Mahatma Gandhi, Letter To American Friends, August 3, 1942

Dear friends,

As I am supposed to be the spirit behind the much discussed and equally well abused resolution of the Working Committee of the Indian National Congress on independence, it has become necessary for me to explain my position. For I am not unknown to you. I have in America perhaps the largest number of friends in the West – not even excepting Great Britain. British friends knowing me personally are more discerning than the American. In America I suffer from the well-known malady called hero worship.

The good Dr. Holmes, until recently of the Unity Church of New York, without knowing me personally became my advertising agent. Some of the nice things he said about me I never knew myself. So I receive often embarrassing letters from America expecting me to perform miracles. Dr. Holmes was followed much later by the late Bishop Fisher who knew me personally in India. He very nearly dragged me to America but fate had ordained otherwise and I could not visit your vast and great country with its wonderful people.

Moreover, you have given me a teacher in Thoreau, who furnished me through his essay on the “Duty of Civil Disobedience” scientific confirmation of what I was doing in South Africa. Great Britain gave me Ruskin, whose Unto This Last transformed me overnight from a lawyer and city-dweller into a rustic living away from Durban on a farm, three miles from the nearest railway station and Russia gave me in Tolstoy a teacher who furnished a reasoned basis for my nonviolence. He blessed my movement in South Africa when it was still in its infancy and of whose wonderful possibilities I had yet to learn. It was he who had prophesied in his letter to me that I was leading a movement which was destined to bring a message of hope to the downtrodden people of the earth.

So you will see that I have not approached the present task in any spirit of enmity to Great Britain and the West. After having imbibed and assimilated the message of Unto This Last, I could not be guilty of approving of Fascism or Nazism, whose cult is suppression of the individual and his liberty.

I invite you to read my formula of withdrawal or, as it has been popularly called, “Quit India,” with this background. You may not read into it more than the context warrants.
I claim to be a votary of truth from my childhood. It was the most natural thing to me. My prayerful search gave me the revealing maxim “Truth is God” instead of the usual one “God is Truth.” That maxim enables me to see God face to face as it were. I feel Him pervade every fibre of my being. With this Truth as witness between you and me, I assert that I would not have asked my country to invite Great Britain to withdraw her rule over India, irrespective of any demand to the contrary, if I had not seen at once that for the sake of Great Britain and the Allied cause it was necessary for Britain boldly to perform the duty of freeing India from bondage. Without this essential act of tardy justice, Britain could not justify her position before the unmurmuring world conscience, which is there nevertheless.

Singapore, Malaya and Burma taught me that the disaster must not be repeated in India. I make bold to say that it cannot be averted unless Britain trusts the people of India to use their liberty in favour of the Allied cause. By that supreme act of justice Britain would have taken away all cause for the seething discontent of India. She will turn the growing ill-will into active goodwill. I submit that it is worth all the battleships and airships that your wonder-working engineers and financial resources can produce.

I know that interested propaganda has filled your ears and eyes with distorted versions of the Congress position. I have been painted as a hypocrite and enemy of Britain under disguise. My demonstrable spirit of accommodation has been described as my inconsistency, proving me to be an utterly unreliable man. I am not going to burden this letter with proof in support of my assertions. If the credit I have enjoyed in America will not stand me in good stead, nothing I may argue in self-defence will carry conviction against the formidable but false propaganda that has poisoned American ears.

You have made common cause with Great Britain. You cannot therefore disown responsibility for anything that her representatives do in India. You will do a grievous wrong to the Allied cause if you do not sift the truth from the chaff whilst there is yet time. Just think of it. Is there anything wrong in the Congress demanding unconditional recognition of India’s independence? It is being said, “But this is not the time.” We say, “This is the psychological moment for that recognition.” For then and then only can there be irresistible opposition to Japanese aggression. It is of immense value to the Allied cause if it is also of equal value to India. The Congress has anticipated and provided for every possible difficulty in the way of recognition. I want you to look upon the immediate recognition of India’s independence as a war measure of first class magnitude. 

I am,
Your friend,
M. K. Gandhi 

“Our Greatest National Sin” by Sw. Vivekananda

Nandalal Bose, Mother and Child

In this essay, Swamiji enjoins Indians to unite in loving brotherhood in protection of their sisters, wives, and daughters. He emphasizes that the uplift of India is impossible so long as the nation’s leaders ignore the inherent worth of women and the poor. The causes of their ongoing oppression lie in foreign conquests, the dishonoring of womanhood (shakti), the abuse of caste, and above all, materialism. The “don’t touchism” of puritannical untouchability is the bane of India’s progress, Swamiji argued; “The chief cause of India’s ruin has been the monopolising of the whole education and intelligence of the land, by dint of pride and royal authority, among a handful of men…Ay, in this country of ours, the very birthplace of the Vedanta, our masses have been hypnotised for ages into that state. To touch them is pollution, to sit with them is pollution! […]” It does not help if we think of women as polluting agents, as “‘despicable worms,’ ‘gateways to hell,’ and so forth.” His guru, Sri Ramakrishna, though advising chastity to his fellow sanyasins, always said that all women, irrespective of class, religion, or caste, are manifestations of the Divine Mother, Shakti. Affirming this truth, Vivekananda avers, “The Lord has said, “Thou are the woman, Thou art the man, Thou are the boy and the girl as well. And we on our part are crying, –‘Be off, thou outcaste!’–Who has made the bewitching woman?” (Our Greatest National Sin, Rebuild India)

As a result of man’s surrender to the lower instincts, the caste system has been exploited for personal and familial gain in India, particularly in the modern period. For instance, even as the Brahmin, the teacher of teachers, is held as the ideal of humanity in Vedic Hinduism, Swamiji points out that “in Travancore, the most priest-ridden country in India–where every bit of land is owned by Brahmins,” prompting mass conversions to Islam and Christianity amongst the masses. Kerala, he maintained, was a “madhouse of castes,” with each caste being subdivided into even minute “high” and “low” sub-castes within castes (OGNS). He points out that in cases of egregious land-grubbing and abuse of the downtrodden, the upper castes amongst the Hindus behaved like the “Pharisees and Saduccees,” incapable of seeing that every man, woman, and child is a soul, and thus, an aspect of Brahman, as the Hindu scriptures affirm (OGNS).

Mahaprabhu Chaitanya, Nandalal Bose
Nandalal Bose, Esraj Player

The problem, he concluded, was not the caste system, which is merely a way of dividing work, but the absence of love and an utter disregard of the inherent dignity of every form of labor that contributes to the welfare of all in India, whether one is a raja or a chandala, a businessman or a bhangi, a scientist or a shoe-maker. As he puts it, “I can mend a pair of old shoes, but that is no reason why you are greater than I, for can you mend my shoes? You are clever in reading Vedas, but that is no reason why you should trample on,my head. Why if one commits murder should he be praised, and if another steal an apple why should he be hanged?

Nandalal Bose, The Bangle Seller

This will have to go. If you teach Vedanta to the fisherman, he will say, I am a fisherman, you are a philosopher, but I have the same God in me as you have in you” (The Nation Lives in Cottages). It is this mutual recognition, as co-workers in the kingdom of heaven on earth that we want, as African-American writer James Baldwin puts it. Swamji clarifies his ideal for rebuilding India in this image of Shakti in the following terms: “no privilege for any one, equal chances for all,” with everyone being taught that the divine is within, and every one will work out his own salvation.”

One finds striking parallels in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ideals for the uplift of black America; Dr. King points out in his great sermon, delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, “Three Dimensions of a Complete Life,” “If it is for the uplifting of humanity, it has cosmic significance, however small it is. If you are called to a little job, seek to do it in a big way. If your life’s work is confined to the ordinary, seek to do it in an extraordinary way. If you discover that you are called to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michaelangelo painted pictures, like Beethoven composed music, and like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, ‘here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well’” (King, “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life,” 24 January 1954). Indeed, Dr. King’s wife, the honorable Coretta Scott King, became a disciple of Sw. Vivekananda, remarking that Swamiji had delivered “the most definitive statement of religious tolerance and interfaith unity in history.” Under her leadership, the King Center observed the Centenary of the World Parliament of Religions in 1993, which included an interfaith tribute at the United Nations. On this auspicious occasion, she recalled her husbands words in affirmation of Vivekananda’s message to America and the world, noting that “My husband, Martin Luther Jr. said “Our loyalties must become ecumenical, rather than sectional…This called for world-wide fellowship is in reality a call for an all-embracing, unconditional love for all..that force which all the greatest religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality.”

Letter from Corretta Scott King to Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of new York, Interfaith Tribute at the United Nations
Nandalal Bose, Tiller of the Soil

“It was the Brahmins,” Sw. Vivekananda, himself of the scribal and ministerial Kayastha caste, acknowledges, “who made a monopoly of the religious books and kept the question of sanction and prohibition in their own hands. And repeatedly calling the other races of India low and vile, they put this belief into their heads that they were really such” (OGNS). Rather than opposing the division of social labor altogether, which would leave India wide open for chaos and conquest, he recommends that aptitude for certain forms of labor are inherent to every human being and in recognizing these aptitudes in all irrespective of their caste position, each individual can rise higher in proportion to his learning and culture. He points out in another essay, “The Nation Lives in Cottages” that “when he is engaged in serving another for pay, he is in Shudrahood; when he is busy transacting some business for profit, on his own account, he is a Vaishya; when he fights to right wrongs, then the qualities of a Kshatriya come out in him; and when he meditates on God, or passes his time in conversation about Him, then he is a Brahmin” (TNLIC). While these duties have been obscured by the vanity of caste pride and the dint of materialism in this Kali Yuga, particularly in the wake of Western imperialism, Vivekananda points out that in truth, “it is quite possible for one to be changed from one caste into another. Otherwise, how did Vishvamitra become a Brahmin and Parashurama a Kshatriya? The son of a Brahmin is not necessarily always a Brahmin; though there is every possibility of his being one, he may not become so” (TNLIC). Social division of labor is obviously necessary for the organization of society and the progress of civilization, Vivekananda suggests. It is the motive which produces the quality of the action, which may be good or bad depending on how one performs one’s duty and for whom, the highest purpose being, the service of the God in Man, for each soul is potentially divine. When the motives of men are purified such that the aim is mutual service to mankind, caste is not inherently evil, and certainly preferable to the materialistic and color-based caste system of Western imperialism, which presumes all those not possessed of the boon of fair skin, “weak’ and “subject” races.

These points are echoed by Gandhiji, who said that the four varnas mark out “four universal occupations,” which include imparting knowledge (the office of the teacher), defending the defenseless (the duty of the warrior), carrying on agriculture and commerce (the role of the farmer and husbandman), and performing service through physical labour (the role of service and industry). While these occupations are common to all settled civilizations, like the Egyptians, Greeks, the Sumerians, the Chinese, and the Romans since its origins amongst humanity,

Bullfighter, Nandalal Bose

Gandhi underscored that Hinduism was amongst the first religions of the world to conceive of the four varnas–the four major orders of human labor comprised of the teachers and priests; the rulers,warriors, administrators; the agriculturalists and merchants; and the laborers and service providers–as the guiding purpose of our work in this fleeting world. The varna system was a way of regulating social relations, ensure production and survival, and promote good conduct and the cultivation of knowledge in human society. However, Gandhiji points out, like Swamiji, that “When Hindus were seized with inertia, abuse of varna resulted in innumerable castes, with unnecessary and harmful restrictions as to inter-marriage and inter-dining. These restrictions may be necessary in the interest of chastity and hygiene. But a Brahmana who marries a Shudra girl, or vice versa, commits no offence against the law of varnas. (Young India, 4-6-1931, p129). Gandhi did not, therefore, see the caste system, a form of social organization, as the cause of untouchability; rather the cause of untouchability was hatred, hypocrisy, greed, and rigidity. As he puts it, in 1933, “Untouchability is the product, therefore, not of the caste system, but of the distinction of high and low that has crept into Hinduism and is corroding it. The attack on untouchability is thus an attack upon this ‘high-and-low’-ness. The moment untouchability goes, the caste system itself will be purified, that is to say, according to my dream, it will resolve itself into the true Varnadharma, the four division of society, each complementary of the other and none inferior or superior to any other, each as necessary for the whole body of Hinduism as any other. (Harijan, 11-2-1933, p3).

Chaitanya and Haridas, Nandalal Bose

Likewise, Swamiji pointed out that “The degeneration of India came not because the laws and customs of the ancients were bad, but because they were not allowed to be carried to their legitimate conclusions” (TNLIC). He maintained that “Our castes and our institutions…have been necessary to protect us as a nation, and when this necessity of self-preservation will no more exist, they will die a natural death,” adding that “Indian caste is better than the caste system which prevails in Europe or America,” where society is organized on the basis of the color line and the worth of a person is defined in terms of their material wealth.

Sw. Vivekananda ends the following essay, “Our Greatest National Sin,” with a piece of advice that may prove crucial to the development of twenty-first century India, a land where religion continues to animate the movement of civilization even as the lure of a deadening neo-utilitarian materialism, and an empty, self-seeking, neo-liberal secularism encroaches upon its spiritual inheritance. Those seeking to profit from India’s misery, those who see no respite beyond the sense-objects will only see poverty and squalor when they look upon India, only see her in terms of her putative lack, “Because in their minds enlightenment means dress, education, social politeness.” However, “Utilitarian standards cannot explain the ethical relations of men, for, in the first place, we cannot derive any ethical laws from considerations of utility.” So long as the ideals of a civilization are bound by such finite and limited parameters, it will remain stagnant, incapable of transcending its own ego. Does the dress of a man have any bearing on his character? Is it not ludicrous to judge the greatness of Bhagvan Ramakrishna, a God-man scantily clad in but a few folds of fabric, by his dress? Moreover, what is an education but the enlightenment of the soul, which is beyond this “two-days life,” this body, which is but a few pounds of ashes, as Sri Ramakrishna and Holy Mother so often said? What is politeness, that distinctive hallmark of civilization, but the “beauty of conduct” as Rabindranath Tagore reminds us in Creative Unity? If we follow these ideals of development, we will be led to believe that the apparent is the real and the real, that is the Effulgent One, the One without a Second, is unreal. After attending school as a child, Sri Ramakrishna quickly discovered that most secular education was about money-making rather than God realization, assimilation to the false notion that this world and the perceptions we receive through our senses is reality, rather than a distortion of it. He did not bother with the study of letters much and in his short earthly life, he gained the discipleship of some of the greatest thinkers of the modern world.

Never mind these illusions, says Swamiji! The wealth of India’s spiritual inheritance as Shankaracharya opined, is endless. However, there are “two curses” we must reverse through sincere devotion and renunciation in order to renew our commitment to this ideal, which has its basis, the concept of infinity and oneness: “first, our weakness, secondly, our hatred, our dried-up hearts.” We may talk of scientific, theological, artistic, doctrines by the millions, till we are blue in the face, splinter into warring sects “by the hundreds of millions,” and yet, nothing will manifest, until we “have heart to feel” for fellow brothers and sisters. “Feel for them as your Veda teaches,” Swamiji sang, “till you find they are parts of your own bodies, till you realise that you and they, the poor and the rich, the saint and the sinner, are all parts of the One Infinite Whole, which you call Brahma.”

Introductory essay by R. Divya Nair


I consider that the great national sin is the neglect of the masses, and that is one of the causes of our downfall. In India there are two great evils. Trampling on the women and grinding the poor through caste restrictions […]

Sw, Vivekananda, Sw. Tadatmananda

Those uncared-for lower classes of India–the peasants and weavers and the rest, who hae been conquered by foreigners and are looked down upon by their own people–it is they who from time immemorial have been working silently, without even getting the remuneration of their labors.

Where are they through whose physical labour only are possible the influence of the Brahmin, the prowess of the Kshatriya, and the fortune of the Vaishya? What is their history , who, bbeing the real body of society, are designated at all time in all countries as ‘base-born’? Ye labouring classes of India, as a result of your silent, constant labours, Babylon, Persia, Alexandria, Greece, Rome, Venice, Genoa, Baghdad, Samarqand, Spain, Portugal, France, Denmark, Holland, and England have successively attained supremacy and eminence! And you?– Well, who cares to think of you?

Engrossed in the struggle for existence, they had not the opportunity for the awakening of knowledge. They have worked so long uniformly like machines guided by human intelligence and the clever educated section have taken the substantial part of the fruits of their labour. In every country, this has been the case. But times have changed. The lower classes are gradually awakening to this fact and making a united front against this, determined to exact their legitimate dues […]

The root of all evils in India is the condition of the poor…Priest-power and foreign conquest have trodden them down for centuries, and at last the poor of India have forgotten that they are human beings….The poor, the low, the sinner in India have no friends, no help–they cannot rise, try however they may. They sink lower and lower every day, they feel the blows showered upon them by a cruel society, and they do not know whence the blow comes. They have been compelled to be merely hewers of wood and drawers of water for centuries, so much so, that they are made to believe that they are born as slaves, born as hewers of wood and drawers of water […]

The mass of Brahmin and Kshatriya tyranny has recoiled upon their own heads with compound interest; and a thousand years of slavery and degradation is what the inexorable law of Karma is visiting upon them.

They who sucked the life-blood of the poor, whose very education was at their expense, whose very power was built on their poverty, were in their turn sold as slaves by hundreds and thousands, their wives and daughters dishonored, their property robbed for the las 1,000 years and do you think it was for no cause? […]

If anybody is born of a low caste in our country, he is gone for ever, there is no hope for him. And come and see…in Travancore, the most priest-ridden country in India–where every bit of land is owned by Brahmins…nearly one-fourth has become Christian! Just see, for want of sympathy from the Hindus, thousands of Pariahs in Madras are turning Christians. Don’t think this is simply due to the pinch of hunger; it is because they do not get any sympathy from us.

Why amongst the poor of India so many are Mohammedans? It is nonsense to say, they were converted by the sword. It was to gain their liberty from the…zemindars, and from the…priest, and as a consequence, you find in Bengal there are more Mohammedans than Hindus amongst the cultivators, because there were so many zemindars there.

Who reduced the Bhangis and the Pariahs to their present degraded condition? Who is responsible? And the answer comes every time; Not the English, no, they are not responsible; it is we who are responsible for all our misery and all our degradation, and we alone are responsible. It is the Pharisees and Sadducees in Hinduism, hypocrites, who invent all sorts of engines of tyranny in the shape of doctrines of Paramarthika and Vyavaharike […]

We speak of many things parrot-like, but never do them; speaking and not doing has become a habit with us. What is the cause of that? Physical weakeness. That physical weakness is the cause of at least one-third of our miseries. We are lazy, we cannot work; we cannot combine, we do not love each other; we are intensely selfish, not three of us can come together without hating each other, without being jealous of each other […]

Our nation is totally lacking in the faculty of organisation. It is this one drawback which produces all sorts of evil. We are altogether averse to making a common cause for anything. The first requisite for organisation is obedience.

There are two curses here: first, our weakness, secondly, our hatred, our dried-up hearts. You may talk doctrines by the millions, you may have sects by the hundreds of millions; ay, but it is nothing until you have heart to feel. Feel for them as your Veda teaches, till you find they are parts of your own bodies, till you realise that you and they, the poor and the rich, the saint and the sinner, are all parts of the One Infinite Whole, which you call Brahma.

From Sw. Vivekananda Rebuild India

When God Laughs

GOD laughs on two occasions. He laughs when the physician says to the patient’s mother, “Don’t be afraid, mother, I shall certainly cure your boy.” God laughs saying to Himself, “I am going to take his life, and this man says he will save it!” The physician thinks he is the master, forgetting that God is the Master.

God laughs again when two brothers divide their land with a string, saying to each other, “This side is mine, that side is yours.” He laughs and says to Himself, “The universe belongs to Me, but they say they own this portion or that portion,”

—Tales and Parables of Sri Ramakrishna

Nirvanashatakam or Song of Self-Realization

If night and day are but the wink of God’s eye,

A million calyxes have opened and closed in a single wink.

Desire blinds and bewilders memory of love, like the slow torpor of heat escaping a tormented earth

the wrath that follows is a midnight howl,

a bloodless gash in the soul of man,

wrought in the anvils of lust,

ever gluttonous bitterness, ever paralyzing,

now violent now lecherous, a pestilential torrent beating against the castle of the soul,

sullen like a devil who cannot wet it.

Sorrows only end when we become perfect witnesses

and he who no longer seeks umbrage in grief nor joy ,

he who is like the stillness of a quiet summer night,

seated in the garden, moonflowers vining their way into the light,

he has learned the secret of witnessing,

he is the perfect witness, for he has nothing to gain from the object of his witnessing,

nothing to prove,

in whom self has conquered self,

for whom only the bliss of knowing the love of God exists—

to seek such a purity of intent in the works of life, to work as witness,

to love the wicked and good,

hold the sinner and saint in one’s arms with the same devotion, with the same unflinching embrace of truth.

Indeed only these can be judged as true works, works wrought in the fine filigree of sacrifice,

as a reaper’s scythe against the harvest,

pitiless in its shearing of sheaves,

yet seeking not its fruit for his own gain—

stern, simple, salutary,

like a a stack of white linens

freshly dried in the sun.

Knowledge is like this: a play of a play within a play and the world is its stage–

as darkness is the source of light and light the cause of shadow,

the lie also bears the seed of truth,

for the liar too is a truth-teller

ever revealing the very truth

he seeks to suppress, and so enlightening us all

as a murderer gives birth to life

as a mother suppresses it

As a soldier yearns for peace on the battlefield, so a false peace-monger may be the harbinger of pusillanimity

In evil a glimmer of good

and in the good always the glimmer of evil

all that is is also all that isn’t

and all that was is also all that is and will be,

for matter and spirit can neither be created nor destroyed

and response is not merely a function of the living, but also the non living

Death is but the beginning of life

and life but the beginning of death

Pain the precipitate of pleasure

And pleasure an escape of pain –

as the sun rises in one place and sets elsewhere,

as the tide leaps even as it recedes

amidst the relativity of time and space,

love is the only constant

love that slips a sapling out of the earth and nourishes it with rain,

love that draws a flock of geese into a wild dance against the break of day,

Love that syncopates the choral cacophony of human voices into metric harmony,

Love that pulls the heavens tightly around the earth, like some spangled blanket, soft and ethereal, studded with the diamonds of the night.

Ahimsa as a Science Of Love and Social Action

Impure means result in an impure end. Hence, prince and the peasant will not be equaled by cutting off the prince’s head, nor can the process of cutting off equalize the employer and the employed. One cannot reach truth by untruthfulness. Truthful conduct alone can reach truth.


The artist of this untitled piece, K.H. Ara, was a satyagrahi who was imprisoned for his participation in the famous Salt Satyagraha. The production of salt, a dietary staple, was heavily taxed by the British colonial administration. Satyagrahis marched for nearly a month on foot to the sea. More than 80, 000 were arrested. Not a single weapon was in their hands. Martin Luther King Jr. would preach about Gandhi’s strategy and leadership of the Salt March upon his return to the United States from his trip to the Land Of Gandhi in a sermon entitled “Palm Sunday Sermon on Mohandas K. Gandhi remarking

And you have read of the Salt March, which was a very significant thing in the Indian struggle. And this demonstrates how Gandhi used this method of nonviolence and how he would mobilize his people and galvanize the whole of the nation to bring about victory. In India, the British people had come to the point where they were charging the Indian people a tax on all of the salt, and they would not allow them even to make their own salt from all of the salt seas around the country. They couldn’t touch it; it was against the law. And Gandhi got all of the people of India to see the injustice of this. And he decided one day that they would march from Ahmadabad down to a place called Dandi.

We had the privilege of spending a day or so at Ahmadabad at that Sabarmati ashram, and we stood there at the point where Gandhi started his long walk of two hundred and eighteen miles. And he started there walking with eighty people. And gradually the number grew to a million, and it grew to millions and millions. And finally, they kept walking and walking until they reached the little village of Dandi. And there, Gandhi went on and reached down in the river, or in the sea rather, and brought up a little salt in his hand to demonstrate and dramatize the fact that they were breaking this law in protest against the injustices they had faced all over the years with these salt laws.

Gandhi’s method of protest, it should be remembered, was a scientific method based on sociology, psychology, law, economics, as well as theology. It draws on all these methods of knowing the truth in order to heal the human personality, which he recognized had become inured to the notion that it is human nature to be violent. Like Socrates, who averred that humanity tended towards justice rather than injustice, love rather than hatred, Gandhi too maintained that in the end, any Republic founded on the “interest of the stronger” would not last, for the arc of the moral universe, as Dr. King also said, bends towards justice. Such is the genius of Gandhiji’s science of Ahimsa, which, he insisted, was the science of love. Love strives to rise above nature, to transform nature in its image. Gandhi, it should be noted, took love as a force in the universe, as an animating primum mobile capable of effecting measurable change in the order of universe. In the Salt Satyagraha, we see a concrete social example of human action anchored in the philosophy of Ahimsa; the Indian people transmute the quotient of their moral discipline and physical suffering into energy that is in turn dedicated to the production of a necessity seized by the imperialist. satyagraha is rooted in renunciation and self-sacrifice, which is a philosophical idea integral to the practice of Hinduism. This forceful collective renunciation powered the movement for swaraj because in impelling the masses to forego attachment to their physical reality even unto death, Gandhi emphasized that they would be redeemed in the love of their children for whom they struggled.

The soul-force is infinitely greater than the physical form and the revolutionary, in particular, must learn this truth if he or she is striving to overcome the fear of death, which is really a fear of love because if we love from the soul force we will know that we never truly die. We we will return again and again, like the universe sucking into itself until at last we are at the center of that which is changeless, formless, that which is beyond space, time, and causality, the perfect stillness which the Christians call the peace which passeth understanding and the Hindus call Brahman, which represents the totality of the soul force.

As an energetic force, love represents more than willpower for Gandhi as Schoepenhauer had claimed; rather, love is an acknowledgement of the ephemerality of the physical form itself; it can work as a physical principle because it cuts across time. It is the understanding that desire produces suffering and that we are responsible for our misery because we are too attached to our material life at the grave expense of our spiritual life. Consequently, we are bound to the rigors of mortality, bogged down by the petty crimes and frustrations of everyday life which keep us further distracted from the truth: that all is maya and that in truth, we are energetic forms that are merely taking new shape and new intervals navigating the great force field that is the universe. We depend on light for life but where does it come from and does it come from us, if the kingdom of God is inside us? The search for “scientific truth” has taken modern Western man outward; and yet as our sages and leaders have told us, to seek truth, we must indeed go inward–the inward journey, in the words of the great Howard Thurman. In the form of Hinduism Vivekananda emphasized, when one escapes rebirth, one returns to complete unity with the universal soul or the Atman. In truth, he argues, we are all perfect; it is just that we have become inured to ignorance as a result of our attachment to illusions of reality. To truly achieve the freedom of the soul, both Gandhi and Vivekananda suggest, one must overcome these illusions and confront the truth of one’s soul force. The soul force is ancient as it is new. It represents the embedded unity of past, present, and future because it is time itself. Time would not exist without the soul in this epistemology for it is the karma of the soul which impels causality in time-space.

The Salt Satyagraha reveals that Ahimsa is more than a concept: it is an actual perception capable of being shared by a large mass of people and uniting them in common purpose and action, in karma and dharma. It represents a new epistemology that compels man to overcome the brute in him by recognizing the grand illusions and painful distortions of reality that hold us in bondage to suffering.

Fundamental to the Gandhian epistemology is a rejection of the rigid empiricism characteristic of Western science. Rather, it embraces the central message of peace underlying all of the world’s religions and sees them as temporally dialogical to Science. We might remember here that even Western science began in African and Asian religious and scientific texts, which acknowledged, as it is revealed in the Vedas, the unity in the plurality of forms. The distinction that has arisen between Religion and Science in the West is dispelled in the thought of Vivekananda and Gandhi, revealed as something of a false dichotomy, for the real question is the relation of humanity to nature and this question takes us to both science and religion; this theoretical legacy is indebted to with the teachings of the Vedanta as well as the sacred texts of other religions.However, this idea of non-injury as the highest ideal of civilization is reiterated most impactfully in the modern epoch in the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and his greatest disciple Swami Vivekananda, both of whom Gandhiji admired greatly. Again, we are entering a new epistemology here because historically in the West Science has been emptied of moral purpose and Religion has unfortunately been declared, even by great social scientists like Marx, as a deviation from scientific truth. Like Vivekananda, who insisted upon the unity of all of the world’s religions, Gandhi recognizes “a perfect unity in the plurality of designs.” Thus he did not see a contradiction between Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, and other faiths and science. It is for this reason that he defends his theory of Ahimsa as scientific; as he maintained

Nevertheless, I do feel, as the poor villagers felt about Mysore, that there is orderliness in the universe, there is an unalterable law governing everything and every being that exists or lives. It is not a blind law, for no blind law can govern the conduct of living being and thanks to the marvelous researches of Sir J. C. Bose it can now be proved that even matter is life

Salt of the earth