Gandhi’s teaching and views of non-violence spur from the religious principles, held by Buddhist and Hindu’s, called ahimsa, meaning doing no harm. Gandhi reformed this religious teaching to be a common philosophy for all people to follow called satyagraha, this philosophy states that the goal of non-violent conflicts are to persuade your opponent to your point of view by winning over their heart and mind. Gandhi’s view of non-violence asserts the need for people to stand strong in the face of violence. This means they will not retaliate to violent acts upon them but instead suffer, in order to show the perpetrator who the true enemy is. According to Gandhi power through violence is not real power, as in the world, non-violence is the natural law and superior to violent forces. This can be seen in the availability to hold power, power through violence can not be held by all members of human society whereas non-violence is a power that can be utilized by all levels of humans within society. Gandhi’s teachings of non-violence did not mean to simply run in the face of violence as a coward would but to take the violence into ones own suffering in order to protect others. When left with the decision between cowardice and violence Gandhi prefers for violence only in order to protect loved ones. This can be seen in his teachings for civil resistors to not surrender personal property, but to resist its confiscation, even if it could lead to harm or death.
Issues within Gandhi’s teaching of non-violence can be seen in the face of state sovereignty and individual rights. Gandhi viewed violence hand in hand with State power, which he rejected, due to the importance in his teachings of individual rights. Gandhi viewed the state as a violent force, taking from humans individual rights, therefore state sovereignty through his teachings seemed impossible. States and nations are comprised of individuals therefore if the individuals that made up the state were non-violent, the notion of a non-violent nation would be plausible. The problem with this is the likelihood of acceptance of non-violence by all people is unlikely, therefore, the only way for non-violent teachings of Gandhi to work would be through the institutionalizing of these concepts worldwide in a new social order based on truth.
Gandhi’s teachings of non-violence can be seen as continually tenable since the time of their creation. This is because his teachings are directed initially on the individual acceptance and living out of a non-violent life. People personally choose to accept or refute his claims and when the greater majority of people accept his notions of non-violence, widespread change can result in positive effects through the use of his teachings. This can be seen in the non-violent protests that occur today, the majority of the people participating in the protest remain non-violent while only a small majority may respond with violence. The groups of protesters that respond with violence are the ones who hold back the movement, it changes the focus from the movement, and what they want accomplished, onto the violence being committed and counter violence against them. Protest groups that have remained and stuck to their non-violent ways have proven to be the most successful. The LGBT movement is a perfect example of the continued relevance of Gandhi’s teachings today. The LGBT movement remained peaceful even in times of heightened violence and hate against them. The violent opposition to the LGBT movement became isolated and viewed as evil, individuals who opposed the movement, with violence, found themselves under a negative national spotlight. This shows that even today in the 21st century responding to violent forces with non-violence is the better way to achieve progressive change.
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