My Non-violence

My Non-violence


Table of Contents

- Editor's Note
  1. The Doctrine of The Sword
  2. 'One Step Enough For Me'
  3. Our Neighbours
  4. The Frontier Friends
  5. Soldiers
  6. Why Did I Assist In The Last War?
  7. My Path
  8. What of The West?
  9. To American Friends
  10. Compulsory Military Training
  11. From Europe
  12. War or Peace?
  13. Has Non-violence Limits?
  14. My Attitude Towards War
  15. Sword v. Spirit
  16. For Conscience' Sake
  17. Our Choice
  18. Military Programme
  19. Superstitions Die Hard
  20. Theory and Practice of Non-violence
  21. The Greatest Force
  22. A Talk on Non-violence
  23. A Discourse of Non-violence
  24. Our Failure
  25. Qualifications of A Peace Brigade
  26. If I Were A Czech
  27. The Jews
  28. Some Questions Answered
  29. Non-violence and World Crisis
  30. Is Non-violence Ineffective?
  31. China and Japan
  32. A Word in Agony - I
  33. A Word in Agony - II
  34. A Polish Sister's Agony
  35. Conundrums
  36. India's Attitude
  37. On Trial
  38. A Poser
  39. The Hour of Trial
  40. My Advice To Noakhali Hindus
  41. When The British Withdraw
  42. Two Questions From America
  43. Democracy and Non-violence
  44. How To Combat Hitlerism
  45. Both Happy And Unhappy
  46. To Every Briton
  47. Before The Gandhi Seva Sangh
  48. Unrepentant
  49. Khansaheb's Ahimsa
  50. How To Cultivate Ahimsa
  51. What of The 'Weak Majority'?
  52. Is Non-violence Impossible?
  53. Moral Support
  54. What Should A Briton Do and Not Do?
  55. An Interesting Discourse- I
  56. An Interesting Discourse- II
  57. How To Quench It?
  58. Not Mechanical
  59. Some Criticism Answered
  60. To Adolf Hitler
  61. A Deplorable Incident
  62. Criminal Assaults
  63. On Its Trial
  64. 'Scorched Earth'
  65. Inhuman If True
  66. Non-violent Resistance
  67. To Every Japanese
  68. Fasting In Non-violent Action
  69. The 'Quit India' Resolution
  70. Sabotage And Secrecy
  71. Non-violence And Molestation of Women
  72. Non-violent Technique And Parallel Government
  73. Africa and India
  74. White Man's Burden!
  75. How To Canalise Hatred
  76. The Message of The I.N.A
  77. A Message For The I. N. A
  78. I. N. A. Men's Dilemma
  79. Not Lonely
  80. Statement On General Avari's Fast
  81. Fasting In The Air
  82. Press Statement- I & II
  83. Fruits of Violence
  84. For Shame!
  85. The Non-violent Sanction
  86. The Art of Living and Dying
  87. Is Eating Fish Violence?
  88. Religion v. No Religion
  89. Differences
  90. With The Socialists
  91. Sweeper's Strike
  92. Peaceful Strikes
  93. Strikes
  94. Non-violent Strikes
  95. Non-violent Volunteer Corps
  96. Independence
  97. Certain Questions
  98. Atom Bomb and Ahimsa
  99. A Fair Hit
  100. Louis Fischer's Interview
  101. Jews and Palestine
  102. Criminals and Non-violence
  103. Thieving
  104. Nature Cure for Criminals
  105. Honest Business
  106. Compensation for Murder
  107. Heal Thyself
  108. Congress Ministers and Non-violence
  109. Do Not Eliminate Truth and Non-violence
  110. Excessive Praise
  111. Why Armies?
  112. Outside His Field
  113. Women's Ordeal
  114. A Woman's Dilemma
  115. The Travail
  116. The Call
  117. Bad News From Bihar
  118. To Bihar
  119. A Challenge To Faith
  120. A Venture In Faith
  121. The Purpose of The Tour
  122. The Modern Buddha?
  123. On Trusteeship
  124. With A Landholder
  125. Reduction of Landlord's Share
  126. Intellectual and Manual Work
  127. Some Important Questions
  128. Important Questions
  129. Question Box
  130. Military Training
  131. Non-resistance
  132. The Aim of Life
  133. The Message of Asia
  134. Advice To Sind Hindus
  135. How To Combat Himsa?
  136. Weapon of The Brave
  137. Non-violence of The Brave
  138. Rights and Duties?
  139. Who Is A Socialist?
  140. The Root Cause of Partition
  141. The Fundamental Difference
  142. Secular
  143. Non-violence and Free India
  144. How To save The Cow?
  145. Non-violent Labour As Magnet
  146. Press Statement
  147. The Fast
  148. Why Fast?
  149. Curb Anger
  150. Passive Resistance versus Non-violence
  151. Working of Ahimsa
  152. Firm on Non-violence
  153. Death - Courageous or Cowardly
  154. No Limitations
  155. My Fast As A Protest
  156. The Breaking of The Fast
  157. From The Last Post-Prayer Speeches
  158. His Last Will and Testament

About This Book

Written by : M. K. Gandhi
Compiled and Edited by : Sailesh Kumar Bandopadhyaya
First Edition : 3,000 copies, November 1960
ISBN : 81-7229-223-6
Printed and Published by : Navajivan Mudranalaya,
© Navajivan Trust, 1960


Chapter 20: Theory and practice of Non-violence

The bulk of the questions asked at these meetings centred naturally round non-violence, and I (M. D.) summarize them here, including therein some of the questions and answers at the Paris meeting.
By way of introduction I shall give his (Gandhiji's) distinction between the methods of violence and non­violence: "In the method we are adopting in India, fraud, lying, deceit, and all the ugly brood of violence and un­truth have absolutely no room. Everything is done openly and above board, for Truth hates secrecy. The more open you are the more truthful you are likely to be. There is no such thing as defeat or despair in the dictionary of a man who bases his life on Truth and Non-violence. And yet the method of non-violence is not in any shape or form a passive or inactive method. It is essentially an active movement, much more active than the one involving the use of sanguinary weapons. Truth and Non-violence are perhaps the activest forces you have in the world. A man who wields sanguinary weapons and is intent upon destroying those whom he considers his enemies, does at least require some rest, and has to lay down his arms for a while in every twenty-four hours. He is, therefore, essentially inactive, for a certain part of the day. Not so the votary of Truth and Non-violence, for the simple reason that they are not external weapons. They reside in the human breast, and they are actively working their way whether you are awake or whether you are asleep, whether you are walking leisurely or playing an active game. The panoplied warrior of Truth and Non-violence is ever and in­cessantly active."
How then can one be effectively non-violent? By simply refusing to take up arms? Einstein had made the call to the people not to take part in war. Was that enough ? Questions which were raised again and again at various meetings and answered in a language inspired by the audience and the occasion.
About Einstein's call he said with a humour which no one could have mistaken: "My answer can be only one that, if Europe can take up the method enthusiastically, nothing could be better. Indeed, if I may say so about a great man, I would say that Einstein has stolen the method from me. But, if you want me to elaborate the thing, I would say that merely to refuse military service is not enough. To refuse to render military service when the parti­cular time arrives is to do the thing after all the time for combating the evil is practically gone. Military service is only a symptom of the disease which is deeper. I suggest to you that those who are not on the register of military service are equally participating in the crime if they support the State otherwise. He or she who supports a State orga­nized in the military way — whether directly or indirectly— participates in the sin. Each man, old or young, takes part in the sin by contributing to the maintenance of the State by paying the taxes. That is why I said to myself during the war that, so long as I ate wheat supported by the army whilst I was doing everything short of being a soldier, it was best for me to enlist in the army and be shot; other­wise I should retire to mountains and eat food grown by nature. Therefore all those who want to stop military service can do so by withdrawing all co-operation. Refusal of military service is much more superficial than non-co- operation with the whole system which supports the State. But then one's opposition becomes so swift and so effective that you' run the risk of not only being marched to jail, but of being thrown into the streets."
Then may not one accept the non-military services of the State? The statement of the position had moved Pierre Ceresole deeply, and he asked this question in a way which was most touching. "We represent our truth, you represent the truth. The argument is often being advanc­ed here, and we should like to be enlightened by you."
"Now," said Gandhiji, "you have touched the tenderest spot in human nature. I was faced with the very question as author of the non-co-operation movement. 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. 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. The policy would vary with different countries, but sacrifice and self-denial are the essential points. What Einstein has said would occur only once a year and only with very few people. But I suggest it as your first duty to non-co-operate with the State."
But is there not a deep difference between an inde­pendent nation and a subject nation? India may have a fundamental quarrel with an alien government, but how can the Swiss quarrel with the State?
"Difference there undoubtedly is," said Gandhiji. "As a member of a subject nation I could best help by shaking rid of my subjection. But here I am asked as to how best to get out of a military mentality. You are en­joying the amenities on condition that you render military service to the State. There you have to get State rid of the military mentality."
But Pierre Ceresole still had his doubts. The argument had irresistible appeal for him; but how did his own particular mission fit in, if he was to pursue the method to its extreme logical conclusions? A question was asked at the great meeting in Geneva about Gandhiji's opinion regarding the work of the International Red Cross Society organized in Switzerland and the thousands of lives of prisoners that it had saved, and Gandhiji's answer to the question contained for Pierre Ceresole the solution of all his difficulties and a message of cheer for the International Service that he had organized. "I am ashamed to have to own that I do not know the history of this wonderful and magnificent organization. If it has saved prisoners by the thousands, my head bows before it. But having paid this tribute, may I say that this organization should cease to think of giving relief after the war but think of giving relief without the war? If war had no redeeming feature, no courage and heroism behind it, it would be a despicable thing, and would not need speeches to destroy it. But what I would suggest to you is infinitely nobler than war in all its branches including Red Cross organization. Believe me there are many more million prisoners slaves of their passions and conditions of life, and believe me that there are millions wounded by their own folly, and millions of wrecked homes on the face of the earth. The peace societies of tomorrow would, therefore, have enough work cut out for them when they take up international service, and may Switzerland give the lead to the world in this great, task."
In answer to a similar question at another meeting he said: "Non-co-operation in military service and service in non-military matters are not compatible.  Definitely military service is an ill-chosen word. You are all the while giving military service by deputy because you are support­ing a State which is based on military service. In Transvaal and other countries some are debarred from military service, but they have to pay money to the State. You will have to extend the scope of non-co-operation to your taxes. There is no limit to extending our service to our neighbours across our State-made frontiers. God never made those frontiers."
Q. Since disarmament chiefly depends on great powers, why should Switzerland, which is a small State and a neutral State, be asked to disarm itself?
A. It is from the neutral ground of your country that I am speaking to all other powers and not only to Switzerland. If you won't carry this message to other parts of Europe, I shall be absolved from all blame. And seeing that Switzerland is a neutral territory and a non-aggres­sive nation, there is all the more reason why Switzerland should not need an army. Secondly, it is through your hospitality and by reason of your occupying the vantage ground that you have all nationals coming to you. It should be possible for you to give to the world a lesson in disarmament and show that you are brave enough to do without an army.
Q. How could a disarmed neutral country allow other nations to be destroyed? But for our army which was wait­ing ready at our frontier during the last war we should have been ruined.
A. At the risk of being considered a visionary or a fool I must answer this question in the only manner I know. It would be cowardly of a neutral country to allow an army to devastate a neighbouring country. But there are two ways in common between soldiers of war and soldiers of non-violence, and if I had been a citizen of Switzerland and a President of the Federal State, what I would have done would be to refuse passage to the invading army by refusing all supplies. Secondly, by re-enacting a Thermopylae in Switzerland, you would have presented a living wall of men and women and children, and inviting the invaders to walk over your corpses. You may say that such a thing is beyond human experience and endurance. I say that it is not so. It was quite possible. Last year in Gujarat women stood lathi charges unflinchingly, and in Peshawar thousands stood hails of bullets without resort­ing to violence. Imagine these men and women staying in rout of an army requiring a safe passage to another country. The army would be brutal enough to walk over them, you might say. I would then say, you will still have done your duty by allowing yourself to be annihilated. An army at dares to pass over the corpses of innocent men and women would not be able to repeat that experiment. You may, if you wish, refuse to believe in such courage on the part of the masses of men and women, but then you would have to admit that non-violence is made of sterner stuff'. It was never conceived as a weapon of the weak, but of the stoutest hearts.
Q. Is it open to a soldier to fire in the air and avoid violence?
A. A soldier, who having enlisted himself flattered himself that he was avoiding violence by shooting in the air, did no credit to his courage or to his creed of non­violence. In my scheme of things such a man would be held to be guilty of untruth and cowardice both — cowardice in that in order to escape punishment he enlisted and untruth in that he enlisted to serve as soldier and did not fire as expected. Such a thing discredits the cause of waging war against war. The war-resisters have to be like Caesar's wife — above suspicion. Their strength lies in absolute adherence to the morality of the question.

Young India, 31-12-1931
M. D.