Ahimsa, in Gandhiji’s perception and practice, is not merely the antonym of “himsa”, i.e., violence. It is the complete control over the intention of harming others. In a way it is a process of purification leading to eradication of the instinct to injure or to kill. To Gandhiji, ahimsa is “the highest ideal”, “complete freedom from ill-will, anger and hate, and an over flowing love for all”, Gandhiji considered perfect non-violence as the highest bravery. “Cowardice and ahimsa do not get together any more then water and fire. True non-violence does not mean that we remain non-violent before the strong and use force on the weak.” Ahimsa means consideration for one and all and offence against none.
Aparigraha or non-possession involves consideration for others. It, therefore, requires one to limit one’s needs to the bare minimum. Gandhiji says: “In India we have got three millions of people having to be satisfied with one meal a day, and that meal consisting of a chapatti containing no fat in it, and a pinch of salt. You and I have no right to anything that we really have until these three millions are clothed and fed better. You and I, who ought to know better, must adjust our wants, and even undergo voluntary starvation in order that they may be nursed, fed and clothed.”
‘Non-cooperation’ is one of the main weapons in the armoury of Satyagraha. But at the same time, it should not be forgotten that it is after all only a means to secure the cooperation of the opponent consistently with truth and justice. The essence of non-violence technique is that it seeks to liquidate antagonisms but not the antagonists themselves. Non-Cooperation is essentially a non-violent method of creating public opinion against an evil. “Non-Cooperation is a protect against an unwitting and unwilling participation in evil.” “It is an attempt to cooperate with a method or system that is shielding the evil.” “Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as co operation with good,” says Gandhiji.
For Gandhiji a balanced and harmonious society cannot be established without observing ‘non-thieving’. He says: “I suggest that we are thieves in a way. If I take anything that I do not need for my own immediate use, and keep it, I thieve it from somebody else. I venture to suggest that it is the fundamental law of Nature, without exception, that nature produces enough for our wants from day to day, and if only everybody took enough for himself and nothing more, there would be no pauperism in this world, there would be no man dying of starvation in this world. But so long as we have got this inequality, so long we are thieving.”
Food condiments that stimulate and excite our tastebuds makeus slaves to our swada or plate. Aswad thus advocates avoiding those elements from our food-intake which are essential for upkeep of physical health. This also includes taking only that amount of food which is necessary for maintaining good health.
Brahmacharya is a way of life that leads one to ‘Brahma’, i.e., God. That way of life entails a complete control over senses and is to be secured in thought, word and deed. In other words, brahmacharya is to be observed is three ways-in mind, in speech and in body. Gandhiji elucidates: “But brahmacharya, in speech is bodily brahmacharya, for, though it is the mind that inspires speech, in itself speech is a bodily function. There remains the mind then. Thus what is needed most is to keep the mind under control, which is an uphill task.”
For Gandhiji, brahmacharya does not necessarily have a reference to one’s being married or not.
Manual-labour essential earning one’s bread is ‘bread-labour ‘. For Gandhiji, it is the yajna of the body, i.e., physical labour. Bodily yajna is as essential for him as brahmacharya. Purification of the mind is achieved by mental yajna and that of the atman by yajna of the atman. Similarly bodily yajna alone can purify the body. He says, “We must perform the duties arising from the existence of the body. Eating, bathing, going from place to place for begging, all these we do, thinking them to be legitimate activities, and show aversion only to bread-labour…” He adds: “One may not performit with one’s whole heart behind it and so deceive people, that would be another matter; but perform it, one must.”
Revival of the Spinning-wheel, for Gandhiji, was the revival of village economy. It is the pivot of village industries. According to him if the charkha does not ply in the seven lakh villages of India, the other village industries are the planets revolving around it. If the sun should become extinct, the planets cannot go on, for they depend on the sun.” “If India’s villages are to live and prosper, the Charkha must become iniversal.” He adds.
Gandhiji describes civil disobedience as “the assertion of a right which law should give but which it denies”. In general terms, he uses it as a method of resistance or disobeying government orders in such a manner as it does not create hatred against anybody. So in that sense it “presupposes willing obedience of our self-imposed rules” and becomes “a stimulation for the fighters when the state has become lawless”. By choosing self-imposed discipline, a civil disobedience worker, through strength and purity, poses a mighty moral challenge to those in authority. Passive Resistance is “ a method of securing rights by personal suffering: It is the reverse of resistance by arms.” What lacks in it is the presence of love.
‘Dharma’ has a different connotation for Gandhiji from what is generally meant religion. For him it is a set of duties towards oneself and others. Dharma, for him is not “a mere sophistry” but “a thing to be lived” ; it means to serve, to befriend all, “return good for evil”, “to be kind and full of passion” and “ to treat all men as children of God”. Gandhiji says: “ When life it short and extremely uncertain, what can we say of our activities ? Only dharma abides; it is imperishable because it is related to Atman. And dharma lies in truth and ahimsa. Whatever we do while following it is proper.”