Ahimsa

My object was to inquire into the condition of the Champaran agriculturists and understand their grievances against the indigo planters. For this purpose it was necessary that I should meet thousands of the ryots. But I deemed it essential, before starting on my inquiry, to know the planters’ side of the case and see the Commissioner of the Division. I sought and was granted appointments with both.
The Secretary of the Planters’ Association told me plainly that I was an outsider and that I had no business to come between the planters and their tenants, but if I had any representation to make, I might submit it in writing. I politely told him that I did not regard myself as an outsider, and that I had every right to inquire into the condition of the tenants if they desired me to do so.
The Commissioner, on whom I called, proceeded to bully me, and advised me forthwith to leave Tirhut.
I acquainted my co-workers with all this, and told them that there was a likelihood of Government stopping me from proceeding further, and that I might have to go to jail earlier than I had expected, and that, if I was to be arrested, it would be best that the arrest should take place in Motihari or if possible in Bettiah. It was advisable, therefore, that I should go to those place as early as possible.
Champaran is a district of the Tirhut division and Motihari is its headquarters. Rajkumar Shukla’s place was in the vicinity of Bettiah, and the tenants belonging to the kothis in its neighbourhood were the poorest in the district. Rajkumar Shukla wanted me to see them and I was equally anxious to do so.
So I started with my co-workers for Motihari the same day. Babu Gorakh Prasad harboured us in his home, which became a caravanserai. It could hardly contain us all. The very same day we heard that about five miles from Motihari a tenant had been ill-treated. It was decided that, in company with Babu Dharanidhar Prasad, I should go and see him the next morning, and we accordingly set off for the place on elephant’s back. An elephant, by the way, is about as common in Champaran as a bullock-cart in Gujarat. We had scarcely gone half when a messenger from the Police Superintendent overtook us and said that the latter had sent his compliments. I saw what he meant. Having left Dharanidharbabu to proceed to the original destination, I got into the hired carriage which the messenger had brought. He then served on me a notice to leave Champaran, and drove me to my place. On his asking me to acknowledge the service of the notice, I wrote to the effect that I did not propose to comply with it and leave Champaran till my inquiry was finished. Thereupon I received a summons to take my trial the next day for disobeying the order to leave Champaran.
I kept awake that whole night writing letters and giving necessary instructions to Babu Brajkishore Prasad.
The news of the notice and the summons spread like wildfire, and I was told that Motihari that day witnessed unprecedented scenes. Gorakhbabu’s house and the court house overflowed with men. Fortunately I had finished all my work during the night and so was able to cope with the crowds. My companions proved the greatest help. They occupied themselves with regulating the crowds, for the latter followed me wherever I went.
A sort of friendliness sprang up between the officials – Collector, Magistrate, Police Superintendent – and myself. I might have legally resisted the notices served on me. Instead I accepted them all, and my conduct towards the officials was correct. They thus saw that I did not want to offend them personally, but that I wanted to offer civil resistance to their orders. In this way they were put at ease, and instead of harassing me they gladly availed themselves of my and my co-workers’ co-operation in regulating the crowds. But it was an ocular demonstration to them of the fact that their authority was shaken. The people had for the moment lost all fear of punishment and yielded obedience to the power of love which their new friend exercised.
It should be remembered that no one knew me in Champaran. The peasants were all ignorant. Champaran, being far up north of the Ganges, and right at the foot of the Himalayas in close proximity to Nepal, was cut off from the rest of India. The Congress was practically unknown in those parts. Even those who had heard the name of the Congress shrank from joining it or even mentioning it. And now the Congress and its members had entered this land, though not in the name of the Congress, yet in a far more real sense.
In consultation with my co-workers I had decided that nothing should be done in the name of the Congress. What we wanted was work and not name, substance and not shadow. For the name of the Congress was the bête noire of the Government and their controllers – the planters. To them the Congress was a byword for lawyers’ wrangles, evasion of law through legal loopholes, a byword for bomb and anarchical crime and for diplomacy and hypocrisy. We had to disillusion them both. Therefore we had decided not to mention the name of the Congress and not to acquaint the peasants with the organization called the Congress. It was enough, we thought, if they understood and followed the spirit of the Congress instead of its letter.
No emissaries had therefore been sent there, openly or secretly, on behalf of the Congress to prepare the ground for our arrival. Rajkumar Shukla was incapable of reaching the thousands of peasants. No political work had yet been done amongst them. The world outside Champaran was not known to them. And yet they received me as though we had been age-long friends. It is no exaggeration, but the literal truth, to say that in this meeting with the peasants I was face to face with God, Ahimsa and Truth.
When I come to examine my title to this realization, I find nothing but my love for the people. And this in turn is nothing but an expression of my unshakable faith in Ahimsa.
That day in Champaran was an unforgettable event in my life and a red-letter day for the peasants and for me.
According to the law, I was to be on my trial, but truly speaking Government was to be on its trial. The Commissioner only succeeded in trapping Government in the net which he had spread for me.

Epigrams:

Ahimsa is the highest ideal. It is meant for the brave, never for the cowardly T-7-128.
Ahimsa is the eradication of the desire to injure or to kill.XIV-463
Ahimsa is not a matter of mere dietetics: it transcends it.MM-117
Ahimsa is the highest duty. Even if we cannot practice it in full, we must try to understand its spirit and refrain as far as is humanly possible from violence. T-7-61
Ahimsa means infinite love, which again means infinite capacity for suffering. MM-295
Ahimsa is an attribute of the brave. Cowardice and ahimsa don’t go together any more than water and fire. T-5-83
Ahimsa in theory no one knows. It is as indefinable as God.T-5-248
The highest religion has been defined by a negative word: ahimsa. MM-425
Ahimsa is one of the world’s great principles, which no power on earth can wipe out.MM-147
Dharma is one and one only. Ahimsa means moksha, and moksha is the realization of Truth.MOG-117
Love and ahimsa are matchless in their effect. TIG-57
Love in the sense of ahimsa has only a limited number of votaries in the world. T-3-144
Ahimsa is the attribute of the soul, and therefore, to be practised by everybody in all the affairs of life. MM-24
Ahimsa is the strongest force known. T-5-307
Ahimsa is the height of Kshatriya dharma as it represents the climax of fearlessness. XXV-563
The fullest application of ahimsa does make life impossible. XXVI-335
The most distinctive and largest contribution of Hinduism to India’s culture is the doctrine of ahimsa. T-2-341
True ahimsa should mean a complete freedom from ill-will and anger and hate and an overflowing love for all. T-2-318
Ahimsa and love are one and the same thing. TIG-19
Ahimsa and Truth are so intertwined that it is practically impossible to disentangle and separate them. TIG-37
Ahimsa is my God, and Truth is my God. MM-24
Truth and ahimsa will never be destroyed.T-5-245
The principle of ahimsa is hurt by every evil thought, by undue haste, by lying, by hatred, by wishing ill to anybody. TIG-36
Ahimsa calls for the strength and courage to suffer without retaliation, to receive blows without returning any. T-7-75
Ahimsa can be practiced only towards those that are inferior to you in every way. XIV-463
Ahimsa was preached to man when he was in full vigor of life and able to look his adversaries straight in the face. XIV-476
The greater the realization of truth and ahimsa, the greater the illumination. XXV-521
The path of Truth is as narrow as it is straight. Even so is that of ahimsa. TIG-36
Use truth as your anvil, nonviolence as your hammer and anything that does not stand the test when it is brought to the anvil of truth and hammered with ahimsa, reject as non-Hindu. XXVI-374
The removal of untouchability is one of the highest expressions of ahimsa. T-4-239
Cow-protection can only be secured by cultivating universal friendliness, i.e. ahimsa. XXV-520
Ahimsa is a science. The word ‘failure’ has no place in the vocabulary of science. T-5-81
Ahimsa magnifies one’s own defects, and minimizes those of the opponent. It regards the mole in one’s own eye as a beam and the beam in the opponent’s eye as a mole. T-5-91
Ahimsa must be placed before everything else while it is professed. Then alone it becomes irresistible. T-5-127
Ahimsa must express itself through acts of selfless service of the masses. T-5-81
Ahimsa is no mere theory with me, but it is a fact of life based on extensive experience. T-7-402
My ahimsa is my own. I am not able to accept in its entirety the doctrine of non-killing of animals. MM-429
What is it but my ahimsa that draws thousands of women to me in fearless confidence? T-5-291
Truth is my religion and ahimsa is the only way of its realization. T-4-250
Truth and ahimsa demand that no human being may debar himself from serving any other human being, no matter how sinful he may be. XXVI-374
One who hooks his fortune to ahimsa, the law of love, daily lessens the circle of destruction and to that extent promotes life and love. T-4-33
My anekantavada is the result of the twin doctrines of satya and ahimsa. TIG-12
When two nations are fighting, the duty of a votary of ahimsa is to stop the war. TIG-40
My ahimsa would not tolerate the idea of giving a free meal to a healthy person who has not worked for it in some honest way. MM-194
Ahimsa and Truth are my two lungs. I cannot live without them. MM-425
My errors have been errors of calculation and judging men, not in appreciating the true nature of truth and ahimsa or in their application. T-2-204
Indeed, these errors and my prompt confessions have made me surer, if possible, of my insight into the implications of truth and ahimsa. T-2-204
All my experiments in Ahimsa have taught me that nonviolence in practice means common labour with the body. T-5-225
Whatever strength the masses have is due entirely to ahimsa, however imperfect or defective its practice might have been. T-7-147
True ahimsa should wear a smile even on a deathbed brought about by an assailant. It is only with that ahimsa that we can befriend our opponents and win their love. T-5-243
If our ahimsa is not of the brave but of the weak, and if it will bend the knee before himsa, Gandhism deserves to be destroyed. T-5-242
The alphabet of ahimsa is best learnt in domestic school and I can say from experience that if we secure success there, we are sure to do so everywhere else. T-5-304
A votary of ahimsa always prays for ultimate deliverance from the bondage of the flesh. MM-425
A steadfast pursuit of ahimsa is inevitably bound to truth-not violence. MM-118
I see a clear breach of ahimsa even in driving away monkeys; the breach would be proportionately greater if they have to be killed. T-2-322
A votary of ahimsa cannot subscribe to the utilitarian formula (of the greatest good of the greatest number). He will strive for the greatest good of all and die in the attempt to realize that ideal. TIG-139
Woman is the incarnation of ahimsa. (Ahimsa means infinite love, which again means infinite capacity for suffering.) T-5-227
Woman is more fitted than man to make explorations and take bolder action in ahimsa. MM-294
Unless the charkha adds to your ahimsa and makes you stronger every day, your Gandhism is of little avail.T-5-242
Khadi has been conceived as the foundation and the image of ahimsa. A real khadi-wearer will not utter an untruth. A real khadi-wearer will harbour no violence, no deceit, no impurity.T-4-21
In Swaraj, based on ahimsa, people need not know their rights, but it is also necessary for them to know their duties. MM-135
No power on earth can subjugate you when you are armed with the sword of ahimsa. It ennobles both the victor and the vanquished. T-7-11
The votary of ahimsa has only one fear, that is, of God. MM-12
A votary of ahimsa must cultivate the habit of unremitting toil, sleepless vigilance, ceaseless self-control. T-5-80
It is against the spirit of ahimsa to overawe even one person into submission. T-7-388
The richest grace of ahimsa will descend easily upon the owner of hard discipline. MM-127
Love, otherwise ahimsa, sustains this planet of ours. MM-127
In an atmosphere of ahimsa, one has no scope to put his ahimsa to the test. It can be tested only in the face of himsa. T-5-90
A soldier fights with an irresistible strength when he has blown up his bridges and burnt his boats. Even so, it is with a soldier of ahimsa. T-5-127
Man lives freely by his readiness to die, if need be, at the hands of his brother, never by killing him. MM-122
The strength to kill is not essential for self-defence; one ought to have the strength to die. T-3-3
If the lambs of the world had been willingly led, they would have long ago saved themselves from the butcher’s knife. T-2-52
If the circulation of blood theory could not have been discovered without vivisection, the human kind could well have done without it. MM-426
The scriptures of Christians, Mussalmans and Hindus are all replete with the teaching of ahimsa. XXV-521
By ahimsa we will be able to save the cow and also win the friendship of the English. XXV-520