swaraj or self-rule


Reading through today’s AFR review section, i happened on an article about india. Embedded within that article was the Gandhian concept of swaraj or self-rule. Reading through it and the few definitions I’ve found on the web, swaraj is more complex than the one in the article and encapsulates both the idea of political self-government (as in independence from the british) and also individual internal self-rule of emotions, thoughts and desires (which Gandhi emphasized as more important).

Reading through his writings in Hind Swaraj (an online version of which can be found here: http://www.mkgandhi.org/swarajya/coverpage.htm), I discovered much that resonated with my own neo-buddhist beliefs and my politics. Looking through both spiritual and political lenses at Gandhi’s principles of passive resistance and non-violence, I began to understand just how radical, important, difficult and ultimately necessary his teachings are.

One passage, especially wrt to my recent post about angri-culture and thoughts about the new victim-hood mentality (which I am yet to post about), jumped out at me:

“We measure the universe by our own miserable foot-rule. When we are slaves, we think that the whole universe is enslaved. Because we are in an abject condition, we think that the whole of India is in that condition. As a matter of fact, it is not so, yet it is as well to impute our slavery to the whole of India. But if we bear in mind the above fact, we can see that if we become free, India is free. And in this thought you have a definition of Swaraj. It is Swaraj when we learn to rule ourselves. It is, therefore, in the palm of our hands. Do not consider this Swaraj to be like a dream. There is no idea of sitting still. The Swaraj that I wish to picture is such that, after we have once realized it, we shall endeavor to the end of our life-time to persuade others to do likewise. But such Swaraj has to be experienced, by each one for himself. One drowning man will never save another. Slaves ourselves, it would be a mere pretension to think of freeing others.”

I cannot think of any other passage that so closely entwines spiritual and political liberation and that is so valid to both.

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