Gandhi and satyagraha

Gandhi and satyagraha

“I have nothing new to teach the world.

Truth and non-violence are as old as the hills”

 Mahatma Gandhi


Already during his lifetime representative of merchant caste Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was called Mahatma (great soul), Bapu (dad), and the creator of socio-political and religious-philosophical doctrine Gandhian. Gandhi disclaimed these merits, preferring not to leave any sects behind. But what he actually left to the world is worth a lot. His peacekeeping activities changed India and many other countries, have become an example of nonviolent resistance methods that are used today. But who was this man? Where he got his wisdom?

Due to the high office of his father – the Chief Minister of Porbandar, Gandhi was able to get a European education. However, after receiving a law degree, Gandhi did not stay in India, a few years later he went to work in South Africa, one of the colonies of the British Empire, and spent there the next 22 years of his life. Almost a quarter of a century in a foreign country, the best and most productive young years away from home … and that is where Gandhi fully faced the discrimination directed at all colored people. He was not just thrown off the first-class of a train, barred from several hotels, ordered to remove his turban, but even beaten for refusing to make room for a European passenger. It is believed that these events were a turning point in the life of the peacemaker, and forced him to take another look at social injustice.

Returning to India at the age of 46 years, Gandhi already had some experience of nonviolent resistance tactics and became the founder of the philosophy of Satyagraha – insistence on truth. So what were these methods? Surprisingly, many of them are used today, only a few people know who showed them to the world in the twentieth century. So they are:

• hunger strike (fasting) as a protest;

• refusal to purchase and use goods of oppressing state;

• defying unmoral laws;

• peaceful demonstrations;

• nonviolence.

“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent” said Gandhi. Nonviolence and tolerant attitudes towards the opposite side became the main difference of his philosophy. Previously “passive resistance” was used by weak against the strong because the weak didn’t have other weapons, and there were no refusal from violence. The purpose of Satyagraha was turning an opponent into an ally and friend, by referring to the opponent’s conscience. Gandhi believed that violence leads to an increase in violence sooner or later, and nonviolence breaks this vicious chain of negative events and turns an enemy into a collaborator.

Satyagraha is a weapon of the strong, but not the week. Besides passive resistance Satyagraha is based on a willing to undergo suffering and pain to influence the opponent’s conscience. Gandhi himself was in jail repeatedly; many of his followers were beaten, got into prison and some were killed. But his activities had a result: black people in South Africa received a right to vote; a number of derogatory racial laws were abolished; parties of conflicts were finding a possibility of a compromise and cease-fire.

In India, Mahatma Gandhi’s name is usually pronounced with no less respect than names of saints. Without him the time and conditions of autonomy and later independence in India remained doubtful. Philosophy and activities of this man had a great influence on Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and other leaders of the movement in defense of human rights. Gandhi was an example of the sage whose life was full of struggle that deserves the highest respect – a bloodless struggle.

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