Speech by M.K. Gandhi to London Missionary Society of India in 1925
recorded by Mahadev Desai in his secretary's diary
Day to day with Gandhi, volume VII, pp. 156-161
previously available on Internet (see address at bottom of page)
Gandhiji then spoke before two other Christian gatherings-members of the London Missionary Society of India and the Young Men's Christian Association. The subject at the former was "World-Brotherhood." The Society is made up mainly of Indian Christians. Gandhiji first recalled his long contact with Indian Christians in South Africa which dated as far back as from 1893 and said :
"It was a pleasant surprise to me to find that though many of them had never seen India, they had so much love for their motherland. Most of them were children of indentured labourers. Sir William Wilson Hunter has described their state as that of serfdom. I say this in order that you may have an idea of the tremendous odds against which they must have fought in order to free themselves from slavery and lead a respectable life. Some of them are England-returned educated men, some general merchants. Some brave young men among them served the Government in the Boer Wear and Zulu Rebellion. Some were bred up in my own home and two of these have become Barristers. That shows how close my relationship with the Indian Christians was. There might be hardly any Indian Christian there who did not know me or whom I didn't. On the ground of that contact I have great pleasure in addressing you on "World Brotherhood." How can those brothers who are suffering there under many disabilities have any idea of this 'world brotherhood ?' They will only say, "We cannot understand how there can be brotherhood between man and man, when attempts are constantly made here to banish us, or, as an Englishman's news-paper puts it, 'to starve us out of the land.' All the same I agreed to speak on this subject for the sole reason that it is during hard times and adverse climate that a man's love for his fellow-man is really tested.
"I am often eulogized for this and that. I simply hear those praises by one ear and drive them out by the other. But I am tempted to accept the quality-you attribute to me. You say if anybody has the right to speak on world brotherhood, it is, I. I agree with you. I have often tried to see whether I am capable of hating-not of loving, but hating-anybody. And I must honestly and with due humility say that I have never felt I can hate any human being. I cannot remember any occa-sion that made me hate anybody. I cannot understand how I came by that state of mind. But I speak only of what I have been practicing all my life. That is no brotherhood which makes you feel brotherly or loving towards one who becomes your brother, who loves you. That is only an exchange. Brotherhood is not a business deal and my religion teaches me that I should love not only human beings but all creatures. Some Humanitarian Societies in England publish monthly magazines. I remember having read a poem "My brother-the bullock" in one of them some 30-35 years ago. In beautiful touching lines, that poem exhorted the man who loved his kind to love every creature as well. The poem simply charmed me. My knowledge of Hinduism was next to nil then. I had only imbibed what I could from my parents and other dear ones and from my environment. All the same I could at once see that every religion preaches this fraternity of all creatures. But I am not talking today of that oceanic, all-embracing, brotherhood. I have referred to all this simply to show that if we are not prepared to love our enemy,1 our brotherhood is only a cant. To put it in other words, the man who has assimilated the spirit of brotherhood would protest against being called an enemy. Others may regard us as their enemies, but we can never say we are their enemies.
"The question then arises how to love those who consider us their enemies. I am flooded daily with articles from Hindus, Muslims, and Christians that call it absurd to regard an enemy as a friend. If it is a Hindu writer, he says, 'How is it possible to love the Mussalman who kills the cow which the Hindu loves as his life ?' A Christian writer wonders, 'Love the Hindu who believes in untouchability and crushes fellow humans as untouchables ! Impossible.' And the Mussalman asks, 'How can I love the Hindu who worships a stone ?" What I want to say is this : 'If you cannot love all the three, your brotherliness has no value.'
But what does this feeling of hate indicate ? Does it mean fear ? Intolerance ? If we children of the same Father, why should we be afraid of one another or hate the person who thinks differently from us ? but then shall we let the Mussalman do a thing which makes our flesh creep ? My sense of brotherliness answers, 'Yes', but I add, "Yes must sacrifice yourself. If you want to save the thing you love, you must die for it and not kill the man." I am speaking from personal experience. If your love is strong enough to have the courage to suffer, you will be able to melt any stony heart. You may thrash a villain, but suppose he is physically stronger. What will you do ? Will he not overpower you and commit greater crimes ? Does not history testify that the fire of wickedness is fed by the oil of counter-violence ? And does not that same history furnish on the other hand instances of the wildest and fiercest beasts subdued by those who had attained the peak of non-violence ?
But let us not talk of that perfection of non-violence. It requires greater heroism than of brave soldiers, but it is better to fight the man you hate than do nothing but whimper and whine for fear of death at his hands. Cowardice and brother-hood go ill together. The world does not accept today the idea of loving the enemy. Even in Christian Europe the principle of non-violence is ridiculed. While somebody writes to me from there : "Will you explain more clearly this your principle of non-violence ?' Some one else tells me : 'You can safely talk of non-violence, because you are ensconced in India. You can't think of it in Europe.' And there are others who affirm; 'Christianity has become a pretence at present. Christians do not understand the message of Jesus. It is necessary to deliver it over again in the way we can understand.' All the three are right from their own angles. But I must say that so long as we do not accept the principle of loving the enemy, all talk of world brotherhood is an airy nothing. Many men and women ask me, "Is it ever possible for the weak human flesh to rise above the inborn desire to avenge one's wrongs ?" I say, 'Yes. It is because we are not fully conscious of our manhood, that we cannot shed hatred and enmity'. Darwin says man is descended from the monkey. If that is true, we have not yet attained the stage of man. Dr. Anna Kingsford writes, 'I have seen lions, tigers, wolves, and serpents roaming in the streets of Paris in human form.' In order to shed that beastliness, man has got to shed fear. Only the awakening of a spiritual power lying dormant within us can make us fearless; and not our equipment with arms. The Mahabharata has called forgiveness a hero's ornament or quality. There is a statue of General Gordon which represents him with a stick, not a sword, to show how brave he was. Were I a sculptor and asked to make his statue, I would have shown him inscribed the following words as his utterance : "Do what you may. Without fear, without malice, and without return, I stand like a rock to receive all your blows." That is my ideal of a hero. Such heroes have become immortal. Christianity has produced such heroes and so have Hinduism and Islam. I don't subscribe to the view that Islam is the religion of the sword. History does not support it.
'But these are examples of individuals. History shows others also, where whole communities have shed hatred. As mankind assimilates more and more the lesson of brotherhood, the spirit of non-violence among whole masses of men will spread wider. The history of Quakers and those others, the Dukhobors, whom Tolstoy has spoken of, shows how masses also can be filled with brotherly feeling.
"But some celebrated writers of Europe and some savants of India as well say that humanity can never be free from hate. I contest the view. I even say that until man frees himself from hate, he cannot become a 'man', cannot be his real self. Willy-nilly and soon or late we shall have to take that road and that alone. And I have come here to ask you 'Why not go that way willingly and soon, rather than be forced into it ?' It may seem strange that I should say this to Christians. But I have pleaded for the same thing to Hindus also. Some Christians, however, tell me that Jesus' message of love was meant only for His 12 disciples. In India also, those who deprecate non-violence say that it will make India a country of cowards. To them I wish to say, 'India is doomed, if it does not accept non-violence.' All other nations also are, but I talk of India because it is itself a big continent. If this giant of India becomes aggressive and violent like the countries of other continents, it will crush the weak; and can imagine the consequences.
"My nationalism embraces all creatures, all nations of the world. And if I am able to fire India with the spirit of non-violence, it can show a miracle to the world also. I don't want India to rise from the ashes of other nations. I want India to gain soul-force and make other nations strong. Other nations are not teaching us the way of strength. And that is what has compelled me to take my stand on that eternal principle and declare that I am never going to accept a constitution based on brute force.
"President Wilson submitted his 14 points but at the end, as a climax or an anti-climax, he thundered : 'If we don't succeed in making the world accept them, of course, there is the sword with us," I want to reverse his threat and say : "All our earthly weapons have failed. Let us find out some new one or we die. Let us now take up the weapon of love-of truth. When we acquire that weapon, we shall require no other."
That was how an incessant stream of eloquence flowed from his lips that day. He then concluded the speech with the story of Prahlad.1
available previously on Internet at http://www.mahatma.org.in/books/showbook.jsp?id=156&link=og&book=og0014&lang=en&cat=books