Gandhi’s doctrine of Satyagraha | Sunday Observer

Gandhi’s doctrine of Satyagraha

8 May, 2022

Mahatma Gandhi and his thoughts have attracted the attention of scholars for a long time. Gandhi himself was a prolific writer and he has expressed his views on many subjects. As a result a vast body of literature has come into existence.

It is debatable whether he was a political activist first and then a political philosopher.

Prior to Gandhi there were two prominent personalities who propounded their theories. The first was Lord Krishna who propounded a theoretical framework in the Bhagawad Gita and practised the principles enunciated in it.

The other was Kautilya who propounded a political theory and implemented it successfully.

Gandhi was a holistic philosopher. He presented and integrated his views philosophically. Gandhian scholar Dr Dipty M. Das says, “Though Gandhi’s metaphysics is essentially based on classical Hindu and Buddhist thoughts, the ethical stand he developed is uniquely his own. The uniqueness of the ethical standpoint consists in its scope to accommodate all other possible ethical standpoints irrespective of their origin.”

Gandhian theory

We have seen various theories rising to the realm of popularity and influencing intellectuals for a certain period of time. Thereafter they lose their relevance. Gandhian Ideas have eternal value. His thoughts are beyond temporal considerations. The contemporary world is now dominated by violence in every walk of life.

The world is sharply getting divided into two major blocs causing fear of unimaginable violence. The very existence of the world is under threat because of the antagonistic polarisation coming into existence. Violent methods are indeed undesirable and they produce irreparable damage to the social fabric. The ongoing Ukraine – Russia conflict is a case in point.

It is time for us to revisit the Gandhian theory of non-violence for maintaining world peace. Gandhi believed that the cosmos is being governed by a set of moral laws. When it comes down from the cosmic level to the human world it becomes Dharma or morality. Gandhi argued that moral concerns have to be given all encompassing status. In other words, it is possible to achieve success without resorting to violence. Therefore, he advocated the practice of non-violence strongly. There is a view that Gandhi has based his theory of non-violence on age-old traditions of India. Throughout his life he tried to practise his theories.


Gandhi considered truth as an eternal cosmic law. When practised, truth acquires a non-violent behaviour. Non-violence is not a negative concept. It does not signify the absence of violence. In fact it asserts the positive presence of love. Gandhi’s notion of love operates at the level of thought, word, and deed. It is a perfect coordination of thought, word and deed in the realm of truth that will make man non-violent. Therefore, the doctrine of Satyagraha is in fact truth and non-violence.

Gandhi visualised a very wide area for the practice of Satyagraha. It can range from domestic field to national and international political arena. His entire moral and political thinking rests on two principles, viz. Satya (truth) and Ahimsa (non-violence). He gave a concrete form to the two principles through Satyagraha which is a method of resisting and fighting evil in all its forms. The term Satyagraha was coined by Gandhi while living in South Africa.


The main aim of Satyagraha is to establish the truth. Satyagraha is executed through Ahimsa. He was totally committed to Ahimsa and there is no room for violence in Satyagraha. Selfishness cannot go with non-violence and it can be achieved only through violence.

The eminent physicist Albert Einstein said, “The moral influence which Gandhi has exercised upon thinking people may be far more durable than would appear, likely in our present age, with its exaggerations of brute force. We are fortunate that fate has bestowed upon us such a luminous contemporary, a beacon for generations to come.”

-The writer is a freelance journalist and Indologist based in Hyderabad, India.