Satyagraha - Gandhi's Website

Satyagraha literally means “truth force,” “truth” meaning a right granted by nature and the universe that should not be impeded on by man. Satyagraha was a focused nonviolent resistance to a particular injustice.

A person using Satyagraha would resist injustice by refusing to follow an unjust law. “In doing so, he would not be angry, would put up freely with physical assaults and the confiscation of his property, and would not use foul language to smear his opponent. …The goal was not for there to be a winner and loser, but rather, that all would eventually see and understand the “truth” and agree to rescind the unjust law.” [1]

I think we tend to think too casually about non-violent resistance. It’s not an easy thing to take part in. Consider yourself in a situation where you feel you need to defend your rights against an injustice. And, following Gandhi’s example, you take part in Satyagraha. Can you imagine the courage it would take? You could get beaten up and thrown in jail, all the time having to control yourself and stay calm. This is how many sacrificed themselves for the good of all. For the good of a cause.

And my thoughts turn to something else: the stigma so many of us with mental health challenges experience. Can we stand firm against such injustice? Can we hold our own when we let it be known that it’s wrong and unacceptable?

Satyagraha was first used in South Africa at the beginning of 1907 when Gandhi organized opposition to the Asiatic Registration Law (the Black Act). This law required all Indians to be fingerprinted and to keep registration documents with them at all times. Indians defied the law. Mass protests were organized, many of the protesters beaten and arrested.

In January 1908, Gandhi was arrested and sentenced to two months of imprisonment. It took seven years of protest before the Black Act was repealed in June 1914. Gandhi had proved that nonviolent protest could bring success.


This has been Part 31 of A Life Worth Living. Read Part 32 – Indian Independence.