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The White Hindu has moved! This blog is no longer updated, but Ambaa is still writing The White Hindu every weekday at

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Peaceful Resistance

I know an Indian man who thinks that India is too passive and too weak. It saddens him that India has been taken over so many times but has never taken over anyone else. He sees this as a fundamental flaw that holds India back from greatness.

I see it as a fundamental greatness.

But we have different measuring sticks. There are different kinds of successes to have in the world. One kind is to be a super power nation and take money and resources from lesser powers. But a definition of success that is so rooted in the world can only be temporary. As the saying goes: "You can't take it with you."

Look at the sage Yajnavalkya. He had a good, cushy life, but it felt empty to him. He decided to give up his material goods and go in search of a truth that does not die. He decided to divide his property among his two wives, but Maitreyi asked him whether wealth would make her immortal. He told her it would not. She said that she wanted whatever it was that he was giving up his wealth for. Whatever was so great that it would bring immortality. And so he took her with him.

To me, success is how peaceful you can be, how calm you can be, how well you can train and control your mind, your desires, your lusts.

In the west, we almost think of Gandhi as a God. His name is held in reverence as the absolute example of goodness. It seems that he is not as universally worshiped in India. I think people are somewhat more aware of his humanness, of his flaws. And certainly, he left a very difficult situation in his wake. It's impossible to know how things would have played out if he had not been murdered.

The problems associated with separating India and Pakistan were not his doing, though it became what seemed like the only solution. Gandhi really wanted everyone to be able to get along, for Hindus and Muslims to live in peace with one another. That dream is still a ways off.

But his methods did work. And he inspired all the greatest leaders of our times. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela for example. The unwavering conviction and dedication to peace is an unstoppable force. People may die in the process, but the vibration of goodness does not leave the world.

I found this article through Andrew Rosenthal, the same man who wrote the article about Jesus as an Ishta-Devata. He shared this on Facebook and it seems to me to describe really well just how effective peaceful resistance can be. When you are in a fight with someone, you want the rest of the world to see that you are the victim and to support you in wanting to take down the other side. It's very hard to get sympathy from anyone if you are cruel in the same way that the other side is cruel. Notice the part about the women refusing to move. It rerouted the Israeli army!

If you live striving to treat all others as yourself and to follow the principles laid out in Chapter 16, then consider yourself a success!

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 16, Opening:
Lord Krishna said: Fearlessness, purity of the inner psyche, perseverance in the yoga of Self-knowledge, charity, sense-restraint, sacrifice, study of the scriptures, austerity, honesty; nonviolence, truthfulness, absence of anger, renunciation, equanimity, abstinence from malicious talk, compassion for all creatures, freedom from greed, gentleness, modesty, absence of fickleness, splendor, forgiveness, fortitude, cleanliness, absence of malice, and absence of pride-- these are some of the qualities of those endowed with divine virtues, O Arjuna. (16.01-03) Quoted from the translation here.


  1. Dear Aamba,

    If you think getting F. is a greatness , I am sorry, Gita doesn't teach that. Oppose Adharma ,"who ever it is" is the teaching of Gita.

  2. Aamba,

    You have misspelled Gandhi with Ghandi.
    The later one actually sounds very like the hindi word for dirty.

  3. That was a good post.

    We can recognize Gandhiji's humanity and still acknowledge his greatness. When Richard Attenborough filmed the funeral procession for the film "Gandhi," 300,000 Indians turned out to be part of it. I doubt they were all simply eager to be in a movie.

    I like the new layout. Easy on the eyes.

  4. Oh goodness, I will correct that spelling!

    And I do think that fighting back out of anger is always a mistake. Fighting back from a place of peace and serenity is different. When Arjuna fought he was not attached to the outcome of his actions. He performed his duty without anger and without desire for revenge. That is greatness.

  5. Oh, and let me also say that there's more than one teaching in the Gita. It's not like it all boils down to just one point :)

  6. "India never invaded another country" is one of the most cliched statement in my opinion used freely by indians and non-indians including the chinese president.

    but why she didn't?

    it is a large country , surrounded by either sea or high mountains or desert and inhospitable forests.

    for most of the history , India was also one of the richest countries in the world.

    so why should indian kings invade other countries ? they had fought many bloody wars within India.

    countries always invaded other countries for resources and wealth - an incentive which was not that important for indian kings.

    Gandhi was mostly revered in India. He certainly was universally revered by most of the indians during his time.

    the opposition of Gandhi was mostly due to political reasons.

    the muslim league opposed Gandhi becasue he was against partition. the hindu "nationalists" opposed Gandhi because they thought he was appeasing the muslims and responsible for the partition.

    I have noticed most indians who don't respect Gandhi now are somehow more sympathetic to hindu "nationalism" which is mostly a proto-fascist ideology.

    Then there are Indians who respect Gandhi but may not agree with all his views.

    - Basu

  7. Einstein said : "Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth."

    Using the above quote in a slightly different way , I think some of us , the Indians have reached that stage. We can't appreciate what Gandhi has given to India.

    There can be many criticism of Gandhi - some of which are valid , but that doesn't diminishes the greatness of Gandhi.

    - Basu

  8. I like to keep an eye on the humanness of great figures.

    This reminds me of when the Catholic church was talking about making Mother Theresa a saint. I don't know if they actually did it or not, but I thought it was a bad idea.

    The reason being that if you make someone a saint, it's saying that they are something special and extraordinary and we can never be like them.

    It takes away our responsibility to be great because we can just believe that that person had something special that we don't have.

    All these great leaders were and are human beings and they are the same as any of us.

  9. If I am recalling correctly the events surrounding sainthood of mother teresa was bit funny. There is no doubt about her goodness but the church can't give her sainthood because she didn't perform any miracle.

    So, they looked for a miracle. and even tried to pose some genuine medical cases as miracles. The whole thing made a lot of news at that time in kolkata.

    - Basu

  10. This post of yours is very thought provoking..About Gandhi,lets just say,with the internet availability,the scales have fallen off the eyes of people who had only a limited version of what Gandhi did ,given to them.I appreciate what he had done with the Sarvodaya movement which was the offshoot of the satyagraha movement;The decentralised thinking in governance and economy that he/his followers propounded was good.But with regard to handling of the Hindu-Muslim differences and his sympathy
    /lack of it for the victims of the resulting riots were not good.The way he was deified was also not good.

  11. I think Mother Theresa was a great person and should not be sainted. It's a strange position, I know, but I feel strongly that making her a saint makes her seem something more than we are. Any one of us could be as great as she was. We just have to actually do it!

    My understanding of Gandhi's beliefs were that he was trying to work on peace between Hindus and Muslims and that he was against the creation of Pakistan. Maybe I misunderstood that, though.

  12. you said: "My understanding of Gandhi's beliefs were that he was trying to work on peace between Hindus and Muslims and that he was against the creation of Pakistan. Maybe I misunderstood that, though."

    you are right. but every action has alternative explanations.
    so in hindu nationaist view , working for peace between hindus and muslims , when muslims were rioting against the hindus and asking for partitioning the country was tantamount to appeasing the muslims and betraying the hindus.

    they would have preferred if gandhiji bayed for muslim blood and called for revenge except offering forgiveness .

    gandhiji for the most part opposed the partition and was always against the concept. but after seeing a lot of bloodshed he agreed to it. i think he just accepted the inevitable.

    - basu

  13. Such a shame. I know Muslims started a lot of violence, but Hindus have also started violence and if they continue the violence started by others, nobody wins. That's what it seems like to me, anyway, but maybe I'm naive.

  14. I used to think like that too, Amba;
    But peace is a two way street. If one party always takes without giving and the other party does all /most of the giving ,it will bring peace-not peace between equals but submission ofone to another which will never work.Gandhi tried for peace by Submitting -his support of the Khilafat movement in the mistaken belief it will cement Hindu -Muslim unity was one of the many steps he took.