April 12, 1919
Power in all it’s forms is irrational, it is like the horse that drags the carriage blindfolded. The moral element in it is only represented in the man who drives the horse. Passive resistance is a force which is not necessarily moral in itself; it can be used against truth as well as for it. The danger inherent in all force grows stronger when it is likely to gain success, for then it becomes temptation.
I know your teaching is to fight against evil by the help of good. But such a fight is for heroes and not for men led by impulses of the moment. Evil on one side naturally begets evil on the other, injustice leading to violence and insult to vengefulness. Unfortunately such a force has already been started, and either through panic or through wrath our authorities have shown us the claws whose sure effect is to drive some of us into the secret path of resentment and others into utter demoralization. In this crisis you, as a great leader of men, have stood among us to proclaim your faith in the ideal which you know to be that of India, the ideal which is both against the cowardliness of hidden revenge and the cowed submissiveness of the terror-stricken. You have said, as Lord Buddha, has done in his time and for all the time to come,
Akkodhena jine kodham, asadhum sadhuna jine, “Conquer anger by the power of non-anger and evil by power of good”.
This power of good must prove its truth and strength by its fearlessness, by its refusal to accept any imposition which depends for its success upon its power to produce frightfulness and is not ashamed to use its machines of destruction to terrorize a population completely disarmed. We must know that moral conquest does not consist in success, that failure does not deprive it of its dignity and worth. Those who believe in spiritual life know that to stand against wrong which has overwhelming material power behind it is victory itself, it is the victory of the active faith in the ideal in the teeth of evident defeat.
I have always felt and said accordingly, that the great gift of freedom can never come to a people through charity. We must win it before we can own it. And India’s opportunity for winning it will come to her when she can prove she is morally superior to the people who rule her by their right of conquest. She must willingly accept her penance of suffering- the suffering which is the crown of the great. Armed with her utter faith in the goodness she must stand unabashed before the arrogance that scoffs at the power of spirit.
And you have come to your motherland in the time of her need to remind her of her mission, to lead her into the true path of conquest, to purge her present day politics of its feebleness which imagines that it has gained its purpose when it struts in the borrowed feathers of diplomatic dishonesty.
This is why I pray most fervently that nothing tends to weaken our spiritual freedom may intrude into your marching line, that martyrdom for the cause of truth may never degenerate into fanaticism for mere verbal forms, descending into the self-deception that hides itself behind sacred names.
With these few words for an introduction allow me to offer the following as a poet’s contribution to your noble work:
Let me hold my head high in this faith that thou art our shelter, that all fear is mean distrust of these.
Fear of man? But what man is there in this world, what king, King of kings, who is thy rival, who has hold of me for all time and in all time and in all truth?
What power is there in this world to rob me of my freedom? For do not thy arms reach the captive through the dungeon-walls, bringing unfettered release to the soul?
And must I cling to this body in fear if death, as a miser to his barren treasure/ has not this spirit of mine the eternal call to thy feast of everlasting life?
Let me know that all pain and death are shadows of the moment; that dark force which sweeps between me and thy truth is but the mist before the sunrise; that thou alone art mine for ever and greater than all pride of strength that dares to mock my manhood with its menace.
Give me the supreme courage of love, this is my prayer, the courage to speak, to do, to suffer at thy will, to leave all things or be left alone.
Give me the supreme faith of love, this is my prayer, the faith of life in death, of the victory in defeat, of the power hidden in the frailties of beauty, of the dignity of pain that accepts hurt, but disdains to return it.
Very sincerely yours,
Written by Rabindranth Tagore