The Letter That Changed The History Of Civil Rights — Forever


Without query, Gandhi is without doubt one of the most revered figures in historical past. Almost seen as a saint in India, his legacy has change into one in all peaceable resistance to injustice. Gandhi started his activism in South Africa within the early 1900s after seeing the best way he and different minorities had been handled by racial class methods instituted by the British. After returning to India, he started to apply an ascetic lifestyle by dressing within the conventional garb of the Hindu religion — a homespun loincloth and scarf comprised of Indian cotton. Having firmly determined to combat the British rule of his beloved nation, Gandhi instigated one demonstration after one other, spending important time in jail and whipping up sturdy help from his fellow countrymen. After the British lastly left in 1947, Gandhi continued to work towards peace between Muslims and Hindus till he was shot to loss of life in 1948 by a Hindu fundamentalist.

Gandhi’s instance far outlived him, nevertheless, and ultimately impressed one crucial man: Martin Luther King Jr. MLK went on to transform the best way the US treats individuals of colour utilizing this exact same methodology of nonviolent resistance.

But this philosophy of peace wasn’t created by Gandhi fully on his personal. In truth, it’s not sure he was going to make ‘resisting the British’ the point of interest of his life — that’s till he talked with the good thinker, Leo Tolstoy.

SEE ALSO: 5 Yogic Qualities Of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Letter that Changed the World

During Gandhi’s time in South Africa, he turned disenchanted with the thought of British rule. But he didn’t know what to do. After some time, he started making connections with others and began his personal South African newspaper, known as Indian Opinion. In it, he and lots of others dissented from British rule.

At the identical time, one other newspaper known as Free Hindustan (positioned in India) additionally printed voices crucial of the British. But in 1908, Taraknath Das, the editor of the paper, reached out to Leo Tolstoy for help in independence from British rule. Deeply moved, Tolstoy wrote a prolonged letter titled ‘Letter to a Hindu’ in response which was printed in Free Hindustan. You can learn it in its entirety here, however this can be a poignant excerpt:

“Love is the one option to rescue humanity from all ills, and in it you too have the one methodology of saving your individuals from enslavement. In very historic instances love was proclaimed with particular power and clearness amongst your individuals to be the non secular foundation of human life. Love, and forcible resistance to evil-doers, contain such a mutual contradiction as to destroy completely the entire sense and which means of the conception of affection. And what follows? With a light-weight coronary heart and within the twentieth century you, an adherent of a non secular individuals, deny their regulation, feeling satisfied of your scientific enlightenment and your proper to take action, and also you repeat (don’t take this amiss) the superb stupidity indoctrinated in you by the advocates of the usage of violence—the enemies of fact, the servants first of theology after which of science—your European lecturers. You say that the English have enslaved your individuals and maintain them in subjection as a result of the latter haven’t resisted resolutely sufficient and haven’t met drive by drive. But the case is simply the alternative. If the English have enslaved the individuals of India it’s simply because the latter acknowledged, and nonetheless acknowledge, drive as the basic precept of the social order. In accord with that precept they submitted to their little rajahs, and on their behalf struggled towards each other, fought the Europeans, the English, and are actually attempting to combat with them once more. A industrial firm enslaved a nation comprising 200 hundreds of thousands. Tell this to a person free from superstition and he’ll fail to know what these phrases imply. What does it imply that thirty thousand males, not athletes however reasonably weak and extraordinary individuals, have subdued 200 million vigorous, intelligent, succesful, and freedom-loving individuals? Do not the figures make it clear that it isn’t the English who’ve enslaved the Indians, however the Indians who’ve enslaved themselves?”

When Gandhi learn this, he was deeply moved. Subsequently, he reached out to Tolstoy, and what resulted was a prolonged dialogue that formed and solidified his path of peaceable resistance to the British. Sure, earlier than this level Gandhi had a couple of demonstrations, nevertheless it was not but the central focus of his life.

Correspondence Between Gandhi and Tolstoy

While there weren’t a plethora of letters exchanged between the 2, in what letters we’ve, we are able to see the highly effective intention behind them.

Tolstoy’s final letter to Gandhi was particularly compelling. This phase is named Tolstoy’s Laws of Love:

“The longer I live – especially now when I clearly feel the approach of death – the more I feel moved to express what I feel more strongly than anything else, and what in my opinion is of immense importance, namely, what we call the renunciation of all opposition by force, which really simply means the doctrine of the law of love unperverted by sophistries. Love, or in other words the striving of men’s souls towards unity and the submissive behaviour to one another that results therefrom, represents the highest and indeed the only law of life, as every man knows and feels in the depths of his heart (and as we see most clearly in children), and knows until he becomes involved in the lying net of worldly thoughts. This law was announced by all the philosophies- Indian as well as Chinese, and Jewish, Greek, and Roman. Most clearly, I think, was it announced by Christ, who said explicitly that on it hang all the Law and the Prophets. More than that, foreseeing the distortion that has hindered its recognition and may always hinder it, he specially indicated the danger of a misrepresentation that presents itself to men living by worldly interests- namely, that they may claim a right to defend their interests by force or, as he expressed it, to repay blow by blow and recover stolen property by force, etc., etc. He knew, as all reasonable men must do, that any employment of force is incompatible with love as the highest law of life, and that as soon as the use of force appears permissible even in a single case, the law itself is immediately negatived. The whole of Christian civilization, outwardly so splendid, has grown up on this strange and flagrant- partly intentional but chiefly unconscious-misunderstanding and contradiction. At bottom, however, the law of love is and can be, no longer valid if defense by force is set up beside it. And if once the law of love is not valid, then there remains no law except the right of might.”

As everyone knows, Gandhi modified the course of Indian and British historical past by forcing the imperialistic nation to go away. Using a philosophy of affection, Gandhi ousted probably the most highly effective nations in historical past, stunning the world. A brand new instance was set.

MLK’s Adoption of Gandhi’s Movement

With a precedent made, it was no marvel that oppressed peoples in America got here to know Gandhi’s teachings and the facility they held. With blacks held down by institutional racist insurance policies and practices, it didn’t take MLK lengthy to comprehend it was the final word weapon to combat towards the system of segregation that was so entrenched in America. Needless, to say, he was triumphant.

MLK had this to say in regards to the Gandhian methodology:

“In the summer of 1956 the name of Mahatma Gandhi was well-known in Montgomery. People who had never heard of the little brown saint of India were now saying his name with an air of familiarity. Nonviolent resistance had emerged as the technique of the movement, while love stood as the regulating ideal. In other words, Christ furnished the spirit and the motivation while Gandhi furnished the method.”

The Worldwide Effect on Civil Rights

History is replete with violence and examples of struggle’s catastrophic destruction throughout the globe. But maybe we are able to take solace in the truth that a few of the greatest ‘wins’ of the 21st century got here not from the dimensions or harmful energy of weapons, however the human spirit. Because of the examples of those nice males, nonviolence has change into the software utilized by those that want to have an effect on constructive change in a world that so desperately wants it. A software that, and not using a shadow of a doubt, is each spiritually righteous and morally sound.

Moreover, statements of a nonviolent doctrine are in every of the key world religions, from Buddhist prohibitions on taking life to Taoism’s invocations of water sporting away rock, to Mohammed’s ban on violence in his mannequin society at Mecca, to Moses’ “Thou shalt not kill”, Jesus’ “Turn the other cheek.” and naturally, the Hindu precept of ‘ahimsa’ or ‘doing no harm’.

As we transfer ahead as a species and a individuals, we could discover the facility of affection to rework the world is limitless. Certainly, as Tolstoy identified in his Letter to a Hindu, a small group’s skill to regulate a a lot bigger group can solely occur when the latter accepts it — and so in the end they will shake it off once they so select.

If you may, I extremely advocate you learn Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God is Within You, Gandhi Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, and The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.



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