Ahimsa with Gandhiji was the supreme virtue. He was never prepared to eschew it at any cost. He had dedicated himself to the freedom of the country and he once said, “I have striven all my life for the libcration of India. But if I can get it only by violence. I would not want it.
” For him the means by which freedom was to be attained were as important as the end itself. Therefore, for a clear understanding of Gandhism, it is of utmost significance to know what Ahimsa meant to him.
It is said that non-violence is the dream of the wise while violence is the history of man. Gandhiji did not take it only as a dream. For him it was the truth and the only hope of ameliorating the conditions of the people and of ridding the world from fear, hatred and cruelty. Truth and nonviolence are related to each other as two sides of the same coin.
Ahimsa or non-violence which Gandhiji preached is not limited to physical life alone. It does not merely mean that we should not inflict physical injury on others.
It is a frame of mind which forbids man from thinking ill of others and telling lies. It is non-violence in thought, word and deed. Non-violence is not the weapon of the weak ; it is a weapon of the strong. It can be used only by those who are ready to suffer for the sake of truth ; who are prepared to suffer for the faults of other.
Two aspects of Ahimsa:
Non-injury to others or abstinence from inflicting pain through thought, word and deed is only one aspect of Gandhiji’ s Ahimsa. It is the negative side only, whereas there is a positive side as well. “Non-violence for Gandhiji,” says Dr. Radhakrishnan, “is not a quiescent or negative attitude. It is positive and dynamic. It is not non-resistance or submission to evil. It is resistance to it through love.”
As an idealist, Gandhi took the evil and the evil doer as separate entities. While he hated the evil, he loved the evil doer. He considered all human beings as sparks of the Divine.
If everybody was ultimately the same, who can be considered as enemy? In every heart, there is a spark of truth which has to be redeemed from the darkness of beastliness and violence. A Satyagrahi or one who practised the creed of non-violence, always appeals to the reason of his adversary by gentle argument or to his heart by sacrifice of one’s self.
To practise this doctrine of positive nonviolence which involves the love of one’s adversary, self-purification is an inevitable pre-requisite. As Gandhiji said, “Identification with everything that lives is impossible without self-purification.
Without self- purification the observance of the law of Ahimsa must remain a dream. Purification must mean, purification in all walks of one’s self. It necessarily leads to the purification of one’s surroundings.”
It means that purification of the self can lead to the purification of the world. The ways that Gandhi prescribed for it are self-restraint and prayer.
Non-violence of the bold:
The path of non-violence is sometimes misunderstood and misinterpreted as the creed of cowards and the weak. But Gandhi repudiated it in the most unambiguous way. He wrote in Young India, “My creed of non-violence is an extremely active force. It has no room for cowardice and no place for weakness. There is hope for a violent man to be some day non-violent but not for a coward.”
He further clarified the point in the following words: “The world is not entirely governed by logic. Life itself involves some kind of violence, and we have to choose the path of least violence.” It is very clear from this that Gandhiji was conscious of human limitations.
Therefore, he has never demanded a fanatical attachment to his creed of non-violence. He once said, “If we do not know how to defend ourselves, our women and our place of worship by moral force of suffering i.e., by non-violence, we must if we are men, be at least able to defend all these by fighting.”
Truth and non-violence are as old as hills. Philosophy of this sort is found in Hindu Shastras and Budhist scriptures. But credit goes to Gandhiji for giving new meaning and fresh significance to these principles. He was the first philosopher to apply the twin doctrines of Ahimsa and Truth to practical politics.
He discovered inter-relationship between truth and non-violence based on purity of means. It was because of this relationship between the two that Gandhiji insisted that Ahimsa was much important than Swaraj itself.
Ahimsa is self-dependent:
Ahimsa which is expressed in life as Satyagraha is self-dependent and hence the man who follows its path can never be defeated. Gandhiji explained it in the following words: “It does not require the assent of our opponent before being brought into operation.
It manifests its power most strongly against an opponent who offers resistance. It is, therefore, irresistible.
A Satyagrahi does not know what defeat is, for he fights for truth without losing any of his strength. Death in the struggle is release. Prison is a gateway wide open to liberty.
And as a satyagrahi never injures his adversary and always appeals to his reason by gentle argument or to his heart by sacrifice of self, Satyagrahi is twice blessed, him who practises and him against whom it is put in practice.”
The application of Ahimsa to Political, Social and Economic problems:
Mahatma Gandhi did not put Ahimsa before people as a mere spiritual ideal. He gave this gift to the world for practical use—a weapon for change of society.
To him personally it may be a creed or an article of faith but before the public he put it only as a political method to be used if considered worthwhile. Speaking at the A.I.C.C. meeting at Wardha he said, “Ahimsa with me is a creed, the breath of my life.
But it is never as a creed that I placed it before India, or for the matter of that before any one except in casual informal talks. I placed it before the Congress as a political method, to be employed for the solution of political questions.”
It may be a novel method but it does not on that account lose its political character. He used it successfully in South Africa.
The enemy is always to be won over by love. Even blood thirsty dictators like Hider should be treated in a spirit of love. Weapons are not to be met by weapons as blood stains cannot be washed by blood.
Non-violence as a political method is used in different forms of passive resistance, non-violent non-co-operation, and civil disobedience. “In a non-violent struggle, one is always ready to help the opponent. No attempt is made to use the enemy’s need as one’s opportunity. Bargaining in the form of fishing in troubled waters is always condemned.”
In the economic sphere, Gandhi has given it the form of Trusteeship:
Through non-violent non-cooperation and civil disobedience, the rich people are to be made to recognize their responsibility towards the poor.
Bhoodan Yajna movement run under the leadership of Vinoba Bhave was an application of Ahimsa to the land problem of our country.
Gandhiji applied this instrument to social problems as well. For the abolition of untouchability and for Hindu Muslim unity, he kept fasts which is a form of Ahimsa.
It is with these achievements in view that Dr. Radhakrishnan remarks. “When this strife of these days is forgotten, Gandhi will stand out as the great prophet of moral and spiritual revolution without which this distracted world will not find peace.”