Gandhi's Views On Satyagraha
The Birth of Satyagraha
Events were so shaping themselves in
Johannesburg as to make this self-purification on my part a preliminary as it
were to Satyagraha. I can now see that all the principal events of my life,
culminating in the vow of brahmacharya, were secretly preparing me for it. The
principle called Satyagraha came into being before that name was invented.
Indeed when it was born, I myself could not say what it was. In Gujarati also we
used the English phrase 'passive resistance' to describe it. When in a meeting
of Europeans I found that the term 'passive resistance' was too narrowly
construed, that it was supposed to be a weapon of the weak, that it could be
characterized by hatred, and that it could finally manifest itself as violence,
I had to damur to all these statements and explain the real nature of the Indian
movement. It was clear that a new word must be coined by the Indians to
designate their struggle.
But I could not for the life of me
find out a new name, and therefore offered a nominal prize through Indian
Opinion to the reader who made the best suggestion on the subject. As a result
Maganlal Gandhi coined the word 'Satyagraha' (Sat=truth, Agraha=firmness) and
won the prize. But in order to make it clearer I changed the word to
'Satyagraha' which has since become current in Gujarati as a designation for the
The history of this struggle is for
all practical purposes a history of the remainder of my life in South Africa and
especially of my experiments with truth in that sub-continent. I wrote the major
portion of this history in Yeravda jail and finished it after I was released. It
was published in Navajivan and subsequently issued in book form. Sjt. Valji
Govindji Desai has been translating it into English for Current Thought, but I
am now arranging to have the English translation published in book form at an
early date, so that those who will may be able to familiarize themselves with my
most important experiments in South Africa. I would recommend a perusal of my
history of Satyagraha in South Africa to such readers as have not seen it
already. I will not repeat what I have put down there, but in the next few
chapters will deal only with a few personal incidents of my life in South Africa
which have not been covered by that history. And when I have done with these, I
will at once proceed to give the reader some idea of my experiments in India.
Therefore, anyone who wishes to consider these experiments in their strict
chronological order will now do well to keep the history of Satyagraha in South
Africa before him.
[Source: This article is taken from
the book "The selected works of Mahatma Gandhi"
Autobiography-Vol. 1, Navneet Publications, Ahmedabad, India)]