Satyagraha and Gandhi

There are two words, satya  andagraha. Satya is truth and agraha is one’s eagerness to follow the principles of truth, one’s zeal for the knowledge of truth. If one is enthusiastic and eager to follow the principles of truth, then it is satyagraha.  Sometimes in India, factory workers will go on strike because they are displeased with their bosses, or some individuals who are disturbed by government policies will fast for several days in order to achieve their ends. Then they will say that they are following satyagraha.    

There are two words in Mahatma Gandhi’s life: ahimsa and satyagraha. People are always confusing these two terms, but they are not at all the same. Ahimsa is non-violence. We always care for ahimsa, because God is all love. Inside us there are many things that we have to fight against. We have to fight against ignorance, doubt, fear, worries and anxieties because these things are inwardly standing in our way. But the outer fight, from the spiritual point of view, should be avoided.  

Again, it may be the Supreme’s Will that we fight outwardly, as when the Lord Krishnaasked Arjuna to fight in order to uproot ignorance. But fighting is necessary only on special occasions, when it is the specific Will of God. In general, there should be no violation of authority, because it destroys our inner poise. Here I am not taking sides in politics, or referring to any particular conflicts in different places. No, it is from the purely spiritual point of view that I am telling you this.  

When we try to follow the man-made truth, we feel that we have to justify this truth with our reasoning mind. Somebody will say that his salary is not high enough; so according to his truth, he feels he should go on strike in order to get higher wages. In this way, he will stick to his own truth. But who knows whether his demand is justifiable or not? But in the spiritual life, when we speak of satyagraha, it has a different meaning. It refers to the spiritual truth. Here we think of the divine seeker who, with constant inner joy, is walking along the path of truth and devoting his whole life to truth.  

In ordinary satyagraha, we try to get the truth by hook or by crook. Either we will keep on fasting, or we will go on strike, and in that way we try to get the thing done. But true satyagraha, from the spiritual point of view, is not like that. There we want to see the truth through surrender to the Will of God. The seeker wants to pursue the truth, but while pursuing the truth he feels the necessity of surrendering to the Will of God. He feels that it is the Will of God that is giving him the capacity to follow the path of truth, and it is the Will of God that will give him the capacity to see the truth.  

In ordinary satyagraha, the individual lives twenty-four hours a day without truth, but to satisfy the demands of his physical, vital and mind, he wants to show the world that he is following the path of truth and offering light to the world. This is not at all spiritual. But in spiritualsatyagraha, one sees the truth and cries to be the truth itself; one wants only to be the torch-bearer of truth. Then one sticks to the truth and offers his life to the truth. He does not cry to God for the fulfilment of his own desires. He surrenders and says to God, “If it is Your Will, then do this for me. If it is not Your Will, then do not do it for me. I want only to fulfil You.”  

So in the spiritual life, satyagraha means total devoted surrender to the Will of Truth, and this Truth is God. God’s name is Truth. How can we get the Truth? It is not by force, not by coercion, but only by constant aspiration and constant surrender to the Will of Truth, to the Will of God.

by Sri Chinmoy

Excerpt from Mahatma Gandhi: The Heart Of Life by Sri Chinmoy