Truth and non-violence are the twin pillars on which rested the entire framework of the
magnificent edifice of Mahatma Gandhi's glorious life and work, which, according
to the eminent scientist Einstein, was so spectacular that "generations to come,
it may be, will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood
walked upon this earth." To the Mahatma, of course, truth and non-violence were
the two sides of the same coin. Hence one can understand the importance of
non-violence in the working of Mahatma Gandhi's Weltanschauung or the
philosophy of life.
Propagation of non-violence was no novel or unprecedented act of the Mahatma. As he himself has rightly said, "I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and non-violence are as old as the hills. All I have done is to try experiments in both on as vast a scale as I could." Verily, Gandhiji was pioneer in the field of applying the talisman of Ahimsa or non-violence, which until then was accepted by saints as a means to attain individual Moksha or salvation from this material world, for the solution of day-to-day problems of the common man. To him life was an undivided whole and it could not be partitioned into water-tight compartments. Therefore, a true revolutionary as he was, he made it a mission of his life to see that the age-old dictum of non-violence gets its rightful place in the community of the future and all the relations and activities of the society are carried on on the basis of this universal doctrine.
To tell the truth, non-violence today has become a more pressing cry of the entire humanity than in any particular phase of the human history. The tremendous advent in the sphere of physical science has created such lethal weapons, before which the extinction of the human civilization, nay, even the species itself is a matter of a few seconds. In the ancient times when science and technology were in their infant stage, men could afford to be violent. But in the mid-twentieth century, when the world has been divided into two warring camps, armed to teeth with the latest models of armaments of total annihilation, the very urge of self-preservation has made it imperative on our part to embrace non-violence. Acharya Vinoba Bhave, the well-reputed protagonist of non-violence in modern India, has rightly remarked that this is an age when we must have to make proper synthesis of Vijnana and Atmajnana, i.e. science and self-knowledge. Not only Gandhians like Vinoba but so many others from all over the world have echoed the same voice and have said that without the guidance of the Spirit the present civilization is like a ship without a rudder. And what is the guidance of Spirit if it is not non-violence, i.e. pure love?
In trying to understand Gandhiji and his non-violence we should not overlook one important aspect of the truth. Gandhiji was no philosopher in the dogmatic sense of the term. He did not cut himself adrift from the daily problems and struggles of the mankind and take refuge in a solitary physical and mental corner to formulate his philosophy of non-violence. His was the unique technique of taking active role in the process of the solution of the everyday problems of the downtrodden and in this process he evolved, like a lotus that blooms petal after petal, his non-violence. Hence in the restricted sense of the term, his was a realistic philosophy and that is why he was not tired of calling himself a practical idealist. Whatever he has uttered in this respect war first experimentally proved by him and therefore it is a negation of truth if one says that the teachings of Gandhiji are meant for the Mahatmas alone and not for the man on the street. To such critics the entire life and work of Gandhiji are glaring testimonies.
It is but natural that such an important subject should be a matter of deep interest for all, who are concerned with the wellbeing of the mankind. The Navajivan Publishing House has rendered a unique service to the cause of non-violence by publishing the two volumes of Non-violence in Peace and War by Gandhiji, being the collection of his speeches and writings from 1921 to his last day. But as the said two volumes run near about 1000 pages, it was felt essential to present the basic thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi on non-violence in a handy single volume and the following pages are the outcome of that effort. The editor knows full well how difficult it is to undertake the job of abridging the writings and speeches of a person, who was not in the habit of using one single word that was not absolutely essential. Moreover he was always conscious of his limitations as an editor. But the urge of producing one such volume for the common reader interested to know the views of the Mahatma on non-violence, has provoked him to undertake this arduous job. While editing strict vigilance has been maintained to see that the author's ideas are not distorted. At a few places only the editor has inserted a word or two of his own for the purpose of maintaining the continuity of thought and correct syntax. But such words have been given within brackets, so that they can be distinguished from the writings of Gandhiji. The editor is aware that his efforts are not up to the mark and, therefore, he invites all suggestions for the improvement of the volume.
Before concluding I must make a special reference to the all-out help and co-operation I have received from Shri Jivanjibhai Desai, the Managing Trustee of the Navajivan Trust, without whose active interest in this venture it would not have been possible for me to prepare this volume. I hope that along with me the readers of the present volume would also appreciate his noble effort and sincere endeavour in popularizing the summum bonum of the greatest votary of peace of our age.
Sailesh Kumar Bandopadhaya