Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A world more virtuous

Contemporary world is at cross roads today: be it rising violence or social injustice, increasing divide between the rich and the poor or the inequities: both social and political. The evolving socio political fabric and the tremendous competition due to a clash in opportunities & population pressure and the emerging chaos in India’s body polity have made Mahatma Gandhi and his thinking even more relevant than ever before. A reflection on Gandhi's definition of Satyagraha will lead us to the three basic tenets: satya or truth, implying openness, honesty, and fairness; ahimsa, meaning physical and mental non violence; and tapasya, literally penance, in this context self-sacrifice. Perhaps it is in the application of the tenets of Satyagraha that the individuals may find solace and the society may be able to rejuvenate itself. It may be pertinent to quote Gandhi:
“In the application of Satyagraha, I discovered, in the earliest stages, that pursuit of Truth did not admit of violence being inflicted on one's opponent, but that he must be weaned from error by patience and sympathy. For, what appears to be truth to the one may appear to be error to the other. And patience means self-suffering. So the doctrine came to mean vindication of Truth, not by infliction of suffering on the opponent but one's own self”.
The Satyagrahi is meant to practice self-effacement, humility, patience and faith best epitomized in Mahatma Gandhi’s own words: “Love does not burn others, it burns itself. ….. a satyagrahi, i.e., a civil resister, will joyfully suffer even unto death. It follows, therefore, that a civil resister, whilst he will strain every nerve to compass the end of the existing rule, will do no intentional injury in thought, word or deed……”
Drawing a distinction between passive resistance and Satyagraha Mahatma Gandhi is famously quoted: “Satyagraha is a weapon of the strong; it admits of no violence under any circumstance whatever; and it ever insists upon truth. I think I have now made the distinction perfectly clear”.
A very pertinent statement that Mahatma Gandhi made is of immense significance today when we confront terrorism and violence that is used to achieve narrow political ends. He said, “Violence will prevail over violence, only when someone can prove to me that darkness can be dispelled by darkness.”
I think that's what we have to remember and try to imbibe in our lives, that we can never overcome violence with more violence. We can only overcome violence with respect and understanding and love for each other. Today when we confront conflicts of all kinds be it– interpersonal, social, religious, state, national or even international conflicts – and use every possible technique for resolving them – in the end we may find the best resolution only through Satyagraha : a potent Gandhian instrument.

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