GANDHI TO TOLSTOY
4 April 1910
You will recollect my having carried on correspondence with you whilst I was temporarily in London. As a humble follower of yours, I send you herewith a booklet which I have written. It is my own translation of a Gujarati writing. Curiously enough, the original writing has been confiscated by the Government of India. I, therefore, hastened the above publication of the translation. I am most anxious not to worry you, but, if your health permits it and if you can find the time to go through the booklet, needless to say I shall value very highly your criticism of the writing. I am sending also a few copies of your Letter to a Hindoo, which you authorised me to publish. It has been translated into one of the Indian languages also.
Your obedient servant,
M. K. Gandhi.
(Source: CW 10: 210)
TOLSTOY TO GANDHI
8 May 1910
I just received your letter and your book Indian Home Rule.
I read your book with great interest because I think that the question you treat in it – the passive resistance – is a question of the greatest importance not only for India but for the whole humanity.
I could not find your former letters, but came across your biography by J. Doss [Doke] which too interested me much deeply and gave me the possibility to know and understand you better.
reader: You tell me that, when two men quarrel, they should not go to a law court. This is astonishing.
editor: Whether you call it astonishing or not, it is the truth. And your question introduces us to the lawyers and the doctors. My firm opinion is that the lawyers have enslaved India, and they have accentuated the Hindu–Mahomedan dissensions, and have confirmed English authority.
reader: It is easy enough to bring these charges, but it will be difficult for you to prove them. But for the lawyers, who would have shown us the road to independence? Who would have protected the poor? Who would have secured justice? For instance, the late Mr Manomohan Ghose defended many a poor man free of charge. The Congress, which you have praised so much, is dependent for its existence and activity upon the work of the lawyers. To denounce such an estimable class of men is to spell justice injustice, and you are abusing the liberty of the press by decrying lawyers.
editor: At one time I used to think exactly like you. I have no desire to convince you that they have never done a single good thing. I honour Mr Ghose's memory. It is quite true that he helped the poor. That the Congress owes the lawyers something is believable. Lawyers are also men, and there is something good in every man.
I have written some chapters on the subject of Indian Home Rule which I venture to place before the readers of Indian Opinion. I have written because I could not restrain myself. I have read much, I have pondered much, during the stay, for four months in London of the Transvaal Indian deputation. I discussed things with as many of my countrymen as I could. I met, too, as many Englishmen as it was possible for me to meet. I consider it my duty now to place before the readers of Indian Opinion the conclusions, which appear to me to be final. The Gujarati subscribers of Indian Opinion number about 800. I am aware that, for every subscriber, there are at least ten persons who read the paper with zest. Those who cannot read Gujarati have the paper read to them. Such persons have often questioned me about the condition of India. Similar questions were addressed to me in London. I felt, therefore, that it might not be improper for me to ventilate publicly the views expressed by me in private.
These views are mine, and yet not mine. They are mine because I hope to act according to them. They are almost a part of my being. But, yet, they are not mine, because I lay no claim to originality. They have been formed after reading several books. That which I dimly felt received support from these books.
reader: Then from your statement I deduce that the Government of England is not desirable and not worth copying by us.
editor: Your deduction is justified. The condition of England at present is pitiable. I pray to God that India may never be in that plight. That which you consider to be the Mother of Parliaments is like a sterile woman and a prostitute. Both these are harsh terms, but exactly fit the case. That Parliament has not yet of its own accord done a single good thing, hence I have compared it to a sterile woman. The natural condition of that Parliament is such that, without outside pressure, it can do nothing. It is like a prostitute because it is under the control of ministers who change from time to time. Today it is under Mr Asquith, tomorrow it may be under Mr Balfour.
reader: You have said this sarcastically. The term ‘sterile woman’ is not applicable. The Parliament, being elected by the people, must work under public pressure. This is its quality.
editor: You are mistaken. Let us examine it a little more closely. The best men are supposed to be elected by the people. The members serve without pay and, therefore, it must be assumed, only for the public weal. The electors are considered to be educated, and, therefore, we should assume that they would not generally make mistakes in their choice. Such a Parliament should not need the spur of petitions or any other pressure.
reader: From your views I gather that you would form a third party. You are neither an extremist nor a moderate.
editor: That is a mistake. I do not think of a third party at all. We do not all think alike. We cannot say that all the moderates hold identical views. And how can those who want to serve only, have a party? I would serve both the moderates and the extremists. Where I should differ from them, I would respectfully place my position before them, and continue my service.
reader: What, then, would you say to both the parties?
editor: I would say to the extremists: – ‘I know that you want Home Rule for India; it is not to be had for your asking. Everyone will have to take it for himself. What others get for me is not Home Rule but foreign rule; therefore, it would not be proper for you to say that you have obtained Home Rule, if you expelled the English. I have already described the true nature of Home Rule. This you would never obtain by force of arms. Brute force is not natural to the Indian soil. You will have, therefore, to rely wholly on soul-force. You must not consider that violence is necessary at any stage for reaching our goal.’
I would say to the moderates: ‘Mere petitioning is derogatory; we thereby confess inferiority. To say that British rule is indispensable is almost a denial of the Godhead. […]
reader: I have now learnt what the Congress has done to make India one nation, how the Partition has caused an awakening, and how discontent and unrest have spread through the land. I would now like to know your views on Swaraj. I fear that our interpretation is not the same.
editor: It is quite possible that we do not attach the same meaning to the term. You and I and all Indians are impatient to obtain Swaraj, but we are certainly not decided as to what it is. To drive the English out of India is a thought heard from many mouths, but it does not seem that many have properly considered why it should be so. I must ask you a question. Do you think that it is necessary to drive away the English, if we get all we want?
reader: I should ask of them only one thing, that is: ‘Please leave our country.’ If after they have complied with this request, their withdrawal from India means that they are still in India, I should have no objection. Then we would understand that, in our language, the word ‘gone’ is equivalent to ‘remained’.
editor: Well, then, let us suppose that the English have retired. What will you do then?
reader: That question cannot be answered at this stage. The state after withdrawal will depend largely upon the manner of it. If, as you assume, they retire, it seems to me we shall still keep their constitution, and shall carry on the government.
reader: This is a new doctrine: that what is gained through fear is retained only while the fear lasts. Surely, what is given will not be withdrawn?
editor: Not so. The Proclamation of 1857 was given at the end of a revolt, and for the purpose of preserving peace. When peace was secured and people became simple-minded, its full effect was toned down. If I ceased stealing for fear of punishment, I would recommence the operation so soon as the fear is withdrawn from me. This is almost a universal experience. We have assumed that we can get men to do things by force and, therefore, we use force.
reader: Will you not admit that you are arguing against yourself? You know that what the English obtained in their own country they have obtained by using brute force. I know you have argued that what they have obtained is useless, but that does not affect my argument. They wanted useless things, and they got them. My point is that their desire was fulfilled. What does it matter what means they adopted? Why should we not obtain our goal, which is good, by any means whatsoever, even by using violence? Shall I think of the means when I have to deal with a thief in the house? My duty is to drive him out anyhow. You seem to admit that we have received nothing, and that we shall receive nothing by petitioning. Why, then, may we not do so by using brute force?
This lecture, entitled ‘Does economic progress clash with real progress?’, was delivered on 22 December 1916 to a meeting of the Muir Central College Economic Society, Allahabad. It contains Gandhi's basic ideas on economic development. Note its wide intellectual culture, quoting as it were in one breath the New Testament, Shakespeare and A. R. Wallace, the co-discoverer with Darwin of the principle of natural selection. [Ed.]
When I accepted Mr. Kapildeva Malaviya's invitation to speak to you upon the subject of this evening, I was painfully conscious of my limitations. You are an economic society. You have chosen distinguished specialists for the subjects included in your syllabus for this year and the next. I seem to be the only speaker ill-fitted for the task set before him. Frankly and truly, I know very little of economics, as you naturally understand them. Only the other day, sitting at an evening meal, a civilian friend deluged me with a series of questions on my crankisms. As he proceeded in his cross-examination, I being a willing victim, he found no difficulty in discovering my gross ignorance of the matters I appeared to him to be handling with a cocksureness worthy only of a man who knows not that he knows not. To his horror and even indignation, I suppose, he found that I had not even read books on economics by such well-known authorities as Mill, Marshall, Adam Smith and a host of such other authors.
An updated theory of the ‘canonical aims of life’ (Purusharthas) is the general framework of Gandhi's philosophy. The good life consists in the co-ordinated pursuit of dharma (ethical integrity), artha (wealth and power, or economics and politics), kama (pleasure) and moksha (spiritual transcendence). Supporting evidence is presented below. [Ed.]
From Gandhi's Foreword to Gokhale's Speeches
Gandhi regarded Gokhale as his ‘political guru’. In the Foreword he states that the secret of Gokhale's achievements was the co-ordinated pursuit of artha, dharma and moksha. [Ed.]
In these difficult and degenerate times [kali-kal], the pure spirit of dharma is hardly in evidence anywhere. Men who go about the world calling themselves rishis, munis and sadhus rarely show this spirit in themselves. Obviously, they have no great treasure of dharma to guard …
I have not the least doubt that Gokhale was wise in the truth of the Self. He never made a show of ritual practices but his life was full of the true spirit of dharma. Every age is known to have its predominant mode of spiritual effort [pravartti] best suited for the attainment of moksha. Whenever the spirit of dharma is on the decline, it is revived through such an effort [pravartti] in tune with the times. In this age, our degradation reveals itself through our political condition. Not taking a comprehensive view of things, we run away with the belief that, if but our political conditions improved, we would rise from this fallen state. This is only partially true.
reader: now you will have to explain what you mean by civilisation.
editor: It is not a question of what I mean. Several English writers refuse to call that civilisation which passes under that name. Many books have been written upon that subject. Societies have been formed to cure the nation of the evils of civilisation. A great English writer has written a work called ‘Civilization: its Cause and Cure’. Therein he has called it a disease.
reader: Why do we not know this generally?
editor: The answer is very simple. We rarely find people arguing against themselves. Those who are intoxicated by modern civilisation are not likely to write against it. Their care will be to find out facts and arguments in support of it, and this they do unconsciously, believing it to be true. A man, whilst he is dreaming, believes in his dream; he is undeceived only when he is awakened from his sleep. A man labouring under the bane of civilisation is like a dreaming man. What we usually read are the works of defenders of modern civilisation, which undoubtedly claims among its votaries very brilliant and even some very good men. Their writings hypnotise us. And so, one by one, we are drawn into the vortex.
reader: This seems to be very plausible. Now will you tell me something of what you have read and thought of this civilisation?
reader: Considering the matter as you put it, it seems proper to say that the foundation of Home Rule was laid by the Congress. But you will admit that it cannot be considered a real awakening. When and how did the real awakening take place?
editor: The seed is never seen. It works underneath the ground, is itself destroyed, and the tree which rises above the ground is alone seen. Such is the case with the Congress. Yet, what you call the real awakening took place after the Partition of Bengal. For this we have to be thankful to Lord Curzon. At the time of the Partition, the people of Bengal reasoned with Lord Curzon, but, in the pride of power, he disregarded all their prayers – he took it for granted that Indians could only prattle, that they could never take any effective steps. He used insulting language, and, in the teeth of all opposition, partitioned Bengal. That day may be considered to be the day of the partition of the British Empire. The shock that the British power received through the Partition has never been equalled by any other act. This does not mean that the other injustices done to India are less glaring than that done by the Partition. The salt-tax is not a small injustice. We shall see many such things later on. But the people were ready to resist the Partition. At that time, the feeling ran high. Many leading Bengalis were ready to lose their all.
Written on the day before his assassination, the following document is popularly known as Gandhi's ‘Last Will and Testament’. Watching the behaviour of India's political intelligentsia after independence Gandhi became convinced that they were more interested in making personal gains than in serving the people. It confirmed his fear, already expressed in Hind Swaraj, ch. iv, that home rule without swaraj would only mean the replacement of the British ‘tiger’ by the Indian ‘tiger’. To the last Gandhi believed that political, social and economic development could become a reality only when swaraj as political self-government was accompanied by swaraj as moral self-rule. Gandhi's last political message is that in a free society political parties must be inspired by the ideal that politics is a form of public service rather than a means of dominating fellow citizens. [Ed.]
January 29, 1948
Though split into two, India having attained political independence through means devised by the Indian National Congress, the Congress in its present shape and form, i.e., as a propaganda vehicle and parliamentary machine, has outlived its use. India has still to attain social, moral and economic independence in terms of its seven hundred thousand villages as distinguished from its cities and towns. The struggle for the ascendancy of civil over military power is bound to take place in India's progress towards its democratic goal. It must be kept out of unhealthy competition with political parties and communal bodies.
reader: I now understand why the English hold India. I should like to know your views about the condition of our country.
editor: It is a sad condition. In thinking of it, my eyes water and my throat gets parched. I have grave doubts whether I shall be able sufficiently to explain what is in my heart. It is my deliberate opinion that India is being ground down not under the English heel but under that of modern civilisation. It is groaning under the monster's terrible weight. There is yet time to escape it, but every day makes it more and more difficult. Religion is dear to me, and my first complaint is that India is becoming irreligious. Here I am not thinking of the Hindu, the Mahomedan, or the Zoroastrian religion, but of that religion which underlies all religions. We are turning away from God.
reader: How so?
editor: There is a charge laid against us that we are a lazy people, and that the Europeans are industrious and enterprising. We have accepted the charge and we, therefore, wish to change our condition. Hinduism, Islamism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity and all other religions teach that we should remain passive about worldly pursuits and active about godly pursuits, that we should set a limit to our worldly ambition, and that our religious ambition should be illimitable. Our activity should be directed into the latter channel.
reader: You have denounced railways, lawyers and doctors. I can see that you will discard all machinery. What, then, is civilisation?
editor: The answer to that question is not difficult. I believe that the civilisation India has evolved is not to be beaten in the world. Nothing can equal the seeds sown by our ancestors. Rome went, Greece shared the same fate, the might of the Pharaohs was broken, Japan has become westernised, of China nothing can be said, but India is still, somehow or other, sound at the foundation. The people of Europe learn their lessons from the writings of the men of Greece or Rome, which exist no longer in their former glory. In trying to learn from them, the Europeans imagine that they will avoid the mistakes of Greece and Rome. Such is their pitiable condition. In the midst of all this, India remains immovable, and that is her glory. It is a charge against India that her people are so uncivilised, ignorant and stolid, that it is not possible to induce them to adopt any changes. It is a charge really against our merit. What we have tested and found true on the anvil of experience, we dare not change. Many thrust their advice upon India, and she remains steady. This is her beauty; it is the sheet-anchor of our hope.
Civilisation is that mode of conduct which points out to man the path of duty. Performance of duty and observance of morality are convertible terms.
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