To find inner peace, learn to practice non-violence – to ensure non-violent thought – within you!
No one practised this better than Mahatma Gandhi, whose birthday it is today. He taught the world the power of courage, the courage of non-violence. And he didn’t talk only about physical courage or summoning physical courage. He championed non-violent thought. He truly celebrated the spirit of Ahimsa – which does not simply mean non-violence as the English translation suggests, but is about non-violent thought. Gandhi was, to be sure, the original Angry Young Man (much ahead of the venerable Big B on Indian celluloid) as Shyam Benegal’s classic The Making of the Mahatma (1996) portrays. Of course, through the famous railway platform experience of Pietermaritzburg of June 7, 1893, Gandhi’s anger against the British establishment had led him to pursue a path of confrontation with the Empire – and he launched his historic crusade then – but Benegal’s film shows how Gandhi understood his tendency to lose his temper and how he conquered rage, replacing it with non-violent thought. Incessant practise through his years in South Africa, through engaging himself in service and daily meditation, Gandhi became an embodiment of love and compassion. This is what led him to employ non-violent thought – Ahimsa – as a key weapon in uniting 300 million Indians, who were as disjointed then as they are now, without even the boon of technology we are all blessed with today, in the struggle against the British empire. 10 days before his assassination, on January 20, 1948, someone, believed then to be a Sikh youth, hurled a bomb at a gathering Gandhi was addressing. The bomb missed the target and Gandhi survived. A group of Sikhs called on Gandhi the next day to clarify that the assailant, who was by then arrested, was not a Sikh. Gandhi rebuked the delegation for playing the religion card. He said, irrespective of which religion the youth belonged to, he only wished him well.
There’s great merit – and an urgent need – to reflect on Gandhi’s Life and message today. Not that any of us, busy with our unpauseable lives, even has half-a-chance to change the world and make it more peaceful. But we can focus on ourselves. And change ourselves. Every time we find a violent thought rising in our minds, we can quell it. We can make a small beginning instantaneously and slowly build on it. For example, each day, subconsciously, when we swear to ourselves over the conduct of a fellow road-user or at the slimy machinations of a colleague at work or at the dishonesty that is prevalent in public Life or at an insensitive act of a neighbor – when we even say words like idiot or f@*$ or ba#@$*d – let us remember we are encouraging violent thought. The less violent we become in our minds, the more peaceful we will be in our souls. And the more peace we are within, the more peaceful our worlds will be. This cannot happen by merely wishing for change. This can happen by being, as Gandhi famously said, the change!