“. . . but as our nonviolence was the nonviolence of the weak, the leaven did not spread. Had we adopted nonviolence as the weapon of the strong, because we realize that it was more effective than any other weapon, in fact, the mightiest force in the world, we would have made use of its full potency and not have discarded it as soon as the fight against the British was over.” ~ Gandhi, Pyarelal, Last Phase, Vol.2, pp. 326-327
It is important to realize that this world of ours has never seen a large-scale, sustained, “nonviolence of the strong.” We are justified to think that it—our world—would never be the same. This kind of nonviolence (we often call it “principled” today) would be adopted for its own sake, not just for one strategic object. Our commitment to it would go on past the achievement of that object; our awareness that it has virtually infinite applications would allow us to deploy it not only in conflictual but many other situations, in the form of “constructive programme.” And as Gandhi predicts here, “the leaven would spread.” His own movement came closest to realizing this kind of nonviolence, but even India was not ready to adopt it in full. We should therefore hesitate to set any limits on the constructive power of nonviolence, not to mention glibly claiming that it “doesn’t work.” Instead, we should set about understanding and adopting the changes that will bring it to its fullest, world-changing expression.
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Our 2016 Daily Metta continues with Gandhi on weekdays. On weekends, we share videos that complement Michael Nagler’s award-winning book, The Search for a Nonviolent Future: A Promise of Peace for Ourselves, Our Families, and Our World. To help readers engage with the book more deeply, the Metta Center offers a free PDF study guide.
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