Satyagraha is a force for love and all of us can live it

Satyagraha is a Sanskrit term Gandhi coined in support of nonviolence, and I want it to be my life.

satyagraha means holding on to truth, which is love

Pursuing a desire for nonviolence

This past weekend, Greenpeace hosted a workshop on nonviolent resistance, and as soon as I heard about it (via Marianne Williamson’s weekly livestream), I knew I ought to attend.

Because while I don’t particularly identify as an activist, I realize that I am one anyway. And I feel quite strongly that violence is not an effective form of action.

(Oh, sure, you can argue that violence accomplishes plenty—but, well, nothing good in the long term.)

Acknowledging the inevitability of violence

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one who believes it is possible to achieve peaceful ends with the bare minimum of harmful means.

Notice I didn’t say “with no harmful means.”

I don’t believe it is possible to go through life without causing harm. To paraphrase the leader of my training on Saturday, the very act of living is inherently violent.

Deciding on a definition

Also important to keep in mind is that the definition of violence means something different to everybody.

For one person, violence is murder, and for another it is yelling swear words.

Therefore, so, too, does nonviolence become an inherently subjective concept.

Which is why I was so thrilled to learn about a different word.

Satyagraha is a force for love

I don’t pretend to be a scholar on the topic, but from what I gleaned online and from my training, Gandhi came up with the idea of “satyagraha” as an alternative for phrases like “passive resistance.”

He wanted a term that more accurately described his philosophy, saying:

 “Satyagraha is a weapon of the strong; it admits of no violence under any circumstance whatsoever; and it ever insists upon truth.”

And since, to quote Gandhi again, “Truth (satya) implies love, and firmness (agraha) engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force,” we can interpret Satyagraha to mean “the Force which is born of Truth and Love or non-violence.”

Or, in short, satyagraha is “holding on to truth” (which is love).

Ahimsa is the action

Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence also includes “ahimsa,” which is Sanskrit for “avoiding harm.”

(Side note: Those of you familiar with the yamas and niyamas of the Yoga-Sutra might already recognize the term, which is at the top of the list of ethical commandments—and also why many yogis are vegetarian.)

To quote Gandhi again, “Ahimsa and Truth are so intertwined that it is practically impossible to disentangle and separate them. They are like the two sides of a coin, or rather of a smooth unstamped metallic disk. Nevertheless, ahimsa is the means; Truth is the end.”

In other words, doing no harm is a big part of how we hold on to the truth of love.

Our actions are important, as is our love

Do no harm and hold on to truth.

Yes, please—although as previously stated, some harm is inevitable.

But although the idea of ahimsa must be negotiated, satyagraha can be, well, held to.

Indeed, as we move forward with conscious action in uncertain times, we can firmly embrace truth.

Truth is love. Love is light. All is well.

Love > fear,


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