Today, October 2nd, we celebrate the birthday of a great Indian and humanitarian, Mohandas K. Gandhi, whom we also call The Mahatma.
President Obama made a statement some time ago, that if he could have Dinner with anyone, it would be Gandhi, who also inspired Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Terming the iconic figure as the source of inspiration for many, Obama said, "He (Mahatma Gandhi) is somebody in whom I find a lot of inspiration. He inspired Dr King (Martin Luther), so if it hadn’t been for the non-violent movement in India, you might not have seen the same non-violent movement for civil rights here in the United States."
If they could have met, here is what I think Gandhi would say to Obama, regarding the idea of non- violence and the power of peaceful resistance.
“The idea of non- violence is misunderstood. It is not the same as being a slave, in order to maintain a climate of peace.
Non- violence means that violence against myself is as intolerable as violence against you; that your freedoms and liberties are as precious as mine. It is the way of seeing everyone as unique and priceless, as you are.
Now, with regard to the British use of brutal force, our non- violence movement magnified their brutality and exposed them for what they really stood for – slavery in the guise of a Regency.
If one side is violent and the other side does not respond in the same way, that is not a War, that is cold- blooded murder. The British Army was the finest at fighting a War but they did not know how to fight peace. Once the illusion was lifted and their brutality was exposed, the British Empire collapsed like a house of cards.
Non- violence means much more than simply revealing your enemy’s true nature. Non- violence means that we must come together in large groups, to uproot violence, prejudice and slavery. When we gathered by the hundreds of thousands and stared down brutality with peace and love, our enemy crumbled under the weight of its own hatred and brutality.
It is written in our scriptures, that Love is stronger than hatred and that peace is stronger than violence. Look within and see, when faced with great adversity, which requires more strength … to feel love or hatred ? Under duress, what becomes more challenging … committing an act of violence or an act that promotes peace ?
It takes more strength, more self- discipline, to feel love and remain peaceful within and to act in a way that promotes peace. Being full of love and peace within has a multiplying effect of raising your energies and abilities, which give you greater strength to act and achieve. This in turn raises your chance of success and when you unite with millions of people who are of the same belief, you can destroy the most powerful adversary without firing a shot or raising a Sword.
Our enemy wasn’t the British army, just as your greatest enemy is not Al Qaeda. The real enemy is greed, which perpetuates violence as a means of stealing and hoarding wealth.
According to western philosophy, in a War, there is a winner and a loser. According to our philosophy, in a War, both sides lose. Peace and love are the only paths to true victory.
What is more valuable, a dead enemy or a living friend ?
Only peaceful and loving acts allow us to build friendships, to unify and be invincible, even against great odds. It is the bond that unites us, strengthens us and enables us to live in our highest potential; the bond that allows truth to prosper and melts the chains of slavery, misogyny and casteism.
It is not an easy path, but it does lead to greater success. Peace cannot be dispensed through the barrel of a Gun or the blade of a Sword. A sustained peace and ensuing prosperity is achievable only through dialogue, where all parties are respected and open- minded. Do not underestimate the power of respectful dialogue, it will create a far better world for your children and their children.
But the essence of non- violence is this … practice what you preach. You cannot trumpet the value of freedom and liberties while denying liberty and equal rights to others. You cannot berate brutal regimes when you endorse those same actions. You must not compromise or sell out to those who bully you, torment you, belittle your inexperience or threaten to cripple your Government.
Under all circumstances, you must practice the tenets that you lecture others about. Turning a blind eye to lawbreakers makes you an accomplice to their illegal acts. You must use your power and abilities to reinforce the rule of law, protect individual freedoms and allow equal opportunity for those you are sworn to represent.
At first, this might seem quite difficult, but believe me when I tell you, success is impossible via the alternative path. Do what feels right in your Heart, never compromise your values and at the end of it all, your greatness will speak for itself.”
Author’s note: I am an independent yoga/meditation teacher and have no relationship to The Mahatma or Organizations that are associated with his teachings.