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How Tolstoy inspired Gandhi's method of non-violence

Here are quotes from Leo Tolstoy's "Letter to a Hindu" written to Mahatma Gandhi:
If the English have enslaved the people of India it is just because the latter recognized, and still recognize, force as the fundamental principle of the social order. In accord with that principle they submitted to their little rajahs, and on their behalf struggled against one another, fought the Europeans, the English, and are now trying to fight with them again. A commercial company enslaved a nation comprising two hundred millions.
Tell this to a man free from superstition and he will fail to grasp what these words mean. What does it mean that thirty thousand men, not athletes but rather weak and ordinary people, have subdued two hundred million vigorous, clever, capable, and freedom-loving people? Do not the figures make it clear that it is not the English who have enslaved the Indians, but the Indians who have enslaved themselves?
When the Indians complain that the English have enslaved them it is as if drunkards complained that the spirit-dealers who have settled among them have enslaved them. You tell them that they might give up drinking, but they reply that they are so accustomed to it that they cannot abstain, and that they must have alcohol to keep up their energy.
Is it not the same thing with the millions of people who submit to thousands or even to hundreds, of others - of their own or other nations? If the people of India are enslaved by violence it is only because they themselves live and have lived by violence, and do not recognize the eternal law of love inherent in humanity.
If you clear any long winding sentences in this text - it begs to ask why the superior power of arms is at all a factor in controlling the masses. Read between the lines, Tolstoy is telling Gandhi to not fight the British Raj to its own strengths but invent new rules of the game which will enable Gandhi/Indians to play to his/their strengths.

He further writes:
As soon as men live entirely in [their] accord ... aloof from all participation in violence - as soon as this happens, not only will hundreds be unable to enslave millions, but not even millions will be able to enslave a single individual.

Do not resist the evil-doer and take no part in doing so, either in the violent deeds of the administration, in the law courts, the collection of taxes, or above all in soldiering, and no one in the world will be able to enslave you.
Tolstoy is merely hinting but gives a clear enough indication to Gandhi to develop a tool which does not embrace violence but uses love to defeat the enemy.

Read the exchanges for more insights if you wish.

1 Comments to " How Tolstoy inspired Gandhi's method of non-violence "

  1. When Leo Tolstoy said, "If the people of India are enslaved by violence it is only because they themselves live and have lived by violence, and do not recognize the eternal law of love inherent in humanity" it is STILL TURE TODAY. After all, both the Gita and Ramayana glorify epic battles, where violence rules the pages. Why should India arm herself with bombs and weapons if she is TRULY NON-VIOLENT and PEACE-LOVING?

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