Mahatma Gandhi in Sudan

“In 1935, Mahatma Gandhi stopped over in Port Sudan (on his way to England through sea) and was welcomed by the Indian community there. In 1938, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru stopped over in Port Sudan on his way to Britain and was hosted through a function at the home of Chhotalal Samji Virani. The Graduates General Congress of Sudan formed in 1938 drew heavily on the experience of the Indian National Congress.”

“British Indian troops fought alongside Sudanese in Eritrea in 1941 winning the decisive battle of Keren (Bengal Sappers won a Victoria Cross for mine clearance in Metemma, now on the Sudan-Ethiopia border). The Sudan Block at India’s National Defence Academy was partly funded with a gift of one hundred thousand pounds from the Sudanese Government in recognition of the sacrifices of Indian troops in the liberation of Sudan in the North African Campaign during World War II.”

“At the 1955 Bandung Conference, the delegation from a still not independent Sudan did not have a flag to mark its place. Taking out his handkerchief, Jawaharlal Nehru wrote “Sudan” on it, thus reserving a place for Sudan in the international community.”

Source: http://www.eoikhartoum.gov.in/India-Sudan-Bilateral-Brief.php

The Gift of India and the Violence of the West: Some Reflections

Ravi Varma, Bharani Thirunal Rani Parvathi Bayi
Can ye measure the grief of the tears I weep
Or compass the woe of the watch I keep?
Or the pride that thrills thro’ my heart’s despair
And the hope that comforts the anguish of prayer?
And the far sad glorious vision I see
Of the torn red banners of victory?
when the terror and the tumult of hate shall cease
And life be refashioned on anvils of peace,
And your love shall offer memorial thanks
To the comrades who fought on the dauntless ranks,
And you honour the deeds of the dauntless ones,
Remember the blood of my martyred sons!
—Sarojini Naidu, “The Gift of India” 
India is formerly colonized country which has been attacked since its birth in 1947 by commercial superpowers. For the U.S to claim a “trade deficit” with India or any oppressed country is hypocrisy given that it is the Americans who have systematically destroyed the economy and the possibility of peace in the region in order to secure their extravagant and corrupt lifestyle. W.E.B Du Bois was right when he said in The World and Africa that all of the exploitation of the world is apparent in the face of a young, seemingly innocent white socialite whose household is furnished and powered almost entirely by the labor of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and African-America. 
It is the mounting panic about how whites will continue to sustain this lifestyle in the twenty-first century that is driving the present political drama about impeachment. To do so, they realize that they must scramble anew for the resources of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Once more, the white race seeks to use the darker races as means of neocolonial production but this is proving highly unlikely as from Syria to North Korea to China to Palestine, people are clamoring for peace, truth, and freedom from the violence of the West. 
Diplomatic meetings between world leaders (including corrupt native leaders like Narendra Modi who collude with capital) obscure the grim truth of American-led and Europe-backed wars on Asian and African soil. These are wars aimed at destroying the civilization and industries of these continents so as to keep them utterly dependent on Western markets and Western civilization. Then, capital arrives with friendly trade deals, treaties, and humanitarian aid, claiming to offer an antidote to the very evil it personifies and strives to cultivate in the hearts of humankind.  
Americans sought in-roads into India, a socialist republic,  after its hard won Independence from the British in 1947 because they saw themselves to be next in line after the British Empire, to which white American culture continues to aspire. As a deep alliance flourished between Indians, Latinos, Africans and African-Americans as a result of the Pan-African, socialist, non-violent, and non-aligned alliance against Western imperialism, white Americans, backed by the international bourgeoisie of all colors, united against the freedom of the darker races. NATO, an alliance of Western countries, was specifically aimed at countering the Communism of the East and South.  The so-called War on Terror which is the longest war fought by the American Empire is merely the new face of these unresolved tensions. The American people are now suffering because Western capital has exported the jobs to oppressed nations in order to save on labor costs. And yet, Trump blames China and other countries for the trade deficit instead of accepting responsibility for capital’s failure to meet the needs and interests of world humanity.
Amidst all the hoopla about terror overseas, conveniently labeled “radical Islam,” little is said about the the violence wrought by white Christianity, which entirely distorted the love ethic of Jesus. America is nation that continues to terrorize its own black citizens and it was mass opposition to white terror which propelled Dr. King’s movement. In the background of the Negro spiritual “Were You There?”–one of Gandhi’s favorite hymns most memorably sung by the great Marian Anderson–looms the shadow of the Jim Crow South. As Coretta Scott King notes in her autobiography, white Southerners burned down her family’s home and her father’s business when she was growing. When we consider the aftermath of the cases of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, and others, we see that murder of black men, women, children in the United States is sanctioned by the state. This sordid racial reality continues to remain obscured by 9/11 jingoism, which located terror in the so-called “Middle East.” In this relentless milieu of false patriotism cut with bouts of liberal guilt, it’s worth remember that such xenophobic sentiments, based on corrupt economic and political motives, led to the persecution of hundreds of courageous people in the U.S during the McCarthyite era, including Paul Robeson and W.E.B Du Bois, descendants of African slaves held captive by this so-called American democracy. 
In the past twenty years, the U.S. has waged wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Korea, Syria and Pakistan—Asian countries which were formerly colonized by European powers. In the 1970s, America seduced Maoist China against India and Vietnam while claiming to be their saviors after the horrific invasions of Vietnam, Afghanistan, Japan, and Korea. Now it seeks to use India to “box in” (per Kissinger and Nixon) the threats posed by India, China and Russia to the Western economy.
An attempt was also made by Americans to invade India under Indira Gandhi’s tenure during the liberation of East Pakistan, an effort heroically supported by Mrs. Gandhi, to the great consternation of President Richard Nixon. It is still unclear as to what role the U.S government  played in the assassinations of Indian leaders like Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv Gandhi, as well as Black American leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers, Huey Newton, and Malcolm X, though a great deal of evidence has emerged about the state’s machinations in the assassination and overthrow of colored leaders throughout the world. 
The lies and schemes of American politicians have fueled mounting national paranoia about Russian collusion in U.S elections which has led to the Democratic party’s impeachment of Donald Trump, though the corporate Democrats are equally if not more guilty, for they co-opt the language of social justice and freedom fighters in order to further their own corrupt agenda in the bourgeois public sphere. The Democratic Party simply wants to escalate tensions with Russia and as socialistic as some of the candidates seem, none of them contend with the fundamental problems of Western civilization, which is riven by the inescapable dilemma of the color line. This has rightly caused the masses of Americans to reject the Democratic Party’s veneer of liberalism, which is merely a new iteration of the white man’s burden.
The West relished in the destruction of the Soviet Union, which was their ultimate aim during the Cold War seeing it as a victory for Western civilization and capital. India was one of the most important allies of the Soviet Union and American foreign policy sought to sever this bond in the 1990s and 2000s by infiltrating it’s economy, military, and leadership. The economic liberalization of India, which Americans falsely deem a triumph, led to an increase in trade with U.S during the 1990s. However, it rolled back many of the crucial socialist programs designed by Gandhi, Nehru, and other founding fathers and mothers and replaced them with neocolonial NGO and non-profits which used predatory lending techniques and white authority to forcefully secure native cooperation.
 In the renascence of Cold War sentiments we see today through the paradigm of a white “Atlantic”, which is the organizing political principle of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) we once again witness efforts to divide India, China, and Russia, in a similar pattern of previous attempts at Balkanization under Kissinger and Nixon. When the crisis in Ukraine is discussed in the U.S by figures like Joe Biden and Donald Trump, little is said about the fact that Ukraine represents a flashpoint in the international struggle between the capitalist and communist mode of production. NATO waged horrific wars against former Yugoslavia in the 1990s in an effort to reclaim Eastern Europe for Western capital. It has continually aggressed upon Russia—and not the other way around, as the powers that be claim. 
Lastly, consider the Western worry about “intellectual property” amidst the panic over trade deficits with countries like China and India. These ruthless American and European business tactics have nothing to do with the integrity of thought; rather, they are thinly veiled gestures once more aimed at the racial subordination, for they seek to keep oppressed people thinking and feeling as though they are worthless and without history, alienating them from their work and well-being. It is yet another way for the West to claim dominance over knowledge production and claim hegemony over science, art, and civilization. Like the British, Americans will claim to have invented everything, though the West in truth has not created much in the past four hundred years of destruction, having derived the majority of its inventions, products, and innovations from the uncompensated yet highly skilled labor of Africa and Asia. 

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.

—Gandhiji

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

Mahatma Gandhi on Satanic Civilization

IT IS my firm belief that Europe today represents not the spirit of God or Christianity but the spirit of Satan. And Satan’s successes are the greatest when he appears with the name of God on his lips. Europe is today only nominally Christian. In reality, it is worshipping Mammon.

Young India, 8-9-1920

Neither railways nor hospitals are a test of a high and pure civilization. At best they are a necessary evil. Neither adds one inch to the moral stature of a nation.

Young India, 26-1-1921

I wholeheartedly detest this mad desire to destroy distance and time, to increase animal appetites and go to the ends of the earth in search of their satisfaction. If modern civilization stands for all this, and I have understood it to do so, I call it satanic…. 

(YI, 17-3-1927, p. 85)

This industrial civilization is a disease because it is all evil. Let us not be deceived by catchwords and phrases. I have no quarrel with steamships or telegraphs. They may stay, if they can, without the support of industrialism and all that it connotes. They are not an end. We must not suffer exploitation for the sake of steamships and telegraphs. They are in no way indispensable for the permanent welfare of the human race. Now that we know the use of steam and electricity, we should be able to use them on due occasion and after we have learnt to avoid industrialism. Our concern is, therefore, to destroy industrialism at any cost. 

(YI, 7-10-1926, p. 348

A time is coming when those, who are in the mad rush today of multiplying their wants, vainly thinking that they add to the real substance, real knowledge of the world, will retrace their steps and say: ‘What have we done?’ Civilizations have come and gone, and in spite of all our vaunted progress, I am tempted to ask again and again, ‘To what purpose?’ Wallace, a contemporary of Darwin, has said the same thing. Fifty years of brilliant inventions and discoveries, he has said, have not added one inch to the moral height of mankind. So said a dreamer and visionary if you will–Tolstoy. So said Jesus, and the Buddha, and Mahomed, whose religion is being denied and falsified in my own country today.

By all means drink deep of the fountains that are given to you in the Sermon on the Mount, but then you will have to take sackcloth and ashes. The teaching of the Sermon was meant for each and every one of us. You cannot serve both God and Mammon. God the Compassionate and the Merciful, Tolerance incarnate, allows Mammon to have his nine day’s wonder. But I say to you…fly from that self-destroying but destructive show of Mammon. 

(YI, 8-12-1927, p. 414)

Formerly, when people wanted to fight with one another, they measured between them their bodily strength; now, it is possible to take away thousands of lives by one man working behind a gun from a hill. This is civilization. Formerly, men worked in open air only as much as they liked. Now thousands of workmen meet together and, for the sake of maintenance, work in factories or mines. Their condition is worse than that of beasts. They are obliged to work, at the risk of their lives, at most dangerous occupations, for the sake of millionaires….This civilization is such that one has only to be patient and it will be self-destroyed. 

HS, pp. 36-37

I would have our leaders teach us to be morally supreme in the world. This land of ours was once, we are told, the abode of the gods. It is not possible to conceive gods inhabiting a land which is made hideous by the smoke and the din of mill chimneys and factories and whose roadways are traversed by rushing engines, dragging numerous cars crowded with men who know not for the most part what they are after, who are often absentminded, and whose tempers do not improve by being uncomfortably packed like sardines in boxes and finding themselves in the midst of utter strangers who would oust them if they could and whom they would, in their turn, oust similarly. I refer to these things because they are held to be symbolical of material progress. But they add not an atom to our happiness. 

(SW, pp. 354-5)

I am humble enough to admit that there is much that we can profitably assimilate from the West. Wisdom is no monopoly of one continent or one race. My resistance to Western civilization is really a resistance to its indiscriminate and thoughtless imitation based on the assumption that Asiatics are fit only to copy everything that comes from the West. I do believe, that if India has patience enough to go through the fire of suffering and to resist any unlawful encroachment upon her own civilization which, imperfect though it undoubtedly is, has hitherto stood the ravages of time, she can make a lasting contribution to the peace and solid progress of the world. 

(YI, 11-8-1927, p. 253)

Gandhi’s Gospel Of Love and the Shadow Puppets Of Western Civilization

Betrayal in the Garden

Amongst Indians and African-Americans who possess lived experience of the movement for peace and freedom in the twentieth century, the memory of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1959 visit to India, the Land of Gandhi, persists. Upon his return, King emphasized that “the bourgeoise—white, black or brown—behaves about the same the world over,” and enjoins the Americans to support the Indian independence “in a spirit of international brotherhood, not national selfishness,” the spirit which undo reigns today in the relation of the West to the rest of the world.

However, it nevertheless also remains true that a great deal is being done to sever India’s ancient and modern ties to Africa and African-America in order to assimilate Indians–particularly in the West, though even in India, to white ideals and values. Even at this late date, we see new iterations of the white man’s burden in virtually every sphere of world society. As a result, Indians in the West or even in India are not fully cognizant today of the deep ties linking India and African-America politically, spiritually, as well as culturally. If we think about it, the Indian anti-colonial struggle would not have been possible without the recognition of Africans and African Americans, who were among the first believers of Gandhi’s gospel of love.

Likewise, Gandhiji’s ideas were foundational to the black freedom struggle. Mahatma Gandhi touched the lives of black intellectuals and leaders such as W.E.B. DuBois, Hubert Harrison, A. Phillip Randolph, Eslanda Robeson, Sue Bailey and Howard Thurman, George Washington Carver, William Nelson, James Lawson, and Howard Thurman as well as Dr. King the four decades between 1920-1960. Many black leaders visited with Gandhi from 1935 to 1937. These thinkers and leaders were building the necessary links between the black struggle and the struggles of oppressed peoples throughout the world  at the turn of the century, doing the heroic work of sowing the seeds for the civil rights movement to which the Gandhian method of satyagraha—the steadfast insistence upon the truth—was central. African-American satyagrahis, like Martin Luther King Jr., Howard Thurman, W.E.B Du Bois, Paul Robeson and countless others together waged the battle for peace. They saw the continuities as well as idiosyncrasies of their own oppression here in the United States, and that of the Indians in India, seeing parallels between racial caste here and caste and colonial oppression there. Several of Gandhi’s English and Indian followers, like Miriam Slade and Sarojini Naidu, met with African Americans in the U.S. and black universities became central to the dissemination of the Gandhian message of peace. A. Philip Randolph, the black labor leader who opposed segregation in the Americen workforce during World War II, began to assert similarities between his methods and those of Gandhi during the 1940s, while the Congress of Racial Equality and other groups also adopted Gandhian techniques. Dr. King would himself say that the Anerican civil rights movement was patterned after the Gandhian movement in India though with one crucial difference: while the Indian anti-colonial struggle sought to send the British back, the goal of the African-American freedom movement under the leadership of Dr. King was integration. Integration, however, was not assimilation; for Dr.King, it meant the end of segregation and the realization of God’s beloved community at long last. Gandhism did not gain mass appeal until Dr. King, who saw in Gandhi’s bhakti yoga (devotion), the gospel of Jesus Christ. Out of the lectures,  studies, hymns, and conversations organized by these individuals over the course of their many visits came a new synthesis of ideas, a new forging of history, a new epistemology, or way of looking at and knowing the world, and a renaissance in art and culture.

In the seventh book of Plato’s Republic, we find the allegory of the cave. An allegory is a story with a  double meaning, a second moral-political valence underlying the larger story. In the allegory of the cave, we find a group of prisoners who have been chained to one another in a cave facing a wall. Behind them, meanwhile, there is a fire and their captors carry on with their lives ignoring their suffering. So the prisoners can only see the shadows projected onto the wall by the firelight. At one point, one of the prisoners escapes to sunlight and sees the truth. When he comes back to save the rest of his comrades,  he is deemed a madman. Plato’s allegory is a good example of the ways in which ideas can hold us captive, particularly false ideations that inhibit human freedom. The work we are undertaking during the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi seems to dispel the shadow puppets of Western civilization, the chimeras which beleaguer us in the aims and ideals of Western imperialism. Gandhiji, like Dr. King, Paul Robeson, Dr. Thurman, and other leaders of the anti-imperialist movement recognized that independence and liberation would only come with the full and unabashed rejection of Western values and paradigms on the part of the oppressed.  Education was thus at the center of Mahatma Gandhi’s program for peace, prosperity, and truth, most importantly.

The historical continuities and unities between African-America and India have not received much attention because of the imperial record of history which predominates in the West. We know, however, that Asia has been linked to Africa through trade and civilization for millennia; these relationships were destroyed by European colonialism and slavery. One can observe cultural continuities between Asia and Africa, even in the culture of the ancient Greeks and Romans, whose roots were Afro-Asiatic. The Greco-Roman gods, for example, are linked to the fertility cults of Western Asia and pharaonic civilization of Egypt as well as the culture of Africa below the Sahara. The knowledge, art and architecture of ancient Indian kingdoms in turn influenced the Greek and Roman empire. Sometime in the nineteenth century, however, when the world historical paradigm shifted to the “Aryan model” of history, we started seeing this all very differently argues Martin Bernal. The long history of contact between ancient Egypt and ancient India was rejected to accommodate the lie of black inferiority when Egypt was conquered by Napoleon and when the Europeans pivoted to direct colonialism in Africa and Asia. The influence of Indian and African culture on Greco-Roman culture as well as Persian civilization (and certainly vice versa) was omitted from the historical record, which became, in the mainstream, a defense of European rule over the vast masses of humanity.

Plutarch (46 – 120 CE), a Greek historian, biographer and essayist, who wrote Parallel Lives (an important source for Shakespeare’s history plays) describes the Greek encounter with India as follows

As for the Macedonians, however, their struggle with Porus blunted their courage and stayed their further advance into India. For having had all they could do to repulse an enemy who mustered only twenty thousand infantry and two thousand horse, they violently opposed Alexander when he insisted on crossing the river Ganges also, the width of which, as they learned, was thirty-two furlongs, its depth a hundred fathoms, while its banks on the further side were covered with multitudes of men-at arms and horsemen and elephants.

As a consequence of these lapses in the historical record, many shadow projections keep Indians and other dark nations tethered to the false ideations of Western history and scholarships. For instance, Indians in America are inured to the notion that we are a people of Indo-European descent rather than part of a civilizational complex with extensive networks of trade and culture with Africa, where humanity originated, as well as to Europe. W.E.B Du Bois is perhaps the most crucial figure in dispelling these myths, showing in his pathbreaking scholarship that the foundations of Indian civilization are black– not “Aryan” at all, but Dravidian. He further explores this thesis 1928 novel, Dark Princess, embodying the political unity of Pan-Africa and Pan-Asia in the struggle against imperialism in the romance between Matthew Townes and Princess Kautilya Of Bwodpur, a fictional Indian kingdom.  Kautilya falls in love with Matthew, an African-American doctor patterned after Du Bois himself in many ways. Matthew flees to Berlin, where he meets the Princess after he is barred from medical school examinations by the Dean due to the color of his skin. Those of us who escape the allegorical cave where our senses are dimmed and manipulated have a responsibility to enlighten those who are still held in captivity, the novel reminds us, to become teachers of teachers.

Dr. Du Bois made an inestimable sociological and political contribution in his scholarship, showing us like Gandhiji that in fact, Indians can join African-Americans in their struggle for peace here in the United States, with the understanding that in doing so they advance the freedom of their brothers and sisters in India and Africa. This is where our unity as the darker races should emerge today and this is where the hope lies: in recognizing the true significance of our common bond and discovering what it means for us to relate in the twenty-first century in fraternity and common struggle, for as King said, “we are wrapped in a single garment of destiny.”

Gandhiji’s philosophy of nonviolence was anchored in the principle of ahimsa, the negation of violence, and satyagraha, holding onto one’s soul force in the struggle for truth and the battle for peace. India, he warned, should not focus her efforts on marshaling arms but on achieving peace in the world. The pursuit of war was antithetical to the aims and ideals of Indian civilization, he correctly recognized–a betrayal of the truth underlying by the plurality of faiths that have flowered in southern Asia. Gandhiji incorporated both of these concepts, ahimsa and satyagraha, into his political philosophy and led a number of national strikes using methods of non-violent non-cooperation to achieve his mission of swaraj, or home rule.  His thought, however, cannot be limited to Hinduism as he was influenced by all of the world’s religions, particularly the example set by Buddha, Mohammed, and Jesus, which he cherished towards the end of his life, when he was betrayed like Christ in the Garden of Gethsamane. Du Bois presaged these ideas in his poem “Hymn To the Peoples” wherein he remarks

The Buddha walks with Christ;

And Al-Koran and Bible both be holy!

Gandhi studied the New Testament closely and was particularly drawn to Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” in the Gospel Of Matthew. Like Christ, he sought to drive out the money-changers from the temples of Jerusalem. When Jesus commanded his disciples to love their enemy he was telling the disinherited to love the Romans who would turn around and crucify him. Jesus said in his sermon,

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God…Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

“I have not been able to see any difference between the Sermon on the Mount and the Bhagavad Gita,” Gandhi once confessed. He would write at least six commentaries and translations of the Gita and was constantly interpreting the text, which appears to most of us as a manual for warfare, given what Krishna asks of Arjuna; however Gandhiji correctly  understood it as a handbook of nonviolence. The Gita reveals the contradictions of the human heart. That is why God is infinitely greater than frail humanity. As Gandhiji said in his interpretations of the Gita

If Arjuna had forgotten the difference between kinsmen and others and had been so filled with the spirit of non-violence so as to bring about a change of heart in Duryodhana, he would have been another Shri Krishna. However, he believed Duryodhana to be wicked.

It is not uncoincidental that Matthew–recalling the Book of Matthew and the Sermon on the Mount–is also the name of the protagonist of Du Bois’ novel, Dark Princess. Du Boisian nomenclature is nothing if not multiply symbolic and allusive in its significatory range. Gandhi would also say that the Qu’ran was the most beautiful and perfect work of literature in Arabic. Humanity is beloved because we are children of Allah, his most perfect creations. As he put it,

“Truth is the first thing to be sought for, and Beauty and Goodness will then be added unto you. Jesus was, to my mind, a supreme artist because he saw and expressed Truth; and so was Muhammad, the Koran being, the most perfect composition in all Arabic literature – at any rate, that is what scholars say. It is because both of them strove first for Truth that the grace of expression naturally came in and yet neither Jesus not Muhammad wrote on Art. That is the Truth and Beauty I crave for, live for, and would die for.”

For Gandhiji, God is truth because he is love and because he is love he is light which in turn gives birth to life, like a flower growing towards the beaming sun. Life, he argued, was sacred and the British had decimated Indians of all faiths by this point through  lynchings, torture, war, starvation and all manner of unspeakable crimes. In the face of such widespread violence, Gandhi could only conclude from his study of the law, the world’s religions,that non-violence was the only moral way forward in the face of persistent bloodshed and savagery. In the face of rioting and needless violence on the eve of Independence Gandhiji insisted that India  was the home of all of the world’s religions, a land held together in the creative and syncretic tension of its diverse peoples, civilizations, and landscapes.

On the whole, Western Christianity has been cruel to the spiritual life of the darker races, making a mockery of our faiths and so that Hindus, Muslims, and even Indian Christians  during independence naturally distrusted the white missionary. Christianity arrived to India in the third century and evolved in a distinct way. This is what Howard Thurman discovered upon traveling to India, Sri Lanka, and Burma. Thurman, a theologian, minister, Professor, and Dean of divinity at Howard University saw that there was a great interest amongst Indians to understand African-American Christianity and its political significance in the struggle against lynching and segregation in the US. During a brief three-hour conversation with Gandhi during his Pilgrimage of Friendship to India with his wife Sue Bailey Thurman, Rev. Thurman asked Gandhi, “ I wanted to know if one man can hold violence at bay?“ to which Gandhi replied,  if he cannot, you must take it that he is not a true representative of ahimsa (nonviolence). So from this prophecy we learn that the principle of ahimsa (nonviolence) is none other than the law of love, which Jesus held as the supreme commandment, and Gandhi also recognized. This is perhaps why King said that “And it is one of the strange ironies of the modern world that the greatest Christian of the twentieth century was not a member of the Christian church. (…) that this man took the message of Jesus Christ and was able to do even greater works than Jesus did in his lifetime.”

And yet, ever humble in his struggle unto the last, Gandhi always said that he neither wished to be anointed as a saint nor reviled as a sinner, for he was a human being and human beings are prone to mistakes, whose cause is simply ignorance. This, there is hope for everyone in their struggle towards self-realization. In the Eastern yogic tradition, the first step is ahimsa or non-killing and our spiritual practice must begin here because the root cause of violence is anger which is the outgrowth of desire. And Desire, as the Buddha asserted, is at the root of all human suffering–desire especially for the things and pleasures of the world–sex, riches, fame, name, glory. The transformation of the human being begins with her struggle to overcome these lower instincts. It is for this reason that William Stuart Nelson, an African-American theologian who turned to Gandhi during the civil rights struggle and played a key role in mentoring Dr. King, said that we all have a brute in us. The purpose of a true education is to overcome this brutality in us which causes us to injure one another in the name of ego. Thus, there is always hope for a violent man who wishes to overcome the violence in him; indeed, his victory over his base circumstances will be an example to millions in the world struggling with the same problem.

When Gandhiji’s centennial was celebrated in the United States in 1969, many distinguished guests, including Coretta Scott King, Marian Anderson, A. Philip Randolph, William Stuart Nelson, and others convened to create a centennial committee, which planned various activities and celebrations aimed at furthering Gandhi’s message of peace. However, fifty years ago, the conversation about Mahatma Gandhi was strikingly different. Today, there is a growing trend among Indian who are celebrated by the Western intelligentsia of discrediting Gandhiji’s accomplishments and his vision for a free and independent India, which parallels recent efforts to smear Dr. King’s legacy. Both efforts go hand in hand with the various programs launched by Western intelligence to suppress the civil rights movement and inhibit black freedom. Similarly, our Mahatma has recently been charged as a racist; he has been vilified by very cultural nationalists, who assassinated him; and his statue was recently toppled in Ghana, whose father, the great Kwame Nkrumah, once professed his great admiration for Gandhiji. Gandhiji’s influence on Nkrumah’s leadership of the Gold Coast independence conveniently forgotten, his leadership of the struggle against the identity pass in South Africa dismissed; his eclectic and radically universal interpretation of Hinduism and solidarity with Indians of all faiths suppressed; and his message to Howard Thurman and Sue Bailey Thurman in 1936 buried: that “It may be through the Negroes that the unadulterated message of non-violence will be delivered to the world.” As such, we must ask: why is a man, who was revered by the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, Howard Thurman, all of whom took inspiration from his leadership of the Indian Revolution, so reviled by the mainstream literary establishment today and does this actually say something about us? Does it beg for a return, now more than ever, to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, to the injunction Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you?

On the Philosophy and Methods of Non-Violence: Martin Luther King Jr. to William Nelson

NOTE

In the following letter, Dr. King writes to Dr. William Nelson, dean of Howard University, a historically black university in Washington D.C., in order to ask whether he knew of any books or pamphlets on the caste system in India. Here, King comments upon the significance of his trip to India, which he deems “full of meaningful insights,” decisively re-anchoring his commitment to non-violence. He expresses his desire to dialogue on these matters to Nelson. The letter is yet another testimony to the unity of India and African-America in the great freedom struggle of the twentieth century, when the dark world struggled to free itself of the long night of bondage and slavery, as Dr. King put it.

Amongst liberal and neoconservative pundits alike, Gandhi is reviled and torn apart for all manner of crimes imputed to his character which was recognized as saintly by the world’s masses during his extraordinarily purposeful lifetime. And yet why the sudden stigma when one utters the name Gandhi today in the hallowed halls of the academe? When did the Mahatma begin to cull in us a silent undertow of shame, and with it, a need to apologize for a great man’s greater deed of freeing an oppressed nation?

Strangulations of Gandhi’s spiritual and political development in the Western academy altogether too easily forget his sacrifice for the truth, which he defined very clearly as the liberation of the human soul-force. Thus, his greatest contribution to the sciences and the arts, and to human inquiry in general, lies in his emphasis on the law of love. Gandhi recognized in the oppressor’s inability to love, a weakness, an ignorance, and above all, a terror stemming from a profound loneliness and spiritual crisis.

William Nelson had visited India some years before King, and it was he who recommended contacts for the King embassy, which traveled to India in 1959, an episode King reflects on in passing here. He expresses his regret at not being able to secure any books on the subject of caste oppression whilst in India, though he, like Thurman, was taken aback by it. Nelson was himself a Gandhian who taught a course at Howard called “The Philosophy and Methods of Non-Violence.” In 1957, he played a decisive role in establishing the Gandhi Memorial Lecture at Howard. At its seventh annual gathering in 1966, King gave a lecture on the oneness of mankind and the sanctity of the human brotherhood, just two years short of his tragic assassination on April 4, 1968


April 7, 1959

Montgomery, AL

Dear Dr. Nelson:

I trust that you are now settled down after your six month stay in India. We met many people in India who knew you and they never tired of mentioning your name in the most favorable manner.

In a real sense my visit to India was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. While I would not be so rash as to pretend to know India after such a brief visit, I do feel that I gained many meaningful insights that will deepen my understanding of nonviolence, and also my commitment to it. I hope that we will have an opportunity to sit down and talk about the trip in the not-too-distant-future.

I am writing you mainly to inquire whether you have any books or pamphlets on untouchability. If so, I would like to borrow them for about two weeks. I am in the process of making a study of untouchability, and unfortunately, I left India without securing any material on it.2 If you have such material, and can find it possible to mail it to me, I would be more than happy to reimburse you for the costs involved. And you can expect me to return it within two weeks

There is another matter that I would like to explore with you which I will be With best wishes, and warm personal regards, I am writing you about in a few days.3

Very sincerely yours,
Martin L. King, Jr.

Very sincerely yours,
Martin L. King, Jr.

MLK:mlb

1. King had hoped that Nelson would serve as his guide in India, but Nelson left the country before King arrived. Nelson did consult on some of the arrangements for King’s visit before returning to Howard University (Stewart Meacham to King, 12 December 1958, and Bristol to Johnson, 24 December 1958).

2. In his travel account published in Ebony,King compared the caste system in India with American segregation (see King, “My Trip to the Land of Gandhi,” July 1959, pp. 235-236 in this volume).

3. In a 24 April letter, King invited Nelson to participate in a nonviolent institute being planned by SCLC for July 1959. Nelson agreed to do so in a 30 April reply. For more on the institute, see Resolutions, First Southwide Institute on Nonviolent Resistance to Segregation held on 22 July-24 July 1959, 11 August 1959, pp. 261-262 in this volume

Source: MLKP-MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Boston University, Boston, Mass.

In Search Of Satyagraha: Richard Gregg, Gandhi, and King’s Pilgrimage to Nonviolence

Dr. King imprisoned for his leadership of the Montgomery bus boycott, 1956

In the following letter to Richard Bartlett Gregg (1885-1974), a white American pacifist and social theorist, presents his thoughts on Gandhi had a significant influence on Martin Luther King Jr., the leader of the American Civil Rights movement responds to an offer of assistance from Gregg, who had written to King inquiring if he could help with arranging the publication of his account of the Montgomery bus boycott, Stride Towards Freedom: The Montgomery Story. When asked to choose the five books that shaped his philosophy after his leading role in Montgomery’s struggle for peace, King named Gregg’s 1934 book, The Power Of Non-Violence, along with Gandhi’s Story of my Experiments with Truth and Louise Fischer’s 1950 autobiography of Gandhi as decisive influences. Henry David Thoreau’s essay on civil disobedience, and Walter Rauschenbusch’s Christianity and the Social Crisis were also influential. The work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Christian who opposed the Third Reich, also shapes King’s approach to the struggle for black freedom in the United States.

Gregg was the first American to study Gandhi’s thought seriously in the early twentieth century. He had traveled to India in the early 1900s, but did not commit himself seriously to the anti-colonial struggle until the 1920s, as his biographer Joseph Kip Kosek writes. While in India, Charles E. Andrews, one of Gandhi’s earliest followers who was an English clergyman Gandhi met whilst in South Africa, introduced him into Gandhi’s Sabarmati ashram. Gregg resided at Sabarmati Ashram for a number of months. Here, he also had a chance to meet with Rabindranath Tagore, like Howard Thurman, who would meet Tagore in Shantiniketan during his own pilgrimage of friendship to the East with his wife Sue Bailey Thurman. Gregg stayed in India for four years and studied deeply non-Western conceptions of science, particularly economics and its relationship to Indian social development, authoring books such as Economics Of Khaddar and A Preparation for Science, both of which defended the Gandhian approach to science rooted in faith, as a force in the moral government of the world rather than serving as an appendage of Western exploitation.

Central to the story of the struggle against segregation in the South, is King’s pilgrimage to non-violence, which gave fruit, in turn, to his physical pilgrimage to the Land of Gandhi in 1959, a detail he alludes to at the close of his letter to Gregg. Indeed, it was Gregg who provided King with contacts to meet during his 1959 visit to India. That same year King would write the foreword if the second edition of Gregg’s book, The Power Of Nonviolence. In it, King praises Gregg’s elaboration Of Gandhian principles at a time when the world was teetering on the brink of nuclear annihilation. Of King’s foreword to The Power Of Nonviolence, Gregg writes:

Your introduction will greatly help the sale of the book and thus spread further Gandhi’s ideas and help solve conflicts of all kinds.

Gregg himself had by now become a notable authority in Gandhian studies, having recently also authored an influential book called A Philosophy of Indian Development, which he had enclosed with his offer of assistance with publishing King’s manuscript–King had initially thought of publishing Stride Towards Freedom directly through the Gandhi Memorial Trust.

In his preface to Stride Towards Freedom, King describes the book as

The chronicle of 50,000 Negroes who took to heart the principles of nonviolence, who learned to fight for their rights with the weapon of love and who in the process acquired a new estimate of their own human worth.

He further discusses the epiphany of nonviolence in the sixth chapter of the treatise, which is titled “My Pilgrimage to Nonviolence.” Here, Gandhi’s influence on King’s conception of history is particularly relevant for it illuminated the true significance of nonviolence in the resolution of human strife. Gandhi argued that history is the by-product of infractions against the law of love, of its disavowal in struggles between families, castes, classes, and nations for power. Similarly, King defines history in Stride Towards Freedom as

a series of unreconciled conflicts and man’s existence is filled with anxiety and threatened with meaninglessness. While the ultimate Christian answer is not found in any of these existential assertions, there is much here that the theologian can use to describe the true state of man’s existence.

He saw nonviolence as the restoration of the law of love, and the beloved community which had inspired in him a “quest for a method to eliminate social evil.” King comments extensively on the Gandhian concept of Satyagraha in an early draft of Chapter Six which I quote from here, defining it in terms of his own autobiography of the problem of evil in the world.

The whole Gandhian concept of satyagraha(satya is truth which equals love, and grahais force; satyagraha thus means truth-force or love-force) was profoundly significant to me.

As he weighs the philosophical evidence attesting to the power of love as a social force, he “delved deeper into the philosophy of Gandhi,” which abated his initial skepticism about nonviolence as a political strategy and moral position. Once he came to this awareness, he realized that nonviolent and principled opposition “was one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.”

Gandhi himself was faced with a nation whose industries had been destroyed and whose cities and villages were severely depressed by poverty, mass famine, illiteracy, and widespread misery created byBritish colonial rule. It was not only that the poor did not possess the arsenal to fight the might of the imperialists: more importantly, Gandhi saw that to use the method of violence to obtain freedom was in truth a concession to Western civilization because it was based in a Machiavellian worldview–that means need not coincide with ends. Ultimately, King was won over to this position.

The African-Americans of Montgomery, similarly, were

exhausted by the humiliating experiences that they had constantly faced on the buses

in the face of the brutal “Jim Crow” regime, which had been institutionalized through the Plessy vs. Ferguson decision in the wake of the repression of the Black Reconstruction, a period in the history of the United States when the black working class emerging from slavery struggled to advance democracy in a lawless land.

Accordingly, King vowed to organize the Gandhian approach into a “socially effective situation” for Montgomery. In the process of insisting upon the principle of love-unto-truth, the people of the town were thus able to find their soul-force, which is capable, literally speaking, of moving mountains, if one believes in the power of spiritual unity in the transformation of human reality and in the elimination of human suffering.

If it is true, as the Bhagavad Gita says that it is the soul which moves the body and the body which moves the world, then it was the spiritual movement of their soul-force, anchored in a love of truth, the love of freedom, which spurred mass action in the story of Montgomery, which intimately links African-America to India. If God is truth, love, life, and light, then to hold firmly to the truth–to commit satyagraha–is an act which moves the pilgrim closer to the Universal Light (vishvabhanuh) a practical action capable of marshaling “inner calm and known resources of strength that only God could give” in the “midst of outer dangers,” as one navigates the spiritual sea (dharmasagara). In this way, the power of love–the love of truth and the truth of love–together transform the “fatigue of despair into the buoyancy of hope” as we stride towards the New Jerusalem.


Mr. Richard B. Gregg

Dear Mr. Gregg:

On returning to my office a few days ago I found your very kind letter of October 27, on my desk. I was very gratified to know of your interest in having my book published in India. I have been deeply concerned about the book being read in India, since I gained a great deal of inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi.

There has already been some discussion of this with my agent and the publishers. A few months ago an outstanding Gandhian disciple, Kaka Kalelkar, visited our city and on discovering that I had written a book suggested having it published in India through the Gandhi Memorial Trust. I immediately placed my literary agent in contact with Mr. Kalelkar. Since that time I have been so involved that I have not had a chance to consult the agent on the outcome. I am now getting off a letter to New York to find out what has been done in this line. As soon as I hear from them I will be glad to contact you concerning future possibilities. I have no concern for making any money from an Indian publication of my book. My only concern is to share my message with the people of that great country.

Thank you for your suggestions concerning our next best steps. I gained a great deal from this practical, yet profound advice. Incidentally, I have received a copy of your book, A Philosophy of Indian Development, and I am deeply grateful to you for it. Although a busy schedule has prevented me from reading it thus far, I hope to take some time out in the next few days to go through it. I am sure that it will be very helpful and stimulating.

It is always gratifying to know of your interest in our struggle and realize the presence of your moral support. I look forward to the day that we will be able to meet personally.

Very sincerely yours, 
Martin Luther King, Jr.

P.S. Mrs. King and I will be going to India around the first of February and we plan to spend about six weeks in that country. I would appreciate any suggestions that you have concerning our visit and also the names of persons that it would be helpful to see.

Extracted from Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Boston University, Boston, Mass.

Mahatma Gandhi, WHY DID I ASSIST IN THE LAST WAR?

Gandhi, 1929

A correspondent asks some pertinent questions in the following pungent fashion:

“When the Zulus broke out for liberty against the British usurpers, you helped the British in suppressing the so-called rebellion. Is it a rebellion to try to shake off the foreign yoke? Was Jean D’arc a rebel? Was George Washington a rebel? Is De Valera one ? You may say that the Zulus had recourse to violence. I then ask, was the end bad or the means? The latter may have been so, but certainly not the former; so you will be kind enough to explain the riddle. In the last war, when the gallant Germans and Austrians were fighting so bravely against a world combination, you raised recruits for the British to fight against the nations that had done India no harm. Whenever there is a war between two races, one has to hear both parties before coming to a decision either for or against any of them. In the last war we had a one-sided version only, and that from a nation certainly not renowned for truthfulness or honesty. You have all along been an advocate of passive resistance and non-violence. Why then did you induce people to take part in a war the merits of which they knew not, and for the aggrandizement of a race so miserably wallowing in the mire of imperialism? You may say you had faith in the British bureaucracy. Is it possible for any person to have faith in an alien people, all whose acts have run so glaringly counter to their promises? It cannot have been so with a person of such high attainments as yourself. So you will please answer the second riddle.

There is another point to which I should like to refer. You are an advocate of non-violence. Under the present circumstances we should be strictly non- violent. But when India will be free, should we strictly eschew arms even if a foreign nation invaded us? Would you also boycott railways and telegraphs and steamers even when they will have ceased to promote exports of the products of our soil?”

I hear and read many charges of inconsistency about myself. But I do not answer them as they do not affect anyone but myself. The questions, however, raised by the correspondent are of general importance and deserve notice. They are by no means new to me. But I do not remember having answered them in the columns of Young India.

Not only did I offer my services at the time of the Zulu Revolt but before that, at the time of the Boer War, and not only did I raise recruits in India during the late war, but I raised an ambulance corps in 1914 in London. If, therefore, I have sinned, the cup of my sins is full to the brim. I lost no occasion of serving the Government at all times. Two questions presented themselves to me during all those crises. What was my duty as a citizen of the empire as I then believed myself to be, and what was my duty as an out-and-out believer in the religion of Ahimsa — non-violence ?

I know now that I was wrong in thinking that I was a citizen of the empire. But on those four occasions I did honestly believe that, in spite of the many disabilities that my country was labouring under, it was making its way towards freedom, and that on the whole the government from the popular standpoint taking particular care in making my choice of such representatives. I know that in no other manner would a democratic government be possible for one single day.

The whole situation is now changed for me. My eyes, I fancy, are opened. Experience has made me wiser. I consider the existing system of government to be wholly bad and requiring special national effort to end or mend it. It does not possess within itself any capacity for self-improvement. That I still believe many English administrators to be honest does not assist me, because I consider them to be as blind and deluded as I was myself. Therefore I can take no pride in calling the empire mine or describing myself as a citizen. On the contrary, I fully realize that I am a pariah — untouchable of the empire. I must, therefore, constantly pray for its radical reconstruction or total destruction, even as a Hindu pariah would be fully justified in so praying about Hinduism or Hindu society.

The next point, that of Ahimsa, is more abstruse. My conception of Ahimsa impels me always to dissociate myself from almost every one of the activities I am engaged in. My soul refuses to be satisfied so long as it is a helpless witness of a single wrong or a single misery. But it is not possible for me — a weak, frail, miserable being —to mend every wrong or to hold myself free of blame for all the wrong I see. The spirit in me pulls one way, the flesh in me pulls in the opposite direction. There is freedom from the action of these two forces, but that freedom is attainable only by slow and painful stages. I can attain freedom not by a mechanical refusal to act, but only by intelligent action in a detached manner. This struggle resolves itself into an incessant crucifixion of the flesh so that the spirit may become entirely free.

I was, again, an ordinary citizen no wiser than my fellows, myself believing in Ahimsa and the rest not believing in it at all but refusing to do their duty of assisting the government because they were actuated by anger and malice. They were refusing out of their ignorance and weakness. As a fellow worker it became my duty to guide them aright. I therefore placed before them their clear duty, explained the doctrine of Ahimsa to them, and let them make their choice, which they did. I do not repent of my action in terms of Ahimsa. For, under Swaraj too I would not hesitate to advise those who would bear arms to do so and fight for the country.

That brings to me the second question. Under Swaraj of my dream there is no necessity for arms at all. But I do not expect that dream to materialize in its fullness as a result of the present effort, first because, the effort is not directed to that end as an immediate goal, and secondly because, I do not consider myself advanced enough to be able to prescribe a detailed course of conduct to the nation for such preparation. I am still myself too full of passion and other frailties of human nature to feel the call or the capacity. All I claim for myself is that I am incessantly trying to overcome every one of my weaknesses. I have attained great capacity, I believe, for suppressing and curbing my senses, but I have not become incapable of sin, i.e. of being acted upon by my senses. I believe it to be possible for every human being to attain that blessed and indescribable sinless state in which he feels within himself the presence of God to the exclusion of everything else. It is, I must confess, as yet a distant scene. And therefore it is not possible for me to show the nation a present way to complete non-violence in practice.

Young India, 17-11-1921

Gandhiji on the Atom Bomb and Nuclear War

Gandhi portrait by Ravi Varma

It has been suggested by American friends that the atom bomb will bring in Ahimsa (non-violence) as nothing else can. It will, if it is meant that its destructive power will so disgust the world that it will turn it away from violence for the time being. This is very like a man glutting himself with dainties to the point of nausea and turning away from them only to return with redoubled zeal after the effect of nausea is well over. Precisely in the same manner will the world return to violence with renewed zeal after the effect of disgust is worn out.

Often does good come out of evil. But that is God’s not man’s plan. Man knows that only evil can come out of evil, as good out of good.

That atomic energy, though harnessed by American scientists and army men for destructive purposes, may be utilized by other scientists for humanitarian purposes, is undoubtedly within the realm of possibility. But that is not what was meant by my American friends. They were not so simple as to put a question which connoted an obvious truth. An incendiary uses fire for his destructive and nefarious purpose, a housewife makes daily use of it in preparing nourishing food for mankind. So far as I can see, the atomic bomb has deadened the finest feeling that has sustained mankind for ages. There used to be the so-called laws of war which made it tolerable. Now we know the naked truth. War knows no law except that of might. The atom bomb brought an empty victory to the Allied arms, but it resulted for the time being in destroying the soul of Japan. What has happened to the soul of the destroying nation is yet too early to see. Forces of nature act in a mysterious manner. We can but solve the mystery by deducing the unknown result from the known results of similar events. A slave-holder cannot hold a slave without putting himself or his deputy in the cage holding the slave. Let no one run away with the idea that I wish to put in a defense of Japanese misdeeds in pursuance of Japan’s unworthy ambition. The difference was only one of degree. I assume that Japan’s greed was more unworthy. But the greater unworthiness conferred no right on the less unworthy of destroying without mercy men, women and children of Japan in a particular area.

The moral to be legitimately drawn from the supreme tragedy of the bomb is that it will not be destroyed by counter-bomb, even as violence cannot be by counter-violence. Mankind has to get out of violence only through non-violence. Hatred can be overcome only by love, Counter-hatred only increases the surface as well as the depth of hatred. I am aware that I am repeating what I have many times stated before and practiced to the best of my ability and capacity. What I first stated was itself nothing new. It is as old as the hills. Only, I recited no copy book maxim, but definitely announced what I believe in every fibre of my being. Sixty years of practice in various walks of life has only enriched the belief which the experience of friends has fortified. It is, however, the central truth by which one can stand alone without flinching. I believe in what Max Muller said years ago, namely, that truth needed to be repeated as long as there were men who disbelieved it.

Message Of Asia

What I want you to understand is the message of Asia. It is not to be learnt through the Western spectacles or by imitating the atom bomb. If you want to give a message to the West, it must be the message of love and the message of truth…. In this age of democracy, in this age of awakening of the poorest of the poor, you can redeliver this message with the greatest emphasis. You will complete the conquest of the West not through vengeance because you have been exploited, but with real understanding. I am sanguine if all of you put your hearts together-not merely heads-to understand the secret of the message these wise men of the East have left to us, and if we really become worthy of that great message, the conquest of the West will be completed. This conquest will be loved by the West itself.

The west today is pining for wisdom. It is despairing of a multiplication of the atom bombs, because atom bomb mean utter destruction not merely of the West but of the whole world, as if the prophecy of the Bible is going to be fulfilled and there is to be a prefect deluge. It is up to you to tell the world of its wickedness and sin-that is the heritage your teachers and my teachers have taught Asia.

The Garland March: From Selma to Montgomery, 1965

The flash and flutter of a lens can capture a moment in eternity. In the photograph below, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., second from left, and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, second from right, wear garlands in the Hindu tradition. It is 1965 and they are marching from Selma to Montgomery. I am unsure which of three marches this photo is taken from. Protestors marched 87 kilometers to the state capital, where King delivered his speech “Our God is Matching On.” In the sermon, he reaffirms the people’s faith in God as love, truth, and peace, compelling them to test their faith in peaceful non-cooperation so as to win the protracted struggle for civil rights. In 1930, Gandhi would lead a similar kind of march, leading thousands of people from Sabarmati to the sea to make their own salt in protest of British taxation of the mineral.

The wreaths encircling the marchers’ necks recall the garlands with which the nascent government of independent India greeted the King Embassy, which would visit Gandhi’s tomb. Witnessing this example, I heed Gandhi’s advice about faith—that it transcends reason, that the precipitate of this transcendence is none other than love.

Like King, Gandhi was assassinated by reactionary elements in the struggle against imperialism and white domination. Recognizing the Indian leader’s martyrdom, King proclaimed that “Christ showed us the way, and Gandhi in India showed it could work” at a a gathering in Brooklyn, New York following the Supreme Court’s ruling that Montgomery’s bus segregation was unconstitutional.

The significance of these words must be weighed in light of the Thurman delegation’s visit to India in 1935-1936, which was central meditation in the latter’s seminal work, Jesus and the Disinherited (1949)? Jesus and the Disinherited is a moral inquiry into the condition of Christian civilization in the modern epoch, which witnessed a deplorable distortion of the faith, as the loving teachings of Christ–who stood with the poor and the disinherited–were twisted into a diabolical defense of colonialism, black enslavement, and the psycho-social subordination of the darker races to the white masters of the world . King carried the book with him everywhere.

Above, King removes his shoes at the Gandhi Memorial, to pay homage to India’s fallen Mahatma known to the people and his loved ones as Bapu. If a camera illuminates the truth by flooding light into the aperture of a lens, then the revolutionary prophecies of these great leaders illuminated the world by flooding it with love, chiseling into presence a grand legacy of peace and culture amongst humanity over the course of their lifetimes which we now inherit in our own. Contacts between India and African-America in the twentieth century germinated a cultural renaissance, manifesting a new plane of human understanding and civilization—aesthetically, politically, scientifically, and above all, spiritually. Where will these liaisons lead in the fulfillment of our common destiny in the twenty-first century of the Prince of Peace?