Gandhi leading the 1930 Salt March, a notable example of satyagraha. The term originated in a competition franklin hall fasting pdf the news-sheet Indian Opinion in South Africa in 1906. Maganlal Gandhi, grandson of an uncle of Gandhi, came up with the word “Sadagraha” and won the prize. Subsequently, to make it clearer, Gandhi changed it to Satyagraha.
In September 1935, a letter to P. Rao, Servants of India Society, Gandhi disputed the proposition that his idea of Civil Disobedience was adapted from the writings of Thoreau. The statement that I had derived my idea of civil disobedience from the writings of Thoreau is wrong. The resistance to authority in South Africa was well advanced before I got the essay of Thoreau on civil disobedience. But the movement was then known as passive resistance. As it was incomplete, I had coined the word satyagraha for the Gujarati readers. I have also called it love-force or soul-force.
In the application of satyagraha, I discovered in the earliest stages that pursuit of truth did not admit of violence being inflicted on one’s opponent but that he must be weaned from error by patience and compassion. For what appears to be truth to the one may appear to be error to the other. I have drawn the distinction between passive resistance as understood and practised in the West and satyagraha before I had evolved the doctrine of the latter to its full logical and spiritual extent. It is important to note the intrinsic connection between ahimsa and satyagraha. It is perhaps clear from the foregoing, that without ahimsa it is not possible to seek and find Truth. Ahimsa and Truth are so intertwined that it is practically impossible to disentangle and separate them.
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They are like the two sides of a coin, or rather of a smooth unstamped metallic disk. Means to be means must always be within our reach, and so ahimsa is our supreme duty. Assessing the extent to which Gandhi’s ideas of satyagraha were or were not successful in the Indian independence struggle is a complex task. Judith Brown has suggested that “this is a political strategy and technique which, for its outcomes, depends of historical specificities. The theory of satyagraha sees means and ends as inseparable. The means used to obtain an end are wrapped up in and attached to that end. Therefore, it is contradictory to try to use unjust means to obtain justice or to try to use violence to obtain peace.
They say, ‘means are, after all, means’. I would say, ‘means are, after all, everything’. I employ, the watch is stolen property, my own property, or a donation. I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence.
The essence of satyagraha is that it seeks to eliminate antagonisms without harming the antagonists themselves, as opposed to violent resistance, which is meant to cause harm to the antagonist. There must be no impatience, no barbarity, no insolence, no undue pressure. If we want to cultivate a true spirit of democracy, we cannot afford to be intolerant. Intolerance betrays want of faith in one’s cause.
This end usually implies a moral upliftment or progress of an individual or society. Therefore, non-cooperation in satyagraha is in fact a means to secure the cooperation of the opponent consistently with truth and justice. When using satyagraha in a large-scale political conflict involving civil disobedience, Gandhi believed that the satyagrahis must undergo training to ensure discipline. State that they acquire the right of Civil Disobedience. But he would observe any obligatory rule of this kind, if only to escape the inconvenience of facing a prosecution for a breach of the rule.