Satyagraha & Duragraha

Gandhi's Views On Satyagraha

There are two methods of attaining one's goal. Satyagraha and Duragraha. In our scriptures, they have been described, respectively, as divine and devilish modes of action. In Satyagrahi, there is always unflinching adherence to truth. It is never to be forsaken on any account. Even for the sake of one’s country, it does not permit resort to false-hood. It proceeds on the assumption of the ultimate triumph of truth. A Satyagrahi does not abandon his path, even though at times it seems impenetrable and beset with difficulties and dangers, and a slight departure from that straight path may appear full of promise. Even in these circumstances, his faith shines resplendent like the midday sun and he does not despond. With truth for sword, he needs neither a steel sword nor gun-powder. Even an inveterate enemy he conquers by the force of the soul, which is love. Love for a friend is not put to the test. There is nothing surprising in a friend loving a friend; there is no merit in it and it costs no effort. When love is bestowed on the so-called enemy, it is tested, it becomes a virtue and requires an effort, and hence it is an act of manliness and real bravery. We can cultivate such an attitude even towards the Government and, doing so, we shall be able to appreciate their beneficial activities and, as for their errors, rather than feel bitter on their account, point them out in love and so get them rectified. Love does not act through fear. Weakness there certainly cannot be. A coward is incapable of bearing love, it is the prerogative of the brave. Looking at everything with love, we shall not regard the Government with suspicion, nor believe that all their actions are inspired with bad motives. And our examination of their actions, being directed by love, will be unerring and is bound, therefore, to carry conviction with them.

Love can fight; often, it is obliged to. In the intoxication of power, man fails to see his error. When that happens, a Satyagrahi does not sit still. He suffers. He disobeys the ruler’s orders and his laws in a civil manner, and willingly submits to the penalties of such disobedience, for instance, imprisonment and gallows. Thus is the soul disciplined. In this, one never finds that one’s time has been wasted and, if it is subsequently realized that such respectful disobedience was an error, the consequences are suffered merely by the Satyagrahi and his co-workers. In the event, no bitterness develops between the Satyagrahi and those in power; the latter, on the contrary, willingly yield to him. They discover that they cannot command the Satyagrahi’s obedience. They cannot make him do anything against his will. And this is the consummation of Swaraj, because it means complete independence. It need not be assumed that such resistance is possible only against civilized rulers. Even a heart of flint will melt in the fire kindled by the power of the soul. Even a Nero becomes a lamb when he faces love. This is no exaggeration. It is as true as an algebraic equation. This Satyagrahi is India's distinctive weapon. It has had others but Satyagraha has been in greater use. It is an unfailing source of strength, and is capable of being used at all times and under all circumstances. It requires no stamp of approval from the Congress or any other body. He who knows its power cannot but use it. Even as the eyelashes automatically protect the eyes, so does Satyagraha, when kindled, automatically protect the freedom of the soul.

But Duragraha is a force with the opposite attributes. As we saw earlier, the terrible War going on in Europe is a case in point. Why should a nation's cause be considered right and another’s wrong because it overpowers the latter by sheer brute force? The strong are often seen preying upon the weak. The wrongness of the latter’s cause is not to be inferred from their defeat in a trial of brute strength, nor is the rightness of the strong to be inferred from their success in such a trial. The wielder of brute force does not scruple about the means to be used. He does not question the propriety of means, if he can somehow achieve his purpose. This is not dharma but the opposite of it. In dharma, there can be no room for even a particle of untruth or cruelty, and no injury to life. The measure of dharma is love, compassion, truth. Heaven itself, if attained through sacrifice of these, is to be despised. Swaraj is useless at the sacrifice of truth. Such Swaraj will ultimately ruin the people. The man who follows the path of Duragraha becomes impatient and wants to kill the so-called enemy. There can be but one result of this. Hatred increases. The defeated party vows vengeance and simply bides its time. The spirit of revenge thus descends from father to son. It is much to be wished that India never gives predominance to this spirit of duragraha. If the members of this assembly deliberately accept satyagraha and chalk out its programme accordingly, they will reach their goal all the more easily for doing so. They may have to face disappointment in the initial stages. They may not see results for a time. But satyagraha will triumph in the end. The Duragrahi, like the oilman’s ox, moves in a circle. His movement is only motion but it is not progress. The Satyagrahi is ever moving forward.

A superficial critic of my views may find some contradiction in them. On the one hand, I appeal to the Government to give military training to the people. On the other, I put satyagraha on the pedestal. Surely, there can be no room for the use of arms in satyagraha? Of course there is none. But military training is intended for those who do not believe in satyagraha. That the whole of India will ever accept satyagraha is beyond my imagination. A cowardly refusal to defend the nation, or the weak, is ever to be shunned. In order to protect an innocent woman from the brutal design of a man, we ought to offer ourselves a willing sacrifice and by the force of love conquer the brute in the man. Lacking such strength, we should employ all our physical strength to frustrate those designs. The Satyagrahi and the duragrahi are both warriors. The latter, bereft of his arms, acknowledges defeat, the former never. He does not depend upon the perishable body and its weapons, but he fights on with the strength of the unconquerable and immortal atman. Anyone who is neither of the two is not a man, for he does not recognize the atman. If he did, he would not take fright and run away from danger. Like a miser his wealth, he tries to save his body and loses all; such a one does not know how to die. But the armoured soldier always has death by him as a companion. There is hope of his becoming one day a Satyagrahi. The right thing to hope from India is that this great and holy Aryan land will ever give the predominant place to the divine force and employ the weapon of satyagraha, that it will never accept the supremacy of armed strength. India will never respect the principle of might being right. She will ever reserve her allegiance to the principle: "Truth alone triumphs."

On reflection, we find that we can employ satyagraha even for social reform. We can rid ourselves of the many defects of our caste system. We can resolve Hindu-Muslim differences and can solve political problems. It is all right that, for the sake of convenience, we speak of these things as separate subjects. But it should never be forgotten that they are all closely inter-related. It is not true to say that neither religion nor social reform has anything to do with politics. The result obtained by bringing religion into play in the field of politics will be different from that obtained otherwise. When thinking of political matters, we cannot ignore 56,000 ignorant sadhus living as wandering mendicants. Our Muslim brethren cannot lose sight of their fakirs. Nor can we be unmindful of the condition of our widows and the custom of child marriage and the Muslims of the custom of purdah. The two communities cannot, likewise, shut their eyes to scores of questions that arise between them.

Indeed, our difficulties are Himalayan. But we have equally potent means at our disposal for overcoming them. We are children of an ancient nation. We have witnessed the burial of civilizations: those of Rome, Greece and Egypt. Our civilization abides even as the ocean in spite of its ebbs and flows. We have all we need to keep ourselves independent. We have great mountains and rivers. We have the matchless beauty of nature, and the sons and daughters of this land have handed down to us a heritage of deeds of valour. This country is the treasure-house of tapascharya. In this country alone do people belonging to different religions live together in amity and the gods of all are venerated. If, despite all this bounty, we fail to work a miracle, bring peace to the world and conquer the British through the play of moral force in our life, we shall have disgraced our heritage. The English nation is full of adventure, the religious spirit guides it, it has unquenchable faith in itself, it is a nation of great soldiers, it treasures its independence; but it has given the place of honour to its commercial instinct, it has not always narrowly examined the means adopted for seeking wealth. It worships modern civilization. The ancient ideals have lost their hold upon it. If, therefore, instead of imitating that nation, we cherish our past and sincerely value our strength, trust firmly in its supremacy, we shall know how to take the best advantage of our connection with the British and so make it profitable to us, to them and to the entire world. I pray to the Almighty that this assembly may play its part in this great work and thereby shed lustre upon itself, upon Gujarat, and upon the whole of India.

[From Gujarati]

Mahatma Gandhini Vicharsrishti