Gandhi Sets the Task for Our Website

“The way of violence is old and established. It is not so difficult to do research in it. The way of nonviolence is new. The science of nonviolence is yet taking shape. We are still not conversant with all its aspects. There is a wide scope for research and experiment in this field. You can apply all your talents to it.”
M. K. Gandhi


Nonviolent Anarchism: The Convergence of Pacifism and Anarchism

by Geoffrey Ostergaard

Anarcho-pacifist logo courtesy

The development of Christian Anarchism presaged the increasing convergence (but not complete merging) of pacifism and anarchism in the 20th century. The outcome is the school of thought and action (one of its tenets is developing thought through action) known as ‘pacifist anarchism’, ‘anarcho-pacifism’ and ‘nonviolent anarchism’. Experience of two world wars encouraged the convergence. But, undoubtedly, the most important single event to do so (although the response of both pacifists and anarchists to it was curiously delayed) was the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Ending as it did five years of ‘total war’, it symbolised dramatically the nature of the modern Moloch that man had erected in the shape of the state. In the campaign against nuclear weapons in the 1950s and early 1960s, more particularly in the radical wings of it, such as the Committee of 100 in Britain, pacifists and anarchists educated each other.

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In Memoriam: Suzanne Duarte (1944-2015)

by Michael Sawyer

Photograph of Suzanne, 2015; courtesy Jan-Paul Vroom

We mourn the loss of our Natural World editor Suzanne Duarte, who died suddenly of natural causes on December 5, 2015 at her home in Boulder, Colorado.

Originally from California, Suzanne lived for most of her life in the western part of the country where she first came to know and love the wild places of the Earth – the Redwood Forests of northern California, Yosemite National Park, the Colorado Rockies and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of southern Colorado. They were for her the true mentors teaching us about our interconnectedness with nature, which she later recognized in the deep ecology theory of Arne Naess.

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Dharmagaia: The Nonviolence of Deep Ecology

by Suzanne Duarte

Apollo image of earth; courtesy

Nature is stabilized by order, and humans along with all other natural phenomena exist within nature. Attempting to force one’s own path is arrogant, futile and self-destructive.

Lao Tzu

Everything depends on others for survival and nothing really exists apart from everything else. Therefore, there is no permanent self or entity independent of others. Not only are we interdependent, but we are an interrelated whole. As trees, rocks, clouds, insects, humans and animals, we are all equals and part of our universe.

Korean Zen Master Samu Sunim


Dharmagaians (1) are people who seek and speak the truth, cherish and protect the Earth, and act responsibly for the benefit of future generations of all sentient beings. They are not afraid to engage with the truth, the facts of our time, no matter how difficult and painful. In fact, many Dharmagaians have been doing so in writing and teaching for decades. Dharmagaians are also not afraid to allow themselves to feel the suffering of beings living now and those yet to be born, who will inherit a depleted planet.

One Dharmagaian ally, the cosmologist Brian Swimme, tells us that we are living in the most destructive moment in 65 million years. The Earth is withering under the onslaught of humans: our consumption of the biological and mineral endowment of the planet, and our pollution and waste. Species are going extinct at an unprecedented and increasing rate. Resources are declining and shortages are beginning to manifest in the parts of the world that are not already suffering them.

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Mahatma Gandhi’s Views on Women and Social Change

by Sita Kapadia

M. K. Gandhi and wife, Kasturba, 1902; courtesy

Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy to the world is immeasurable; his life and work have left an impact on every aspect of life in India; he has addressed many personal, social and political issues; his collected works number more than one hundred volumes. From these I have gleaned only a few thoughts about women and social change.

In 1940, reviewing his twenty-five years of work in India concerning women’s role in society, he says, “My contribution to the great problem lies in my presenting for acceptance truth and ahimsa (nonviolence) in every walk of life, whether for individuals or nations. I have hugged the hope that in this woman will be the unquestioned leader and, having thus found her place in human evolution, will shed her inferiority complex … Woman is the incarnation of ahimsa. Ahimsa means infinite love, which again means infinite capacity for suffering. And who but woman, the mother of man, shows this capacity in the largest measure? … Let her translate that love to the whole of humanity … And she will occupy her proud position by the side of man … She can become the leader in satyagraha.”

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Women and Nonviolence – Clearing a Path for the Future: The Niwano Peace Foundation Interview with Ela Ramesh Bhatt

by Rev. Nichiko Niwano

Portrait of Ela Ramesh Bhatt courtesy

Editor’s Preface: This interview was conducted upon the award of the 2010 Niwano Peace Prize to Ela Ramesh Bhatt, founder of the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), an Indian women’s labor union with more than 1.2 million members. She was cited for having worked for “more than thirty years to improve the lives of the poorest and most oppressed women workers.” Rev. Nichiko Niwano is president of the Niwano Peace Foundation in Tokyo, which manages the prize. Please consult the note at the end for further biographical information, acknowledgments, and links. JG

Niwano: I have been particularly impressed by the fact that your activities promoting self-reliance for female workers are based on the spirit of nonviolence. Efforts for social reform always arouse opposition. If we look at history, there have been a great many confrontations wherein “blood washes blood” in cycles of violence. At present, violence swirls around the world. I think that within this context, your work clears a new pathway to the future. Furthermore, you do not view women simply as “the weaker sex”. You have said that “women are the key to the formation of society” and that “women must become the leaders of social change”. These are extremely important messages as we consider the future. Although I am meeting you for the first time, I have very much looked forward to having this dialogue with you, and it is a great pleasure to greet you.

Bhatt: First of all, thank you very much, and I’m really very pleased and grateful that the Niwano Peace Prize of Japan has recognized the courage and the hard work of my SEWA sisters in India. They are trying to build a peaceful society based on constructive work. Personally, the prize is humbling, and makes me more conscious of the immensity of the challenges before us. I realize that life is short and art is long.

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Means and Ends in Gandhian Politics

by Raghavan N. Iyer

Poster illustration courtesy

Most political and social thinkers have been concerned with the desirable (and even necessary) goals of a political system or with the common and competing ends that men actually desire, and then pragmatically considered the means that are available to rulers and citizens. Even those who have sought a single, general, and decisive criterion of decision-making have stated the ends and then been more concerned with the consequences of social and political acts than with consistently applying standards of intrinsic value. It has become almost a sacred dogma in our age of apathy that politics, centred on power and conflict and the quest for legitimacy and consensus, is essentially a study in expediency, a tortuous discovery of practical expedients that could reconcile contrary claims and secure a common if minimal goal or, at least, create the conditions in which different ends could be freely or collectively pursued.

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Criticising Gandhi: A Note on Historiography, Politics and Method

by Anil Nauriya

When I am contradicted it arouses my attention, not my wrath.
I move towards the man who contradicts me: he is instructing me.
The cause of truth ought to be common to us both
. Montaigne

The debates on Gandhi’s role as a personality and as a symbol of Indian nationalism will go on; the purpose of this article is mainly to draw attention to some points of methodology which, when overlooked, lead to erroneous and even absurd results.

First, analysis confined to comparing the positions of any individuals or organizations at a single arbitrarily chosen point in time is inadequate. Gandhi as well as his critics were continually evolving. The movement in their positions is often of more significance than their points of view at any isolated moment.

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Book Review: Mary Elizabeth King, Gandhian Nonviolent Struggle and Untouchability in South India

by Sean Chabot

Dust jacket courtesy Oxford University Press;

In her preface to the 1965 edition of Conquest of Violence (see References at the end), Joan Bondurant makes a strong case for distinguishing nonviolent action as duragraha or Gandhian satyagraha. She argues that duragraha involves pressuring opponents based on a de facto prejudgment that they are wrong, through passive resistance, and through symbolic violence. In a later essay (posted previously here), she adds that it is a form of stubborn or willful resistance seeking to demonstrate that opponents are necessarily wrong; that resisters are inherently righteous; and that the purpose of nonviolent action is to gain predetermined objectives by winning battles with opponents. In contrast to satyagraha (i.e., firmness in seeking truth through the power of love), duragraha aims at gaining tangible concessions from power-holders in the short-term rather than transforming social relationships and creating in the long run alternative ways of life benefiting everyone,  especially the most oppressed. Bondurant emphasizes these distinctions, because she feels that most of the so-called Gandhian struggles during the 1960s are actually examples of duragraha, not satyagraha. In her eyes, this misunderstanding severely limits the political, ethical, and transformative potential of these struggles.

In the 1960s, Gene Sharp—the undisputed pioneer of nonviolent action and civil resistance studies—responded very differently to Gandhi’s legacy. Unlike Bondurant, Sharp invokes Gandhi to define nonviolent action as “a technique used to control, combat and destroy the opponent’s power by nonviolent means of wielding power”, without carefully conceptualizing satyagraha or considering how it diverges from duragraha (Sharp 1973: 4). By erasing these differences, and by focusing on conventional power politics instead of situational ethics, his The Politics of Nonviolent Action articulates a generic and simplistic understanding of nonviolent action that applies to many cases of unarmed resistance throughout history and across the world. In the process, he normalizes duragraha as a pragmatic and strategic form of nonviolence, thereby hollowing out Gandhi’s concept of satyagraha while continuing to use Gandhi’s name to popularize his own approach. Since the 1970s, Sharp has quickly become the most influential figure in the field, serving as mentor to fellow civil resistance authors like George Lakey, Peter Ackerman, Jack Duvall, Michael Randle, Howard Clark, April Carter, and of course Mary King.

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The Chipko Movement: A Nonviolent Philosophy of Harmonious Existence

by Chandi Prasad Bhatt

Editor’s Preface: This previously unpublished paper, from the War Resisters’ International archive, was presented at the Nonviolence and Social Empowerment conference held in Orissa, India, February 2001. Further biographical information, acknowledgments, and archival reference can be found at the end. See also Mark Shepard’s article about Bhatt and Chipko, posted here at this link. JG

Photograph of Bhatt courtesy

Mahatma Gandhi’s concept of self-governance (swaraj) aimed to create an egalitarian society. To achieve it, a committed group of people established Dasholi Gram Swarajya Mandal (Society for Village Self-Rule; DGSM) at Gopeshwar, northern India, in 1964. Since the objective was to develop a self sustaining nonviolent society, training was offered in village industries, agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry, harvesting forest produce, utilizing mineral resources, employment in various construction activities, educating and awakening people for forest protection, husbanding of natural resources, etc. Gradually, DGSM become a symbol of village self-reliance. However, everything changed in 1970 when a massive flood hit the Alaknanda river basin, devastating the normal life and destroying the property. The flood was unprecedented in the history of the region, and was described by the government as a natural calamity. But the relief workers of DGSM refused to accept this, as they had witnessed the destruction of the forests between 1950-1970 in the watersheds from where the flood originated. While undertaking the relief operation in the flood-affected watersheds, DGSM volunteers concluded that the flood was more man-made than claimed.

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Three Fairytales by Manfred Kyber

Translated by William J. Jackson

“Wintertime”; illustration by Eduard Schultz, 1867; courtesy

Translator’s Preface: Manfred Kyber (1880-1933) was born in Riga, now the capital of Latvia, but then a part of Russia. His family was German and when he was still a small boy they moved back to Germany. He studied philosophy at the University of Leipzig and later moved to Berlin where he published a novel, poetry, and theater criticism. He married Elisabeth Boltho, a Theosophist through whom he met Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian philosopher and mystic, and became associated with the anthroposophical movement, which Steiner led. Kyber was not only a pacifist but an outspoken early proponent of animal rights. As well as poetry and novels, he published several volumes of fables and fairy tales, many of which have been translated into English. See the note at the end for links and further details about the translation and translator. Please note that we have also posted three other fairy tales by Kyber. WJJ

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The Snowman

Once upon a time there was a snowman who stood in the middle of the deep snow-covered forest, and he was made entirely of snow. He had no legs, and his eyes were made of coal—that’s all he had, and that’s not much. And he was cold, terribly cold. That’s what the grumbling old icicle that hung nearby said too, though he himself was even colder. “You are cold,” he said reproachfully to the snowman.

The snowman was hurt. “Well, you’re cold too,” he answered.

“Yes, but that’s something else again entirely,” said the icicle with a superior tone.

The snowman was so offended that he would have gone away if he had had any legs. But he had no legs and so he remained standing there, though he did decide to speak no more with the unfriendly icicle.

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“When planted in the garden, the mustard seed, smallest of all the seeds, became a large tree, and birds came and made their home there.” Luke 13:19

“For me whatever is in the atoms and molecules is in the universe. I believe in the saying that what is in the microcosm of one’s self is reflected in the macrocosm.” M. Gandhi