Saturday, April 08, 2006

Satyagraha and Ahimsa

Satyagraha is literally means “hold onto the truth.” Gandhi coined the word Satyagraha is the philosophy of nonviolent resistance most famously employed by Mohandas Gandhi in forcing an end to the British Raj and also against apartheid in South Africa. Satya is Sanskrit for Truth, and Agraha is used to describe an effort, endeavor. The term itself may be construed to mean any effort to discover, discern, obtain or apply Truth. But Satyagraha is more richly nuanced than “hold onto the truth” implies. It could be called “truth force,” and because Gandhi associated truth with love, Satyagraha could also be translated as “the force of love.”

The movement of non-violent non-cooperation has nothing in common with the historical struggles for freedom in the West. It is NOT based on brute force or hatred. It does not aim at destroying the tyrant. It is a movement of self-purification. It therefore seeks to convert the tyrant. It may fail because India was not ready for mass non-violence.

Ahimsa is the foundation of Satyagraha, the "irreducible minimum" to which Satyagraha adheres to. Ahimsa can be translated as "nonviolence," but the meaning goes beyond that. Ahimsa is derived from the Sanskrit verb root hims, witch means "desirous to kill," and the prefix a- is negation. So a-himsa means literally "lacking any desire to kill," this is central to Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist morality. In the Manu Smriti, the book of laws in Hinduism, in says that "Ahimsa is the highest law.

How ever the word "nonviolence" connotes a negative, almost a passive condition, whereas the term ahimsa suggests a dynamic state of mind in which power is released. "Strength," Gandhi said, "does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will." So Ahimsa is not just nonviolence, whereas you do nothing, but a strength of will. Violence checks this energy within, and is ultimately disruptive in its consequences, ahimsa, properly understood is invincible. "With satya combined with ahimsa," Gandhi writes, "you can bring the world to your feet"

In this blog I will be posting stories of nonviolence, Satyagraha and Ahimsa. Most of all I will be discussing Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. If you have stories for me please send them.

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