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Gandhi Essay, Research Paper

Mary Reynolds

November 17, 2000

History 3840

Arthur K. Scott

Gandhi, Satyagraha, and the Western Mind

There is much that can be said about such a great leader like Gandhi. He had many skills that were needed to make a difference in the world. Perhaps the most important quality that he possessed was the attributes of knowledge and common sense. These attributes made him a very levelheaded man who knew how to treat his opponent with respect while stating the issue at hand.

Gandhi achieved many accomplishments throughout his life. Overall, the most significant was that one man could make a difference within his own country that received worldwide recognition. One of the reasons as to why Gandhi was such a success is in order to be a great leader, one must possess a great deal of inner peace. He was very capable of doing so, and in return, the opposing side listened to what this man had to say. The philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi is very different than those of Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X. Gandhi took philosophy to a further level, which allowed people to understand themselves before trying to take on the opposing side.

One of the main terms used in Gandhi’s philosophy is Satyagraha, which is the force of truth and love (Chadha, 112). This term can be applied to many different situations. Satyagraha has many different meanings, which is good because it allows people to interpret it in their own way. Webster’s dictionary defines Satyagraha as “insisting on” or “the strong and obstinate inclination for” (280). Satyagraha can be used in both political as well as domestic situations. The individual must use his or her inner soul to achieve peacefulness, which is brought on by Satyagraha.

The term Ahisma is the second principle of Gandhi’s philosophy, which means “nonviolence to all living things” (Chadha 113). The term is also associated with truth. Ahisma also means having no intention to kill. This is what gave Gandhi and those who followed him, the ability not to strike back. They were able to look within themselves and find peace.

An example of how this philosophy played out can be found in an example story told by Gandhi to help others understand how not to fight back with force. The story said that a man was trying to save a scorpion that kept biting him. When asked why did he keep trying to save the scorpion, the man stated that he was a human being and that it was his nature to save, just as it was the nature of the scorpion to bite (Fischer 77). Gandhi was able to declare that he applied true nonviolence to every part of his life. Domestic, institutional, economic, and political problems could all be dealt with by using Satyagraha.

Satyagraha can be looked at as a method for resolving conflict. One of the main points is to try and win the trust of the other side. When this is accomplished, the two opposing sides can talk out their differences and try to put an end to them. Satyagraha also uses the readiness to suffer and not fight back. The citizens of India were successful in doing so. Take for example, the time in which Gandhi’s followers were repeatedly beaten and abused by authorities. They were able to search within their own souls and find the strength to resist violence.

The four main weapons used by the satyagrahai are sympathy, trust, patience, and the willingness to suffer (Fischer 221). The relationship with the opponent can later become one that is full of trust, respect, and cooperation. When this type of relationship is obtained, conflict and tension will be resolved.

Western minds may view this process as an unrealistic way of trying to solve a problem. With a true enemy, it is very hard- – almost impossible to even attempt to become friends with such a powerful, domineering opponent such as the British. The idea of using these four weapons seems very hard to actually accomplish. It appears that Gandhi takes great ease in dealing with the enemy. “In the end, the enemies are converted to friends,” said Gandhi (Prasad, 28). Although this idea seems almost impossible to accomplish, Gandhi did succeed in getting his followers to put in extreme amounts of effort to achieve peace.

In today’s world, three different types of situations can be aided through the practice of Satyagraha. They are self, family, and work. Once the true understanding of the term Satyagraha is developed, it becomes possible for conflicts within these situations to become resolved.

Gandhi’s hunger strikes, marches, and civil disobedience acts were crucial towards his accomplishment of peace. His followers were very faithful and were able to make a statement that got the attention of the British government. The principle of Satyagraha worked well in a country such as India because of its strong religious spirituality. Indians are highly dedicated and motivated when it comes to the topic of faith. Poverty is everywhere in this country, and faith becomes central to one’s life.

Gandhi had a great deal of success in showing to the world just exactly how nonviolent resistance could make a difference. He was a very educated man and possessed the qualities necessary to be a great leader. He disagreed with the methods put forward by Western civilization. It was perceived that Westerners were “enterprising, impatient, engrossed in multiplying their material wants and in satisfying them, fond of good cheer, anxious to save physical labor and prodigal habits” (Prasad 235). Westerners were fond of good cheer and in need of having a good time. The British were perceived as having little or no self-control. British and Indian cultures are so different, how could an interaction between the two ever be successful?

It is much easier to look back and say what could have been done. The British overstayed their welcome in India, although they were never really invited in the first place. The British imposed their views onto another culture. They were rude, disrespectful, and degrading to another country on that country’s soil. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of British rule was the introduction of social Darwinism into Indian culture. To introduce racism into another land is sickening because the repercussions of it never fully go away. Yet Gandhi was able to teach the British and the rest of the world something about nonviolence and its positive results.

The term Satyagraha is very complex and is accompanied with great dedication. To fight back without violence takes a huge amount of inner self control, a certain peace of mind, and the physical ability not to strike back. The country of India was able to show to the world that nonviolent resistance can make a difference. It is peaceful and the enemy is able to step back and see what the opposing side is trying to accomplish.

In conclusion, the works of Gandhi were very successful. He was able to prove that the country of India, which was thought not to have power, did indeed possess an enormous amount of power. He showed that this power was different, because India’s power did not lie in the use of weapons or money. Rather India’s power was found within Satyagraha, the “soul-force” power. What Gandhi accomplished was inspiring and he showed Westerners a new way to deal with conflict. It is very hard to prove a point to another culture with extremely different thoughts and beliefs. Yet it is a great accomplishment to make others acknowledge a new way of resolving conflicts with their enemies.

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