- Religion and Philosophy
Gandhian Philosophy: Love and Non-Violence
Ahimsa (Non-Violence) - Love - The Inner Voice
- The Gandhian philosophy of Ahimsa (Non-Violence)
- Love is an essential component of the Gandhian philosophy
of Ahimsa (Non - Violence)
- Listenning and responding to the Inner Voice is an essential
component of the Gandhian philosophy of Ahimsa (Non-Violence)
Responsiveness To The Inner Voice
Gandhi advocates that the Inner Voice cannot be fully defined in words. However, Gandhi attempts to describe the Inner Voice in order that our understanding of it may be somewhat enhanced. Gandhi explains that Truth is what the Inner Voice reveals. Furthermore, the Inner Voice may be described as one's conscience. Gandhi also describes the Inner Voice as a Truth force or Soul force that has the power to elicit the Divine in us. Gandhi advocates to follow the Inner Voice as opposed to following the dictates of modern civilization. The purpose of listening and responding to the Inner Voice is for positive, progressive reality transformation. Gandhi advocates the taking on of vows as a means of purification in order to awaken the spirit within and thereby hear the Inner Voice more clearly. Gandhi's personal vows were Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truth), Brahmacarya (celibacy), Asvada (control of the palate), Asteya (non-stealing), Aparigraha (non-possession) and Abhaya (fearlessness). Gandhi's approach of responsiveness to the Inner Voice may be described as a kind of spiritual insight, that enhances one's sense of discrimination; to know right from wrong as well as when and if one should take action. Gandhi's most vivid description of the Inner Voice was given in relation to his decision to undertake a fast in 1933 ( as he effectively dealt with a disharmonious situation by means of non-violence):
"For me the Voice of God, of Conscience, of Truth, of the Inner Voice, or 'The Still Small
Voice" mean one and the same thing. I saw no form ... what I did hear was like a Voice
from afar and yet quite near. It was as unmistakable as some human voice and definitely
speaking to me, and irresistible. I was not dreaming at the time I heard the Voice ...
The determination was made accordingly, the date and hour of the fast were fixed".
What is remarkable in Gandhian non-violence, is the pursuit of the benevolence of humankind as the means toward achievement of Ahimsa. One begins the journey inwardly by the process of inward vision. Spiritual insight is enkindled as one hears the Inner Voice. However, it is through the observance of outward, or wordly activities that one must continue the journey. Responsiveness to the Inner Voice, by means of right action, is the fulfillment of the journey. Every act should be purified in Truth and in harmony with the principles of Ahimsa. Thus the Gandhian pattern of non-violence is two fold. Firstly, an inward purification and secondly an outward purification.
Mahatma Gandhi - Listenning To The Inner Voice
It must be stated with great emphasis what the Gandhian conception of Ahimsa (non-violence) encompasses; and how Love and responsiveness to the Inner Voice are essential components of Ahimsa. Responsiveness to the Inner Voice is at the heart of Gandhi's understanding of Ahimsa.
Gandhi conceives of non-violence as an "action based on the refusal to harm deliberately" (Chakrabarti, 36). Gandhi understands non-violence to be "the law of our Being" (Chakrabarti, 36). Gandhi believes that the law of our Being is based on Love, and that the essence of humanity is Truth. Gandhi advocates that materialism be transformed in the vision of spiritual harmony. By such a transformation, the ego would be sublimated, in order to respond to the Inner Voice, and thus enkindle enlightenment.
Gandhi perceives Ahimsa as a science. The science of Ahimsa is described as more flexible than the mechanically repititious physical science. There is no rigid system advocated by Ahimsa, but rather a spontaneous responsiveness to the Inner Voice, while maintaining the necessary components of Love and Freedom.
Gandhi believes that Ahimsa is a real, powerful, and positive force able to lead humanity toward more noble visions of life. Non-violence, from the Gandhian perspective, is a strategy for humanity to think correctly. A person who is not a right thinker cannot enter the realm of right action. Without right thinking, Gandhi believes that one will not be able to depend on oneself to act rightly, even if one wants to act at a given moment (Chakrabarti, 37).
As a seeker of non-violence, Gandhi always makes an inward journey into his own consciousness. Gandhi's life may rightly be described as contemplation in action. This inner journey not only enables one to hear the Inner Voice, but also enables one to identify and analyze the demerits of one's own inward vision. As one becomes conscious of certain demerits, one is able to detect limitations in need of adjustment. Thus, the inner journey is a process of continual purification of the mind. While explaining his own conception of non-violence Gandhi states:
"Truth to me is infinitely dearer than 'mahatmaship', (designation as a great soul)
which is purely a burden. It is my knowledge of my limitaitons and my nothingness which
has so far served me from the oppressiveness of 'mahatmaship'. I am painfully aware
of the fact that my desire to continue life in a body involves in me a constant Himsa
(violence) .. nothing will induce me to try to conceal my imperfections in the practice of
Ahimsa. All I claim for myself is that I am ceaselessly trying to understand the implications
of great ideals like Ahimsa and to practise them in thought, word and deed, and that, not
without a certain measure of success as I think. But I know that I have a long distance
yet to cover in this direction" (Chakrabarti, 39)
Ahimsa (Non-Violence) and Love
Gandhi frequently equates Ahimsa with Love. He argues, in effect, that where Love is not present, then violence is present. Gandhi does not offer a moral theory or rigid definition of a code of ethics. Rather, Gandhi advocates to follow one's intuition (Inner Voice) in deteremining whether an action is violent or non-violent. It is evident that Gandhi takes violence to be a matter of one's feelings and intentions.
However, one major type of action, that of war, evokes an absolutist response in Gandhi. According to Gandhi, participation in war is to be avoided indiscriminately. Gandhi considers warfare to be violent because of the attitudes with which people enter into it:
"Exertion of any physical force so as to injure or abuse (as in warfare) ... injury in the
form of revoking, repudiation, distortion, infringement, or irreverence to a thing, nation,
or quality fitly valued or observed ... intense, turbulent, or furious action, force, or feeling, often destructive ... " (Backianadan, 107)
Gandhian non-violence emphasizes total harmony of thought, word, and deed. To effect the practise of such a total harmony, one must actively and consciously decide to be in the service of God. How does Gandhi understand this? According to Gandhi, Love and Truth, are images of God. Such an image of God incorporates in it the essence of the Divine elements in humanity. Such an image of Love and Truth places a greater emphasis on the heart than the head. The form of such a Love is pure, simple and serene, resulting in an easy communion with non-violence. Gandhi considers Love to be the Law of our Being:
"If Love or non-violence be not the Law of our Being, the whole of my argument falls
to pieces. Love acts as a force to defend non-violence. (Backianadan, 238)
Gandhi's own words on the significance of Love as an essential component of Ahimsa, show an interesting dimension in his vision: as he advocates the force of Love as the only practical means of destroying disharmony between one another:
"If I am true to myself and true to humanity I must understand all the faults that human
flesh is heir to. I must understand weaknesses of my opponents, their vices, and yet in
spite of them, not hate but love them. I have not hesitated to call the system of government
under which we are labouring 'satanic', and I withdraw naught of it. But I know I shall not
deal with it, if I begin punishing the evil-doer. My business is to love them and by patient,
gentle handling to convert them." (Chakrabarti, 57)
Positive Progressive Reality Transformation With The Power Of Love
Gandhi firmly believes that positive change can be achieved by means of the power of Love. Gandhi delineates that when combating violence, the non-violent participant acts in harmony with their inner Truth (or as guided by the Inner Voice); the violent one acts against Truth, and can be convinced by a demonstartion of the Truth of non-violence. Also, suffering at the hands of oppressors brings their oppression to light and causes a conflict within the hearts of the oppressors. Thus, an evil doer may be transformed not by physical force, but rather by the consciousness of Truth and Love as expressed by the practise of Ahimsa
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Khanna, Dr. S. Gandhi and the Good Life 1985
Gandhi Peace Foundation,
Central Electric Press,
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What is your opinion?
Non-violence is necessary in order to achieve peace on Earth.
What do you think about this article and about Gandhi's ideas on non-violence and peace?
© 2014 Deborah Morrison