The powerful force of truth, love and non-violence

Recently I have been reading a book called Mohandas Gandhi: Essential Writings/selected with an introduction by John Dear, a Jesuit priest and writer very much involved in the anti-war movement.

Jan 16, 2015

Anil Netto

By Anil Netto
Recently I have been reading a book called Mohandas Gandhi: Essential Writings/selected with an introduction by John Dear, a Jesuit priest and writer very much involved in the anti-war movement.

In his Introduction, Dear describes Gandhi as an apostle of non-violence and then looks at his basic principle, Satyagraha. Basically, it means truth or soul force or in Gandhi’s own words in 1911, “satyagraha means resisting untruth by truthful means.”

According to Gandhi, this guiding principle can be “offered at any place, at any time, and by any person, even though he may be in a minority of one. If one remains steadfast in it, in a spirit of dedication, it always brings success. Satyagraha knows neither frustration nor despair.”

Satyagrapha has also somehow been associated with passive resistance, which is seen as a weapon of the weak. But Gandi himself de-linked that association.

Gandhi wrote: “Truth (satya) implies love, and firmness (agraha) engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force. I thus began to call the Indian movement Satyagraha, that is to say, the Force which is born of Truth and Love or non-violence, and gave up the use of the phrase “passive resistance,” in connection with it, so much so that even in English writing, we often avoided it and used instead the word satyagraha itself or some other equivalent English phrase.

Indeed, there is nothing weak about upholding and standing up for the truth — and often it comes at great cost.

So when Major Zaidi was hauled up in a military court and eventually convicted on two charges of violating protocol, I coudn’t help thinking of the price that comes with this firm insistence on upholding the truth Zaidi had spoken out about, the indelible ink (that incredibly wasn’t really indelible) used in GE13.

But the normally soft-spoken Zaidi’s insistence on proclaiming the truth to a wider audience regardless of the cost, landed him in trouble. And now he stands to lose eveything after being dismissed from his job. But patiently suffering the consequences of speaking the truth is also a driving force. Gandhi himself suffered considerably as he spent several stints in jail.

The other difficulty that comes with thinking about peace, truth, love and non-violence is how we reconcile that with the violence and deception that is occurring on a grand scale around the world.

The violence — most recently, the brutal massacres in Nigeria and France and the ongoing violence and occupation in the Middle East — appears insurmountable and overwhelming; the deception and counter-deception behind it (yes, so much of the truth is hidden from us) unimagineable.

And yet, if Jesus and Gandhi are to be believed, the force of truth and love and compassion is liberating. Both of them treasured times of solitude and communion with a higher Truth where this conviction was anchored.

Gandhi re-discovered and put into practice an ancient truth that Jesus articulated: If you make my word your home, you will indeed be my disciples; you will come to know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:31-32).

In a world ruled by deception and the force of violence, that is a message that is as timeless and as powerful today as it was when first proclaimed. Our challenge is to live up to this exhortation to discover the truth, and in so doing, realise its liberating force.

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