Gandhi, such laws were designed to guide one on the quest for Truth. This basis
of civilization differs much from the British concept of civilization which admonished many
moral / religious laws in pursuit of wealth (money) and power. The British concept of
civilization did not resonate with many in India. But the traditional Indian teachings did and
played a part in why Indian people were receptive of Gandhi’s teachings.

       Gandhi’s emphasis on Indian civilization goes even further in explaining how and why
India became colonized by the British. He pointed out that the abandonment of traditional
Indian values opened the door to British colonization:

                 “The English have not taken India; we have given it to them. They
                 are not in India because of their strength, but because we keep

Gandhi explained, “We have already seen that the English merchants were able to get a footing
in India because we encouraged them.”18 The encouragement was engaging in trade with the

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 45, Chapter XIII: What Is True Civilization?

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 31, Chapter VII: Why Was India Lost?

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 31, Chapter VII: Why Was India Lost?

British. The top priorities for the British merchants were commerce and war (to protect their
business), not morality. The choice by many Indians to engage in such commerce for wealth and
comfort (i.e. buying manufactured goods) created and sustained the dynamics by which the
British colonized India and kept it colonized. Gandhi continued:

                 “The causes that gave them India enable them to retain it. Some
                 Englishmen state that they took and they hold India by the sword.
                 Both these statements are wrong. The sword is entirely useless for
                 holding India. We alone keep them. Napolean is said to have
                 described the English as a nation of shopkeepers. It is a fitting
                 description. They hold whatever dominions they have for the sake
                 of their commerce. Their army and their navy are intended to
                 protect it. ... Many problems can be solved by remembering that
                 money is their God. Then it follows that we keep the English in
                 India for our base self-interest. We like their commerce; they
                 please us by their subtle methods and get what they want from us.
                 To blame them for this is to perpetuate their power.”19

A few things are important to point out in the above statement. One is that Gandhi pointed to
Indians engaging in commerce with the British as the foothold of British reign over India. The
second is that war and militarism are by-products of the commerce. I will deal with both of these
points separately.


        India’s engagement of commerce with Britain was the foothold of British reign over
India. And such trade was not conducted on an equal basis: it was done so that Indian goods
were exported out of the country for very cheap while importing, sometimes via exclusive
monopolies, more expensive British goods into India, whether these goods were made in Britain
or sold by British traders. This formula of European colonization was carried out (and still
continues) throughout much of the world. As a result, Indians were rendered into a nation of

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 32, Chapter VII: Why Was India Lost?

dependent consumers who exported their goods and resources for an economic loss. The
continuing loss of wealth across the nation and undercutting of Indian-to-Indian commerce (by
imported manufactured goods) increased poverty throughout the country. The impact of this
increasing poverty was felt especially in rural areas since British commerce activities were based
in cities. This dynamic was further exacerbated by the shift to industrial machines: larger
amounts of British goods could be made and imported into India while transforming large
portions of the Indian population into low-wage workers toiling in urban factories owned by or
aligned with the British business elite. To the extent Indians participated in this economic
scheme, they sustained and expanded the reach of British colonization. Yet Gandhi realized that
if Indians refrained from participating in such economic exploitation they would gain

       This realization drove Gandhi to make statements such as: “Machinery is like a snake-
hole which may contain from one to a hundred snakes”20 and “The workers in the mills of
Bombay have become slaves.”21 He also acknowledged that India wasn’t alone in suffering the
ramifications of a machine-based economy:

                 “Machinery has begun to desolate Europe. Ruination is now
                 knocking at the English gates. Machinery is the chief symbol of
                 modern civilization; it represents a great sin.”22

Gandhi’s response to this was to utilize a traditional Indian symbol and strategy to have Indians
no longer continue this trend: the charkha, or spinning wheel.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 64, Chapter XIX: Machinery.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 63, Chapter XIX: Machinery.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 63, Chapter XIX: Machinery.

        Gandhi targeted foreign cloth imported into India by the British, some manufactured in
British factories, because: “Foreign cloth undermines the economic foundations of the nation and
throws millions out of employment.”23 His response to this was:

                   “The formula therefore is: Discard foreign cloth and make your
                   own khadi [hand-spun cloth] and wear it. ... Even as we cook our
                   food and eat it so can we, if we but will it, make our own cloth and
                   wear it. We did it only a hundred years ago and we can relearn the
                   trick now.”24

He implored everyone to make, or at least buy and wear, clothing made from hand-spun cloth in
India. Making himself an example, he wore only hand-spun Indian cloth. He also devoted
himself to a daily practice of spinning cloth on the charkha, a traditional Indian spinning wheel.
The charkha was inexpensive and could be set up in people’s homes. It also has a long history in
India, therefore, serving as a symbol of re-embracing Indian culture over British commerce.
There were also powerful economic implications produced by people spinning home-spun cloth:
the poor throughout the country could devote time to this practice and have a viable way to
support themselves. Farmers in India could sell their cotton to people in their own nation instead
of selling it to be exported abroad, often at low prices that benefitted the British exporters. Other
Indians could be involved in buying and selling the khadi, sewing it into clothes, selling the
clothes, etc. -- building a framework for economic self-reliance. And the sign of this reclamation
of Indian culture would be evident to the people by seeing the masses wear Indian cloth spun by
Indian hands.

       Gandhi placed khadi and charkha efforts within a larger scope of constructive service.
His realization for the need of such a scope lay in the spiritual law of Swadeshi. Some have
reduced Swadeshi to mean “the principle of using goods made locally or in one’s own
country,”25 glorified in the historical Swadeshi Movement in India during the early 1900s. But

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 326, excerpt from Young India,
April 10, 1930.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 329, excerpt from Young India,
April 17, 1930.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. viii.

Gandhi warned, “It is the greatest delusion to suppose, that the duty of Swadeshi begins and ends
with merely spinning some yarn anyhow and wearing it.”26 Instead, he noted:

                  “Swadeshi stands for the final emancipation of the soul from her
                  earthly bondage. For this earthly tabernacle is not her natural or
                  permanent abode; it is a hindrance in her onward journey; it stands
                  in the way of her realizing her oneness with all life. A votary of
                  Swadeshi, therefore, in his striving to identify himself with the
                  entire creation, seeks to be emancipated from the bondage of the
                  physical body.

                  “If this interpretation of Swadeshi be correct, then it follows, that
                  its votary will, as a first duty, dedicate himself to the service of his
                  immediate neighbours.”27

       The Swadeshi framework of ending earthly bondage through service of one’s neighbors
informed Gandhi’s approach to constructive service:

                  “If there is true mass awakening, those who are not engaged in
                  civil disobedience are expected to occupy themselves and induce
                  others to be engaged in some national service such as khadi work,
                  liquor and opium picketing, foreign cloth exclusion, village
                  sanitation, assisting the families of civil resistance prisoners in a
                  variety of ways.”28

This service was also accompanied by literacy work, community schooling (for youth and
adults), health services, and more. These activities were not overseen by an outside organization
or committee (like a national or regional nonprofit provider), these service activities were
locally-based, organized, and carried out by local people. Even in instances where organizers
from outside these communities were sent in to provide guidance (i.e. training in techniques used

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, From Yeravda Mandir, 1936, Chapter XVI: Swadeshi.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, From Yeravda Mandir, 1936, Chapter XVI: Swadeshi.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 250, excerpt from Young India,
April 3, 1930.

in liquor boycotts), such organizers were sent as assistants, not leaders of the activities. And
Gandhi’s emphasis on the charkha made it a symbol to which all these national service activities
were linked. Part of what made this a powerful symbol is that the symbolic connections were
rooted in cherished values and community action, not superficial whims or shallow public
rhetoric. In fact, when symbols are rooted in the later it leaves them open to loose associations
and manipulation.

        By working to encourage and support these efforts throughout India, khadi and charkha
efforts became a foundational point in the cultivation of national virtues. As Gandhi wrote:

                 “Non-violence is certainly nine-tenths of the battle, but it is not all.
                 The peasantry may remain non-violent, but may not treat the
                 untouchables as their brethren; they may not regard Hindus,
                 Mussalmans [Muslims], Christians, Jews, Parsis, as the case may
                 be, as their brethren; they may not have learnt the economic and
                 the moral value of the charkha and khaddar [another word for
                 khadi]. If they have not, they cannot gain Swaraj. They will not
                 do all these things after Swaraj, if they will not do them now.
                 They must be taught to know that the practice of these national
                 virtues means Swaraj.”29 (bold emphasis mine)

In this way, the economic practices of khadi and charkha were connected to efforts to eliminate
untouchability and religious conflicts immediately. In the vein that the British economic system
oppressed all these groups and fostered disunion and conflict among them, Gandhi utilized the
charkha as an economic and unifying remedy for all these groups. And he did not delay the
embrace of these more challenging elements of Swaraj to a later day. Although he realized the
groups’ common distaste against British dominance could be used as a temporary unifying force,
he challenged them to deal with their own intergroup barriers to genuine unity and Swaraj.

        Gandhi also saw khadi spinning in spiritual terms:

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 141, excerpt from Young India,
January 26, 1922.

                   “Well I tell you, as I have been telling you these 20 years, that
                   there is a vital connection between Satyagraha and the charkha,
                   and the more I find that belief challenged the more I am confirmed
                   in it.”30

He went on to say:

                   “If, therefore, you do not believe in the charkha in the sense I
                   believe in it, I implore you to leave me. The charkha is an
                   outward symbol of truth and non-violence, and unless you have
                   them in your hearts you will not take to the charkha either.”31

        In considering how to end the dominance of foreign cloth in India, Gandhi rejected the
idea of setting up factories in India to replace the foreign factories from which imported cloth
was made. He explained his reasoning as follows:

                   “by reproducing [foreign factories] in India, we shall keep our
                   money at the price of our blood, because our very moral being will
                   be sapped, and I call in support of my statement the very
                   mill-hands [workers] as witnesses. And those who have amassed
                   wealth out of factories are not likely to be better than other rich
                   men. It would be folly to assume that an Indian Rockefeller would
                   be better than the American Rockefeller. Impoverished India can
                   become free, but it will be hard for any India made rich
                   through immorality to regain its freedom. I fear we shall have
                   to admit that moneyed men support British rule; their interest is
                   bound up with its stability. Money renders a man helpless.”32
                   (emphasis mine)

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 304, excerpt from Harijan, March
30, 1940.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 305, excerpt from Harijan, March
30, 1940.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 63, Chapter XIX: Machinery.

For Gandhi, it was not enough to seek a better place in a system of economic exploitation or to
have more of the wealth of such a system fall into Indian hands. He saw poverty as an evil and,
therefore, sought to end that which this evil was based in and sustained by, and instead expand
the reach of moral beneficence. This meant placing self-reliant means in the hands of the poor
and having those in better economic situations engage in practices that supported the poor. In
this way, poverty could be reduced in route to eliminating poverty through ways that fall within
the scope of Swaraj.

        I would also point out the statement in the above quote about “moneyed men” having
shared interests with the British in the oppression of India. This dynamic of privileged members
of oppressed groups supporting systems of oppression continues on today. But it is not just rich
individuals that continue this practice, many service and nonprofit organizations serve a similar
role. How many organizations receive significant amounts of money to treat this or that social
problem, a funding stream literally dependent on the existence of the problem? And as much as
some may embrace a jargon of claiming to work to put themselves out of business (i.e., an anti-
poverty organization saying it wants to end all poverty and thus end the need for the
organization), their interests are intricately bound in the continuance of social problems created
by systems of oppression. More careful analysis will show that many of these organizations
receive money, via charitable giving, from groups that create, sustain, and profit from these
problems. In economically exploitative systems, large portions of charitable giving comes from
those who can afford to give it: the elite rich, the government, and some well-to-do working
class people who usually have well-paid jobs in the oppressive structure. But many poor people
are in a difficult position to give charity and, thus, provide a limited amount to such funding.
Gandhi’s approach illustrated an effective way for organizations (that are sincerely concerned
about ending economic exploitation and problems created by such) to devise means to treat
social problems in ways that remove their interests from oppressive economic systems. Not only
did Gandhi’s approach improve the state of the poor, it enabled the poor to better support efforts
to end poverty in ways that did not bind them to the interests of those who oppressed them.

        The charkha, as a symbol, also became a powerful reminder of the importance of Indian
villages. With the British basing their commerce activities in cities, there was a growing neglect
of villages: cities became bases of power (business, government, etc.) and places for jobs and
opportunities to pursue wealth. The pursuit of these required urban Indians to assimilate into
British culture, not only wearing British clothing but speaking English and adopting other British
cultural norms -- even if only outside of the home. (And remember: this is in India.) Gandhi

strongly opposed this, especially since the majority of Indian masses still resided in villages at
that time. The villages, being removed from direct British influence, also better retained some of
the traditional Indian values and culture. For centuries prior to colonization, India thrived
through its villages and chose the village (much more than cities) as a preferred setting for group
living. The simplicity of the charkha, being a manually hand-operated spinning wheel, also
better represented the villages and provided a stark contrast to the machines which were often
seen as symbols for British-run cities. Gandhi advocated a return to a more simple way of life
since he felt it better suited the pursuit of Truth. The symbolism and practice of spinning
charkha was a way to make villages more self-sufficient and notable.

        Khadi and charkha were one of the more important components of Gandhi’s Satyagraha
work, yet remain among the least mentioned by writers, historians, and commentators. Those
engaged in community organizing, peace, and social justice work would do well to study
Gandhi’s khadi efforts and find an equivalent for their present work. Some lessons from his
work will be very clear: we must work with oppressed communities to realize how their
economic practices may sustain and expand their own “colonization.” We must, in partnership
with these communities, implement strategies that allow poor people to become self-reliant in
ways emanating from value systems that do not exploit others or create elite concentrations of
wealth. And this work must be directly connected and immediately address other challenges and
barriers to individual and collective self-governance (i.e. racism, sexism, and other forms of
bias). I will leave you to ponder how much these factors, evident in Gandhi’s work, made him
more receptive to those who at first rejected or resisted the more philosophical and spiritual
elements of his Satyagraha message -- some even calling such talk meaningless idealistic
propaganda. But when you can “put something in a person’s hand,” as my grandmother used to
say, it makes people more receptive to your words.


        As stated earlier, Gandhi acknowledged Indians engaging in commerce with the British
as the foothold of British reign over India. An accompanying point to this realization is that war
and militarism are by-products of this commerce.

       For those not familiar with British colonization, it was very brutal compared to the
present neo-colonial face of British (and Western) international economic exploitation. A

common response to any resistance by colonized groups was to brutally beat, incarcerate, and
murder any resisters. And this brutality was multiplied many times over in periods of open
warfare. The brutal face of such oppression gave many, among the colonized and colonizers, the
impression that British colonization was first and foremost a military reality. And, from the eyes
of the colonized, if this was the case, the remedy must be to first address the militaristic root of
British oppression. Thus, a number of groups in India (and throughout the world) embraced
armed resistance as necessary to free themselves from British rule -- and if necessary, literally
drive the British out of their country. Gandhi clearly differed. He stated:

                 “If you accept the above statements, it is proved that the English
                 entered India for the purposes of trade. They remain in it for the
                 same purpose and we help them to do so. Their arms and
                 ammunition are perfectly useless. ... They wish to convert the
                 whole world into a vast market for their goods. That they cannot
                 do so is true, but the blame will not be theirs. They will leave no
                 stone unturned to reach the goal.”33

Gandhi argued the British’s primary goal was economic dominance, a dominance sustained by
Indians willingly participating in commerce with them. If you, therefore, put an end to such
commerce, the British will leave -- and so too will the brutal violence they inflict to protect and
sustain their economic exploitation.

        Within this understanding, taking up arms made little sense since it would only address a
secondary symptom of British colonization, not the root cause. Gandhi was also against arming
India for another important reason:

                 “Moreover, to arm India on a large scale is to Europeanize it.
                 Then her condition will be just as pitiable as that of Europe. This
                 means, in short, that India must accept European civilization, and
                 if that is what we want, the best thing is that we have among us

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 32, Chapter VII: Why Was India Lost?

                 those who are so well trained in that civilization. We will then
                 fight for a few rights, will get what we can and so pass our days.”34

       As should be obvious by now, Gandhi sought to have Indian independence rooted in
values emanating from traditional Indian culture and civilization. He was so assured of this
approach that he wrote:

                 “If we keep our own house in order, only those who are fit to live
                 in it will remain. Others will leave of their own accord. Such
                 things occur within the experience of all of us.”35

In fact, within this approach there is no need to even physically force the British out of India if
Indians live and fulfill their own Swaraj:

                 “Now you will have seen that it is not necessary for us to have as
                 our goal the expulsion of the English. If the English become
                 Indianized, we can accommodate them. If they wish to remain in
                 India along with their civilization, there is no room for them. It
                 lies with us to bring about such a state of things.”36

And to this Gandhi added: that Indians must bring about such a state in ways that lay in accord
with the values of their civilization.

       For Gandhi, India’s liberation was predominantly, if not completely, about Indian people.
And within a civilization and value system that emphasized morality, it followed that Indians
must “find out what is right and to act accordingly.”37 It was essential that this premise be

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 50, Chapter XV: Italy And India.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 47 - 48, Chapter XIV: How Can India Be Free?

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 47, Chapter XIV: How Can India Be Free?

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 56, Chapter XVII: Passive Resistance.

carried out in economics since this is what kept the British in India. But it was also to be carried
out in dealing with the emanations of British commerce, including the British government.


                 “But when that Government does not represent the will of the
                 people, when it supports dishonesty and terrorism, the judges
                 and the executive officials by retaining office become
                 instruments of dishonesty and terrorism. ... It then becomes the
                 duty of every citizen to refuse to serve a Government which
                 misbehaves and flouts national wish.”38

       Within an Indian basis of civilization, moral duty informs to what extent the people can
and should cooperate with any government. To restate an earlier quote, Gandhi wrote:

                 “Co-operation with a just Government is a duty; non-co-operation
                 with an unjust Government is equally a duty.”39

The issue then begs: what is a just government? Explorations of this question have filled many
books and still a definitive, absolute response is lacking. And there probably isn’t one set of
qualities that will make governments just that apply to the diversity of human situations
throughout the world and all time. In fact, this a question all Satyagrahis should ponder on their
own, and in particular, for the specific nations and localities they reside within. But Gandhi
offered a few points that he emphasized in his Swaraj work in India.

         Gandhi argued that governments must be run to serve the people. One of the main ways
of fulfilling this aim is to pass and enact laws that respect the will of the masses:

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 120, excerpt from Young India,
July 21, 1920.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 159, excerpt from Young India,
August 18, 1920.

                 “I submit that no State however despotic has the right to enact laws
                 which are repugnant to the whole body of the people, much less a
                 Government guided by constitutional usage and precedent such as
                 the [colonial] Indian Government.”40

Gandhi even went further to say that “government of the people is possible only so long as they
consent either consciously or unconsciously to be governed.”41 In alignment with seeking Truth,
it is better that such consent be conscious instead of unconscious. And in realizing our conscious
consent to be governed, we realize the responsibility of rendering that consent to a government
that is just and withholding that consent from a government that is unjust. Gandhi elaborated on
this responsibility in regards to his relationship with the British colonial government when he

                 “the responsibility I share with the British rulers in their sins
                 against the nation in so far as I give my co-operation however
                 reluctantly and ever so slightly. For instance I give my co-
                 operation by paying taxes direct or indirect.”42

He also noted that utilizing and paying for privileges provided by a government is a form of
consent. These include: public roads and highways, public education, public utilities (i.e., water,
electricity), the court system, police and fire departments, government issued licences, and other
government services. These not only provide money to a government, they validate that
government in numerous ways (i.e. politically, socially, as an authority). Gandhi confessed:

                 “So I came to the conclusion that the British rule in India had
                 crushed the spirit of the nation and stunted its growth, and so I
                 decided to deny myself all the privileges -- services, courts, titles.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 7, excerpt from Young India,
January 14, 1920.

         Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 35, excerpt from Young India,
November 3, 1927.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 355, excerpt from Young India,
February 20, 1930.

                 The policy would vary with different countries but sacrifice and
                 self-denial are essential.”43

        Gandhi was adamant in stating that by cooperating with a government you sustain it. To
this point he wrote the following:

                 “I believe, and everybody must grant, that no Government can
                 exist for a single moment without the co-operation of the people,
                 willing or forced, and if people suddenly withdraw their co-
                 operation in every detail, the Government will come to a stand-

                 “Most people do not understand the complicated machinery of the
                 Government. They do not realize that every citizen silently but
                 none-the-less certainly sustains the Government of the day in ways
                 of which he has no knowledge. Every citizen therefore renders
                 himself responsible for every act of his Government.”45

In realizing our shared responsibility for the actions of any government we cooperate with, we
realize the duty to non-cooperate with unjust governments. In fact, the actions of our
government become a moral matter because if that government commits evil then we share in
that evil. It is upon this premise that Gandhi stated: “It is the inherent right of a subject to refuse
to assist a government that will not listen to him.”46

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 359 - 360, excerpt from Young
India, December 31, 1931.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 159, excerpt from Young India,
August 18, 1920.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 123, excerpt from Young India,
July 28, 1920.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 117, excerpt from Young India,
May 5, 1920.

        Gandhi focused particular attention on non-cooperating with unjust laws. He explained:

                   “It is contrary to our manhood if we obey laws repugnant to our
                   conscience. Such teaching is opposed to a religion and means
                   slavery. If the Government were to ask us to go about without any
                   clothing, should we do so? If I were a passive resister
                   [Satyagrahi], I would say to them that I would have nothing to do
                   with their law. But we have so forgotten ourselves and become so
                   compliant that we do not mind degrading law.

                   “A man who has realized his manhood, who fears only God
                   {Truth}, will fear no one else. Man-made laws are not necessarily
                   binding on him. Even the Government does not expect any such
                   things from us. They do not say: “You must do such and such a
                   thing.” But they say: “If you do not do it, we will punish you.”
                   We are sunk so low that we fancy that it is our duty and our
                   religion to do what the law lays down. If man will only realize that
                   it is unmanly to obey laws that are unjust, no man’s tyranny will
                   enslave him. This is the key to self-rule or home-rule.”47

        Gandhi held that governments must honor the will of the people to earn their cooperation.
This can be done in a number of ways. Among them is respecting the leaders the people choose
for themselves. This goes beyond elected leaders in government and includes what some now
call “popular leaders,” such as community organizers, artists, religious leaders, and others the
masses (or portions of the masses) turn to for guidance and support in addressing their
challenges. Gandhi stated:

                   “I venture to submit that no Government can afford to disregard
                   the leaders, who represent the large masses of the people as these
                   do, even though they may hold views fundamentally different.”48

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 56, Chapter XVII: Passive Resistance.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 447.

Yet know, Gandhi was against leadership being reserved to select groups and elites. He felt
leadership opportunities should be available to all who fulfilled the requirements to hold
leadership roles regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, economic status, or other group
category. He wrote the following to this point:

                 “Remember that in Swaraj we would expect one drawn from the
                 so-called lower class to preside over India’s destiny.”49

                 “The history of the world is full of instances of men who rose to
                 leadership by sheer force of self-confidence, bravery, and tenacity.
                 We too, if we sincerely aspire to Swaraj and are impatient to attain
                 it, should have similar self-confidence.”50

And, as should be obvious, Gandhi was opposed to people being instituted as “leaders” for the
people, often as “puppets” cloaking other powerful forces. Confronting this challenge requires
groups and communities to have routes to leadership positions that go beyond requiring money,
public recognition, personal associations, or other manufactured (external) statuses.

        As Gandhi wanted the government to embrace this approach of open leadership, he also
challenged organizations and groups working for Swaraj to be living examples of places where
such leadership existed. This challenge would apply today to organizations working for social
change, justice and peace: for too many of these organizations the majority of leadership
opportunities remain exclusive to privileged groups, even if they practice tokenism to present a
facade of diversity and openness to all. (I will deal later with what Gandhi held to be
qualifications for Satyagraha leaders in Chapter 7.)

        Understanding the power of one’s cooperation in sustaining governments informs the
methods for transforming or removing such governments. One method is cooperation among
groups seeking change. In a sense, this is a logical realization: if the power of cooperation can
sustain a government, even an unjust one, it follows this power can be used to sustain efforts to

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 246, excerpt from Young India,
April 3, 1930.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 234, excerpt from Young India,
March 20, 1930.

change or remove that government. This method is easier said than done among groups with
continuing histories of conflict and tension, one of the reasons oppressive governments seek to
foster and continue conflict and tension among oppressed groups. Even in India, Gandhi had to
repeatedly explain to the various groups who stood against British colonization, “without the co-
operation of all communities, there is no independence.”51 In response to the ongoing in-fighting
among these groups, he wrote: “A nation, that is bent on forcing justice from an unwilling
Government, has little time for engaging in mutual quarrels.”52

        This does not mean that groups should ignore disagreements. Gandhi clearly advocated
that groups and individuals should settle their own quarrels among themselves in accordance to
the ways of Truth. He realized such quarrels left the Indian people open to manipulation by third
parties, particularly the British. In the following quote, he commented on this dynamic as it
played out in the British-run court system in colonized India:

                 “Do you think that it would be possible for the English to carry on
                 their Government without law courts? It is wrong to consider that
                 courts are established for the benefit of the people. Those who
                 want to perpetuate their power do so through the courts. If people
                 were to settle their own quarrels, a third party would not be
                 able to exercise any authority over them. Truly, men were less
                 unmanly when they settled their disputes either by fighting or by
                 asking their relatives to decide for them. They became more
                 unmanly and cowardly when they resorted to the courts of law. It
                 was certainly a sign of savagery when they settled their disputes by
                 fighting. Is it any the less so, if I ask a third party to decide
                 between you and me? Surely, the decision of a third party is not
                 always right. The parties alone know who is right. We, in our

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 253, excerpt from Young India,
April 3, 1930.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 143, excerpt from Young India,
August 11, 1920.

                 simplicity and ignorance, imagine that a stranger, by taking our
                 money, gives us justice.”53 (emphasis mine)

        Just as Gandhi, in the above quote, is against the people using violence to resolve their
quarrels, he upheld this standard in being against citizens using violence to resolve quarrels with
unjust governments. Remember that for Gandhi violence includes words, thoughts, and actions.
In this vein, he wrote:

                 “In the programme of non-violence, we must rigidly exclude the
                 idea of gaining anything by embarrassing the Government. If our
                 activity is pure and that of the Government impure, the latter is
                 embarrassed by our purity, if it does not itself become pure.”54

He also discouraged people from walking down the path of holding anger at the government.
Below are two of the many warnings he gave the Indian people to avoid pursuing this path:

                 “The remedy therefore naturally is, not being enraged against the
                 administrators and therefore hurting them, but to non-co-operate
                 with the system by withdrawing all the voluntary assistance
                 possible and refusing all its so-called benefits.”55

                 “It is easier to oust a Government that has rendered itself unfit to
                 govern than it is to cure unknown people in a mob of their

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 42, Chapter XI: The Condition Of India: Lawyers.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 149 - 150, excerpt from Young
India, September 22, 1921.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 238, excerpt from Young India,
March 27, 1930.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 122, excerpt from Young India,
July 28, 1920.

Despite these warnings, Indian protests sometimes erupted into acts of violence, even mob
violence. These eruptions, even sometimes from those who pledged to be non-violent, remained
a constant threat in Gandhi’s years of organizing. It forced him to be more resolute in educating
people about the tenets of Satyagraha, and to be more selective in who was allowed to join
protest efforts.

       Gandhi was also against using compulsion to transform or change governments. Earlier
chapters explored how Satyagraha seeks to convert one’s opponents. But another element of the
compulsion dynamic is the role of statistical minorities standing up to larger majorities. Gandhi

                 “It is a superstition and ungodly thing to believe that an act of a
                 majority binds a minority. Many examples can be given in which
                 acts of majorities will be found to have been wrong and those of
                 minorities to have been right. All reforms owe their origin to the
                 initiation of minorities in opposition to majorities.”57

This lesson is even relevant for those engaged in social change: that statistical minorities within
such groups may have relevant points that larger majorities of those engaged in such change do
not realize. Groups seeking Swaraj must see that statistical minorities within their groups are
provided ways to have their points considered by larger majorities.


        There are other methods of transforming and removing unjust governments that fall
within the pillars of Satyagraha and civil disobedience: topics the following chapters will address
in depth. And Gandhi firmly placed Swaraj within Satyagraha. He acknowledged there would
be periods of progression and regression, success and failure, lessons learned and lessons to be
applied to the practice of self-governance along the pursuit of Truth. But he didn’t delay the
embrace of self-governance until people reached Truth or a certain proximity to Truth. It was
something he felt should be practiced in the present, within the context of seeking Truth.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 56 - 57, Chapter XVII: Passive Resistance.

        Much of how Gandhi dealt with the issues of Swaraj was informed by him living under
British colonization. Yet much of his words are still very relevant in today’s forms of neo-
colonialism. Social perceptions may differ in how much the fundamentals of colonialism still
exist in present economic and political systems, particularly in a corporate-dominated global
economy (instead of one dominated by governments in the past). But the dynamics of economic
exploitation of the masses by elite groups and governments continue on. This book won’t
explore how these dynamics operate today, but I will say that principles of colonization do not
apply only to so-called “third world” countries: the mass of people living in America today will
find many similarities between their socio-economic situation and that of the masses living in
British-colonized India. Yet despite how you choose to view your economic situation, economic
factors must be addressed as part of any efforts toward Swaraj (self and collective self-
governance). And in particular, I will challenge readers to examine how their own economic
participation in exploitative systems sustains the oppression of themselves, their communities,
and others throughout the world.

                “But the Swaraj of my -- our -- dream recognizes no race or
                religious distinctions. Nor is it to be the monopoly of lettered
                persons nor yet of moneyed men. Swaraj is to be for all,
                including the former, but emphatically including the maimed,
                the blind, the starving toiling millions.”58

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 266, excerpt from Young India,
May 1, 1930.

                                               CHAPTER FIVE
                   A Force More Powerful than Violence
                   “It is not any single isolated act which can be called Satyagraha
                   apart from the spirit behind [it].”1

                   “It is my duty to place before the people all the legitimate
                   remedies for grievances. A nation that wants to come into its
                   own ought to know all the ways and means to freedom.
                   Usually they include violence as the last remedy. Satyagraha,
                   on the other hand, is an absolutely non-violent weapon. I
                   regard it as my duty to explain its practice and its limitations. ...
                   I have no doubt also that Satyagraha is a sovereign remedy.”2

                   “I have never claimed to be the one original Satyagrahi. What I
                   have claimed is to have made the application of that doctrine
                   on an almost universal scale, and it yet remains to be seen and
                   demonstrated that it is a doctrine which is capable of
                   assimilation by thousands upon thousands of peoples in all ages
                   and climes.”3

         Blessings to those who have come this far in the book. This chapter is heavily based on
understanding what has been covered in the previous chapters. Therefore, I strongly encourage
that if you have not truly understood what has been covered so far in this book that you take time
to review the previous pages before continuing. It may also be beneficial to take a pause to

         Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 199, excerpt from Young India,
September 24, 1925.
            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 380.

         Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 72, excerpt from Young India,
September 22, 1927.

reflect on what has already been explored, especially if you’ve been overwhelmed (even slightly)
by what was addressed in the earlier chapters. Patience is a virtue of the Satyagraha way. This
doesn’t merely mean the willingness to steadily and consistently work toward just and beneficent
outcomes; it also includes taking the necessary time to cultivate yourself fully to the present state
of maturity you find yourself within along the quest for Truth.

       With that said, I will explore some of the fundamentals of the Satyagraha way.


       The term Satyagraha was conceived in South Africa. Gandhi went there for work as a
young lawyer and became involved in efforts to better the plight of Indians living and working in
apartheid South Africa. He had previously used the term “passive resistance” to describe the
organizing work he and other Indians there engaged in. His use of the word “passive” referred to
the explicit tenet to refrain from violence of any form in fighting the oppression Indians faced.
But he was moved to find another term to describe the work he and his Indian compatriots were
engaged in:

               “When in a meeting of Europeans I found that the term ‘passive
               resistance’ was too narrowly construed, that it was supposed to be
               a weapon of the weak, that it could be characterized by hatred, and
               that it could finally manifest itself as violence, I had to demur to all
               these statements and explain the real nature of the Indian
               movement. It was clear that a new word must be coined by the
               Indians to designate their struggle.

               “But I could not for the life of me find out a new name, and
               therefore offered a nominal prize through Indian Opinion [an
               Indian newspaper in South Africa] to the reader who made the best
               suggestion on the subject. As a result Magnalal Gandhi coined the
               word ‘Sadagraha’ (Sat = truth, Agraha = firmness) and won the
               prize. But in order to make it clearer I changed the word to

                      ‘Satyagraha’ which has since become current in Gujarati [an
                      Indian language] as a designation for the struggle.”4

        The importance of Truth highlighted in the name is obvious. In fact, Gandhi was
forthright in saying: “There is nothing in Satyagraha that I know whereby we may under certain
circumstances tell untruths or practise other deception.”5 Satyagrahis always stand upon Truth
and think, speak, and act in ways in accordance to Truth. There is no room for “little white lies”
or misleading or concealing acts geared toward attaining victory -- usually through gaining a
supposed advantage through these means over one’s opponents. Gandhi rejected such when he

                      “Those who know my past should know that I hold it to be
                      contrary to Satyagraha to do anything secretly or impatiently. ... A
                      Satyagrahi has no secrets to keep from his opponent or so-called

The connection of such an approach to Truth may not seem obvious to some, but a number of
spiritual and religious teachings proclaim: there are truly no secrets in the universe and that
Truth can be perceived by all who develop the means to perceive it. If Truth does not hide itself
from anyone, why should those who seek Truth hide things about themselves or their actions?
Now this doesn’t mean putting all your business in the street or require that you tell your entire
life story (including your deepest revelations) to everyone you meet. But it does require walking
with a straight-forward openness to all -- friends, opponents, and strangers. And it certainly
disdains all acts of concealment, which Gandhi would regard as deception since it does not tell
the truth (honesty). A careful study of past and present resistance groups will show that efforts
at concealment, even trying to keep secrets from one’s enemies and possible infiltrators / spies,
often do as much internal damage to these organizations as acts by their opponents. The mere
dynamic of trying to figure out who can be “trusted” often rips organizations apart. Gandhi
avoided this by simply stating publicly, and often directly to his opponents, what he was going to

               Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 318 - 319.

               Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 64, excerpt from Young India, June
5, 1924.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 354, excerpt from Young India,
February 30, 1930.

do. He realized the advantage to be gained by “surprising” an opponent is minuscule to having a
pure approach based in the potency of Truth.

        One very relevant, and often overlooked, component to the formation of the name
Satyagraha is Gandhi’s wish to distinguish the work of the Indian organizing efforts from other
groups with conflicting values. He explained this intent in regards to the European passive
resistance movements going on in Britain and South Africa at the time (late 1890s to 1920s):

                   “Satyagraha differs from Passive Resistance as the North Pole
                   from the South. The latter has been conceived as a weapon of the
                   weak and does not exclude the use of physical force or violence for
                   the purpose of gaining one’s end, whereas the former has been
                   conceived as a weapon of the strongest and excludes the use of
                   violence in any shape or form.

                   “The term Satyagraha was coined by me in South Africa to
                   express the force that the Indians there used for full eight years and
                   it was coined in order to distinguish it from the movement then
                   going on in the United Kingdom and South Africa under the name
                   of Passive Resistance.”7

Gandhi would later encounter similar problems in India, with groups fighting against British
oppression through different (sometimes violent) means claiming their work fell under the
banner of Satyagraha or non-violence. He wrote concerning this point:

                   “I should also remind correspondents that the word Satyagraha is
                   often most loosely used and is made to cover veiled violence. But
                   as the author of the word I may be allowed to say that it excludes
                   every form of violence, direct or indirect, veiled or unveiled, and
                   whether in thought, word or deed.”8

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 6, excerpt from Young India,
January 14, 1920.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 201, excerpt from Harijan, April
15, 1933.

It was not only important to define Satyagraha in ways that spoke to what this path entails, but to
also distinguish it from things that are not (and are sometimes contrary to) what Satyagraha is.
The importance of this may be made more obvious when I deal with public opinion in Chapter 6.

        Another important element of the Satyagraha name is its relation to the soul or spirit.
This is an example of the challenges of cultural translation, of the less tangible elements of
words getting lost in conversion from one culture to another. Gandhi explained about the
meaning of the term Satyagraha: “Its root meaning is holding on to truth, hence truth-force. I
have also called it Love-force or Soul-force.”9 Understanding the relation between Truth and
soul, a connection not obvious in some Western cultures, is important to comprehending the
following point:

                 “It is a fundamental principle of Satyagraha that the tyrant whom
                 the Satyagrahi seeks to resist has power over his body and material
                 possessions but he can have no power over the soul. The soul can
                 remain unconquered and unconquerable even when the body is
                 imprisoned. The whole science of Satyagraha was born from a
                 knowledge of this fundamental truth.”10

The soul can only be conquered if one surrenders it to be so. This is one of the bases for
Satyagraha being a spiritual path, even if this path is pursued through the specifics of one’s
religion. Gandhi encouraged Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians, and people of other
religions to pursue this path through their specific religions. Also note, for some spiritual /
religious schools in India, there is a strong (some say undeniable) connection between the soul
and mind -- in fact, some schools explicitly seek to fulfill the purpose of the spirit / soul through
cultivating the mind. Thus, the cultivation of soul and mind are prominent responsibilities in
Satyagraha and are expected of every Satyagrahi. And this tenet was clearly conveyed to many
in India, within its cultural contexts, simply through the name Satyagraha.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 6, excerpt from Young India,
January 14, 1920.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 289, excerpt from Young India,
May 21, 1931.

       The soul / spirit factors of Satyagraha made it, in Gandhi’s eyes, an universal tool. He

                 “In referring to the universality of Satyagraha I have time and
                 again observed in these columns that it is capable of application in
                 the social no less than in the political field. It may equally be
                 employed against Government, society, or one’s own family,
                 father, mother, husband or wife, as the case may be. For it is the
                 beauty of this spiritual weapon that when it is completely free from
                 the taint of himsa and its use is actuated purely and solely by love
                 it may be used with absolute impunity, in any connection and in
                 any circumstance whatever.”11

       Satyagraha also acknowledges another universal law connected to the power each
individual has via one’s soul. Gandhi observed:

                 “No power on earth can make a person do a thing against his will.
                 Satyagraha is a direct result of the recognition of this great Law
                 and is independent of numbers participating in it.”12

Upon realization of this law, Gandhi always talked about Satyagraha in terms of strength. For
him, “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”13 He
repeatedly stated that Satyagraha is intended for the strong-willed and is unfit for the weak, as
reflected in the following two quotes:

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 342, excerpt from Young India,
March 1, 1928.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 347, excerpt from Young India,
February 18, 1926.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 133, excerpt from Young India,
August 11, 1920.

                   “It [Satyagraha] is the weapon that adorns the strong. It can never
                   adorn the weak. By weak is meant the weak in mind and spirit, not
                   in body.”14

                   “Non-violence is a weapon of the strong. With the weak it might
                   easily be hypocrisy. Fear and love are contradictory terms.”15

I will be bold enough to say there are plenty of hypocrites in the contemporary community
organizing, peace, and social justice fields. Being bound to fear (including fearing the loss of
possessions, wealth, and status), we cannot embody the qualities of love, which include a strong
will rooted in the search for Truth. Instead of embodying the courage necessary to stand as an
emissary of Truth, such hypocrites hold up facades that often prove as harmful to the people as
an oppressor’s destructive actions. Having a strong will rooted in (the pursuit of) Truth enables
us to stand with courage, a fundamental of Satyagraha that I will address later in the chapter.
But without a morality based in a genuine search for Truth, people are bound to be weak
cowards despite what facades they use to appear otherwise.

        Gandhi placed strength clearly in soul / spiritual terms:

                   “And so I am not pleading for India to practise non-violence
                   because she is weak. I want her to practise non-violence being
                   conscious of her strength and power. No training in arms is
                   required for realization of her strength. We seem to need it
                   because we seem to think that we are but a lump of flesh. I want
                   India to recognize that she has a soul that cannot perish and that
                   can rise triumphant above every physical weakness and defy the
                   physical combination of a whole world.”16

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 381, excerpt from Harijan, March
17, 1946.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 384, excerpt from The Nation’s
Voice, 1947, p. 109 - 110, Part II.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 134, excerpt from Young India,
August 11, 1920.

The strength of the soul over the body doesn’t mean that we must surrender the body to achieve
the strength of the soul; although the willingness to surrender our bodies for the sake of the soul
fits within Gandhi’s understanding of sacrifice, a topic addressed later in the chapter. But for too
many people in Gandhi’s time, and even today, there was a tendency to place the importance of
the body over the soul. This equates to rendering the fate a stronger entity to a weaker entity that
is not even capable of protecting the stronger entity. Many spiritual and religious teachings
proclaim the body is not capable of protecting the soul; in fact, the body is often a factor in the
eventual destructive fate of many people’s souls. Satyagraha places a higher priority on the soul,
which is actually capable of protecting the body and so much more. For Gandhi, it was not an
“either / or” proposition: his practice engaged cultivation of both the soul and body. But he was
inclined to view situations within the context of his soul before considering any implications for
his body -- even at times incurring great damage to his bodily health. This approach requires
strength. For the weak, it is likely that concern for their bodies, among other things (i.e.,
property, social status, public image), will prevent them from placing their soul before these
other things.

        Satyagraha is not only based on a soul-based strength, it calls for the continued
cultivation and deepening of such strength for those who walk the Satyagraha path. To this
point, Gandhi wrote: “The end of a Satyagraha campaign can be described as worthy, only when,
it leaves the Satyagrahis stronger and more spirited than they are in the beginning.”17
Remember, the journey to Truth is long (if not unending) and, therefore, requires a great amount
of strength to reach the destination. If we are not growing stronger in the quest, we need to
seriously examine what we are doing to move beyond such stagnancy of progression.

        Holding to the soul-strength or “soul-force” of Satyagraha makes us unconquerable.
Upon this fundamental, Gandhi boldly professed: “Satyagraha is always superior to armed
resistance. This can only be effectively proved by demonstration, not by argument.”18 He saw
Satyagraha as a better alternative than violence and spent endless efforts living the proof of this

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 439.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 381, excerpt from Harijan, March
17, 1946.


                 “the slightest use of violence often defeats a just cause.
                 Satyagraha excludes the use of violence in any shape or form,
                 whether in thought, speech, or deed.”19

                 “Indeed, violence is the negation of this great spiritual force
                 [Satyagraha], which can only be cultivated or wielded by those
                 who will entirely eschew violence.”20

        Some may be surprised by the following fact: Gandhi wasn’t completely opposed to
violence even as he embraced a more effective and powerful method in Satyagraha, which
clearly rules out violence. He asserted Satyagraha “excludes the use of violence because
[humanity] is not capable of knowing the absolute truth and, therefore, not competent to
punish.”21 Following this line of thought suggests that if humans were capable of attaining
absolute truth, we would be in a justifiable position to use violence and punish others.
(Hinduism and other religions have deities and other spiritual entities that use violence in such a
manner.) In fact, this premise has been cited (or wrongly cited) by many humans in states of
delusion claiming such justification for their acts of violence -- from child rearing to waging war.
But Gandhi saw this as fallacy: as someone who progressed farther along the path to Truth than
those in delusion, he realized anything less than reaching the destination of Truth had the
possibility of error and was, thus, not absolute. And a single violent thought, word, or deed
committed in error can unleash cycles of violence that can eventually result in mass violence,
including unending wars. This realization can be profound when you realize that even the
contemporary modern age of endless wars and widespread violence began with a single instance
of violence -- whether it was a thought, word, or deed. This violence has become so widespread
and accepted that we don’t even consider that the present state of the world, where violence is

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 56, excerpt from Young India,
April 27, 1921.

         Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 34, excerpt from Young India,
November 3, 1927.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 3, excerpt from Young India,
March 23, 1921.

now “normal,” began with a single instance of violence and is continued by other single acts of
violence. In fact, to the extent that more individuals choose to not commit a single act of
violence, the amount of violence in this world will reduce drastically. Therefore, Gandhi found
it better to completely abstain from violence.

       Yet if given the choice between cowardice and violence, Gandhi would clearly choose
violence. He wrote:

                  “I do believe that where there is only a choice between cowardice
                  and violence I would advise violence. Thus when my eldest son
                  asked me what he should have done, had he been present when I
                  was almost fatally assaulted in 1908, whether he should have run
                  away and seen me killed or whether he should have used his
                  physical force which he could and wanted to use, and defended
                  me, I told him that it was his duty to defend me even by using
                  violence. Hence it was that I took part in the Boer War, the so-
                  called Zulu rebellion [in South Africa] and the late War [World
                  War 1]. Hence also do I advocate training in arms for those who
                  believe in the method of violence. I would rather have India
                  resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she
                  should in a cowardly manner become or remain a helpless
                  witness to her own dishonour.

                  “But I believe that non-violence is infinitely superior to violence,
                  forgiveness is more manly than punishment.”22 (emphasis mine)

The above quote indicated that Gandhi saw a valid use of violence in limited circumstances.
Self-defense in unprovoked situations falls within such limitations. But he explicitly forbid the
use of “self-defense” in situations one creates, such as a protest -- even if opponents (i.e. police)
respond in an overly brutal manner.23 Also, since Satyagraha was still in an experimental stage

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 132 - 133, excerpt from Young
India, August 11, 1920.
            This is because when Satyagrahis engage in protest, they embrace a vow of sacrifice that surrenders the
right to such self-defense and encompasses a willingness to suffer. I will address sacrifice and suffering later in the

throughout Gandhi’s life, he didn’t rule out the need to use violence (i.e. in a war) even as he
advocated what he felt was a better method in Satyagraha (non-violence). He chose Satyagraha
over violence because he felt it was more efficient and powerful than violence, but he did not
completely rule it out. Thus, he stated, “Satyagraha has been designed as an effective substitute
for violence. This use is in its infancy and, therefore, not yet perfected.”24 Perhaps if he
perfected the spiritual science of Satyagraha in his lifetime, he would have moved to a point of
completely ruling out violence for everyone. Instead his prohibitions against violence were
limited to Satyagrahis and their supporters. But I emphasize that he saw Satyagraha as a better
choice than violence, some of the reasons to be explored in the following paragraphs.

        Gandhi acknowledged that the world, during his lifetime (and even now), was in an age
of violence in which the majority of humans accepted it as a viable means to achieve desired
goals. He wrote:

                   “In this age of the rule of brute force, it is almost impossible for
                   any one to believe that any one else could possibly reject the law
                   of the final supremacy of brute force.”25

He even had sympathy for those who embrace violence in this way, acknowledging that most
who engage in violence do so to achieve an aim that goes beyond violence. In other words, most
people who commit violence do so for a desired outcome, not just to commit violence. Gandhi
felt if people had another, more effective means than violence, they would use this instead. This
led him to declare that “The people are not by nature violent but peaceful.”26 And based on this
natural inclination, non-violence is preferred by humans over violence. Think about it: if a
country seeking to defend itself in a war could do so without violence, which includes the risk of
its citizens’ and their opponents’ lives, it would most likely do so. The same can be said of a
thief who robs to provide for one’s self, or persons seeking to protect their reputations (or
positions) with violent words. Such realizations led Gandhi to say:

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 320, excerpt from Harijan, May 6,

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 132, excerpt from Young India,
August 11, 1920.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 466.

                “Non-violence is the law of our species as violence is the law of
                the brute. The spirit lies dormant in the brute and he knows no law
                but that of physical might. The dignity of man requires obedience
                to a higher law -- to the strength of the spirit.”27

Thus, the challenge lays in educating those who only know the law of the brute about the soul /
spirit and its corresponding laws that guide humans to genuine strength (an indomitable will).
This process of education, which will be explored in a Chapter 8, was prevalent throughout
much of Gandhi’s organizing work. Yet it differs in some key aspects from contemporary
approaches to education: it is not enough to lecture or present curriculum items that talk about
genuine human strength; teachers of this strength must be non-hypocritical living examples of
such strength.

        Gandhi also realized that violent means usually laid a heavy toil on all involved: from
those who committed and survived the violence, to those who were harmed and lost their lives.
(Chapter 3 on ahimsa explored the imprint of violence.) Perhaps this toil would be worth it if it
brought an end to violence, but it doesn’t: past acts of violence usually serve as kindling fodder
for present and future fiery outbursts of violence. Wants for revenge, to seek retribution for past
wrongs, to protect or expand the spoils won from past aggression are all reasons that resurrect
and continue ongoing cycles of violence. Gandhi realized that committing acts of violence only
further cycles of violence in ways that keep these cycles going, along with ongoing harm and
loss of life and property. The path of Satyagraha (non-violence) would, at times, result in similar
levels of harm and loss, yet a significant factor is that Satyagraha does not kindle the fodder of
violence but instead extinguishes it:

                “I say what I mean and think. And I have been saying for the last
                fifteen years in India and outside for twenty years more [in South
                Africa] and repeat now that the only way to conquer violence is
                through non-violence pure and undefiled. I have said also that

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 133 - 134, excerpt from Young
India, August 11, 1920.

                every violent act, word and thought interferes with the progress of
                non-violent action.”28

        The use of violence has a common inherent flaw: that by committing violence on others a
person often thinks she or he can get what she or he wants without also being harmed. Some
even fall for the delusional trap of thinking that just because an instance of violence reaps a prize
that there is no negative effect accrued by the process of attaining such a prize. Chapter 3 on
ahimsa revealed this is not so, that we are negatively affected by the harm we commit -- even if
we have become accustomed to accepting certain harms willingly or are unconscious of them. It
can be difficult to realize the truthfulness of this fact within delusion, which is one of the reasons
Gandhi constantly encouraged others to seek Truth and, thus, be able to realize this fact for
themselves. But once a wrong (such as violence) has been committed, corrective action is called
for to bring the wrong (and its cycle of effects) to an end. (And a mere acknowledgment of a
wrong, sometimes cloaked as forgiveness, doesn’t equate to corrective action.) This corrective
process is rarely achieved instantly, and may require more harmful consequences until the cycle
of the wrong has been completely ended. For example, the choice to end (stop fighting) a war
that has been waged for some time may require more deaths and injuries to bring the war’s
termination, via withdrawal of the military, to fulfillment. Even then, mere withdrawal of the
military would rarely end the continuing violent thoughts and words from the war, which could
lead to future outbursts of violent acts. Satyagraha, in many respects, seeks to be a corrective
process that shifts people from continuing and supporting a wrong into embracing and sustaining
a process of beneficence. But even this approach may require bearing harm to complete the

        Let’s use an example to explore the above point. Imagine, within this age of brute force,
that you and another country are in a conflict escalating to the point of physical violence and
open warfare. Even if you are willing to respond nonviolently, your opponent may not be
willing to do so which will result in mass deaths whether you respond nonviolently or with
violence. Each choice would require your citizens to risk their lives; and Gandhi would
automatically rule out running away since this is an act of cowardice. Each war has a threshold
of destruction that, once reached, usually brings an (temporary) end to the physical violence. For
the sake of simplicity, let’s say this threshold is a hundred thousand deaths; and for this example

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 275, excerpt from Young India,
May 8, 1930.

I will ignore all other types of loss that accompany physical violence, such as massive injuries,
destruction of property and material assets, immorality, the negative impact on children and
women (i.e., rape and domestic abuse), redirection of resources from social programs to war,
national debt, etc. The question becomes: are you willing to engage in physical violence to see
how many of these deaths you can inflict upon your opponent to gain “victory?” Inherent in the
choice of physical violence is the acceptance that you will lose lives on your side even if you
win. Also inherent is the risk of losing (in which you endure the majority of the hundred
thousand deaths) or a truce (with relatively equal deaths, both sides choose to suspend physical
violence). Based on what was said earlier, you know this choice will not end the cycle of
violence: it will continue on surely with violent thoughts and words that will sustain the very real
potential of resurrecting physical violence. In fact, Gandhi wrote: “And often the evil thought or
the evil word may, in terms of Satyagraha, be more dangerous than actual violence used in the
heat of the moment and perhaps repented and forgotten the next moment.”29 Even in supposed
victory, your country will live in the threat of physical violence occurring again and having to
wager another hundred thousand lives to bring that episode of physical violence to another
temporary end. This will also affect how other countries view their relations with you. Even
with allies there will be an undertone of potential violence if your relationship goes astray since
you demonstrated you are willing to deal with conflicts through physical violence. And certainly
any countries that regard you as an “enemy” will deal with you in the context of the very real
possibility of violence (words, thoughts, and actions). Thus, all your relations, even with
friendly countries, are undercut with a potential of violence. Also, living with such potential
does take a harmful toil on your country, even if your citizens willingly accept such harm as a
preferred “lesser evil” that is supposedly necessary for “national security.” These harms can
include: the stress and fear of living within the threat of another war; less openness to forming
beneficent relationships with others, especially foreigners from “enemy countries;” less
resources being devoted to social and domestic programs instead to fund defense and national
security efforts; etc. And there is nothing within this path of continuing violence that will bring
an end to this cycle of violence. Understanding the far reaching parameters of the path of
physical violence, the myth of fighting a war to end all (future) wars can finally be laid to rest as
simply that: an illusionary myth.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 202, excerpt from Harijan, April
15, 1933.

        Another option to the war question lays in responding to the conflict nonviolently and
accepting the potential of losing all the hundred thousand lives upon your country without
seeking to afflict any such deaths on your opponent. Gandhi explored this choice in responding
to a question posing if India attained independence through Satyagraha, could it use Satyagraha
to respond to acts of war? He replied:

                   “If the worst happens, there are two ways open to non-violence.
                   To yield possession but non-co-operate with the aggressor. Thus,
                   supposing that a modern edition of Nero descended upon India, the
                   representatives of the State will let him in but tell him that he will
                   get no assistance from the people. They will prefer death to
                   submission. The second way would be non-violent resistance by
                   the people who have been trained in the non-violent way. They
                   would offer themselves unarmed as fodder for the aggressor’s
                   cannon. The underlying belief in either case is that even a Nero is
                   not devoid of a heart. The unexpected spectacle of endless rows
                   upon rows of men and women simply dying rather than surrender
                   to the will of an aggressor must ultimately melt him and his
                   soldiery. Practically speaking there will be probably no greater
                   loss in men than if forcible resistance was offered; there will be no
                   expenditure in armaments and fortifications. The non-violent
                   training received by the people will add inconceivably to their
                   moral height. Such men and women will have shown personal
                   bravery of a type far superior to that shown in armed warfare.”30

Now Gandhi conceded that he may not have been best suited to answer the question because he
had “not mastered the whole technique of non-violence.”31 And as he realized, “The nature of
the experiment [of Satyagraha] requires one to be satisfied with one step at a time,”32 he was

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 386, excerpt from Harijan, April
13, 1940.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 385. excerpt from Harijan, April
13, 1940.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 385, excerpt from Harijan, April
13, 1940.

more focused on attaining Swaraj (Indian independence) than pondering the challenges of an
independent India. But even his answer provided some powerful points. The first choice of non-
cooperation was explored in depth in the Chapter 4: if aggressors don’t get what they want they
are apt to leave and seek it elsewhere. So Gandhi would allow an aggressor into his country
without violent resistance but would have the people withhold all cooperation from the
aggressor. An aggressor, in testing such non-cooperation, may kill a hundred thousand before
leaving, but remember this total amounts to no more than would be risked in the choice to go to
war. But the number of deaths is much likely to be less if the people embody a pure morality, as
will be addressed below. Yet this approach adds no fodder to the flames of the cycle of violence
and sends a clear message to other aggressors of the pointlessness of attacking such a country.

        Gandhi’s second choice of nonviolent resistance is also powerful. Note, that he spoke of
those trained in non-violence (Satyagraha) being the ones to offer themselves as sacrifice to the
“aggressor’s canon.” Upon first reflections, some may doubt that the death of a hundred
thousand such persons will turn away an aggressor willing to commit violence for a desired
objective. But remember, these hundred thousand trained persons will behold the tenets of
Satyagraha: including seeking Truth, embodying purity, and knowing the strength of their soul.
The death of such persons will have a more profound effect than the death of soldiers, just as
many who subscribe to the validity of war are more troubled by the death of “innocent civilians”
than enemy soldiers. But the sacrifice will even be more impactful than the death of innocent
civilians killed against their will. The willingness of pure Truth seekers to face death is
profound and has been celebrated in many historical figures. In contemporary world religions,
this principle is glorified in Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and many other traditions.
Unending praise has been shed on the courage of figures such as Jesus Christ, Muhammad, the
historical Buddha, Arjuna (from the Bhagavad Gita), and other notable spiritual figures for their
willingness to face death for the purity of their cause. Even the willingness of “ordinary”
humans to risk their lives (and sometimes die) for political and social stances is memorialized
throughout history. Imagine a hundred thousand persons of pure moral character willingly
standing before guns, unarmed, to face another’s aggression. Or even a hundred such persons,
what would be the impact of this? Even if a soldier kills one such person, how many more could
she or he kill before being moved to refrain from such killing? And how many of these affected
soldiers could an army bear before it is rendered into an ineffective fighting force: that even if
they do not put down their arms, they refuse or find it difficult to kill more nonviolent persons?
Countless soldiers are disturbed when they (unintentionally) kill civilians in battle, how much
more will be distressed by killing nonviolent persons who willingly stand before armed soldiers?

Even modern armies realize the disruptive effects the killing of innocent persons has on soldiers,
and seek to manage such incidents in their efforts to maintain a “strong, effective fighting force.”
Gandhi partially understood this dynamic and sought to better understand and demonstrate its
power by putting it into practice in India, one of the reasons he referred to his Satyagraha work
as an experiment. During the course of this experiment, he discovered lessons to make the
application of Satyagraha and the willingness to risk one’s life more effective. He expected
those who continued the experiments after him to discover more lessons and make the science of
Satyagraha even more complete and efficient. But in the end, the courage of trained nonviolent
persons would diminish the cycle of violence, even if they were killed. Their willingness to
sacrifice and any loss they incurred would equate to putting water on a flame, instead of fuel
(such as violence does). It may not be enough to completely extinguish the cycle of violence
since some cycles require more than a hundred thousand deaths to bring them to an end -- a
reality created by the cycles of violence, not those willing to risk their lives. But Satyagraha-
directed courage would certainly reduce the present cycles and not add to the future potential of
violence. As Gandhi said, it would most likely amount to no more deaths than if physical
violence was used against the aggressor, and more likely less if the nonviolent persons had a
mature understanding of Satyagraha. Incidents throughout history have shown that the loss of
moral, pure persons can lessen the threshold needed to end an episode of violence, as well as
reduce, if not completely end, cycles of violence.

        Both of Gandhi’s choices require people of great courage. He noted: “Non-violence
means courage of the highest order and, therefore, readiness to suffer.”33 I will deal with
suffering in more depth in the next chapter, but if you are not willing to live your values (as
influenced by your quest for Truth) even to the point of death, the Satyagraha path is not for you.
Gandhi acknowledged there may be a process of developing such courage, but he unequivocally

                “a Satyagrahi may never run away from danger, irrespective of
                whether he is alone or in the company of many. He will have fully
                performed his duty if he dies fighting. The same holds good in
                armed warfare. It applies with greater force in Satyagraha.
                Moreover, the sacrifice of one will evoke the sacrifice of many and

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 288, excerpt from Young India,
May 7, 1931.

                 may possibly produce big results. There is always this possibility.
                 But one must scrupulously avoid the temptation of a desire for

Firstly know, that when Gandhi mentioned “fighting” in the above quote he didn’t mean the use
of violence: he used the word in regards to the non-violent methods available to Satyagrahis.
But he admonished running from danger, in part, because of how it invokes fear -- in those who
run and those who may see others running away. One of the surest ways to start a stampede in a
crowd is for a single person to run in a panicked manner and often many others will run away in
fear without confirming if there is a real danger or not. And we have already addressed the
dangers of fear for those on the Satyagraha path.

        Gandhi’s point in the above quote about the sacrifice of one inspiring the sacrifice of
others is particularly relevant. Satyagraha efforts seek to transform people and one aspect of this
aim is for Satyagrahis to be living examples of their values to the point of fully embodying them.
In this manner, a person who embodies honesty completely becomes an emissary of honesty.
The loss of such a person is not just the loss of her or his individual life, but a more profound
loss of someone who beheld honesty -- no small honor in a world where dishonesty has become
commonplace. Thus, those who embrace a path of sacrifice must do so completely, without the
slightest taint of weakness or hypocrisy, living their values even to the point of death. The
power and strength of such sacrifice can inspire others to face challenges they wish to be
addressed but previously did not. Throughout history, a single act of such sacrifice by even one
person has been a spark that moved others to act and support efforts for change. Gandhi warned
about having this being the impetus for ours action, since it raises the possibility of egotism and
impurity -- for example, acting for fame instead of standing for Truth. But if we act with purity,
selflessness, and Truth, the power of such an act may become a trigger to inspire others or lay
the groundwork for a future trigger that will move others from spectatorship to action.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 380 - 381, excerpt from Harijan,
March 17, 1946.

        There are other reasons Gandhi implored people to not run from danger. He declared:
“In the code of the Satyagrahi there is no such thing as surrender to brute force.”35 This
declaration is, in part, based on the following requirement of all Satyagrahis:

                 “Only those who realize that there is something in man which is
                 superior to the brute nature in him and that the latter always yields
                 to it, can effectively be Satyagrahis.”36

The challenge for Satyagrahis is to embody this “something” which is more powerful than brute
force. If we do, there is never a need to run from it, we can conquer brute force with Satyagraha
(Truth-force or soul-force). For Gandhi, this was not a statement made in blind faith or idealistic
projection: it was a realization influenced by ancient spiritual teachings. In Hinduism, he
acknowledged the rishis as guiding him in this direction. The rishis are described as seers,
divine scribes, and poet-sages to whom the Vedas (Hindu sacred books) were revealed. Gandhi
wrote of them:

                 “I have therefore ventured to place before India the ancient law of
                 self-sacrifice. For Satyagraha and its offshoots, non-co-operation
                 and civil resistance, are nothing but new names for the law of
                 suffering. The rishis, who discovered the law of non-violence in
                 the midst of violence, were greater geniuses than Newton. They
                 were themselves greater warriors than Wellington. Having
                 themselves known the use of arms, they realized their uselessness
                 and taught a weary world that its salvation lay not through
                 violence but through non-violence.”37

Other religious, spiritual, and secular traditions have persons who demonstrate this law. Thus,
people have a wide range of sources to validate the strength of Satyagraha (as non-violence,

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 81, excerpt from Young India,
April 30, 1931.

         Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 35, excerpt from Young India,
November 3, 1927.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 134, excerpt from Young India,
August 11, 1920.

Truth-force, the strength of soul-force) over violence (brute force). And if Satyagraha is more
powerful than violence, we should never yield this power to (the weaker force of) violence.

       Neither should we regress from Satyagraha to using the weaker force of violence, even
when others inflict (or seek to inflict) violence upon us. Gandhi wrote the following regarding
Indians’ fear of the British colonial government (in India):

                 “We have hitherto feared them and their guns in our simplicity.
                 The moment we realize our combined strength, we shall consider it
                 unmanly to fear them and, therefore, ever to think of striking them.
                 Hence am I anxious and impatient to persuade my countrymen to
                 feel non-violent, not out of our weakness but out of our strength.”38

There are clear benefits of acting from our strength, even when others attack us with weaker
means, such as violence. To give an example, if you are a strong adult and a baby comes and
hits you with all its might, would it make sense to hit the baby back? As a strong adult, you can
certainly bear the impact (even pain) of the baby’s blow, and it would seem foolish for a strong
adult to retaliate and hit a small baby with force. Now some may think it appropriate to punish
the baby with physical violence, such as a spanking; but as the previous pages addressed, this act
would continue the cycle of violence: the baby would be harmed and would likely embrace
violent thoughts to the spanking which may fuel a retaliation of violent words and actions.
(Many anecdotes of physical punishment affirm the truth of this, including my personal
experience as a child.) But if you, as a strong adult, act from your strength, and find ways to
model Satyagraha (non-violence) while at the same time teaching the baby about the strength of
Satyagraha (i.e. Truth, soul-force, purity, etc.), this may prove a better way to prevent, if not
completely eliminate, any future violent acts by the baby.

        Gandhi sought to bring this same dynamic to bear in his Satyagraha work. The training
required to bear the blows of an oppressive colonizing force goes beyond what it takes to bear a
baby’s blow. For this reason, he was always advocating and providing such training to the
Indian people -- even setting up ashrams (spiritual communities and retreats) for this purpose.
Yet, clearly, Gandhi held it illogical for a strong adult to reduce her or his behavior to that of an

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 129, excerpt from Young India,
March 16, 1922.

uneducated baby. The same applies for Satyagrahis: that they not reduce themselves to those
who use violence -- and often lack knowledge of the more powerful Satyagraha means (Truth
holding, the strength of the soul) as evident by their use of violence. Gandhi sought to not only
address present instances of violence but to use these as a means to educate those using violence
to prevent possible future uses of violence. And just as a baby may need repeated incidents to
finally learn and embrace the lessons, the same would apply to violent adults. This calls for
enduring patience among those who embrace Satyagraha.

        To the point of enduring patience, Gandhi warned about the danger of impatience in the
transformative Satyagraha process:

                 “The volunteers must not be impatient. Impatience is a phase of
                 violence. A Satyagrahi has nothing to do with victory. He is sure
                 of it, but he has also to know that it comes from God {Truth}. His
                 is but to suffer.”39

                 “Impatience and intolerance will surely kill this great religious
                 movement. We may not make people pure by compulsion. Much
                 less may we compel them by violence to respect our opinion. It is
                 utterly against the spirit of democracy we want to cultivate.”40

In realizing the potency of Satyagraha over violence, we may understand why Gandhi saw
violence as unnecessary in dealing with an oppressive government:

                 “When once they [the people] realize that violence is totally
                 unnecessary to bend an unwilling Government to their will and

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 73, excerpt from Young India,
October 13, 1927.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 149, excerpt from Young India,
February 16, 1921.

                   that the result can be obtained with certainty by dignified non-co-
                   operation, they will cease to think of violence even by way of

        Gandhi also sought to strongly distinguish Satyagraha from violence such that very few
of the characteristics associated with violence would be present in Satyagraha. Thus, he stated
Satyagraha “excludes all violence or hate,”42 noticing how much these two are often intertwined.
He also declared that anger, malice, and compulsion -- which are often present in the use of
violence -- must never be part of Satyagraha:

                   “Satyagraha is gentle, it never wounds. It must not be the result of
                   anger or malice. It is never fussy, never impatient, never
                   vociferous. It is the direct opposite of compulsion. It was
                   conceived as a complete substitute for violence.”43

In noticing that violence often disturbs or creates tension in one’s opponent, Gandhi noted: “A
non-violent action accompanied by non-violence in thought and word should never produce
enduring violent reaction upon the opponent.”44 He emphasized: “A genuine Satyagrahi
proceeds by setting the opponent at his ease. His action never creates panic in the breast of the
‘enemy’.”45 In fact, Gandhi went further in stating how a Satyagrahi must deal with an
opponent, which differs vastly from how those who use violence treat their opponents:

                   “Whilst however a Satyagrahi never yields to panic or hesitancy,
                   neither does he think of humiliating the other party, of reducing it

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 151, excerpt from Young India,
August 18, 1920.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 176, excerpt from Young India,
December 26, 1924.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 202, excerpt from Harijan, April
15, 1933.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 295, excerpt from Harijan, June
24, 1939.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 292, excerpt from Harijan, May
20, 1939.

                   to an abject surrender. He may not swerve from the path of justice
                   and may not dictate impossible terms. He may not pitch his
                   demands too high, neither may he pitch them too low.”46

       And, in acknowledging that violence is often used in unjust causes, Gandhi held fast that
“There can be no Satyagraha in an unjust cause.”47

       As much as Gandhi was opposed to government-sponsored violence, he saw popular
violence (violence among the masses) just as dangerous. To this point, he stated:

                   “For me popular violence is as much an obstruction in our path as
                   the Government violence. Indeed I can combat the Government
                   violence more successfully than the popular.”48

One of the reasons for this is the danger of popular violence (words, thoughts, acts) directed at
the government being unleashed on the masses themselves. He wrote the following about the
ongoing conflict among Hindus and Muslims in India during his Satyagraha work:

                   “Look at the feud that is going on between Hindus and Muslims.
                   Each is arming for the fight with the other. The violence that we
                   had harboured in our breasts during the non-co-operation days is
                   now recoiling upon ourselves. The violent energy that was
                   generated among the masses, but was kept under check in the
                   pursuit of a common objective, has now been let loose and is being
                   used among and against ourselves.”49

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 278, excerpt from Young India,
March 19, 1931.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 56, excerpt from Young India,
April 27, 1921.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 261, excerpt from Young India,
April 24, 1930.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 298, excerpt from Harijan, July 8,

Such an outcome can have a devastating effect on the community building aspects of
Satyagraha: to have worked with a group for a common cause and then see your former
colleagues become violent opponents. In addressing cycles of violence, the masses must
examine the violence and hostility they have among themselves, particularly when groups have a
history of conflict. Gandhi noted: “The Satyagrahi whilst he is ever ready for fight must be
equally eager for peace. He must welcome any honourable opportunity for peace.”50 The ways
of Satyagraha (seeking Truth, purity, ahimsa, etc.) provide plenty of guidance and tools for
willing parties to achieve a state of genuine peace: which goes beyond the mere absence of
violence to forming beneficent relationships and communities. Progress toward this goal will be
evident, as Gandhi commented: “When we are saturated with ahimsa we shall not be non-violent
in our fight with the [government] bureaucracy and violent among ourselves.”51

       And lastly for this chapter, Gandhi required that Satyagraha efforts toward change
proceed with moderation. He advised:

                   “It will be contrary to every canon of Satyagraha to launch upon
                   the extreme step till every other is exhausted. Such haste will
                   itself constitute violence.”52

        Let’s briefly explore how Gandhi approached conflicts with governments. His first step
was to seek cooperation. As stated in the previous chapter: “Co-operation with a just
Government is a duty; non-co-operation with an unjust Government is equally a duty.”53 But
Gandhi didn’t go from cooperation straight to protests in the streets when a government engaged
in injustice. The next step involved conducting a careful analysis of the community and the
situation. This included a comprehensive evaluation of the community’s readiness to embrace
Satyagraha work, including a determination of necessary preparation. There was also an in-

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 278, excerpt from Young India,
March 19, 1931.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 287, excerpt from Young India,
May 7, 1931.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 297, excerpt from Harijan, June
24, 1939.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 159, excerpt from Young India,
August 18, 1920.

depth examination of the issues to be addressed, consideration of possible strategies and tactics,
as well as study of the relevant government players and structures. All this information and
analysis informed how to proceed with attempts at negotiation. This process included clearly
communicating to the government disagreement with the unjust elements of governance and
desired resolutions that move such unjust governance to a state of justice. This stance had to be
founded upon a continuing history of behavior among Satyagrahis that demonstrated obedience
to the just laws and practices of the government:

                   “A Satyagrahi obeys the laws of society intelligently and of his
                   own free will, because he considers it to be his sacred duty to do
                   so. It is only when a person has thus obeyed the laws of society
                   scrupulously that he is in a position to judge as to which particular
                   rules are good and just and which unjust and iniquitous. Only then
                   does the right accrue to him of the civil disobedience of certain
                   laws in well-defined circumstances.”54

From this place, Satyagrahis were in a moral position to challenge an unjust government. This
moral position also served as social credibility for Satyagrahis as they sought to educate the
masses about the unjust governance and encourage them to also engage in efforts to have the
government transform such governance to a state of justice. Attempts at negotiation included a
willingness to compromise with the government. This required sincere attempts to understand
the government’s position. Gandhi held firmly to this requirement: “it is my rule, as a
Satyagrahi, to understand the viewpoint of the party I propose to deal with, and to try to agree
with him as far as may be possible.”55 A negotiated compromise may include a resolution that
falls short of the ideal of all parties involved but is not counter to the values of either party.
Thus, a Satyagrahi who refrains from violence could not accept a resolution that included
violence in any form. Gandhi also held that “The essential condition of a compromise is that
there should be nothing humiliating, nothing panicky about it.”56 The negotiation process was
embraced with patience and a genuine openness to a peaceful resolution; and only when such
failed (usually after many failed attempts to engage the government), would Gandhi be willing to

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 470.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 375.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 278, excerpt from Young India,
March 19, 1931.

move to Satyagraha-guided direct action, which he sometimes referred to as civil disobedience.
Acknowledging this process he affirmed: “Satyagraha [direct action] is never adopted abruptly
and never till all other and milder methods have been tried.”57

        The above paragraph described how Gandhi approached conflicts with governments, but
this approach can be applied to other entities: from relatives, to neighbors, to social / religious
groups, to multinational corporations. This approach is careful to avoid violence, anything that
resembles violence, or anything that sustains or furthers cycles of violence. It also maintains the
dignity of the Satyagrahis by remaining rooted in their strength and values. How Satyagrahis
deal with violence is essential to upholding the pillars of Satyagraha.

                   “Let it be remembered that Satyagraha is a most powerful
                   process of conversion. It is an appeal to the heart.”58

                   “It is not, however, claimed that all the laws of Satyagraha have
                   been laid down or found. This I do say, fearlessly and firmly,
                   that every worthy object can be achieved by the use of
                   Satyagraha. It is the highest and infallible means, the greatest
                   force. ... Satyagraha can rid society of all evils, political,
                   economic and moral.”59

                   “The force of arms is powerless when matched against the force
                   of love or the soul.”60

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 200, excerpt from Young India,
January 14, 1926.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 178, excerpt from Young India,
April 24, 1924.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 353, excerpt from Harijan, July 20,

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 53, Chapter XVI: Brute Force.

                                                CHAPTER SIX
              The Satyagraha Approach to (Self-)Suffering
                   “Non-violence in its dynamic condition means conscious
                   suffering. It does not mean meek submission to the will of the
                   evil-doer, but it means the pitting of one’s whole soul against
                   the will of the tyrant. Working under this law of our being, it is
                   possible for a single individual to defy the whole might of an
                   unjust empire, to save his honour, his religion, his soul and lay
                   the foundation for that empire’s fall or its regeneration.”1

                   “Whether it takes long or short to reach the goal, the way is the
                   way of peaceful conversion of the orthodox by self-suffering and
                   self-purification and no other.”2

                   “As a Satyagrahi I believe in the absolute efficacy of full

        Suffering, or self-suffering, is undoubtably a key aspect of Satyagraha. Gandhi used the
term in a way that differs from many contemporary understandings of suffering. Many see
suffering as a sign of weakness, whereas Gandhi embraced the art and science of suffering from
strength (soul-force). Others glorify the pain of suffering, even to the point of seeking
martyrdom; Gandhi’s approach to suffering did not glorify pain, especially needless suffering.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 134, excerpt from Young India,
August 11, 1920.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 186, excerpt from Young India, June
19, 1924.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 81, excerpt from Young India, April
30, 1931.

He saw little to no meaning in the pain of suffering but instead saw it as a sometimes necessary
consequence to be endured to correct unjust conditions. He never encouraged Satyagrahis to
seek pain for the sake of seeking pain, or to derive some meaning from the endurance of pain in
a life otherwise lacking significant meaning. And he certainly did not suggest those not seeking
Truth to endure suffering, since without the guidance of Truth suffering can be confused in
misconceptions of delusion. If justice could be achieved by smiling and giving heartfelt hugs to
one’s opponents and friends, Gandhi would become a “hugging saint” and embrace this path
without hesitation. But unfortunately, in an age of violence, this is rarely an useful method to
affect beneficent change. And as cycles of violence are imbrued to harm, Satyagrahis embrace
bearing such harm to end or significantly reduce cycles of violence to eventually manifest a
situation without harm (ahimsa).

         Given the variety of definitions and associations connected with suffering, I will use a
very basic definition of suffering for this chapter. Let’s accept suffering as the willingness to
endure hardship. This hardship can manifest in a multitude of ways, including: death, bodily
injury, mental strain and stress, loss of property, loss of relationships (family, friends, etc.), loss
of public reputation (i.e., being labeled as a menace or terrorist), loss of privileges (such as the
loss of physical freedom incurred in being arrested and jailed), loss of economic opportunities
(i.e. jobs, contracts), and other forms of loss. But for a Satyagrahi, hardship should never -- and
I do mean NEVER -- result in the loss of one’s morality, values (as influenced by Truth),
dignity, or strength (as based in one’s soul / spirit). These are non-negotiable virtues for any
Satyagrahi. Neither should a Satyagrahi seek to needlessly suffer for a cause. Satyagraha calls
for an affirmative commitment to live our values even to point of enduring suffering imposed on
us by our opponents. There is a thin line between this approach and seeking to suffer -- even if
under the facade of proclaimed values. To this point, Gandhi stated: “Whilst we must try always
to avoid occasions for needless suffering, we must ever be ready for them.”4 Therefore, if a just
goal can be achieved without suffering, do so; and do not unnecessarily impose suffering on a
cause that can be achieved without such pain.

        Also of immense importance is the purpose of a Satyagrahi’s willingness to suffer: the
willingness to suffer for Truth. Connected to Truth are the values Satyagrahis hold as informed
by their quests for Truth, and the political / social / spiritual stances they live as informed by

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 280, excerpt from Young India,
March 19, 1931.

these values. To suffer for others things -- which if it is not Truth, it’s illusion -- is pointless.
Therefore, Gandhi held little to no admiration for those who suffered for material things,
egotistical aspirations and attachments. He had sympathy for those as he confessed, “It pains a
Satyagrahi to see others suffering.”5 But he did not encourage others to follow the examples of
those who suffered for portents of illusion. He directed those seeking examples of suffering to
study those who suffered for Truth.

        Gandhi was also blunt about what suffering involved. He warned, “Those who rely upon
self-suffering for redress of a grievance cannot afford to rate it higher than it actually is.”6 He
also cautioned “it would be wrong to brood over the sufferings, to exaggerate them, or to be
puffed up with pride.”7 Suffering can be hard. Satyagrahis must, through careful training,
develop the means to bear suffering of all types and the endurance needed to complete an
extended period of suffering without retaliating -- a requirement of Satyagraha. It can be hard to
bear physical injury, mental strain, loss of property, imprisonment, separation from loved ones,
an onslaught of insults, and social persecution and ostracization. It can be hard to watch our
colleagues bear such or even be killed. It requires resolute strength. And pursuit of a just goal
may require repeated instances of bearing very brutal violence to achieve a beneficent outcome.
It may even be that those who suffer will not see that outcome arrive, or be so damaged by
suffering such as to not to be able to enjoy its arrival. Do not forget Gandhi did not live a year
into India’s independence from Britain. But he willingly suffered for India to achieve its
independence, even if he was not able to enjoy the fruits of such suffering.

        For Gandhi, the willingness to suffer must always be accompanied by the willingness to
sacrifice. As stated earlier, we can understand sacrifice to mean: what one is willing to surrender
on the path of Truth-guided suffering. And, as Gandhi stated in one of the quotes opening this
chapter, he believed “in the absolute efficacy of full surrender.”8 Thus, Gandhi was willing to

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 34, excerpt from Young India,
February 4, 1920.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 213, excerpt from Young India, May
31, 1928.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 280, excerpt from Young India,
March 19, 1931.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 81, excerpt from Young India, April
30, 1931.

give up everything he had to attain justice and Swaraj. In fact, he did so “preemptively” when he
took a vow of poverty: of having very few possessions. He explained:

                   “After a great deal of experience it seems to me that those who
                   want to become passive resisters [Satyagrahis] for the service of
                   the country have to observe perfect chastity, adopt poverty, follow
                   truth, and cultivate fearlessness.”9

                   “Pecuniary ambition and passive resistance [Satyagraha] cannot
                   well go together. Those who have money are not expected to
                   throw it away, but they are expected to be indifferent about it.
                   They must be prepared to lose every penny rather than give up
                   passive resistance.”10
                   [**NOTE: Pecuniary means “of or involving money.”11]

In materialistic societies, the potential loss of money and other forms of material wealth can
often be one of the biggest barriers to embracing sacrifice, even in the face of moral or religious /
spiritual values that affirm sacrifice. Gandhi acknowledged not everyone is willing to take a
vow of poverty, but such is not required for Satyagraha: an indifference to money and wealth is
the requirement, which he at times described as embracing or adopting poverty. The Satyagraha
concept of poverty does not mean seeking or remaining in situations of economic and material
deprivation or dependence, extreme need, starvation, and other elements of how oppressors seek
to impose conditions of poverty and exploitation (via greed) on others. But whether we have
monetary or material wealth, Satyagraha dictates we must not be so attached to it that we are not
willing to sacrifice it.

      Gandhi also held to a principle celebrated throughout history: that self-sacrifice is more
powerful than sacrificing others. He wrote:

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909, p.
58, Chapter XVII: Passive Resistance.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 58, Chapter XVII: Passive Resistance.
             Webster’s New World Dictionary: Third College Edition, 1994, p. 995.

                 “Everybody admits that sacrifice of self is infinitely superior to
                 sacrifice of others. Moreover, if this kind of force is used in a
                 cause that is unjust, only the person using it suffers. He does not
                 make others suffer for his mistakes. Men have before now done
                 many things which were subsequently found to have been wrong.
                 No man can claim that he is absolutely in the right or that a
                 particular thing is wrong because he thinks so, but it is wrong for
                 him so long as that is his deliberate judgement. It is therefore meet
                 that he should not do that which he knows to be wrong, and suffer
                 the consequence whatever it may be. This is the key to the use of

Gandhi also acknowledged another key aspect of the law of sacrifice: “To be effective it
demands the sacrifice of the bravest and the most spotless.”13 In embracing this law, we should
not be troubled by the sacrificial loss of those who best embody purity and courage: it is to be
expected. We can be saddened by their loss, yes, and seek appropriate ways to memorialize their
sacrifice in ways that educate and inspire ourselves and others. But Satyagrahis should never be
thrown into despair or anger by the loss of any Satyagrahi engaged in sacrifice, including
someone who reaches or exceeds the moral caliber of Gandhi. Any Satyagrahis who are willing
to sacrifice themselves know that inherent in this choice is the possibility of incurring great
losses, perhaps even their lives. If the sacrificers accept this risk, others (even those who are not
Satyagrahis) are called to honor this acknowledged risk and not be troubled or moved to retaliate
for such loss.

        Let me take a moment to distinguish between memorializing those who willingly
sacrifice from those who are unwilling victims of violence. From a Satyagraha perspective,
those who willingly sacrifice are examples for other Satyagrahis to follow, and the
memorialization of such persons must honor the lessons to be learned from their sacrifice. And
I emphasize the point of memorializing their sacrifice. Those who sincerely honor such
memorialization will embody the lessons of the sacrificers into their daily living. But those who

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 56, Chapter XVII: Passive Resistance.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 262, excerpt from Young India,
April 24, 1930.

are victims of harm in which they did not embrace a willingness to sacrifice may not behold such
lessons, and often the memorialization of such tragic events (or victims) is a veiled celebration of
suffering and violence which may be beyond the tenets of Satyagraha. I would caution those on
the Satyagraha path from celebrating things (such the anniversary of a war or tragic event) that
Satyagraha seeks to eliminate. Certainly unjust acts and practices should be addressed to be
corrected (even if in public demonstrations), but we should be cautious about admiring
(sometimes making heros of) persons who, if given the choice, would not embrace the harm that
befell them in the context of sacrifice. This would apply to a wide range of people: from
“innocent civilians” killed in acts of war to victims of police brutality.


       In the context of suffering and sacrifice, Gandhi was explicit in how Satyagrahis should
engage opponents, even in the midst of experiencing harm. He required a pious propriety of
behavior by all Satyagrahis:

                 “Satyagraha presupposes self-discipline, self-control, self-
                 purification, and a recognized social status in the person offering

I emphasize self-purification, since purity is an utmost essential for any Satyagrahi engaged in
suffering. It is also this purity, reflected in one’s behavior, that gives a person the “recognized
social status” mentioned in the above quote. Gandhi did not use this term to refer to a privileged
status, such as wealth or fame, since these mean little to anyone genuinely seeking Truth. For
Gandhi, the social recognition he sought and applauded was that of being an honorable, moral
person committed to and engaged in the quest for Truth. In a community setting, the behavior of
such a person would earn her or him the “recognized social status” Gandhi referred to. Such a
person could never be opponents to a Satyagrahi, even if they had strong disagreements. Only
those engaged in and supporting evil (destruction) would be regarded as an opponent to a

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 77, excerpt from Young India,
August 8, 1929.

       Gandhi warned about confusing those who perform or support evil with evil itself. To
continue the above quote:

                 “A Satyagrahi must never forget the distinction between evil and
                 the evil-doer. He must not harbour ill-will or bitterness against the
                 latter. He may not even employ needlessly offensive language
                 against the evil person, however unrelieved his evil might be. For
                 it should be an article of faith with every Satyagrahi that there is
                 none so fallen in this world but can be converted by love. A
                 Satyagrahi will always try to overcome evil by good, anger by
                 love, untruth by truth, himsa by ahimsa. There is no other way of
                 purging the world of evil. Therefore a person who claims to be a
                 Satyagrahi always tries by close and prayerful self-introspection
                 and self-analysis to find out whether he is himself completely free
                 from the taint of anger, ill-will and such other human infirmities,
                 whether he is not himself capable of those very evils against which
                 he is out to lead a crusade. In self-purification and penance lies
                 half the victory of a Satyagrahi.”15

Embodied in the above quote are calls for purity, empathy, commitment to beneficial ways of
affecting change (goodness [morality], love, truth, ahimsa), and to be without hypocrisy. We
should also understand that Gandhi’s use of the word penance does not include a requirement to
confess one’s evils to others or self-punishment (although these are acceptable measures in
certain situations). Instead he emphasized self-introspection and self-correction to realize if we
hold components within that would enable us to commit the evils we stand against (i.e. repressed
anger, hatred, greed, lust, etc.) If so, these components must be addressed to be released, for one
element of the Satyagraha path is to become so committed to and embodying of Truth that we
are no longer capable of committing evil (destruction). And the lessons we learn in this journey
can be used to educate and assist others to abandon evil and embrace goodness (beneficence).
Gandhi held as part of his creed that:

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 77, excerpt from Young India,
August 8, 1929.

                    “Man and his deed are two distinct things. Whereas a good deed
                    should call forth approbation and a wicked deed disapprobation,
                    the doer of the deed, whether good or wicked, always deserves
                    respect or pity as the case may be. ‘Hate the sin and not the
                    sinner’ is a precept which, though easy enough to understand, is
                    rarely practised, and that is why the poison of hatred spreads in the

         Gandhi held so strongly to distinguishing between evil and those who commit evil that he

                    “And after all no one is wicked by nature. And if others are
                    wicked, are we the less so? That attitude is inherent in Satyagraha,
                    and if you do not subscribe to it, even then I would ask you to
                    leave me. For without a belief in my programme and without an
                    acceptance of my condition you will ruin me, ruin yourself and
                    ruin the cause.”17

In realizing that we can evolve (or have evolved) from persons capable of committing evil
(destruction) to persons who are only capable of performing good (beneficence), we should
acknowledge this transformation is possible for others who engage in evil. Gandhi himself is a
testament of this principle, given his personal moral transformation. As mentioned earlier, this
transformation often requires patience and sympathy:

                    “In the application of Satyagraha I discovered in the earliest stages
                    that pursuit of truth did not admit of violence being inflicted on
                    one’s opponent, but that he must be weaned from error by patience
                    and sympathy.”18

              Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 276.

              Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 305, excerpt from Harijan, March
30, 1940.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 6, excerpt from Young India,
January 14, 1920.

This same patience and sympathy would be extended to a fellow compatriot on the Satyagraha
path, so it is surely not beyond the reach of Satyagraha to also extend these to our opponents.
Guided by patience and sympathy, we must hold no bitterness toward our opponents: “Even
whilst you are suffering you may have no bitterness -- no trace of it -- against your opponents.”19
We must also avoid embarrassing our opponents, for as Gandhi said: “A Satyagraha relies not
upon embarrassment but upon self-suffering for securing relief.”20

        Satyagraha acknowledges the right of our opponents to hold their positions, even if they
are wrong. But this doesn’t mean we must accept the wrong: Satyagrahis can confront this
wrong nonviolently. Gandhi explained: “a Satyagrahi gives his opponent the same right of
independence and feelings of liberty that he reserves to himself, and he will fight by inflicting
injuries on his own person.”21 Neither do Satyagrahis seek to have their opponents punished:

                 “The Satyagrahi on the other hand does not seek to carry out his
                 reform by a system of punishments but by penance, self-
                 purification and suffering. Any resentment of the persecution,
                 therefore, would be an interruption of the course of discipline he
                 has imposed upon himself. It may be a prolonged course, it may
                 even seem to be never-ending. A little bullying or even moral
                 suasion or coercion may appear more expeditious. ... Indeed I have
                 often shown in these pages that Satyagraha is, as a matter of fact
                 and in the long run, the most expeditious course.”22

That most expeditious course includes Satyagraha methods that don’t further or expand cycles of
violence but instead reduce, if not eliminate, such cycles -- in part through the willingness to
suffer and sacrifice for our cause.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 193, excerpt from Young India,
March 19, 1925.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 32, excerpt from Young India,
February 4, 1920.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 20, excerpt from Young India,
January 21, 1920.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 188 - 189, excerpt from Young
India, September 18, 1924.

        This approach to opponents is not a new realization Gandhi discovered in his lifetime. It
has historical roots in a variety of religious and spiritual teachings. He gave an example of this
in the following quote about Jesus Christ (of Christianity and Islam) and the historical Buddha
(of Buddhism):

                “Both were for intensely direct action. But even as Buddha and
                Christ chastized they showed unmistakable gentleness and love
                behind every act of theirs. They would not raise a finger against
                their enemies, but would gladly surrender themselves rather than
                the truth for which they lived.”23

The example of Christ also points to another important factor in suffering:

                “the Satyagrahi seeks to convert his opponent by sheer force of
                character and suffering. The purer he is and the more he suffers,
                the quicker the progress.”24

Those familiar with the Christ story know that he was crucified with two other criminals, yet
most do not extend the same level of sympathy, care, and admiration to the criminals as they do
to Christ. Why? To be blunt: because they were criminals. Just as few people (in this age)
would have sympathy for a robber who gets robbed, more people will extend sympathy (and
sometimes concern) to a pure, moral person who is robbed. I have read many incidents in which
a religious institution or leader was robbed and people, some with no connection to that person
or religion, contributed to efforts to replace what was stolen. In studying the efficacy of
suffering, those who are pure and demonstrate their purity (with behavior and actions) often have
a greater impact with their suffering than those who lack purity. (This is also why Gandhi
encouraged Satyagrahis to perform constructive service as addressed in Chapter 4.) There is
another key benefit to embodying a pure character: “[Humans] of stainless character and self-

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 111, excerpt from Young India,
May 12, 1920.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 188, excerpt from Young India,
September 18, 1924.

purification will easily inspire confidence and automatically purify the atmosphere around

        Thus, in efforts to combat evil (i.e., injustice, harm, destruction), a Satyagraha effort
“requires no prestige save that of truth, and no strength save that of self-suffering which comes
only from an immovable faith in one’s cause and from a completely non-violent spirit.”26
Regarding Truth, “The reformer must have consciousness of the truth of his cause.”27 If you
have little or no understanding of a cause you claim to stand for, this is a problem that should be
addressed before engaging in actions that require the willingness to suffer. An appropriate
education / development process will enable individuals to fulfill the following mandate Gandhi
issued to Satyagrahis: “He should avoid artificiality in all his doings. He acts naturally and from
inward conviction.”28 One of the aims of the Satyagraha education process (addressed in
Chapter 8) is that it develops people to not act from mere knowledge, but inner moral
convictions which may be supported by knowledge. Knowledge alone does not equate to
strength, which is a component of the soul / spirit that can be cultivated through moral training.

        In this age of brutal violence, Satyagrahis must be prepared to undergo immense
suffering. Again, needless suffering should be avoided but “Satyagraha means readiness to
suffer and a faith that the more innocent and pure the suffering the more potent will it be in its
effect.”29 At the point of redundancy, I emphasize Satyagrahis must possess the readiness and
willingness to suffer, but not seeking suffering itself. I am reminded of stories told to me about
the U.S. Civil Rights Movement in which people would get “freedom high.” After protests in
which participants were brutally beaten, other people would come, sometimes from the other end
of the country, to participate in follow-up protests looking to get beat up too. These people

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 345, excerpt from Young India,
September 6, 1928.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 73, excerpt from Young India,
October 13, 1927.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 202, excerpt from Harijan, April
15, 1933.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 87, excerpt from Harijan, March
25, 1939.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 294, excerpt from Harijan, June 3,

associated getting beat with affecting social change, but this is a point of confusion. If the
suffering of violence could affect such change we should be living in an idealistic paradise of
justice given the immense amount of violence that has occurred over the past century alone. It is
the willingness to suffer combined with innocence (as a moral virtue, not a social label) and
purity that empower suffering to affect change. And it is this innocence and purity that are
lacking in many contemporary efforts to affect social change, rendering them weak and
sometimes completely impotent. Also remember that Satyagraha, as an universal tool, was
devised to be applicable not only in an age of violence but also in an age of beneficence: one in
which violence does not exist. In such an age, the willingness to suffer will probably be
worthless since it has little value in a world where there is no suffering. But surely innocence
and purity will remain powerful forces in such a world. Understanding this, I’ll let you decipher
what holds more importance even in today’s age: the willingness to suffer or innocence and

        In this age of brutal violence, those who commit evil may engage in extremely brutal acts
upon those who nonviolently resist them -- even mass killings and extended persecution and
repression. Gandhi discovered a relevant (spiritual) scientific law to deal with this reality:

                 “For, according to the science of Satyagraha, the greater the
                 repression and lawlessness on the part of authority, the greater
                 should be the suffering courted by the victims.”30

Satyagrahis should not avoid acts of violence inflicted on them by their opponents. Gandhi
presented the following guidance for how to handle such violence, including extreme violence:

                 “The way to do better is to avoid, if we can, violence from our side
                 and thus quicken the rate of progress and to introduce greater
                 purity in the methods of suffering. ... Progress is to be measured by
                 the amount of suffering undergone by the sufferer. The purer the
                 suffering, the greater is the progress.”31

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 275, excerpt from Young India,
May 8, 1930.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 113, excerpt from Young India,
June 16, 1920.

The point about Satyagrahis not committing violence was addressed earlier (in Chapter 5):
committing acts of violence only furthers cycles of violence. But bearing the suffering of others
in a non-retaliatory manner equates to a portion of (if not the entire) fire burning itself out.
Purity and innocence add more impact to this fire burning itself out. In this way, the science of
Satyagraha can measure progress by such suffering.


        In understanding and applying this (spiritual) scientific law, Gandhi encouraged
Satyagrahis “to take up suffering voluntarily and to find joy in it.”32 Again, this excludes
needless violence, but Satyagrahis should be willing to bear violence afflicted upon them by
their opponents. Do not mistake this call to suffer voluntarily with being a masochist: a
Satyagrahi should not seek joy from the pain but instead for what bearing such suffering attains
and brings one closer to. Remember, the quest for Truth is essential to Satyagraha and those
upon this quest will find happiness in everything that brings them closer to Truth. This is not
merely an inner realization of Truth -- if so, Gandhi might have sought to be a hermit or a recluse
in an ashram. The manifestation of justice and other forms of beneficence in society brings us
all closer to Truth, but especially those explicitly and consciously seeking Truth. This fact may
be hard to comprehend for those not seeking Truth, but those who choose to seek it and mature
on this quest will come to see the validity of this statement. So an act of suffering that brings a
Satyagrahi closer to Truth will make her or him happy: a natural consequence of arriving closer
to the destination of Truth. This same principle applies to other beneficent acts that bring us
closer to Truth: such as prayer, meditation, helping others, constructive service within the realm
of Swaraj, etc. In fact, if we engage in suffering that does not result in such happiness, we
should reflect upon our actions. It may not be an immediate happiness, since some efforts
require endurance and patience over an extended period of time: but an episode of suffering
while standing up for Truth-guided values that does not bring us happiness indicates a failure of
some kind on our part. It will often indicate a lack of purity or understanding of our cause, but
there may be other reasons for such lack of happiness that have much, if not everything, to do
with ourselves -- and little, if anything, to do with our opponents. Thus, Gandhi’s earlier calls
for self-introspection and analysis. But these calls should be heeded throughout any Satyagraha

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 113, excerpt from Young India,
June 16, 1920.

effort and what is revealed seriously considered: even if it means ending, short of the intended
goal, a massive Satyagraha campaign that took years of preparation -- something Gandhi himself

        I will also warn about getting caught up in concepts of fairness and (ethical)
accountability. In Satyagraha suffering, one may take on a higher proportion of loss and harm
for destructive acts one did not commit. And by many moral measures of justice, it is unfair that
an innocent person suffers for the wrongs of others, that those who committed the wrongs should
be held “accountable” for their acts. Yet Satyagraha holds moving closer to Truth as more
important and beneficial than seeking an instance of accountability in a larger situation of
injustice where evil continues to exist and expand. In such situations, Satyagrahis are content to
accept temporary “unfair” circumstances (via suffering) to move toward a more lasting (if not
permanent) reality of beneficence and justice attained by moving (one’s self and others) closer to

         It is for the happiness and other benefits of being brought closer to Truth that Satyagrahis
are willing to meet even death for their cause. First and foremost, this requires that Satyagrahis
be unattached (have no attachments) to the objective of their efforts. To this point, Gandhi
wrote: “A Satyagrahi is always unattached to the attainment of the object of Satyagraha.”33 (The
issue of attachments was discussed in Chapter 3.) Attachment to the desired goal or other things
in life can prevent us from being willing to sacrifice our lives in the effort to manifest the desired
goal. If we are not willing to sacrifice our lives, any significant threat to our lives can render our
efforts to a meaningless compromise or defeat. And such threats are not beyond normal tactics
in an age of brute violence, even if they are empty threats presented with a facade of real force.
The power of the willingness to sacrifice our lives, which does mean the willingness to be killed
in our efforts to carry out our cause, is a strength Gandhi acknowledged as being at the heart of

                “To lay down one’s life, even alone, for what one considers to be
                right, is the very core of Satyagraha. More, no man can do. ... The
                sword of the Satyagrahi is love and the unshakeable firmness that

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 314, excerpt from Young India,
September 30, 1926.

                   comes from it. He will regard as brothers the hundreds of goondas
                   [ruffians] that confront him and instead of trying to kill them he
                   will choose to die at their hands and thereby live.”34

Part of what Gandhi meant by living after dying regards the life of the soul beyond the existence
of the physical body. But it also included the cherished memory other Satyagrahis should have
and sustain of those who sacrificed their lives to advance a just cause:

                   “it is better to die helpless and unarmed and as victims rather than
                   as tyrants. I would have the future generations remember that we
                   who witnessed the innocent dying did not ungratefully refuse to
                   cherish their memory.”35

        With a genuine willingness to face death, a Satyagrahi will stand firm in the midst of all
the cross-currents that arise in efforts to affect just change. Gandhi also warned that such a

                   “may not be impatient with blind orthodoxy, nor be irritated over
                   the unbelief of the suppressed people. He must know that his
                   suffering will melt the stoniest heart of the stoniest fanatic...”36

The impatience of blind orthodoxy was addressed in the previous sections on the importance of
patience and self-introspection. One of the imminent dangers of being irritated by the unbelief
of others is that this irritation can quickly transform into an anger that pollutes our purity, thus
making us and our work impure. But even if such irritation doesn’t become anger, it certainly
can distract us from more important things in the Satyagraha process. As I’ve repeated many
times throughout this book, Satyagraha is a process of transformation and conversion: a process
that changes those who embrace Satyagraha, their opponents, and others directly and indirectly

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 380, excerpt from Harijan, March
17, 1946.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 111, excerpt from Young India,
May 12, 1920.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 197, excerpt from Young India,
June 4, 1925.

affected by the injustice Satyagrahis confront as well as the beneficence they share. With
sustained purity, patience, and the willingness to suffer, our Satyagraha work will have the
opportunity to melt the “stoniest hearts” and / or render them powerless in preventing just
change. Gandhi explained how to achieve this even with those having the stoniest hearts:

                 “Our business, therefore, is to show them that they [our opponents]
                 are in the wrong and we should do so by our suffering. I have
                 found that mere appeal to reason does not answer where prejudices
                 are age-long and based on supposed religious [or other types of]
                 authority. Reason has to be strengthened by suffering and
                 suffering opens the eyes of understanding. Therefore, there must
                 be no trace of compulsion in our acts. We must not be impatient,
                 and we must have an undying faith in the means we are

        Gandhi augmented the above point with another statement:

                 “But experience has shown that mere appeal to the reason
                 produces no effect upon those who have settled convictions. The
                 eyes of their understanding are opened not by argument but by the
                 suffering of the Satyagrahi. The Satyagrahi strives to reach the
                 reason through the heart. The method of reaching the heart is to
                 awaken public opinion. Public opinion for which one cares is a
                 mightier force than that of gunpowder.”38

To Gandhi, awakening public opinion didn’t mean propaganda (in the contemporary sense) or
manipulation of the public’s thoughts or feelings, as is often attempted by many today -- even
some who profess to be for the people. Nor did it include shifting people’s impressions to stated
political and social goals or using sensationalistic or melodramatic media to move people to a

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 194, excerpt from Young India,
March 19, 1925.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 191, excerpt from Young India,
March 19, 1925.

desired position. Gandhi’s approach to public opinion is reflected in the following quote about
what newspapers should aspire for:

                   “One of the objects of a newspaper is to understand popular feeling
                   and to give expression to it; another is to arouse among the people
                   certain desirable sentiments; and the third is fearlessly to expose
                   popular defects.”39

Gandhi’s emphasis on encouraging others to seek Truth was strongly reflected in his fulfillment
of the above three objectives. Therefore, he was not content to merely have people express their
desires and discontents from a place rooted in illusion; but instead, in understanding their points
of view, he humbly yet strongly encouraged (and sometimes challenged) them to seek Truth --
and to express their points from a place of seeking Truth. He saw Satyagraha as “a process of
educating public opinion, such that it covers all the elements of society and in the end makes
itself irresistible.”40 To this end, he began and wrote for a number of newspapers throughout his
life such as Indian Opinion, Young India, and Harijan. Through these he wrote regular columns
to the Indian people as well as responded to letters received from them. He also wrote numerous
pamphlets and books to continue and inspire public dialogue among Indians. Yet, he never
regarded newspapers and other media as things to be controlled by an elite group to manufacture
public sentiment. He saw great danger in this:

                   “To the English voters their newspaper is their Bible. They take
                   their cue from their newspapers which are often dishonest. The
                   same fact is differently interpreted by different newspapers,
                   according to the party in whose interests they are edited. One
                   newspaper would consider a great Englishman to be a paragon of
                   honesty, another would consider him dishonest. What must be the
                   condition of the people whose newspapers are of this type?”41

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 19, Chapter I: The Congress And Its Officials.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 382, excerpt from Harijan, March
31, 1946.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 28, Chapter V: The Condition Of England.

He saw the media as having a mandate to serve the people in line with the above stated

                   “In the very first month of Indian Opinion, I realized that the sole
                   aim of journalism should be service. The newspaper press is a
                   great power, but just as an unchained torrent of water submerges
                   whole countrysides and devastates crops, even so an uncontrolled
                   pen serves but to destroy. If the control is from without, it proves
                   more poisonous than want of control. It can be profitable only
                   when exercised from within. If this line of reasoning is correct,
                   how many of the journals in the world would stand the test? But
                   who would stop those that are useless? And who should be the
                   judge? The useful and the useless must, like good and evil
                   generally, go on together, and man must make his choice.”42

        Gandhi opposed any efforts by groups to force their views upon the public. Instead he
sought to educate the public about his causes and allow the rightness of these to touch the hearts
of the people. If his cause was just and presented in an effective, pure, and honest manner (as
guided by Truth), Gandhi felt this would suffice to touch the hearts of the general public. He
trusted they would see the validity of his cause even if, for other (usually oppressive) reasons,
they chose not to support it immediately. But even this suppressed support -- fertilized with
consistent pure effort, patience, and suffering -- would eventually blossom to an expressed (and
sometimes active) support. And in the social fertilization of public opinion, Gandhi was explicit
in appealing to the public’s hearts:

                   “This conversion can only be brought about by an appeal to their
                   hearts, i.e. by evoking the best that is in them. Such an appeal can
                   be made by the appellants’ prayers, fasting and other suffering in
                   their own persons, in other words, by their ever increasing purity.
                   It has never yet been known to fail. For it is its own end.”43

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 287.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 202, excerpt from Harijan, April
15, 1933.

Gandhi saw this process succeed throughout human history: from the early efforts of the rishis in
spreading the Hindu sacred writings throughout India to the Swaraj efforts of his lifetime. Even
the study of other peoples throughout the world confirmed the power of this approach, such that
he was moved to write:

                   “When public opinion is sufficiently roused against a social abuse
                   even the tallest will not dare to practise or openly to lend support
                   to it. An awakened and intelligent public opinion is the most
                   potent weapon of a Satyagrahi.”44


        Before continuing, I want to clarify some points about using fasting to appeal to the
hearts of others. This use of fasting differs from fasts engaged for personal spiritual growth,
cultivation, and purification. Fasts to appeal to others, which Gandhi sometimes called
Satyagraha fasts, are to be used “only as a last resort when all other avenues of redress have been
explored and have failed.”45 But he also instituted strict conditions upon such fasts, including
one that has particular importance in the context of suffering:

                   “But Satyagraha in the form of fasting cannot be undertaken as
                   against an opponent. Fasting can be resorted to only against one’s
                   nearest and dearest, and that solely for his or her good.”46

The first point in the above quote is extremely important. Imagine if Gandhi took a fast against
the British government (his opponent), vowing not to eat until the British granted India its
independence. The British government, who had no personal association with him or genuine
concern for him, would be happy to wait and watch him waste away to death as it refused to

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 77, excerpt from Young India,
August 8, 1929.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 323, excerpt from Harijan, April
21, 1946.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 313 - 314, excerpt from Young
India, September 30, 1926.

concede to his request. And, in a sense, Gandhi would get what he deserved in pursuing death:
for it makes no sense to put the fate of your life in the hands of an entity that does not care about
you, especially when in an adversarial relationship. And if Gandhi stopped the fast short of
death, he would appear hypocritical or foolish to have engaged a path that he did not pursue to
completion. Such a fast -- whether resulting in death, serious injury, or early termination --
would amount to giving victory to his opponent. This is contrary to the standard of Satyagraha
to (nonviolently) fight our opponents by living our values to the fullest, even if this means
bearing suffering imposed by our opponents. This leads to a key point: Satyagrahis do not
impose suffering on themselves to stand for their causes, even as they are willing to bear such
suffering inflicted by their opponents. This same principle applies to fasting.

        But the dynamic of fasting differs when it comes to dealing with those we have a
personal connection or association with. Such fasts can only be taken to benefit those the fast is
taken against: that the desired outcome of the fast benefits them, not necessarily the person
taking the fast. Let me first state that Gandhi warned:

                   “Fasting is a fiery weapon. It has its own science. No one, as far
                   as I am aware, has a perfect knowledge of it. Unscientific
                   experimentation with it is bound to be harmful to the one who
                   fasts, and it may even harm the cause espoused.”47

Therefore, much careful deliberation must be engaged when considering a fast -- and this
consideration must occur before beginning a fast! As stated earlier, a fast should only be
considered as a last resort, after all other options for resolution have failed. Gandhi also required

                   “Those who want to go in for a Satyagrahi fast should certainly
                   posses some personal experience of fasts for spiritual purification.
                   Fasts for ridding the body of impurities are also beneficial. In the

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 321, excerpt from Harijan, October
31, 1940.

                   end, of course, there is only one basis for the whole ideal of
                   fasting, and that is purification.”48

It is important to contemplate whether to take on a fast and for what cause from a place of purity.
And to this point, impurities in the body can affect the clarity (of mind, spirit, emotions, etc.)
needed to make a wise decision from a place of purity. If we have not attained such purity,
including wholistic physical health49, we should not even consider taking a fast. It may be better
to seek the guidance of a spiritually mature person to explore the possibility of modifying our
diets (and lifestyles) to assist in the process of attaining such purity. It’s amazing how much our
perspective of problems and conflicts change when in a place of purity. Words describing such
mean little in place of attaining the purity to realize the truth of this statement for yourself, so I
would encourage you to attain such purity -- which is part of the quest for Truth.

       Once such purity has been attained we can then consider the next condition necessary for
a Satyagraha fast to appeal to the hearts of others:

                   “A fast may only be undertaken by him who is associated with the
                   person against whom he fasts. The latter must be directly
                   connected with the purpose for which the fast is being

Let me use a couple of Gandhi’s experiences to illustrate this point of Satyagraha fasts. He
would engage such fasts when members of his ashram committed moral or character errors. In
one instance, he went on a seven day fast to address such errors made on the part of some child
students at the ashram. He immediately ruled out punishing them because “punishment does not

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 323, excerpt from Harijan, October
13, 1940.
           Wholistic physical health goes beyond contemporary concepts of being heatlthy. For example, a person
with a manageable illness, like heart disease, would meet contemporary standards of being healthy as long as she or
he continued to take medications and adhere to other conditions. Wholistic physical health goes way beyond this,
moving beyond the absence of illness to the continuing development of bodily strength and well-being.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 321, excerpt from Harijan, October
13, 1940.

purify, if anything it hardens children.”51 And remember, as stated above: “there is only one
basis for the whole ideal of fasting, and that is purification.”52 Instead, he chose a course of
action based in his love for the students that highlighted the connection between their actions and

                   “The basis of the action [the fast] is mutual love. I know that I
                   possess the love of the boys and the girls. I know too that if the
                   giving up of my life can make them spotless, it would be my
                   supreme joy to give it. Therefore, I could do no less to bring the
                   youngsters to a sense of their error.”53

Imagine the impact this had on the children: they committed a wrong and Gandhi, whom they
loved, engaged a fast for seven days. For seven days he refrained from eating and other
activities, willingly took on a burden (suffering) and denied himself because of their actions --
and they were not punished for the wrongs they committed. Based on the loving bond they
shared with him, this weighed heavy on any thoughts they had to commit future wrongs -- let
alone act on those thoughts. But the power of this approach can only work where there is mutual
love, and more so when such love is and has been expressed through beneficial and caring
actions. Gandhi’s choice to fast would have had little impact had he not demonstrated his love
for the children by taking time to care, provide for, and teach them, instilling in them how much
he loved them and a corresponding care they developed for him. If they did not care for him,
they would be much less inclined to care that he took on a fast for their wrongs -- they might
even him consider him a fool to do so.

       A second example is the fast Gandhi took during the partition of India and Pakistan.
When the British agreed to grant India independence they did so on the condition that part of
India be divided to create a nation for the Muslims in India, which became Pakistan. Gandhi
strongly opposed this, feeling it would only further the long religious conflict among the Hindus

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 312, excerpt from Young India,
December 3, 1925.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 323, excerpt from Harijan, October
13, 1940.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 312, excerpt from Young India,
December 3, 1925.

and Muslims of Indian ancestry; but he later reservedly consented to the partition, vowing to heal
this ongoing conflict and work toward a reunification of India and Pakistan. During the partition
process, many people from different parts of the formerly undivided India chose to relocate:
Muslims in what was to remain India chose to move to the new Pakistan, and Hindus living in
what was to become Pakistan chose to resettle within the new Indian borders. There were
literally millions of people relocating on foot, horse, and carriage -- and in many instances
passing each other by as they went in differing directions. In the midst of this process,
widespread violence broke out on religious terms: Hindus attacking Muslims, and Muslims
attacking Hindus -- much to the great dismay of Gandhi. For years, these two groups unified to
fight the British for independence using nonviolent means, and now on the verge of such
independence they were fighting each other using brutal violence. In an attempt to end such
violence, Gandhi pledged to fast until death if the violence did not stop. This may seem like a
bold measure, and even in contradiction to the condition of only taking on Satyagraha fasts
against persons one is associated with since Gandhi was virtually taking a fast against the entire
population of India. But he had formed such association with the larger Indian population
through his many years of engaging them in Satyagraha and Swaraj campaigns, constructive
service, and public discussion via his newspapers and writings. He had cultivated, through his
demonstrated love for them, a reputation and concern among the Indian masses. And they, in
turn, admired and loved him -- some even anointing him with the title “Mahatma,” which means
Great Soul. Thus, when he took the fast the violence waned and representatives of the warring
factions pledged to work toward peaceful relations. Concern for Gandhi was cited as a reason
for the termination of violence and he broke his fast.

        This last example of a Satyagraha fast is something very few people can even consider
since they have not demonstrated and correspondingly earned the love of a general mass of such
size. But this example is based on the same principles Gandhi utilized with the ashram students:
a loving connection being the basis for engaging a Satyagraha fast. I emphasize that these are
not fasts engaged with compulsive intentions, to force others to comply with one’s wishes. As
Gandhi wrote:

               “Non-violence [Satyagraha], if it does not submit to any
               restrictions upon its liberty, subjects no one and no institution to

                   any restriction whatsoever, save what may be self-imposed or
                   voluntarily adopted.”54

Any change in behavior by those fasted against must be voluntary on their part. And if mutual
love plays a part in influencing them to voluntarily correct a wrong, then that’s a credit to the
power of love. But those who engage in Satyagraha fasts must be willing to do so even if the
fasts bear no fruit and the persons fasted against refuse to address their wrongs. And if a fast
was taken with certain conditions (i.e. till death), then Satyagrahis accept the fulfillment of such
conditions without blame or anger for the persons fasted against.

       Gandhi warned against engaging in fasts on the basis of imitation: that because he or
other notable human figures used fasts, others should also do so. He wrote:

                   “There is no room for imitation in fasts. He who has no inner
                   strength should not dream of it, and never with attachment to

Also, Gandhi was against hunger strikes, which fell below the moral standards he held necessary
for Satyagraha fasts -- including that most hunger strikes were held against one’s opponents. He
viewed hunger strikes as attempts of intimidation and compulsion directed against one’s
opponents and, thus, contrary to the Satyagraha way.


       The scope of suffering and sacrifice in Satyagraha is vast and could be the sole subject of
many books. And much regarding the (spiritual) science of suffering and sacrifice is best
addressed in the context of specific local efforts: study, preparation, and application of
Satyagraha efforts within the specific experience of a local-based effort. To this end, this
chapter sought to provide a broad overview that can be useful to those who take the next steps of

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 224, excerpt from Young India,
February 27, 1930.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 323, excerpt from Harijan, April
21, 1946.

applying these broad lessons to the specifics of their situations. Gandhi was learning new
aspects about Satyagraha suffering and sacrifice until his last breath. I would encourage those on
the path of Satyagraha to be as open and alert to such continued learning as they “enroll” in the
never-ending school of the willingness to suffer and sacrifice.

                   “The conditions necessary for the success of Satyagraha are: (1)
                   The Satyagrahi should not have any hatred in his heart against
                   the opponent. (2) The issue must be true and substantial. (3)
                   The Satyagrahi must be prepared to suffer till the end for his

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 382, excerpt from Harijan, March
31, 1946.

                                            CHAPTER SEVEN
            From the Power of One to the Power of Many
                 “A Satyagrahi depends only on truth and his capacity to suffer
                 for truth.”1

                 “Much corruption has crept into our religion. We have become
                 lazy as a nation, we have lost the time sense. Selfishness
                 dominates our action. There is mutual jealousy amongst the
                 tallest of us. We are uncharitable to one another. And if I did
                 not draw your attention to the things I have, it will not be
                 possible for us to rid ourselves of all these evils. Satyagraha is a
                 relentless search for truth and a determination to reach truth. I
                 can only hope you will realize the import of what you are

                 “For me there is no turning back whether I am alone or joined
                 by thousands.”3

        At this point, the readers should be familiar with what has been a recurring theme
throughout this book: that Satyagraha is community-oriented as it is individually focused. Thus,
the individual is an essential building block for all Satyagraha work. It is from and within the
power of the Truth-guided individual that the great potency of Satyagraha is unleashed. Without
such an individual, there can be no Satyagraha; and all who imitate the ways (usually tactics) of

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 33, excerpt from Young India,
February 4, 1920.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 195, excerpt from Young India,
March 19, 1925.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 246, excerpt from Young India,
April 3, 1930.

Satyagraha will prove to be weak, ineffective (in terms of genuine outcomes), and often
powerless. Therefore, a strong emphasis of Gandhi’s work was to encourage individuals to
become one pure Satyagrahi. To this point he acknowledged:

                   “In Satyagraha, it is never the numbers that count; it is always the
                   quality, more so when the forces of violence are uppermost.”4


        One of the most important virtues for any Satyagrahi to embrace is that “there is no such
thing as defeat in non-violent resistance.”5 This is, in part, based on the previously discussed
pre-conditions that must be fulfilled before embarking on Satyagraha resistance: commitment to
seeking Truth, having a just and valid cause, having an understanding of the cause we stand for,
adequate preparation for any campaigns, and more. But key among these pre-conditions is an
unwavering optimistic commitment. Gandhi explained:

                   “In Satyagraha there is no such thing as disappointment or
                   heartburning. The struggle always goes on in some shape or other
                   till the goal is reached. A Satyagrahi is indifferent whether it is
                   civil disobedience or some other phase of the struggle to which he
                   is called. Nor does he mind if, in the middle of the civil
                   disobedience march, he is called upon to halt and do something
                   else. He must have faith that it is all for the best.”6

This isn’t a call to embrace some “pie-in-the-sky” delusional hope that is removed from a Truth-
based (to see things as they are) observation of reality and present conditions. The concept of
hope has been much abused, even twisted to encourage people to be “hopeful” while accepting

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 87, excerpt from Harijan, March
25, 1939.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 386, excerpt from Harijan, April
13, 1940.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 291, excerpt from Harijan, April 1,

(without resistance or non-cooperation) some of the most brutal forms of oppression -- often
justified in passive whims that proclaim “this” will end eventually. Satyagraha hope is based in
an unwavering commitment to work till the end as guided by Truth. Gandhi acknowledged that
just as (most) humans don’t have absolute knowledge, we will not always see all the forces at
work in efforts to affect just change. He even wrote: “The mysterious effect of non-violence is
not to be measured by its visible effect.”7 But as past efforts of Truth-based work proved
victorious, this is evidence to support the validated expectation that present Truth-based work
will also be victorious. Therefore, Satyagrahis should be hopeful about their work, especially
since a hopeful approach can increase the efficiency and impact of such work. This hope doesn’t
minimize or eliminate the need to uphold the other tenets of Satyagraha, such as purity, ahimsa,
humility, soul-based strength, the willingness to suffer, etc. Instead, the Satyagraha approach to
hope reinforces the need to embrace these deeply as these directly affect the efficiency and
impact of Satyagraha work.

        But Satyagraha hope doesn’t guarantee victory, and complete failure is possible under
limited circumstances. Gandhi explained:

                 “A Satyagrahi, whether free or incarcerated, is ever victorious. He
                 is vanquished only when he forsakes truth and non-violence and
                 turns a deaf ear to the Inner Voice. If, therefore, there is such a
                 thing as defeat for even a Satyagrahi, he alone is the cause of it.”8

The Inner Voice Gandhi referred to is the voice of Truth: a voice that develops within as we
mature along the quest for Truth -- and I stress the word mature. It is a clearly understood
spiritual “mandate” in Indian (as well as other) cultures that what one hears from the Inner Voice
one is required to do. (But just because it is a mandate doesn’t mean it is always fulfilled.) This
requirement highlights the importance of humility and soul-based strength to fulfill this mandate.
To this point, Gandhi made remarks such as:

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 284 - 285, excerpt from Young
India, April 2, 1931.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 236, excerpt from Young India,
March 20, 1930.

                   “Indeed he is no Satyagrahi who is not humble.”9

                   “The spirit of non-violence necessarily leads to humility. Non-
                   violence means reliance on God {Truth}, the Rock of Ages. If we
                   would seek His {Its} aid, we must approach Him {It} with a
                   humble and a contrite heart.”10

                   “A Satyagrahi does not depend for his strength on external means.
                   His strength comes from within, from his reliance on God

                   “A Satyagrahi’s surrender has to come out of his strength, not out
                   of weakness.”12

        If the dictates of Satyagraha are fulfilled, the Satyagrahi is assured victory -- and
Satyagrahis do not confuse worldly concepts of victory (often power, money, and material
things) with Truth’s victory: such as justice and beneficence, and the transformation of one’s self
and others. In fact, any failures along the way indicate a shortcoming on the part of the
Satyagrahi, not necessarily a victory by the opponent. A careful study of history reveals that
even many evil (destructive) persons and groups are aware of this principle of Truth-assured
victory. Endeavors to combat Truth-based efforts often involve attempts to corrupt, cause fear,
use immoral “incentives” (money, sex, ego-centered fame), and other means to move Truth-
guided people to forsake Truth and, thus, be disconnected from the undefeatable victory they are
assured by living and seeking Truth. Many evil forces know (and knew) that even brutal
violence does little to prevent the assured victory of Truth-based efforts, such violence only
sometimes delays it. But for Satyagrahis, such delays can often be diminished by utilizing the

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 178, excerpt from Young India,
April 24, 1924.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 58, excerpt from Young India,
January 12, 1921.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 293, excerpt from Harijan, June 3,

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 81, excerpt from Young India,
April 30, 1931.

spiritual science of Satyagraha; and when such delays will not be diminished, patience and
commitment will suffice to progress toward victory. As Gandhi wrote: “A Satyagrahi has
infinite patience, abundant faith in others, ample hope.”13

        And to reiterate relevant points made in previous chapters: Satyagrahis never seek to
bring about change or reform by compulsion and never seek to embarrass their opponents (those
who do wrong). These are utterly unnecessary tactics for those who walk the path of assured

        To be pure Satyagrahis, we must place more emphasis on the propriety of our actions
than the desired impact of such actions. In other words, it’s more important that our behavior be
proper than doing whatever it takes to get what we want. Gandhi explained:

                   “A Satyagrahi’s first concern is not the effect of his action. It must
                   always be its propriety. He must have faith enough in his cause
                   and his means, and know that success will be achieved in the

One of the ways of ensuring proper behavior is to act from a cultivated pure heart: a heart
cultivated by the quest for Truth that abounds in love and beneficence. This requires humility to
let Truth shape our hearts (and whole beings) so they may be pure by Truth’s design and, thus,
be the basis for all our actions. To this point, Gandhi said: “As a seeker of truth and non-
violence, however, I must not be satisfied with mere action if it is not from the heart.”15 Chapter
3 on ahimsa explored the connection between the heart and mind, which speaks to the following

                   “Non-violence to be a potent force must begin with the mind.
                   Non-violence of the mere body without the co-operation of the

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 279, excerpt from Young India,
March 19, 1931.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 183, excerpt from Young India,
May 1, 1924.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 298, excerpt from Harijan, July 8,

                      mind is non-violence of the weak or the cowardly and has
                      therefore no potency.”16

        The strength of collective Satyagraha is rooted in the individual potency each Satyagrahi
cultivates within one’s mind, as connected to one’s heart, to be manifested through all the
components of one’s being. Gandhi made the following statement in regards to solitary
Satyagrahis, but it applies to all Satyagrahis:

                      “The solitary Satyagrahi has to examine himself. If he has
                      universal love and if he fulfills the conditions implied in such a
                      state, it must find its expression in his daily conduct.”17

        The daily expression of universal love brings us to the challenge of perfection, a
challenge Gandhi felt every Satyagrahi could fulfill. Imagine the power of an individual whose
every living moment of every single day is a living expression of universal love. Consider the
impact such a person will have on their family, community, nation, and the world:

                      “for the exercise of the purest soul-force, in its perfect form, brings
                      about instantaneous relief. For this exercise, prolonged training of
                      the individual soul is an absolute necessity, so that a perfect
                      Satyagrahi has to be almost, if not entirely, a perfect man

We will explore some components of such training in Chapter 8 (on education), but Gandhi
clearly acknowledged the attainable potential of becoming a perfect Satyagrahi and, thus, a
perfect human. He even went further than acknowledging this with the following

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 284, excerpt from Young India,
April 2, 1931.

                Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 376, excerpt from Harijan, August
4, 1940.

         Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 35, excerpt from Young India,
November 3, 1927.

                 “I have repeatedly stated that Satyagraha never fails and that one
                 perfect Satyagrahi is enough to vindicate Truth. Let us all strive
                 to be perfect Satyagrahis. The striving does not require any
                 quality unattainable by the lowliest among us. For Satyagraha
                 is an attribute of the spirit within. It is latent in every one of
                 us. Like Swaraj it is our birthright. Let us know it.”19 (emphasis

Gandhi was adamant in encouraging people to sincerely seek perfection, a component of the
quest for Truth. He reasoned:

                 “We cannot all suddenly become such [perfect] men, but if my
                 proposition is correct -- as I know it to be correct -- the greater the
                 spirit of Satyagraha in us, the better men will we become. Its use,
                 therefore, is, I think, indisputable, and it is a force, which, if it
                 became universal, would revolutionize social ideals and do away
                 with despotisms and the ever-growing militarism under which the
                 nations of the West are groaning and are being almost crushed to
                 death, and which fairly promises to overwhelm even the nations of
                 the East. If the past struggle has produced even a few Indians who
                 would dedicate themselves to the task of becoming Satyagrahis as
                 nearly perfect as possible, they would not only have served
                 themselves in the truest sense of the term, they would also have
                 served humanity at large.”20

       The realization of this perfect Satyagrahi potential informed Gandhi to declare: “In
Satyagraha success is possible even if there is only one Satyagrahi of the proper stamp.”21 But

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 176, excerpt from Young India,
December 26, 1924.

         Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 35 - 36, excerpt from Young India,
November 3, 1927.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 30, excerpt from Young India,
January 21, 1920.

the potency of a perfect or near-perfect Satyagrahi cannot be achieved by even great numbers of
people who do not live the Satyagraha way:

                “It is possible to fight a non-violent battle even with one
                Satyagrahi. But it, i.e. a non-violent battle, cannot be fought with
                a million non-Satyagrahis. And I would welcome even an utter
                failure with non-violence unimpaired rather than depart from it by
                a hair’s breadth to achieve a doubtful success. Without adopting a
                non-compromising attitude so far as non-violence is concerned, I
                can see nothing but disaster in the end.”22

This should be a clear warning to those in “non-violent” efforts who are more concerned with the
quantity of people involved rather than the quality of those involved. A main reason for the
decades-long decline in the community organizing, peace, and social justice fields has been the
decline of the quality of those involved. Putting the increasing societal acceptance of immorality
aside, very few people in these fields seek the perfection of Satyagraha -- in fact, such talk
doesn’t even exist in the vocabulary of many people in these fields. Many have compromised
this and other values of the Satyagraha (or non-violence) way for things that can be measured in
quantity: money (funding), superficial victories (i.e. getting a law passed even if society will not
live or enforce the spirit of that law), and temporary increases in people participation that often
fade because the quality of such people rarely exceeds the standard of hypocrisy. (And
remember, those who do not live a soul-based strength are very vulnerable to hypocrisy.)
Instead of starting small, which Gandhi’s life experiences directly reflected, or even beginning
anew with a small group -- again directly reflected in Gandhi’s life experiences -- many seek to
build on meaningless measures of quantity that in no way address the quality of people involved.
Clearly, this challenge of quality must be addressed through Satyagraha education and training,
which will be addressed in the next chapter. But Gandhi also made the following adjustment in
considering potential Satyagrahis due to the (lack of) quality issues of many involved in
Satyagraha campaigns:

                “I have definitely stiffened in my demands upon would-be
                Satyagrahis. If my stiffness reduces the number to an insignificant

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 288, excerpt from Young India,
May 7, 1931.

                   figure, I should not mind. If Satyagraha is a universal principle of
                   universal application, I must find an effective method of action
                   even through a handful.”23

We would be wise to heed these lessons Gandhi learned and apply them in our own work.

       And lastly for this section, as much as the power of collective Satyagraha rests on
individual Satyagrahis, “Satyagraha can never be resorted to for personal gain.”24


                   “Satyagraha is essentially a weapon of the truthful. A Satyagrahi
                   is pledged to non-violence, and, unless people observe it in
                   thought, word and deed, I cannot offer mass Satyagraha.”25

        Only when we have progressed upon the path of becoming one pure Satyagrahi can we
consider involving others in collective Satyagraha work, or what Gandhi called “mass
Satyagraha.” Key among such considerations is the preparation necessary for people to engage
in such work. Some of this was addressed in the previous section on becoming one pure
Satyagrahi, but some things go beyond the individual development process and require
additional preparation. To proceed into the domain of mass Satyagraha without such preparation
would be a monumental mistake.

       Gandhi made such a mistake in his work in India, which he dubbed his Himalayan
Miscalculation: when he “committed a grave error in calling upon the people in the Kheda

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 295 - 296, excerpt from Harijan,
June 24, 1939.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 313, excerpt from Young India,
September 30, 1926.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 467.

district and elsewhere to launch upon civil disobedience prematurely.”26 Let’s briefly define
civil disobedience as “civil breach of unmoral statutory enactments.”27 And Gandhi would
emphasize the civil in the name and definition, as will be explored in his thoughts on civility
later in this section. Within this civil context, he explained:

                   “Before one can be fit for the practice of civil disobedience one
                   must have rendered a willing and respectful obedience to the state
                   laws. For the most part we obey such laws out of fear of the
                   penalty for their breach, and this holds good particularly in respect
                   of such laws as do not involve a moral principle. ... Such
                   compliance is not, however, the willing and spontaneous
                   obedience that is required of a Satyagrahi. A Satyagrahi obeys the
                   laws of society intelligently and of his own free will, because he
                   considers it to be his sacred duty to do so. It is only when a person
                   has thus obeyed the laws of society scrupulously that he is in a
                   position to judge as to which particular rules are good and just and
                   which unjust and iniquitous. Only then does the right accrue to
                   him of the civil disobedience of certain laws in well-defined
                   circumstances. My error lay in my failure to observe this
                   necessary limitation. I had called on the people to launch upon
                   civil disobedience before they had thus qualified themselves for it,
                   and this mistake seemed to me of Himalayan magnitude.”28

Obedience of laws among Satyagrahis is essential. As stated earlier, Satyagrahis can challenge
unjust laws, but this challenge must be based in a history of being law-abiding citizens. Also,
abiding by laws can teach citizens the power dynamics of laws in creating a social order and
framework that upholds and furthers the aims of a society. In actuality, it is not the laws that
have power (as some have declared from a point of delusion), but the citizens’ cooperation in
following the laws that empowers such laws to have potency. For Satyagrahis, their societal
aims will be in alignment with the quest for Truth and, thus, empowered laws can be utilized to

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 469.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 3, excerpt from Young India,
March 23, 1921.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 470.

create and sustain a just society seeking beneficent aims. But these realizations may be lost to
those who never abide by laws as a matter of duty, as Satyagrahis do.

        The lessons learned from Gandhi’s Himalayan Miscalculation led him to refrain from and
advise against others conducting mass Satyagraha where there was “neither adequate training nor
discipline among the people.”29 And for him, “Mere abstention from physical violence will not
answer our purpose.”30 He used affirmative measures to evaluate whether individuals were
adequately prepared for mass Satyagraha. These included the tenets of Satyagraha (seeking
Truth, purity, ahimsa, etc.), discipline, (soul-based) strength, and moral fortitude. His evaluation
also included elements of Swaraj, such as spinning and wearing khadi and engaging in
constructive service. He held as a non-negotiable mandate for all would-be participants in mass
Satyagraha that they “must be non-violent in thought, word and deed, and must be living in
perfect friendliness with all whether co-operators or non-co-operators.”31 If these measures were
not met to satisfaction, Gandhi would refuse to engage in mass Satyagraha campaigns. The
standard of acceptable measures varied to each situation: in one instance, a single pure
Satyagrahi may be enough to guide a less pure but willing group into mass Satyagraha in a way
that would not spoil their efforts. In other situations, Gandhi saw it as necessary to have a group
of pure individuals before considering mass Satyagraha; and such a group was weighed against
the willingness of a larger community to stay within or support the propriety codes of Satyagraha
behavior. When the balance of such factors was sufficient, Gandhi would proceed with mass
Satyagraha; when the balance was insufficient, he would refrain from mass Satyagraha and
instead suggest education and development activities to prepare for mass Satyagraha. And, as
stated earlier, Gandhi increased the standards for proceeding to mass Satyagraha as he became
wiser, especially after experiencing the devastating effects of embarking on mass Satyagraha

       The above paragraphs pointed out critical lessons for those who hold to the tenet that
doing something is better than nothing. In some ways, this statement may be true but this

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 91, excerpt from Harijan, June 10,

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 91, excerpt from Harijan, June 10,

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 140, excerpt from Young India,
January 19, 1922.

“something” can be essential preparatory activities to properly engage in mass Satyagraha and
civil disobedience activities. Pursuit of such activities without proper preparation can result in
destructive outcomes that fare worse than non-action or the destructive activities of our
opponents. For as Gandhi warned:

                   “If those amongst whom I worked, and whom I expected to be
                   prepared for non-violence and self-suffering, could not be non-
                   violent, Satyagraha was certainly impossible. I was firmly of
                   opinion that those who wanted to lead the people to Satyagraha
                   ought to be able to keep the people within the limited non-violence
                   expected of them.”32

        Another way to prepare for mass Satyagraha is through constructive service. As
discussed in Chapter 4 (on Swaraj), in India this service included khadi work, village sanitation,
literacy and community schooling, health services, and more. The cultivating aspects of such
service was powerful enough to move Gandhi to declare: “It is a golden rule to follow out every
direct action with constructive work, i.e., work of conservation.”33 The following quote further
connects the use of constructive service with preparing people to embrace Satyagraha (non-

                   “I have been told that people cannot be non-violent overnight. I
                   have never contended they can. But I have held that by proper
                   training they can be, if they have the will. Active non-violence is
                   necessary for those who will offer civil disobedience, but the will
                   and proper training are enough for the people to co-operate with
                   those who are chosen for civil disobedience. The constructive
                   work prescribed by the [Indian National] Congress is the proper
                   training. Those, therefore, who wish to see India realize her
                   destiny through non-violence should devote every ounce of their

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 469.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 200, excerpt from Young India,
January 14, 1926.

                 energy towards the fulfillment of the constructive programme in
                 right earnest without any thought of civil disobedience.”34

The above indicated that Gandhi acknowledged different levels of preparation for those in
differing levels of engagement of mass Satyagraha. Those going to the front lines of civil
disobedience required more training than those who would play a supportive role to front line
participants. Also note that the key requirement to receive such training was the will to be non-
violent. He didn’t put any other requirements on those who would seek such training, such as a
high school diploma, college degree, or personal / professional references. Those providing non-
violent training and engaged in non-violent work should note that Gandhi’s approach to
developing participants to engage in mass Satyagraha included the will to do so, personal
development (in quest of Truth), and constructive service. He used these as qualifications for
those engaging in Satyagraha work, not formal educational requirements, work experience, or
other prevailing employment qualifications often used today. With a committed will, a person
can overcome all the challenges involved in transforming to become a Satyagrahi, regardless of
how easy or hard such transformation may be. And for Satyagraha trainers, patience and hope
will suffice in helping them assist trainees through the transformation process.

        Gandhi even used constructive service as a way to measure which organizations were
part of the Satyagraha (non-violence) fold:

                 “they will not become a non-violent organization unless they
                 undergo a process of what may be called continuous corporate
                 cleansing. This they can only do by engaging in carrying out a
                 well thought out constructive programme requiring combined
                 effort and promoting common good. In other words before they
                 can claim to have become a non-violent organization, they must
                 receive education in non-violence not through speeches or
                 writings, necessary as both may be, but through an unbroken series
                 of corporate acts, each evoking the spirit of non-violence.”35

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 307 - 308, excerpt from Harijan,
June 1, 1940.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 218, excerpt from Young India,
August 16, 1928.

         Contemporary societies are slowly realizing the beneficial impact of engaging in
constructive service, more commonly called community service today. But I will stress that
Gandhi emphasized constructive service that promoted the “common good,” which often goes
beyond the more limited focus of many special interest focused initiatives that have grown more
popular, often with corporate sponsorship. I would challenge those seeking constructive service
in the vein that Gandhi advocated to genuinely measure the impact of any service they consider
engaging in, to ensure it truly serves a common good accessible to all members of a particular
community. Gandhi would have serious reservations about service efforts that actually benefit
those who organize and administer such efforts more than those the service purports to benefit:
i.e., an anti-poverty organization that spends more on operating their organization (salaries,
administrative costs, rent, etc.) than serving the poor. And Gandhi would surely encourage
anyone looking to engage in service activities to seek Truth, which will better enable us to
honestly make such an evaluation of potential activities without deluding ourselves.

        Another key element of mass Satyagraha is civility, which Gandhi acknowledged was no
easy task:

                  “Experience has taught me that civility is the most difficult part of
                  Satyagraha. Civility does not here mean the mere outward
                  gentleness of speech cultivated for the occasion, but an inborn
                  gentleness and desire to do the opponent good. These should show
                  themselves in every act of a Satyagrahi.”36

The desire to do our opponents good doesn’t need to feel the same way it does to do good for a
loved one, but Satyagrahis should walk with a general welfare for all that does not exclude but
includes our opponents. Such civility is a key ingredient in the science of Satyagraha, in part,
because of how much incivility is a common trait of violence. You may remember in Chapter 5
how Gandhi sought to distinguish Satyagraha from common characteristics of violence such as
rudeness, disrespect, and threatening and aggressive behavior. And as Satyagraha is concerned
with genuine action aligned with a pure heart, performance of civil behavior falls short of the
Satyagraha measure if it does not emanate from a pure heart. Modern culture has de-emphasized
the power of genuine civility which may make some question its worth. But Gandhi knew the

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 437.

power of genuine civility, particularly in connection with Satyagraha, and thus warned that if
people “resorted to incivility it would spoil their Satyagraha.”37

        I will end this section with some brief words about money, which will be addressed in
more depth in Chapter 11. When considering mass actions in today’s age, money (or more often,
the lack of it) is often cited as a challenge to carrying out mass actions. Gandhi would quickly
refute all such arguments:

                  “Satyagraha could not be conducted simply by means of money.
                  Money is the thing that it least needs.”38

He always placed emphasis on the previously addressed factors over money, for what would be
the point of funding an uncivil, unprepared effort that would not uphold the tenets of
Satyagraha? Such would eventually fail and prove to be a wasted effort, even if it achieved
some temporary achievements. But a prepared group that embodied the tenets of Satyagraha
would not be stopped by a lack of money from engaging in Satyagraha activities and affecting a
lasting change. He held that “Satyagrahi volunteers had to learn the new lesson of simplicity.”39
His stance was influenced by his vow of non-possession, but it does speak to the reality that a lot
can be done with a little. This approach also acknowledges that justice and beneficent change
are not bound to material things, even if an outcome of such change manifests in materials things
-- even a vast redistribution of societal wealth. A simple, focused approach highlights how much
the real dynamics of change reside within people, not things outside of them. Humanity has a
long history of using money (and other material things) to confuse this fact, but this is a fact
Satyagrahis must be constantly aware of. Being ever-mindful of this fact will not allow
Satyagrahis to fall for the trap of being limited by a lack of money. It will assist them in being
more efficient and careful in using money (and other resources) to affect a process of change that
must occur more within people than outside of people. It will also encourage genuine creativity,
which artists throughout the ages have demonstrated as a great power.

                  “If there are many such real Satyagrahis, they will certainly
                  transform the atmosphere in an immensely short time, even as

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 437.
            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 436.
            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 437.

                   one gentle shower transforms the plains of India into a beautiful
                   green carpet in one single day.”40


                   “Satyagraha eschews all make-believe. I have no relish for the
                   title of the Mahatma given me by the people, if only because I
                   am unworthy of it but I have given myself a title of which I am
                   proud. I call myself a Satyagrahi, and so I must live up to it. I
                   cannot but utter the bitter truth, whenever there is an occasion
                   for it.”41

       The above quote presented a very interesting point in regards to Gandhi’s approach to
leadership. He rejected the title of Mahatma (Great Soul) which was, in part, given to him as a
recognized spiritual leader in India. Instead he self-identified as a Satyagrahi and, in many
respects, the cultivation of his leadership qualities were the direct result of his development as a
Satyagrahi: one seeking and living Truth. His rejection of the Mahatma title was also a sign of
his humility: another key element of Gandhi’s approach to leadership. In today’s age, where
leadership is often conflated with (foolish, delusional) pride, his personal example of humble
leadership is a valuable reminder.

        Duty has an irrevocable place in Satyagraha, yet this responsibility of duty is multiplied
immensely for those who perform leadership positions in Satyagraha. The measures for purity,
moral fortitude, (soul-based) strength, living ahimsa, progressing toward and holding to Truth,
and more are held to a higher standard for leaders than other participants who will be entrusted
to the guidance of Satyagraha leaders. Gandhi declared:

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 70, excerpt from Young India, July
14, 1927.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 337 - 338, excerpt from Young
India, March 19, 1931.

                   “There must be power in the word of a Satyagraha general -- not
                   the power that the possession of limitless arms gives, but the
                   power that purity of life, strict vigilance, and ceaseless application

Such power requires a person of exceeding moral character and strength, qualities Gandhi
devoted himself to being a living example of.

        In many respects, it’s kind of pointless to go into an extended discussion of what a
Satyagraha leader is: if people fulfill much of what has already been covered in this book, they
will naturally grow to become Satyagraha leaders. And there is much within such fulfillment
that allows for a wide range of leadership types, styles, approaches, and personalities. Instead I
will focus on a few essential points that Gandhi highlighted.

        Gandhi embraced hierarchal leadership structures, as evidenced in the use of terms such
as “Satyagraha general” (in the above quote), “non-violent army,” and “peace brigade.” His use
of military terms, a personal point of contention I have with him, doesn’t necessarily mean he
utilized such structures in the way destructive and violent forces do. As has been repeated
throughout this book, Gandhi was against all forms of compulsion. Therefore, it would never be
acceptable that a volunteer must perform what a Satyagraha general ordered simply because it
was ordered. Neither should Satyagraha leaders be admired and adored simply because they
hold leadership positions. Leaders have to earn and continuously earn while serving in
leadership positions the cooperation of those Satyagraha workers under them. And I emphasize:
Satyagraha leadership is viewed in the context of service. Gandhi acknowledged certain
characteristics that would allow Satyagraha leaders to meet this dictate.

        Based on the premise that Truth is essential to the Satyagraha path, the embodiment of
and alignment with Truth is vital for all Satyagraha leaders. To this point, Gandhi wrote:

                   “Satyagraha, therefore, best succeeds under the leadership of a true
                   man of God {Truth} who will compel reverence and love even of

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 97, excerpt from Harijan, July 23,

                   the opponent by the purity of his life, the utter selflessness of his
                   mission and the breadth of his outlook.”43

For Gandhi, this placed exceeding importance on the attainment of self-purification among
Satyagraha leaders:

                   “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 -- whether married or unmarried.”44

As discussed in Chapter 3 (on ahimsa), different religions and spiritual traditions have their own
equivalents to the spiritual maturity of brahmacharya: conduct adapted to the search for Truth.
But the point remains that any Satyagraha leader must already have attained such maturity before
stepping into a leadership position. This point even holds true for situations where there are no
leaders: let participants collectively study, prepare, and mature together before any of them
embrace a leadership position. I will also point out, since the previous quotes used the word
“man,” that Gandhi’s use of the word man implies all of humanity. To be explicit, Gandhi felt
that leadership roles were to be filled by humans of all genders, ethnic and racial groups, and
ages. If a baby girl came out of the womb embodying the necessary components of Satyagraha
leadership, she should be allowed the opportunity to serve as a leader despite her age and gender.
In fact, in light of the paternalistic influences upon India at Gandhi’s time (which continues
throughout much of the world today), he made the following relevant observations:

                   “To call woman the weaker sex is a libel; it is man’s injustice to
                   woman. If by strength is meant brute strength, then indeed is
                   woman less brute than man. If by strength, is meant moral power,
                   then woman is immeasurably man’s superior. ... Without her man

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 203, excerpt from Harijan, May 5,

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 203, excerpt from Harijan, May
27, 1939.

                   could not be. If non-violence is the law of our being, the future is
                   with woman.”45

                   “In this campaign of Swaraj by self-purification, it will be nothing
                   surprising if the women outdo the men.”46

But these affirmations don’t eliminate the need for women (and all humans) to develop the
necessary components to take on Satyagraha leadership roles.

       The embodiment of and alignment with Truth combined with purity enable one to hear
the Inner Voice, the voice of Truth. This is an undisputable necessity for any Satyagraha leader:

                   “The Satyagrahi general has to obey his inner voice, for over and
                   above the situation outside, he examines himself constantly and
                   listens to the dictates of the Inner Self.”47

Gandhi goes on to explain why the Inner Voice holds such importance:

                   “The fact is that Satyagraha presupposes the living presence and
                   guidance of God {Truth}. The leader depends not on his own
                   strength but on that of God {Truth}. He acts as the Voice within
                   guides him. Very often, therefore, what are practical politics so
                   called are unrealities to him, though in the end his prove to be the
                   most practical politics.”48

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 325, excerpt from Young India,
April 10, 1930.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 249, excerpt from Young India,
April 3, 1930.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 98, excerpt from Harijan, June 10,

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 216, excerpt from Young India,
August 2, 1928.

As stated earlier, Satyagraha cannot be measured by its visible effect; and without absolute
knowledge, there may be things even a very seasoned Satyagraha leader will not perceive -- even
Gandhi. But cultivation of the self to perceive the Inner Voice resolves this dilemma. Then
when the Inner Voice says something, Satyagrahis hold themselves (thoughts, words, deeds, etc.)
in alignment with this. In such instances, faith may be the driving force more so than other
things, but again such faith is validated by past accomplishments of Truth-based works. At other
times, conviction may be the staying force. Satyagraha leaders must embody sufficient faith and
conviction to inspire, or at least retain, the cooperation of others with lesser faith and conviction.
It is in this way that a participant may follow an order given by a Satyagraha leader that the
participant doesn’t fully understand or even questions within. The path of Satyagraha naturally
cultivates these leadership qualities, therefore, it is sufficient for future leaders to seek Truth to
develop these.

       I strongly advocate that those who have matured to hear the Inner Voice honor it. The
discussion of what happens when people ignore or partially heed the Inner Voice is full with so
many variables that it could take many books to address such. But one thing is very clear: there
is always beneficence attained by honoring what the Inner Voice (of Truth) says. And why risk
such beneficence by ignoring or partially fulfilling what it states?

        Once we have cultivated the Inner Voice, we are not limited to merely awaiting its
proclamations: we can consult it in a variety of ways. But also understand the Inner Voice is
also free to decide what to respond to and how. This last point can lead into a whole range of
mystic spiritual matters that go beyond the scope of this book, but consultation of the Inner
Voice is helpful in one of the key responsibilities of a Satyagraha leader: selection of Satyagraha
workers for appropriate tasks. Gandhi made the following observation:

                   “For a Satyagraha brigade only those are eligible who believe in
                   ahimsa and satya. Therefore, an intimate knowledge of the
                   persons enlisted is necessary for the organizers.”49

I discussed earlier the dangers of embarking in mass Satyagraha prematurely. Consideration of
the readiness to embark on this and other efforts rests with Satyagraha leaders. To avoid

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 381, excerpt from Harijan, March
17, 1946.

preventable mistakes, Gandhi emphasized the necessity of leaders having “intimate knowledge”
of Satyagraha workers. Even among those who profess commitment to Satyagraha, there may be
those who are deceitful, weak, or hypocritical, even if they there are not aware of they embody
these traits. The requirements of ahimsa and satya (Truth) among Satyagrahis are evident
enough, but how much one truly holds to these may only be explicitly known in pressing
situations, when it may then be too late to correct a mistake of selecting someone not prepared
for certain Satyagraha work. This is an instance in which consultation of the Inner Voice could
be very helpful. Just as Satyagraha leaders should constantly examine themselves to see that
they are in alignment with the dictates of the Inner Voice (of Truth), Satyagraha leaders should
also study and assess Satyagraha workers. Sometimes the Inner Voice may explicitly reveal
something about a worker, other times a “whisper” of the Inner Voice may be made in a passing
manner -- one that requires careful attentiveness to not miss. But regardless of how such
messages come, the responsibility of Satyagraha leaders is to have intimate knowledge of the
Satyagraha workers in their fold, especially those directly under their leadership. There is no
justifiable excuse for placing persons in tasks prematurely. Even when Gandhi did so, he went
through extended periods of reflection, self-correction, and further self-purification to minimize,
if not completely eliminate, within himself all characteristics and tendencies that led to such

        When a Satyagraha leader matures to such a state of development, such a leader earns the
trust and cooperation of one’s followers. This ability to be trusted with leadership
responsibilities is something Gandhi took note of:

                 “A soldier of an army does not know the whole of the military
                 science; so also does a Satyagrahi not know the whole science of
                 Satyagraha. It is enough if he trusts his commander and honestly
                 follows his instructions and is ready to suffer unto death without
                 bearing malice against the so-called enemy.”50

With such trust, a Satyagraha group can function with a high level of efficiency and order. This
can be combined with other elements of the science of Satyagraha to produce great change
within one’s self, one’s group, and the community (or nation or world) at large.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 362 - 363, excerpt from Harijan,
October 22, 1938.

                 “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 act in spite of the most fatal outward obstructions. In fact
                 non-violence by its very nature must neutralize all outward

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 229, excerpt from Young India,
March 20, 1930.

                                            CHAPTER EIGHT
                 The Satyagraha Approach to Education
                 “I do not for one moment believe that my life would have been
                 wasted, had I not received higher or lower education. Nor do I
                 consider that I necessarily serve because I speak. But I do
                 desire to serve and in endeavouring to fulfil that desire, I make
                 use of the education I have received. ... Both you and I have
                 come under the bane of what is mainly false education. I claim
                 to have become free from its ill effect, and I am trying to give
                 you the benefit of my experience and in doing so, I am
                 demonstrating the rottenness of this education.”1

                 “It will not be denied, that a child, before it begins to write its
                 alphabet and to gain worldly knowledge, should know what the
                 soul is, what truth is, what love is, what powers are latent in the
                 soul. It should be an essential of real education that a child
                 should learn, that in the struggle of life, it can easily conquer
                 hate by love, untruth by truth, violence by self-suffering.”2

        Colonized India had little say in the government-run school system imposed upon the
country by Britain. As a result, Gandhi spent the early years of his life within a formal British-
style education system, even completing law school in Britain. He was faced with the prospect
of the modern European educational approach not only as a student, but also as a parent in India
and South Africa (which also had a modern European style education system). From both

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909, p.
61, Chapter XVIII: Education.

        Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 36, excerpt from Young India,
November 3, 1927.

perspectives, as a former student and a parent of school-aged children, he realized the
shortcomings this educational approach has when it comes to Satyagraha and the quest for Truth.

       Gandhi made the following remarks regarding his choice to not send his children to
formal European style schools:

                   “the artificial education that they could have had in England or
                   South Africa, torn from me, would never have taught them the
                   simplicity and the spirit of service that they show in their lives
                   today, while their artificial ways of living might have been a
                   serious handicap in my public work.”3

He referred to the artificiality of such education, in part, because it does not promote nor is
aligned with seeking Truth. Most prevailing European (and American) approaches to education
focus on learning things to get a job, promote commerce, and continue cycles of violence (i.e.,
military war and economic exploitation). Ethics and morality are usually absent from such
approaches or only occupy a very marginal presence in curricula abundant with values counter to
these. Thus, modern approaches to education are much more likely to teach people how to make
money (even in immoral and unethical ways) than how to be honest (which goes beyond
refraining from lying).

        Gandhi described the modern European approach to education as follows:

                   “It simply means a knowledge of letters. It is merely an
                   instrument, and an instrument may be well used or abused. The
                   same instrument that may be used to cure a patient may be used to
                   take his life, and so may a knowledge of letters. We daily observe
                   that many men abuse it and very few make good use of it; and if
                   this is a correct statement, we have proved that more harm has
                   been done by it than good.”4

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 200.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909, p.
60, Chapter XVIII: Education.

“Knowledge of letters” was a common phrase in Gandhi’s time that referred to reading, writing,
and arithmetic -- and for some, it also included science and history (which usually emphasized
war and rulership through domination). His observations about the harm done by this
educational approach is important: it has been at the hands of modernly educated persons that
much harm has been inflicted and spread throughout the world, particularly in the form of
economic exploitation, colonialism (and neo-colonialism), and war. Many of the most sloppily
fought and ill-thought wars, where countless civilians were killed (sometimes more civilians
than enemy combatants), have been conceived and overseen by some of the most (modernly)
educated persons. In fact, it’s extremely rare that an “uneducated” person without high
educational credentials makes any major decisions in such military efforts. This same dynamic
is prevalent in the economic system: most, if not all, of the major economic collapses were
caused and overseen by “highly educated” persons, many considered experts in their fields.
Depressions and recessions are not caused by “uneducated” people: the lack of a college degree
is often cause to not consider a person qualified for employment in the financial field, let alone
advance to a leadership or management position. This same dynamic plays out in a range of
fields: government, education, health (or sick) care, real estate, etc. It is also present in
contemporary community organizing, peace, and social justice fields. Many such organizations
require high level degrees in formal education, especially for leadership positions. And despite
my understandings, capabilities, and skills (many reflected throughout this book), many of these
organizations would not even consider me for employment since I don’t have a college degree.

      Despite the harmful track record of the modern educational approach, many still herald it.
Gandhi challenged this kind of thinking in the following example about an uneducated peasant:

               “A peasant earns his bread honestly. He has ordinary knowledge
               of the world. He knows fairly well how he should behave towards
               his parents, his wife, his children and his fellow villagers. He
               understands and observes the rules of morality. But he cannot
               write his own name. What do you propose to do by giving him a
               knowledge of letters? Will you add an inch to his happiness? Do
               you wish to make him discontented with his cottage or his lot?
               And even if you want to do that, he will not need such an
               education. Carried away by the flood of western thought we came

                 to the conclusion, without weighing pros and cons, that we should
                 give this kind of education to the people.”5

Gandhi did not encourage people to blindly reject the modern European approach to education,
but instead challenged them to weigh the pros and cons of this approach. As is in line with
Satyagraha, if people saw merit in this approach after evaluating it, he would acknowledge their
right to such a position. But for him, although this educational approach is not completely
without value, it lacks many non-compromising essentials to a Truth-oriented way of life. He

                 “Moreover, I have not run down a knowledge of letters in all
                 circumstances. All I have now shown is that we must not make of
                 it a fetish. It is not our Kamadhuk. In its place it can be of use and
                 it has its place when we have brought our senses under subjection
                 and put our ethics on a firm foundation. And then, if we feel
                 inclined to receive that education, we may make good use of it. As
                 an ornament it is likely to sit well on us. It now follows that it is
                 not necessary to make this education compulsory. Our ancient
                 school system is enough. Character building has the first place in
                 it and that is primary education. A building erected on that
                 foundation will last.”6

         Gandhi clearly pointed out in the above quotes the importance of morality (or ethics) and
character in the Satyagraha approach to education: he regarded these as foundational
components. And to be blunt, when Gandhi said character he referred to good character: one
that is in alignment with Truth and beneficence. This goes beyond the reform efforts of some in
the modern education field to include more morality and character-building elements in
contemporary approaches: these fail to replace jobs, commerce, and violence as foundational
elements of the modern education approach. In fact, Gandhi would reject keeping these as
foundational or major components of education since they often contradict with morality and

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909, p.
60, Chapter XVIII: Education.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909, p.
61, Chapter XVIII: Education.

character-building. I would also add that some reformists have severely weakened educational
presentations of morality and character-building so as to make them more complimentary to and
palatable with the prevailing modern educational foundations of jobs, commerce, and violence.
As a result, many modern concepts of morality and character are so full of hypocrisy and
shallowness that they are virtually powerless when presented against pursuing jobs, commerce,
and violence. Note the widespread justification of “little white lies,” the common practice of
“doctoring up” (exaggerating) one’s resume to seem more attractive to employers, and the
justification of immoral and even violent acts by sayings like “it’s not personal, it’s just
business” or “war is ugly.” Gandhi was not content to accept morality and character-building
from a modern perspective; instead he insisted on teaching these from a traditional Indian


                  “‘Whatever a man sows, that shall he reap.’ The law of Karma
                  is inexorable and impossible of evasion. There is thus hardly
                  any need for God {Truth} to interfere. He {It} laid down the
                  law and, as it were, retired.”7

        Informed by the law of Karma, Gandhi realized the importance of “sowing” the seeds of
morality and character in one’s life. As his own spiritual development was a testament, this
work required a commitment to training, sometimes rigorous training, to reap the benefits of
cultivating and maturing morality and character. Neither did he waver from making perfection
the goal of such development:

                  “prolonged training of the individual soul is an absolute necessity,
                  so that a perfect Satyagrahi has to be almost, if not entirely, a
                  perfect man. We cannot all suddenly become such men, but if my

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 242.

                   proposition is correct -- as I know it to be correct -- the greater the
                   spirit of Satyagraha in us, the better men will we become.”8

Prolonged training in quest of perfection was part of Gandhi’s approach to educating others
about morality and character.

        Gandhi realized the building of character lay in developing the spirit:

                   “To develop the spirit is to build character and to enable one to
                   work towards a knowledge of God {Truth} and self-realization.
                   And I held that this was an essential part of the training of the
                   young, and that all training without culture of the spirit was of no
                   use, and might be even harmful.”9

Gandhi approached character in the context of spirituality. Morality is a component of the
development of the spirit, and the corresponding quests for Truth and self-realization. Thus,
there is a strong link between morality and character. And, as stated earlier, Gandhi held these
as foundational components to the Satyagraha approach to education. He also felt they were
things all could learn, as conveyed in the following quote about him educating children on an

                   “But I had always given the first place to the culture of the heart or
                   the building of character, and as I felt confident that moral training
                   could be given to all alike, no matter how different their ages and
                   their upbringing, I decided to live amongst them all the twenty-
                   four hours of the day as their father. I regarded character building
                   as the proper foundation for their education and, if the foundation
                   was firmly laid, I was sure that the children could learn all the
                   other things themselves or with the assistance of friends.”10

        Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 35 - 36, excerpt from Young India,
November 3, 1927.
            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 338.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 333 - 334.

        In realizing character and morality as foundational components to education, Gandhi also
realized that spiritual / moral training could not be imparted through a “knowledge of letters.”
He stated: “My experience has proved to my satisfaction that literary training by itself adds not
an inch to one’s moral height and that character-building is independent of literary training.”11
He expounded upon this point in the following quote addressing the challenges of providing
spiritual training to children on an ashram:

                   “How then was this spiritual training to be given? I made the
                   children memorize and recite hymns, and read to them from books
                   on moral training. But that was far from satisfying me. As I came
                   into closer contact with them I saw that it was not through books
                   that one could impart training of the spirit. Just as physical
                   training was to be imparted through physical exercise, and
                   intellectual through intellectual exercise, even so the training of the
                   spirit was possible only through the exercise of the spirit. And the
                   exercise of the spirit entirely depended on the life and character of
                   the teacher. The teacher had always to be mindful of his p’s and
                   q’s, whether he was in the midst of his boys or not.”12

The above quote mentioned the life and character of the teacher, which will be addressed later in
this chapter. It also highlighted the need for spiritual exercise to train the spirit. Many
Satyagraha activities were designed, in part, to serve as spiritual exercise: constructive service
and spiritual development activities that brought participants (and others) closer to Truth.

       In teaching the people of India about character and morality, Gandhi emphasized the
need to do so using Indian teachings, traditions, and cultures. He explained his reasons for this:

                   “It has always been my conviction that Indian parents who train
                   their children to think and talk in English from their infancy betray
                   their children and their country. They deprive them of the spiritual
                   and social heritage of the nation, and render them to that extent

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 163 - 164, excerpt from Young
India, June 1, 1921.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 338 - 339.

                   unfit for the service of the country. Having these convictions, I
                   made a point of always talking to my children in Gujarati [an
                   Indian language].”13

As addressed in Chapter 4, Gandhi sought Swaraj (self-rule) based in traditional Indian culture
and values. Therefore, it was appropriate that Indian languages be used to convey Indian values,
especially with the foundational education components of character and morality. He wasn’t
opposed to Indians learning English, but even for those who did he advised: “Those who have
studied English will have to teach morality to their progeny through their mother tongue and to
teach them another Indian language...”14 For people of different cultures, the same principle
would apply to them to look to their traditional cultures and values as guides to inform their
approach to character and morality. Remember, Gandhi chose traditional Indian values in
rejecting modern European values that glorified commerce even to the point of oppressing
millions of humans throughout the world. To be clear, this doesn’t mean all European values are
worthless in regards to character and morality; Gandhi took issue only with those that glorified
commerce and the subsequent harms that emanated from these. He would also reject non-
European value systems that glorified commerce and harm.

       Gandhi also acknowledged another important element in regards to character and
morality. He wrote:

                   “All business depends upon [humans] fulfilling their promises.
                   Are such promises less necessary in character building or self-

Keeping promises and being “true” to our words are vital to those on the Satyagraha path.
Without these qualities, our quests to develop character and morality will be greatly
compromised. And such compromise makes it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to live
the Satyagraha way.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 312.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 62, Chapter XVIII: Education.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 38, excerpt from From Yeravda
Mandir, 1932, Chapter XIII: Importance Of Vows.


                  “I have always felt that the true text-book for the pupil is his
                  teacher. I remember very little that my teachers taught me from
                  books, but I have even now a clear recollection of the things
                  they taught me independently of books.”16

        Gandhi’s view of the role of the teacher differed greatly from the modern European
education view. Whereas at points there may be some overlap, there is definitely a strong
difference in points of emphasis. Consider the following statement from Gandhi as an example:

                  “I explained to them [teachers] that they were expected to teach the
                  children not grammar and the three R’s so much as cleanliness and
                  good manners.”17
                  [**NOTE: The three R’s are reading, writing, and arithmetic.]

Many in the modern education field would not completely disagree with the above statement,
acknowledging there is value in teaching children cleanliness and good manners. But this same
field will fail a child with perfect cleanliness and good manners because of an insufficient
understanding of grammar and the three R’s. This designated failure indicates that modern
education values grammar and the three R’s over cleanliness and good manners. In contrast, the
same child would be regarded as a good student by Gandhi, in part, because cleanliness and good
manners are expressions of character and morality, qualities he deemed as foundation
components of the Satyagraha approach to education. And if a student, child or adult, learns
these that student can learn all other things with the assistance of others. In fact, if it was a
choice between students having cleanliness and good manners with poor grammar and three R’s
versus the complete opposite, Gandhi would choose the former without hesitation. Fortunately,
life doesn’t limit us to the previous set of choices: we can develop students to possess
cleanliness, good manners, and aptitude with grammar and the three R’s. But clearly, Gandhi
indicated which was more important: a teacher in the Satyagraha approach to education holds

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 337.
            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 420.

elements of character and morality as priorities over grammar, the three R’s, and other academic

      Gandhi held as a vital responsibility of the teacher to touch the hearts of one’s students.
He wrote:

                  “If I was to be their real teacher and guardian, I must touch their
                  hearts. I must share their joys and sorrows, I must help them to
                  solve the problems that faced them, and I must take along the right
                  channel the surging aspirations of their youth.”18

In light of this vital responsibility, Gandhi wrote: “My idea was never to entrust children to
commonplace teachers. Their literary qualification was not so essential as their moral fibre.”19
I’ll leave the readers to ponder the many connections between character and morality and the
ability of a teacher to touch the hearts of students.

        Gandhi’s approach to education placed teachers and students on more equal footing, as
opposed to the typical hierarchal relationship of teacher over student in modern education. An
equal relationship doesn’t mean an eradication of roles: the students don’t take on the role of the
teacher to serve and guide the learning process. But in the fulfillment of each role, Gandhi
strove for a relationship of equal partnership among student and teacher. Thus, as a teacher, he
never hid his shortcomings from his students as he would not want his students to hide their
shortcomings from him. He wrote about this in teaching Tamil boys despite his limited fluency
in Tamil:

                  “I got along merrily, because I never attempted to disguise my
                  ignorance from my pupils. In all respects I showed myself to them
                  exactly as I really was. Therefore in spite of my colossal
                  ignorance of the [Tamil] language I never lost their love and

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 342.
            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 420.
            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 336.

Note that Gandhi admitted to showing himself exactly as he was: this speaks to the point of the
teacher being the real textbook for the students, to be a living example of what the teacher seeks
to impart to the students. In this vein, Gandhi embraced another condition for teachers to fulfill
the responsibility of being a living textbook and upholding an equitable relationship between
teachers and students:

                  “we made it a rule that the youngsters should not be asked to do
                  what the teachers did not do, and therefore, when they were asked
                  to do any work, there was always a teacher co-operating and
                  actually working with them. Hence whatever the youngsters
                  learnt, they learnt cheerfully.”21

        It should become obvious that character and morality are not just educational foundations
to be taught, but these should be embodied and demonstrated by teachers. Just as in the (self)
development of character and morality, perfection is a goal; for the teacher, the perfect imparting
of character and morality to one’s students is a goal. Perfection, in this sense, includes students
developing character and morality while acknowledging that how this is achieved may vary
greatly with the diversity of unique individual students. Yet, Gandhi held “there is no question
about the teacher’s responsibility for the errors of his pupil.”22 He further clarified: “I felt that
the guardian or teacher was responsible, to some extent at least, for the lapse of his ward or
pupil.”23 The onus is upon teachers, in accepting this role, to reach the goal of serving their
students to attain character and morality. And I stress service: Gandhi saw the role of the teacher
as providing a service to students, not a provision imposed upon students whether it benefitted
them or not. In pursuit of the perfect goal of every student developing character and morality,
tools from the Satyagraha toolkit can and should be used, such as: seeking Truth, love, ahimsa,
purity, the willingness to sacrifice and suffer. Compulsion, violence (in words, thoughts, or
actions), deceit, and other harmful means are forbidden in the Satyagraha approach. But the
standard remains unchanged: a teacher is responsible for the successes and failures, the progress
and regression, the growth and stagnancy or decay of each of student. These are not the
students’ outcomes: they are the teacher’s AND students’ outcomes -- outcomes a teacher should
take personally. And for school systems, this responsibility also extends to ALL who play a role

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 335.
            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 343.
            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 342.

in the education of students: including administrators (i.e. chancellors, principals), support staff,
parents, legislators, etc.

         If students’ outcomes are a personal matter for the teacher, then it follows the personal
life of the teacher becomes an educational matter. Gandhi realized that even his Satyagraha
work outside of the “educational setting” had a potential impact on his students. He explained:

                  “It is possible for a teacher situated miles away to affect the spirit
                  of the pupils by his way of living. It would be idle for me, if I
                  were a liar, to teach boys to tell the truth. A cowardly teacher
                  would never succeed in making his boys valiant, and a stranger to
                  self-restraint could never teach his pupils the value of self-
                  restraint. I saw, therefore, that I must be an eternal object-lesson
                  to the boys and girls living with me. They thus became my
                  teachers, and I learnt I must be good and live straight, if only for
                  their sakes.”24

Much in the above statement is connected to character and morality. I would also point out that
Gandhi, even in his role as a teacher, was open to learning from his students and the process of
serving his students (as their teacher). This is an important lesson to any seeker (or dare I say,
student) of Truth.

       Empowered by character and morality, a teacher can serve even those who are labeled
“bad students.” Gandhi reflected on experiences of teaching “good” students with “bad” ones:

                  “This and similar experiments have shown me that, if good
                  children are taught together with bad ones and thrown into their
                  company, they will lose nothing, provided the experiment is
                  conducted under the watchful care of their parents and guardians.

                  “Children wrapped up in cottonwool are not always proof against
                  all temptation or contamination. It is true, however, that when
                  boys and girls of all kinds of upbringing are kept and taught

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 339.

                   together, the parents and the teachers are put to the severest test.
                   They have constantly to be on the alert.”25

Gandhi acknowledged there may be challenges involved with educating “bad” students, but
these challenges can be overcome by character and morality combined with watchfulness and
care. He never advocated punishment for “bad” students. He declared, “I have always been
opposed to corporal punishment”26 because “punishment does not purify, if anything it hardens
children.”27 In remembering Gandhi’s observations about ongoing cycles of violence, much
harm can be sustained and expanded by hardening an already “bad” student. And fortunately,
Truth, love and purity provide a wide range of tools to beneficently address the challenges of
“bad” students.

        In seeking to reach students, Gandhi observed that “Children take in much more and with
less labour through their ears than through their eyes.”28 For those who doubt this statement,
consider a great speech that you have heard. Go read the text of the speech, just read it, and then
compare the reading of it to what it was like to witness the speech. If it was a great speech, the
memory of it alone may have more of an impression than merely reading it, and may even color
how you read the text of that speech. And if the speech was recorded, you can listen to (or view)
the recording of that speech and measure its impact against reading the text of the speech. In the
delivered speech, the powers of the speaker (which may include character and morality) come
through in a way beyond what the mere text of the speech conveys. To relay lessons can be
powerful, but to witness a living expression of these lessons in a person delivering them directly
can be more impactful -- especially with persons of cultivated character and morality. Gandhi
utilized this approach with his students and noticed their receptivity of it compared to studying
from books:

                   “It was laborious for them to remember what they learnt from
                   books, but what I imparted to them by word of mouth, they could
                   repeat with the greatest ease. Reading was a task for them, but

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 341.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 339.
           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 311 - 312, excerpt from Young
India, December 3, 1925.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 337.

                   listening to me was a pleasure, when I did not bore them by failure
                   to make my subject interesting. And from the questions that my
                   talks prompted them to put, I had a measure of their power of

Note that Gandhi, as a teacher, acknowledged not only the responsibility to impart teaching, but
to do so in an interesting manner. One measure of the success of fulfilling this responsibility
was the questions the students posed in relation to the talk. For some students it may be
questions, for others it may be comments: but effective teaching will engage some form of
student interaction.

       I’ll end this section with a parable Gandhi shared that, although not written in relation to
education, is very relevant to the Satyagraha approach to education. He wrote:

                   “But you can wake a man only if he is really asleep; no effort that
                   you may make will produce any effect upon him if he is merely
                   pretending sleep.”30

I’ll leave the readers to ponder the meaning of this parable in relation to the Satyagraha approach
to education.


                   “A [human] without a pledge or a code of conduct is like a ship
                   without a rudder.”31

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 337.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 458.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 85, excerpt from Young India,
April 30, 1931.

       In his autobiography, Gandhi discussed the impact of not putting his children in the
modern European education system to instead “experiment” (his word) with teaching his
children in the Satyagraha approach. In sharing his thoughts, he wrote:

                   “Had I been without a sense of self-respect and satisfied myself
                   with having for my children the education that other children could
                   not get, I should have deprived them of the object-lesson in liberty
                   and self-respect that I gave them at the cost of the literary training.
                   And where a choice has to be made between liberty and learning,
                   who will not say that the former has to be preferred a thousand
                   times to the latter?”32

He went on to say: “it was far better to remain unlettered and break stones for the sake of liberty
than to go in for a literary education in the chains of slaves.”33 It is this line of thinking that
moved Gandhi to declare that a people must control their own education and the education of
their children.

       The situation in colonial India highlighted to Gandhi how much of a role government
plays education. He explained:

                   “I venture, however, to claim some method about my madness. It
                   does not require much reflection to see that it is through Courts
                   that a Government establishes its authority and it is through
                   schools that it manufactures clerks and other employees. They are
                   both healthy institutions when the Government in charge of them
                   is on the whole just. They are death-traps when the Government is

As discussed in earlier chapters, Gandhi clearly held the colonial government in India to be
unjust. Therefore, he held the government-run education system in low regard. But his response

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 201.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 202.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 142, excerpt from Young India,
August 11, 1920.

wasn’t to seek better schools from a government that was unjust -- which many school reform
efforts seek to do today. His response included two main efforts: non-cooperation with the
unjust government, which was addressed in Chapter 4 (on Swaraj); and having the Indian people
provide their own Indian-centered education to themselves and children.

       In his Satyagraha work in India, Gandhi was blunt in saying Indians should pull their
children out of the government-run schools and set up their own schooling. He declared:

                 “I contend that there is no sacrifice involved in emptying the
                 [government] schools. We must be specially unfit for non-co-
                 operation if we are so helpless as to be unable to manage our own
                 education in total independence of the Government. Every village
                 should manage the education of its own children. I would not
                 depend upon Government aid.”35

This may seem extreme to some, and perhaps it is, but it is completely aligned with the tenets of
Satyagraha and Swaraj. And the principles of this approach are relevant even in dealing with a
just government. Remember, Gandhi held that just governments must be run by and respect the
will of the people. So within a just government, the people can manage their own education
through the existing government structures. But where such structures are absent or corrupted,
the people should create their own means to provide and manage their own education. Gandhi
acknowledged, as with other components of Swaraj, there may be periods of advancement and
regression. This dynamic also exists in government-run education systems. Any careful study
of education will reveal many periods of regression under these systems -- even by standards
they deem relevant, let alone as measured by the Satyagraha approach to education. The point
is: the potential of regression should not be used as an excuse for people to postpone or delay in
managing and providing their own education to themselves and their children. With a just
government, the opportunities to fulfill this goal exist within the government. But where such
government does not exist, the people should fulfill this responsibility on their own.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 143, excerpt from Young India,
August 11, 1920.

       There are many things that can serve as resistance among people in embracing the above
approach, but one thing is particularly relevant to this chapter on education: the mindset
necessary to accept and live Satyagraha. Gandhi wrote:

                 “It takes a fairly strenuous course of training to attain to a mental
                 state of non-violence. 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-

Attaining the mental state of Satyagraha (non-violence) is a goal of the Satyagraha approach to
education. And Gandhi was blunt in stating that it takes a fairly strenuous course: not only in the
course work of learning, but also in providing such education to others. It requires a consistent
discipline and the willingness to commit and endure through hardship. Pursuit of this mental
development is accompanied by pursuit of spiritual / moral development (as discussed earlier).
And, as the above mentioned, it should include development of the body to achieve the perfect
state Gandhi referred to.


         As should be no surprise at this point in the book, Gandhi’s approach to educating the
physical body was very much predicated upon restraint. He was mindful of the abundance of
destruction people wreaked on their own bodies merely by a lack of restraint. In today’s age,
where destructive diets and physical practices are not only acceptable but heavily promoted (by
corporations, governments, the medical field), many may deem it extreme to say that a single
destructive act can destroy (and kill) one’s body. In the midst of performing countless
destructive acts on a daily basis, many today minimize and (sometimes) justify a single harmful
act -- for example, it’s just one cigarette or just one hamburger. But for Gandhi, this type of

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 383 - 384, excerpt from The
Nation’s Voice, 1947, p. 109 - 110, Part II.

thinking is delusional -- and on that basis alone, he would reject it in his pursuit of Truth.
Chapter 5 examined how cycles of mass violence emanate from a single act of violence: that in
the performance of a single violent act is the potential that this act will evolve into a cycle of
countless acts of violence that fuel other future acts of violence. Just as Satyagrahis seek to
reduce and eliminate violence in the world while working to establish, sustain, and expand
beneficence; in the realm of physical health, a Satyagrahi must work to reduce and eliminate all
harm one does to one’s self and establish, sustain, and expand beneficence in the form of
physical health. In some regards, the perfection of beneficent physical health may be easier to
attain than eliminating violence from the world: because the realm of this work involves to a
much lesser extent others who may be opposed to this goal; the realm of this work revolves very
much around you alone.

       Gandhi held self-restraint as a key premise in educating the body. He explained:

                  “I shall content myself with merely declaring my firm conviction
                  that, for the seeker who would live in fear of God {Truth} and who
                  would see Him {It} face to face, restraint in diet both as to quantity
                  and quality is as essential as restraint in thought and speech.”37
                  [**NOTE: The use of the word fear above most likely refers to an old English
                  meaning of reverence and awe; not the common contemporary meaning of
                  something to be viewed with dread or be afraid of.]

He clearly placed one’s diet in the context of Truth -- so if nothing else is gained from the above
quote, he would discourage people from dealing with diet from a place of delusion. But the
mention of quantity and quality is also very important, and these informed many of his
experiments with his own diet. Gandhi engaged in countless experiments to find the appropriate
minimal amount of food necessary to sustain his body in a healthy manner. This was
accompanied by experiments that examined the quality of his dietetic ingestion: that what he
took into his body contributed to creating, sustaining, and expanding beneficence as opposed to
not contributing or destroying the well-being of the body. Informed by ancient Hindu religious
teachings, he was a vegetarian (which included consumption of animal milk). At periods, he
experimented with the removal of all animal products from his diet: “I also had the feeling that,

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 273.

just as meat was not man’s food, even so animal’s milk could not be man’s food.”38 He had
periods of being a vegan (eating no animal products), a fruitarian (eating only fruits and nuts),
and various configurations within these approaches to food. But he was clearly not a meat-eater,
in part, because he refused to sustain his diet through practices that included violence -- and
almost all meat is acquired by killing animals. Gandhi would never impose his dietetic practices
on others -- compulsion is clearly outside the bounds of Satyagraha. And he did work with
people who ate meat. But for Satyagrahis, his approach to diet indicates the need to consider the
quantity and quality of food we ingest and how our food is attained (by violence or by
beneficence). In today’s age of commercial agriculture, Gandhi may have saw the need to refuse
all food produced by mass agriculture corporations because of the violent and exploitative
practices many of these corporations employ. He referred to an Indian proverb that stated “as a
man eats, so shall he become.”39 And Gandhi is an example of someone whose values dictated
what he ate.

       In pursuing purity, Gandhi discovered the need for even further restraint upon his diet
than what was addressed above. He explained:

                  “I was anxious to observe brahmacharya in thought, word and
                  deed, and equally anxious to devote the maximum of time to the
                  Satyagraha struggle and fit myself for it by cultivating purity. I
                  was therefore led to make further changes and to impose greater
                  restraints upon myself in the matter of food.”40

In pursuing such purity, Gandhi realized: “The diet of a man of self-restraint must be different
from that of a man of pleasure, just as their ways of life must be different.”41 To this aim, he
engaged in a series of dietetic restrictions: such as using no spices, not eating after a certain hour,
and engaging in regular fasts. He rejected all indulgence, instead embracing the approach of
eating “not in order to please the palate, but just to keep the body going.”42 He refrained from all

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 356.
            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 272.
            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 320.
            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 327 - 328.
            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 321.

intoxicants (alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, opium, etc.) since “all intoxicants warp or cloud a
man’s intellect, and he who allows his intellect to be warped or clouded cannot offer
Satyagraha.”43 He even severely limited what medications he took, as he explained:

                   “Though I have had two serious illnesses in my life, I believe that
                   man has little need to drug himself. 999 cases out of a thousand
                   can be brought round by means of a well-regulated diet, water and
                   earth treatment and similar household remedies. He who runs to
                   the doctor, vaidya or hakim for every little ailment, and swallows
                   all kinds of vegetable and mineral drugs, not only curtails his life,
                   but, by becoming the slave of his body instead of remaining its
                   master, loses self-control, and ceases to be a man.”44

        Let me take a moment to focus on Gandhi’s point about him refraining from medicine
almost completely. This stance laid in larger criticism of modern European medicine, criticisms
shared by even some Europeans. But Gandhi explained how doctors become enablers to their
patients’ destructive habits:

                   “Let us consider: the business of a doctor is to take care of the
                   body, or, properly speaking, not even that. Their business is really
                   to rid the body of diseases that may afflict it. How do these
                   diseases arise? Surely by our negligence or indulgence. I overeat,
                   I have indigestion. I go to a doctor, he gives me medicine, I am
                   cured. I overeat again, I take his pills again. Had I not taken the
                   pills in the first instance, I would have suffered the punishments
                   deserved by me and I would not have overeaten again. The doctor
                   intervened and helped me to indulge myself. My body thereby
                   certainly felt more at ease; but my mind became weakened. A
                   continuance of a course of medicine must, therefore, result in loss
                   of control over the mind.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 366, excerpt from Harijan, June 3,
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 270.

                   “I have indulged in vice, I contract a disease, a doctor cures me,
                   the odds are that I shall repeat the vice. Had the doctor not
                   intervened, nature would have done its work, and I would have
                   acquired mastery over myself, would have been freed from vice
                   and would have become happy.”45

Gandhi goes on to say that “doctors induce us to indulge, and the result is that we have
become deprived of self-control.”46 In today’s age, doctors have been joined by a larger matrix
of medical, pharmaceutical, food, and health insurance industries that make billions of dollars of
profit annually in America alone. So-called medical conditions that could be completely
prevented by an ahimsa (no harm) approach to diet are made tolerable daily dietetic practices by
the use of all kinds of drugs and medical procedures. Gandhi did not rule out all use of
medicine, since there are incidents to be treated that are not the result of personal indulgence and
negligence. But he was so disturbed by the misuse of medicine in India that he wrote: “To study
European medicine is to deepen our slavery.”47 He also stated the true aim of most doctors is the
pursuit of wealth, not the service of humanity.

       In addition to a restrained diet, Gandhi saw physical exercise as an absolute necessity of
every Satyagrahi. He firmly declared:

                   “I believed then and I believe even now, that, no matter what
                   amount of work one has, one should always find some time for
                   exercise, just as one does for one’s meals. It is my humble opinion
                   that, far from taking away from one’s capacity for work, it adds to

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 43, Chapter XII: The condition of India: Doctors.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 44, Chapter XII: The condition of India: Doctors.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 44, Chapter XII: The condition of India: Doctors.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 233.

He observed: “The modern generation is delicate, weak and much pampered. If they will take
part in national [Satyagraha] work, they must take ample exercise and become hardy.”49 This
was a serious concern for Gandhi, as he explained: “If the Satyagrahi is not healthy in mind and
body, he may perhaps fail in mustering complete fearlessness.”50 Thus, Gandhi engaged in a
regular practice of exercise. He was particularly known for his brisk, fast-paced walks as well as
his practice of yoga. Exercise need not be extreme, and should be suited to the health of the
person engaging in it: it is counter to the ahimsa aspect of Satyagraha to engage in physical
exercises that harm or destroy the body. But as suited to the individual, every Satyagrahi must
engage in a regular exercise practice. Having too much work to do or not enough time would not
suffice as justifiable excuses in Gandhi’s eyes of why someone does not exercise.


         There is certainly more than can be examined in regards to the full scope of the
Satyagraha approach to education, but this chapter has covered plenty for Satyagrahis to consider
in their individual and collective pursuits of Truth. I strongly encourage the readers to not only
study (or further your study of) what has been covered, but to act on and incorporate what has
been addressed in this chapter into your daily approach to life. With such application, you will
be better prepared to understand (in the Satyagraha context) Gandhi’s approach to what the next
chapters cover: civil disobedience.


            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 248, excerpt from Young India,
April 3, 1930.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 94, excerpt from Harijan, October
13, 1940.

                                             CHAPTER NINE
                  The Temperament of Civil Resistance
                 “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.”1 (emphasis mine)

                 “The use of civil disobedience will be healthy, necessary, and
                 effective only if we otherwise conform to the laws of all growth.
                 We must therefore, give its full and therefore greater value to
                 the adjective ‘civil’ than to ‘disobedience.’ Disobedience
                 without civility, discipline, discrimination, non-violence is
                 certain destruction. Disobedience combined with love is the
                 living water of life.”2

        Much of the education and preparation work used to develop Satyagrahis to offer civil
disobedience was designed to cultivate them to embody the temperament of civil resistance. As
stated in the second quote above, Gandhi saw the need to place more emphasis on being “civil”
than on the “resistance” or “disobedience.” There can be plenty of things to root our civility in,
such as adherence to moral / religious codes or social customs of good manners. But a surer,
almost guaranteed virtue to root civility in, as both quotes above mentioned, is love. Love was
addressed in Chapter 3 (on ahimsa), so I won’t repeat points already covered. Instead, this

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 383, excerpt from The Nation’s
Voice, 1947, p. 109 - 110, Part II.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 173, excerpt from Young India,
January 5, 1922.

chapter will focus on the active application of love as a final requirement that must be lived
before engaging in civil disobedience, if we heed Gandhi’s guidance. It is no exaggeration to
state that when we are in the midst of living love, civility to others -- including our opponents --
is a natural outflow of being in such a state. And the cultivation of love looks not to only live
love in the presence of a challenging situation -- in fact, if we weren’t living love before then it
may be too late to suddenly embrace love within such a situation. Instead, the Satyagraha
approach to cultivating love is to make it a cornerstone of our daily lives; and perfection of such
cultivation will mature to the reality of having every act and moment be an expression of pure

        Before continuing, let’s briefly define civil disobedience as “civil breach of unmoral
statutory enactments.”3 The next chapter will provide a more in-depth definition and
examination of civil disobedience. Also, as Gandhi’s vocabulary changed throughout the many
years of his Satyagraha work, he at times used “non-cooperation” and “passive resistance” to
refer to what we now call civil disobedience. I won’t change his quotes, but just know what
when you see these terms in this and the following chapters, the terms usually refer to civil


        It’s interesting to note that many people in contemporary times view civil disobedience in
the context of protest and conflict (i.e. good versus evil). This approach can include anger (and
sometimes violence) at injustice, wants for retribution and accountability to correct or amend
past or current wrongs, desires to shift power to one group at the expense of another group
(usually held to be in the wrong), and many other things along these veins. Thus, persons who
hold to these views regarding civil disobedience will often confuse the underlying yet important
context that shaped Gandhi’s understanding of and approach to civil disobedience. He
approached civil disobedience in the context of two main virtues, as informed by ancient Indian
teachings (esp. Hinduism): he viewed civil disobedience as an expression of duty and service.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 3, excerpt from Young India, March
23, 1921.

        Gandhi, as a Hindu, rooted his approach to service in yajna, which he defined as:

                “Yajna means an act directed to the welfare of others, done without
                desiring any return for it, whether of a temporal or spiritual nature.
                ‘Act’ here must be taken in its widest sense, and includes thought
                and word, as well as deed. ‘Others’ embraces not only humanity,
                but all life.”4

He admitted his understanding of yajna may depart from some literal interpretations of it in the
Vedas (Hindu sacred writings), but his understanding is firmly in line with ahimsa and the spirit
of the Vedas. He expounded on the importance of yajna:

                “The world cannot subsist for a single moment without yajna in
                this sense, and therefore the [Bhagavad] Gita, after having dealt
                with true wisdom in the second chapter, takes up in the third the
                means of attaining it, and declares in so many words, that yajna
                came with the Creation itself. This body therefore has been given
                us, only in order that we may serve all Creation with it. And
                therefore, says the Gita, he who eats without offering yajna eats
                stolen food. Every single act of one who would lead a life of
                purity should be in the nature of yajna. Yajna having come to us
                with our birth, we are debtors all our lives, and thus for ever
                bound to serve the universe.”5 (bold emphasis mine)

In this context, service that renders welfare to other living beings is a duty. Gandhi held humans
arrive in this world receiving their body, among other things, and are thus challenged to repay
“the debt” (or sacred responsibility) of receiving this gift by rendering beneficent service to the
universe via the service of other living beings. As reflected in Swaraj and Swadeshi, the scope
of this service begins in one’s household to progressively extend outward to one’s neighbors,
community, village or city, region, nation, the world, and the universe. Gandhi’s realization and

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 47, excerpt from From Yeravda
Mandir, 1932, Chapter XIV: Yajna Or Sacrifice.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 48, excerpt from From Yeravda
Mandir, 1932, Chapter XIV: Yajna Or Sacrifice.

continued study of this duty moved him to a great humility, which will be addressed shortly.
And he applied these spiritual lessons to his social and political work. Consider how this
responsibility of service and duty informed his approach to civil disobedience. Consider how
contemporary civil disobedience would differ (perhaps significantly) if civil resisters approached
it from such a place.

        In pursuit of increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of (the science of) Satyagraha,
Gandhi was not content with merely fulfilling the “universal mandate” of duty and service. He
saw great benefit in embracing yajna more fully as this increased the impact of Satyagraha on
Satyagrahis, their opponents, and others. One of the barriers to the full embrace of yajna is
selfishness. Remember, yajna is supposed to be performed without any desire of return for the
act. He explained:

                “Voluntary service of others demands the best of which one is
                capable, and must take precedence over service of self. In fact, the
                pure devotee consecrates himself to the service of humanity
                without any reservation whatever.”6

In living this realization, Gandhi devoted himself completely to the Satyagraha efforts in India.
And if, in his lifetime, these efforts had reached a point of perfection in the form of a just and
beneficent Indian nation, he would have continued his Satyagraha work beyond the borders of
India. He was measured in his efforts to serve humanity, realizing that one of the best
contributions he could make to humanity (and the universe) was to free his nation from British
oppression one community at a time. Such an accomplishment would have made India a living
example of the fruits of service and duty, an example others throughout the world could apply.
Even in not reaching this state of perfection, Gandhi’s work left an abundance of lessons,
guidance, and inspiration for others across the globe seeking justice -- and for generations
beyond his lifetime too. But his contribution to humanity, would have been greatly hindered, if
not impossible, if Gandhi did not mature beyond selfishness to a living state of loving
selflessness. He remains an excellent example of someone who put others before himself and
how much beneficence can spring (and continues to spring) from such an approach to service
and duty.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 50, excerpt from From Yeravda
Mandir, 1932, Chapter XV: More About Yajna.

      Although this may be inconceivable to some, the more we embrace service and duty the
more we realize the need to embrace these more fully and deeply. Gandhi wrote:

                “He who devotes himself to service with a clear conscience will
                day by day grasp the necessity for it in greater measure, and will
                continually grow richer in faith. The path of service can hardly be
                trodden by one, who is not prepared to renounce self-interest, and
                to recognize the conditions of his birth. Consciously or
                unconsciously every one of us does render some service or other.
                If we cultivate the habit of doing this service deliberately, our
                desire for service will steadily grow stronger, and will make not
                only for our own happiness, but that of the world at large.”7

Gandhi pointed out that all humans provide some form of service, so the practice of service is
not beyond our present lives -- unless you live as an extremely reclusive hermit and have no
interaction with other beings. So the call to service and duty is not something beyond the scope
of our lives, but the fulfillment of these with a deliberation that renounces self-interest may be as
a result of our (selfish) choices. It’s a peculiar dynamic that the realization of the full benefits of
duty and service lay in the performance of these with selfless deliberation. The (selfish) barriers
to this realization have remained a challenge to the maturity of humanity for ages upon ages.
But if we move beyond selfishness we can discover great happiness in service and duty -- and
not only for our individual selves, but a happiness that can be shared with other servants and
those who are served. Certainly one way to contribute to the continued progression of this
realization among larger humanity is to be a living example of this realization: to serve with duty
and a deliberation that renounces self-interest. Gandhi and many others did this in relation to
Satyagraha and I doubt not that the merit of such commitment contributed to you reading this
book -- it certainly contributed to me writing it and sharing it freely.

        Another important point in the above quote is Gandhi’s words about performing service
with a selfless deliberation leading to the happiness of one’s self and others. He shared the
following words about him serving others through nursing:

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 48 - 49, excerpt from From Yeravda
Mandir, 1932, Chapter XIV: Yajna Or Sacrifice.

                   “Such service can have no meaning unless one takes pleasure in it.
                   When it is done for show or for fear of public opinion, it stunts the
                   man and crushes his spirit. Service which is rendered without joy
                   helps neither the servant nor the served. But all other pleasures
                   and possessions pale into nothingness before service which is
                   rendered in a spirit of joy.”8

This state of joy he attained from service is an indication of the maturity of his service and duty,
yet it beholds relevant lessons for others. Those engaged in service and duty would be wise to
commit to searching for joy within these. Any extended period of rendering service and duty
that produces no happiness may indicate the presence of selfishness within a servant. But even
for those newly embarking upon duty and service, all efforts done for show, fear, or public
opinion should be abandoned. Such an approach will stunt your growth in the path of service
and duty, if not crush your spirit -- and often the shallowness of such performances will have
negative impacts on those being served. With a change in approach -- even an open-mindedness
to finding a joy in service -- the performance of service and duty can cultivate selflessness in
those who dutifully serve.

        Beyond selfishness, another barrier to finding joy in service and duty may reside in our
attitudes, as informed by our upbringing. Gandhi explained:

                   “A life of sacrifice is the pinnacle of art, and is full of true joy.
                   Yajna is not yajna if one feels it to be burdensome or annoying.
                   Self-indulgence leads to destruction, and renunciation to
                   immorality. Joy has no independent existence. It depends upon
                   our attitude to life. One [human] will enjoy theatrical scenery,
                   another the ever new scenes which unfold themselves in the sky.
                   Joy, therefore, is a matter of individual and national education.
                   We shall delight in things which we have been taught to delight in
                   as children.”9

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 175.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 49 - 50, excerpt from From Yeravda
Mandir, 1932, Chapter XV: More About Yajna.

Thus, we can better understand Gandhi’s point about teaching Indian people about character and
morality in terms of Indian culture (as addressed Chapter 8). The above quote pointed out a
prevalent danger in modern cultures that link joy with material things, power, and selfishness.
For those who have been raised in and / or accepted the tenets of such cultures, this cultural
conditioning may be a barrier that must be addressed to discover joy (and the fullness of joy) in
service and duty. A number of pre-modern cultures share approaches to joy that guide people to
discover its fullness in duty and service; so for some, it’s simply a matter of returning to ancient
or older cultural approaches within your ancestral lineage. For others, there may be a need to
learn from other cultures and incorporate relevant, valuable lessons into your life so you can join
the fold of humans who have discovered great joy in service and duty.

        In addition to what we find in the performance of service and duty, how we approach
service and duty is vital. This brings us to the road of humility (again). Gandhi reflected on
humility in the following quote:

                   “The true connotation of humility is self-effacement. Self-
                   effacement is moksha (salvation), and whilst it cannot, by itself, be
                   an observance, there may be other observances necessary for its
                   attainment. If the acts of an aspirant after moksha or a servant
                   have no humility or selflessness about them, there is no longing for
                   moksha or service. Service without humility is selfishness and
                   egotism.”10 (bold emphasis mine)

There is no need to reiterate what has already been said about selfishness, but Gandhi clearly
acknowledged that without humility one’s service is selfish and egotistic. Thus, humility is
essential to service and duty. In this vein, Gandhi rejected all sense of pride with the
performance of service and duty. He wrote in regards to one accomplishment: “we have no
reason to be puffed up with pride over certificates of merit. In so far as we observed non-
violence we only did our duty.”11 He also made the following remarks highlighting the
importance of humility:

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 396.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 284, excerpt from Young India,
April 2, 1931.

                   “I must reduce myself to zero. So long as a man does not of his
                   own free will put himself last among his fellow creatures, there is
                   no salvation for him. Ahimsa is the farthest limit of humility.”12

                   “Only man in his overweening pride and egotism imagines himself
                   to be the lord and master of the earth, and goes on piling up for
                   himself goods that perish. Nature tries every day by its rude
                   shocks to wean him from his pride but he refuses to shed it.
                   Satyagraha is a specific for bringing home to one the lesson of

It may seem extreme (and possibly scary) for some to hear Gandhi encourage others to “reduce
one’s self to zero” -- to nothingness. But doubt not that this is what he did. This self-
renunciation contributed significantly to him becoming the person he became who rendered
beneficent service to humanity. I cannot overemphasize how important this self-renunciation
(liberation from egotism and selfishness) was to his embrace and advancement of the (spiritual)
science of Satyagraha. Without the deep humility needed to reduce himself to nothing, Gandhi’s
accomplishments would be minuscule compared to the legacy he left -- and perhaps, his efforts
may have resulted in complete failures forgotten and omitted from the memory of history. If
those in contemporary community organizing, peace, and social justice fields seek to affect any
semblance of the beneficent change Gandhi and his compatriots attained, we must begin with
humility and self-renunciation. Anything less will wreak of hypocrisy if pursued in the name of
Satyagraha (non-violence) and is very likely to fail in ways that will be harmful to ourselves and

        In many respects, humility has been a recurring theme throughout much of this book.
But I want to point out something that holds particular relevance to civil resisters. Gandhi

                   “One who would serve will not waste a thought upon his own
                   comforts, which he leaves to be attended to or neglected by his

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 505.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 290, excerpt from Young India,
May 21, 1931.

                Master on high. He will not therefore encumber himself with
                everything that comes his way; he will take only what he strictly
                needs and leave the rest. He will be calm, free from anger and
                unruffled in mind even if he finds himself inconvenienced. His
                service, like virtue, is its own reward, and he will rest content with

The above quote contained much wisdom and guidance but I want to focus on the closing point:
that our service is its own reward and we should be content with this. In the course of providing
service and duty, particularly for those who engage in civil disobedience, large provisions may
come into our reach. And with access to large provisions may come the temptation to sate our
sense of comforts. This is a trap that is easily avoided for those who find great joy in fulfilling
service and duty. But for those who have yet to reach this maturation, I would encourage you to
trust in Gandhi’s words and take only what is needed, trusting (if not knowing) that service and
duty are their own rewards. The simplicity of such an approach is a great building block for
shared beneficence. Imagine how quickly we could reduce, if not completely eliminate, all
poverty if people only took what they needed. As wondrous as this may be on a community,
national, or global scale, the application of this approach within Satyagraha organizations and
activities can make this reduction of need a reality in our work -- that within an organization or
activity a maximum amount (if not everyone) can be served by what is available. Also, being
open to the insight that service and duty are their own rewards may be helpful to those who are
presently unaware of this realization: this insight can serve as an encouragement and reminder
for those maturing to realize this truth in their own service and duty.

        Gandhi felt so strongly about the importance of service and duty that he declared: “all
action that cannot come under the category of yajna promotes bondage.”15 To some this may
seem extreme, but a range of (if not all) selfish acts outside the bounds of service and duty surely
manifest inequality, injustice, destruction, violence, and other forms of evil. So service and duty
are important, if not essential, in establishing just and beneficent societies. And as Gandhi

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 50, excerpt from From Yeravda
Mandir, 1932, Chapter XV: More About Yajna.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 48, excerpt from From Yeravda
Mandir, 1932, Chapter XIV: Yajna Or Sacrifice.

                   “There are various ways of service. Millions need not be civil
                   resisters. The field of constructive work is open to them. Some
                   special rigid discipline is necessary for civil resisters. The
                   privilege of resisting or disobeying a particular law or order
                   accrues only to him who gives willing and unswerving obedience
                   to the laws laid down for him. This may exclude men who may be
                   otherwise far worthier than the common men who observe the
                   Satyagrahi’s code. Those others may perform worthier tasks, but
                   not civil disobedience.”16

For those who meet the measure of engaging in civil disobedience, I will briefly address the
appropriate means for such activities.


        The issue of what means to take to liberate India from the British was a common topic in
Indian public dialogue. Some thought that violence could be used to liberate India that it would
not be bound to ongoing cycles of violence. Reflections on the earlier chapters addressing the
cycles of violence reveals this to be a delusional premise. Others thought that liberation could be
attained by working through the colonial British system to eventually accumulate enough power
to force India’s liberation. This path included cooperating with the exploitation and oppression
of the Indian masses en route to an eventual possible liberation. Even if this approach would
reach its goal, it included participating in evil -- something in direct contrast to the tenets of
Satyagraha. There were also a range of mixed approaches that borrowed partly from these and
other methods. Gandhi rejected these approaches, in part, because he saw the uncompromising
necessity to use just and beneficent means to attain the goal of establishing a just and beneficent
liberated India. And I stress, Gandhi was committed to establishing a just and beneficent as well
as free India, as all three characteristics are part of living Truth. He was opposed to working for
a free India that would be unjust and destructive.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 365, excerpt from Harijan, June 3,

        To illustrate the fallacy of using violent and immoral means to attain the beneficent and
just outcome of Swaraj (Indian home-rule), Gandhi gave the following example:

                 “The English in 1833 obtained greater voting power by violence.
                 Did they by using brute force better appreciate their duty? They
                 wanted the right of voting, which they obtained by using physical
                 force. But real rights are a result of performance of duty; these
                 rights they have not obtained. We, therefore, have before us in
                 England the force of everybody wanting and insisting on his
                 rights, nobody thinking of his duty. And, where everybody
                 wants rights, who shall give them to whom? I do not wish to
                 imply that they do no duties. They don’t perform the duties
                 corresponding to those rights; and as they do not perform that
                 particular duty, namely, acquire fitness, their rights have proved a
                 burden to them. In other words, what they have obtained is an
                 exact result of the means they adopted.”17 (emphasis mine)

The fact that Gandhi placed rights in the context of duty and, thus, service should be no surprise
after reading the previous section. And Swaraj (home-rule) is a right -- even if not in legal terms
certainly in terms of morality and human rights. When emphasis is placed on rights outside the
context of service and duty, much harm and confusion can abound. When such rights are
granted, instead of being earned as an outcome of service and duty, they can quickly be rendered
to meaningless symbols or delusional veils that conceal ongoing problems. To use an example
in America, the right to vote is a veil for the abundance of political corruption and influence of
money in electoral campaigns. The large absence of civic service and duty in the political realm
has left a huge space where affluent special interests can dictate large portions of, if not the
entire, political process. In the presence of these corrupting forces, the citizens are told they
have the (weakened) right to vote out corrupt politicians. In the rare instances when such
politicians are voted out (the re-election rate for incumbents can be over 90%), other corruptible
politicians are usually voted in their places. Thus, the right to vote corrupted politicians out fails
to seriously address corruption in politics. Sought after solutions become terms limits (limiting
the amount of times politicians can serve) or placing limits on campaign contributions. Yet,

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 52, Chapter XVI: Brute Force.

even in places where these measures are enacted and enforced, political corruption continues to
occur. This approach to voting rights notably neglects the responsibilities of citizens to dutifully
serve in the political process. If citizens were regularly involved in the political process, such
consistent engagement would do much to check, if not eliminate, political corruption. Gandhi
realized the means of service and duty would address the targeted problems as well as establish
and sustain beneficial solutions and approaches. For him, the means to attaining Swaraj lay in
the performance of one’s duty and service to others.

       Gandhi realized the connection between means and ends (goals) went further than just
duty and service. He held firmly to the virtue that: “We reap exactly as we sow.”18 Thus, if we
seek just and beneficent ends we must seek these through just and beneficent means:

                 “The means may be likened to a seed, the end to a tree; and there is
                 just the same inviolable connection between the means and the end
                 as there is between the seed and the tree. I am not likely to obtain
                 the result flowing from the worship of God by laying myself
                 prostrate before Satan. If, therefore, anyone were to say: “I want
                 to worship God; it does not matter that I do so by means of Satan,”
                 it would be set down as ignorant folly.”19

Following this approach to means and ends, Gandhi was clearly against using brute force or
immoral means to attain an independent India that would honor ahimsa, morality, and the quest
for Truth. Note his reasons for rejecting the use of brute force to address British oppression:

                 “Let us first take the argument that we are justified in gaining our
                 end by using brute force because the English gained theirs by
                 using similar means. It is perfectly true that they used brute force
                 and that it is possible for us to do likewise, but by using similar
                 means we can get only the same thing that they got. You will
                 admit that we do not want that. Your belief that there is no

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 52, Chapter XVI: Brute Force.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 51 - 52, Chapter XVI: Brute Force.

                 connection between the means and the end is a great mistake.
                 Through that mistake even men who have been considered
                 religious have committed grievous crimes. Your reasoning is the
                 same as saying that we can get a rose through planting a noxious
                 weed. If I want to cross the ocean, I can do so only by means of a
                 vessel; if I were to use a cart for that purpose, both the cart and I
                 would soon find the bottom.”20

Appropriate means must be used to reach the desired goals. And Gandhi surely didn’t want, in
his quest for Swaraj, to create a so-called free India that continued to colonize its own nation in
the guise of liberation. So not only did he commit to use just and beneficent means, he warned
others of the traps of seeking independence through means that would place India in a colonized,
destructive, or oppressed state. This is a lesson lost by many in the contemporary community
organizing, peace, and social justice fields. Too often individuals and organizations who
recognize the harm (evil) of oppressive governments and corporations will seek to use the means
of such entities for beneficial aims. To give an example, many organizers will acknowledge the
great harm the mainstream media causes by broadcasting lies, incomplete and trivial information
to billions of people worldwide. Yet, in seeking to attract attention to a worthy cause, these
same persons will use the same sensationalistic and manipulative practices of the mainstream
media, thinking that any attention garnered in this way will be free from the harms of these
methods. This is a delusional approach. If we want to have people informed about a matter in a
way that goes beyond the media conditioning that reduces serious issues to sound-bytes that
rarely remain relevant longer than a twenty-four hour news cycle, we must find other means than
the contemporary mainstream media approaches.

       The means a persons uses also shapes who that person becomes. Gandhi used the
following example to demonstrate this point:

                 “If I want to deprive you of your watch, I shall certainly have to
                 fight for it; if I want to buy your watch, I shall have to pay you for
                 it; and if I want a gift, I shall have to plead for it; and, according to
                 the means I employ, the watch is stolen property, my own

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 51, Chapter XVI: Brute Force.

                 property, or a donation. Thus we see three different results from
                 three different means.”21

As a consequence of the three different results, Gandhi would become either a thief, an owner, or
a recipient of charity. The relevance of such consequences are important to Satyagraha on so
many levels. To look at the use of suffering, Gandhi would be less effective in using suffering to
affect just change if he was a thief as opposed to a recipient of charity. Also, being a thief would
impinge upon his character and morality, making him less reputable in engaging in public
dialogue. This would also make him less suited to be a teacher in the Satyagraha approach to
education (given the importance of character and morality as educational foundations). If we
seek to be just and beneficent beings on the quest for Truth, our choice of means in pursuit of
goals has a direct impact on who we become. This important lesson has been lost to many in
contemporary times, but it is vital to those on the Satyagraha path.

       Gandhi also acknowledged that different opponents may call for different means. He
explained his point using an example of different thieves breaking into his home:

                 “Now we shall take the example given by you of the thief to be
                 driven out. I do not agree with you that the thief may be driven out
                 by any means. If it is my father who has come to steal I shall use
                 one kind of means. If it is an acquaintance I shall use another; and
                 in the case of a perfect stranger I shall use a third. If it is a white
                 man, you will perhaps say you will use means different from those
                 you will adopt with an Indian thief. If it is a weakling, the means
                 will be different from those to be adopted for dealing with an equal
                 in physical strength; and if the thief is armed from top to toe, I
                 shall simply remain quiet. Thus we have a variety of means
                 between the father and the armed man.”22

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 52, Chapter XVI: Brute Force.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 52, Chapter XVI: Brute Force.

In his example, Gandhi acknowledged differing responses to different thieves. And this
certainly is a valid point for those developing the love needed to engage in civil disobedience. In
the quest to engage opponents, we should definitely have an awareness of who our opponents
are. And, when appropriate, cater our means to the opponents. For many developing their
ability to live and act out love, the range of difference between dealing with a loved one and
opponent may be large. There may be more kindness and willingness to surrender and suffer for
a loved one than for a stranger. But, as we will explore in the next section, with the maturity of
love this range of difference should shrink, if not completely disappear. Gandhi reached a point
in his love maturity where he would treat all the different thieves as his father, whom he loved.
He explained:

                   “When you give more to a robber than he needs, you spring a
                   surprise on him, you give him a shock although agreeable. He has
                   not been used to it. Historical instances are on record to show that
                   such non-violent conduct has produced a wholesome effect upon
                   evil-doers. These acts cannot be done mechanically; they must
                   come out of conviction and love or pity for the other man.”23

There may be initial resistance to this point by some who have not reached the love maturity to
fully understand it. But whether we reach this state or not, civil resisters must have great love
for their opponents to engage in the transformative art of civil disobedience.

                   “I only wish to show that fair means alone can produce fair
                   results, and that, at least in the majority of cases, if not indeed
                   in all, the force of love and pity is infinitely greater than the
                   force of arms. There is harm in the exercise of brute force,
                   never in that of pity.”24

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 375, excerpt from Harijan, July 13,

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 53, Chapter XVI: Brute Force.


                   “Civil disobedience, if it is really civil, must appear so even to
                   the opponent. He must feel that the resistance is not intended
                   to do him any harm.”25

        The above quote identified a key quality to civil disobedience: that Satyagrahis must be
explicitly clear that they mean no one harm. Satyagrahis hold to and stand upon Truth in
opposition to evil (destruction) and injustice, but even this stance is clearly against the evil and
unjust actions, not those who commit such actions. Such a stance must sometimes be held close
to a thin line, because sometimes there is a very thin line between opposing a person’s actions
and opposing that person. To stay clearly on the Satyagraha side of that line, Gandhi required
civil resisters to embody the highest levels of civility in all their actions. He required that they
endure persecution, abuse, insults, and physical violence with the utmost courtesy and a spirit of
joy. In upholding their values and dignity, civil resisters were expected to be willing to risk all
they had, even their lives -- and to do so without the slightest bit of anger or ill will against
others. The inability to meet this standard meant one could not be a civil resister, but such a
person could contribute to Satyagraha efforts in other meaningful ways. Thus, it should be no
surprise that Gandhi required that “Incivility should be answered not by incivility but by a
dignified and calm endurance of all suffering in the name of God {Truth}.”26

      Humility is a key quality to possess to maintain a high level of civility. Gandhi
expounded on how humility is part of the core approach of Satyagraha:

                   “Remember that ours is a non-violent struggle. It pre-supposes
                   humility. It is a truthful struggle and consciousness of truth should
                   give us firmness. We are not out to destroy men. We own no

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 306, excerpt from Harijan, April
27, 1940.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 271, excerpt from Young India,
May 8, 1930.

                   enemy. We have no ill-will against a single soul on earth. We
                   mean to convert by our suffering.”27

Without humility, it will be much more difficult to hold firmly to Truth and refrain from having
ill-will against our opponents, especially if they use violence. Without humility, it will be much
more difficult to embrace the path of suffering as a part of service and duty, and find the
corresponding joy in it. These points may seem crazy for those who have yet to embrace and
deepen their humility, and I know not the words to explain the validity of these points to those
who lack humility. I can direct you to the example of Gandhi and other spiritual leaders whose
lives demonstrated the great potency of deep, pure humility.

       Gandhi cited another reason for humility: the large scope of work to be done to impart
beneficent and just change. He explained:

                   “Non-co-operation is not a movement of brag, bluster or bluff. It
                   is a test of our sincerity. It requires solid and silent self-sacrifice.
                   It challenges our honesty and our capacity for national work. It is
                   a movement that aims at translating ideas into action. And the
                   more we do, the more we find that much more must be done than
                   we had expected. And this thought of our imperfection must make
                   us humble.”28

The above statement reminded of another Gandhi quote: “In trying to cure one old disease, we
give rise to a hundred new ones.”29 The imprint of evil and destruction is often deeper and more
far reaching than people realize, and the efforts to correct one form of injustice may require that
ten forms of injustice be addressed too. The task of beneficent and just change is very daunting,
and a full realization of all such change is often very humbling. Gandhi knew that even to
transform colonized India into a just and beneficent independent nation would require more
work than could be done in a single lifetime. And even when a country reaches that state, more

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 169, excerpt from Young India,
May 27, 1926.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 59, excerpt from Young India,
January 12, 1921.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 322.

work must done to sustain and continue the growth of that nation’s just and beneficent
independence. Thus, even for civil resisters who give their entire lives to Satyagraha work, the
whole of their contribution may only amount to a small part of a larger effort that spans many
lifetimes. (But just because it’s small doesn’t mean it’s insignificant.) The willingness to accept
such a role calls for great humility.

     And, which at this point in the book should be obvious, in keeping in line with humility:
“We may not consider anybody as low.”30 Arrogance has no place in Satyagraha.

       Humility can be deepened and strengthened by purity. Thus, Gandhi constantly
reminded the people of India about the importance of cultivating and enhancing purity in their
Satyagraha work:

                   “Ever since 1921 I have been reiterating two words, self-
                   purification and self-sacrifice. God {Truth} will not assist [one]
                   without these two.”31

Although Gandhi made the above statement in 1930, he continued to reiterate these same two
words until the last days of his life. He further emphasized that: “Non-co-operation being a
movement of purification is bringing to the surface all our weaknesses as also excesses of even
our strong points.”32 In light of what Satyagraha work brings to the individual and collective
surface, Satyagrahis must carry on their work and development with great care. Gandhi noted:

                   “a pure undertaking can become tainted owing to lack of
                   watchfulness on the part of the doer. There can be no room for
                   selfishness, anger, lack of faith, or impatience in a pure fast.”33

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 245, excerpt from Young India,
April 3, 1930.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 252, excerpt from Young India,
April 3, 1930.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 148, excerpt from Young India,
February 16, 1921.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 322, excerpt from Harijan, October
13, 1940.

Although the above referred to fasting, the same call for watchfulness applies to all Satyagraha

        To highlight the importance of purity in civil disobedience and other Satyagraha efforts,
it was not uncommon for Gandhi to begin civil disobedience campaigns with acts of purity. He
wrote on the eve of commencing such a campaign:

                 “And so we must approach non-co-operation [civil disobedience]
                 with confidence and hope. As in the past, the commencement is to
                 be marked by fasting and prayer -- a sign of the religious character
                 of the demonstration.”34

The range of commencement activities can surely extend beyond fasting and prayer, but the
practice of beginning civil disobedience campaigns and activities with acts of purity is wise to

        For the civil resister, courage (or fearlessness) must accompany humility and purity. To
this point, Gandhi made the following statements:

                 “Therefore the pursuit of Truth is true bhakti (devotion). It is the
                 path that leads to God. There is no place in it for cowardice, no
                 place for defeat. It is the talisman by which death itself becomes
                 the portal to life eternal.” 35

                 “Passive resistance [civil disobedience] cannot proceed a step
                 without fearlessness. Those alone can follow the path of passive
                 resistance who are free from fear, whether as to their possessions,

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 123, excerpt from Young India,
July 28, 1920.

         Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 39 - 40, excerpt from From
Yeravda Mandir, 1932, Chapter I: Truth.

                 false honour, their relatives, the government, bodily injuries or

The above quotes demonstrated that civil resisters must have a courage to face all loss, including
death. This is not a call to be suicidal or to become a martyr, but Gandhi clearly realized that
any efforts to affect just and beneficent change in an age of violence could result in suffering
very brutal violence. The courage demanded to face such requires the shedding of several fears,
not just the fear of losing of one’s life. In his study of applied Satyagraha, Gandhi realized the
fearlessness of death is not necessarily the same as the fearlessness of losing one’s property; and
one who has shed the fear of death may not have shed the fear of losing all possessions. Thus,
he was explicit in stating the need to address all the various types of fears we may have: “One of
the lessons that a nation yearning for freedom needs to learn is to shed several fears of losing
title, wealth, position, fear of imprisonment, of bodily injury and lastly death.”37 (emphasis mine)

        But Gandhi was not content with the mere shedding of fears, he felt a bold courage to
face death was necessary given the excessive brutality of the modern era of violence. He shared
these thoughts in relation to the Jalianwala Bagh massacre. In this incident, hundreds of
unarmed Indians were trapped inside a walled public garden and killed by the colonial British
army. Prevented from leaving the garden, the Indians became slaughter for a massacre that
ensued as the British army shot into the crowds until they ran out of bullets and then left the
wounded to die among those killed by the gunfire. When the shooting started, some Indians ran
and tried to escape the barrage of bullets, to which Gandhi made the following remarks:

                 “Soon after the Jalianwala massacre, I used to express and reiterate
                 the hope that next time in no part of India must people run away on
                 bullets being discharged against them, and that they must receive
                 them in their chests with arms folded and with courageous
                 resignation. That testing time seems to be coming faster than I had
                 expected. And if we are to train ourselves to receive the bullet
                 wounds or bayonet charges in our bare chests, we must accustom

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 59, Chapter XVII: Passive Resistance.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 262, excerpt from Young India,
April 24, 1930.

                 ourselves to standing unmoved in the face of cavalry or baton
                 charges. I know that it is easier said than done.”38

Part of the reason Gandhi implored such courage is to ensure the maximum effectiveness of
suffering: the bold courage of one pure Satyagrahi can inspire the bold courage of others. It also
has a greater impact on those who commit the violence to see someone embrace death (or even a
lesser form of violence) without avoiding it, as well as others in the public sphere who may see
or hear about this courage and be moved to support Satyagraha efforts. From a tactical
perspective: if the opponent is willingly to kill a civil resister the opponent may kill the civil
resister in any circumstance -- even under the cloak of night as a civil resister sleeps. Therefore,
the civil resister has nothing to lose by facing such death willingly, without fear or flight. In
fact, as Gandhi learned, the civil resister has more to gain by facing death courageously given the
impact bold courage can have on others. Gandhi warned, this is easier said than done, but those
seeking the maximum effectiveness of applying Satyagraha (of which civil disobedience is a
part) must commit themselves to the task of being able to face death looking in the eyes of those
who would kill them. This is no small task, and Gandhi was understanding of those not able to
commit to such. He also respectfully asked that such persons not engage in civil disobedience
and instead commit to other ways of supporting Satyagraha efforts.

        A sure support to embodying bold courage is discipline. In fact, discipline becomes
essential in the face of provocative responses to civil disobedience:

                 “Victory is impossible until we are able to keep our temper under
                 the gravest provocation. Calmness under fire is a soldier’s
                 indispensable quality. A non-co-operator is nothing if he cannot
                 remain calm and unperturbed under a fierce fire of provocation.

                 “There should be no mistake. There is no civil disobedience
                 possible, until the crowds behave like disciplined soldiers.”39

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 259, excerpt from Young India,
April 17, 1930.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 56, excerpt from Young India,
August 25, 1921.

The need for such discipline is tied to the science of Satyagraha. Gandhi explained this point in
the following:

                 “But I am certain that Swaraj is unattainable this year if some of us
                 have not the courage which enables us to stand firm like a rock
                 without retaliating. The might of the tyrant recoils upon himself
                 when it meets with no response, even as an arm violently waved in
                 the air suffers dislocation.

                 “And just as we need the cool courage described above, we need
                 perfect discipline and training in voluntary obedience to be able to
                 offer civil disobedience.”40 (emphasis mine)

        Gandhi’s call for perfect discipline cannot be overemphasized. As he wrote, “Perfect
discipline and perfect co-operation among the different units are indispensable for success.”41
This is not just a call to display discipline in the face of an opponent’s provocation but also in
cooperating with Satyagrahis and their supporters. Gandhi stated:

                 “But the greatest thing in this campaign of non-co-operation [civil
                 disobedience] is to evolve order, discipline, co-operation among
                 the people and co-ordination among the workers. Effective non-
                 co-operation depends upon complete organization.”42

If Satyagrahis seek the highest effectiveness from their civil disobedience campaigns and social
actions it follows that they should attain such high effectiveness in their organizations and within
themselves. Embodying a high level, if not perfect, discipline is essential to attaining this

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 57, excerpt from Young India,
October 20, 1921.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 250, excerpt from Young India,
April 3, 1930.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 123, excerpt from Young India,
July 28, 1920.

        Attaining the highest levels of effectiveness within organizations and one’s self requires a
key aspect of discipline: that we keep and fulfill the promises we commit to. Gandhi addressed
this requirement in regards to rules Satyagrahis pledged to impose upon themselves in Swaraj
efforts in India:

                 “Rules voluntarily passed by us and rules which carry no sanction
                 save the disapproval of our own conscience must be like debts of
                 honour held far more binding than rules superimposed upon us or
                 rules whose breach we can purge by paying the penalty thereof. It
                 follows that if we have not learnt the discipline of obeying our own
                 rules, in other words carrying out our own promises, we are ill
                 adapted for disobedience that can be at all described as civil.”43

This applies to organizations as well as individuals. Gandhi was stern in warning that
individuals and organizations committed to Satyagraha fulfill and keep their promises. This is
also a warning that such individuals and organizations should be very careful about what
promises they make. Gandhi’s reasoning on these points can be simply explained. Note this
warning he gave to the Indian National Congress in their pursuit of Swaraj:

                 “If the word of a Congressman or a Congress organization cannot
                 be relied upon, we shall ultimately lose the battle. Satyagraha
                 means insistence on truth. Breach of promise is a base surrender
                 of truth.”44

And if we surrender Truth from Satyagraha, which literally means Truth-force or holding on to
Truth, the house of Satyagraha has no foundation to stand upon.

      There are many factors that come into play in cultivating ourselves to become persons
who keep all of our promises, a number which have been addressed throughout the book. But I
do want to highlight one factor that Gandhi emphasized: physical fitness. He wrote:

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 58, excerpt from Young India,
October 20, 1921.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 334, excerpt from Young India,
May 1, 1930.

                 “It is difficult to become a passive [or civil] resister unless the
                 body is trained. As a rule, the mind, residing in a body that has
                 become weakened by pampering, is also weak, and where there is
                 no strength of mind there can be no strength of soul.”45

In the modern era, particularly the last few decades, there has been a general decline in the
quality of people’s physical health. This decline has been masqueraded by extending the
longevity of living in an ill or unhealthy state, but the general population is less healthy than
many of our predecessors. One of the consequences of such unhealthiness is a weakness that
pervades the general population. Consider how many people cannot refrain from having an
alcoholic drink, smoking a cigarette, drinking coffee or soda, eating junk food, and other
unhealthy (physically destructive) acts -- and often this lack of restraint is done knowing the
harms associated with these acts. This is weakness. As Gandhi pointed out, a weak body is
generally indicative of a weak mind that is incapable of beholding the strength of soul needed to
live Satyagraha. It thus becomes an elementary and essential step to strengthen the body to
contribute to the strengthening of the mind that it may then embody the strength of the soul.
Without this, Gandhi would advise against engaging in civil disobedience. And those organizing
civil disobedience campaigns should hold physical health as one requirement, among many,
necessary to engage in civil disobedience.

       Gandhi acknowledged the importance of direct action. In fact, he declared: “Never has
anything been done on this earth without direct action.”46 But for a Satyagrahi, such actions
must be carried forth with a discipline that keeps them on the side of right (justice and
beneficence) and not wrong (injustice or destruction). Gandhi explained:

                 “Non-co-operation, when its limitations are not recognized,
                 becomes a license instead of being a duty and therefore becomes a
                 crime. The dividing line between right and wrong is often so thin

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909,
p. 58, Chapter XVII: Passive Resistance.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 110, excerpt from Young India,
May 12, 1920.

                 as to become indistinguishable. But it is a line that is breakable
                 and unmistakable.”47

Gandhi encouraged Satyagrahis to exercise great discipline to ensure that our actions are on the
side of right. And if the line between right and wrong is indistinguishable, we should choose
actions so much on the side of right that it doesn’t come close to breaking an indistinguishable
line and crossing onto the side of wrong. Thus, humility, uncompromising insistence on
morality and character, ahimsa, love, seeking Truth, and more became means to ensure our acts
are firmly on the side of right and a safe distance from committing wrong. And with discipline
we will remain firmly on this side even if apparently quicker resolutions seek to draw us closer
to the line between right and wrong. To this, Gandhi advised:

                 “It [Satyagraha] is a force that works silently and apparently
                 slowly. In reality, there is no force in the world that is so direct or
                 so swift in working. But sometimes apparent success is more
                 quickly attained by brute force.”48

Note, Gandhi said apparent success is sometimes attained by brute force, not actual success.

        In addition to staying clearly on the side of right, Gandhi held that “Disobedience to be
civil has to be open and non-violent.”49 Openness is relevant to the effort of staying on the side
of right as there is a tendency among some, if not many, to hide their wrongs. If everything is
done in the open it serves to diminish wrongful acts committed discreetly as well as more clearly
distinguish right acts performed openly. Thus, Gandhi held firm in stating that:

                 “In the method we are adopting in India, fraud, lying, deceit and all
                 the ugly brood of violence and untruth have absolutely no room.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 62, excerpt from Young India,
December 29, 1921.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 196, excerpt from Young India,
June 4, 1925.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 172, excerpt from Young India,
August 4, 1921.

                 Everything is done openly and above board, for truth hates
                 secrecy. The more open you are the more truthful you are likely to

The more truthful we are, the more we are able to embody and carry out the tenets of Satyagraha.
A more truthful person will also be more rooted on the side of right and create more distance
between one’s self and the lines that border right and wrong.

       Gandhi’s advocacy of openness was accompanied by his disdain for secrecy. He

                 “No secret organization, however big, could do any good. Secrecy
                 aims at building a wall of protection round you. Ahimsa disdains
                 all such protection. It functions in the open and in the face of
                 odds, the heaviest conceivable. We have to organize for action a
                 vast people that have been crushed under the heel of unspeakable
                 tyranny for centuries. They cannot be organized by any other than
                 open truthful means. I have grown up from youth to 76 years in
                 abhorrence of secrecy. There must be no watering down of the
                 ideal. Unless we cling to the formula in its fulness, we shall not
                 make any headway.”51

As stated earlier in the book, rejection of secrecy (or being open) doesn’t mean that we need to
put our entire life stories out in public domain. But there is usually a clear sense of when we are
withholding something that is better to be shared, and it such withholding that moves into the
realm of secrecy. Within these situations, Gandhi calls for Satyagrahis to be open and forthright.
He would caution us to veer on the side of being too open than even mildly secretive. And the
call for openness applies to all matters, no matter how embarrassing or uncomfortable such may
be, or even if such revelation would given our opponents an apparent advantage. Gandhi and
other mystics realized that Truth is completely open, hiding nothing to those who develop the

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 358, excerpt from Young India,
December 31, 1931.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 379 - 380, excerpt from Harijan,
February 10, 1946.

means to perceive it. It is this quality of Truth that Gandhi used as an example in his call for
openness, a call made as one committed to seeking Truth and trusting the assured victory of
Truth over all that is contrary to it.

        Walking the path of Truth-assured victory, Gandhi never saw a need to compel anyone in
any way. Paying particular attention to the importance of one’s means, he rejected compulsion
and strongly advocated conversion as his approach toward his opponents and others not on the
side of Satyagraha. He made the following statement regarding his approach to confronting the
British in their colonization of India:

                   “I have deliberately used the word conversion. For my ambition is
                   no less than to convert the British people through non-violence,
                   and thus make them see the wrong they have done to India.”52

What Gandhi said regarding the British would apply to anyone he held to be an opponent. For
him, civil disobedience “must never be a matter of coercion but conversion, moral suasion.”53
This shift in moral position from wrong to right (from evil / destruction to beneficence) is key to
establishing a lasting solution that transcends repeating cycles of conflict and violence. In fact,
any so-called “victory” that does not manifest a shift in or departure of those who commit wrong
is a facade: as long as there are people willing and able to commit wrong there is a problem,
even if the appearance of this problem or such persons are suppressed. In the eyes of Truth,
suppression is oppression regardless of what form or for what reasons it is imposed. Gandhi,
partly because of his own personal transformation, held that all humans are capable of
transforming from persons who commit evil to those who only perform good (beneficence).
Such transformation cannot be forced to be genuine, as Gandhi acknowledged: “there should be
no compulsion in religion or in matters of any reform. ... No man can be purified against his
will.”54 He emphasized the importance of this point in discussing Satyagraha efforts in India:

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 227, excerpt from Young India,
March 12, 1930.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 325, excerpt from Young India,
April 10, 1930. Gandhi also acknowledges the power of women in attaining such moral conversion as the next
sentence in the quote is: “Who can make a more effective appeal to the heart than woman?”

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 201, excerpt from Harijan, April
15, 1933.

                 “We may not use compulsion even in the matter of doing a good
                 thing. Any compulsion will ruin the cause. I feel that we are
                 within reach of the goal. But all the marvellous work done during
                 this week of self-purification will be undone if the movement is
                 vitiated by the introduction of compulsion. This is a movement of
                 conversion, not of compulsion, even of the tyrant.”55

Thus, Gandhi used a wide variety of means -- ranging from suffering to educating to be a living
example of a moral citizen -- in his attempts to convert his opponents. Commitment to this goal
is essential for all civil resisters: the realization that those who commit the most evil acts can be
transformed and that we are willing to work toward the moral conversion of such persons.
Gandhi would find those not able to completely commit to this goal unfit to be civil resisters. He
would require such persons to engage in education and preparation processes to cultivate the
maturity to completely commit to this goal before allowing them to participate in civil

       For Gandhi, the rejection of compulsion is also tied to the spirit and reality of democracy
he sought to establish in an independent India. He explained:

                 “We must try patiently to convert our opponents. If we wish to
                 evolve the spirit of democracy out of slavery, we must be
                 scrupulously exact in our dealings with opponents. We may not
                 replace the slavery of the Government by that of the non-co-
                 operationists [civil resisters]. We must concede to our opponents
                 the freedom we claim for ourselves and for which we are

Gandhi held the situation in which the British colonial government imposed control over the
masses of India as slavery. In his strong criticism of this arrangement, he also strongly rejected a
reversal of the situation in which the dissenters of colonialism or the Indian masses imposed

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 331, excerpt from Young India,
April 17, 1930.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 147, excerpt from Young India,
December 8, 1920.

“slavery” on the British and those aligned with them. For Gandhi, democracy was the goal --
even a democracy that allowed those who would commit evil the right to such (immoral)
positions. He also acknowledged a depth of purity among Truth-seekers would be enough to
convert or repel (drive away without force) those who would commit evil. But with the goal
being democracy, the means to attain such could not be compromised the slightest.

        To keep civil resisters a safe distance from compulsion, Gandhi reiterated his common
refrain mandating that no violence should be committed by anyone on the side of Satyagraha --
whether by civil resisters or those supporting them. As discussed earlier in the book, violence is
often used as a means to force others to accommodate one’s will or desires. Thus, in this vein,
violence is a form of compulsion and on this basis alone must be avoided. He wrote:

                 “At the same time that the right of civil disobedience is insisted
                 upon, its use must be guarded by all conceivable restrictions.
                 Every possible provision should be made against an outbreak of
                 violence or general lawlessness. Its area as well as its scope
                 should also be limited to the barest necessity of the case.”57

Here Gandhi included violence with lawlessness and extending the reach of civil disobedience
beyond a reasonable scope as forms of compulsion. As he was critical of his opponents using a
variety of compulsory means to their ends, he refused to be a hypocrite by employing or
allowing use compulsion from the Satyagraha side. But he also understood the use of civil
disobedience may spark incidents of violence. He shared the following words on the eve of
starting a civil disobedience campaign:

                 “That civil disobedience may resolve itself into violent
                 disobedience is, I am sorry to have to confess, not an unlikely
                 event. But I know that it will not be the cause of it. Violence is
                 there already corroding the whole body politic. Civil

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 174, excerpt from Young India,
January 5, 1922.

                 Disobedience will be but a purifying process and may bring to the
                 surface what is burrowing under and into the whole body.”58

Gandhi’s emphasis on purity and the willingness to suffer prior to engaging in civil
disobedience, as well as maintaining these as guiding themes during such engagement, were
proactive measures on his part to prevent and quickly subdue any violence that may erupt from
civil disobedience. These and other means, including his stricter requirements for who could
become civil resisters, exemplified the great care he took in seeking to minimize spontaneous
and unforeseen inclinations toward violence on the part of civil resisters. Also know, that in
certain instances, violence on the part of civil resisters (even violent words like insults) was
cause for Gandhi to terminate immediately certain civil disobedience campaigns and return to
the work of preparing and cultivating participants to mature their understanding of and
commitment to ahimsa.


        The previous section covered some tenets civil resisters should seek and commit to, even
if they do not yet fully embody such traits. For example, a person can act with great humility
without fully being a deeply humble person. There may be a thin line between these states but
the personal reality of someone who acts with humility and a person who is deeply humble is
vastly distinct. In fact, there’s never a need to instruct a humble person to act with humility: and
by being a humble person she or he will embody a depth of humility that can rarely be attained
by acting with humility. Understanding the difference between acting a virtue and embodying (if
not becoming) that virtue informs how the following character traits are presented. By all
means, I encourage readers to embody these traits before accepting the role of a civil resister;
and Gandhi’s reflections on these traits may substantiate this plea. These traits will be presented
in no particular order: all are equally essential for civil resisters although, in our uniqueness,
certain persons may embody some qualities more so than others. And neither should the
following be considered a complete list: there may be other traits necessary for individuals and
groups to embody before embarking on civil disobedience, but I present the following as a group
of key traits.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 222, excerpt from Young India,
January 23, 1930.

        Included among such traits are: seeking Truth, ahimsa, personal and collective (or
organizational) Swaraj (self-rule), faith, and a commitment to beneficent righteousness and
justice. Gandhi, as much of the book has demonstrated, called on Satyagrahis to not only act out
these virtues, but to embody them. That a Satyagrahi should become a living quest for Truth.
That a Satyagrahi should become a living vessel of ahimsa and Swaraj. That one should become
an expression of faith in which no doubt can exist. That one should become beneficent
righteousness and justice to the extent that to encounter such a person is to engage a living
demonstration of beneficence, righteousness, and justice. As these topics were addressed in
depth earlier in the book, I would direct those who require more of an explanation of these to
reread the appropriate chapters.

       As I continue on with the following character traits, I acknowledge some of have been
mentioned earlier in the book. I won’t repeat in depth what has been stated earlier, instead I will
focus on points that have not yet been covered fully. But if more explanation is required, I
would direct the readers to consult the earlier chapters for topics previously mentioned.

       A civil resister should be a person of care. I’ll use the following quote about Gandhi’s
carefulness with words as an example his approach to carefulness:

                  “My hesitancy in speech, which was once an annoyance, is now a
                  pleasure. Its greatest benefit has been that it has taught me the
                  economy of words. ... Experience has taught me that silence is part
                  of the spiritual discipline of a votary of truth. Proneness to
                  exaggerate, to suppress or modify the truth, wittingly or
                  unwittingly, is a natural weakness of man, and silence is necessary
                  in order to surmount it. A man of few words will rarely be
                  thoughtless in his speech; he will measure every word.”59

It’s worth nothing that it is from a place of silence that Gandhi rooted his carefulness regarding
his use of words. I have encountered the lesson of this approach numerous times in my spiritual
studies of spiritual mysticism and have experienced the benefit of embodying this approach. As
much as it can be applied to words, this approach can also be applied to our thoughts and actions
(and entire way of being). I emphasize this in relation to Gandhi’s definition of violence that

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 62.

includes words, deeds, and thoughts. If we cultivate spiritual silence within our beings (a space
of no words, acts, or thoughts), we can exhibit great care in what words, acts, and thoughts we
engage. Ponder an opposite situation in which we are immersed in an abundance of words, acts,
and thoughts: the mere volume of such can make it very difficult to exhibit care in what words,
acts, and thoughts we engage. This dynamic can be made even more challenging when factoring
in that certain words, acts, and thoughts spur on the consequences of other words, acts, and
thoughts. Such a cycle can quickly escalate to a lack of control, which is contrary to the
approach of a person of care. (How many people have you encountered who try to do too much
or just give up and do too little in face of the abundance of “stuff” on their plate?)

         To cultivate himself to this state of silence Gandhi devoted himself to a disciplined
spiritual study and practice. Guided by Hinduism, this involved lots of meditation, yoga (as a
spiritual practice, not just an exercise program), dietary restraint and fasting, study of the
Bhagavad Gita and other sacred Hindu writings, spiritual vows (such as brahmacharya and non-
possession), and performing service to others. The specifics of cultivating such silence may
differ among different individuals and religious / spiritual traditions, but a process of such
cultivation is almost always necessary -- particularly in a modern age that conditions people into
a world of a variety of “noises.” People entrapped in a state of “noise” will often be very limited
in their ability to embody care, despite their good intentions. And often, such persons will only
be able to act with care, which differs greatly from becoming a person of care whose carefulness
is embodied in everything she or he does. But in a state of spiritual silence, we can become
persons of care with ease -- although people sometimes make the process of becoming such a
person difficult (by holding on to attachments). Yet it can be very simple: do not put the cart
before the horse, cultivate silence and then enjoy the beneficence of being a person of care.

        In alignment with the point that a civil resister should be a person of care, Gandhi held
that civil resisters should not be wasteful. To use another example regarding words, he wrote:

                 “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

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 195, excerpt from Young India,
March 19, 1925.

Gandhi’s warning against wasting time with idle conversation can be applied to all forms of
wasting time. As he stated, “A Satyagrahi should be able to give a good account of every minute
at his disposal.”61 Now this doesn’t mean that we need be committed to Satyagraha work one
hundred percent of our waking hours. Instead, his statement points to a level of commitment as
well as a shift in those who are absorbed in Satyagraha work. I will deal with the issue of
commitment in the next paragraph. But as to a shift in those who immerse themselves in
Satyagraha work, remember that Satyagraha seeks to affect a change in ourselves and others.
One such change is what we find pleasure in. Often, particularly in the modern age, we are
conditioned to find little joy in genuine self-development work (as part of seeking Truth) and
serving others -- these are most often viewed as burdens. In fact, most things that modern
societies identify as pleasures are contrary to Truth, being rooted in illusion and are often
fleeting. Thus, the pursuit of such illusionary and fleeting pleasures often drives people to spend
increasing amounts of time seeking joys that fade anyway. This includes idle conversation
among a range of other activities. A serious examination of this path will show that immense
amounts of time, money, resources, and other entities are wasted in pursuit of pleasures that
don’t last, and often quickly fade. Realizing the danger of being trapped in this senseless cycle,
Gandhi admonished Satyagrahis not to be wasteful. Instead, he encouraged them to devote
themselves more fully to Satyagraha work -- whether that be constructive service, Satyagraha
education and preparation, spiritual and moral development, etc. To the extent that we immerse
ourselves in Satyagraha work, the work can transforms us to no longer find illusionary and
fleeing things pleasurable. Instead, the quest for Truth and activities that further or are aligned
with this quest become joyful -- as well as enlightening, strengthening, liberating, empowering,
and other beneficial outcomes. Within this beneficial cycle, we can discover joys that are lasting
and supportive of discovering more and deeper joys on the path of Truth.

       The call for civil resisters to be committed is directly tied to the last point of not being
wasteful. Gandhi described the level of commitment he saw necessary for civil resisters:

                 “In the coming struggle, if it must come, no half-hearted loyalty
                 will answer the purpose. Imagine a general marching to battle

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 198 - 199, excerpt from Young
India, September 24, 1925.

                   with doubting, ill-prepared soldiers. He will surely march to

To avoid sure defeat civil resisters must walk with faith and be prepared (among other things) to
stand upon a foundation of full commitment. Within full commitment, we will perform a
reasonable maximum of what is called for, not a deemed minimum. In keeping with being
persons of care, we will not fall for the trap of performing too much: such often results in
carelessness, unintended outcomes, as well as burn out. But a reasonable maximum identifies
what we can beneficently perform with care without harming ourselves, our acts, or others who
receive or affected by such acts. And, in line with his approach to violence, Gandhi applied the
same standard to his thoughts and words. Thus, idle conversation and other wasteful acts are
removed from possible activities for those who embody full commitment. As an opportunity to
perform any act presents itself, such persons would naturally move to performing Satyagraha
work. Within the scope of this approach, there is certainly ample time for rest and relaxation as
Gandhi realized these as necessary to sustain full commitment. But even his rest and relaxation
activities were in alignment with Satyagraha: for example, mediating or reading Hindu scriptures
were acts of rest and relaxation for Gandhi. Yet surely, rest and relaxation activities for
Satyagrahis would not include activities that contradict the Satyagraha path: it is inconceivable
that Gandhi would go to a bar for a drink to relax or even spend a week of vacation at a beach
resort that caters to fleeting pleasures as a way to rest. Satyagrahis would do well to heed
Gandhi’s example in relation to rest and relaxation. He even discovered the more deeply he
embraced Satyagraha work, the more it empowered him -- lessening his need for rest and
relaxation. But the appropriate amount of rest and relaxation will vary by person and the state of
their embrace of Satyagraha.

      Gandhi also acknowledged the dangers of disingenuous commitment. As he stated,
“Mere mechanical adherence to truth and ahimsa is likely to break down at the critical

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 302, excerpt from Harijan, March
30, 1940.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 352, excerpt from Harijan, July 20,

         A civil resister who is fully committed will perform whatever Satyagraha work needs to
be done, regardless of if it is boring or exciting. Gandhi noticed a lacking of this quality among
the Indian masses when he wrote: “I have noticed this characteristic difference in the popular
attitude -- partiality for exciting work, dislike for quiet constructive effort.”64 Often this attitude
is tied to people’s want for attention, fame, fleeting pleasures, and ego-based attachments. He
sought to counter this attitude among the masses and highlighted the need to be willing to
perform mundane tasks without reservation or dislike. He made this point in commenting on
work to be done on an ashram:

                   “Those who remain in the Ashram are taking as much part in the
                   struggle as those who go and offer Satyagraha at the barricades.
                   Every piece of work in connection with the struggle is just as
                   important as any other piece, and, therefore, the work of sanitation
                   in the Ashram is just as important as spinning away at the
                   barricades. And if in this place the work of cleaning the closets
                   and compound is more distasteful than spinning it should be
                   considered far more important and profitable.”65

Gandhi wanted people to eliminate their distaste for “boring” tasks, and with good reason. Often
the more “exciting” or noted work relies on the completion of many mundane and boring tasks.
For example, mass protests often require the performance of numerous mundane preparatory
tasks in order to be carried out in an effective manner. And with Gandhi’s emphasis on
effectiveness to yield the greatest impact from Satyagraha efforts, he realized the equal
importance of well-performed “boring” and “exciting” tasks.

       Civil resisters should embody the virtue that quality is more important than quantity. As
Gandhi wrote: “In Satyagraha, it is never the numbers that count; it is always the quality, more
so when the forces of violence are uppermost.”66 This virtue does not apply just to the number of
persons involved, it applies to the entire scope of Satyagraha. That it should never be a measure

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 463.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 195, excerpt from Young India,
March 19, 1925.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 87, excerpt from Harijan, March
25, 1939.

of how many acts of service one performs, but rather that each single act is performed with the
fullness of pure service. That it should never be a comparison of how many years one has
committed to Satyagraha, but instead that a Satyagrahi embraces each day with a full
embodiment of Satyagraha and makes the most of each opportunity to grow and mature on the
quest for Truth. By embodying the depth of quality of the Satyagraha way, all valid measures of
quantity will be achieved in reasonable time. Neither is making quality a priority over quantity a
call to dismiss all quantitative measures. But pursuit of quantity as a priority often fails to attain
the cultivation of quality: just as the accumulation of massive wealth doesn’t educate one on how
to use it in genuinely beneficial ways.

         Living the virtue of quality being more important than quantity informs civil resisters of
the necessity for patience. As Gandhi wrote: “A chronic and long-standing social evil cannot be
swept away at a stroke; it always requires patience and perseverance.”67 He also spoke of the
need for having “heroic patience in the midst of great provocation.”68 This is definitely
necessary for any efforts to affect beneficent and just change in an age of brutal violence. It is a
call to have patience for the process of manifesting such change, and this patience should be
balanced with other qualities (such as full commitment, not being wasteful, etc.) so a consistent
effort is exerted to achieve such change as quickly as possible. I’m reminded of a saying a
teacher often advised: “Take your time but hurry up.” Satyagrahis should definitely take the
time to perform Satyagraha work with care so that it is done correctly and efficiently. And
within such a careful and efficient approach, we should have that work completed as quickly as
possible so as not to be wasteful of time and other opportunities and resources. So we should not
rush, but neither should we slack in our efforts.

       Gandhi also realized the need to have patience for people: not only opponents who he
sought to convert but also Satyagrahis and the larger masses not directly involved in Satyagraha
work. The need for great patience will be exemplified in situations in which people have been
conditioned to accept oppression and helplessness. Gandhi commented on his experiences in
encouraging Indians to improve their own communal sanitary practices:

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 344, excerpt from Young India,
March 1, 1928.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 212, excerpt from Young India,
May 31, 1928.

                  “But I had some bitter experiences. I saw that I could not so easily
                  count on the help of the community in getting it to do its own duty,
                  as I could in claiming for it rights. At some places I met with
                  insults, at others with polite indifference. It was too much for
                  people to bestir themselves to keep their surroundings clean. To
                  expect them to find money for the work was out of the question.
                  These experiences taught me, better than ever before, that without
                  infinite patience it was impossible to get the people to do any
                  work. It is the reformer who is anxious for the reform, and not
                  society, from which he should expect nothing better than
                  opposition, abhorrence and even mortal persecution.”69

Yet Gandhi patiently endured the resistance of the Indian masses until “the Indian community
learnt to recognize more or less the necessity for keeping their houses and environments clean.”70
He was able, through consistent patient effort, to help the Indian masses realize how cleanliness
was connected to purification, an essential component of Satyagraha. With other efforts,
especially acts that risk violent responses by opponents, a different kind of patience may be
required. Civil resisters may have to embark upon actions without community support and
patiently endure any suffering and sacrifice such entails until it impacts the larger community to
provide support. At times this may seem unfair, that a small group must wager and suffer so
much to attain a benefit made available to a larger group of recipients. But Gandhi would hold
the progression toward and attainment of beneficent and just change as more important than
calculating who did or did not suffer to attain such change. He would also warn that those who
are not willing to work and suffer for others’ benefit should not become civil resisters.

        And, thus, we have another trait: civil resisters should be willing to suffer and sacrifice.
As stated earlier in Chapter 6, needless suffering and sacrifice should be avoided. But where
such is necessary -- usually as a karmic debt to an ongoing cycle of violence -- civil resisters
should embrace such suffering and sacrifice with joy. For as Gandhi stated, “True suffering does

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 217 - 218.
            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 218.

not know itself and never calculates. It brings its own joy which surpasses all other joys.”71 He
went on to explain the law of suffering in regards to civil disobedience:

                 “What then is the meaning of non-co-operation [civil
                 disobedience] in terms of the law of suffering? We must
                 voluntarily put up with the losses and inconveniences that arise
                 from having to withdraw our support from a Government that is
                 ruling against our will. Possession of power and riches is a crime
                 under an unjust Government, poverty in that case is a virtue, says

                 We must refuse to wait for the wrong to be righted till the wrong-
                 doer has been roused to a sense of his iniquity. We must not, for
                 fear of ourselves or others having to suffer, remain participators in
                 it. But we must combat the wrong by ceasing to assist the wrong-
                 doer directly or indirectly.”72

Although Gandhi specified an “unjust Government” in the above quote, the same would apply to
any individual, group, or institution that commits wrong (evil). To embrace the willingness to
suffer and sacrifice within this context of combating wrong is essential for any civil resister.

       But Gandhi did acknowledge that for some there may be a limit to how much suffering
and sacrifice we can endure. If we reach such a limit, he offered the following advice:

                 “Imprisonments, forfeitures, deportations, death must all be taken
                 in the ordinary course by those who count honour before
                 everything else. When the terror becomes unbearable, let the
                 people leave the land they have hitherto believed to be theirs. It is
                 wisdom to vacate houses or places that are plague-infected.
                 Tyranny is a kind of plague and when it is likely to make us angry

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 280, excerpt from Young India,
March 19, 1931.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 114 - 115, excerpt from Young
India, June 16, 1920.

                 or weak it is wisdom to leave the scene of such temptation.
                 History is full of instances of brave people having sought exile in
                 preference to surrender to zoolum.”73
                 [**NOTE: Zoolum means oppression.]

Our willingness to suffer and sacrifice should never result in us being angered or made weak by
such suffering and sacrifice. And weakness differs from being in a weakened state, such as
being physically injured. For Gandhi, weaknesses is an abandonment of the strength-force that
emanates from one’s soul and spiritual maturity. And if suffering to end oppression makes us
weak or angry, it is more wise and honorable to leave and no longer endure the oppression. The
same advice may apply to anyone who is unable to bear suffering and sacrifice with joy. The
departure of an individual -- or even an entire group -- not able to bear suffering and sacrifice
with joy protects the purity of Satyagraha efforts, and purity is essential to maximizing the
impact of Satyagraha work. A regression of purity should be avoided at all costs, especially
since abandoned or suspended efforts can always be returned to by those who leave to further
strengthen themselves. Or these efforts can be resumed by others who come with the strength
needed to bear the consequences of such work.

       To be able to bear great suffering and sacrifice, a civil resister needs to be a loving
person. Some aspects of love were addressed in Chapter 3, but Gandhi reaffirmed the
importance of love in civil disobedience when he said: “Civil disobedience is sometimes a
peremptory demand of love.”74 There is great power in love, as Gandhi declared:

                 “Love and ahimsa are matchless in their effect. But in their play
                 there is no fuss, show, noise or placards. They presuppose self-
                 confidence which in its turn presupposes self-purification.”75

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 212, excerpt from Young India,
May 31, 1928.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 221, excerpt from Young India,
February 20, 1930.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 345, excerpt from Young India,
September 6, 1928.

In addition to referring to purity (again), the above quote inferred a connection between love and
spiritual silence.

        Being a loving person, a civil resister will also be a forgiving person. Gandhi explained
the uselessness of assigning blame or judgement on others, even those who wronged him:

                  “It is idle to adjudicate upon the right and wrong of incidents that
                  have already happened. It is useful to understand them and, if
                  possible, to learn a lesson from them for the future. It is difficult
                  to say for certain how a particular man would act in a particular set
                  of circumstances. We can also see that judging a man from his
                  outward act is no more than a doubtful inference, inasmuch as it is
                  not based on sufficient data.”76

We can understand forgiveness to be acceptance of past and present wrongs without any wish,
desire, or inclination to punish or seek retribution upon those who committed the wrongs. Now,
this doesn’t mean a blind forgiveness that leaves a forgiver open to experiencing the same
wrongs over and over again. Gandhi would not be against Satyagrahis taking reasonable steps to
avoid being wronged as they engage in efforts to convert wrong-doers. For example, Gandhi
would not see it as contrary to forgiveness for people to lock their doors to prevent a thief from
robbing them again. In considering such actions, he would caution against fear and any
resistance to the willingness to suffer and sacrifice for beneficent and just change. Yet, at the
same time, in certain similar situations Gandhi would respond to past robberies by leaving his
door open and placing all his possessions by the door for the thief to take, if she or he chose to
do so. Not all have achieved this state of spiritual maturity (or non-possession), but it is
interesting to note that Gandhi’s approach also achieves the goal of avoiding future wrongs by
giving all he has. When he has surrendered all he has that can be robbed, he can no longer be
robbed. To this point, Gandhi stated:

                  “Your non-co-operation with your opponent is violent when you
                  give a blow for a blow, and is ineffective in the long run. Your
                  non-co-operation is non-violent when you give your opponent all

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 193.

                   in the place of just what he needs. You have disarmed him once
                   for all by your apparent co-operation, which in effect is complete

Factors such as purity, demonstration of care and service to others, depth of morality, freedom
from ego attachments, and others are relevant (if not necessary) personal traits to embody to
make Gandhi’s approach impactful upon the thief. But whether civil resisters who have attained
this level of spiritual maturity or not, they can still forgive those who wrong them.

        When we are wronged and seek a state of justice, Gandhi advocated giving justice to
those who committed the wrong. He wrote: “My experience has shown me that we win justice
quickest by rendering justice to the other party.”78 By giving justice to others we increase the
presence of justice and beneficence in the world, even if the other party does not reciprocate by
also giving justice. But, as stated earlier in the book, the manifestation of justice brings us all
closer to Truth and a corresponding lasting reality of justice. The impact of this giving of justice
is made stronger by purity and faith. In this vein, Gandhi advised:

                   “We may not look forward to any reward for our labours, but it is
                   my firm conviction that all good action is bound to bear fruit in the
                   end. Let us forget the past and think of the task before us.”79

     Gandhi also found forgiveness to be an empowering and strengthening force. Note his
comments to the Indian masses regarding the statistical minority of British colonialists in India:

                   “We in India may in a moment realize that one hundred thousand
                   Englishmen need not frighten three hundred million human beings.
                   A definite forgiveness would therefore mean a definite recognition
                   of our strength. With enlightened forgiveness must come a mighty
                   wave of strength in us... But I must not refrain from saying that

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 375, excerpt from Harijan, July 13,
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 182.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 260.

                   India can gain more by waiving the right of punishment. We have
                   better work to do, a better mission to deliver to the world.”80

Even as the Indian masses gained power, via Satyagraha work, over the smaller number of
English in the country, Gandhi refused to allow the great outnumbering of Indians over English
to be a means to dismiss the benefits of forgiveness. He warned that the people’s goals “should
never be attainment of power for power’s sake.”81 He also used the experience of one hundred
thousand British oppressing the Indian masses as an omen for what could happen if the Indian
masses lacked the ability to forgive. Being imperfect (as most humans are), the Indian masses
would most likely commit wrongs among themselves in their quest for Swaraj. Any inability to
forgive each other for those wrongs would certainly bring ruin to India, as people sought
retribution and punishment from each other. He warned:

                   “It is enough that one hundred thousand men prey upon three
                   hundred million. But how will it be when we begin to prey upon
                   one another? In that event dogs will lick our corpses.”82

        In light of the need for forgiveness, Gandhi encouraged civil resisters to realize the need
for unity. Certainly, a beneficent sense of unity would enhance the quality of forgiveness among
civil resisters, as well as other traits. But to the importance of unity, Gandhi made the following
comment regarding the necessity of Hindu and Muslim unity in India:

                   “We all now realize, as we have never before realized, that without
                   that unity [Hindu and Muslim] we cannot attain our freedom...
                   Divided, we must ever remain slaves. This unity, therefore, cannot
                   be a mere policy to be discarded when it does not suit us.”83

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 133, excerpt from Young India,
August 11, 1920.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 373, excerpt from Harijan, May
25, 1940.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 244, excerpt from Young India,
April 3, 1930.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 128, excerpt from Young India,
March 16, 1922.

Although this remark was made specific to Hindu and Muslim unity, the principle applies to all
differing and distinct groups in Satyagraha campaigns -- if not all groups in a nation’s society.
The commitment to unity must be able to withstand the temptations of spoils offered to create
division among differing groups. The divide and conquer strategy has a long history and
remains one of the more common tactics used by oppressive and evil forces. But a genuine
approach to unity will not only be immune to such tactics, it will strengthen and expand the
shared interactions and interests of all parties involved to deepen the reality of their shared

        And lastly, civil resisters should be keenly observant and aware of what is happening
around them. This includes what’s happening to the people in all veins of life: politically,
socially, economically, spiritually, etc. Gandhi warned: “To blind one’s eyes to the events
happening around us is to court disaster.”84 Thus, we are challenged to be keenly observant and
aware of what is happening within ourselves -- especially since, for most of us, our self becomes
the lense by which we perceive the world.

         Clearly, there are other traits civil resisters should embody in order to offer very
impacting civil disobedience. (And in considering all that is involved in civil disobedience we
will realize great value in presenting civil disobedience that is as powerful as it can be.) But I
trust what has been covered will serve as a strong foundation to continue the process of personal
growth and maturation along the Satyagraha path. Gandhi would not advocate people embarking
upon civil disobedience until they understand the importance of service, duty, and civility as well
as live the temperament and character traits discussed. To attempt civil disobedience
prematurely often results in presenting a weak form of protest that may be labeled “civil
disobedience,” but usually has little lasting effect and is often wrought with violence. The
weakness of such actions is a clear sign that is not civil disobedience, a part of the strength-based
approach of Satyagraha.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 299, excerpt from Harijan, July 8,

                      “Moreover, social boycott to be admissible in a campaign of
                      non-violence must never savour of inhumanity. It must be

                      “I have said before in these pages that I claim no followers. It is
                      enough for me to be my own follower. It is by itself a
                      sufficiently taxing performance. But I know that many claim to
                      be my followers. I must therefore answer the questions for their
                      sakes. If they will follow what I endeavour to stand for rather
                      than me they will see that the following answers are derived
                      from truth and ahimsa.”86

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 148, excerpt from Young India,
February 16, 1921.

                Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 84, excerpt from Young India, May
7, 1931.

                                                CHAPTER TEN
                In Search of a Comprehensive Definition
                          of Civil Disobedience
                   “All Civil Disobedience is a part or branch of Satyagraha, but all
                   Satyagraha is not Civil Disobedience.”1

                   “By its very nature, non-co-operation is even open to children
                   of understanding and can be safely practised by the masses.
                   Civil Disobedience presupposes the habit of willing obedience
                   to laws without fear of their sanctions. It can, therefore, be
                   practised only as a last resort and by a select few in the first
                   instance at any rate. Non-co-operation, too, like Civil
                   Disobedience is a branch of Satyagraha which includes all non-
                   violent resistance for the vindication of Truth.”2

         The above statements addressed two common misconceptions about Satyagraha. The
first dispelled the myth that Satyagraha (or non-violence) is civil disobedience or that the full
scope of Satyagraha fits within civil disobedience. As the previous chapters presented, there is
much more to Satyagraha that extends beyond the scope of civil disobedience. Satyagraha is a
way of life and for those who mature and grow within this life approach they will develop to
become persons capable of offering genuine and pure civil disobedience. And I say offer civil
disobedience, because Gandhi approached it as a sacred gift to be engaged for the benefit of
one’s self and others, even if it meant that the those offering it bore hardships. He certainly
didn’t view civil disobedience as something to be unleashed or afflicted upon his opponents like

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 69, excerpt from Young India, July
14, 1927.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 4, excerpt from Young India, March
23, 1921.

a tactic in a game intended to gain victory at the expense of others’ defeat. Another common
misconception about Satyagraha is that it allows civil resisters to use civil disobedience outside
the context of being a last resort. Many in the community organizing, peace, and social justice
fields are quick to utilize civil disobedience or its tactics in efforts to respond to evil and
injustice. Gandhi would regard such use premature and strongly advise against it: he strictly
reserved all forms of civil disobedience as a last resort to be embarked upon only after all other
reasonable means have been attempted in sincere and appropriate manners. In fact, at times he
cautioned on the side of extended attempts to use means other than civil disobedience before
considering this as an option. Thus, he overextended himself at cooperation, negotiation,
patience, preparation and education (of Satyagrahis and others) before engaging in civil
disobedience. But once he engaged the last resort of civil disobedience, he did so with a
complete effort and without reservation -- unless participants violated the tenets of civil
disobedience at which he considered the termination of such campaigns.

        The two above misconceptions are reflective of a larger confusion regarding
contemporary concepts of what civil disobedience is. Definitions and understandings of it
abound, and the range of what is considered civil disobedience has expanded over the years -- to
even include forms of disobedience that lack civility. This has created a lot of confusion about
the traditional tenets of civil disobedience, a confusion exasperated by the modern tendency to
apply recognizable labels to a broad range of actions -- even if the labels are wrongly applied.
But Gandhi was very specific in his definition of civil disobedience and how this definition
informed how Satyagrahis put it in practice. Therefore, before proceeding to an exploration of
the practice and application of civil disobedience, it makes sense to explore Gandhi’s definition
and conceptual framework for civil disobedience.


        Gandhi offered the following as a basic definition of civil disobedience:

               “Civil Disobedience is civil breach of unmoral statutory
               enactments. The expression was, so far as I am aware, coined by

                  [Henry David] Thoreau to signify his own resistance to the laws of
                  a slave State. He has left a masterly treatise on the duty of Civil

In the context of contemporary uses of the term civil disobedience, I would supplement the
above definition with Gandhi’s explanation of non-cooperation:

                  “Non-co-operation predominantly implies withdrawing of co-
                  operation from the State that in the non-co-operator’s view has
                  become corrupt and excludes Civil Disobedience of the fierce type
                  described above.”4

In many respects, non-cooperation and civil disobedience go hand and hand, but there may be
some aspects of non-cooperation that, within the spirit of Satyagraha, fall short of breaking
unmoral laws. For example, a community that has suffered the neglect of a government to
provide adequate public education may choose to organize their own self-run schools; and by
operating their own schools, the people withdraw from cooperating with the state in participating
in badly run public schools. This form of non-cooperation falls short of breaking unmoral laws
although it is a proactive form of communal resistance to the government’s neglect. Now in
most cases, such neglect happens in the context of a larger oppression, so in some instances the
non-cooperation of setting up community schools will occur in a larger effort to address a
government’s injustice and oppression. And a tyrannical government may even pass laws
designed to outlaw or weaken the community schools, such as mandating compulsory attendance
to the government schools at the very hours the community schools operate. Such action will
naturally move the people’s non-cooperation to a level of civil disobedience (breaking the law by
not attending government schools) to sustain their participation in their own community schools.
This type of government response was common by the British colonial government in India,
making Gandhi’s (and other Indians’) practice of non-cooperation and civil disobedience almost
inseparable. So in this chapter, I will deal with non-cooperation as a part of civil disobedience;
in many instances, Gandhi used these terms and others (such as passive resistance, non-violence,

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 3, excerpt from Young India, March
23, 1921.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 4, excerpt from Young India, March
23, 1921.

etc.) to refer to the same efforts of withdrawing cooperation from unjust states and breaking
unmoral laws.

        Also, Gandhi most often referred to the government or the state as the opponent of civil
disobedience. But what is said in regards to an unjust government can be applied to other unjust
entities: whether it’s an unjust family member or neighbor in a case of personal civil
disobedience, or an unjust business or corporation that a group offers civil disobedience against.
But for the sake of simplicity, I will most often refer to the government instead of listing all
these various entities throughout this and the following chapters.

        Some may be surprised that civil disobedience did not originate with Gandhi. His
embrace of the term laid in his study of Henry David Thoreau, an American writer and
philosopher. The treatise Gandhi referred to in the basic definition of civil disobedience is
(mostly likely) Thoreau’s 1849 essay titled: On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, originally titled
Resistance to Civil Government. There are a number of key points in this essay that resonate
with Gandhi’s approach to Satyagraha. To list a few, Thoreau stated that governments can be
corrupted: “The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to
execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through
it.”5 Yet, in spite of this potential fallacy of government, Thoreau did not advocate anarchy or
the elimination of a system of governance:

                 “But, to speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call
                 themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no
                 government, but at once a better government. Let every man make
                 known what kind of government would command his respect, and
                 that will be one step toward obtaining it.”6

        Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, essay originally titled Resistance to
Government, 1849.

        Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, essay originally titled Resistance to
Government, 1849.

Thoreau acknowledged that “All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse
allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and
unendurable.”7 In this vein, he challenged:

                 “Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign
                 his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience
                 then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It
                 is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for
                 the right [or what is right]. The only obligation which I have a
                 right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.”8

He went to explain his refusal to pay taxes to an evil state: “I simply wish to refuse allegiance to
the State, to withdraw and stand aloof from it effectually.”9 He also pointed out: “A wise man
will not leave the right [or what is right] to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through
the power of the majority. There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men.”10 And as a
concluding pont, Thoreau stated:

                 “There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the
                 State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and
                 independent power, from which all its own power and authority are
                 derived, and treats him accordingly.”11

        As much as Gandhi agreed with most of the above statements, there were clearly points
of difference (even if in just emphasis) between himself and Thoreau. Gandhi stated:

        Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, essay originally titled Resistance to
Government, 1849.

        Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, essay originally titled Resistance to
Government, 1849.

        Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, essay originally titled Resistance to
Government, 1849.

         Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, essay originally titled Resistance to
Government, 1849.

         Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, essay originally titled Resistance to
Government, 1849.

                 “But Thoreau was not perhaps an out and out champion of non-
                 violence [or ahimsa].”12

This is a key point: Gandhi’s embrace of the Satyagraha way of life guided his embrace of civil
disobedience in a way that created significant differences between himself and Thoreau -- but
don’t think that these differences are incompatible or directly opposed to each other, or that one
is better than the other. Gandhi worked with others with whom he had points of difference, and
he acknowledged their right to their positions as he insisted on his right to his positions. And if
anything was to serve as a measure of which points were better, it should be the application of
one’s ideas on the stage of life and the benefits such application manifested. But in drawing a
line between Thoreau and Gandhi, we would be mistaken to think that Gandhi’s practice of civil
disobedience was identical or bound to Thoreau’s, his predecessor. Thoreau, at least in his essay
on civil disobedience, is not as explicit as Gandhi is in seeking Truth and having it be an
essential requirement before engaging in civil disobedience. Thoreau’s insistence on
withdrawing allegiance from an evil state falls short of Gandhi’s scope of combining non-
cooperation with sincere efforts to convert his opponents. Gandhi holds to this point, in part,
because of his realization that all are capable of living Satyagraha and embarking on the quest of
Truth. Gandhi also went beyond the scope of Thoreau’s essay with his efforts to:
                 * embrace the willingness to suffer and sacrifice for one’s cause and do so
                 efficiently and with joy;
                 * educate the masses about the reasons of Satyagraha campaigns and the benefits
                 of the just change sought;
                 *insist on a Swaraj (self-rule or home-rule) based on a people’s traditional,
                 spiritually-centered culture and values, and use these to create a just and
                 beneficent community and nation;
                 *devise community-based economic means and symbols that supported Swaraj
                 and Satyagraha efforts;
                 * and more.
The extended scope of Gandhi’s approach to civil disobedience in no way diminishes the
important contribution of Thoreau’s approach. One of the main reasons I point out the
differences is so that those who are familiar with Thoreau’s approach to civil disobedience (or
other streams that emanate from Thoreau) not make the mistake that such an approach is

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 3, excerpt from Young India,
March 23, 1921.

identical to Gandhi’s, or vice versa. Much can be learned from both men’s approaches from
different points and situations in the human kaleidoscope of history. But as this book focuses on
Satyagraha, let’s further examine Gandhi’s approach.


        Gandhi described civil disobedience as “the active expression of non-violence.”13 He
gave countless explanations of civil disobedience throughout his life, but I will focus on one that
framed civil disobedience in the context of three key lessons. He delved into the first lesson by
stating civil resisters:

                 “generally appreciate the laws of the State and obey them
                 voluntarily without the fear of punishment. Reasoned and willing
                 obedience to the laws of the State is the first lesson in non-co-
                 operation.”14 (emphasis mine)

As stated earlier in the book, obedience to just laws teaches citizens how their cooperation
empowers laws -- no human law is obeyed simply because it is written. It also follows that
cooperating with an unjust law empowers that law and its corresponding injustice. Also stated
previously in the book, Gandhi held cooperation with a just government to be a duty for all
Satyagrahis. Without demonstrating obedience to just laws, he would strongly advise against
offering disobedience of unjust laws. In fact, the moral argument of disobedience to a law
because it’s unjust is rendered weak and hypocritical if we also disobey just laws.

        Gandhi went on to explain the second lesson:

                 “The second [lesson] is that of tolerance. We must tolerate many
                 laws of the State, even when they are inconvenient. A son may not
                 approve of some orders of the father and yet he obeys them. It is

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 67, excerpt from Young India,
October 20, 1921.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 67, excerpt from Young India,
January 8, 1925.

                 only when they are unworthy of tolerance and immoral that he
                 disobeys them. The father will at once understand such respectful
                 disobedience. In the same way it is only when a people have
                 proved their active loyalty by obeying the many laws of State that
                 they acquire the right of Civil Disobedience.”15 (emphasis mine)

I am reminded of my childhood days of weekly chores: and yes, I hated cleaning the bathroom!
But my (sometimes unwilling) tolerance of this assigned task by my parents contributed to my
now highly appreciated learning of the importance of hygiene and cleanliness. This same
dynamic applies to state laws (and rules). Not all such laws will be enjoyable, and some may
certainly be uncomfortable. But discomfort does not suffice as a justifiable reason to disobey a
moral law. In realizing the fruit of the first lesson -- that our cooperation with a just law
contributes significantly to an orderly manifestation of justice -- we can develop an appreciation
for the call to tolerate all just laws. Nothing says that the manifestation and sustenance of justice
will be comfortable and convenient -- in fact, Gandhi’s call for civil resisters to be willing to
suffer and sacrifice should quickly dissolve that delusion. But even when just laws are
somewhat burdensome, we can examine ways to change such laws to be more efficient and less
troublesome within a sustained, tolerant obedience.

        This brings us to the next lesson:

                 “The third lesson is that of suffering. He who has not the
                 capacity of suffering cannot non-co-operate. He who has not
                 learnt to sacrifice his property and even his family when necessary
                 can never non-co-operate. It is possible that a prince [or
                 government] enraged by non-co-operation will inflict all manner of
                 punishments. There lies the test of love, patience, and strength.
                 He who is not ready to undergo the fiery ordeal cannot non-co-
                 operate.”16 (emphasis mine)

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 67, excerpt from Young India,
January 8, 1925.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 67, excerpt from Young India,
January 8, 1925.

Gandhi’s use of the word suffering can also include sacrifice. He also pointed out in the above
quote the importance of love, patience, and (soul-based) strength -- three components of
Satyagraha that have been strong themes throughout this book. Without these, we are less likely
to retain the purity and ahimsa of the Satyagraha approach to civil disobedience if met with a
violent response by our opponents. And just as it is morally weak to advocate against unmoral
laws while breaking moral laws, it is morally weak (and very dangerous!) to engage in civil
disobedience without first cultivating and embodying love, patience, strength, and other
components of Satyagraha.

       Regarding civil disobedience, Gandhi explained that the danger of its use lays not in civil
disobedience itself:

                 “There is danger in civil disobedience only because it is still only a
                 partially tried remedy and has always to be tried in an atmosphere
                 surcharged with violence. For when tyranny is rampant much rage
                 is generated among the victims. It remains latent because of their
                 weakness and bursts in all its fury on the slightest pretext. Civil
                 disobedience is a sovereign method of transmitting this
                 undisciplined life-destroying latent energy into disciplined life-
                 saving energy whose use ensures absolute success. The
                 attendant risk is nothing compared to the result promised.”17
                 (emphasis mine)

Gandhi was clear in stating any risk involved with offering civil disobedience is not in civil
disobedience itself, but in the atmosphere in which it may be utilized. And in this age of brutal
violence, many social and political atmospheres are charged with intense cycles of violence. It is
also worth noting that the risk involved compares not to “the result promised:” a changed
atmosphere in which no violence occurs -- and for those who mature Satyagraha toward its
fullness, they will manifest an atmosphere in which the possibility of violence doesn’t exist. The
creation of such an atmosphere was an explicit aim of civil disobedience:

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 238 - 239, excerpt from Young
India, March 27, 1930.

                 “The plan of civil disobedience has been conceived to neutralize
                 and ultimately entirely to displace violence and enthrone non-
                 violence in its stead, to replace hatred by love, to replace strife by

For this and other reasons Gandhi was adamant in his demands on civil resisters to stay within
the bounds of Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience: because when engaging Truth-assured path
of success (such as Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience) it is extremely illogical to engage in
violent acts that are counter to the path of guaranteed success. And when more campaigns
treading this path attain at the guaranteed success, Satyagraha and civil disobedience will have a
world-wide impact. Gandhi stated:

                 “When the world has become familiar with its use and when it has
                 had a series of demonstrations of its successful working, there will
                 be less risk in civil disobedience than there is in aviation, in spite
                 of that science having reached a high stage of development.”19

Thus, all who engage in Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience need be aware that if their
discipline remains within the necessary limitations they will achieve guaranteed successes that
will make future uses of civil disobedience less dangerous -- and possibly more potent. This
contributes to a self-perpetrating cycle since when Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience is less
risky, more people will be open to pursuing it even in violent and oppressive societies.

       Despite the potential danger of offering civil disobedience in a violent age, it remains a
duty when dealing with an immoral government. This duty does not negate the need for
Satyagrahis to adequately prepare themselves and others to offer civil disobedience within the
scope of Satyagraha. But Gandhi declared:

                 “Civil disobedience therefore becomes a sacred duty when the
                 State has become lawless, or which is the same thing, corrupt.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 240, excerpt from Young India,
March 27, 1930.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 239, excerpt from Young India,
March 27, 1930.

                 And a citizen that barters with such a State shares its corruption or

The point about citizens sharing in the corruption of a state that they cooperate with is made
clearer in the following statement:

                 “You assist an administration most effectively by obeying its
                 orders and decrees. An evil administration never deserves such
                 allegiance. Allegiance to it means partaking of the evil. A good
                 man will therefore resist an evil system or administration with his
                 whole soul. Disobedience of the laws of an evil State is therefore a
                 duty. Violent disobedience deals with men who can be replaced.
                 It leaves the evil itself untouched and often accentuates it. Non-
                 violent, i.e. civil, disobedience is the only and the most successful
                 remedy and is obligatory upon him who would dissociate himself
                 from evil.”21

Cooperation with a government not only demonstrates our allegiance with that government (even
if it be an unwillingly allegiance), cooperation supports the efficient functioning of a government
as well as serves as a form of validating it. Cooperation also provides other benefits to a
government, such as money (i.e. taxes), service (even in the form of employment), and the
benefits of cooperative citizenry -- for example, when citizens do not break laws the government
does not have to engage in the enforcement of such laws or the pursuit of those who break such
laws. Careful reflection will show that these and other benefits of cooperation constitute a great
asset to the government such cooperation is given to. But if we seek and live Truth, justice, and
beneficence, why would we render such great assets to forces that live counter to these virtues --
especially when such cooperation makes us partners in the violation of these virtues? Thus, the
pursuit of and holding on to Truth, justice, and beneficence makes it a sacred duty to not
cooperate with those who violate these. And civil disobedience is an orderly and explicit manner
to demonstrate our non-cooperation. Now, the duty to non-cooperate doesn’t mean we must

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 174, excerpt from Young India,
January 5, 1922.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 238, excerpt from Young India,
March 27, 1930.

proceed from cooperation to complete non-cooperation. Even Gandhi acknowledged the
appropriateness of levels of non-cooperation and civil disobedience, a topic that will be
addressed in the next chapter.

         The above quote also mentioned the fallacy of violent disobedience. One aspect of this is
the use of violence. As has been addressed earlier in the book, the use of violence contributes to
the sustenance and continuance of cycles of violence: even an one second insult can culminate
into years of ongoing violence that include violent words, thoughts, and deeds. Another
common trait of violent disobedience is to target those who operate and work within a violent
system, and less often the system itself. Even today, I’m reminded of how much of the anti-war
organizing during the Iraq War (or invasion) that began in 2003 focused on George W. Bush,
Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and other high ranking officials in the government overseeing
aspects of the war. And the level of violence against these persons -- often in words and
thoughts, but also in public demonstrations -- was virulent from many who claim to stand for
justice and peace. But, as has occurred often in history, these individuals have been replaced and
yet the war continues on as I write these words. The violence of war and occupation continue to
be a prevalent reality in Iraq and other countries throughout the world subject to American
imperialism and military conquest. This speaks to one of the fallacies of violent disobedience:
its (often) inherent short-sightedness. The removal of individuals operating within an evil
system almost always leaves that system intact. And there is even a miscalculation in thinking
that the removal of an evil (destructive) system will suffice to bring about a beneficent and just
reality. In many modern unjust societies, citizens have been conditioned since birth to live
within an evil system, a conditioning that has spanned across generations. When such citizens
are faced with the removal of an evil system, they will usually put in its place another evil
system. In fact, these “new” systems often resemble the old systems, sometimes with some new
aspects in place to protect people from the more notable evils of the past systems. For example,
the creation of the American system of government eliminated monarchy in its quest for a just
system, but it did not eliminate corruption, unrestrained capitalism (which justified the practice
of chattel slavery, abuse of workers, and other exploitation), pursuit of military power and
conquest, the ability of the aristocracy to dominate government and society, and more. Without
a change in the moral character of the people, which must be achieved through individual
transformations that amount to collective shared values, the tendency to commit and live evil
(destruction) will continue among the people. Violent disobedience rarely involves a process of
transformation for the resisters and larger society that moves them from an immoral way of life
(or one that cooperates with immorality) to a moral and spiritual quest for Truth. An immoral

way of life often condones violence and evil (destructive) outcomes that emanate from violence,
as evident by the use of violence as a way to demonstrate disobedience against a government.
The quest for Truth involves the cultivation of moral character and the beneficence that springs
from this; and its maturation will result in a spiritual maturity that results in people removing the
possibility of evil and violence (and the corresponding destruction) from their way of life.

       Gandhi’s approach to civil disobedience acknowledged its use for the benefit of society.
He also stressed that the choice to break a law included a willing acceptance of the penalty for
breaking that law. He explained:

                 “The lawbreaker breaks the law surreptitiously and tries to avoid
                 the penalty, not so the civil resister. He ever obeys the laws of the
                 State to which he belongs, not out of fear of the sanctions but
                 because he considers them to be good for the welfare of society.
                 But there come occasions, generally rare, when he considers
                 certain laws to be so unjust as to render obedience to them a
                 dishonour. He then openly and civilly breaks them and quietly
                 suffers the penalty for their breach.”22

Regarding the openness with which civil resisters break laws, I would point out that it was
common for Gandhi to announce, before doing so, what laws he planned break in acts of civil
disobedience. He also did not complain about being arrested or imprisoned for acts of civil
disobedience, nor did he seek an avoidance or reduction of imprisonment (or other penalties) for
these acts. Inherent in his approach was a cooperation with the legal principle that sanctions can
be imposed for breaches of the law. As he felt this was moral, he felt his cooperation with this
principle was a duty even for breaking immoral laws. He explored this point when he wrote:

                 “Our civil disobedience, therefore, must not be carried beyond the
                 point of breaking the unmoral laws of the country. Breach of the
                 laws to be civil assumes the strictest and willing obedience to gaol
                 [jail] discipline because disobedience of a particular rule assumes a
                 willing acceptance of the sanction provided for its breach. And

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 7, excerpt from Young India,
January 14, 1920.

                immediately a person quarrels both with the rule and the sanction
                for its breach, he ceases to be civil and lends himself to the
                precipitation of chaos and anarchy.”23

Gandhi’s adherence to this point contributed, in part, to him spending considerable time (many
years of his life) in jail, sometimes being convicted to long maximum sentences despite his
publicly known commitment to morality and ahimsa (non-violence). (And this was within a
judicial system that allowed court officials to consider a person’s moral character to be a factor
for lessening jail sentences.) Yet, Gandhi accepted such imprisonment without complaint,
willing to pay whatever price necessary to affect the beneficent and just change he sought. His
example is a telling lesson to some “non-violent” protestors who seek to avoid or minimize
sanctions imposed on them for acts of civil disobedience, or even decry such sanctions as unjust.
If such protestors hold the principle of sanctions for breaches of law to be unjust, it’s probably
best that they not engage in Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience. And if they seek to offer civil
disobedience against the principle of imposing sanctions for breaches of law, it would benefit
them to clearly state their positions before engaging in such civil disobedience and find ways to
emphasize their position. Yet, the same condition of reserving Satyagraha-guided civil
disobedience as a last resort would apply to challenging this principle, meaning all other
reasonable means to affect change must have been attempted prior to offering civil disobedience
against this principle. But if we hold the legal principle of sanctions for breaches of law to be
just -- and most of us do -- Gandhi would encourage us to accept whatever sanctions imposed
quietly, even if the sanctions imposed within existing law are extreme. He would disapprove of
civil resisters pleading “not guilty” to acts of civil disobedience they committed or asking for
leniency in sentencing; and he may even consider such acts untruthful and hypocritical.

       Also, in line with Gandhi’s approach to suffering and sacrifice, he advised civil resisters
who commit civil disobedience to accept any sanctions for such with joy. He wrote that civil

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 60, excerpt from Young India,
December 15, 1921.

                   “signified the resister’s outlawry in a civil, i.e., non-violent
                   manner. [The civil resister] invoked the sanctions of the law and
                   cheerfully suffered imprisonment.”24

He regarded the act of civil disobedience as the factor that invokes the sanction: without the
breach of the law, there would be no sanction. And if we don’t want to expose ourselves to
potential sanctions (including extreme ones), we should not engage in civil disobedience.
Therefore, civil resisters are largely responsible for whatever sanctions are imposed, and take on
these sanctions as they would other forms of suffering and sacrifice to be bore in Satyagraha
work. Just as with confronting cycles of violence, Satyagrahis may have to bear great amounts
of violence to bring such cycles to an end; this same principle applies to those who seek justice
possibly having to bear great amounts of injustice to bring cycles of injustice to an end. And as
Gandhi held that Satyagrahis should embrace suffering and sacrifice with joy, the same applies
with sanctions for civil disobedience. In fact, if we are not capable of bearing arrest,
imprisonments, fines, loss of citizen privileges, loss of property, and other sanctions with joy,
Gandhi would advise against us engaging in civil disobedience. He would certainly be troubled
by civil resisters who complained or looked unfavorably upon sanctions imposed for their civil
disobedience. As long as the sanctions imposed do not humiliate civil resisters or offend their
self-respect, Gandhi expected them to bear such sanctions happily. And he fulfilled this
expectation within colonized India, where the arrest process and imprisonment could be very
unpleasant -- and even extreme for civil resisters who were treated as political prisoners.

        Gandhi noted that the use of civil disobedience, particularly when it is effective, often
generates condemnation from one’s opponents. He observed, “As soon as it was proved that the
Indian could put up a manly fight, he came to be regarded as a danger.”25 (Note that Gandhi is
referring to a non-violent fight within the means of Satyagraha.) In India, this condemnation
resulted in civil resisters being labeled as unlawful rebels, terrorists, extremists, unpatriotic
insurgents, criminals -- and even anarchists who wanted to dissolve any sense of law, order, and
civilization. With such labels came implicit and explicit inferences that civil disobedience was
to be blamed for any violence (rightly or wrongly) associated with it. Despite these and other

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 4, excerpt from Young India,
March 23, 1921.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 175.

labels, Gandhi insisted that genuine civil disobedience existed within the scope of law, order,
and the freedom of opinion and its expression -- a right of any just civilization. He explained:

                “But I hold the opinion firmly that civil disobedience is the purest
                type of constitutional agitation. Of course it becomes degrading
                and despicable if its civil, i.e., non-violent character is a mere
                camouflage. If the honesty of non-violence be admitted, there is
                no warrant for condemnation even of the fiercest disobedience
                because of the likelihood of its leading to violence. No big or
                swift movement can be carried on without bold risks and life will
                not be worth living if it is not attended with large risks.”26

Gandhi pointed out one key reason an unjust government may label civil resisters as dangerous:
that a civil resister “is dangerous for an autocratic State, for he brings about its fall by engaging
public opinion upon the matter for which he resists the State.” Thus, to combat this,
governments often launch attacks upon civil resisters in the space of public opinion. So civil
resisters should not find these attacks surprising. But neither should they fall into the trap of
engaging in a (violent) war of words in the realm of public dialogue: there is rarely a need to
counter or respond to such attacks since civil disobedience and Satyagraha work are sufficient to
speak for themselves in the face of any attacks.


        This chapter provided a basic definition and conceptual framework for civil disobedience
(which incorporates non-cooperation). I encourage the readers to have a firm understanding of
this definition before proceeding to the next chapters, which will explore how Gandhi carried out
this definition and conceptual framework in the social and political landscape of human activity.


          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 60, excerpt from Young India,
December 15, 1921.

                                            CHAPTER ELEVEN
        Civil Disobedience: Application of a Last Resort
                          Part One
                  “By its very nature, non-co-operation is even open to children
                  of understanding and can be safely practised by the masses.
                  Civil Disobedience presupposes the habit of willing obedience
                  to laws without fear of their sanctions. It can, therefore, be
                  practised only as a last resort and by a select few in the first
                  instance at any rate. Non-co-operation, too, like Civil
                  Disobedience is a branch of Satyagraha which includes all non-
                  violent resistance for the vindication of Truth.”1

         I repeat this opening quote from the last chapter because it stated a few key points about
Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience. First, that it can be offered by those who understand it,
even children, and applied on a mass level. Second, that it is a means to be used as a last resort.
In many respects, the entire book up to this point presented many of the foundational
components necessary before offering Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience. And if we
understand and live what the previous chapters covered, we will be well on the way to becoming
fit to offer civil disobedience. So once we have reached this point, what lessons can we garner
from Gandhi’s experience to guide us in the science of applying civil disobedience to our
particular situations? The next two chapters explore this question with the intent of providing a
guiding framework to inform how civil resisters can address the specific challenges they face in
their quests for Truth, justice, and beneficence. These chapters won’t provide a step-by-step list
of tasks and tactics civil resisters can employ, since Satyagraha leaves the contemplation of such
to individuals and groups within the specific situations they face. And clearly, a genuine

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 4, excerpt from Young India, March
23, 1921.

realization of Truth will provide more relevant guidance to our specific circumstances than
anything I can devise in these pages written for a more general audience. But there are certainly
some guiding principles that can be extracted from Gandhi’s Swaraj efforts in colonized India
that can be considered by all. The next two chapters will draw from these experiences to provide
a series of guiding principles that, while not complete, will hopefully be comprehensive enough
to provide useful guidance to civil resisters offering civil disobedience.


                      “In my humble opinion, rejection is as much an ideal as the
                      acceptance of a thing. It is as necessary to reject untruth as it is
                      to accept truth. All religions teach that two opposite forces act
                      upon us and that the human endeavour consists in a series of
                      eternal rejections and acceptances. Non-co-operation with evil
                      is as much a duty as co-operation with good.”2

        As has been a theme in the past few chapters, cooperation with just laws is the foundation
from which all Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience (and non-cooperation) emanates. It is
within this context that Gandhi stated: “It is an inalienable right of the people thus to withhold
co-operation.”3 He also noted: “Non-co-operation is a protest against an unwitting and unwilling
participation in evil.”4 But his application of non-cooperation was always specific in its focus.
For example, in protesting the implementation of a tax on salt Gandhi didn’t start off by refusing
to pay any and all taxes to the British colonial government. Instead, he focused initial efforts on
targeting the salt tax: such as not paying that tax and engaging in activities that highlighted
(sometimes symbolically) the injustice of this tax. Only when initial efforts with a limited focus
proved ineffective would he look to expand the scope of civil disobedience. Even then, he didn’t
proceed from not paying the salt tax to refusing to pay all forms of taxes; instead he expanded

               Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 165, excerpt from Young India, June
1, 1921.
               Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 482.

               Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 163, excerpt from Young India, June
1, 1921.

the scope of civil disobedience in measured steps. As he explained, “I am resorting to non-co-
operation in progressive stages because I want to evolve true order out of untrue order.”5 And
this call for orderly progressive steps was even more vital when it involved large groups of
people, as reflected in the continuation of the previous quote:

                 “I am not going to take a single step in non-co-operation unless I
                 am satisfied that the country is ready for that step, namely, non-co-
                 operation will not be followed by anarchy or disorder.”6

His reference to “the country” can be applied to any collective, whether a family, community, or
organization, whether large or small. And the quote implied that enough members of the
collective be ready so that the overall (or prevailing) state of the collective is such that the whole
can be described as ready. This state of readiness does not need to include every individual, but
the overall demeanor of the collective should be such that it prevents “unready” individuals from
acting contrary to the collective state of readiness. And, perhaps more importantly, Gandhi
realized that any progression in escalation must meet the readiness of the collective so that the
increased intensity or expansion of activities remains within the bounds of order. One clear
reason for exerting great care to avoid anarchy and disorder is that, within an environment
charged with violence, the presence of disorder significantly increases the potential for violence.
Even if civil resisters do not commit such violence themselves, conducting an act that creates
disorder (such as a disorganized protest) increases the likelihood that others (i.e. the police) will
respond to the disorder with violence. If this can be avoided (such as remaining clearly within
the bounds of order), it should be.

       It may be helpful to remember that Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience is an intensely
active means geared toward specific purposes. Addressing the active nature of such civil
disobedience, Gandhi explained:

                 “Non-co-operation [or civil disobedience] is not a passive state, it
                 is an intensely active state -- more active than physical resistance

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 160, excerpt from Young India,
August 18, 1920.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 160, excerpt from Young India,
August 18, 1920.

                     or violence. ... Non-co-operation in the sense used by me must be
                     non-violent and, therefore, neither punitive nor vindictive nor
                     based on malice, ill-will, or hatred.”7

He also explained one of the key purposes of Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience in the

                     “non-co-operation [or civil disobedience] is intended to pave the
                     way to real, honorable and voluntary co-operation based on mutual
                     respect and trust. The present struggle is being waged against
                     compulsory co-operation, against one-sided combination, against
                     the armed imposition of modern methods of exploitation
                     masquerading under the name of civilization.”8

Keeping these factors in mind, all Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience should incorporate
sufficient and intense actions that change the prevailing dynamics to create a situation where
civil resisters can cooperate with their opponents in mutual respect and trust, and vice versa.
This rejects any approach that seeks victory and domination to enable civil resisters to impose
their will on others -- just as civil resisters refrain from cooperating with the domination and acts
of imposition (compulsion) by unjust opponents. This approach also rejects punishment,
revenge, or other situations that place either side in a position of having ill-will against the other.
Within the approach of Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience, civil resisters must exercise the
greatest care and insight to insure that what they seek will be truly beneficial to all, even their
opponents. Anything that falls short of this measure falls short of what is necessary to engage in
Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience. This standard doesn’t negate that there may be
inconveniences to be tolerated by all involved (i.e. loss of privileges by either side), but it must
be in the context of what is genuinely beneficial for all (as informed by the quest for Truth).

        Understanding the elements of orderly progression, intense action, and the goal of
creating an atmosphere for just cooperation, we may have a better appreciation for the types of

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 161 - 162, excerpt from Young
India, August 25, 1920.

               Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 163, excerpt from Young India, June
1, 1921.

civil disobedience. People have devised a range of such types throughout modern history, but
Gandhi identified and made clear distinctions between aggressive civil disobedience and
defensive civil disobedience. Let’s begin with defensive civil disobedience, which he defined as:

                 “involuntary or reluctant non-violent disobedience of such laws
                 as are in themselves bad and obedience to which would be
                 inconsistent with one’s self-respect or human dignity. Thus
                 formation of volunteer corps for peaceful purposes, holding of
                 public meetings for like purposes, publication of articles not
                 contemplating or inciting to violence in spite of prohibitory orders,
                 is defensive civil disobedience. And so is conducting of peaceful
                 picketing undertaken with a view to wean people from things or
                 institutions picketed in spite of orders to the contrary.”9 (emphasis

Defensive civil disobedience was the usual starting point for Swaraj campaigns. Civil resisters,
who had demonstrated their obedience to just laws, realized the need to withdraw cooperation
from unjust laws and orders, particularly those that targeted the dignity and aspirations of
Indians to practice Swaraj (self-rule). This included government laws and orders implemented to
target civil disobedience campaigns, such as in the midst of a campaign the government
outlawing public meetings and community newspapers -- tactics the British colonial government
in India implemented repeatedly. In the earlier example of the salt tax, defensive civil
disobedience would target the salt tax but not expand to other just taxes, even if these just taxes
were unpopular. Defensive civil disobedience would include publishing leaflets criticizing the
salt tax even if the government outlawed the publishing and distribution of such leaflets, but it
would not include picketing British-owned businesses that did not sell salt. Defensive civil
disobedience sought to avoid unnecessary escalation of civil resistance: if this type of
disobedience was sufficient to affect change in the government to withdraw or change an unjust
law, so be it. As Satyagrahis voluntarily comply with just laws, they prefer to not have to
withhold cooperation from just laws in order to change unjust laws.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 175, excerpt from Young India,
February 9, 1922.

        Gandhi defined aggressive civil disobedience as follows:

                 “Aggressive, assertive or offensive civil disobedience is non-
                 violent, wilful disobedience of laws of the State whose breach
                 does not involve moral turpitude and which is undertaken as a
                 symbol of revolt against the State. Thus disregard of laws
                 relating to revenue or regulation of personal conduct for the
                 convenience of the State, although such laws in themselves inflict
                 no hardship and do not require to be altered, would be assertive,
                 aggressive or offensive civil disobedience.”10 (emphasis mine)

Aggressive civil disobedience expands disobedience beyond targeted unjust laws into the realm
of disobeying just laws to change unjust laws. This approach was usually applied only after
defensive civil disobedience failed to affect just and beneficent change. Gandhi contemplated
progression into the realm of aggressive civil disobedience with great care, holding the principle
of obedience to just laws as something to be violated with specific focus and limited precision.
In fact, aggressive civil disobedience is one of the rare circumstances in which it is appropriate
for Satyagrahis to not cooperate with just laws. Consideration of aggressive civil disobedience
posed significant and profound questions, one of them being: which just laws should be violated
to affect the change of unjust laws? Gandhi avoided pondering this and other weighty questions
in the midst offering civil disobedience. Instead, he often contemplated these questions in the
planning stage of civil disobedience campaigns. He made it a regular practice to identify the
stages of progressing into aggressive civil disobedience (including which laws would be
violated) prior to engaging in any form of civil disobedience. He also informed the government
(or his opponents) of these stages prior to offering any civil disobedience: partly to fulfill his
virtue of conducting Satyagraha work with complete openness as well as to demonstrate that any
escalation to a next stage of aggressive civil disobedience wasn’t a vindictive act in want of
revenge or retribution.

       Below is an actual progression of stages for aggressive civil disobedience in a Swaraj
campaign. Note that the listed actions went beyond disobedience of the targeted unjust law,
which in this case was the Railed Act of 1919. This law expanded government powers to arrest

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 175, excerpt from Young India,
February 9, 1922.

and imprison anyone suspected of being part of a group deemed a threat to British colonial rule -
- sound familiar? Also note, that the following statement was published in a newspaper for the
entire Indian public to read, including the colonial government which was known to monitor
such newspapers. Gandhi presented the stages of progression into aggressive civil disobedience
for this as follows:

                 “The fact however is that the organizers have fixed definite,
                 progressive four stages. The first is the giving up of titles and
                 resignation of honorary posts. If there is no response or if the
                 response received is not effective, recourse will be had to the
                 second stage. The second stage involves much previous
                 arrangement. Certainly not a single servant will be called out
                 unless he is either capable of supporting himself and his
                 dependents or the Khilafat Committee [an organizing committee]
                 is able to bear the burden. All the classes of servants will not be
                 called out at once and never will any pressure be put upon a single
                 servant to withdraw himself from Government service. Nor will a
                 single private employee be touched, for the simple reason that the
                 movement is not anti-English. It is not even anti-Government. ...
                 The second stage must be entirely successful, if the response is at
                 all on an adequate scale. For no Government -- much less the
                 Indian Government -- can subsist if the people cease to serve it.
                 The withdrawal therefore of the police and the military -- the third
                 stage -- is a distant goal. The organizers however wanted to be
                 fair, open and above suspicion. They did not want to keep back
                 from Government or the public a single step they had in
                 contemplation even as a remote contingency. The fourth, i.e.
                 suspension of taxes, is still more remote. The organizers recognize
                 that suspension of general taxation is fraught with the greatest
                 danger. It is likely to bring a sensitive class in conflict with the
                 police. They are therefore not likely to embark upon it, unless they
                 can do so with the assurance that there will be no violence offered
                 by the people.”11

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 115 - 116, excerpt from Young
India, May 5, 1920.

Note the stages of progression were clearly laid out and reflected a sense of deliberation and
planning. And once stated publicly, Gandhi would be hard-pressed to abandon or change these
stages. In this campaign, the planned aggressive civil disobedience included surrendering
honorary posts, resigning from government employment, and the non-payment of general taxes.
The potential embrace of these forms of non-cooperation against the government included the
responsibility of civil resisters to not place themselves in positions of dependency and need.
Therefore, anyone who quit a government job had to have means to provide for themselves and
their families. Even the distant stages of withdrawing from the police and military and not
paying taxes would require civil resisters to devise means to provide alternative services to
replace what they received from the government via police, military services, and the payment of
taxes (i.e. public sanitation, schools, court services, etc.) I also point out that Gandhi saw the
need to be open and fair with the government the non-cooperation was targeted against,
including mentioning distant stages that may be years away from implementation. This example
reflected how he normally dealt with the potential of engaging in aggressive civil disobedience
and reflects the great importance he put into planning.

       Aggressive civil disobedience also incorporates what Gandhi called complete civil
disobedience. He defined it as:

                 “Complete civil disobedience is a state of peaceful rebellion -- a
                 refusal to obey every single State-made law. It is certainly more
                 dangerous than an armed rebellion. For it can never be put down if
                 the civil resisters are prepared to face extreme hardships.”12
                 (emphasis mine)

This stage of aggressive civil disobedience is rarely employed. And, in accordance with the
previous example of stages of progression, complete civil disobedience would be an even more
distant stage than that of refusing to pay general taxes. The progression to complete civil
disobedience places the onus upon civil resisters to devise alternative means to provide all the
services a government provides. Although a daunting challenge, it certainly remains a viable
option to be used against governments (or other entities) that are stubbornly rooted in injustice.
Gandhi emphasized this point referring to the example of two evil governments under tyrannical

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 172, excerpt from Young India,
August 4, 1921.

                 “I said to myself, there is no State either run by Nero or Mussolini
                 which has not good points about it, but we have to reject the
                 whole, once we decide to non-co-operate with the system. There
                 are in our country grand public roads, and palatial educational
                 institutions, said I to myself, but they are part of a system which
                 crushes the nation. I should not have anything to do with them.
                 They are like the fabled snake with a brilliant jewel on its head, but
                 which has fangs full of poison.”13

       Even if we never employ complete civil disobedience, there are lessons to be garnered
from the approach Gandhi took to it. He explained that complete civil disobedience:

                 “is based upon an implicit belief in the absolute efficiency of
                 innocent suffering. By noiselessly going to prison a civil resister
                 ensures a calm atmosphere. The wrong-doer wearies of wrong-
                 doing in the absence of resistance. All pleasure is lost when the
                 victim betrays no resistance. A full grasp of the conditions of
                 successful civil resistance is necessary at least on the part of the
                 representatives of the people before we can launch out on an
                 enterprise of such magnitude. The quickest remedies are always
                 fraught with the greatest danger and require the utmost skill in
                 handling them.”14

For Gandhi, Satyagraha was a quicker remedy than all paths that involved the use of violence.
The willingness to bear innocent suffering and provide disobedience that presents no resistance
to our opponents are lessons that can be applied to all forms of civil disobedience, although they
may be most dramatic and evident in the context of complete civil disobedience. It can be
challenging to devise means of disobedience that do not provide resistance to forms of injustice,
but this is the standard Gandhi challenged all Satyagrahis to adhere to. To this aim, he placed
great emphasis on not cooperating or providing obedience to unjust laws and accepting whatever

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 359, excerpt from Young India,
December 31, 1931.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 172 - 173, excerpt from Young
India, August 4, 1921.

consequences sprung from such. Note that he employed the terms civil disobedience and non-
cooperation more often than the terms civil resistance or passive resistance, which he eventually
dropped completely. With this emphasis, he trusted that the injustice of unjust laws would
reveal itself, particularly when innocent and pure persons suffered for withdrawing obedience
and cooperation to such laws. Within this approach, there is no need to attack an unjust law: no
need to oppose or try to beat something that will reveal its own reason for demise by being
unjust. And the validity of this reason will be even more potent when those who are living
examples of Truth and justice suffer to expose these laws. Gandhi acknowledged the need for
“utmost skill” to meet this aim and other challenges involved with offering Satyagraha-guided
civil disobedience. These skills can be developed along the Satyagraha path and the larger quest
for Truth. But in regards to these challenges, he warned:

                   “But as the most experienced Satyagrahi I must be allowed to utter
                   a note of warning to all concerned that whoever declares civil
                   resistance without the proper training and a full appreciation of the
                   conditions of Satyagraha is likely to bring disaster to the cause he

        This section on the stages of civil disobedience clearly illustrated that for Gandhi there
was an order and science as to how he employed civil disobedience. In most campaigns, he
targeted disobedience at unjust laws and utilized symbolic actions to highlight the injustice of
these laws. He offered such defensive civil disobedience in a limited manner for an appropriate
amount of time before expanding campaigns into the realm of aggressive civil disobedience.
Even then, the progression to such stages were clearly defined and announced before any acts of
civil disobedience were offered. He avoided unnecessary increases in the intensity of
disobedience and non-cooperation and made great efforts to ensure that these did not offer
resistance to his opponents or the injustices they enacted. He also accepted the responsibility of
insuring that the increased intensity of campaigns did not put civil resisters and their families in
situations of dependency and need. The great care he exercised in applying the orderly science
of Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience was accompanied by a great and unending
encouragement that civil resisters commit no acts of violence.

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 301, excerpt from Harijan, January
20, 1940.


                “As I have often stated in these pages what strikes me down is
                not the sight of blood under every conceivable circumstance. It
                is blood spilt by the non-co-operator or his supporters in breach
                of his declared pledge, which paralyses me as I know it ought to
                paralyse every honest non-co-operator.”16

        Gandhi was very forthright in stating repeatedly to civil resisters and their supporters that
offering civil disobedience included a significant risk of bearing a violent response by their
opponents, particularly in an age of open and brutal violence. But in spite of the very real
possibility of enduring violence from the other side -- most likely in words and thoughts, but also
in the form of physical violence that can result in death -- Gandhi was adamant that there must
be no violence from the side of the civil resisters and their supporters: no violent words,
thoughts, or deeds. As has been addressed earlier in the book, he saw the utter uselessness of
violence for Truth-guided and ahimsa-based efforts to confront and eliminate violence. And the
complete illogic of Satyagrahis and their supporters using violence becomes more evident when
viewed in light of the guaranteed success to be arrived at by remaining within the bounds of the
Satyagraha way. Thus, Gandhi required civil resisters and their supporters to take affirmative
pledges that they would not commit any acts of violence. He also made it an unending and
consistent practice to warn pledge-takers of the importance of the pledge and the reasons behind
it (based in the spiritual science of Satyagraha). He held this pledge among the most sacred of
pledges Satyagrahis and their supporters could take; and regarded violations of these pledges
with the deepest of disappointment.

         Gandhi acknowledged that there were people who were unsure of or knew they could not
fulfill a pledge to not commit violence, whether in a general state or within certain
circumstances. He held high regard for such persons refraining from participating in Satyagraha
activities in which they may commit violence. It was no sign of weakness or lack of
commitment for persons who knew they would respond violently (words, thoughts, or deeds) to
being arrested to not participate in activities that might result in arrest. Note Gandhi’s response

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 61, excerpt from Young India,
December 15, 1921.

to a situation in which Satyagraha supporters in Peshawar (a city in India prior to partition, now
in Pakistan) ended up committing violence:

                “Those who not being sure of perfect non-violence being
                observed, do not take an active part in the struggle, are most
                assuredly helping it. Those who wanting to serve take part in it
                and violence results, as happened at Peshawar, are as assuredly
                harming the movement. That the people in Peshawar meant well I
                have no doubt. They are perhaps more impatient (if such a thing
                were possible) than I am to win freedom. But nobody can get
                freedom today in this land except through non-violence. We
                cannot get India’s freedom through the way of violence; we are
                within reach of it, if we would but keep up non-violence to the end.
                The way lies not through the burning of armoured cars and taking
                the lives of administrators of the Government machinery; it lies
                through disciplined organized self-suffering. I deeply regret the
                occurrences in Peshawar. Brave lives have been thrown away
                without the cause itself being served.”17 (emphasis mine)

Peshawar was surely not the only incident where this type of violence occurred. But the
standard that Gandhi held to was clear, as was his reasoning. And the same standard still applies
to anyone who engages in Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience: we must completely refrain
from violence even in the face of great provocation and violence being inflicted upon us. Any
doubt to our ability to meet this measure should guide us to voluntarily remove ourselves from
activities that may result in us committing violence (words, thoughts, deeds, etc.) -- even if this
means we refrain from any involvement in Satyagraha activities. There were enough incidents in
the Indian Swaraj campaigns to show that an act of violence committed by those involved in
Satyagraha activities most often created more harm than the benefits of having such persons
involved in such activities.

       Despite the great emphasis Gandhi placed on warning Satyagraha participants and
supporters of the dangers of violence, he was realistic to know there would likely be incidents of

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 333, excerpt from Young India,
May 1, 1930.

violence committed by those on the side of Satyagraha. There were numerous reasons for this:
ranging from the multi-generational social conditioning of the people in a culture that accepted
violence to the people’s need for continual spiritual development to fully embrace Satyagraha.
Yet, Gandhi saw the need to make peace with himself for continuing to engage people in
Satyagraha work even when they committed violence. To this point he wrote:

                “I know the dangers attendant upon the methods adopted by me. ...
                And I have been saying for the last fifteen years in India and
                outside for twenty years more and repeat now that the only way to
                conquer violence is through non-violence pure and undefiled. I
                have said also that every violent act, word and thought interferes
                with the progress of non-violent action. If in spite of such repeated
                warnings people will resort to violence, I must disown
                responsibility save such as inevitably attaches to every human
                being for the acts of every other human being.”18

Do not misinterpret this statement as Gandhi completely absolving of himself of responsibility
for acts of violence by Satyagraha participants and their supporters. He regarded the
responsibility for one person’s acts as shared by all humans in our collective existence as a very
serious responsibility. The realization of this collective responsibility, in part, spurred his
commitment to work toward the benefit of others via beneficent and just change. The weight of
this responsibility was something he held with great awareness and was a strong presence in his
search for Truth and the development of Satyagraha. And he was known to be very deeply
troubled by acts of violence committed by those on the side of Satyagraha, incidents that moved
him to embark on numerous fasts to purify himself (from perhaps his disappointment, sadness,
and sense of guilt) and others.

        Gandhi’s realization of this shared responsibility for acts of violence among all humanity
moved him to vehemently pursue ways to end all violence. In the context of people suffering
oppression under an unjust government, he saw the importance of the victims of such injustice
being able to express their feelings to affect change -- especially if the feelings evolved to a point
of fury. He explained:

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 275, excerpt from Young India,
May 8, 1930.

                “But it is no easy task to restrain the fury of a people incensed by a
                deep sense of wrong. I urge those who talk or work against non-
                co-operation to descend from their chairs and go down to the
                people, learn their feelings and write, if they have the heart, against
                non-co-operation. They will find, as I have found, that the only
                way to avoid violence is to enable them to give such expression to
                their feelings as to compel redress. I have found nothing save non-
                co-operation. It is logical and harmless. It is the inherent right of
                a subject to refuse to assist a government that will not listen to

I stress that Gandhi stated “expression to their feelings to compel redress.” This is a very
important point. Over the years, some unjust governments (and other entities) have sought to
give oppressed groups a place or means to “express themselves” (or their dissatisfaction) as a
way to calm and temper outrage and resistance. These avenues for expression, whether as a
street protest or writing letters of dissent, are often reduced to shallow gestures with no real
possibility (or expectation) of affecting beneficent and just change: such gestures will not be
taken seriously by the governments that allow (or sometimes facilitate) them to happen. And
without an impetus (or at times, leadership) among the people to commit to an appropriate
escalation of non-cooperation, most people will not go beyond these shallow gestures and,
therefore, not attain beneficent and just change. This tendency holds true doubly for those who
have limited or no knowledge of Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience. Even some in the
community organizing, peace, and social justice fields have fallen into this trap: content to have
done “something” but they lack a genuine resolve to achieve beneficent and just change. Any
acts of expression that lack the commitment to beneficent and just change run the risk of using
such expression as a laxative that soothes discontent but falls short of genuine civil resistance
committed to outcomes of beneficence and justice. Often, as the social scripts of discontent
proceed, you find people organizing repeated campaigns of limited expression over the same
issues that may relieve people but not change their situation. And when these exercises of
expression lose their relieving qualities, people usually abandon such expression to often fall
into great states of apathy, or the fury behind their expressions escalate to greater levels of
violence in words, thoughts, and sometimes actions. I’m reminded of the social scene in

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 117, excerpt from Young India,
May 5, 1920.

America during the 1960s, in which the shallow expressions of previous years laid the
groundwork for increased violence: ranging from increased racial violence (i.e. Whites attacking
and killing civil rights workers) to riots in urban areas plagued by decades of poverty and
neglect. Suffice it to say, we should take Gandhi’s warning about providing people the means to
express their feelings to compel redress very seriously.

        When such expressions to compel redress are successful in affecting change (even if
requiring appropriate escalation of non-cooperation), Gandhi felt these successes would lead to
an end of all violence. He declared: “Once the infallibility of non-co-operation is realized, there
is an end to all bloodshed and violence in any shape or form.”20 The guaranteed success of
Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience not only makes violence pointless for those on the side of
Satyagraha, it also makes violence pointless for opponents on the other side. The opponents’
realization of this may take time and require patience and tolerance from Satyagrahis but the fact
remains that within Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience:

                 “A civil resister never uses arms and hence he is harmless to a
                 State that is at all willing to listen to the voice of public opinion.”21

And, as has been stated earlier, this discouragement from using violence applies not only to civil
resisters but also their supporters. On commenting about the pledge to be taken of supporters of
civil resisters, Gandhi said:

                 “For those who were not civil resisters, therefore, another vow was
                 devised asking people to follow truth at all costs and to refrain
                 from violence.”22

      I will conclude this section addressing violence against property and inanimate objects.
Some have argued that sabotage (i.e., blowing up a bridge or government building) which does

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 121, excerpt from Young India,
July 21, 1920.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 174, excerpt from Young India,
January 5, 1922.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 32, excerpt from Young India,
January 21, 1920.

not harm or kill living beings (or sometimes just humans) could be a justified tactic that fits
within the ahimsa (non-violence) code. Some have stated that such destruction can serve as a
powerful symbol of the resistance and will of the people to no longer cooperate with injustice
and oppression. Others have said that the use of such sabotage can quicken the process of
affecting just and beneficent change. Gandhi flatly rejected all such arguments as having no
place within the Satyagraha path:

                   “I have never been able to understand this reasoning. It is pure
                   violence. Satyagraha is self-suffering and not inflicting suffering
                   on others. There is surely often more violence in burning a man’s
                   property than doing him physical injury. Have not so-called
                   Satyagrahis preferred imprisonment to fines or confiscation of
                   their property?”23

He supplemented the above point with the following about government property and the ability
of governments to function within an atmosphere that utilized sabotage as an appropriate means
to register disagreement with a government:

                   “In the first place, conceding that Government property is national
                   property -- which today [in colonized India] it is not -- I may not
                   destroy it because I am dissatisfied with the Government. But
                   even a national Government will be unable to carry on for a day if
                   everybody claimed the right to destroy bridges, communications,
                   roads, etc., because he disapproved of some of its activities.
                   Moreover, the evil resides not in bridges, roads, etc., which are
                   inanimate objects but in men. It is the latter who need to be
                   tackled. The destruction of bridges, etc. by means of explosives
                   does not touch this evil but only provokes a worse evil in the place
                   of the one it seeks to end.”24 (emphasis mine)

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 371, excerpt from Harijan, April
13, 1940.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 378, excerpt from Harijan,
February 10, 1946.

And, as has been discussed throughout this book, Satyagraha has many ways of addressing the
evil acts humans commit.

       But Gandhi had another reason for rejecting sabotage: that its use does not cultivate the
courage needed to affect beneficent and just change. It is worth noting that, historically, most
sabotage is done in indirect ways: for example, bombs are often planted secretly and detonated in
the absence of those who placed them there, even if responsibility for the bombing is later
claimed. This lack of directly facing one’s opponents is a tendency that does not require the
courage or strength to face one’s opponents openly and directly -- and some may say, such
approaches induce or are tolerable of cowardice and weakness, traits Gandhi rejected.
Throughout time, people have invented new ways to justify the use of sabotage, although Gandhi
saw these “new” justifications are nothing but refurbished old arguments:

                 “It is an old argument... Sabotage is a form of violence. People
                 have realized the futility of physical violence but some people
                 apparently think that it may be successfully practised in its
                 modified form as sabotage. It is my conviction that the whole
                 mass of people would not have risen to the height of courage
                 and fearlessness that they have but for the working of full non-
                 violence. How it works we do not yet fully know. But the fact
                 remains that under non-violence we have progressed from
                 strength to strength even through our apparent failures and
                 setbacks. On the other hand terrorism resulted in demoralization.
                 Haste leads to waste.”25 (emphasis mine)

Thus, Gandhi not only rejected sabotage because it is a form of violence, but also because it
undercuts the Satyagraha path of developing (soul-based) strength, and progressing from
strength to strength along this path to affect just and beneficent change.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 379, excerpt from Harijan,
February 10, 1946.


                 “A whole people cannot be considered fit or ready for non-co-
                 operation when only an individual or two have mastered these
                 three lessons.* A large number of the people must be thus
                 prepared before they can non-co-operate. The result of hasty
                 non-co-operation can only lead to harm. ... Previous
                 preparation is needed for non-co-operation as it is for all
                 important things. A man cannot become a non-co-operator by
                 merely wishing to be one. Discipline is obligatory.”26
                 [** NOTE: The three lessons refer to the key lessons of civil disobedience
                 mentioned in the previous chapter: 1) reasoned and willing obedience to laws; 2)
                 tolerance, and; 3) suffering.]

         Gandhi had many reasons for insisting on preparation of the masses before engaging in
mass civil disobedience. Without the necessary development and discipline among civil resisters
and (to a lesser extent) their supporters, offering mass civil disobedience could result in great
disaster -- and sometimes a disaster worse than the injustices the people sought to change. But
there is another very important reason Gandhi emphasized preparation prior to mass engagement
of civil disobedience, as reflected in his comments on a situation in Kathiawad, a section of

                 “I do not know that many have undergone the needful discipline
                 [and preparation] in any part of Kathiawad. And when the
                 requisite discipline has been gone through probably non-co-
                 operation will be found to be unnecessary.

                 “As it is, I observe the necessity for individuals to prepare
                 themselves in Kathiawad as well as in other parts of India.
                 Individuals must cultivate the spirit of service, renunciation, truth,
                 non-violence, self-restraint, patience, etc. They must engage in
                 constructive work in order to develop these qualities. Many

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 67 - 68, excerpt from Young India,
January 8, 1925.

                 reforms would be effected automatically if we put in a good deal of
                 silent work among the people.”27

As the layout of this book demonstrates, the vast majority of Satyagraha exists beyond the realm
of civil disobedience. And Gandhi required that these qualities be studied, understood, and lived
prior to engaging any forms of civil disobedience. Thus, if in the Satyagraha development
process, people grow and change -- within themselves individually and collectively -- to a point
where they attain states of beneficence and justice that extend beyond the reach of present
injustices, there may be no need to offer civil disobedience to address such injustices. Also, such
growth may transform a situation such as to render injustice impotent in the presence of the
beneficence and justice that emanates from persons transformed by the Satyagraha development
process. If just and beneficent change can be achieved (through such transformation) in a way
that doesn’t require the risk of offering civil disobedience in a violent age, then civil resisters
need not utilize civil disobedience or invite potential hardship by offering it. Remember,
Satyagrahis should avoid needless suffering, and this includes not needlessly invoking potential
suffering and sacrifice via civil disobedience. Ultimately, whether civil disobedience is applied
or not, the Satyagraha solution to injustice and oppression lays in the people themselves. Civil
disobedience is merely a last resort to be used so that the solution of people seeking Truth,
justice, and beneficence may be brought to the forefront of social situations. Gandhi wrote:

                 “My opinion is becoming daily more and more confirmed that we
                 shall achieve our real freedom only by effort from within, i.e., by
                 self-purification and self-help, and therefore by the strictest
                 adherence to truth and non-violence. Civil Disobedience is no
                 doubt there in the background.”28

        In understanding the above points, Satyagrahis should never advocate civil disobedience
without first cultivating themselves (and sometimes others), through rigorous preparation, to
offer civil disobedience to the standards set by Satyagraha. This principle is even more vital
when considering mass civil disobedience since it involves larger groups of people, larger risks,

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 68, excerpt from Young India,
January 8, 1925.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 379, excerpt from Young India,
April 1, 1926.

and the potential for greater impacts -- whether they be beneficent or destructive outcomes. If
people can be their own solution without invoking civil disobedience, let them do so: because
even after any successful application of civil disobedience the people will need to be the
continuing solution of living and upholding beneficence and justice. Too many in today’s age
have put civil disobedience on a higher pedestal than it deserves, and often seek it prematurely as
a treatment overused. Others look to utilize mass civil disobedience for purposes counter to
manifesting situations where the people are their own living solutions. Therefore, any calls to
“take it to the streets” prior to individuals living Satyagraha within are gravely misguided -- even
if such calls have become common due to misguided understandings of Satyagraha and civil

        In stressing the “last resort” aspect of Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience: if a
significant portion of a group has been adequately prepared to offer civil disobedience, and the
transformation of such collective individual development still requires civil disobedience to
address prevailing injustice(s), only then is it appropriate to offer mass civil disobedience. One
key element in preparing for mass civil disobedience is the development of collective strength.
Gandhi addressed how he approached the development of this type of strength among oppressed
people under an unjust government:

                “By allying myself with the weak party, by teaching him direct,
                firm, but harmless action, I make him feel strong and capable of
                defying the physical might. He feels braced for the struggle,
                regains confidence in himself and knowing that the remedy lies
                with himself, ceases to harbour the spirit of revenge and learns to
                be satisfied with a redress of the wrong he is seeking to remedy.”29

It is extremely difficult to cultivate collective strength among individuals who have not
developed (or are developing) their own individual strength. In other words, a group of weak
persons cannot be made collectively strong. The Satyagraha path has ways of cultivating the
individual soul-based strength that becomes the foundation for collective strength, particularly
through constructive service which Gandhi endlessly encouraged. When a very strong person
allies one’s self with other (lesser) strong persons, these other strong persons can be made to feel

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 110, excerpt from Young India,
May 12, 1920.

stronger. And Gandhi supplemented this openness to greater strength with Satyagraha-based
education, teaching these persons things that actually made them stronger. A number of
religious and spiritual traditions acknowledge the great difficulty of a person acquiring great
strength if one is not open to the possibility of attaining such. Through his compassion, Gandhi
helped others overcome this difficulty by allying himself (and his great strength) with people
developing their strengths. In cultivating greater strength, the residues of weakness can be
removed, such as feelings of doubt and wants for revenge. Signs of acquiring greater strength
will include a greater cooperation among group members and a genuine, lasting unity -- even
among groups with histories of conflict. Without great collective strength it is unwise to embark
on mass civil disobedience. When a group stands as a group it is less likely to fall to attacks
targeted at individuals of that group, just as a hand balled in a fist can bear a greater force
without breaking than any of the individual fingers can. It is a common tactic among evil
(violent) forces to attack the weaknesses of their opponents before testing their strengths -- if
such forces even have the courage to attack the strengths of beneficent and just beings.

      With strength comes calmness, another essential quality for mass civil disobedience.
Gandhi stated:

                 “Mass civil disobedience stands on a different footing. It can only
                 be tried in a calm atmosphere. It must be the calmness of strength
                 not weakness, of knowledge not ignorance.”30

The necessity for calm lays, in part, with the risks of offering civil disobedience in an age of
brute force in which our opponents may respond with violence. With the power embedded in
mass civil disobedience, unjust governments (and other entities) may be moved to respond to
even disciplined, orderly, and peaceful non-cooperation by groups with great levels of violence.
The potential escalation of violence in a volatile atmosphere can result in a single argument
between two individuals escalating into nation-wide riots. Gandhi would view offering mass
civil disobedience within such a situation as unwise, and possibly hold civil resisters responsible
for the violence created in such a situation. But if civil resisters carry themselves in a strength-
based calmness, their presence alone can create a calm atmosphere which influences others to
remain calm -- especially if the civil resisters have a mature spiritual purity. Such civil resisters

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 171, excerpt from Young India,
August 4, 1921.

can stand in the face of an army eager to attack and yet dissipate the tenacity and intensity of any
violence inflicted upon them. And for the most pure civil resisters, they can face such an army
and yet remain untouched by the virtue of the calming influence they emanate. It is within such
a calm atmosphere, even if transformed to be such by pure Satyagrahis, that civil resisters can
proceed to offer mass civil disobedience that will not lead to violent disorder.

        In addition to cultivating the individual and collective strength that creates a calm
atmosphere, Gandhi sought to do other things to complement this strength building. For him,
courage had a direct connection to soul-based strength and, therefore, anything that developed
courage would supplement developing strength and its corresponding calmness. Below is an
example of what Gandhi suggested in one situation “to produce an atmosphere of non-violence
of the brave:”

                 “This depends on individual workers cultivating non-violence in
                 thought, word and deed, by means of a concentrated effort in the
                 fulfillment of the fourfold constructive programme. Maximum of
                 work and minimum of speech must be your motto. In the centre of
                 the programme is the spinning wheel... There is the programme of
                 literacy. ... There is prohibition of drink and intoxicating drugs and
                 of gambling. There is medical relief by means of the propagation
                 of simple rules of hygiene and sanitation and elementary
                 preventive measures, and of cheap home remedies and training
                 intelligent village folk in these.”31

The above reflected many things addressed previously in the book: restraint and a commitment
to act; the spinning wheel as a component of Swaraj based in traditional Indian culture and
values; study based in the Satyagraha approach to education; attention to health and wellness. In
other situations Gandhi may have added other components of the Satyagraha path to this list, but
the point is: many of the elements used to prepare people to offer Satyagraha-guided civil
disobedience are things that can help create an atmosphere of calmness. It may be helpful to
focus on certain elements with a particular focus to maximize the cultivation of calmness, but
there is rarely (if ever) a need to go beyond the Satyagraha components that prepare us for civil

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 100 - 101, excerpt from Harijan,
June 10, 1939.

disobedience to create an atmosphere of calm. In fact, the absence of such calm may indicate
that we have not fully learned and applied some of these Satyagraha components -- perhaps a
sign that we should return to the basics to address any shortcomings in our preparation and
development process.

       Once people were prepared to offer mass civil disobedience and an atmosphere of calm
was established, Gandhi would proceed to offering mass civil disobedience. But he wasn’t
content with merely having groups offers mass civil disobedience, he sought to move it to a point
where it became spontaneous. He wrote:

                 “Mass civil disobedience means spontaneous action. The workers
                 [or leaders] will merely guide the masses in the beginning stages.
                 Later the masses will regulate the movement themselves.”32

Now we shouldn’t confuse spontaneous with meaning that mass civil disobedience should spring
out of nowhere in whatever direction met the present whim. Gandhi acknowledged that the early
stages of mass civil disobedience will often require the guidance and support of leaders and
those trained in the science of Satyagraha to be effective. He stated regarding mass civil
disobedience: “there certainly will be no mass response where the ground has not been
previously tilled, manured and watered.”33 This preparation will include the tenets of Satyagraha
such as pursuit of Truth, ahimsa, humility, self-purification, the willingness to suffer and
sacrifice, discipline, order, patience, commitment, and more. With such grooming, spontaneous
mass civil disobedience will naturally exclude civil resisters breaking out into instances of
violence (words, thoughts, and actions) with reckless abandon. In fact, Webster’s Dictionary
defines spontaneous as:

                 “1) acting in accordance with or resulting from a natural feeling,
                 impulse, or tendency, without any constraint, effort, or

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 249, excerpt from Young India,
April 3, 1930.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 240, excerpt from Young India,
March 27, 1930.

                   premeditation; 2) having no apparent external cause or influence;
                   occurring or produced by its own energy, force, etc.”34

In accord with the first definition, the “natural feeling, impulse, and tendency” of spontaneous
mass civil disobedience would be influenced by the Satyagraha preparation process. And if civil
resisters have been adequately prepared, they will be able to move beyond the premeditated
(planned) instructions of leaders to act in ways that are natural to the Satyagraha path without
being told to do so. Good Satyagraha leaders will have an understanding of what the full scope
of Satyagraha may call for in a specific situation and, thus, be able to inform civil resisters and
their opponents of such as well as the stages of how Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience may
progress. But once that framework is identified, the leaders are charged with the responsibility
to guide participants to a point where they will spontaneously carry out appropriate actions
without external cause (i.e., being instructed to do so by leaders), instead by their own energy,
strength, understanding, etc.

        Once mass civil disobedience reaches a stage of spontaneous action, it becomes a
virtually unstoppable force. Note what Gandhi wrote about the potential of his arrest during the
Salt Satyagraha campaign:

                   “Let nobody assume that after I am arrested there will be no one
                   left to guide you. It is not I but Panditt Jawaharlal [another leader]
                   who is your guide. He has the capacity to lead. Though the fact
                   is that those who have learnt the lesson of fearlessness and self-
                   effacement need no leader. If we lack these virtues, not even
                   Jawaharlal will be able to produce them in us.”35 (emphasis mine)

Once the people’s acts emanate from themselves (and not from their leaders), there is virtually
no way to stop mass civil disobedience. The masses will naturally carry out wise actions in
response to whatever situations they face, and not be dependent upon the guidance of leaders or
other external realities to carry out their civil disobedience. Once mass civil disobedience
reaches this stage, even the elimination of leaders -- a common target of unjust opponents -- will

             Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, 1994, p. 1296.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 234 - 235, excerpt from Young
India, March 20, 1930.

not stop mass civil disobedience from continuing. In fact, once mass civil disobedience reaches
this stage the only group capable of stopping it is the people themselves, if they abandon
Satyagraha or terminate their civil disobedience. Gandhi clearly acknowledged progression to
this stage as an explicit goal of offering mass civil disobedience. Yet, this clearly stated goal is
often abandoned by many in positions of leadership in the community organizing, peace, and
social justice fields. All shallow propaganda aside (such as claiming to work toward a day
where they are no longer needed), many organizations and leaders operate in ways that assume
their long-term (if not permanent) leadership positions over the masses who follow them. This is
accompanied by the cultural values of egocentric societies that glorify leadership as a beneficial
way to help others while remaining within egotism. But Gandhi strongly advocated that leaders
should serve with the clear intent to “till the ground” in a way that makes their roles unnecessary
as quickly as possible, that they may then become “ordinary” members of a spontaneous mass
that collectively regulates its own civil disobedience and actions guided toward Truth,
beneficence, and justice.

        Lastly, for this section, Gandhi acknowledged that all Satyagraha-guided civil
disobedience (mass or individual) can be offered for the benefit of those who cooperate with
injustice. He stated:

                 “The personal creed of a non-co-operator does not preclude him
                 from representing the cause of those who are helplessly co-

I mention this in regards to mass civil disobedience because offering civil disobedience (and
other acts for beneficent change) on behalf of those who helplessly cooperate with injustice can
have a transformative effect on them. To see others suffering for their benefit can be a starting
point for them to consider the possibility of not cooperating with injustice. And given the
transformative power of purity, pure civil resisters may influence such cooperators to embrace
the Satyagraha path and eventually become civil resisters themselves, or supporters of civil
resisters. At minimum, such cooperators with injustice may become willing cooperators with
justice once it is attained.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 215, excerpt from Young India,
July 19, 1928.

       Before proceeding to explore arrests, imprisonments, and tactics in the next chapter, let’s
examine Gandhi’s approach to money -- specifically in regards to engaging in mass civil


                 “This is not a battle to be conducted with money. It will be
                 impossible to sustain a mass movement with money.”37

        The above quote should not be taken out of context: in no way does it reject all use of
money in Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience. Particularly with mass civil disobedience, the
involvement of large numbers of people in a variety of activities will often include money in one
way or another, especially in modern money-based economies. And Gandhi, even in his
embrace of non-possession, did not reject the validity of money, although he was adamantly
against economic exploitation, greed, materialism, and other uses of money that fall outside the
domain of the pursuit of Truth. The fulfillment of Swaraj (home-rule) entails utilizing just and
traditionally-based means for people to participate in the economic system; and in a money-
based economy, this involves the use of money. But even within such a societal context, money
cannot be a foundation for Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience. Truth-based values, morality
and character, commitment to justice and beneficence, ahimsa, love, and other components of
Satyagraha are suitable foundations upon which to build civil disobedience campaigns. It is
within such foundations that money can be used in efforts to affect just and beneficent change, as
opposed to seeking to affect a desired change simply because one has money or using money to
virtually “buy” desired change. At times, there may be a thin line between appropriate and
inappropriate uses of money in Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience. And when in proximity to
such a line, Satyagrahis are challenged to stay on the appropriate side of that line. To this end,
let’s examine some of the lessons Gandhi applied to using money.

       Gandhi’s approach to money was very much informed by his embrace of non-possession.
He described the ideal fulfillment of non-possession as follows:

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 245, excerpt from Young India,
April 3, 1930.

                “Perfect fulfillment of the ideal of Non-possession requires, that
                man should, like the birds, have no roof over his head, no clothing
                and no stock of food for the morrow. He will indeed need his daily
                bread, but it will be God’s {Truth’s} business, and not his, to
                provide it. Only the fewest possible, if any at all, can reach this
                ideal. We ordinary seekers may not be repelled by the seeming
                impossibility. But we must keep the ideal constantly in view,
                and in the light thereof, critically examine our possessions, and
                try to reduce them. Civilization, in the real sense of the term,
                consists not in the multiplication, but in the deliberate and
                voluntary reduction of wants. This alone promotes real happiness
                and contentment, and increases the capacity for service.”38
                (emphasis mine)

After an initial reading of this statement some may reject Gandhi as a wacky idealist idyllic with
a questionable grip on reality: what are you talking about no roof over our heads?! But let’s
dissect this statement, especially since it was directed to members of his ashram who would be
better able to place it in a context of previously stated lessons that strengthen the validity of
Gandhi’s points.

         The call to not have a roof over one’s head is not simply metaphor; instead, it speaks to a
human phenomenon that has proved itself beyond doubt over the course of the past millennia.
As has been shown throughout human history, especially in the modern era, for most humans the
acquisition of a permanent (or long-term) shelter has meant the further accumulation of material
things. This mass expansion of material possessions has exceeded far beyond the necessities of
life to result in an increasing proportion of material property being luxuries that cater to selfish
desires. This progression can be drawn in the lives of many whose early years may entail merely
having a room (i.e., a child’s bedroom) and the more limited accumulation of possessions one
has at this stage of life: for example, clothes, a bed, a dresser, and some toys. If such a person is
able to attain or inherit enough wealth as an adult, the personal expansion of possessions can
extend from a single room to an entire house filled with needless material things. And the
expanding sizes of houses has resulted in even more materialistic accumulation, some people
even buying things to fill empty space in their homes. To examine this dynamic in America,

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 46, excerpt from From Yeravda
Mandir, 1932, Chapter VI: Non-Possession Or Poverty.

consider how many people who own houses have garages, attics, basements, and closets (in
many rooms) filled with things they rarely or never use. Some even rent additional storage space
for these things, making the storage business a multi-billion dollar annual industry. If you ask
these persons why they are keeping these things, most would not be able to offer justifiable
reasons for the large majority of their possessions. The unessential quality of these possessions
would be quickly proven if these same persons were to “live like the birds,” without a roof over
their heads: the overwhelming majority would most likely abandon much of their possessions
just because of the sheer effort required to keep that much stuff without a roof. And many,
perhaps over time, would realize their lives to better off without too much stuff as long as they
got their “daily bread:” the necessities needed to live in reasonable means. In fact, the blatant
needlessness of these material possessions is proven by the fact that most people who
accumulate mass possessions do not use most of these possessions on a regular basis.

        The impact of accumulating mass possessions goes beyond these just being unnecessary:
the pursuit of such materialism has resulted in the creation and sustenance of systems of wealth
concentration and exploitation that affect the mass of society. As any economist will admit,
there is a limited amount of resources in any society -- there may be an abundance of these
resources but there is a limit to them. So any society genuinely concerned about justice and
beneficence (aims in Satyagraha) must be concerned with an equitable distribution of wealth,
resources, and opportunities to acquire such -- especially since so much injustice (and
corresponding violence and suffering) emanates from inequalities. Justice and beneficence are
very rarely achieved in a system that concentrates mass amounts of wealth among some because,
inevitably, this mass accumulation will come at the expense of others being denied an equitable
share in a society’s resources. Consider how many millions of people struggle to eat and
maintain basic shelter while millions have attics, basements, garages, and closets filled with
needless material possessions (a form of wealth) they do not use. And these are not just the
storage spaces of the five percent elite rich, these include millions of middle and working class
people that virtually sustain millions of others remaining in poverty. This social reality is
furthered by a profit-driven economic system that seeks to manufacture and sell more material
possessions that will increase the amount of stuff that ends up in someone’s storage space:
whether being a new gadget that is thrown in a closet after it loses its “new toy” appeal or an
older gadget that gets thrown into the basement after being replaced by a new gadget. (Even this
cycle of consumerism further concentrates wealth in society by enriching a select group that
profits off the spending of mass consumerism.) This economic approach continues in place of an
economic system that can address societal inequalities while still achieving high yet reasonable

(more restrained) levels of profit. This economic approach also contributes directly to a range of
societal suffering, violence, and moral decay. One such consequence is that economic inequality
drives some to engage in criminal acts that often involve violence (whether words, thoughts, or
deeds). These acts are often done to survive in a state of inequality, but survival-based crime can
evolve into crime engaged for the sake of accumulating mass wealth and its needless material
possessions -- such as crime organizations popularized in American entertainment, like the
Mafia. Thus, economic inequality can begin and sustain endless cycles of crime among many
endless cycles of societal harm.

        A careful analysis will reveal that the high majority of all resources in society are not
human-created: they come from nature, even if the final product is a manufactured form of
products derived from nature. From the perspective of non-possession, this makes the mass
accumulation of material things even more unjust since it results in the hoarding of things
humans take from other natural sources, not from their own creation. Therefore, the reference to
“living as the birds” -- who for the most part, live in nature -- is not accidental since humanity’s
existence is derived from and very much sustained by nature. If we honor this reality, we would
not only reject the mass accumulation of possessions but seek an equitable sharing of the natural
resources we receive, an approach that is easily attained by “living like the birds” who take their
daily bread day by day. This approach would also eliminate so much of the suffering that is a
direct consequence of materialistic economic systems. To deal again with crime, a robber
usually targets the accumulated resources other people have -- whether in their homes or wallets.
And since most people refuse to relinquish these things willingly, the robber often resorts to
forms of violence to take what she or he seeks. But in a society where everyone lives day to day,
taking only what they need, and not storing anything for tomorrow, the robber would be a
useless profession that garners much less fruit than the risks engaged in committing robbery. To
this point Gandhi stated:

                “If each retained possession only of what he needed, no one would
                be in want, and all would live in contentment.”39

       Now, living day to day doesn’t mean that humans must live as wandering gatherers.
Living like the birds who rely on God’s {Truth’s} providence to receive our daily bread can still

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 46, excerpt from From Yeravda
Mandir, 1932, Chapter VI: Non-Possession Or Poverty.

entail the formation of communities, nations, and civilizations. Gandhi’s embrace of this
principle is evidenced by his forming ashrams, or spiritual communities, that relied on Truth’s
providence. This wasn’t a passive reliance, but instead an active living of the lessons of Truth
and receiving from the benefits of such. Therefore, a Truth-based community could engage in
farming and other economic activities to receive their daily bread. Within such a community, all
that is acquired would be shared in equitable manners so that there is little to no need among
community members. Anything that is available after serving the needs of the community would
be freely offered to others. The power of such sharing has even been admired in materialistic
societies that acknowledge the transformative and healing benefits of giving charity -- although
Gandhi’s approach to charity went beyond serving others while leaving them in a state of
continued dependency and need. So the words about it being “God’s {Truth’s} business” to
provide our daily bread is by no means a call to passive acceptance, but instead a call to action
and deliberate design. This reliance on Truth’s providence carried out, in part, by the just and
beneficent actions of Truth-seekers can inform the construction of entire economic and social
systems that extend across large regions -- perhaps even the globe. Although modern history
minimizes such possibilities, there are histories of nature-based Truth-seeking people who not
only established such economic and social systems (as components of a Truth-based approach to
life), but these systems flourished for centuries prior to the violent establishment of modern
conquest and exploitation.

        The previous paragraphs dealt with the ideal of non-possession, a reality Gandhi
acknowledged few (in this human age) are prepared to live. But he held Satyagrahis must keep
this ideal in the forefront of their awareness, particularly in regards to reducing personal
possessions. He does not rule out the necessity of some possessions -- particularly those that are
used for beneficent and just purposes, such as me using my personal computer to type this book.
But he would challenge each Satyagrahi to reflect on keeping any needless possessions,
particularly those kept for luxurious and selfish purposes. He would also concede there may be
some logic to maintaining some savings in a societal situation that is contrary to the ideal of non-
possession. But even as I write this, Gandhi was a living example of someone who practiced a
high level of non-possession in a society that was clearly counter to this approach to life. Yet,
the challenge remains for every Satyagrahi to examine her or his possessions and reduce them to
a reasonable level. Gandhi’s understanding and living of civilization, happiness, and the ability
to serve was very much based in the voluntary reduction -- not increase -- of material

        Now what does this have to do with civil disobedience, and particularly mass civil
disobedience which will more often involve the use of money? One lesson is to maintain
awareness of the ideal of non-possession and the just and beneficent society that emanates from
progression toward this ideal. To the extent civil resisters and their supporters move themselves
and society closer to the ideal of non-possession, the more likely beneficence, justice, and
happiness will exist within the civil resisters, their supporters, and the larger society. Also,
keeping in line with the principle of being the change we seek, groups and organizations on the
Satyagraha path are challenged to be living examples of the progression to this ideal they wish to
see the larger society achieve. The following paragraphs will explore this point in more detail.

       One of the best ways for civil resisters (and their supporters) to demonstrate to society
the power of progressing toward the ideal of non-possession is to engage in civil disobedience
campaigns that, although they may use money, do not require any money. To this point, Gandhi

                 “But Civil Disobedience asks for and needs not a single farthing [a
                 quarter penny] for its support. It needs and asks for stout hearts
                 with a faith that will not flinch from any danger and will shine the
                 brightest in the face of severest trial.”40

This was not meant to be a bold public declaration without merit, Gandhi designed and
organized civil disobedience campaigns that were able to function exceptionally well even if
they did not receive a penny. For him, this meant organizing campaigns for which the fuel of
their efforts was stout hearts, faith, courage, commitment, and other personal and group traits
cultivated on the Satyagraha path. With these, a penniless campaign will discover and attract
everything it needs to function, even money. Note Gandhi’s words about peasants considering
civil disobedience for better working conditions:

                 “All that is required is the proper education of the peasantry and
                 labour. They need to be informed that if they are properly

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 68 - 69, excerpt from Young India,
April 1, 1926.

                 organized they have more wealth and resources through their
                 labour than the capitalists through their money.”41

In this context, Satyagraha-based education would enable the peasants to discover within
themselves and things already at their disposal much of what they need to engage in civil
disobedience. This includes their labor which can be used to attain other resources: if they need
something, they can find work to obtain such for their campaign -- even if they work for a salary
to be used to buy what they need. Within such a formula, Satyagraha-based education is the
requirement, not money; because without Satyagraha-based education the peasants may not even
realize the possibility of offering their labor to acquire what they need for their campaign.
Gandhi applied this basic principle to a range of civil disobedience and Satyagraha efforts
throughout his work in India: the requirement always being Satyagraha values and traits, not
money and material things that can be acquired (if needed) through applying these values and

         It is important to distinguish that the use of money doesn’t mean that it is essential to a
campaign. To return to the example of me using my computer to type this book, my use of the
computer in no way makes it essential to writing this book. Yes, there are certain benefits to
using a computer (namely the ability to save large files, make quicker edits, and utilize search
functions), but if I had no computer I would still write this book by virtue of my commitment.
To write out many drafts of the book by hand and sort through hundreds of pages of research
may make the writing process longer, but if such is necessary then the Satyagraha trait of
patience will be well served. And it may be that by writing out the first few drafts by hand and
sharing them with others, that someone else may allow me to use her or his computer -- or
perhaps give me a computer to complete the book. In the increasing materialism and greed of
the modern age, money and material things have been made overly important in the minds of
humans. This mental and social conditioning has extended to the point where many regard the
use of money or material things in an effort as rendering these essential to that effort. Such
thinking has often resulted in minimizing, sometimes completely, the importance of values,
traits, and capabilities that can be developed by a person or community. Thus, many in the
community organizing, peace, and social justice fields will seek money and material resources
before developing morality, courage, understanding, a capacity to love, and other values and

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 368 - 369, excerpt from Harijan,
July 29, 1939.

traits withing themselves and among the people they work with or serve. If this is our approach,
money and material resources can be perceived as “essential” within a flawed perspective.
Gandhi’s approach was counter to this: he sought the presence and development of Satyagraha
values and traits first before even considering any possible need for money or material
resources. In fact, he sought values and traits even if it required him to be an unpaid teacher in a
community for an extended period of time -- living off of charity instead of a salary was a
practice he willingly embraced as part of his vow of non-possession. And to the extent he
demonstrated this approach honoring the ideal of non-possession, he became a living example
for millions around the world of the power and benefits of progressing toward the ideal of non-

       Keeping in line with the ideal of non-possession, Gandhi felt Satyagraha organizations
should also live day to day. He explained:

                  “I have no doubt that the ideal is for public institutions to live, like
                  nature, from day to day. The institution that fails to win public
                  support has no right to exist as such. The subscriptions [or
                  contributions] that an institution annually receives are a test of its
                  popularity and the honesty of its management; and I am of opinion
                  that every institution should submit to that test.”42

Note that Gandhi emphasized that contributions should be given to a Satyagraha organization on
the basis of the people determining that it should exist. This consideration includes how well the
organization is run as well as how well it serves a purpose the people deem worthwhile. This
differs from many contemporary fund development approaches that often downplay, if not
completely exclude, whether an organization functions well as a reason to contribute to it.
Instead, the cause(s) the organization seeks to address is emphasized, and usually in the context
of the organization telling the public its cause is important. Sometimes this is done in dishonest
ways that hide blatant mismanagement of funds and the indulgence of greed via exorbitant
salaries and luxurious facilities. Gandhi found these and other immoral tendencies to be more
common among organizations with permanent (or long-term) sources of funding:

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 198.

                   “And now after considerable experience with the many public
                   institutions which I have managed, it has become my firm
                   conviction that it is not good to run public institutions on
                   permanent funds. A permanent fund carries in itself the seed of the
                   moral fall of the institution. A public institution means an
                   institution conducted with the approval, and from the funds, of the
                   public. When such an institution ceases to have public support, it
                   forfeits its right to exist. Institutions maintained on permanent
                   funds are often found to ignore public opinion, and are frequently
                   responsible for acts contrary to it.”43

Such permanent (or long-term) funding can include endowments, wealthy benefactors, and
grants (from foundations, corporations, and governments) that are given with little to no
consideration of the larger masses. As a result, many organizations in pursuit of such funding
have catered more to wealthy or well-connected select groups over the masses of people they
claim to serve. Many organizations seek their continued existence as a goal more important than
serving the will of the people and having such service be the means of their continued existence.
But Gandhi identified a solution to this approach and all the immoral problems that emanate
from it: to rely on funding that is short-term oriented (such as year to year) and provided by the
masses. He acknowledged that it may make sense to exclude certain things from this short-term
based approach to funding, like an organization owning a building. But he clearly stated the
operational funds of a Satyagraha organization should be short-term based and overwhelmingly
composed of contributions from the masses. This will be another influence to help prevent
organizations from ignoring or overlooking the concerns of the masses. Any organization that
seeks to utilize civil disobedience, particularly mass civil disobedience, must see that it keeps the
concerns of the masses always in the forefront of its operation. If it does not, Gandhi would
regard it better that such an organization no longer exist. The termination of organizations and
emergence of new ones within such an approach would be acceptable to Gandhi.

       Once organizations receive public money (i.e., contributions), Gandhi warned: “Strictest
honesty and care are necessary in the handling of public funds.”44 His approach to the careful

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 198.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 73, excerpt from Young India,
October 13, 1927.

handling of public money emanates from his own personal practice toward money, as he

                  “I kept account of every farthing I spent, and my expenses were
                  carefully calculated. Every little item, such as omnibus fares or
                  postage or a couple of coppers spent on newspapers, would be
                  entered, and the balance struck every evening before going to bed.
                  That habit has stayed with me ever since, and I know that as a
                  result, though I have had to handle public funds amounting to
                  lakhs*, I have succeeded in exercising strict economy in their
                  disbursement, and instead of outstanding debts have had invariably
                  a surplus balance in respect of all the movements I have led. Let
                  every youth take a leaf out of my book and make it a point to
                  account for everything that comes into and goes out of his pocket,
                  and like me he is sure to be a gainer in the end.”45
                  [**NOTE: A lakh is equivalent to one hundred thousand dollars.]

Let every Satyagrahi and Satyagraha organization take heed of this practice: its application can
greatly reduce, if not completely end, individuals and organizations operating with minimal
funds or in debt. Also note, that although Gandhi did not regard money as essential, he still held
careful use and accounting of it as greatly important. He did this, in part, because: “Without
properly kept accounts it is impossible to maintain truth in its pristine purity.”46 Therefore, it is
no exaggeration to say that any individual or organization that honors Gandhi should not be
wasteful or in debt. All Satyagrahis would be wise to “count your pennies and use them wisely,”
as many of my grandparents often advised.

       Following the previous paragraph, the next point should come as no surprise:

                  “I had learnt at the outset not to carry on public work with
                  borrowed money. One could rely on people’s promises in most
                  matters except in respect of money. I had never found people
                  quick to pay the amounts they had undertaken to subscribe

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 52.
            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 151.

                   [donate], and the Natal Indians [in South Africa] were no
                   exception to the rule. As, therefore, no work was done unless there
                   were funds on hand, the Natal Indian Congress has never been in

One certain way to avoid debt is simply to not spend money you don’t have. And this includes
money promised but not yet received. This lesson probably has even greater weight in an age
where credit (credit cards, payday loans, etc.) is often freely given with predatory conditions
attached. The negative implications of an organization working to affect just and beneficent
change operating from a place of a debt can be great, including: less efficient (wasteful) use of
money to cover the additional costs of paying debt (i.e. interest rates), questioned competence,
diminished reputation and public opinion, loss of trust and future contributions from the public,

        Another helpful practice to avoiding debt lays in another of Gandhi’s financial practices:

                   “I had long learnt the principle of never having more money at
                   one’s disposal than necessary.”48

This principle combined with the practice of not spending money we don’t have not only
protects us from debt but also wastefulness and extravagance. Gandhi was adamant in declaring
extravagance has no place in Satyagraha, especially civil disobedience campaigns. He shared
the following while offering civil disobedience against the Salt Tax, in which he and others
marched from town to town to bring attention to their campaign:

                   “Extravagance has no room in this campaign. If we cannot gather
                   crowds unless we carry on a hurricane expensive propaganda, I
                   would be satisfied to address half a dozen men and women.
                   Success depends not upon our high skill. It depends solely upon
                   God {Truth}. And He {It} only helps the vigilant and humble.”49

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 150.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 151.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 245, excerpt from Young India,
April 3, 1930.

One of the reasons for this stance, besides just the wastefulness, is that extravagance is often a
characteristic of unjust individuals and governments. How would Gandhi look enriching himself
with a palace and fancy clothes while engaging in efforts to address the injustice of the British
monarchy who also had palaces and fancy clothes? Besides the hypocrisy of such an approach,
Gandhi saw the wisdom of creating clear contrasts between himself and his unjust opponents --
the same way he sought to distinguish Satyagraha from common characteristics of violence.
This clarity of contrast strengthened his ability to influence public opinion. In fact, he held to
this position even in rejecting forms of extravagance the masses, in their admiration of him,
sought to freely give to him and his fellow marchers:

                   “We are marching in the name of God {Truth}. We profess to act
                   on behalf of the hungry, the naked and the unemployed. I have no
                   right to criticize the Viceregal salary, if we are costing the country
                   say fifty times seven pice, the average daily income of our people.
                   ... What else can be the result if they [the people] will fetch for me
                   from whatever source possible, the choicest oranges and grapes, if
                   they will bring 120 when I should want 12 oranges, if when I need
                   one pound of milk, they will produce three? What else can be the
                   result if we would take all the dainties you may place before us
                   under the excuse that we would hurt your feeling, if we did not
                   take them. ... And then imagine me with an easy conscience
                   writing the Viceregal letter on costly glazed paper with a fountain
                   pen, a free gift from some accommodating friend!!! Will this
                   behove [sic] you and me? Can a letter so written produce the
                   slightest effect?”50

The moral hypocrisy of accepting costly gifts, even those offered by the impetus of the people,
moved Gandhi to write: “I am definitely of opinion that a public worker should accept no costly
gifts.”51 Such acceptance not only greases the slide to immoral temptation (i.e. corruption), it
also weakens the moral validity of anyone who stands upon and holds to Truth.

            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 243 - 244, excerpt from Young
India, April 3, 1940.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 222.

        Another point, which I cannot present as a settled principle of Gandhi, is the question of
who Satyagraha organizations should accept money from. Let me share the quote that raised this
issue for me. Gandhi wrote the following about a campaign to end untouchability at a Hindu
temple in Vykom, India:

                So far as non-Hindu assistance is concerned, I am as clear about
                such pecuniary [monetary] help as I am about such personal help.
                I may not build my Hindu temple with non-Hindu money. If I
                desire a place of worship I must pay for it. This removal of
                untouchability is much more than building a temple of brick and
                mortar. Hindus must bleed for it, must pay for it. ... As for
                accepting assistance from Hindus from outside [of Vykom], such
                acceptance would betray unreadiness on the part of the local
                Hindus for the reform. If the Satyagrahis have the sympathy of the
                local Hindus, they must get locally all the money they may need.
                If they have not, the very few who may offer Satyagraha must be
                content to starve.”52 (emphasis mine)

The above definitely brings up some important points for discussion. First, let me be clear that
the Swaraj effort in India was not supported by solely Hindu money. The effort involved people
among various religions and ethnicities, and members of all these diverse groups contributed
financial support. But in considering anything that is specific to a particular group, Gandhi’s
words indicate a clear preference that such support come from that group alone. This, for
example, would imply that Satyagraha efforts only accept money from Satyagrahis. With groups
that are open to a wide range of people, this is no problem. For Satyagrahis, this would mean
only accepting material support from those who walk the Satyagraha path. And it excludes
individuals and groups that do not embrace Satyagraha (and its values): including most
foundations, governments, and corporations that do not ascribe to the Satyagraha ways. This
clearly eliminates many common sources of material support for many community organizing,
peace, and social justice organizations. And from the limited research I’ve been able to garner
regarding material support for Gandhi’s efforts, he did not accept support from the colonial
British government or unjust businesses and organizations. This is counter to the contemporary

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 181, excerpt from Young India,
May 1, 1924.

practice of some organizations working for just and beneficent change accepting material
support from governments, corporations, individuals, and other entities that are clearly unjust
and destructive.

        But Gandhi’s words go even further in limiting appropriate sources of material support:
indicating a strong preference that such support be limited to the local community in which a
campaign is being conducted. This would, for example, rule out people from outside
Montgomery, Alabama, contributing to the famous bus boycott that began in 1955. This
emphasis on local-based efforts is a running theme in Satyagraha, so it is no surprise that Gandhi
would also apply it to accepting material support. But some of the Swaraj efforts with the Indian
National Congress (which he worked with at times) do not appear to have been as strict with
local limits for material support: that with the Congress supporting simultaneous locally-based
campaigns, it appears some money raised in one area of India may have been used to support
work in other areas. Not having access to research addressing such material support, I cannot
present a more definitive account.

         Either way, Gandhi’s words indicate a preference that we can treat like the ideal of non-
possession: something to always keep in the forefront of our awareness and progress toward
even if we cannot meet the ideal presently. And the ideal for material support appears to be only
to accept local-based material contributions from those within one’s value-based group: i.e.,
Satyagraha organizations within a town only accepting material support from Satyagrahis in that
town. Gandhi felt so strongly about this point that he preferred that the campaign addressing
untouchability in Vykom fail instead of attain success by accepting contributions from anyone
other than local Vykom Hindus. Following this stance, we can derive a principle that it is better
that a community only receive the successful benefits of a civil disobedience campaign this is
supported from within that community. That it is better for a campaign not supported in this way
to fail, even if such failure serves as a foundation for future success by indicating shortcomings
local civil resisters must address in order to transform their community. As harsh as this may
seem to some, there is a logic within it: those who work for and achieve a benefit are more likely
to appreciate and sustain it than those who merely receive that benefit without working for or
contributing to it. Even when Satyagrahis offer civil disobedience on behalf of others, it is
toward the aim of transforming such persons to realize the potency of Satyagraha that they may
then also seek justice and beneficence. So at some point in the fulfillment of Satyagraha-guided
civil disobedience, the members of a community where such is offered must become involved in
and support the realization of justice and beneficence -- whether in efforts to achieve these via

civil disobedience or in sustaining the continued existence of these once attained. And civil
resisters should surely keep this aspect of the ideal in the forefront of their awareness as they
work toward its fulfillment.

       I’ll conclude this section with a quote that has particular relevance to issues of material
support. As Gandhi wrote:

                “We should remember, that Non-possession is a principle
                applicable to thoughts, as well as to things. A man who fills his
                brain with useless knowledge violates that inestimable principle.
                Thoughts, which turn us away from God {Truth}, or do not turn us
                towards Him, constitute impediments in our way.”53

Let not thoughts about money and material things be impediments that turn one away from


          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 47, excerpt from From Yeravda
Mandir, 1932, Chapter VI: Non-Possession Or Poverty.

                                            CHAPTER TWELVE
        Civil Disobedience: Application of a Last Resort
                           Part Two
                   “Under a government which imprisons unjustly, the true place
                   for a just man is also a prison.”1
                           -- Henry David Thoreau

                   “jail-going was understood to be the normal lot of

        In continuing the exploration of applying Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience, the next
section will examine how Gandhi dealt with arrest and imprisonment. As the above quotes
indicated, arrest and imprisonment for acts of civil disobedience are to be expected. But Gandhi
drew a strict line between where disobedience is appropriate and where obedience to the law and
government is to be resumed. As the following will demonstrate, he regarded it as highly
inappropriate to carry disobedience to the arrest process and imprisonment, even when these
were carried out in uncomfortable and mean-spirited ways by unjust governments.

        Also note, although there is a technical difference between jails and prisons (prisons
usually being used for long-term imprisonment), the next section will use the terms
indistinguishably: that when jail is mentioned, the same point applies to prisons; and vice versa.

        Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, essay originally titled Resistance to
Government, 1849.
            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 429.


                   “Our triumph consists in thousands being led to the prisons like
                   lambs to the slaughter house. If the lambs of the world had
                   been willingly led, they would have long ago saved themselves
                   from the butcher’s knife. Our triumph consists again in being
                   imprisoned for no wrong whatsoever. The greater our
                   innocence, the greater our strength and the swifter our victory.”3

       Some may be surprised to learn that Gandhi made it a practice to never resist arrest or
imprisonment. This was done, in part, to preserve the civility of civil disobedience:

                   “To preserve intact the civil nature of this disobedience the
                   Satyagrahi must be wholly unarmed, and in spite of insults, kicks
                   or worse must meekly stand the ground, and be arrested without
                   the slightest opposition.”4 (emphasis mine)

This contrasts with the practice of some protesters today who make dramatic displays of their
arrests. I’ve seen protesters drop to the ground, scream, force police officers to carry or drag
them to paddy wagons, and other forms of “passively” resisting arrest. Gandhi would regard
these tactics as not only a violation of the Satyagraha approach but hold some of them as forms
of violence -- which includes words, thoughts, and deeds. He was very deliberate in stating that
Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience ends once the penalty of such disobedience is presented.
And such a penalty includes arrest, even an illegal or immoral arrest, and other sanctions
imposed for committing “no wrong whatsoever” -- as the quote opening this section indicated.
He explained:

                   “Indeed whilst on the one hand civil disobedience authorizes
                   disobedience of unjust laws or unmoral laws of a State which one
                   seeks to overthrow, it requires meek and willing submission to the

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 172, excerpt from Young India,
August 4, 1921.
            Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 70, excerpt from Young India, July
14, 1927.

                 penalty of disobedience and, therefore, cheerful acceptance of jail
                 discipline and its attendant hardships.”5

The same applies for arrests. Yet how common is it today to see protestors cheerfully submitting
to arrest, adorning their handcuffs with genuine smiles? Gandhi was clear to limit disobedience
to targeted injustices; and for him, arrest and imprisonment for breaking a law was not unjust.
As will be addressed later, submission to such penalty doesn’t mean he accepted abusive or
inhumane treatment or imprisonment. But his acceptance of the principle of penalty for breaches
of law was something he respected even when the application of such penalty was unjustly done,
a tactic used repeatedly by the British colonial government. He also acknowledged that offering
civil disobedience included the risk of enduring imprisonment (and other forms of suffering) for
doing nothing wrong.

        There is also another important reason Gandhi never resisted arrest and imprisonment: to
retain a calm atmosphere around civil disobedience. As he wrote: “By noiselessly going to
prison a civil resister ensures a calm atmosphere.”6 Such an atmosphere has added importance
when mass civil disobedience is being offered. This approach also made it easier for Gandhi to
clearly indicate to those carrying out the arrests and imprisonments that his disobedience was
directed against the government and targeted injustices, not them personally. He wrote about
this regarding an incident in India:

                 “A sort of friendliness sprang up between the officials -- Collector,
                 Magistrate, Police Superintendent -- and myself. I might have
                 legally resisted the notices served on me. Instead I accepted them
                 all, and my conduct towards the officials was correct. They thus
                 saw that I did not want to offend them personally, but that I wanted
                 to offer civil resistance to their orders. In this way they were put at
                 ease, and instead of harassing me they gladly availed themselves of
                 my and my co-workers’ co-operation in regulating the crowds.

         Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 63, excerpt from Young India,
December 29, 1921.
          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 172, excerpt from Young India,
August 4, 1921.

                      But it was an ocular demonstration to them of the fact that their
                      authority was shaken.”7

Consider how the government officials would have responded to their authority being shaken
had not Gandhi’s approach established a sense of friendliness among them? A common reply in
the absence of such “friendliness” is an escalation in police and government force, which
sometimes results in extreme violence. Now taking the approach Gandhi took doesn’t insure
that some government officials won’t still respond with extreme force and violence, but when
presented with such situations let the civil resisters genuinely extend (through their approach) an
opportunity to establish a friendly rapport that seeks to retain calm.

       Gandhi’s approach of accepting arrest and imprisonment “without the slightest
opposition” laid, in part, in his realization of the power of suffering:

                      “The idea behind the imprisonment of Satyagrahis is that he
                      expects relief through humble submission to suffering. He
                      believes that meek suffering for a just cause has a virtue all its own
                      and infinitely greater than the virtue of the sword.”8

Understanding this, Gandhi was not troubled by unjust and immoral arrests, imprisonments,
fines, seizures of what little property he had, banishment from certain districts, and other
sanctions imposed upon him. Neither was he troubled when these tactics were imposed on
others. In fact, he wrote:

                      “We must dismiss the idea of overawing the Government by huge
                      demonstrations every time some one is arrested. On the contrary,
                      we must treat arrest as the normal condition of the life of a non-co-
                      operator. For we must seek arrest and imprisonment, as a soldier
                      who goes to battle seeks death. We expect to bear down the
                      opposition of the Government by courting and not by avoiding
                      imprisonment, even though it be by showing our supposed

               Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 411.
               Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 66, excerpt from Young India, June
5, 1924.

                      readiness to be arrested and imprisoned en masse. Civil
                      disobedience then emphatically means our desire to surrender to a
                      single unarmed policeman.”9

Following this reasoning, civil resisters will reject the tendency to launch protests or some (more
intense) tactical response to the arrest and imprisonment of other civil resisters. These and other
penalties should be accepted in the same vein of other normal happenings in a civil resistance
campaign: an arrest should register no more than conducting an education workshop or other act
of constructive service. The normal acceptance of arrest would also include refraining from
anger and outrage, but instead should be accepted with the joy Satyagrahis realize from engaging
in suffering and the service of others. Anyone who becomes a civil resister does so with the
willingness to suffer, which includes possibility of arrest, imprisonment, and other sanctions.
And the willingness to bear arrest and imprisonment should be done with such humility that even
a group of thousands of civil resisters would surrender to an arrest committed by “a single
unarmed policeman,” as the above quote stated.

        As much as Gandhi humbly submitted to arrest, imprisonment, and other sanctions, he
acknowledged no civil resister should submit to humiliating or inhumane treatment. To this
point, he wrote: “The pledge of non-violence does not require us to co-operate in our
humiliation.”10 In the context of submitting to imprisonment, he explained:

                      “This does not mean that we may not resist when the treatment
                      touches our self-respect. Thus for instance we must resist to the
                      point of death the use of abusive language by officials or if they
                      were to throw our food at us which is often done. Insult and abuse
                      are no part of an official’s duty. Therefore we must resist them.”11

And the means of resistance for Satyagrahis lay within Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience.
But Gandhi acknowledged that civil resisters must be prepared to endure all other hardships of

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 172, excerpt from Young India,
August 4, 1921.
          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 57, excerpt from Young India,
October 20, 1921.
                Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 66, excerpt from Young India, June
5, 1924.

jail that do not offend their self-respect. He warned that civil resisters must be prepared to
endure brutal treatment and inconveniences, unfavorable accommodations, rudeness, and the loss
of many comforts taken for granted outside of jail. And, in the context of humility, he cautioned
civil resisters to bear and tolerate these as the harsh reality of imprisonment and not perceive
them as attacks to their self-respect. Note his words to those who would be to haste to offer civil
disobedience against these daily realities of imprisonment:

                   “Satyagraha [or civil disobedience] is not a weapon to be used
                   lightly or easily and at the slightest provocation. It is better that he
                   who is easily provoked does not go to jail.”12

His words about “the slightest provocation” would apply to all the realities of imprisonment.
Where there is a doubt about if a particular hardship is part of the normal reality of imprisonment
or an attack at one’s self-respect, Gandhi would encourage tolerance of the hardship instead of a
call to civil disobedience. Remember, Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience involves the
willingness to suffer, and imprisonment (with all its harsh realities) is a form of suffering --
therefore, it need not be comfortable or easy. Thus, he instructed civil resisters:

                   “Gaol [jail] discipline must be submitted to until gaol government
                   itself becomes or is felt to be corrupt and immoral. But
                   deprivation of comfort, imposition of restrictions and such other
                   inconveniences do not make gaol government corrupt.”13

        In addition to submitting to jail rules and discipline, Gandhi declared civil resisters must
not claim any special privileges based on their imprisonment resulting from civil disobedience.
He rejected that the hardships of imprisonment designed for criminals should be lessened for
civil resisters who broke laws for morally justifiable reasons:

                   “It is now, therefore, clear that a civil resister’s resistance ceases
                   and his obedience is resumed as soon as he is under confinement.
                   In confinement he claims no privileges because of the civility of

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 366, excerpt from Harijan, June 3,
         Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 61, excerpt from Young India,
December 15, 1921.

                      his disobedience. Inside the jail by his exemplary conduct he
                      reforms even the criminals surrounding him, he softens the hearts
                      of jailors and others in authority. Such meek behaviour springing
                      from strength and knowledge ultimately dissolves the tyranny of
                      the tyrant. It is for this reason that I claim that voluntary suffering
                      is the quickest and the best remedy for the removal of abuses and

The transformative and converting aspects of Satyagraha should not be abandoned in jail. Just as
the pure living of the Satyagraha way should transform one’s community and opponents,
Satyagrahis by their conduct should beneficently convert and transform the atmosphere of the
jail and all within it. Gandhi even charged civil resisters with the following:

                      “We must be content to live with the confirmed criminals and even
                      welcome the opportunity of working moral reform in them.”15

                      “Indeed, I hope that the conduct of non-co-operators in the gaol
                      [jail] will be strictly correct, dignified and yet submissive. We
                      must not regard gaolers and warders as our enemies but as fellow
                      human beings not utterly devoid of the human touch. Our
                      gentlemanly behaviour is bound to disarm all suspicion or

And, as has been stated earlier in the book, the power of our conduct to beneficently affect and
transform others is directly connected to our purity.

       Gandhi acknowledged it is a challenge for Satyagrahis to walk with the bold courage
needed to engage in Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience and then shift to a humble, disciplined
submission once arrested and imprisoned. He wrote:

         Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 63, excerpt from Young India,
December 29, 1921.
                Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 66, excerpt from Young India, June
5, 1924.
         Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 61, excerpt from Young India,
December 15, 1921.

                   “I know that this path of discipline on the one hand and fierce
                   defiance on the other is a very difficult path, but there is no royal
                   road to Swaraj. ... But even as you require a steady and
                   experienced hand to draw a straight line, so are steadiness of
                   discipline and firmness of purpose absolutely necessary if we are
                   to walk along the chosen path with an unerring step.”17

The difficultly of making such a transition does not render it impossible. And clearly, Gandhi
indicated the responsibility of making this necessary transition lays with the civil resisters.

      One thing that may aid us in making the transition from bold disobedience to humility is
how we view jail and imprisonment. Note how Gandhi described his first experience in jail:

                   “My first experience of jail life was in 1908. I saw that some of
                   the regulations that the prisoners had to observe were such as
                   should be voluntarily observed by a brahmachari, that is, one
                   desiring to practise self-restraint.”18

He embraced some of the restrictions of jail as mirroring elements of his spiritual approach to
life, which included his brahmacharya vow. How much can our experiences in jail (and the
atmosphere there) be transformed by not viewing it as unwanted hardship to be toiled, but rather
an affirmative place of opportunity to further cultivate ourselves and others. To this point,
Gandhi wrote:

                   “Let only the purest and the most innocent go to jail. It does not
                   matter if they have to remain immured behind the prison bars for a
                   whole lifetime. Their sacrifice will fill the prison with a sweet
                   fragrance and its influence will even travel outside and subtly
                   transform the entire atmosphere. They will never long for their
                   release nor doubt that their sacrifice is being ‘wasted’. They will
                   realize that a consecrated resolve is more potent in its action than

         Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 61, excerpt from Young India,
December 15, 1921.
             Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 325.

                 mere physical action can ever be. The discipline that they will be
                 acquiring in prison will help the non-violent organization of the
                 people outside and instil fearlessness among them.”19

Thus, it was no surprise that Gandhi and others who viewed imprisonment in such a way
embraced it as an opportunity to rejuvenate, cultivate a deeper growth, and continue the beauty
of serving one’s self and others. This approach need not be taken to the extreme that elevates
imprisonment to be the only place to pursue these aims; instead, as Satyagrahis pursue these
aims outside of imprisonment, they can approach the restraints of imprisonment as an
opportunity to focus on these with an increased attention and intensity.

         In reflecting on all that has been covered in this section, we can see that Gandhi had a
strict and direct approach to imprisonment as well as methods to use it as a tool that furthered the
aims of Satyagraha. Note how much of what has been discussed is reflected in the following
rules of conduct Gandhi offered to civil resisters participating in a civil disobedience campaign:

                 “In my opinion therefore as Satyagrahis we are bound, when we
                 become prisoners,
                          1. to act with the most scrupulous honesty;
                          2. to co-operate with the prison officials in their
                          3. to set by our obedience to all reasonable discipline an
                          example to co-prisoners;
                          4. to ask for no favours and claim no privileges which the
                          meanest of prisoners do not get and which we do not need
                          strictly for reasons of health;
                          5. not to fail to ask what we do so need and not to get
                          irritated if we do not obtain it;
                          6. to do all the tasks allotted, to the utmost of our ability.
                 It is such conduct which will make the Government position
                 uncomfortable and untenable. It is difficult for them to meet
                 honesty with honesty for their want of faith and unpreparedness for
                 such a rare eventuality. Rowdyism they expect and meet with a

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 294 - 295, excerpt from Harijan,
June 3, 1939.

                 double dose of it. They were able to deal with anarchical crime
                 but they have not yet found out any way of dealing with non-
                 violence save by yielding to it.”20

Different rules may be added or emphasized depending on the scope of a particular civil
disobedience campaign, but the core of this approach will remain. Civil resisters would be wise
to uphold this core if they encounter arrest, imprisonment, or other sanctions for breaches of law.

         Lastly, I will comment on the issue of Satyagraha organizations considering formerly
convicted persons for employment positions. Given that jail and imprisonment hold a normal
place in Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience, I would caution against all Satyagraha
organizations and groups having policies and practices that discriminate against those who have
been convicted. This includes unspoken practices that deny formerly incarcerated persons
opportunities open to those who have not been incarcerated. Some who offered Satyagraha-
guided civil disobedience, including Gandhi, have been convicted of serious crimes such as
terrorism, treason, inciting violence; and whether the convictions were just or not, they often
remained on the criminal records of these persons. Should such a conviction bar someone who
possesses a deep understanding of Satyagraha from being employed at a community organizing,
peace, or social justice organization? Or if hired, being limited to low level jobs and denied fair
consideration for positions involving more responsibility? Or how about a felon convicted of an
immoral crime (like robbery or murder) who was transformed by engaging with Satyagrahis in
jail; should such a transformed person be denied or viewed less favorable for employment
because of a previous conviction? (And this doesn’t include others who commit serious crimes
but have not been convicted and, thus, don’t have to admit to their previous wrongdoings.)
Given the modern stigma against formerly incarcerated persons, I would argue against
Satyagraha organizations even asking about previous convictions in any employment process.
As this book reflects, there are a range of much more important factors to consider for persons
engaging in Satyagraha work. And for those who will engage in civil disobedience, previous
imprisonment may even be a benefit that will assist them in carrying out humble, disciplined
conduct in jail. Let me be clear: these are my opinions, I do not present them as Gandhi’s. But I
share them feeling that they are in accord with his principles and approach to Satyagraha.

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 65 - 66, excerpt from Young India,
June 5, 1924.

                      “We must make the prison a neutral institution in which we
                      may, nay, must co-operate to a certain extent.”21


       Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience has no limited set of tactics but it does set limits to
what tactics can be used and how they should be applied. Clearly, the measures of ahimsa (no
harm, non-violence) and love are part of these limits. So too are upholding Truth and the pursuit
of Truth. This section will explore some of the principles involved in honoring the moral limits
of Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience. Many of these principles have already been touched
upon throughout the book, so I won’t repeat those. Instead this section will focus on things not
already said or that should be emphasized in the context of upholding the just limits of
Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience.

         Although there are no specific set of tactics that define the lexicon of Satyagraha-guided
civil disobedience, a number of tactics have been repeated or used in historic efforts to acquire a
status of being traditional civil disobedience tactics. These include: marches, street rallies and
pickets, (economic and social) boycotts and strikes, and non-payment of taxes. Other applied
tactics include: public teaching sessions; publication and distribution of literature (i.e.
newspapers, pamphlets) to inform public opinion; community-based economic activities such as
spinning homespun cloth and selling it, local farmers’ markets; public and private spiritual
activities to expose injustice; individual and collective fasts; community gatherings (such as
festivals, dinners, picnics) intended to highlight (actualized or potential) collective strength and
unity; public performances, from community theater to concerts; visual art and murals; health
clinics; letter writing campaigns; and more. The point is that Satyagraha-guided civil
disobedience tactics can cover a wide range of activities. And Gandhi encouraged and relied on
the creativity of the people to discover ways to demonstrate disobedience to unjust laws as well
as their strength and determination to affect just and beneficent change. These demonstrations
sometimes varied drastically from community to community but were often centered in the
collective will of the local community. Herein lays some useful reminders to contemporary
Satyagrahis: to not limit their choices to a template of historically recognized tactics; to be free

                Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 64, excerpt from Young India, June
5, 1924.

to create new tactics or expand previously used tactics; and, to center the decision of which
tactics to use in local communities so that they can address the specifics of their local situations
as well attract the allegiance and support of the local people.

        One of the strongest foundations for applying civil disobedience tactics is an ongoing
practice of consistent community constructive service. This service may first begin with an
individual or small group providing service to others, but the maturity of such service offered by
pure individuals will evolve into the community joining in providing such service to itself. Too
often in the present age, many with legitimate concerns and good intentions (morally) weaken
the validity of their civil disobedience by only appearing in a community to protest a particular
wrong. At other times, they are virtually absent from the community -- even if they walk
through that community on a daily basis. Such persons usually use (exploit) the community to
address a particular wrong, to then disappear from the lives of the people once the protest efforts
are done. This mirrors the practice of many contemporary politicians who only appear in
communities during election seasons; and just as most people have great distaste for such
politicians, many communities look at those organizing protest efforts in such a way with a
weary eye. Yes, some community members may call on such organizers in times of need or
work with them from a self-interest perspective to alleviate their suffering, but this standard falls
below the Satyagraha aim of building beneficent communities through the cultivation and unity
of individuals seeking Truth and justice. Even if these protest efforts are able to affect change,
they rarely build a sufficient foundation (through their approach) to sustain such change for the
long-term -- and more importantly, to root the sustenance and growth of beneficent change in the
people of a community. But for those on the path of continuous constructive service, such
service contributes to building and strengthening a communal framework to respond to and
address injustice as well as sustain and grow justice and beneficence within their community.
Such a foundation can greatly increase the impact of any civil disobedience tactics employed.

        One principle that is key to keeping civil disobedience within just (moral) limits is to
only offer civil disobedience for just causes. As evident as this may be, this principle has been
violated many times, especially when people have been allured by the power of successful civil
disobedience. Take note of Gandhi’s words regarding picketing:

               “All picketing without indubitably just cause is violent even
               though no physical force is used. Picketing without such cause
               becomes a nuisance and interferes with the exercise of private

                right. Generally no picketing should be resorted to by individuals
                unless it is promoted by a responsible organization. Picketing like
                civil disobedience has its well-defined limits without a strict
                observance of which it becomes illegitimate and
                reprehensible.”22 (emphasis mine)

The above indicated a few important points, notably: the issue of legitimacy for civil
disobedience; the issue of violence; and, the private rights of others. Let’s deal with these points
individually, first beginning with the issue of legitimacy.

        Encompassed within the issue of legitimacy is the question: what is a just cause? This
question alone can be a topic of an entire book, and in fact a number of books and writings
throughout human history have been devoted to solely this question. In acknowledging the
different paths people take to Truth (and the differing places on such paths), Gandhi was content
to allow each individual and community to answer this question on their own terms. His only
stipulation was to encourage people standing for a just cause to do so in a way that adheres to
Satyagraha and ahimsa (no harm), so that if someone is wrong in standing for a cause that person
only inflicts harm upon herself or himself and not others. It is not uncommon in an age where
ignorance flourishes that some people never realize that their cause is wrong, even if the entire
world tells them they are wrong. Other times, people will only realize the wrongness of their
cause after having held this position for an extended period of time and carried out countless
words, thoughts, and deeds on behalf of this cause. Even Gandhi admitted to pursuing causes he
later realized were wrong (or flawed), his “Himalayan miscalculation” addressed earlier in the
book is an example of this. Therefore, as much as he articulated his views on what he felt were
just causes throughout his Swaraj work in India, he never sought to bind others to them. He
could be very critical of others associating things with Satyagraha that clearly contradicted the
tenets of this path, but even in his criticism he acknowledged the rights of others to pursue their
own paths as he pleaded for them to not confuse the teachings of Satyagraha.

        Although any human is free to have whatever measures they deem worthy to justify a
cause as just, the Satyagraha path places certain limits on what these measures can be for
Satyagrahis. This book has explored many of these things in earlier chapters, such as: seeking
Truth, ahimsa, morality, Swaraj (self-rule), (soul-based) strength, non-possession and a rejection

         Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 340, excerpt from Harijan,
December 2, 1939.

of materialism. The Satyagraha path also places consideration of such measures for community
causes in a collective context: that the determinations of just causes for communities must be
derived by or accepted by the larger community, not imposed upon the community by a select
group or others outside of that community.23 Gandhi’s call for “responsible organizations” to
promote picketing, in the above quote, is an example of this principle in action.

        Out of the many Satyagraha measures for a just cause I want to highlight one for its
particular importance: purity. Examine the following words Gandhi wrote about strikes:

                 “Even our sympathetic strikes, therefore, have to be strikes of self-
                 purification, i.e., non-co-operation [with wrong]. And so, when we
                 declare a strike to redress a wrong, we really cease to take part in
                 the wrong, and thus leave the wrong-doer to his own resources, in
                 other words, enable him to see the folly of continuing the

This realization of one’s wrong, which will be addressed later, can be a benefit to the opponent.
Gandhi’s constant calls for purity indicate that it is essential and vital to any just cause for
Satyagrahis. Purity not only purifies those who embody it but can have a transformative and
beneficial effect on others, especially when Satyagrahis walk with a depth of purity. Gandhi
clearly sought that all his Satyagraha causes had purity-based benefits for those standing for the
cause and others engaged in the course of standing for the cause, whether they were opponents,
supporters, or by-bystanders.

        Another measure for the justness of a Satyagraha cause is the willingness to suffer
indefinitely for it. The willingness to endure hardships can range from the loss of a job, to
imprisonment, to even death. If one cannot declare affirmatively without wavering that a cause
is worth enduring great suffering, Gandhi would advise caution in offering civil disobedience for
such a cause. He shared the following about strikes:

            This does not negate individuals or small groups rejected by a larger community from pursuing causes on
their own, this just dictates such efforts cannot be done in the name of the larger community.
          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 150, excerpt from Young India,
September 22, 1921.

                “A strike may fail in spite of a just grievance and the ability of
                strikers to hold out indefinitely, if there are workers to replace
                them. A wise man, therefore, will not strike for increase of wages
                or other comforts, if he feels that he can be easily replaced. But a
                philanthropic or patriotic man will strike in spite of supply being
                greater than the demand, when he feels for and wishes to associate
                himself with his neighbor’s distress.”25

The sentiment of enduring unending hardship for a just cause is not limited only to strikes, but
applies to all Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience tactics.

        Satyagrahis should also remember that a just cause does not absolve any of the aspects
involved in considering whether to offer civil disobedience and, if that decision is made, how to
progress with its application. Even confronting the most egregious injustice -- a clear just cause
-- does not mean a group can immediately proceed to complete civil disobedience. Even with
the most just cause, civil resisters must engage in processes of self-development, training,
preparation, and Satyagraha education. They must go through the planning stage and seek to
resolve the injustice through genuine attempts at negotiation or their own Satyagraha
development and cultivation of justice and beneficence. And if they reach the stage of offering
civil disobedience, they must proceed through appropriately planned progressive stages: starting
with more limited defensive civil disobedience and patiently analyzing if and when to expand to
more intense forms of aggressive civil disobedience. Gandhi’s earlier words about responsible
organizations promoting picketing are an example of the call for all Satyagraha-guided civil
disobedience to match the justness of their cause with a just means and approach.

        Let’s proceed to the second point: the issue of violence. As can never be repeated
enough, Gandhi did not limit violence to physical force; for him, violence included words,
thoughts, and actions. Thus, the challenge for all Satyagrahis engaged in civil disobedience is to
see that they refrain from using force (whether as words, thoughts, or deeds) to compel others to
their will. Civil disobedience is appropriately named because it emphasizes disobedience to
injustice (often against unjust laws or governments), not forcing others to do things to affect just
and beneficent change. Even in escalating to more intense forms of disobedience, Gandhi paid
great care to see that the escalation was clearly in the form of disobedience not compulsion.

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 150, excerpt from Young India,
September 22, 1921.

Consider these words Gandhi offered about “living walls” at pickets that prevented people from
entering -- forced them to not enter -- targeted buildings:

                   “And is there really any difficulty about regarding a living wall of
                   pickets as naked violence? What is the difference between force
                   used against a man wanting to do a particular thing, and force
                   exercised by interposing yourself between him and the deed?
                   When, during the non-co-operation days, the students in Banaras
                   blocked the passage to the University gates I had to send a
                   peremptory message and, if my recollection serves me right, I
                   strongly condemned their action in the columns of Young India [an
                   Indian newspaper].”26 (bold emphasis mine)

Gandhi was clearly against the use of compulsory force: using force to compel others to do
something we want. Yet in the contemporary community organizing, peace, and social justice
fields, the move away from the strength of morality and purity has resulted in many seeking an
illusory strength in compulsory force. Thus, there has been an escalation in tactics that seek to
force others to do something the protestors want, even if this is cloaked in social charades: such
as doing something to compel police to arrest protestors so they can seem like victims of
injustice. Often the use of compulsory force indicates weakness -- and remember, Gandhi
defined strength as emanating from the soul and living morality. He would not only disapprove
of “living walls” that block others free movement around protests, he would disapprove of
occupying buildings or public spaces to force a response from others. He would also denounce
interrupting meetings as this is also an act of compulsory force, or looking to shut down whole
sections of a city for the sake of forcing others to suspend with normal activity. There are, at
times, a thin line between more intense disobedience and compulsory force, but any Satyagraha-
guided civil disobedience campaign would certainly start with more limited forms of
disobedience that only expand in planned and patient measures. One of the benefits of this
approach is that it provides guidance and points to reflect on if the escalation of disobedience is a
veiled attempt to get others to do what we want -- which is compulsion and outside the limits of
Satyagraha. To address this, Gandhi placed great importance on examining on his thoughts since
the seed of compulsory acts and words often lay in thoughts -- whether such thoughts be
voluntary or things that “appear” in one’s mind. Thus, he spent endless hours on spiritual

             Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 339, excerpt from Harijan, August
27, 1938.

development practices, such as meditation and prayer, to strengthen himself and increase his
purity. These practices enabled him to recognize and address his own weaknesses, which are
usually an underlying reason people engage in compulsory acts. When we act from genuine
(soul-based) strength, there is rarely, if ever, a need to force anyone to do anything: the power of
our strength, especially when joined with purity, is enough to manifest justice and beneficence,
even if the manifestation of such requires consistent effort and patience to transform others and
our situation.

        Gandhi knew and trusted that just and pure disobedience has a transformative effect on
unjust opponents, revealing to them the injustice of their positions. This realization is essential
to such persons transforming to embrace justice or leaving, since the “rewards” of injustice
cannot be sustained in the face of pure efforts bringing forth justice and beneficence. Knowing
the importance of creating a situation where the process of such realization could occur, Gandhi
took deliberate steps to avoid doing things that distracted or deterred the progression of this
process. This included the willing embrace of suffering and sacrifice since this sped the
progression of this realization, particularly when pure persons suffered. This also included a
very restrained use of non-compulsory force: moderation over aggression, humble and careful
applications of Truth-force over arrogance and recklessness. Thus, Gandhi declared:

                “A Satyagrahi’s appeal must contain moderate language.”27

This call for moderation also applies to a Satyagrahi’s thoughts and deeds. In addition to
refraining from compulsory force, Satyagrahis are encouraged to refrain from doing things that
would cause others to react with compulsory force. Although this is not always possible,
moderation in words, thoughts, and deeds are one way of fulfilling this aim.

        But the call for moderation does not mean Satyagrahis must avoid exposing disturbing
truths, even things that may stir controversy or unfavorable responses. Gandhi wrote:

                “Vilification of an opponent there can never be. But this does not
                exclude a truthful characterization of his acts. An opponent is not
                always a bad man because he opposes. He may be as honourable

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 73, excerpt from Young India,
October 13, 1927.

                      as we may claim to be and yet there may be vital differences
                      between him and us.”28

Gandhi made it a practice to distinguish between a person’s unjust acts and positions (which he
opposed) and the person who committed such acts or held such positions (who he sought to
convert). Reflecting on the scope of his own personal change, Gandhi knew that others could
also change: that if he could go from a self-centered lawyer to a humble seeker of Truth, the
possibility of drastic transformation existed for everyone. And if an opponent changed, such a
person could be an ally, and perhaps a great friend who joined the quest for Truth, justice, and
beneficence. But how much would such a potential partnership be hindered if there was as a
history of bad blood and vilification from both sides? Even if his opponents vilified him, Gandhi
would not contribute to creating “bad blood” by offering personal attacks of his own against his
opponents. But he saw no future potential partnership with the unjust acts and positions of his
opponents and, thus, could be brutally honest in describing these. Now due to humility and not
having absolute knowledge (of his own correctness), Gandhi would temper his criticisms of the
unjust acts and positions of his opponents. But even within such temperance, he would not avoid
strongly commenting on the unjust acts and positions of his opponents -- and even those of his
supporters and fellow Satyagrahis. Gandhi’s thoughts on this are reflected in the following:

                      “There is no question of any limit to which hostility may be
                      carried. For there should be no hostility to persons. Hostility there
                      must be to acts when they are subversive of morals or the good of

        The final point is the private rights of others. The application of Satyagraha-guided civil
disobedience is partly based on Satyagrahis defending their right to not cooperate with injustice.
Therefore, from a Satyagraha perspective, it is of utmost importance to respect the rights of
others if Satyagrahis stand for their rights. Implicit in this stand is an often quoted spiritual
principle: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But this standard falls short of
the Satyagraha measure because, in this present age, there are people with limited understanding
and low self-esteem (forms of ignorance) that treat themselves badly and, according to this

                Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 84, excerpt from Young India, May
7, 1931.
                Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 84, excerpt from Young India, May
7, 1931.

measure, would be justified in treating others badly. For the Satyagrahi, one must do unto others
what a just and beneficent person would want done to one’s self. And this surely includes
respecting the private rights of others. As Gandhi wrote:

                “If we wish to evolve the spirit of democracy out of slavery, we
                must be scrupulously exact in our dealings with opponents. We
                may not replace the slavery of the Government by that of the non-
                co-operationists. We must concede to our opponents the
                freedom we claim for ourselves and for which we are fighting.”30
                (emphasis mine)

Again, the freedom Gandhi encouraged Satyagrahis to concede to their opponents includes
respecting the private rights of their opponents.

        The mention of private rights makes a distinction between the public roles opponents
occupy (such as a government job or position) and the rights all private citizens have which must
be respected by Satyagrahis. Therefore, Satyagraha-guided civil disobedience would not hesitate
to target the corruption of government officials in the scope of their jobs, but would avoid
targeting any corruption in their private lives that has no bearing on their jobs. And where this a
questionable connection, there is good reason to lean toward non-disclosure, especially since
such exposure is rarely essential to affect just and beneficent change: the moral strength of civil
resisters, their purity, and willingness to suffer have much greater impact on affecting such
change. Within this paradigm, Gandhi would have no problem protesting in front of a
government building but would refrain from protesting in front of a government official’s home -
- unless it was a government building, such as the U.S. White House which serves as a residence
for the president. Gandhi would be willing to expose and criticize all the unjust and immoral
acts of a government but avoid exposing the private moral indiscretions of government officials
that have no bearing on their jobs, particularly since such exposure could bring great public
shame upon a person for a private and personal manner. I mention this, in part, because there
has a been a significant increase by those in the community organizing, peace, and social justice
fields to engage in tactics that infringe upon the private rights (and sometimes privacy) of their
opponents. I stress again that such tactics are unnecessary for those who stand and continue to
cultivate the moral strength and purity that Gandhi demonstrated. And the fact that an opponent

         Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 147, excerpt from Young India,
December 8, 1920.

may engage in practices that violate the private rights of civil resisters (i.e., tapping their phone,
character assassinations in the media, etc.) does not justify Satyagrahis violating the moral code
of the Satyagraha path. In everything Satyagrahis do and despite what they may endure, they
must always respect the private rights of others -- always!

                 “if a Government does a grave injustice the subjects must
                 withdraw co-operation wholly or partially, sufficiently to wean
                 the ruler from his wickedness.”31

                 “I would co-operate a thousand times with this Government to
                 wean it from its career of crime, but I will not for a single
                 moment co-operate with it to continue that career. ... Better for
                 me a beggar’s bowl than the richest possession from hands
                 stained with the blood of the innocents of Jalianwala [the
                 Jalianwala massacre on April 13, 1919]. Better by far a warrant
                 of imprisonment than honeyed words from those who have
                 wantonly wounded the religious sentiment of my seventy
                 million brothers.”32

           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 115, excerpt from Young India,
June 16, 1920.
           Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 162, excerpt from Young India,
August 25, 1920.

                                        CHAPTER THIRTEEN
                                          The Closing
                “Generally speaking, observation of the law of Truth is
                understood merely to mean that we must speak the truth. But
                we in the Ashram should understand the word Satya or Truth in
                a much wider sense. There should be Truth in thought, Truth in
                speech, and Truth in action. To the [human] who has realized
                this Truth in its fulness, nothing else remains to be known,
                because all knowledge is necessarily included in it. What is not
                included in it is not Truth, and so not true knowledge; and
                there can be no inward peace without true knowledge. If we
                once learn how to apply this never-failing test of Truth, we
                will at once be able to find out what is worth doing, what is
                worth seeing, what is worth reading.”1 (emphasis mine)

         I will be brief in closing out this book, given the vast amount covered in the previous
pages. I return to a key starting point and continuous reality of the Satyagraha path: Truth.
Within the context of Truth and the readers’ embrace and pursuit of It, there is little need for me
to list any shortcomings of contemporary applications of Satyagraha (non-violence). Within our
pursuit and embrace of Truth -- and holding on to it as Satyagraha demands -- we will realize our
own shortcomings as well as an abundance of guidance from Gandhi on how to cultivate (soul-
based) strength, humility, purity, ahimsa, love, and other potent and essential traits of
Satyagraha. It is within this faith, that I will refrain from saying anything more about the
shortcomings of contemporary approaches to Satyagraha. Instead I will encourage us,
individually and collectively, to study and cultivate what Gandhi and other Satyagrahis have
done throughout human history, that we may make our (very necessary) contributions to the
continuing human saga of seeking and manifesting the blessings of Truth.

         Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 39, excerpt from From Yeravda
Mandir, 1932, Chapter I: Truth.

        As I write in America, I must address the prevailing perception that the Civil Rights
Movement of the mid-1900s is reflective of Satyagraha. I trust that the readers will see that what
this movement sought and attained falls short of the more expansive scope of Satyagraha. There
are differing perceptions of what the Civil Rights Movement was, especially when you talk with
people who were involved in aspects of this movement ignored by mainstream media coverage.
Yet despite the diversity of perceptions, an honest analysis will show that the Civil Rights
Movement exempted major components of Satyagraha, most notably Swaraj. I share this point
not to criticize my predecessors, because even in their incomplete application of Satyagraha
there is much to be praised, particularly their courage and willingness to suffer and act against
injustice. And as I am someone who directly benefitted from the work of the Civil Rights
Movement, I share Gandhi’s sentiment that:

                 “It is a mark of wisdom not to kick away the very step from which
                 we have risen higher. The removal of a step from a staircase
                 brings down the whole of it. When, out of infancy, we grow into
                 youth, we do not despise infancy, but, on the contrary, we recall
                 with affection the days of our childhood. If after many years of
                 study, a teacher were to teach me something, and if I were to build
                 a little more on the foundation laid by that teacher, I would not, on
                 that account, be considered wiser than the teacher. He would
                 always command my respect.”2

I acknowledge that the road that led to my personal discovery of Gandhi ran through my study of
the Civil Rights Movement. And for the participants of that movement, I hold great respect and
appreciation. But I also realize that movement did not adequately represent or embody the
complete expanse of Satyagraha. As I hope the readers have realized by now, an incomplete
practice of Satyagraha is not Satyagraha -- just as the standard of Truth requires that all things
true be completely true. (I’m reminded of a mystic saying that proclaims a statement that is 99%
true is a lie because Truth demands one hundred percent purity; but lies don’t mind being
partially true, especially since this helps them appear more valid.)

      In the larger quest for Truth, human progression will at times fall short of fully
embracing (beneficent) lessons readily available; but in realizing this, the challenge becomes to

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1938 reprint from original publication in 1909, p.
20, Chapter I: The Congress And Its Officials.

fully embrace these lessons, that the ongoing journey of practice and continual learning can
proceed. This point applies not only to those in America shedding the limitations of the limited
practice of Satyagraha that has been glorified in the name of honoring the Civil Rights
Movement; this point also applies to re-examining and adjusting the lessons of Gandhi once we
learn and apply what he taught. And I stress learning and applying what he taught as a
requirement before we, with limited understanding, prematurely make adjustments to the proven
lessons his work left to us. Even in looking at the present state of India, whose independence
from Britain was greatly assisted by Gandhi’s work, there is much to reflect upon from Gandhi’s
teachings that will move India (and Pakistan) closer to the just and beneficent nation he
envisioned and worked to attain.

        Gandhi was very open throughout his adult life in stating that Satyagraha is in an on-
going experiment. In his humility and approach as a student of it, he was very careful about
making definitive proclamations about Satyagraha. But given the opportunity to reflect on his
work decades later, I say with great confidence that much of Gandhi’s lessons are worthy of a
definitive status. Even in looking at what lays ahead for the advancement of Satyagraha, I think
much of it will not be negations of what Gandhi taught, but rather explorations to find ways to
make his methods more efficient and potent, and discovering other new methods that are more
efficient and potent than Gandhi’s good methods. But the possible advancement of this spiritual
science will be nearly impossible if we don’t seriously devote ourselves to being humble and
pure students of this science, learning it first before heeding any calls from Truth that seek to
guide us to advance the deep spiritual science of Satyagraha (holding on to Truth).

         Thus, I conclude with an invitation: if we honor Gandhi, let our lives be living
expressions of such honor. If we live Satyagraha (non-violence), let us realize we can only do so
by wholistically living all that this path requires. And if we choose other paths, which is our
right, let us be clear to designate that those paths are not reflective of Satyagraha or Gandhi.
And out of respect for the blessings he left to us, let us not confuse others about the differences
between our paths and the Satyagraha path Gandhi dedicated his life to walk.

       And after this, Gandhi: we’re even... :)

         (As if the merits of love can be repaid with a single act or even all the acts of a human
lifetime. Yet how beautiful such repayment can be...)

                   “Now I think that the word saint should be ruled out of present
                   life. It is too sacred a word to be lightly applied to anybody,
                   much less to one like myself who claims only to be a humble
                   searcher after truth, knows his limitations, makes mistakes,
                   never hesitates to admit them when he makes them, and frankly
                   confesses that he, like a scientist, is making experiments about
                   some ‘of the eternal verities’ of life, but cannot even claim to be
                   a scientist because he can show no tangible proof of scientific
                   accuracy in his methods or such tangible results of his
                   experiments as modern science demands.”3

                   “But this much I can say with assurance, as a result of all my
                   experiments, that a perfect vision of Truth can only follow a
                   complete realization of Ahimsa.”4

          Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), 1961, p. 108 - 109, excerpt from Young
India, May 12, 1920.
            Mohandas K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1957, p. 504.

countless steps to infinity

there are countless steps from here to infinity
and on the way
we can find a road to Truth
(each of us find our own road)
yet many are the charades
that call to the eyes of many i’s
reflecting the refractions of endless refracted reflections
on the soulscape of the universe
painting labyrinths of amazing lights
that illuminate and fade in random disorder
entrapping perceptions of perceived mazes
for humans caught in the many headlights of what we call life
how easy it is to get lost in this illusion
how easy it is to escape it

to bow one’s head to the ground
to hear the deepening silence of a prostrated soul
that realizes and accepts
i must reduce myself to nothing
i must be humbler than the dust
so as i move through the universe
let not my walking step crush a single dust particle on the ground
instead i carry myself to be crushed by the dust
that i may commit no harm
in this song of spiritual silence
as i perform the wonderful dance of ahimsa (no harm)

the realization of reality can reveal itself
if i deeply humble myself to
unfolding the freedom of no attachments
the fulfillment of no desires
the contentment of no passions
the treasures of sacrifice
the abounding strength of the surrendered soul
the beauty of serving others
the untouchability of purity
the joy of the willingness to suffer for Truth
the certainty of love
the great acquisition of releasing myself (my ego)
to discover the truth of the purposes unfolding within

to live these sacred purposes as a student
that never yields the beginner’s mind (and approach)
being open to learning the meaning(s) of life
over and over again
even if through the same lessons and practices
so that the teachings of seeking Truth
cultivate me to live
Truth completely
to receive the blessings Truth bestows
through justice
and more

and to think it all begins
and continues to begin anew
with bowing my head to the ground
to reduce myself to nothing
to be humbler than the dust
to be deeply humble within a deepening humility

may i learn to live with my head bowed to the ground
to enjoy the blessing of endless blessings
in the countless steps from here to infinity



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