On Gandhian Non-Violence

Historical accounts are full of violence. Such violence may take two forms: (1) violence from within a particular society and (2) violence inflicted upon by an external force. In both cases however, it is important to note that what is at stake is a group of people’s identity as a nation or as a culture. This paper seeks to explicate Mohandas Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence (ahimsa) and non-violent action (sagyagraha) as they are significant in understanding our very own inner selves and our very own humanity in our quest of arriving at the universal truth.In an recent report from CNN, dated April 18, 2009, entitled “North Korea: Sanctions a Declaration of War,” the communist state was reported to have announced that sanctions or pressure, in any form, directed against it due to its rocket launch earlier this month will be considered a “declaration of war” as for them, such intervention is tantamount to threatening the sovereignty of North Korea (North 1). This particular reaction from North Korea is directed to both the United Nations (UN) and the United States (US); for the former’s condemnation of North Korea’s rocket launch (North 3) and the latter’s statement that North Korea’s rocket launch as a “provocative act” which violates the 2006 Security Council resolution (North 4). Furthermore, US’ alliance with South Korea makes the problem more complex as several critics warn them not to act rashly on the issue as it may result to a nuclear war (North 14). Such a situation proves to be very complex because it involves not only differing cultures between North Korea and the US but also differing political ideologies and orientations between North Korea and the US-South Korea alliance. In light of this issue, this paper seeks to apply Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence (ahimsa) and non-violent action (sagyagraha) as they are significant in the positions that US and South Korea should take in order to avoid a drastic result; that is, the launching of a nuclear war.Gandhi’s greatest contribution to thought and history is perhaps, the idea that the differences between the East and the West are mere differences at the surface level and it is not impossible to arrive at a certain kind of reconciliation between their seemingly opposing cultures and views. Such reconciliation is made possible by understanding oneself. This is to say that every human being should first realize (and achieve) a spiritual unity within himself in order to arrive at a fuller understanding of things. It is important to note that Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence is a later realization which resulted from an earlier realization of such a spiritual unity within him. To strengthen this point, Thomas Merton wrote the following:In Gandhi’s mind, non-violence was not simply a political tactic which was supremely useful and efficacious in liberating his people from foreign rule, in order that India might then concentrate on realizing its own national identity. On the contrary, the spirit of non-violence sprang from an inner realization of spiritual unity in himself. (6)The aforementioned passage points out that the philosophy of non-violence (ahimsa) is not merely a political tactic; it is more of a resolve which is brought about by a deeper understanding of what Merton refers to as the chief truth of Hinduism, which according to Gandhi is “the belief that all life (not only human beings but all sentient beings) is one, i.e., all life coming from the One universal source, call it Allah, God or Parameshwara” (qtd from Merton 8).  It can be inferred from the foregoing discussion that Gandhi’s philosophy is overall, one which is not exclusive but inclusive; that in essence, the East and the West are not really different from each other, that such categories are mere superficial and the struggles of the East are no different from the struggles of the West, that the violence inflicted by the West to the East is a violence that the West also inflicts upon itself. Passive resistance then, in Gandhi’s view should be taken as an affirmation of the oneness between things. Such being the case, everyone should respect each other and recognize that each one of us has autonomy; the capacity for self-rule. Wars and conflicts breed violence; a kind of violence which destroys not the mere countries at war but more importantly, a kind of violence which destroys the human spirit.North Korea’s rocket launch may indeed be viewed as a threat to humanity and the rest of the world, as the United Nations, the United States and South Korea believe to be the case. On the other hand, North Korea may also maintain that as a nation, they have the right to be left alone with their researches on nuclear power and that they have the right for self-rule, in this case, to choose the path that their country should take in order to advance its national interests.  Whether or not the UN or the US is threatening North Korea’s sovereignty is a complicated issue which needs further discussion, however, as I reckon, the US-South Korea’s war alliance may prove to be more detrimental than beneficial in the possible occurrence of a nuclear war. Thus, I agree with the critics that both the US and South Korea should take the necessary precautions and not to act rashly regarding this very delicate matter. In line with Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence, it will be better off if the US-South Korea Alliance and the UN to exhaust all possible means for a dialogue with North Korea than by threatening North Korea with sanctions, more so threatening it with an all-out war for these can only make things worse and can only make the nuclear war a possibility.