Part I: Was Gandhi a Christian in faith and Hindu in name?

DailyBiteJul 18, 2015 | 20:26

Part I: Was Gandhi a Christian in faith and Hindu in name?

Standard text books summarise the history of freedom movement in India in one pithy sentence: "Mahatma Gandhi gave us freedom through non-violence." During her customary tribute at Rajghat, every dignitary reinforces this already deeply entrenched  narrative. It has therefore been but expected that the current PM Narendra Modi, would motivate his flagship Swachh  Bharat programme with the punch line - "Gandhi ji has given us freedom, what have we given him in return?" Yet, it is but an ancient wisdom that a nation is enslaved for extended durations when the contemporary leaders fail her and masses exhibit innate weaknesses of character. Freedom is, therefore, rarely given; it is taken, by repaying the debt of failure through blood and tears of future generations. Does the jewel in the crown of the Raj in which the sun never set then remain an eminent exception which was awarded freedom gratis?  [12]


History avers otherwise. The best and the bravest men and women of an enslaved India hastened the demise of the mighty British empire by resisting them tooth and nail in the trenches of Bengal, UP, Bihar, Punjab, Odisha and Maharashtra, and moving beyond the borders of India, from England, USA and South East Asia. Crushed by the mighty empire, they didn't live to tell their story. Yet, narrate their tales, we must. For a civilisation that does not know its history, does not make one. Moving beyond the outcome and the attribution of due credits per se, the history of freedom struggle in India reveals foundational conflicts between different understandings of India's nationhood. [12]

The revolutionary freedom fighters' comprehension of Indian nationhood was in stark contrast to that of Gandhi's. The conflict in the two understandings was not a consequence, but the principal motivation, for the divergence not only in the paths the two pursued but also in the national goals they identified. Gandhi advocated, nay insisted, that India cannot and should not attain independence by deviating from the path of non-violence: "This country must not be liberated through bloodshed." pp. 292-293, [42], [12] "My love for non-violence is superior to every other thing mundane or supermundane. It is equaled only by my love for truth which is to me synonymous with non-violence through which and which alone I can see and reach Truth." p. 125, [42], and, "If India makes violence her creed, and I have survived, I would not care to live in India. She will cease to evoke any pride in me. My patriotism is subservient to my religion. I cling to India like a child to its mother's breast, because I feel that she gives me the spiritual nourishment I need. She has the environment that responds to my highest aspiration. When that faith is gone, I shall feel like an orphan without hope of ever finding a guardian." p. 139, [42]. His confidant, GD Birla, communicated to the Home member, Sir Henry Craik, on June 30, 1935: "Swaraj attained through violence is no good to him [Gandhi]. He attaches more importance to non-violence than even to Swaraj. His nearest lieutenants believe in his policy."  pp. 132-133, [4].  Yet, Gandhi was not doctrinally opposed to violence as he had enlisted soldiers for the British during the First World War pp. 83-87, [10]. While supporting the Khilafat agitation, he had also stated that he felt morally bound to help, using non-violent means,  those who further a just cause even if they do not shun violence p. 151, [11]. Thus, his stands on non-violence depended on the race and religion of the perpetrator and the victim. So, the consistency of his perception of ethics with civilisational ethos anywhere in the world including India must be critically examined.


The revolutionaries assumed a polar opposite position. Aurobindo Ghosh said: "Liberty is the life-breath of a nation; and when the life is attacked, when it is sought to suppress all chance of breathing by violent pressure, then any and every means of self-preservation becomes right and justifiable - just as it is lawful for a man who is being strangled, to rid himself of the pressure on his throat by any means in his power. It is the nature of the pressure that determines the nature of the resistance."  [65] Bhagwati Charan Vohra, a member of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association, which nurtured eminent revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Raj Guru, Chandrasekhar Azad, said: "Let nobody toy with nation's freedom which is her very life, by making psychological experiments in non-violence and such other novelties. Our slavery is our shame. When shall we have courage and wisdom enough to be able to shake ourselves free of it? What is our great heritage of civilisation and culture worth if we have not enough self-respect left in us to prevent from bowing to their flag and king? There is no crime that Britain has not been committed in India. Deliberate misrule has reduced us to paupers, has 'bled us white'.  As a race and people we stand dishonoured and outraged. Do people still expect us to forget and to forgive?  We shall have our revenge-a people's righteous revenge on the tyrant. Let cowards fall back and cringe for compromise and peace. We ask not for mercy and we give no quarter. Ours is a war to the end-to Victory or Death." pp. 216-217, [33]. In Subhash Chandra Bose's words: "For an enslaved people, there can be no greater pride, no higher honour, than to be the first soldier in the army of liberation. But this honour carries with it a corresponding responsibility and I am deeply conscious of it. I assure you that I shall be with you in darkness and sunshine, in sorrow and in joy, in suffering and in victory. For the present, I can offer you nothing except hunger, thirst, privation, forced marches and death. But if you follow me in life and in death - as I am confident you will - I shall lead you to victory and freedom. It does not matter who among us will live to see India free. It is enough that India shall be free and that we shall give our all to make her free." p. 48, [43], [12].


The revolutionaries were, therefore, articulating what a nation's response ought to be in a state of war, a state which every subjugated nation is in. An even cursory study of world history suggests that their stand has not merely been honourable, but also natural and organic. Mazzini, held in the highest veneration all over the world, used to, for instance, administer the following oath to the members of his secret league: "I swear to devote myself entirely and always to the common object of creating one free, independent and republican Italy by every means within my power." p. 230, [44],  [12]. Indeed, even outside any culture, in the realm of jurisprudence, the need to resist any illegality (especially by armed forces and government officials) has been established time and again. In a seminal judgement in the Kafr Qasim massacre case (where many soldiers shot unarmed civilians, and other soldiers watched impassively), Judge Benjamin Halevy emphasised that everyone is bound to reject an immoral and illegal order, "The distinguishing mark of a 'manifestly unlawful order' should fly like a black flag above the order given… not formal unlawfulness, hidden or half hidden, nor unlawfulness discernible only to the eyes of legal experts…. Unlawfulness appearing on the face of the order itself… Unlawfulness piercing the eye and revolting the heart, be the eye not blind nor the heart stony and corrupt, that is the measure of 'manifest unlawfulness' required to release a soldier from the duty of obedience." p.360, [48]. Similarly, many Nazis were tried at Nuremburg (von Manstein, von Kuchler, etc) and many Japanese generals (Gen. Yamashita) not only for their crimes, but for their refusal, inability to stand up to evil in any form. Jurisprudence takes the view that it is incumbent upon men, especially those in authority, to stand up to evil with all their power.

Is it then that the insistence on passive submission to violent intrusion was somehow intrinsic to Indian ethos, or is it that the revolutionaries internalised the essence of Indian nationhood? The dilemma is foundational as India existed as a civilisational nation long before the British arrived. No one man, or even a group, ought to therefore have the liberty to redefine Indian nationhood without a critical appraisal of the consistency of their chosen definition with pre-existing civilisational ethos as also the advantages and disadvantages of the same. For, a nation is but defined by its intrinsic cultural ethos. Indeed, "a nation never means a land as such. A nation indicates a group or a community of people which has been traditionally living in a particular land, which has its own distinctive culture, and which has an identity separate from other peoples of the world by virtue of the distinctiveness of its culture. The cultural distinctiveness of a nation may be based on its race, or religion, or language, or a combination of some or all of these factors, but all-in-all there has to be a distinct culture which will mark the nation out from peoples belonging to other lands. Third, there may be internal differences in several respects among the people belonging to this culture, but in spite of these differences there is an overall sense of harmony born out of the fundamental elements of their culture, and a sense of pride which inspires in them a desire to maintain their separate identity from the rest of the world. Finally, as a result of these factors, this group of people has its own outlook towards the history of its traditional homeland; it has its own heroes and villains, its own view of glory and shame, success and failure, victory and defeat.'' p. 3, [45], [12]

Given the polar opposite views of Indian nationhood espoused by the two sets of protagonists the questions the following questions naturally emerge. How would ancient India, living through its golden ages, have reacted to aggression, invasion and persecution? What Indic spiritual as well as political traditions expected from children of Mother India to overcome persecution and remove the calumny that slavery was? How is a "Mahatma" claiming to be following the Indic spiritual traditions supposed to behave himself, and guide the freedom fighters? What do Indic spiritual traditions and political traditions say about application and operation of Doctrine of Ahimsa in such circumstances? Who constituted natural inheritors of Indic values and who represented civilisational aberrations? Who better to resolve this dilemma than the protagonists representing the contrasting principles themselves? Indeed, revolutionaries engaged Gandhi in a longstanding debate, spanning the period between 1922 to 1930, towards this very end. We reproduce and analyse parts of this discourse in this article considering the benchmarks as enshrined in Great Epics Ramayana and Mahabharata (Bhagwat Gita forms part of Mahabharata) which have captured the popular Indic imagination since times immemorial and from which both Gandhi as well as revolutionaries quote during their debate. We shall also peep into Jain, Buddhist and Vaishnavite traditions, of the last Gandhi claimed to be an ardent follower.

We will argue that Gandhi accomplished the duality of the subversion of Hindu religion through abuse of state powers and the subversion of  state (and nation) through misappropriation of religion. His stated thoughts were largely derived from the Tolstoy school in particular and Christianity in general, while the revolutionaries were knowingly or unknowingly fundamentally rooted in Hindu values. Gandhi, therefore, constituted a civilisational aberration, while the revolutionaries therefore represented the civilisational ethos that emerged from the ancient land of India. Gandhi, in fact, seriously considered converting to Christianity, but did not, either because he found Christian beliefs enshrined within Hinduism (stated reason), or because he did not want to alienate the Hindu masses. He reinterpreted and reconstructed Hindu sacred texts, in light of Abrahamic philosophy, likely to facilitate his quest for power, which went largely unchallenged owing to the aura surrounding his persona among the masses. The personality cult of Gandhi, which was substantially facilitated by commercial interests and the colonial regime, thereby subverted the Hindu religion. Despite his well-publicised disassociations from proselytising, he facilitated the same through organisation of congregations where missionaries preached to Hindus, by promoting resolutions that explicitly supported conversions, and most importantly by basing his messages and actions on core principles of Christianity above and beyond repeated allusions to New Testament and Jesus Christ (tacitly encouraging his comparisons with Christ, the saviour).  He imposed on Indian polity those attributes of Christianity that weakened a state (eg, non-resistance of evil by force, seeking to convert opponents by inducing mass suffering, etc), and which have been eschewed in practice by the Western nations (in Europe and North America). He succeeded in the above mission because of his enormous reach among the Hindu masses which in turn owed to the attribution of Hindu religiosity to his persona. p. 126-127, 230, [1], Section B.2.1 [6]. The state (and nation) was, therefore, subverted through abuse of religion. In return, he was projected as the second Christ in Europe and USA by missionaries and his disciples of foreign origin, and he became the most celebrated Indian worldwide. Thus, a personality cult and an individual's quest for political power led to the subversion of state using religion and religion using state.     

Section A: Profiles of Revolutionaries who debated with Gandhi

The Partition of Bengal in 1905 had led to the rise of a large number of organisations, all of whom aimed at the freedom of India.  Originally, they were more limited in their aims (such as undoing the Partition of Bengal, but soon they outgrew those aims). The most famous of the ones that grew in Bengal are the Anushilan Samiti and the Jugantar Groups. A group led by Lala Hardayal, Ajit Singh and Sufi Ambaprasad operated in Punjab and the western parts of the United Provinces, Abhinav Bharat in Maharashtra and several groups in Madras, Mysore, Central Provinces and Berar and Rajputana were also very active during this time. Outside India, the India House of Shyamji Krishna Verma, based in UK, was one of the earliest groups to advocate revolutionary activity to free India. The India House moved to Paris, after the notoriety it earned in London. The Ghadar Party that came to existence in the US, under the influence of Lala Hardayal, also did enormous amount of work in the US.  After the flight of Lala Hardayal to Geneva, the work was carried on by Ram Chandra. In WW1, a large number of revolutionary attempts were made by various organisations. However, most of them miscarried. Out of these failures was born the Hindustan Republican Association, to which most of those who debated Gandhi belonged [66].

We now provide a brief history of three named revolutionaries who had engaged in a debate with Gandhi [66].  

Born in Benares, Shachindranath Sanyal established there a revolutionary organisation called Anushilan Samiti  in 1909. He came in close touch with important Bengal revolutionaries like Pratul Chandra Ganguli and Rasbehari Bose. During the First World War, he, along with Girija Babu, the representative of Anushilan Samiti, became lieutenants of Rash Behari Bose, and planned for the overthrow of the British Government with the help of the army (Ghadar conspiracy). He went underground after it was exposed in February 1915, was arrested, and transported for life to Andaman in the Banaras conspiracy case. Despite best efforts, police could not find enough evidence to hang him in the Delhi conspiracy case (in which Master Amir Chand, Balmukund etc. were sentenced to be hanged) and gave him another life sentence p. 63, [40]. He was released in 1919-1920 as part of the First World War victory celebrations of the British p. 64, [40]. He initially retired from active politics and wrote a memoir, Bandi Jeeban, depicting the hard struggle of the revolutionaries in and outside prison, which many revolutionaries found inspirational p. 64, [40]. Subsequently, he resumed his revolutionary activities, and along with other revolutionaries, founded the Hindustan Republican Association, uniting two groups of revolutionaries functioning in UP p. 67, [40]. Fellow revolutionary, Manmathanath Gupta, has assessed him as: "Sachindranath Sanyal was not only a good conspirator, but was a scholar, writer and orator of no mean merit. He at once gave the amalgamated party a name, a constitution and a revolutionary status. His very name was a sure guarantee about the integrity of the party. The party was named Hindustan Republican Association. Its ultimate objective was the federated republic of the United states of India, but its immediate objective was the attainment of Indian independence by an armed and organised revolution'' p. 67, [40]. Hindustan Republican Association would embark on multiple daring exploits throughout North India between 1925-1930 (Kakori train hold up, assassination of Saunders, dropping a bomb in Central Assembly, Delhi) and count among its ranks eminent revolutionaries as Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Rajguru, Chandrasekhar Azad, et al.

In 1925, Sanyal initiated a debate with Gandhi, writing to him with a pseudonym. The letter was published along with Gandhi's response in Young India on February 12, 1925. Sanyal was arrested shortly afterwards from Calcutta, (between February 12, 1925 and April 9, 1925) p. 78, [40], and sentenced to two years of rigorous imprisonment for issuing a revolutionary leaflet likes of which were widely distributed in UP and beyond (many were seized in different places in UP). His grandson, Saurabh Sanyal, has mentioned to us that he was arrested in 1923, which means he either wrote the letter before he was arrested and the letter was mailed later, or he wrote the letter from jail, which was smuggled out by his colleagues. The former option is ruled out since he has written in the letter that Gandhi had tried out his nonviolent noncooperation movement for four years - the noncooperation movement was launched in September 1920 - thus the letter was written at the end of 1924. The latter option is possible as Manmathanath Gupta, who had mailed the letter has written that Rajendra Lahiri, who was later hanged, had brought the letter to him from Allahabad - thus Gupta did not get the letter directly from Sanyal. But Gupta states that Sanyal was free around the time the letter was mailed, and he was asked to mail the letter because "the idea was perhaps that in case there was a police enquiry Sanyal should not be arrested'' p. 71, [40]. We have used Gupta's timeline subsequently in this article, with the understanding that Saurabh Sanyal's timeline could also apply, and our analysis would remain the same notwithstanding). Sanyal was also tried in the Kakori train hold up (incident on August 9, 1925) case, and given a second life imprisonment primarily on the ground that he was formerly a lifer under similar charges. After Congress formed provincial government in the then United Province, he was released along with other Kakori conspiracy convicts in 1937 pp. 247, 386, [40]. Subhas Chandra Bose visited him in Lucknow in 1938 at his house and discussed how to start a full-fledged struggle to oust the British. Sanyal suggested that public consciousness be enhanced through continual martyrdom of revolutionaries which would lead to a nationwide revolution. (We have received this information from Shachindranath Sanyal's grandson, Saurabh Sanyal - Sachindranath's wife, late Smt Pratibha Sanyal, and their son, Ranajit  Sanyal, then studying in Class 12, were present during the meeting. Ranajit Sanyal currently lives in Calcutta). Shachindranath Sanyal was sent back to jail, developed TB there during the Second World War, was released from jail, went to Bhowali TB Sanatorium but failed to recover and breathed his last in Gorakhpur early in 1945 pp. 398-399, [39]. His ancestral family home in Varanasi was confiscated by the British government. The tragedy is that it has not been returned to his descendants even after 66 years of transfer of power (as confirmed by his grand nephew and acclaimed author Sanjeev Sanyal).

Manmath Nath Gupta was born on February 7, 1908 in Benaras (Varanasi) and was a meritorious student of Kashi Vidyapith p. 405, [39]. In 1921, at the age of 13, he was arrested for distributing pamphlets in the Gadolia area of Benares calling for a boycott of the reception of the Edward, Prince of Wales by the Maharaja of Benares. He refused to cooperate during the court proceedings, and was jailed for three months. After his release, he joined the Hindustan Revolutionary Association. Manmath Nath Gupta had mailed Sanyal's letter to Gandhi in early 1925, and his handwriting appeared on the envelope p. 71, [40]. After Sanyal's arrest in February-March 1925, he continued Sanyal's debate with Gandhi in two successive letters to Gandhi, which he signed as "A Revolutionary". The letters were published along with Gandhi's response in Young India in April, May 1925 p. 405, [39], pp. 78, p. 84, [40]. On August 9,1925, ten revolutionaries including Manmath Nath Gupta stopped a train near Kakori and looted the government treasury being transported in it. A passenger named Ahmed Ali was killed in this action by the bullet fired by Manmath. He was arrested along with all other revolutionaries and tried as the youngest Kakori accused, but being a teenager at that time, he was sentenced for 14 years' rigorous imprisonment instead of death sentence. When he was released in 1937 he started writing against the British government. He was again arrested in 1939 and imprisoned for life, and eventually released in 1946. Post independence, he earned fame as a Hindi writer p. 405, [39], wrote several books on the history of the revolutionaries, including his own life story, all of which are valuable sources of information about the lives they led and their activities during the time. He died in 2000.  

Bhagwati Charan Vohra was born on July 4, 1904 in Lahore. He left college to join the Satyagraha movement in 1921, and after the movement was called off, joined National College, Lahore where he got a BA degree. It was there that he was initiated into the revolutionary movement. In 1926, he was appointed the propaganda secretary of the Naujawan Bharat Sabha which was formed in the same year by Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev. In September 1928, when the Hindustan Republican Association was reorganised as the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) under the leadership of Chandrasekhar Azad, Vohra was appointed its propaganda secretary and prepared the HSRA manifesto that was widely distributed at the time of the Lahore Session of the Congress. In 1929, he rented Room No 69, Kashmir Building, Lahore and used it as a bomb factory. Vohra planned and executed the December 23, 1929 bomb blast under the train of Viceroy Irwin on the Delhi-Agra railway line. The viceroy escaped unhurt and Gandhi condemned the act and thanked God for the narrow escape of the Viceroy, through his article titled "The Cult of the Bomb" published in Young India on January 2, 1930. Vohra, in consultation with Azad, wrote an article titled "The Philosophy of Bomb" in response to Gandhi's piece, which dismissed Gandhi's support for the viceroy with contempt. Vohra died in Lahore on May 28, 1930 while testing a bomb on the banks of the Ravi. The device was required for the proposed rescue of Bhagat Singh and others under trial in the Lahore Conspiracy Case but it exploded during the test and he was severely wounded. Chandrasekhar Azad, Dhanwantari and other revolutionaries came to the site where Vohra lay dead after hearing the news. They did not dare to cremate him, but dug a trench to bury him. When an approver revealed all this, his bones were dug out as corroboration of truthfulness of the approver p. 388, [40].

We have analysed the debates cited above in this article, as also the questions a freedom fighter, who was about to join the revolutionary movement sent to Gandhi, which Gandhi answered on May 21, 1925 in Young India. The name of the last freedom fighter is not known thus far. By end of 1931, the revolutionaries (those whose names are known) were either dead or exiled, and were not in a position to respond any further to Gandhi. Thus ended the debate.   

Section B: Fundamental questions that recur throughout the debate  

We start with by presenting some fundamental questions posed by Shachindranath Sanyal and Gandhi's responses that would represent a conflict of concepts or rather a malady of misinterpretations.

Sanyal [12/2/1925, A Revolutionary's Defence]: Non-violent non-co-operation movement failed not because there was sporadic  outburst  of suppressed feelings here and there but because the movement was lacking in a worthy ideal. The ideal that you preached was not in keeping with Indian culture and traditions. It savoured of imitation. . . . It was not the spirit of kshama of the Indian rishis, it was not the spirit of ahimsa of the great Indian yogis. It was an imperfect physical mixture of Tolstoyism and Buddhism and not a chemical mixture of East and West. You adopted the Western methods of Congress and Conferences and tried to persuade the whole nation to accept the spirit of ahimsa, irrespective of desh, kal and patra like Tolstoy, but which was a matter of individual sadhana with the Indians. And above all, you were and are still vague as regards India's ultimate political goal. This is miserable. Your idea of independence is not in consistence with Indian ideals. India stands for 'sarvam paravasham dukhham sarvam atmavasham sukham' and for the ideal that individual existence is solely for the purpose of humanity and through humanity serving God. Jagat-hitaya Srikrishnaya cha. The non-violence that India preaches is not non-violence for the sake of non-violence, but non-violence for the good of humanity,  and  when this good for humanity will demand violence and bloodshed, India will not hesitate to shed blood just in the same way as a surgical operation necessitates the shedding of blood. To an ideal Indian, violence or non-violence has the same significance provided they ultimately do good to humanity. Vinashaya cha dushkrita was not spoken in vain. To my mind, therefore, the ideal that you gave to the nation or the programme of action that you laid before it is neither consistent with Indian culture nor practicable as a political programme. pp. 244-245, [26]

Lastly, I would like to say something about the remarks you have made in connection with the strength of the British Empire. You have said to the revolutionaries: "Those whom you seek to depose are better armed and infinitely better organised than you are." But is it not shameful that a handful of Englishmen are able to rule India, not by the free consent of the Indian people but by the force of the sword? And if the English can be well-armed and well-organized why can the Indians be not better armed and better organized still - Indians who are saturated with the high principles of spirituality? Indians are men in the same sense as the Englishmen are. Then, what on earth makes the Indians so helpless as to think that they can never be better organized than their English masters? By what argument and logic of fact can you disprove the possibilities in which the revolutionaries have immense faith? And the spirit of non-violence that arises out of this sense of helplessness and despair can never be the non-violence of the strong, the nonviolence of the Indian rishis. This is tamas pure and simple? p. 247, [26] 

Gandhi [12/2/1925, To Sanyal, A Revolutionary's Defence]: "I do not believe that 'my philosophy' is an indifferent mixture of Tolstoy and Buddha. I do not know what it is except that it is what I feel to be true. It sustains me. I owe much to Tolstoy and much to Buddha. I still somehow or other fancy that 'my philosophy' represents the true meaning of the teaching of the Gita. I may be totally mistaken. Such a mistake can do no harm either to me or to anybody. For the source of my inspiration is of no consequence if what I stand for be unadulterated truth.

Let the philosophy I represent be tested on its own merits. I hold that the world is sick of armed rebellions. I hold too that whatever may be true of other countries, a bloody revolution will not succeed in India. The masses will not respond. A movement in which masses have no active part can do no good to them. A successful bloody revolution can only mean further misery for the masses. For it would be still foreign rule for them. The non-violence I teach is active nonviolence of the strongest. But the weakest can partake in it without becoming weaker. They can only be the stronger for having been in it. The masses are far bolder today than they ever were. A non violent struggle necessarily involves construction on a mass scale. It cannot therefore lead to tamas or darkness or inertia. It means a quickening of the national life. That movement is still going on silently, almost imperceptibly but none the less surely." p. 248, [26]

Thus, Sanyal contended that a) Gandhi's philosophy was "an indifferent mix of Tolstoyism and Buddhism"; b) Hinduism does not preach non-violence and non-resistance at all times, and there are times when one is obliged to fight for what one believes in; and, c) It is a matter of national shame that a handful of Englishmen are able to lord it over the country.

Gandhi denied Sanyal's contentions.  

Bhagwati Charan Vohra of HSRA has asked a brilliant question in a HSRA manifesto: were the revolutionaries really practising violence? p. 206, [33]

Bhagwati Charan Vohra [The Cult of the Bomb, 1930]: Let us, first of all, take up the question of violence and non-violence. We think that the use of these terms in itself is a grave injustice to either party, for they express the ideals of neither of them correctly. Violence is physical force applied for committing injustice, and that is certainly not what the revolutionaries stand for. On the other hand, what generally goes by the name of non-violence, is in reality the theory of soul-force, as applied to the attainment of  personal and national rights through courting suffering and hoping thus to finally convert your opponent to your point of view. When a revolutionary believes certain things to be his right he asks for them, pleads for them, argues for them, wills to attain them with all the soul-force at his command, stands the greatest amount of suffering for them, is always prepared to make the highest sacrifice for their attainment, and also backs his efforts with all the physical force he is capable of. You may coin what other word you like to describe his methods but you cannot call it violence, because that would constitute an outrage on the dictionary meaning of that word. Satyagraha is insistence upon truth. Why press, for the acceptance of truth, by soul-force alone? Why not add physical force to it? While the revolutionaries stand for winning independence by all forces, physical as well as moral, at their command, the advocates of soul-force would like to ban the use of physical force. The question really, therefore, is not whether you will have violence, but whether you will have soul-force plus physical force or soul-force alone? p. 206, [33]

We will show that Vohra's contention that the revolutionaries were not practising violence followed directly from the exposition of Ahimsa in Bhagavad Gita, despite the fact that he was influenced by socialism or even Marxism.        

Another important concept that emerges from the debate is that Gandhi strongly believed in the concept of God, almighty, who is not subject to the norms of mortals, and who should therefore not be emulated. We show that from times immemorial, Indics have considered celestial beings, including Gods, as near and dear - a son, a brother, a mother, a beloved and a friend. Their manifestations in earth, in form of avatars, rarely exerted their divine might, and accomplished their goals through efforts that mortals would be capable of. They were also shown to be fallible to human weaknesses and to accept the consequences thereof. He also sought to reinterpret, reconstruct  timeless Hindu sacred texts of Mahabharata as also Ramayana, and the avatars therein, Krishna, Rama (he dwells only on Krishna and Mahabharata in this debate and on Rama and Ramayana in other writings which we would present in subsequent section). He also sought to selectively adopt parts of these texts which are in consonance with his worldview or political ends.

The following excerpts from the debate reveal Gandhi's thoughts in this topic.

Gandhi [12/3/1925, To Another Revolutionary]: India's way is not Europe's. India is not Calcutta and Bombay. India lives in her seven hundred thousand villages. If the revolutionaries are as many let them spread out into these villages and try to bring sunshine into the dark dungeons of the millions of their countrymen. That would be worthier of their ambition and love of the land than the exciting and unquenchable thirst for the blood of English officials and those who are assisting them. It is nobler to try to change their spirit than to take their lives…. A well-meaning and self-sacrificing physician who prescribes arsenic when he should have given fresh grape juice is one to be shunned in spite of his good intentions and even sacrifice. I invite the revolutionaries not to commit suicide and drag with them unwilling victims. p. 397, [27]  

Gupta [9/4/1925, My Friend The Revolutionary]: "India's path is not Europe's". Do you really believe it? Do you mean to say that warfare and organisation of army was not in existence in India, before she came in contact with Europe? Warfare for fair cause - Is it against the spirit of India? Vinashaya cha dushkritam - Is it something imported from Europe? Granted that it is, will you be fanatic enough not to take from Europe what is good? Do you believe that nothing good is possible in Europe? If conspiracy, bloodshed and sacrifice for fair cause are bad for India, will they not be bad as well for Europe?.... Will you like to call Krishna Europeanised because he believed also in the vinasha of dushkritas?" pp. 139-141, [28]

Gandhi [9/4/1925, To Gupta, My Friend The Revolutionary]: "I believe in Krishna perhaps more than the writer. But my Krishna is the Lord of the universe, the creator, preserver and destroyer of us all. He may destroy because He creates." pp. 141-142, [28]

Gandhi [9/4/1925, To Gupta, My Friend The Revolutionary]: "I do not deny that India had armies, warfare, etc., before she came in contact with Europe. But I do say that it never was the normal course of Indian life. The masses, unlike those of Europe were untouched by the warlike spirits. I have already said in these pages that I ascribe to the Gita, from which the writer has quoted the celebrated verse, a totally different meaning from that ordinarily given. I do not regard it as a description of, or an exhortation to, physical warfare. And, in any case, according to the verse quoted it is God the All Knowing Who descends to the earth to punish the wicked. I must be pardoned if I refuse to regard every revolutionary as an all knowing God or an avatar. I do not condemn everything European. But I condemn, for all climes and for all times, secret murders and unfair methods even for a fair cause." p.139, [28]

Gandhi [30/4/1925, to another revolutionary, "Revolutionary In The Making"]: "It is idle to drag in the name of Krishna. Either we believe him to be the very God or we do not. If we do, we impute to him omniscience and omnipotence. Such a one can surely destroy. But we are puny mortals ever erring and ever revising our views and opinions. We may not without coming to grief ape Krishna, the inspirer of the Gita." pp. 223-224, [29]

Gandhi [5/5/1925, To Gupta, At It Again]: "I have already stated my meaning of the Gita. It deals with the eternal duel between good and evil. And who does not, like Arjuna, often quail when the dividing line between good and evil is thin and when the right choice is so difficult?" pp. 288-289, [30].

Gandhi [21/5/1925, to one who is about to become a revolutionary, On the Verge of It]: "Is not all logic and reason discarded where vital interests of life are concerned? It is not a fact that a few selfish, tyrant and obdurate men may, as they do, refuse to listen to reason and continue to rule, tyrannize and do injustice to a mass of people? Lord Krishna failed to bring about a settlement peacefully between the obdurate Kauravas and the Pandavas. Mahabharata may be fiction. Poor Krishna may be less spiritual. But even you failed to persuade your judge to resign from his post and not convict you, whom even he, as everybody else, regarded innocent. How far can persuasion through self-sacrifice be successful in such cases?'' p. 372-373, [31]

Gandhi [21/5/1925, to one who is about to become a revolutionary, On the Verge of It]: "Krishna failed to do nothing he wished to do, so says the author of the Mahabharata. He was omnipotent. It is futile to drag Krishna from His heights. If he has to be judged as a mere mortal, I fear He will fare badly and will have to take a back seat. Mahabharata is neither fiction nor history commonly so called. It is the history of the human soul in which God as Krishna is the chief actor. There are many things in that poem that my poor understanding cannot fathom. There are in it many things which are obvious interpolations. It is not a treasure chest. It is a mine which needs to be explored, which needs to be dug deep and from which diamonds have to be extracted after removing much foreign matter. Therefore, I would urge my friends, the full-fledged revolutionaries, or those in the making, or on the verge of being such, to keep their feet firm on mother earth and not scale the Himalayan heights to which the poet took Arjuna and his other heroes. Anyway, I must respectfully refuse even to attempt the ascent. The plains of Hindustan are good enough for me." p. 373, [31].

Section C: Gandhi's contemporaries thought he was a Christian

Shachindranath Sanyal had mentioned that Gandhi's views were a mal-assimilation of Tolstoy and Buddha, and disjoint from Indic ethos. It turns out that many other contemporaries of Gandhi had considered him a Christian in essence.

First, Aurobindo Ghosh essentially agreed with Sanyal in a conversation with a disciple on June 22, 1926. pp. 175-176, [50]:

"(A disciple:) Are Indians more spiritual than other people?

Aurobindo: No, it is not so, No nation is entirely spiritual. Indians are not more spiritual than other people. But behind the Indian race there lives the past spiritual influence.

Disciple: Some prominent national workers in India seem to me to be incarnations of some European force here.

Aurobindo: They may not be incarnations, but they may be strongly influenced by European thought. For instance, Gandhi is a European - truly, a Russian Christian in an Indian body. And there are some Indians in European bodies! Yes. When the Europeans say that he is more Christian than many Christians (some even say that he is 'Christ of the modern times') they are perfectly right. All his preaching is derived from Christianity, and though the garb is Indian the essential spirit is Christian. He may not be Christ, but at any rate he comes in continuation of the same impulsion. He is largely influenced by Tolstoy, the Bible, and has a strong Jain tinge in his teachings; at any rate more than by the Indian scriptures - the Upanishads or the Gita, which he interprets in the light of his own ideas.

Disciple: Many educated Indians consider Gandhi a spiritual man.

Aurobindo: Yes, because the Europeans call him spiritual. But what he preaches is not Indian spirituality but something derived from Russian Christianity, non-violence, suffering, etc. The Russians are a queer mixture of strength and weakness. They have got a passion in their intellect, say, a passionate intellect. They have a distracted and restless emotional being, but there is something behind it which is very fine and psychic, though their soul is not very healthy. And therefore I am not right in saying that Gandhi is a Russian Christian, because he is so very dry. He has got the intellectual passion and a great moral will-force, but he is more dry than the Russians. The gospel of suffering that he is preaching has its root in Russia as nowhere else in Europe - other Christian nations don't believe in it. At the most they have it in the mind, but the Russians have got it in their very blood. They commit a mistake in preaching the gospel of suffering, but we also commit in India a mistake in preaching the idea of vairagya [disgust with the world].

We now adduce what other contemporary common Hindus and practising Christians thought of Gandhi's religious beliefs.

Missionary Stanley Jones has written that Indians likened Gandhi to Jesus Christ: "In a recent Congress meeting Mohammed Ali, the leader of the Mussulmans of India, in his presidential address spoke of Mahatma Gandhi as 'that Christlike man'. Again and again, Hindus rise in my meetings and ask if I do not think that Mahatma Gandhi is a Christ-like man. I usually reply that I cordially differ with him in a good many things, nevertheless do think in some things he is a very Christ-like man indeed. I have had them reply that they would go much further: they believed that he was the incarnation of Christ. A Hindu gave utterance to the same thought when listening to a preacher preaching in the bazaar in North India on the second coming of Christ: 'Why do you preach on the second coming of Christ? He has already come - he is here-Gandhi.' Blasphemy? That is not the point - the point is that Gandhi is their ideal, and they are identifying that ideal with Jesus. It is the gripping of the mind by the Jesus ideal.

Even the Arya Samaj, which is our bitterest opponent and whose leader said in a recent speech, 'You may forget your name, you may forget your mother, but do not forget that the missionaries are the enemies of your country and your civilisation' - nevertheless, in a recent editorial in their principal organ, the Vedic magazine, they call Gandhi 'This modern Christ'. Against the missionary, but unconsciously for his message - Christ!" Chapter III, The Growing Moral and Spiritual Supremacy of Jesus, [15].

It is quite possible that Gandhi and his coterie had deliberately brought into national consciousness the ostensible similarities between Gandhi and Christ. We quote an interview by Louis Fischer on  June 26, 1946 in New Delhi (the first person here refers to Fischer and the second and third persons  to Gandhi): "Gandhiji asked about the rumours of war with Russia. I said there was a good deal of talk about war but perhaps it was only talk. 'You should turn your attention to the West,' I added. He replied: 'I? I have not convinced India. There is violence all around us. I am a spent bullet.' Since the end of the Second World War, I suggested, many Europeans and Americans were conscious of a spiritual emptiness. He might fill a corner of it. 'But I am an Asiatic. A mere Asiatic.' He laughed, then after a pause: 'Jesus was an Asiatic.'" p. 53, [59], p. 203, [20]  

Albert West, a close associate and inmate of Gandhi's Phoenix Settlement, who managed Indian Opinion for over fourteen years, averred, "On the wall of his office was a framed engraving of the head of Jesus Christ, and it occupied a place over his desk. Perhaps this started off our conversations on spiritual matters, which showed me how Gandhi, a Hindu, could be, at the same time, one of the most thorough followers of Christ's teachings that I ever met even among professing Christians. He had a good knowledge of the New Testament, and he put into actual day-to-day practice the principles laid down in the Sermon on the Mount." [60], p. 76, [59].

Gandhi's close friend, Millie Polak has written how one of her visitors assumed Gandhi to be a Christian owing to his frequent quotations of the teachings of Christ. She also mentioned the head of Jesus Christ that Allan West alluded to above. She has written: "'Is Mr Gandhi a Christian?' a visitor to my first home in Johannesburg once asked me. 'Do you mean one who is converted to Christianity?' I replied, 'or one who believes in the teaching of Christ?' 'One who has been what we call converted,' she said. 'I thought, and I have heard it said, that Mr Gandhi was born a Christian. Is that so?' 'Oh, no!' I said emphatically, 'I know he was not born a Christian, nor has he been admitted to the Christian Church. But why do you ask this question?' 'I was talking about him with some friends the other day, and we were wondering how it is he knows the Christian scriptures so well, and seems to be fond of quoting the words of Christ. My friends thought he must be a Christian.' After she had gone, I thought over what my visitor had said. It was quite true; Mr Gandhi very frequently quoted the sayings and teachings of Jesus. The lesson of the 'Sermon on the Mount' seemed to be constantly in his mind, and was a source of guidance and inspiration to him. I had not thought it strange that this was so, for I had been so accustomed, in my home-life in England, to hear frequent quotations from the Scriptures that it seemed a normal part of life, and I had not hitherto realised that it might appear strange to hear the sayings of Jesus fall from the lips of a Hindu. I went over a number of things in my mind, and thought of Mr Gandhi's office in town. I recalled the beautiful head of Christ that adorned the wall over his desk. When I noticed it the first time, I had said to him: 'How beautiful that is!' 'Yes,' he replied, looking up to it; 'I love to have it there. I see it each time I raise my eyes from my desk. It is, indeed, beautiful!' I remembered there was no picture of the Buddha or of Krishna in the office, and only three other pictures were to be seen on the walls. I learned some details about them later. One was of Justice Ranade, the great Indian social reformer. Another was of Mrs Besant, ever eager to defend the downtrodden and to denounce injustice. The third picture was of Sir William Wilson Hunter, editor of the Imperial Gazeteer of India, who had written very strongly in The Times against the system of Indian indentured labour, which he had described as 'semi-slavery'. At home was a large photograph of Dadabhai Naoroji, who was, in his day, known as the 'Grand Old Man of India'. .... All these photographs portrayed those who were fighting for the liberation of the oppressed and so were dear to Mr Gandhi's heart; but in the centre of his room, dominating it, gazing calmly down upon him as he sat and worked at his desk, was the face of Christ.'' pp. 19-20, [21]. 

We will show that Gandhi's stated thoughts have largely been consistent with Christian philosophy in general, and the Tolstoy school in particular. Parts of his exposition overlapped with different Indic philosophies, such as Jainism and Vaishnavism, but only to the extent that they overlapped with Christianity; Gandhi largely followed the Christian school wherever it departed from the above mentioned branches of Indic philosophy. Given the deep impact of Christianity on him, one may wonder why Gandhi did not formally embrace it, and more, always affirmed his Hindu identity. We first seek to explain this dichotomy.   

Gandhi did seriously deliberate on converting, but ostensibly  rejected the consideration after realising that he could believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ, and become a good Christian while remaining a good Hindu. His friend Millie Polak has reported a conversation with him as follows: "He [Gandhi] smiled. 'I did once seriously think of embracing the Christian faith,' he said. 'The gentle figure of Christ, so patient, so kind, so loving, so full of forgiveness that he taught His followers not to retaliate when abused or struck, but to turn the other cheek-I thought it was a beautiful example of the perfect man.' 'But you did not embrace Christianity, did you?' I [Millie Polak] asked. 'No,' he replied thoughtfully. 'I studied your Scriptures for some time and thought earnestly about them. I was tremendously attracted to Christianity; but eventually I came to the conclusion that there was nothing really in your Scriptures that we had not got in ours, and that to be a good Hindu also meant that I would be a good Christian. There was no need for me to join your creed to be a believer in the beauty of the teachings of Jesus or to try to follow His example.'... 'What do you think is the essential lesson for man in the teaching of Christianity?' he continued. 'I could think of two or three; but the one that stands out strongest in my mind at the moment is Love, which is expressed in the words, 'One is your Master, Christ, and all ye are brethren.' 'Yes,' replied Mr Gandhi, 'and Hinduism teaches the same great truth, and Mohammedanism and Zoroastrianism, too.'" pp. 20-21, [21]. It is possible that Gandhi did not convert to Christianity so as not to alienate the practising Hindu masses of India. He clearly had strong political ambitions and at least two-thirds of undivided India in which he functioned practiced Hinduism, and Hindus socially ostracised the deserters in his times (conversion out of Hinduism led to social death for the convert in the words of Gandhi's contemporary, Stanley Jones, Chapter IV, Jesus Comes Through Irregular Channels-Mahatma Gandhi's Part, [15]). Of the remaining one-third of the populace, most were Muslims, and so the Christian segment was insignificant to provide a convert tangible political benefits in terms of mass connect.

We next describe the impact of Christianity on Gandhi's world view which would explain why his contemporaries saw him as a Christian.

Section D: Resist not evil by force - Tolstoy or Indic? 

Gandhi led India's freedom struggle based on the core stated principles that  Hindus must not resist  evil (British or Muslim rioters) by force under any circumstance (ignoring an aberration in 1942 which was primarily driven by a specific opportunistic consideration Section A, [13]) but must seek to convert evil to good through their moral superiority. The genesis of this dictum can largely be traced to Tolstoy and is in conflict with Indic Dharma. Tolstoy's own principles were deeply influenced by other unorthodox Christian thinkers like Feuerbach and Fet. This perhaps motivated Aurobindo Ghosh to attribute Gandhi's worldview to Russian Christianity. It is merely the case that Tolstoy's (and his co-workers') Christianity was not the official Russian Orthodox Christianity. Tolstoy was himself excommunicated from the Russian Orthodox Church, and broke off all ties, saying "It is perfectly justifiable that I have renounced the Church that calls itself Orthodox… I renounce all the sacraments… I have truly renounced the Church, I have stopped fulfilling its rites, and I have written in my will to my close ones that they should not allow any clergymen from the Church near me when I will be dying…" [36]. Vitally, Tolstoy had rejected the use of all force even by the state, and had rejected all the sacraments and forms of the Russian Church. This led to his excommunication.

Section D.1: The impact of Tolstoy on  Gandhi  

Gandhi's philosophy harmonises in essence with the Tolstoy interpretation of the Christian commandment of "not to resist evil by force". Evil, Tolstoy averred, in two books, What I believe and The Kingdom of God Is Within You (and many more essays and articles), can never be conquered in force, because Tolstoy saw force itself as an evil. Tolstoy approvingly quoted the Quakers' teachings in p.3, [46], "Indeed, the Quakers gave me details of their so called sect, which for more than 200 years has professed the teaching of Christ, on non-resistance to evil by force and does not make use of weapons in self defence.'' Tolstoy, consequently, had no doubts where the non-resistance to evil by force comes from. Further, he quoted the Quakers, "...duty for a Christian, of fulfilling the command of non-resistance to evil by force, and had exposed the error of the Church's teaching in allowing war and capital punishment." These teachings come from the sermon of Jesus Christ on the mount, according to Tolstoy himself. Thus, Gandhian non-resistance to evil (which definition the British empire fulfilled in more way than one, as Gandhi himself admitted by comparing the British government to a Satan p.140, [28]) has its source, not in Indian theology, but in Christian teachings, or rather, the interpretation of  a segment of it. While the interpretation of Jesus command not to resist evil by force might be in doubt for many Christians of various denominations, Tolstoy and his acolytes had no doubts about its source, though.

Both these books assert that the only way to fight evil is not to resist it by force, but by moral superiority over evil and loving it to conversion. The justifications for this path are all to be found in the teachings of Christ and a repudiation of the Old Testament, and not in secular thought, far less eastern or Indian philosophy. Tolstoy here quotes extensively once more from Christian theology of less well known writers and sects. Once more, he quotes the Quakers, "The history of mankind is crowded with evidences proving that physical coercion is not adapted to moral regeneration, and the sinful dispositions of men can be subdued only by love; that evil can be exterminated only by good; that it is not safe to rely upon the strength of an arm to preserve us from harm; that there is great security in being gentle, long-suffering and abundant in mercy; that it is only the meek who shall inherit the earth; for those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword." p.5, [46].  

In one stroke, the above paragraph has also summed up the argument of Gandhi. That people should be long suffering and love the evil (British system) into becoming good. For this end, Gandhi was willing to sacrifice as many Indians as necessary, while exempting himself from being worthy of accepting that cup of martyrdom, which he generously handed over to the others. Now, what is the source of this wisdom of the Quakers, which Tolstoy quotes so approvingly, and Gandhi accepted so wholeheartedly?

The Quakers have this to say, which is again quoted by Tolstoy, p. 5, [46]. "Hence, as a measure of sound policy of safety to property, life, and liberty of public quietude, and private enjoyment as well as on the ground of allegiance to him, who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, we cordially adopt the non-resistance principle."

Further, Tolstoy quotes another Christian preacher, Adin Ballou, "Jesus is my Lord and Teacher, ... Jesus forbids me to resist evil doers, and to take from them, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, bloodshed for bloodshed, and life for life." p.6, [46].

Indeed, Gandhi's recommendation to Sikhs and Hindus to die without resisting in Punjab also comes from Tolstoy, p. 7, [46].

"Q: But if only a few act thus (without resisting evil), what will happen to them?

A: If only one man acted thus and all the rest crucified him, would it not be nobler for him to die in the glory of not-resisting force, praying for his enemies, than to live to wear the crown of Caesar, stained with the blood of the slain?"

We reproduce some of Gandhi's relevant speeches during partition to exhibit the similarity [25]:

"If all the Punjab were to die to the last man without killing, the Punjab would become immortal. It is more valiant to get killed than to kill. Of course, my condition is that even if we are facing death we must not take up arms against them.....One thousand lost their lives of course, but not like brave men. I would have liked the sixteen who escaped by hiding to come into the open and courted death. More is the pity. What a difference it would have made if they had bravely offered themselves as a nonviolent, willing sacrifice!''  (4/4/1947)  p. 230,  [51].

"Hindus should not harbor anger in their hearts against Muslims even if the latter wanted to destroy them. Even if the Muslims want to kill us all we should face death bravely. If they established their rule after killing Hindus we would be ushering in a new world by sacrificing our lives. None should fear death. Birth and death are inevitable for every human being. Why should we then rejoice or grieve? If we die with a smile we shall enter into a new life, we shall be ushering in a new India." (6/4/1947)  pp. 248-249, [52].   

"Today a Hindu from Rawalpindi narrated the tragic events that had taken place there. Fifty-eight of his companions were killed just because they were Hindus. He and his son alone could survive. The villages around Rawalpindi have been reduced to ashes. The Hindus of the Punjab are seething with anger. The Sikhs say they are followers of Guru Govind Singh who has taught them how to wield the sword. But I would exhort the Hindus and Sikhs again and again not to retaliate. I make bold to say that if Hindus and Sikhs sacrifice their lives at hands of Muslims without rancor or retaliation they will become saviors not only of their own religions but also of Islam and the whole world.''  (7/4/1947)  pp. 254-255, [53]. 

"I would tell the Hindus to face death cheerfully if the Muslims are out to kill them. I would be a real sinner if after being stabbed I wish in my last moment that my son should seek revenge. I must die without rancour.... There is nothing brave about dying while killing. It is an illusion of bravery. The true martyr is one who lays down his life without killing. You may turn around and ask whether all Hindus and Sikhs should die. Yes, I would say. Such martyrdom will not be in vain." (01/05/1947)  pp. 5-6, [54]

Indeed, in the same vein, Tolstoy wrote a charming letter to Taraknath Das in 1906, which is so thoroughly in consonance with Gandhi's own and precedes Gandhian philosophy by many years, that there need be no further elaboration of where Gandhi got his philosophy from. We quote here, verbatim, from [63].

"Yes, in our time all these things must be cleared away in order that mankind may escape from self-inflicted calamities that have reached an extreme intensity. Whether an Indian seeks liberation from subjection to the English, or anyone else struggles with an oppressor of his own nationality or of another; whether it is a Negro defending himself against the North Americans; or whether Persians, Russians, or Turks defend themselves against the Persian, Russian, or Turkish governments; or whether any man is seeking the greatest welfare for himself and for everyone else - they do not need explanations and justifications of old religious superstitions such as have been formulated by your Vivekanandas, Baba Bharatis, and others, or in the Christian world by a number of similar interpreters and exponents of things that nobody needs. Nor do they need the innumerable scientific theories about matters not only unnecessary, but for the most part harmful. (Nothing is indifferent in the spiritual realm; what is not useful is harmful.)

What are wanted for the Indian as well as for the Englishman, the Frenchman, the German, and the Russian are not Constitutions and Revolutions, nor all sorts of Conferences and Congresses, nor the many ingenious devices for submarine and aerial navigation, nor powerful explosives, nor all sorts of conveniences to add to the enjoyment of the rich ruling classes, nor new schools and universities with innumerable faculties of science, nor an augmentation of papers and books, nor gramophones and cinematographs, nor those childish and for the most part corrupt stupidities termed art. Only one thing is needful: the knowledge of the simple and clear truth that finds place in every soul that is not stupefied by religious and scientific superstitions. This is the truth that for our life one law is valid: the law of love, which brings the highest happiness to every individual as well as to all mankind. Free your minds from those overgrown, mountainous imbecilities which hinder your recognition of it, and at once the truth will emerge from amid the pseudo-religious nonsense that has been smothering it. It is the indubitable eternal truth inherent in man, which is one and the same in all the great religions of the world. It will in due time emerge and make its way to general recognition, and the nonsense that has obscured it will disappear of itself, and with it will go the evil from which humanity now suffers."

Thus, Tolstoy sought to persuade the Indian freedom fighters and revolutionaries to love the British system into submission.

Tolstoy had devoted three complete chapters of his book The Kingdom of God is Within You to decry the practice of maintaining armies, and deemed it as "pagan practice".

"'Without governments nations would be enslaved by their neighbours.' It is scarcely necessary to refute this last argument. It carries its refutation on the face of it. The government, they tell us, with its army, is necessary to defend us from neighbouring states who might enslave us. But we know this is what all governments say of one another, and yet we know that all the European nations profess the same principles of liberty and fraternity, and therefore stand in no need of protection against one another. And if defense against barbarous nations is meant, one-thousandth part of the troops now under arms would be amply sufficient for that purpose. We see that it is really the very opposite of what we have been told. The power of the state, far from being a security against the attacks of our neighbours, exposes us, on the contrary, to much greater danger of such attacks. So that every man who is led, through his compulsory service in the army, to reflect on the value of the state for whose sake he is expected to be ready to sacrifice his peace, security, and life, cannot fail to perceive that there is no kind of justification in modern times for such a sacrifice." p. 68, [46].

Gandhian echoed Tolstoy when he wrote, in the conclusion of his book titled Hind Swaraj published in 1908: "To them [English] I would respectfully say: 'I admit you are my rulers. It is not necessary to debate the question whether you hold India by the sword or by my consent. I have no objection to your remaining in my country, but although you are the rulers, you will have to remain as servants of the people. It is not we who have to do as you wish, but it is you who have to do as we wish. You may keep the riches that you have drained away from this land, but you may not drain riches henceforth. Your function will be, if you so wish, to police India; you must abandon the idea of deriving any commercial benefit from us. We hold the civilisation that you support to be the reverse of civilisation. We consider our civilisation to be far superior to yours. If you realise this truth, it will be to your advantage and, if you do not, according to your own proverb, you should only live in our country in the same manner as we do.... We cannot tolerate the idea of your spending money on railways and the military. We see no occasion for either. You may fear Russia; we do not. When she comes we shall look after her. If you are with us, we may then receive her jointly." pp. 306-307, [62], [13].

Army also constitutes resistance of evil by force, which Gandhi is opposed to. It is important to note that Gandhi did not advocate rejection of army on the ground that they were instituted by a foreign power that had no legitimate ground to rule India. Gandhi was in fact willing to allow the English to rule ("police" in his words), if they followed Indian civilisation in India, which he understood as one that does not have army (among other things).   

Then, again in the same book:

EDITOR [Gandhi]: Supposing we get Self-Government similar to what the Canadians and the South Africans have, will it be good enough?

READER: That question also is useless. We may get it when we have the same powers; we shall then hoist our own flag. As is Japan, so must India be. We must own our navy, our army, and we must have our own splendour, and then will India's voice ring through the world.

EDITOR [Gandhi]: You have drawn the picture well. In effect it means this: that we want English rule without the Englishman. You want the tiger's nature, but not the tiger; that is to say, you would make India English. And when it becomes English, it will be called not Hindustan but Englistan. This is not the Swaraj that I want. pp. 255, [62], [13].

Thus, Gandhi's understanding of Hindustan was one without navy and army, quite like Tolstoy's vision for Europe. It is worthwhile to note that the views Gandhi expressed in Hind Swaraj in 1908 did not change in essence over time. In 1921, he had said, "I withdraw nothing except one word of it, and that in deference to a lady friend. The reason is the indelicacy of the expression." pp. 259, [67]. As late as October 5, 1945, he insisted on implementing the essence of Spiritual Swaraj: "I have said that I fully stand by the kind of governance which I have described in Hind Swaraj. It is not just a way of speaking. My experience has confirmed the truth of what I wrote in 1909 .  If I were the only one left who believed in it, I would not be sorry... Granting all this, I can still envisage a number of things that will have to be organised on a large scale. Perhaps there will even be railways and also post and telegraph offices. I do not know what things there will be or will not be. Nor am I bothered about it. If I can make sure of the essential thing, other things will follow in due course. But if I give up the essential thing, I give up everything." pp. 118-119, [68], p. 164, [59].

Gandhi seems to have missed a subtle distinction in Tolstoy's own writings. All non-liberal, non Christian nations are contemptuously referred to collectively as "barbarous nations" by Tolstoy in his book The Kingdom of God is Within You. Indeed, Tolstoy's non-violence does not encompass the "barbarous nations" and even permits, implicitly, maintaining a defensive force against them (though it is ferociously anti-violence in all else). While it decries violence adopted by Christians as a "pagan invention adopted by Christianity" and calls for a return to pure pre-Constantine Christianity where Christians were supposedly non-violent (though no evidence for this is adduced), it is mostly in the context of wars with other liberal Christian nations that peace and non-violence are prescribed. In the passage written by Tolstoy that we quoted above (p. 68, [46]), he was clearly referring to those outside Europe (or rather the, Western Christian world) as "barbarous nations", to whom the teachings of Christ do not apply and against whom the Christian nations may indeed maintain a defensive force.

Lastly, we quote Gandhi from his autobiography on the impact on him of Tolstoy in general and the above book [46] The Kingdom of God is Within You in particular:

1) Three moderns have left a deep impress on my life, and captivated me: Raychandbhai by his living contact; Tolstoy by his book, The Kingdom of God is Within You; and Ruskin by his Unto this Last. (Chapter 26, Raychandbhai  p. 106, [55])

2) Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God is Within You overwhelmed me. It left an abiding impression on me. Before the independent thinking, profound morality, and the truthfulness of this book, all the books given me by Mr Coates seemed to pale into insignificance. (Chapter 40, Religious Ferment, p. 166, [55]) 

3) I made too an intensive study of Tolstoy's books. The Gospels in Brief, What to Do? and other books made a deep impression on me. I began to realise more and more the infinite possibilities of universal love. (Chapter 47, Comparative Study of Religions, p. 192, [55])

Gandhi and his close friend, Herman Kallenbach, founded a farm in South Africa in 1910, which Kallenbach named as Tolstoy Farm [56]. Gandhi lived with Kallenbach and a few Satyagrahi family in the farm between 1910-1913  [56], pp. 399, 400, 405, 406, 409, 410, 412, 414 [55].

It is therefore quite clear that the Father of the Indian nation considered a book that classified India as a "barbarous nation" as one of "independent thinking, profound morality, and truthfulnes" which "left a deep impress on his life and captivated him". In contrast, Subhas Chandra Bose had taken up the issue of Hitler's derogatory comments against India in the latter's book Mein Kampf while living in Hitler's Germany and seeking assistance from him in India's war of independence. We quote from the record of a conference between Bose and Hitler on May 29, 1942, Berlin: "During the further course of conversation Bose brought up two more requests. The statements made by the Fuhrer in Mein Kampf and on other occasions had been greatly distorted by British propaganda and were being used for propaganda against Germany. Hence, he requested the Fuhrer to say something clarifying Germany's attitude towards India at a suitable opportunity. This would clear up things as far as the Indian nation was concerned." p. 108, [57].  

Section D.2: A Hindu view of non-resistance to evil by force-was Gandhi in conflict?    

We have observed that Gandhi acquired his philosophy of not resisting evil by force from Tolstoy. We now show that this philosophy has no synergy with any Indic school, and the worldview of the revolutionaries  was consistent with Indic ethos instead. We dwell in detail on Hinduism, which emphasises fighting evil with all of one's power, regardless of the end result. We also provide pointers to Jainism since it lays maximum emphasis on non-violence among Indic schools.

Since the term "Dharma" will appear again and again in this and subsequent analysis, we elucidate what the term meant under Indic spiritual traditions quoting late Ekkirala Krishnamacharya: "The ancient Indians had a code of law for man to follow. This was framed in accordance with various truths working in nature. The law of the existence of nature and its creation was observed in all its detail and the law for man to follow was copied in accordance with it. This was called Dharma. The term means that which bears and protects. It is that which bears and protects when we follow [it]. Man is honoured when he honours it. He receives protection when he protects it. It was made into a constitution called Bharata Dharma. It was the path of life commonly accepted throughout the land. Any attempt for religion is naturally limited and narrowed when compared with this." p. 16, [63].

This definition will also help us in examining and contrasting the shape of world imagined by likes of Tolstoy and the inferences drawn by Indics through observing the operation of various social and natural forces in this real world through the ages.

Some Indic/Hindu philosophies have indeed preached forgiveness in enormous measure, where the one attempting it undertook to forgive every evil done against oneself.  But there is a clear proviso.  Indic philosophies preached it for the individual, and not for the state. As we shall see later same Indic philosophers who were practitioners of Ahimsa to the extreme in their private lives recommended use of force to suppress evil threatening the society and the nation. The classic case is that of the King Sibi, who is said to have practised it on an unmatched scale.  King Sibi forgave even the death and sacrifice of his own son and the burning of his home [???? 198, Vanaparva, Mahabharata]. But these were both atrocities against King Sibi, the individual, but not the king in his role as the protector of the state. There is no evidence that King Sibi easily forgave atrocities against his citizens, protection of whom was his duty. 

Forgiving atrocities against oneself was one's prerogative, while forgiving atrocities as a king was dereliction of duty. In the Ramayana, Jataayu constitutes a prime example of resisting evil, by every means, despite knowing it was futile to fight.  Knowing that he was facing a king of Rakshasas and that his resistance would, in all probability, end in his own death, Jataayu faced off against the evil, because resisting that evil was his duty.

वृद्धोऽहं त्वं युवा धन्वी सशरः कवची रथी।

तथाप्यादाय वैदेहीं कुशली गमिष्यसि॥ (अरण्यकांड, सर्ग 50, श्लोक 21)

(I am old, you are young, armed with bow and arrows, are clothed in armour and mounted on a chariot.  Yet, you shall not succeed in taking away Vaidehi (Sita) while I am alive.)

तिष्ठ तिष्ठ दशग्रीव मुहूर्तं पश्य रावण।

युद्धातिथ्यं प्रदास्यामि यथाप्राणं निशाचर॥ (अरण्यकांड, सर्ग 50, श्लोक 28)

(Stay, O Ten headed one! Stay for a moment and fight, O Ravana! I offer you battle and shall resist you as long as life remains in me!)

The situation is reflected in the Mahabharata, too.  

When Bhishma and Drona sat still, invoking their loyalty to Dhritarashtra, for their inaction during the humiliation of Draupadi, they are both criticised by Krishna for their failure to stand up to evil, in his talk with Draupadi. [Vanaparva, Mahabharata]

Gandhi had frequently referred to Gita in the debates that we quoted in Section C, notwithstanding the fact that he did not quite approve of the text: Righteous wars do take place, but I do not approve of them either. In the Bhagavadgita, too, oppressors and tyrants were resisted in a righteous war. (21/3/1947) p. 193, [59], p. 164, [22]. It is difficult to fathom how Gandhi interpreted the Kurukhestra battle described in detail in Mahabharata, which was guided by Krishna, as a symbolic contest between good and the evil (as an aside this contradicts his statement above): "I shall now endeavour to consider in all humility a doubt raised by some Hindu friends regarding the meaning of the Bhagavad Gita. They say that in the Bhagavad Gita Sri Krishna has encouraged Arjuna to slay his relations and they therefore argue that there is warrant in that work for violence and that there is no satyagraha in it. Now the Bhagavad Gita is not a historical work, it is a great religious book, summing up the teaching of all religions. The poet has seized the occasion of the war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas on the field of Kurukshetra for drawing attention to the war going on in our bodies between the forces of Good (Pandavas) and the forces of Evil (Kauravas) and has shown that the latter should be destroyed and there should be no remissness in carrying on the battle against the forces of Evil, mistaking them through ignorance for forces of Good. In Islam, Christianity, Judaism, it is a war between God and Satan, in Zoroastrianism between Aurmazd and Ahriman. To confuse the description of this universally acknowledged spiritual war with a momentary world strife is to call holy unholy. We, who are saturated with the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita but who do not pretend to any special spiritual qualifications, do not draw out sword against our relations whenever they perpetrate injustice but we win them over by our affection for them. If the physical interpretation alluded to of the Bhagavad Gita be correct, we sin against it in not inflicting physical punishment upon our relatives whom we consider to have done us injustice. Everywhere in that Divine Song, we note the following advice given to Arjuna: Fight without anger, conquer the two great enemies, desire and anger, be the same to friend and foe; physical objects cause pleasure and pain, they are fleeting; endure them. That one cannot strike down an adversary without anger is universal experience. Only an Arujna who destroys the devil within him can live without attachment. It was Ramdas brought up in the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita who not only endured the lashes of a wrongdoer but actually produced for him a Jagir. Narsinh Mehta, the first poet of Gujarat and the prince among bhaktas, was nurtured in the Bhagavad Gita teaching. He conquered his enemies only by love and has given through one single poem of matchless beauty the great text of their conduct to his fellow Vaishnavas. That encouragement for violence can be deduced from the Bhagavad Gita demonstrates the deadliness of Kaliyuga. It is only too true that we often find an echo of our sentiments in what we read and see. If it is true that God made men in his own image, it is equally true that man makes God also in his own image. I have found nothing but love in every page of the Gita and I hope and pray that everyone will have similar experience of Sunday." (8/5/1919). pp. 192-193, [59], pp. 26-27, [23].  

We observe that Gandhi justified his interpretation of the Kurukhestra battle as a symbolic contest through analogies derived from Abrahamic texts. The only other justification that he provided was his Universal experience that "one could not strike down an enemy without anger", and that Krishna had repeatedly advised Arjuna to "conquer desire and anger". Psychological analysis has shown that annihilation of individuals can be driven by a range of emotions other than anger, so the basis for Gandhi's assertion of Universal experience is unclear. Gandhi omitted the crucial detail that it was Swami Samarth Ramdas who had inspired Shivaji to mount a determined military resistance against the tyrannical Aurangzeb.

Below is the English translation of relevant excerpts from the Introduction to Shri Hari Gita by Gita Vacahaspati Dinanath Bhargav Dinesh titled Gita ka Darshan (Philosophy of Gita).

Shri Hari Gita is one of its kind in that it constitutes conversion of Bhagvat Gita from a Sanskrit poem into a Hindi poem: "Field of Kurukshetra is extension of this world. Here every soul has to struggle every moment. In this battlefield various kinds of Gunas and Doshas take birth in human mind. There happens a great friction among power of thinking and power of action. Storm of contradictory feelings shakes the person to the core. In such circumstances, even a little bit of laxity and self-righteousness converts compassion, Dharma and courage into Moha, delusion (Bhram) and impotence. Such a dumbstruck person looses the capacity and power of offering resistance. Weakness enters his heart and surprisingly he tries to nourish his inferiority in the name of knowledge (Gyan) and courage (veerta). Arjuna was in this very condition and often persons of great intellect and perseverance as well as the commoners face such a situation. Those who lose ground in face of such storms lose claim to heaven and respect in this world, they face abominations everywhere. By not rising up to their Dharma, they ruin themselves and make their Dharma and their Nation powerless." pp.23-24, [49].  

Finally, the Bhagavad Gita  is itself devoted to the importance of performing one's duty and standing up to evil. (First, we quote sayings of Arjuna which were opposed by Shri Krishna to show how Arjuna thought on same lines as those of Tolstoy and Gandhi).

Arjun to Shri Krishna:

एतान्न हन्तुमिच्छामि घ्नतोऽपि मधुसूदन।

अपि त्रैलोक्यराज्यस्य हेतोः किं नु महीकृते॥ ||1-35||, [74]

(Even though these were to kill me, O slayer of Madhu, I could not wish to kill them, not even for the sake of dominion over the three worlds, how much less for the sake of the earth!)

Gandhi also said: "My love for non-violence is superior to every other thing mundane or supermundane. It is equalled only by my love for truth which is to me synonymous with non-violence through which and which alone I can see and reach Truth." p. 125, [42], and: "If India makes violence her creed, and I have survived, I would not care to live in India. She will cease to evoke any pride in me. My patriotism is subservient to my religion. I cling to India like a child to its mother's breast, because I feel that she gives me the spiritual nourishment I need. She has the environment that responds to my highest aspiration. When that faith is gone, I shall feel like an orphan without hope of ever finding a guardian." p. 139, [42].

निहत्य धार्तराष्ट्रान्नः का प्रीतिः स्याज्जनार्दन।

पापमेवाश्रयेदस्मान्हत्वैतानाततायिनः॥ ||1-36|| [74]

(What pleasure indeed could be ours, O Jnanârdana, from killing these sons of Dhritarâshtra? Sin only could take hold of us by the slaying of these felons.) (exactly same as Tolstoy)

यदि मामप्रतीकरमशस्त्रं शस्त्रपाणयः।

धार्तराष्ट्रा रणे हन्युस्तन्मे क्षेमतरं भवेत्॥ ||1-46|| [74]

(Even if the sons of Dhritrashtra armed with weapons slay me unarmed and unresisting in battle that would be considered better for me.)

Arjuna's stand also reminds us of  Gandhi's statements (quoted in Section C.1) where he is ready to sacrifice  the whole of Punjab for sake of strict adherence to Ahimsa, as well as Tolstoy's and Biblical arguments that resisting and subduing evil by force would bring evil. All this is summarily dismissed by Shri Krishna.

अशोच्यानन्वशोचस्त्वं प्रज्ञावादांश्च भाषसे।

गतासूनगतासूंश्च नानुशोचन्ति पण्डिताः॥ (2,11) [74]

(While speaking as a wise man, you are grieving for that which is unworthy of grief.  The wise do not grieve either for the living or for the dead.)

Now the following verses spoken by Shri Krishna will show how statements of revolutionaries closely follow the letter and spirit of Gita:

अथ चेत्त्वमिमं धर्म्यं संग्रामं न करिष्यसि।

ततः स्वधर्मं कीर्तिं च हित्वा पापमवाप्स्यसि॥ ||2-33|| [74]

The verse can be translated as follows: "But if thou refusest to engage in this righteous warfare, then forfeiting thine own Dharma and honour, thou shall incur sin." 2:33 (Note the contrast with Tolstoy)

अकीर्तिं चापि भूतानि कथय़िष्यन्ति तेऽव्ययाम्।

संभावितस्य चाकीर्तिर्मरणादतिरिच्यते॥ ||2-34|| [74] 

("The world also will ever hold you in unending reprobation. To the honoured, disrepute is surely worse than death.") 2:34 (Note the similarity with Bose's and Azad's statements.)

भय़ाद्रणादुपरतं मंस्यन्ते त्वां महारथाः।

येषां च त्वं बहुमतो भूत्वा यास्यसि लाघवम्॥ ||2-35|| [74]

("The great warriors will believe that thou hast withdrawn from the battle through fear. And thou will be lightly esteemed by them who currently hold you in high esteem.")  2:35

अवाच्यवादांश्च बहून्वदिष्यन्ति तवाहिताः।

निन्दन्तस्तव सामर्थ्यं ततो दुःखतरं नु किम्॥ ||2-36|| [74]

("Thine enemies also, cavilling at thy great prowess, will say of thee things that are not to be uttered. What could be more intolerable than abomination of your capability (to secure justice for yourself)".  (Samarthya Ninda.)

Sanyal had echoed this verse when he said:  

Sanyal [12/2/1925, A Revolutionary's Defence]: "But is it not shameful that a handful of Englishmen are able to rule India not by free consent of Indian people but by force of sword?" [26]

हतो वा प्रप्स्यसि स्वर्गं जित्वा वा भोक्ष्यसे महीम्।

तस्मादुत्तिष्ठ कौन्तेय युद्धाय कृतनिश्चयः॥ ||2-37|| [74]

("Dying thou gainest heaven; conquering thou enjoyest the earth. Therefore, O son of Kunti, arise, resolved to fight.") 2:37

धर्माद्धि युद्धात् श्रेयोऽन्यत् क्षत्रियस्य न विद्यते॥ (2,31) [74]

(Indeed, for the upholders of justice, there is no greater endeavour than a war of righteousness.)

सुखिनः क्षत्रियाः पार्थ लभन्ते युद्धमीदृशम्। (2,32) [74]

(Happy are those upholders of justice, who get righteous war of this kind.)

Thus, two things becomes very clear: one, Gita does not preach nonviolence in all circumstances as was preached by Gandhi; two, it sanctions physical resistance and use of force to attain political Swarajya, to put an end to tyranny and to restore rule of law (Dharma). Thus, Sanyal's charge that Gandhi's insistence of non-violence regardless of the circumstances has no sanction in Indic ethos is borne out by Gita.

Great philosopher of Mahabharata, Vidur also expresses the same view:

द्वाविमो पुरुषव्याघ्र सूर्यमंडल भेदिनो।

परीव्राद्योग युक्तश्च रणे चाभिमुखो हतः॥ (Mahabharata, Udyoga Parva, सर्ग 33, श्लोक 66)

("O Lion among men! Two kinds of people attain higher heavens piercing the Surya Mandal (a yogic term), namely, ascetics established in Yoga and a warrior laying down his life in war (righteous).") 

(Mahabharata, Udyoga Parva, सर्ग 33, श्लोक  66)

It is no exaggeration to say that tyrannicide has some justification in Hindu thought. When Vena, a tyrant, fails to uphold Dharma, he is first admonished by many Siddha rishis to change his ways and then, when their entreaties fail to move him, is killed by them. (Dronaparva, Mahabharata, and Vishnupurana). In fact, the act is justified by the rishis, invoking Dharma. Shri Krishna overthrew king Kansa for being a tyrant and usurper of throne. Shri Krishna guided Pandavas in eliminating the emperor Jarasandh through intrigue because he had made hundreds of kings prisoners and usurped their kingdoms. Thus, Gandhi's proclamation that he would not sanction intrigue and fraud to attain independence is in direct contradiction with Shri Krishna's actions. It is particularly notable here that neither Shri Krishna nor Pandavas usurped Jarasandh's throne and his son was immediately coronated as king of Magadh. All kings held as political prisoners by Jarasandh were freed and their kingdoms were returned to them. So, the aim of intrigue was integration of nation under a loose federation through Rajsuya Yagya and putting an end to the tyranny of Jarasandh.

Next, Indic sages have advocated the use of physical force to establish Dharma as necessary. Maharishi Vishwamitra asked King Dashrath to deploy his two sons Ram and Lakshman to kill the cannibal Rakshaas. The spiritual mentor (guru) of the King Maharishi Vashistha (particularly known for practice of non-violence and exceptional forgiveness - he forgives even Vishwamitra's murder of his sons - in his personal life) advised the reluctant King Dashrath to do the needful. Sage Agastya guided Shri Ram in his campaign against the Rakshaas. Sage Dadhichi even gave up his life for manufacturing of a weapon (Vajra) so that Vritasura may be killed (of course that involved violence). The story is mentioned in the magnum opus of Vaishnavism, Shrimad Bhagwatam, a school of philosophy Gandhi ostensibly adhered to. So also, Shrimad Bhagwatam mentions removal of King Vena from throne because he had resorted to tyranny against the people. Note that the above actions of Indic sages were in consonance with standards of Ahimsa required by Gita as they did not initiate the harassment and persecution of others, and were on the receiving end of harassment and persecution which had to be terminated as per Indic traditions. Similarly, it was British who had occupied this country and perpetrated crimes against Indians. Revolutionaries were therefore in perfect compliance with requirements of doctrine of Ahimsa when they were embarking upon a fight to end the British tyranny and liberate themselves and their compatriots from persecution and harassment. And, Vohra's contention that revolutionaries were not practising violence was consistent with Indic ethos.

Ancient Indian sages and wise men had also recognised the folly of allowing the enemy to choose the time and place of the battle while resorting to force against them. The Shantiparva has a long list of permitted actions to be carried out when attacked by an enemy and when acting against him. Choosing the time and place of battle is indeed one of them. Krishna made use of such a stratagem to deprive Jarasandha of his army, and force him into a one-on-one combat with Bhima. Similarly, Lakshmana attacked Indrajit while he was performing an aasuric sacrifice of great power, thus choosing the time and place of the battle. Thus, the secret actions of the revolutionaries, which Gandhi denounced as secret murders had precedents in the sacred Indic texts.

Finally, among Indic religions, or schools of spirituality, Jainism associates the maximum emphasis with non-violence. But, even Jainism does not espouse non-resistance to evil by force. We cite three sources. 

For householders, (that is those who have not adopted ascetism), it allows Virodhi Himsa, that is defensive injury, "which is necessarily committed in defence of person and property, against thieves, robbers, dacoits, assailants and enemies, in meeting their aggression" [7]. Householders are only required to avoid Virodhi Himsa as far as possible, but it is recognised that they can not abstain from the same completely [7].  In [8] we read, "This grey area may include the 'just war' or violence in defence of one's property, honour, family, community or nation. In this matter, the individual had to take into account not only the duties to himself but to society as a whole. The duty of a Jaina mendicant in this case was quite clear: he must not retaliate in any way and must be willing to sacrifice his own life in order to keep his vow of total non-violence. For a Jaina lay person, however, appropriate action is not so clear-cut. There were always situations in which violence would be a last resort in guiding the interests of himself and his community. The Jaina lawgivers of medieval times accorded with customary Hindu law in this matters. Somadeva (c. tenth century), for example, stipulated that "a king should strike down those enemies of his kingdom who appear on the battlefield bearing arms, but never those people, who are downtrodden, weak, or who are friends.... Jainas allowed that such violence [virodhi himsa, that is countering violence with violence] could be justified, albeit as a final resort, for the Jaina layman whose conscience demanded that he defend his rights or for one who was called upon to fight by his king" pp. 52-53 [8]. A layperson, as we saw above, however, is given an option of countering an armed adversary in kind, with the reminder that it is proper for a Jaina not to be the first to strike." p. 59, [8].

Next, "Category 3 [Virodhi-himsa - defensive] corresponds to the householder defending his or her children against a violent intruder. It can also correspond to the actions of soldiers or guerrillas defending their country from invasions and occupations motivated by aggressive and exploitative designs." (Chapter 7, Truth 4B: Extreme Absorption of Karmons) [9]. This principle is in essence consistent with what we had observed in Bhagavad Gita, which requires one not to initiate the aggression but also requires one not to take the aggression lying sown; perhaps the only difference is that Jainism allows, but does not require, the latter. Nonetheless, Jainism nowhere promotes not resisting evil by force as a virtue for the householder.

In our context, the aggressors would clearly be the occupiers holding India through the might of their guns, and the revolutionaries were defending their country from occupation motivated by aggressive and exploitative designs through an application of virodhi himsa (that is countering violence through violence).   

Even a cursory reading of Indic philosophies, including the timeless texts of Ramayana and Mahabharata show that all of them advocate maintenance of military as a means of defence as we argue subsequently. Maintenance of strong armies, obtaining new and better weapons and organisation of the army have long been advocated by Hindu philosophers. In Shantiparva, Mahabharata, war if necessary is enjoined upon the king, telling him that any king who shuns battle will be consumed by the earth.

वावेतौ ग्रसते भूमिः सर्पो बिलशयानिव।

राजानं चाविरोद्धारं ब्राह्मणां चाप्रवासिनम्॥ ( Mahabharata, Shanti Parva, सर्ग 57, श्लोक 3)

(Two beings are consumed by the earth, as the snake consumes the mice; A King who shuns battle and a Brahmana who suffer from too much attachment to families.)

War, armies and weapons constituted a vital part of the thought of the Indian kings, who were certainly ready to defend themselves with courage and strength when needed. In Mahabharata, the organisation and maintenance of armies were greatly studied by the kings, and the collection of the armies for Kurukshetra war constitutes a vital ingredient of the story. The story of sending Arjuna to obtain new weapons forms a vital part of the Pandava effort to get new and stronger weapons against their enemies.  It has been sung in a classic by the poet Bharavi, who says:

लभ्या धरित्री तव विक्रमेण ज्यायांश् च वीर्यास्त्रबलैर्विपक्षः ।

अतः प्रकर्षाय विधिर्विधेयः प्रकर्षतन्त्रा हि रणे जयश्रीः ॥ ३. १७ ॥ [75] 

(World will be won by your prowess, and the earth is prone to being on the side of those with good courage, weapons, and strength. Consequently, you need to devise means to seize your kingdom, and the means of seizing your kingdom back is victory in battle.)

In Ramayana, Rama obtaining the help of the Vaanara army to face Lanka's army is a vital part of Rama's quest to regain his wife.

The army has been recognised as one of the vital elements of sovereignty by Arthashaastra: "The king, the minister, the country, the fort, the treasury, the army and the friend are the elements of sovereignty.'' p. 363, [24]. Further, pp. 363-366, [24] also deal with the policies for the recruitment of an army. On p. 369, [24], Chanakya says, "Strength is of three kinds: power of deliberation is intellectual strength; the possession of a prosperous treasury and a strong army is the strength of sovereignty; and martial power is physical strength." From these examples, it should be clear that army, war and weapons were not seen as evil by Hindus. (Note also that Vohra had echoed the same worldview when he pointed out the necessity to combine  soul force, moral force and physical force in his quest to liberate India).   

Thus, Tolstoy may have been partly right when he saw resistance to evil by force as a "pagan evil" (it was most certainly pagan if not evil).  Regardless, resistance of evil either by invoking force of state or when the state collapses due to foreign invasion or corruption is a well established Indic tradition sanctioned and practised by greatest Sages and philosophers India has produced.

In the sequel, we enunciate 1) how Gandhi observed other core aspects of Christian theology which would again be in conflict with Indic theology, 2) his contributions in the spread of Christianity in India, and the tangible benefits he received in return.  The combined bibliography will be provided at the end of this sequel.

Last updated: January 30, 2016 | 11:26
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