Excerpts from The Law of Love by M.K. Gandhi
edited by Anand T. Hingorani and available previously on Internet (see address at bottom of page)
1. THE LAW OF LOVE
CONSCIOUSLY or unconsciously, we are acting non-violently towards one another in daily life. All well-constructed societies are based on the Law of Non-violence. I have found that life persists in the midst of destruction and, therefore, there must be a higher law than that of destruction. Only under that law would a well-ordered sociey be intelligible and life worth living. And, if that is the Law of Life we have to work it out in daily life. Wherever there are jars, wherever you are confronted with an opponent, conquer him with love. In a crude manner, I have worked it out in my life. That does not mean that all my difficulties are solved. I have found, however, that this Law of Love has answered as the Law of Destruction has never done.
Training Necessary for Non-Violence
It takes a fairly strenuous course of training to attain to a mental state of non-violence.1
In daily life, it has to be a course of discipline though one may not like it, like, for instance, the life of a soldier. But I agree that, unless there is a hearty co-operation of the mind, the mere outward observance will be simply a mask, harmful both to the man himself and to others. The perfect state is reached only when mind and body and speech are in proper co-ordination. But it is always a case of intense mental struggle. It is not that I am incapable of anger, for instance, but I succeed almost on all occasions to keep my feelings under control. Whatever may be the result, there is always in me a conscious struggle for following the Law of Non-violence deliberately and ceaselessly. Such a struggle leaves one stronger for it.
1. "Non-violence is not a mechanical performance. It is the finest quality of the heart and comes by training."
-Young India : April 16, 1931
Love Wrestles with The World
Non-violence is a weapon of the strong. With the weak, it might easily be hypocrisy. Fear and love are contradictory terms. Love is reckless in giving away, oblivious as to what it gets in return.1 Love wrestles with the world as with itself, and ultimately gains a mastery over all other feelings. My daily experience, as of those who are working with me, is that every problem lends itself to solution if we are determined to make the Law of Truth and Non-violence the Law of Life. For, Truth and Non-violence are to me faces of the same coin.
More Wonderful Than Electricity
Whether mankind will consciously follow the Law of Love, I do not know. But that need not perturb us. The Law will work, just as the Law of Gravitation will work, whether we accept it or no. And just as a scientist will work wonders out of various applications of the Laws of Nature, even so a man who applies the Law of Love with scientific precision can work greater wonders. For, the force of Non-violence is infinitely more wonderful and subtle than the forces of Nature, like, for instance, electricity.1
1. "Love never claims, it ever gives. Love ever suffers, never resents, never revenges itself."
-Young India : July 9, 1925.
Working of the Law of Love
The men who discovered for us the Law of Love were greater scientists than any of our modern scientists. Only our explorations have not gone far enough, and so it is not possible for everyone to see all its workings. Such, at any rate, is the hallucination, if it is one, under which I am labouring. The more I work at this Law, the more I feel the delight in life, the delight in the scheme of this universe. It gives me a peace and meaning of the mysteries of Nature that I have no power to describe.
-Young India : Oct. 1, 1931.
2. THE LAW OF OUR BEING
ALL the teachers that ever lived have preached that law with more or less vigour. If love was not the Law of Life, life would not have persisted in the midst of death. Life is a perpetual triumph over the grave. If there is a fundamental distinction between man and beast, it is the former's progressive recognition of the Law and its application in practice to his own personal life.
-- Young India : Oct. 4, 1924.
15. DOCTRINE OF AHIMSA
LITERALLY speaking, Ahimsa means non-killing. But to me it has a world of meaning and takes me into realms much higher, infinitely higher than the realm to which I would go, if I merely understood by Ahimsa non-killing. Ahimsa really means that you may not offend anybody, you may not harbour an uncharitable thought even in connection with one who may consider himself to be your enemy.
Harbour No Evil Thought
Pray, notice the guarded nature of this thought : I do not say "whom you consider to be your enemy." but "who" may consider himself to be your enemy." For one, who follows the doctrine of Ahimsa, there is no room for an enemy; he denies the existence of an enemy. But there are people who consider themselves to his enemies, and he cannot help that circumstance. So, it is held that we may not harbour an evil thought even in connection with such persons. If we return blow, we depart from the doctrine of Ahimsa.
Wish No Harm to 'Enemy'
But I go further. If we resent a friend's action or the so-called enemy's action, we still fall short of this doctrine. But when I say we should not resent, I do not say that we should acquiesce : but by resenting I mean wishing that some harm should be done to the enemy, or that he should be put out of the way, not by any action of ours, but by even the action of somebody else, or, say, by Divine Agency. If we harbour even this thought, we depart from this doctrine of Ahimsa.
The Goal of Ahimsa
It is an ideal which we have to reach, and it is an ideal to be reached even at this very moment, if we are capable of doing so. But it is not a proposition in geometry to be learnt by heart ; it is not even like solving difficult problems in higher mathematics ; it is infinitely more difficult than solving those problems. Many of you have burnt the midnight oil in solving those problems. If you want to follow out this doctrine, you will have to do much more than burn the midnight oil. You will have to pass many a sleepless night, and go through many a mental torture and agony before you can reach, before you can even be within measurable distance of this goal. It is the goal and nothing less than that you and I have to reach, if we want to understand what a religious life means.
Has the World at His Feet
I will not say much more on this doctrine than this : that a man who believes in the efficacy of this doctrine finds in the ultimate stage, when he is about to reach the goal, the whole world at his feet,-not that he wants the whole world at his feet, but it must be so. If you express your love-Ahimsa-in such a manner that it impresses itself indelibly upon your so-called enemy, he must return that love.
No Room for Violence
Another thought which comes out of this is that, under this rule, there is no room for organized assassinations, and there is no room for murders even openly committed, and there is no room for any violence even for the sake of your country, and even for guarding the honour of precious ones that may be under your charge. After all, that would be a poor defence of the honour.
Do Not Retaliate
This doctrine of Ahimsa tells us that we may guard the honour of those who are under our charge by delivering ourselves into the hands of the man who would commit the sacrilege. And that requires far greater physical and mental courage than the delivering of blows. You may have some degree of physical power, -I do not say courage-and you may use that power. But after that is expended, what happens ? The other man is filled with wrath and indignation, and you have made him more angry by matching your violence against his; and when he has done you to death, the rest of his violence is delivered against your charge. But if you do not retaliate, but stand your ground between your charge and the opponent simply receiving the blows without retaliating, what happens ? I give you my promise that the whole of the violence will be expended on you, and your charge will be left unscathed. Under this plan of life, there is no conception of patriotism which justifies such wars as you witness today in Europe.
-Speeches and Writings of M. Gandhi : P. 280
19. "HATE THE SIN AND NOT THE SINNER"
MAN and his deed are two distinct things. Whereas a good deed should call forth approbation and a wicked deed disapprobation, the doer of the deed, whether good or wicked, always deserves respect or pity as the case may be. "Hate the sin and not the sinner" is a precept which, though easy enough to understand, is rarely practised, and that is why the poison of hatred spreads in the world.
-My Experiments With Truth : P. 337.
We can only win over the opponent by love, never by hate. Hate is the subtlest form of violence. We cannot be really non-violent and yet have hate in us.
-Harijan : Aug. 17, 1934.
available previously on internet at http://web.mahatma.org.in/books/showbook.jsp?id=15&link=bg&book=bg0031&lang=en&cat=books