Educational Resources

Secret Of Satyagraha

November 22, 1908

There appears to have been a good deal of misunderstanding following the Transvaal Indians' failure to comprehend the secret of satyagraha. It is therefore necessary to give a little more thought to satyagraha in the context of our victory against the obnoxious law. Those who know the real meaning of satyagraha should not have the slightest doubt as to what the victory means.

A Satyagrahi enjoys a degree of freedom not possible for others, for he becomes a truly fearless person. Once his mind is rid of fear, he will never agree to be another's slave. Having achieved this state of mind, he will never submit to any arbitrary action.

Such satyagraha can be, ought to be, practised not only against a Government but against society as well, if need be. It can often happen that a society is as wrong as a Government. It becomes one's duty then to use satyagraha against society. The late Mr. Thoreau thought that his countrymen did wrong in carrying on slave-trade. He therefore ranged himself against his people. The great Luther defied his people single-banded and it is thanks to him that Germany enjoys freedom today. And there was Galileo who told them that they could kill him if they wanted to, but that it was nevertheless true that the earth revolved round the sun. Today, we all know that the earth is round and that it rotates round its axis once every 24 hours. Columbus acted like a true satyagrahi when facing his sailors. Exhausted by the long voyage, they declared, "We will never get to America. Let us turn back, else we will kill you." Unperturbed, Columbus answered, "I am not afraid of being killed, but I. think we ought to go on for a few days more." They did discover America, and Columbus won everlasting fame.

Such a wonderful remedy is this satyagraha. When we ask in fear what will happen if the Government does not repeal the Act, we only betray the deficiency of our satyagraha or talk as if we had been unmanned, having lost the weapon of satyagraha. But our satyagraha prompts us to become free and feel independent. We have therefore nothing to fear. "All this is idle talk. Whatever you do, you cannot start the campaign again. Once has been quite enough." There are persons who talk thus. If it is true that we cannot resume the struggle, it will have been in vain that we started it at all.

Let us justify this view of ours. It is a matter of common observation that what we have won can be retained only by the same means through which it was got. What is Won by force can. be retained by force alone. A tiger seizes - its prey by force, arid retains it through force. Those who are forcibly locked up in jail are kept there by force. The territories acquired by emperors by use of force are retained by force. In the same manner, what is gained by love can be retained only by love. The mother feels great love for the child in her womb and rears it with the same love afterwards. Its punishment while yet a child should not be interpreted as use of force. There are also' instances where a mother has lost a child altogether because she stopped loving it for some reason. Similarly, what we have gained by satyagraha can be retained only through satyagraha. When satyagraha is given up, we may be sure that the gains will also be lost. Moreover, it is unlikely that one will succeed in retaining through physical force what one gained by satyagraha. Suppose Indians wish to retain by force the fruits of victory won through satyagraha. Even a child can see that, if Indians resort to force, they can be crushed within the minute. Likewise. if we abandon satyagraha and go on as we did before, what we have gained may be lost.

These examples serve to show that satyagraha is really an attitude of mind. He who has attained to the satyagrahic state of mind will remain ever victorious, at all times and places and under all conditions irrespective of whether it is a government or a people that he opposes, whether they be strangers, friends or relatives..

It is only because we do not appreciate the marvel of satyagraha that we live in India as a poor and cowardly race, not only in our relations with the Government but in our personal relations as well. Certain customs which are palpably evil are kept alive in our country mainly because we lack in the spirit of satyagraha. Though well aware that certain customs are bad. we do very little to end them either because of fear, laziness or undue regard for others.

Before concluding, let me refer to the latest instance. When the whites held an anti-Indian meeting in Pretoria Town Hall, there were only four whites to speak in our favour. They were thus four against a thousand. But the four were brave enough to express their views in the face of a chorus of abuse from the crowd. In the event, their satyagraha considerably detracted from the importance of the meeting and turned it into a menagerie.

We urge every Indian to follow these ideas carefully.' Those who do will learn the true nature of our success and find themselves equal to the tasks which the Indian community has to face.

Indian Opinion, 22-2-1908