Sunday, June 1, 2008

To ‘Revolutionary in the Making’

Someone had written a letter to Gandhiji putting his arguments explaining that revolutionary does no violence when he takes the life of his adversary and probably also intended to himself being a revolutionary in the making. The following is Gandhiji's reply to 'Revolutionary in making'.



You will pardon me for not reproducing your letter. I would have gladly published it, if it was a presentable letter—not that the language of your letter is at all in bad taste or violent. On the contrary, you have attempted to present your case fairly and calmly, but theargument is loosely and unconvincingly put. What you want to say is that the revolutionary does no violence because when he takes the life of his adversary, he does so to benefit him, i.e., his soul, even as a surgeon performs a painful operation on a patient for his (the latter’s) good. You argue that the adversary has a vile body which vitiates the soul and that the sooner it is destroyed, the better for him.

Now, the analogy of the surgeon is wrong because he is concerned merely with the body. He operates on the body to benefit the body. His science ignores the soul. Who can say how many bodies have been repaired by surgeons at the expense of the soul? But the revolutionary destroys the body for the supposed benefit of the adversary’s soul. In the first instance, I do not know a single revolutionary who has ever thought of the adversary’s soul. His singleaim has been of benefit the country even though the adversary may perish, body and soul. In the second instance, since you believe in the Law of Karma, a compulsory destruction of a body merely paves the way for the creation of a tougher body for the same soul. For the manwhose body is destroyed will weave for himself a body after his own longing. That, to my mind, is the meaning of the persistence of evil and the crimes we see about us. The more we punish, the more persistent crimes become. They may change colour, but the substance is the same. The way to serve the adversary’s soul is to appeal to the soul. It defies destruction, but it is amenable to appeals tuned to the required pitch. Souls must react upon souls. And since non-violence is essentially a quality of the soul, the only effective appeal to the soul must lie through non-violence. And do we not arrogate to ourselves infallibility when we seek to punish our adversaries ? Let us remember that they regard us to be as harmful to society as we regard them. It is idle to drag in the name of Krishna. Either we believe him to be the very God or we do not. If we do, we impute to him omniscience and omnipotence. Such a one can surely destroy. But we are puny mortals ever erring and ever revising our views and opinions. We may not without coming to grief ape Krishna, the inspirer of the Gita. You should remember too that the so-called Christians of the Middle Ages thought exactly as you believe revolutionaries think. They burnt heretics for the benefit of the latter’s souls. We of today laugh at the atrocious folly of these ignorant so-called Christians of the Middle Ages. We now know that the inquisitors were wrong, their victims were totally innocent.

I am glad you are turning the wheel. Its silent revolution will bring you peace and bring the freedom you love much nearer than you imagine. Do not mind your fickle friends who have deserted you leaving behind a legacy of “bug-ridden bed born” slivers. If I were you, I would recard these slivers. You may not know carding. If you do not, you must go to the nearest man who knows it and learn the beautiful art of carding. He is an indifferent spinner who knows not how to card. You need not be afraid that the method of non-violenceis a slow long-drawn-out process. It is the swiftest the world has seen, for it is the surest. You will see that it will overtake the revolutionaries whom you imagine I have misjudged. To point out errors is not to misjudge. I am devoting so much space to them because I want their exhaustless energy to be directed in the right channel.

Young India, 30-4-1925

-----------------------------------------CWMG Vol. 30, Art. 142, Pg. 223-----------------

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