Nvc and the Legacy of Gandhi Nonviolence –Ahimsa and Satyagraha – positive meaning, transcending any inner limitations to opening our hearts


Appealing to the other’s humanity can transform the situation



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4. Appealing to the other’s humanity can transform the situation.

  • This is a remarkable bit of evidence from the foundational Satyagraha of our time, Gandhi’s great first “experiment with truth”, designed to recover the stolen dignity of the Indian community of South Africa. This is from a secretary to General Jan Christian Smuts, head of the South African Government in the Transvaal and Gandhi’s chief adversary in this struggle, and it allows us to glimpse what it feels like to be offered Satyagraha by committed, well-trained activists:

    • “I don’t like your people, and do not care to assist them at all. But what am I to do? You help us in our days of need. How can we lay hands upon you? I often wish that you took to violent like the English strikers, and then we would know at once how to dispose you. But you will not injure even the enemy. You desire victory by self-suffering alone… and that is what reduces us to sheer helplessness”. (SNVF. p.64)

    • Another testimony of Jan Christian Smuts, who after struggling against him for many years would come to feel that he was “not worthy to stand in the shoes of so great a man” as Gandhi. (Mahatma Gandhi: essays and reflections on his life and work. –henceford MGERHLW- p.226)

    • Smuts again: “For him it was a successful coup. Nor was the personal touch wanting, for nothing in Gandhi’s procedure is without a peculiar personal touch. In goal he had prepared for me a very useful pair of sandals… which… I have worn a summer since then. …Anyway, it was in that spirit that we fought out our quarrels in South Africa. There was no hatred or personal ill-feeling, the spirit of humanity was never absent, and when the fight was over, there was the atmosphere in which a decent peace could be concluded.” (MGERHLW. p.226)

  • What Satyagraha does in such cases is not to suppress reason but to free it from inertia and to establish its sovereignty over prejudice, hatred, and other baser passions. In other words, if one may paradoxically put it, it does not enslave, it compels reason to be free.” (SNVF. p.65)

  • “Suffering is the law of human beings; war is the law of the jungle.  But suffering is infinitely more powerful than the law of the jungle for converting the opponent and opening his ears, which are otherwise shut, to the voice of reason.” (Gandhi the Man p. 161)

  • Nonviolence in us ought to soften our opponent, it ought to strike a responsive chord in his heart.” (Everyman’s, August 20 – Harijan: May 13, 1939)

  • During the struggle for freedom in India, when unrest was building between Hindus and Muslims, Gandhi encountered a crowd of 600 angry demonstrators.  Though advised to avoid them, Gandhi insisted on walking through the crowd, saying a prayer, and politely asked that one of the demonstrators be his only “protection”.  The others, shocked, made way for him to walk through unharmed.

    • Of this Gandhi said “This is the way of Satyagraha.  To put your head unresistingly into the lap of your ‘enemy’, for him to keep or make short work of you just as he pleases”. (In Gandhiji’s Mirror, p. 32)

  • Referring to the English Gandhi wrote: “I do not seek to harm your people. I want to serve them even as I want to serve my own. I believe that I have always served them. I served them up to 1919 blindly. But when my eyes were opened and I conceived non-cooperation, the object still was to serve them… If I have equal love for your people with mine it will not remain hidden.” (Young India. Dec 3rd, 1930.)




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