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Sun Dec 2, 2012, 12:56 AM

The Kingdom of God is Within You (Leo Tolstoy c. 1894)

This is perhaps one of the most influential books ever written, since it might be argued that this text helped set in motion mass movements that subsequently freed India from British rule, ended the strange career of Jim Crow in the American South, and demolished the apartheid system in South Africa

In Tzarist Russia, the book was banned almost upon first appearance, but it was just as promptly translated into English, and in 1894 someone trying to convert a certain young Hindu to Christianity put it into the hands of an Indian barrister in South Africa. The recipient, Mohandas Gandhi, was immediately and favorably impressed by the book, though decade or more passed, before he began to act decisively upon the ideas he found in it. But by 1906, Gandhi was inventing satyagraha, and the two corresponded in the period before Tolstoy's death

At first sight, it may seem strange that a book devoted to Tolstoy's explanation of Christianity should have inspired the activist career of a Hindu who thereafter consciously chose not to abandon Hinduism. And Kingdom of God is some ways a very odd production: Tolstoy has jimmied together a variety of views, alternately sounding scientific, crankish, fundamentalist, humanist ...

His text repeatedly turns corners, heading off in unexpected directions, which can eventually produce a somewhat exhausting read. Tolstoy's view seems fundamentalist, insofar as he explicitly believes that Christians ought not have anything whatsoever to do with government. And his view seems crankish, insofar as he explicitly believes that Christians ought to be under all circumstances radically nonviolent: the Christian is simply never ever, in Tolstoy's account, allowed to use any violence whatsoever to obtain the desired result. So if the state wants to protect you by violence, you must demur; if the state wants to force you, by violence, to do something against your conscience, you must not ever violate your conscience, but neither are you allowed to defend yourself by violence, against the violence of the state. Tolstoy does not imagine that Christians can actually live up to such standards, but it is his view that Christians must make unceasing effort to live up to this standard, without any excuses. His theory is that over time the effort will work at the level of public opinion and will produce gradual lasting changes in society and in all the individuals living in the society: thus he thinks humanity has risen gradually from a purely selfish conception of ethical life through a social conception of ethical life towards a state-oriented conception of ethical life. Tolstoy knows that certain idealists believe one can pass beyond the state-oriented view to a conception of ethical life, based on loving humanity -- but curiously enough, Tolstoy does not think we can really love humanity, and so he dismisses this further evolution as impossible. Here, again, he seems a fundamentalist or a crank, believing that the only way forward from a state-oriented conception of ethical life is the notion of Christianity that he has sketched. And yet, he simultaneously somehow wants to portray his ideas as scientific: he thinks the mystical overlay of Christianity is a product of people's astonishment and bemusement

Gandhi found much of this to his own personal taste: he himself was quite tolerant of crankishness, both in himself and in his associates; he believed that through radical nonviolence one could act in the world with scientific force; and he simultaneously avoided involvement himself in governmental activities, while repeatedly using radical nonviolence to sway public opinion as an instrument to pressure government. So, in South Africa, he began working out his ideas at his commune, named Tolstoy Farm

Tolstoy died in 1910. Gandhi continued to work in South Africa for a while, but finally returned to India, where his campaign for home rule succeeded before his assassination in 1948. The Natal Indian Congress, that Gandhi helped found, later allied itself with the African National Congress, in the struggle against apartheid

... King Jr. came to India in February 1959, four year after Rosa Parks sparked the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott and 11 years after Gandhi was assassinated. He drew powerful lessons about the way the bony, bare-chested Gandhi had deployed the weapon of nonviolence in his fight to free India from more than 200 years of British rule. Gandhi's philosophy of peaceful resistance had a lasting impact on how King Jr. shaped the U.S. civil rights movement. In India, King Jr. and his wife visited sites where Gandhi had lived, struggled and held prayer meetings. King Jr. gave a national address on All India Radio, met freedom fighters and stayed in a room where Gandhi had slept. He was draped with garlands in the traditional Indian style everywhere he went ...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/17/AR2009021703040.html











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Reply The Kingdom of God is Within You (Leo Tolstoy c. 1894) (Original post)
struggle4progress Dec 2012 OP
BillyJack Dec 2012 #1
tama Dec 2012 #3
struggle4progress Dec 2012 #4
tama Dec 2012 #2

Response to struggle4progress (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 01:11 AM

1. satyagraha

Never saw that word before. The "google" tells me that word means "insistence on truth".

Ghandi didn't "invent" that idea of TRUTH. Geez.

He lived it though, as best to his abilities (which was considerable).

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Response to BillyJack (Reply #1)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 01:37 AM

3. satyagraha

 

I've understood that the "insistence on truth" means in this context that while Gandhi did not consider violent resistance unjustified (but considered non-resistance to injustice unjustified), lack of absolute certainty that their side was right and the other side wrong did not justify using violence against the other side, but insisting on truth.

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Response to BillyJack (Reply #1)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 08:46 AM

4. "... concept introduced in the early 20th century by Mahatma Gandhi to designate a determined

but nonviolent resistance to evil. Gandhi’s satyagraha became a major tool in the Indian struggle against British imperialism ... According to this philosophy, satyagrahis — practitioners of satyagraha — achieve correct insight into the real nature of an evil situation by observing a nonviolence of the mind, by seeking truth in a spirit of peace and love, and by undergoing a rigorous process of self-scrutiny. In so doing, the satyagrahi encounters truth in the absolute. By his refusal to submit to the wrong or to cooperate with it in any way, the satyagrahi asserts this truth. Throughout his confrontation with the evil, he must adhere to nonviolence, for to employ violence would be to lose correct insight. A satyagrahi always warns his opponents of his intentions; satyagraha forbids any tactic suggesting the use of secrecy to one’s advantage. Satyagraha includes more than civil disobedience; its full range of application extends from the details of correct daily living to the construction of alternative political and economic institutions. Satyagraha seeks to conquer through conversion ... http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/525247/satyagraha

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Response to struggle4progress (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 01:31 AM

2. Thanks s4p

 

Very glad to see a good post from you - know that the election hysteria is over.

There is another important author and book that had great impact on Gandhi - and King: Thoreau's Civil Disobedience (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_Disobedience_(Thoreau))

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