We need a Ghandi now


Some years ago, my mother did dog sitting in her home, which she enjoyed very much. She had one client that was a regular, and they had interesting conversations. One day, the subject of spirituality and peaceful resistance came up, and my mother made a reference to Mahatma Ghandi, the great spiritual leader of India known all over the world as a man of peace. The man looked blankly at her and said,

“Who is Ghandi?”

My mother was, as they say, gobsmacked. How do you get to be an educated man in his fifties with access to books, movies, and TV, and not know who Ghandi was? Apparently it’s possible. A major film was made about him that won a bunch of Oscars, and should have made Ghandi a household word, but there you go. People have their filters.

Anyone can google Ghandi and get the whole story, I would like to emphasize one aspect of his actions and presence. This from Wikipedia. Swaraj means independence. The Rowlatt act was passed to control public unrest, without any kind of due process. Satyagraha means march.

“With his book Hind Swaraj (1909) Gandhi, aged 40, declared that British rule was established in India with the co-operation of Indians and had survived only because of this co-operation. If Indians refused to co-operate, British rule would collapse and swaraj would come.

In February 1919, Gandhi cautioned the Viceroy of India with a cable communication that if the British were to pass the Rowlatt Act, he would appeal to Indians to start civil disobedience. The British government ignored him and passed the law, stating it would not yield to threats. The satyagraha civil disobedience followed, with people assembling to protest the Rowlatt Act. On 30 March 1919, British law officers opened fire on an assembly of unarmed people, peacefully gathered, participating in satyagraha in Delhi.

People rioted in retaliation. On 6 April 1919, a Hindu festival day, he asked a crowd to remember not to injure or kill British people, but to express their frustration with peace, to boycott British goods and burn any British clothing they owned. He emphasised the use of non-violence to the British and towards each other, even if the other side uses violence. Communities across India announced plans to gather in greater numbers to protest. Government warned him to not enter Delhi. Gandhi defied the order. On 9 April, Gandhi was arrested.

People rioted. On 13 April 1919, people including women with children gathered in an Amritsar park, and a British officer named Reginald Dyer surrounded them and ordered his troops to fire on them.

The resulting Jallianwala Bagh massacre (or Amritsar massacre) of hundreds of Sikh and Hindu civilians enraged the subcontinent, but was cheered by some Britons and parts of the British media as an appropriate response.

Gandhi in Ahmedabad, on the day after the massacre in Amritsar, did not criticise the British and instead criticised his fellow countrymen for not exclusively using love to deal with the hate of the British government. Gandhi demanded that people stop all violence, stop all property destruction, and went on fast-to-death to pressure Indians to stop their rioting.”

“Permanent good can never be the outcome of untruth and violence.”

Ghandi

Another protest against a catastrophic salt tax ended with 300 of Ghandi’s follower being beaten, injured and killed by British troops wielding clubs. Not one of the protesters lifted a hand or made a protest against the violence, because of Ghandi’s teachings of non-violent non-cooperation. These events made the British start to lose their death-grip hold on India. Enraged, they imprisoned 60,000 people or more including Ghandi, one of many times he was imprisoned for his teachings and activities.

Non-violent protest, and non-cooperation is not lack of action, it is actually a powerful act that creates results. It triggers the aggressors, because they’re not getting what they want, which is retaliation, any kind of reaction.

This country is heading for some kind of great upheaval because of what has taken place with George Floyd, this is an event that is a catalyst for change that could go a number of ways. My own spiritual teacher is a great man of peace, and there are many others. How do we begin to start a Ghandi movement of reacting with absolute peace and love that might create great earthquakes, but end with this beloved country rising in a new consciousness? A consciousness of the absolute refusal to react to violence, bigotry, hatred, and inflammatory political rhetoric?

I had a vision this morning, watching all those thousands of people on an American Satyagraha, marching. I saw myself sitting alone, cross-legged in meditation, with all those beings flowing around me like water. Do I have the courage for that? Maybe… I experienced tear gas twice in my eventful youth, and am not eager to repeat that. But maybe 10 people? 100? 1,000 people sitting in peace meditation in the middle of the street? Yeah. Can you imagine. Imagine. I’ll ask around, and see who raises their hand. I have a feeling this time the marching will continue, would you be part of it? Get up off the comfy couch and go sit in the hot street? Maybe. It would take a great act of will, but we are really in it now kids. Tough times create heros. Even if you can only bring yourself to go meditate for peace on your back deck, go do that. Be a peace hero. Be a Ghandi.

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