Gandhi and King: The Power of Nonviolent Resistance

By Michael J. Nojeim | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
Gandhian Principles
of Nonviolence

Nonviolence is the law of our species as violence is the law
of the brute. Nonviolence in its dynamic condition means
conscious suffering. It does not mean meek submission to
the will of the evil-doer, but it means the putting of one's
whole soul against the will of the tyrant.

—Mohandas K. Gandhi, from an article
in his newspaper, Young India, 1920

If someone were to ask, What two major principles rank highest among Gandhi's philosophical approach to social relations? the answer would consist of just two words: ahimsa and satyagraha— nonviolence and truth force. Satyagraha translates as soul force or truth force but Gandhi said it also means the strength that comes from adhering to the truth. Seeking after the truth was of paramount concern for Gandhi because he believed "a truthful person cannot long remain violent." "Indeed," he said, "lying is the mother of violence" (Gandhi 1990, 56). His idea of satyagraha illustrated just how central the pursuit of and adherence to the truth was in his operational code. Truth was so important to Gandhi that he ranked truthfulness higher in importance than peacefulness.

To be sure, ahimsa and satyagraha are related concepts. If people believe in and practice satyagraha, they must always be open to finding the truth, which may actually reside more in their opponent's perspective than in their own. As such, people cannot discern the ultimate, absolute truth: that is something only God can

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