Mohandas K. Gandhi never professed to be a saint. But he is considered one by many. He never professed to being flawless. But many consider him flawed. Gandhi the husband and father was probably flawed. Gandhi the politician was not a saint. And then there’s Gandhi the pacifist who inspires awe. His courage was extraordinary, reflected in the circumspect manner with which he bore blows and eventually in the way he died. As George Orwell described in a largely unflattering essay, “His character was an extraordinarily mixed one. I believe that even Gandhi’s worst enemies would admit that he was an interesting and unusual man who enriched the world simply by being alive.”
Every time I hear of a conflict, I feel just a little more awe for the man who took violence off the table as an option and demonstrated the alternative. Here he describes how Satyagraha (commitment to Truth) is difficult.
“How are we to train individuals or communities in this difficult art of nonviolence? There is no royal road, except through living the creed in your life which must be a living sermon. Of course, the expression in one’s own life presupposes great study, tremendous perseverance, and thorough cleansing of one’s self of all the impurities. If for mastering of the physical sciences you have to devote a whole lifetime, how many lifetimes may be needed for mastering the greatest spiritual force that humanity has known? But why worry even if it means several lifetimes? For, if this is the only permanent thing in life, if this is the only thing that counts, then whatever effort you bestow on mastering it is well spent. Seek ye first the Kingdom of Heaven and everything else shall be added upon you. The Kingdom of Heaven is nonviolence.”