Tag: <span>Leo Tolstoy</span>

Appeals

Nonviolent Action: The Force of the Soul.

Featured Image: Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

2 October is the UN General Assembly-designated Day of Nonviolence chosen as 2 October is the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

U.N General Assembly

Featured Image by Basil D Soufi, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

U.N. General Assembly: Can It Provide the Needed Global Leadership?

Passive Resistance.

Mahatma Gandhi, shortly after finishing his legal studies in England, went to South Africa and began working with Indian laborers, victims of discrimination. He looked for a term understandable to a largely English-speaking population to explain his efforts. “Passive resistance” was the most widely used term and had been used by Leo Tolstoy and others.

However, Gandhi found the word “passive” misleading. There did exist a Hindu term ahinsa − a meaning non and hinsa, violence. The term was basically unknown among White South Africans, largely uninterested in Indian philosophical thought.

Leo Tolstoy

Image: Portrait of Leo Tolstoy (1887). By Ilya Repin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Leo Tolstoy: The Law of Love.

Tune with the Infinite or Fullness of Peace Power and Plenty.

Gandhi wrote to a friend from his legal studies days in England, Edward Maitland. Maitland and Anna Kingsford were the leaders of the Esoteric Christian Union and the leaders of the London Lodge of the Theosophical Society. Maitland introduced Gandhi to the writings of the American New Thought writer Ralph Waldo Trine. Trine was a New Englander and his parents named him after Emerson. His best known work from which Gandhi took the term for his actions in South Africa is In Tune with the Infinite or Fullness of Peace Power and Plenty. (1)

Edward Maitland, biographer of en:Anna Kingsford (1846–1888). By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Soul Force.

Trine uses the term “soul force” which Gandhi then used for his work in South Africa. Once back in India, Gandhi wanted an Indian rather than an English expression, and he coined the term satyagraha − holding on to truth: sat as Truth in a cosmic sense is an oft-used Hindu term while “soul” would need some explaining to Indian followers.

All of Trine’s writings contained the same message: soul force could be acquired by making oneself one with God, who was immanent, through love and service to one’s fellow men. The Christ Trine followed was one familiar to Gandhi − the supreme spiritual exemplar who showed men the way to union with their divine essence. Trine promised that the true seeker, fearless and forgetful of self-interest, will be so filled with the power of God working through him that:

“as he goes here and there, he can continually send out influences of the most potent and powerful nature that will reach the uttermost parts of the world.”

For Trine, thought was the way that a person came into tune with the Infinite. “Each is building his own world. We both build from within, and we attract from without. Thought is the force with which we build, for thoughts are forces. Like builds like and like attracts like. In the degree that thought is spiritualized does it become more subtle and powerful in its workings. This spiritualizing is in accordance with law and is within the power of all.

“Everything is first worked out in the unseen before it is manifested in the seen, in the ideal before it is realized in the real, in the spiritual before it shows forth in the material. The realm of the unseen is the realm of cause. The realm of the seen is the realm of effect. The nature of effect is always determined and conditioned by the nature of its cause.”

Thus for Mahatma Gandhi, before a nonviolent action or campaign, there was a long period of spiritual preparation of both himself and his close co-workers. Prayer, fasting, meditation were used in order to focus the force of the soul, to visualize a positive outcome and to develop harmlessness to those opposed.

Another theme which Trine stressed and which Gandhi constantly used in his efforts to build bridges between Hindus and Muslims was that there was a basic core common to all religions. Gandhi wrote:

“There is a golden thread that runs through every religion in the world. There is a golden thread that runs through the lives and the teachings of all the prophets, seers, sages, and saviours in the world’s history, through the lives of all men and women of truly great and lasting power. The great central fact of the universe is that the spirit of infinite life and power is back of all, manifests itself in and through all. This spirit of infinite life and power that is back of all is what I call God. I care not what term you may use, be it Kindly Light, Providence, the Over-Soul, Omnipotence or whatever term may be most convenient, so long as we are agreed in regard to the great central fact itself.”

Simone Panter-Brick - Gandhi

 Image: Gandhi spinning at Birla House, Mumbai, August 1942. By Kanu Gandhi, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Simone Panter-Brick: Gandhi and Nationalism.

Note.

1) R.W. Trine. In Tune with the Infinite (New York: Whitecombe and Tombs, 1899, 175pp.)

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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The Uprooted.

Increasing numbers of people in countries around the world, have been forced from their homes, by armed conflicts and systematic violations of human rights. Those who cross internationally recognized borders…

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Leo Tolstoy Book Reviews

Leo Tolstoy: The Law of Love.

Featured Image: Portrait of Leo Tolstoy (1887). By Ilya Repin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

We possess a single infallible guide, the Universal Spirit that lives in men as a whole, and in each one of us, which makes us aspire to what we should aspire: It is the Spirit that commands the tree to grow toward the sun, the flower to throw off its seed in Autumn, us to reach out towards God, and by so doing, become united to each other.”
                          Leo Tolstoy.

9 September marks the birth of the multi-dimensional Count Leo Tolstoy, an aristocratic land owner, a young military officer, a distinguished author of War and Peace, Anna Karenina, Hedji Mirad, a spiritual-moral philosopher deeply influenced by the Semon on the Mount of Jesus, and a champion of non-violent action. It is this last aspect and the link with Mahatma Gandhi that I would like to stress.

The final two yeas of Tolstoy’s life (1909-1910) were enlightened by his written contacts with Mohandas Gandhi (not yet called Mahatma) Gandhi had read Tolstoy’s fundamental spiritual-political work, The Kingdom of God is Within You shortly after it was published in England in 1893 and had been much moved by it. Gandhi had his friends translate the book into his native language, Gujarati.

To render good for evil.

Gandhi had read earlier in London Helena Blavatsky‘s The Voice of Silence, published in 1889, which elaborated the doctrine of liberation through service to others with the Buddhist concept of bodhisatva − the enlightened being who postpones indefinitely entry into nirvana in order to serve others. The voice of silence is the inner voice of the Higher Self or the soul. There is also developed the idea ‘to render good for evil’.

Thus Gandhi was well prepared to react positively to Tolstoy’s vision even if the vocabulary was largely Christian. Christ’s teaching, writes Tolstoy, differs from other teachings in that it guides humans not by eternal rules but by an inward consciousness of the possibility of reaching divine perfection. Tolstoy stresses the Middle Way, which led the French writer E.M. De Vogue to write that Tolstoy had the soul of an Indian Buddhist. Tolstoy had discovered that non-violence must have a spiritual foundation, most clearly expressed for him in the Gospels. Tolstoy wrote:

“the truth that for our life one law is valid, the law of love which brings the highest happiness to every individual as well as to all mankind.”

Leo Tolstoy and Gandhi never met, but they corresponded with each other during the final two years of Tolstoy’s life. Tolstoy had read Hind Swaraj (1909) where Gandhi set out his vision of a liberated India, the means to reach liberation, and what an independent India could mean for the world. It was Gandhi’s plan of action before he set out to put it in practice. Gandhi had listed some of Tolstoy’s books in a list of supplementary readings to Hind Swaraj in particular The Kingdom of God is Within You and Letter to a Hindoo, Tolstoy’s reply to an Indian revolutionary who had proposed a violent uprising.

Tolstoy wrote to Gandhi:

“I read your book with great interest because I think that the questin you treat in it − the passive resistance − is a question of the greatest importance not only for India but for the whole humanity.”

Tolstoy had also read Joseph Doha’s 1909 biography of Gandhi An Indian Patriot in South Africa ,the first biography of Gandhi to be written. In August 1910, Gandhi wrote to Tolstoy to announce the creation of his ashram in South Africa called Tolstoy Farm.

Gandhi’s efforts in South Africa were signs to Tolstoy that non-violence based on the importance of personal virtue could be put into practice. Much of the last years of Tolstoy’s life was a harsh struggle against darkness as represented by the State, its war-making power, its ideologies, and the social thinking that structured the State. Colonialism, imperialism and the oppression of the indigenous peoples were the hallmark of the State.

He saw the forces at work that would lead to the First World War and the Russian Revolution. By 1901 he had been excommunicated from the Russian Orthodox Church − not that he expected much light to come from Church-State relations. The Church did insist that no prayers be said at Tolstoy’s funeral.

For Tolstoy as for Gandhi, nonviolence was an expression of ‘soul force’ −the outward expression of the Inner Kingdom.

René Wadlow, president and a U.N. representative (Geneva) of the Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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