17 most essential qualities of a true Satyagrahi as suggested by Gandhiji

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A satyagrahi is a follower of truth and non-violence. The true practice of these two principles requires purity of mind and body which can be achieved through the observance of the following vows:

Qualities

1. Brahmcharya:

In common parlance, Brahmcharya means sex restraint. In its derivate sense Brahmcharya means the realizations of Brahm, that is God. Brahmcharya according to Gandhiji is complete self- control in all directions. A Brahmchari is one who posesses full control over all his senses in thought, word and action.

Brahmcharya is a spiritual virtue. The vow demands capacity to keep pure even amidst all sorts of temptation rather than simply restraining from sex. A true,Brahmchari is one who keeps control over his actions and thoughts even when he has all temptations around him. According to him, it is not the woman whose touch defiles a man but it is the man who might become impure.

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A Satyagrahi observing Brahmcharya does nothate women. He sublimates his sexual energies and rises above the consciousness of sex. All women are like mothers, sisters and daughters to him. Gandhiji was, however, not against marriage. Brahmcharya is possible even after marriage.

In this case, the true Brahmchari would indulge in sex purely for the purpose of procreation and not for mere satisfaction of flesh. A child born of righteousness in Dharmja whereas a child born out of lust is Kamja.

2 Control over the Palate:

This is the second vow which a Satyagrahi should take and observe. This means that one should eat to live and not live to eat. One should have simple food which should enable a person to keep body and soul together. One should not eat to please the palate but to keep the body in physical fitness.

3. Development of Fearlessness:

A true Satyagrahi is one who practises fearlessness. Fear is at the root of untruth and violence, coward­ice is born out of fear. Truth and non-violence can only be achieved by the brave and the strong.

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Main object of Gandhiji had been to infuse into his countrymen the qualities of fearlessness and self-confidence. There is lot of justification in the remarks of Viscount Samuel, “Gandhiji taught the Indians to strengthen their backs, to raise their eyes and to face circumstances with steady gaze.

‘Let us fear God and we shall cease to fear man. All the fears revolve round the body as the centre and would therefore, disappear as soon as one gets rid of attachment of the body a nation is great which sets its head upon the death as its pillow. Those who defy death are free from all fears.” said Gandhiji.

4. Satya:

Satya is another vow which a true satyagrahi must take and practise. Pursuit of truth is the basic requirement of a Satyagrahi.

5. Non-stealing:

Another important vow which a satyagrahi must take is about non-stealing. Stealing or thieving according to Gandhiji is not merely taking away what belongs to somebody else but it also implies not to accept anything beyond one’s needs, improper collection of wealth and multiplication of one’s wants.

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According to him acquisition of any thing beyond one’s need is a theft. Gandhiji believed in the economy of need and was not in favour of acquisition which is characteristic of capitalism.

6. Non-possession:

A true Satyagram must have detached interest in worldy possession. Non-possession means non-dependence on mate­rial things. It implies total abolition of private property a view more radical than that of extreme communism.

A satyagrahi may possess what he needs when nobody else stands in need of it and when possession does not involve violence and exploitation. Gandhiji was a big socialist in thought and action. He would dispossess every body of wealth if that could be done through non-violent means.

7. Trusteeship in relation to accumulated wealth:

Gandhiji was in favour of trusteeship of wealth and talents. None could amass wealth without violence and exploitation. Gandhiji would, therefore, suggest that they should act as trustees of wealth and use the bulk of their extra earning for the good of the community.

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Apart from wealth, people should also use their talents for the good of the society. Gandhiji was thus in favour of socialization of property as also talents. Gandhiji was against inherited wealth and he wanted that the choice of the successor of a trustee should be made by the state. According to him, “a trustee has no heir except the public.”

A true satyagrahi should not only practise this principle in his own life but he should also preach the same since in the opinion of Gandhiji nothing belonged to man, not even his body. It is the duty of a true satyagrahi to renounce every thing and lay it at his feet.

Possession of things, which are not needed is a sign of lack of faith in God. Much of violence in the world could be traced to disputes regarding possession. If a Satyagrahi tries to live on these principles of non-possession, he will become fearless and his simple life will leave him ample time and energy for the pursuit of truth.

8. Vow for physical labour or bread labour:

Food and clothing are the two essential needs of man. Gandhiji believed that every one should put in at least that much of physical labour which would enable him to reasonably earn the cost of his food and clothing.

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He called it to be ‘bread labour’. Physical labour over and above that for earning bread should be the labour of love done for the benefit of the society. A true satyagrahi must render bread labour.

In his opinion, if all the rich and the poor acknowledge bread labour as their primary and fundamental duty, economic and social justice would naturally prevail. That is why he introduced spinning as a compulsory job for a Satyagrahi.

9. Use of swadeshi:

Use of Swadeshi goods is another important vow which a Satyagrahi must undertake. Swadeshi implies use of goods made in one’s own country. Swadeshi is an all-sided patriotism of the highest order. It aims at the service of one’s own country in preference to others.

It also implies the respect for indigenous ideas and institutions. It is not narrow mindedness in any sense of the word. The idea, behind Swadeshi is the preference to the nearest and the immediate. Pure service to one’s neighbours can never result in disservice to those who are remotely situated.

Swadeshi according to Mahatmaji demands exclusion of foreign cloth. Use of Indian Khadi should be encouraged since millions of the people in India can afford nothing except indigenously produced Khadi. Use of Khadi on a universal scale would effect decentralisation in economy.

It will provide employment and productive labour to thousands of poor people. Gandhiji preferred Khadi even to cloth manufactured in Indian mills.

10. Vow regarding Removal of Untouchability:

Every Satyagrahi was supposed to take an oath regarding removal of untouch­ability as practised in India which was a great social curse. According to Gandhiji, “We are all sparks of the same fire, the children of the same God. Life is one. I ask every one to break down the barriers between man and man and serve all life as one’s ownself.

” For him, removal of untouchability was a bigger problem than gaining Indian independence. Gandhiji not only wanted to remove untouchability from social life of India, but also he wanted to remove similar barriers erected every where in the world. He believed in equality of all men irrespecti veof colour, race or calling.

11. Humility:

Humility is another essential for a satyagrahi or a seeker of truth. Humility lies in the suppression of ego, lust for power position and wealth. Gandhiji feels, “I must reduce myself to zero. So long as one does not of his own accord put himself last among his fellow beings, there is no salvation for him. Humility steers clear of both inferiority complex and superiority complex.”

12. Suffering:

Gandhiji calls satyagraha as “the law of suffering” and tapasya for truth. Suffering for good cause is the core of satyagraha. The purer the suffering the greater is the progress in the cause handled. “No country has risen without being purified through the fire of suffering.

Mother suffers so that her child may live. The condition of the wheat growing is that the seed grain should perish. Life comes out of death.” Suffering under discipline of mind and body is a source of constant courage and a sure remedy for success.

There is no limit to suffering for a true satyagrahi. He must develop restraint under the highest provoca­tion. He should bear assaults, beating, ex-communication, loss of prop­erty, even death. He should go on suffering till the heart of the evil doer is changed.

13. Negotiation arid Compromise:

Gandhi believed that a true Satyagrahi should have faith in persuasion and discussion. A Satyagrahi should constantly approach his adversary and appeal to his conscience. He should educate public opinion on the issues involved and should try to win over his adversary through love and affection.

Negotiation and compromise in the beginning of the struggle might save all the stress and strain involved in ‘tie conflict, in any case compromise must come towards the end of the conflict.

A violent revolution works up the emotions of the people to the highest pitch and compromise in such a situation might precipitate a crisis. But in the case of Satyagraha, this principle does not hold since Satyagraha seeks to arouse love and affection in the adversary and it does not emotionalise the people.

14. Ahimsa or Non-violence:

A true Satyagrahi is a votary of Ahimsa. Through Ahimsa, a Satyagrahi develops tremendous potency in his spirit and body. “The more you develop Ahimsa in your being, the more infectious it becomes till it overwhelms your surroundings and by and by might over sweep the world. The greater our innocence the greater our strength and the swifter our victory,” said Gandhiji.

Through practice of Ahimsa, a Satyagrahi purifies the spirit of his adversary and wins the support of public opinion. One of the Secretaries of General Smuts said to Gandhiji towards the end of the South African Struggle, “I often wish, you took to violence like the English strikers, and then we would know at once how to dispose of you.

But you will not injure even the enemy. You desire victory by self-suffering alone and never transgress your self- imposed limits of courtesy and chivalry. And that is what reduces us to sheer helplessness.”

Gandhiji compared Ahimsa to a Homeopathic medicine which attacks at the root of the disease without the patient having tasted the bitterness of medicine. Satyagraha based on Ahimsa is an unfailing remedy against exploitation and injustice. None-violent Satyagraha staggers the opponent and disturbs his moral balance. It starves the brute spirit of the aggressor making him weak against the Satyagrahi.

15. Non-Cooperation:

A Satyagrahi should resort to non-coopera­tion for solution of all problems created by oppression and injustice. “If a father does an injustice, it is the duty of his children to leave the parental roof. If the headmaster of a school conducts his institution on immoral basis, the pupils must leave the school.

If the chairman of a Corporation is corrupt, the members thereof must wash their hands clean of his corruption by withdrawing from it; even so, if a Government does grave injustice, the subjects must withdraw cooperation wholly or partially sufficiently to wean the rulers from their wickedness.

In each of the cases conceived by me, their is an element of suffering mental or physical. Without such suffering, it is impossible to attain freedom,” said Gandhiji.

16. Fasting:

The ultimate and the most potent weapon in the armoury of a satyagrahi is fasting. Gandhiji calls it a fiery weapon and claims to have reduced it to a science. It is a very sensitive weapon and should be used with care and precision. Fasting is to be distinguished from hunger strike.

Whereas fasting is observed by a satyagrahi having a spiritual basis, hunger-strike is adopted by Duragrahi without purity of soul. It may produce unwholesome result. Fasting is an act of self- Purification and cannot be employed as political blackmailing.

It is a spiritual appeal to a wrong doer and is the highest expression of a loving and pure heart. But this weapon can be used only by a highly spiritual Person and not by any and every person. Mere physical fitness to fast is no qualification. The Satyagrahi must possess spiritual fitness and clear vision. He should have faith in divine justice.

17. Constructive work:

Some sort of constructive or reproductive work is very essential for a true Satyagrahi. Constructive work done in the spirit of service and out of love constitute the essential training for a Satyagrahi. Constructive work is to a Satyagrahi what drilling is to the soldiers trained for violent war.

Whenever Gandhiji would find that Satyagraha was not being done in the right spirit, he would stop the Satyagraha and would advise the workers to resort to constructive work Constructive work consisted of abolition of untouchability, promotion of communal harmony, promotion of khadi movement, discouraging drink­ing, adult education, development of village industries etc.

Constructive work, done in the best spirit provided the best field for the display of love and selfless service. Concludingly, we may state that Gandhiji gave some guidelines to satyagrahis as follows: (1) honesty (2) discipline (3) preparedness to suffer (4) cheerfullness in suffering and (5) non violent both in word and action.

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