1998 Mahatma Gandhi Lecture on Nonviolence,

Centre for Peace Studies, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada

 

 

GANDHI: THE GREAT SOUL OF THE CENTURY

Dr. Adam Curle

Adam Curle has held Chairs in Peace Studies, Psychology, Education and Developmental Studies at the universities of Bradford, Exeter, Ghana, and Harvard. 

Since 1960 he has worked as a peace activist and mediator in India, Pakistan, Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ireland and the former Yugoslavia. 

A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Curle is the author of thirteen books, including Peace with Work to Do: The Academic Study of Peace; Another Way; Positive Response to Contemporary Violence; Education for Liberation; Tools for Transformation; and To Tame the Hydra: Undermining the Culture of Violence.

Presented at McMaster University, Canada, March 25, 1999

I feel deeply honoured to have been invited, from so far away, to meet and talk with you.  Front the bottom of my heart I would like to thank everyone responsible.  It is a great pleasure to have come to Canada again, a country which in so many respects has done more than others on this continent and indeed elsewhere to promote the Gandhian cause of peace.  Only the Scandinavian nations can match your concern for the poverty, suffering and neglect afflicting so much of the world.  I am also happy to be here because I am a British citizen who has also lived a number of years in the United States.  It seems to me that Canada does not share the snobby and self-satisfied class consciousness of England, or the domineering and glitzy materialism of the U.S.  It is more straightforward, democratic and warm-hearted than either.  No wonder I ant happy to be here again, and most grateful for having been invited here and introduced so generously.

 But let me now turn to the subject of my talk.

I


The Great Soul of the Century, the Mahatma of the twentieth since that other great soul who began the first Millennium.  Perhaps Gandhi was the greatest soul of many centuries, but there have been many wonderful women and men in nineteen hundred years.  I have, however, lived through more than four-fifths of this century and feel confident of my judgement.

The extraordinary achievements of this little man, as his companions fondly named him, this great soul, are well-known.  I need say little about them and indeed I am not a Gandhi scholar.  But I would like to begin by talking about two words that epitomise his achievements and his being and the need we have of his spirit.

The first is Ahimsa.  It means harmlessness.  A not particularly potent word, you may think.  But let me give you an example of its use and implications.

At one stage it became known to Gandhi=s followers that he was to be visited by a British official who would threaten him with prison if he did not give up some of his -- to the British -- subversive activities.  They came to him excited and said, >We have a great idea: we shall put nails on the road he will be driving along and they will puncture the tires of his car so that he will not be able to get here.=

 >You will do nothing of the sort,= said Gandhi.  >We shall invite him in politely and offer him a cup of tea.=

Crestfallen, his followers obeyed.  The official arrived and strode in full of imperial purpose.

>Now then, Mr. Gandhi, this so-called=, Salt Marching has to stop at once.  I shall otherwise be forced to arrest you.=

>Well,= said Gandhi.  >First of all, let=s have some tea.=

The Englishman agreed reluctantly.  Then when he had drained his cup, lie said briskly, >Now we must get down to business.  About these marches ...  .=

Gandhi smiled.  >Not just yet.    Have some more tea; there are more important things to talk about.=

And so it went on.  The Englishman became increasingly interested in what the Mahatma had to say and eventually forgot completely about his official task, drank many more cups of tea and eventually went away, fully won over to Gandhi=s cause.  What this meant for his career, I do not know.  But I am sure it liberated his soul.

And let me give you a contemporary example.  I have a Croatian friend, Katarina, a doctor, who when her town was under fire from Serb artillery, gave equal care to Serb and Croatian victims of the war.  The local warlord threatened her with a brutal death if she continued this work.  She told him that she would continue to help the wounded and dying whatever their ethnic origin, but did so in a manner of great friendliness and charm.  She told me later that she felt it to be her human duty to treat everyone she met, including those who might be thought enemies, with consideration and affection, thinking not of herself, but concerned for the confusion, anger, pain or other negative emotion=, they might be feeling.  She was, naturally enough, frightened.  The menace was perfectly genuine.  However, when she had firmly made up her mind that no threats would keep her from doing what she considered her duty, she told me she felt liberated.

So harmlessness, Ahimsa, in this sense is not just a passive rejection of doing harm, but a positive effort to help, comfort or encourage, however dangerous it may be.

The other crucial word is Satyagraha.  This, as Gandhi himself explains, means >holding on to Truth,= literally >Truth Force.= It is usually referred to as= nonviolence or nonviolent resistance, but these terms by no means imply any lack of firmness or strength.  I have to admit that I don=t like the negative implications of the word; when I get home I shall not say to my wife that I nonhate her -- however, I don=t want to burden you with my verbal prejudices.

Satya means Truth and Agraha means firmness.  And what seems to me most important for understanding what Gandhi meant, and indeed what is important to me, is the nature of that Truth.  For Gandhi, as Verma, one of his closest associates said, Satyagraha implied SOUL force.  Now as I understand it, in terms of Hinduism the soul might be thought of as an interconnected aspect or offshoot of Brahman, the great creative spirit or God.  This suggests to me that Gandhi, though a truly practical, tactically astute politician, also transcended earthly affairs.  How else could he have claimed that nonviolence, Satyagraha, was the most powerful of all forces?

I find this very satisfying.  I have long felt as Gandhi did, that all the creatures on our planet constitute a great interdependent unity.  This belief enabled Gandhi to feel genuine friendship for the English official, one to which the man genuinely responded; and the same sense of oneness enabled Katarina to treat her potential murderer with an equally disarming respect.

II

Now let us turn our attention to the contemporary world.  Where would Gandhi=s principles have fitted in today, half a century after his death?  How harmless are we?  How close to the Soul Force?

I myself was born within the sound of the guns of the battle of the Somme in the middle of World War I.  I went to a school that reflected the violence that built the British Empire.  I served with the British army for five years during World War II.  After the war, I vowed that I would never engage in any work, which was not directed towards the well-being of humankind.  This led to direct involvement in several further wars, but playing a peace-making rather than a war-making part.  The majority of these were in Asia and Africa, but also in Europe -- Ireland and, still today, former Yugoslavia.  From these I have learned a great deal, as I also have from friends and colleagues working in other areas of anarchic conflict.  What I have to say in answer to the question just asked is based on the personal experience of myself and that of my associates over the last fifty years.

Much, of course, has changed.  Among these changes, however, there have been two of major global significance.

In the first place, there are many promising and encouraging things: it is particularly important that a vast new edifice of international agencies has come into being, the United Nations and all its specialised bodies as well as the host of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  These have done amazing service for humanity.  I have seen them working in war-torn parts of the world with a wonderful combination of skill, courage and concern.  If the United Nations as a political institution were in fact united instead of divided on so many issues, they might have been even more effective.

Secondly, however, there has been an awful continuation of carnage.  Major factors were the confusion and disruption brought about by the breakup of the Russian Empire -- the USSR -- and the end of colonialism.  These changes were, of course, somewhat in the spirit of Gandhi but=although I was in Africa during much of the period of decolonisation, I heard little talk of the Mahatma, except in South Africa.  He would no doubt, have been astonished at the wonderful new opportunities, though sadly these demanded changes which many were unable to make and the continent as a whole moved into a period of great confusion and violence which continues today.  There was also the Cold War, in which East and West fought proxy wars in the Third World; for example in Angola and Indo-China; and even when they were not engaged in shooting= wars, they were fighting political and economic ones.

The character of war also changed, as I= began to be aware ten or twelve years ago.  For one thing, wars are now almost all internal instead of international conflicts.  The collapse of the older regimes had stimulated groups identified by language, culture or religion, to strive for a separate state.  They tended to be wars of people against people, some of them terrible genocidal wars as in Rwanda, rather than wars between regimes.  This meant horribly high death rates among noncombatants; at the beginning of the century about 10 percent of the deaths in war were civilian; in World War II the rate rose to 40 percent.  Now it is over 90 percent.  The grim joke is that if you want your daughter to be safe in wartime, she should join the army.  The wars are also extremely cruel; in Bosnia, for example, everyone captured by any of the three parties, was tortured -- not to obtain information, but for fun; old people were killed; massacres were carried out as I know from the personal experience of searching for mass graves; the Geneva convention is now universally flouted; there are none of the fairly rudimentary rules concerning civilians and prisoners that we obeyed more or less consistently in World War II.

I notice particularly that there is an insane quality about many of these conflicts.  Often they are conducted by warlords crazed by ambition or greed or drugs.  Some last for years, until no one knows any longer what they are fighting for.  Even when there was once a clear and honourable purpose, these struggles may now drag on almost automatically.  Random killing coupled with mutilation and robbery, has become a way of life accepted automatically.

No one knows how to cope with these wars.  Consider Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Eritrea, Bosnia, Algeria, and I pray and fear for Ireland.  These are places no one has known how to deal with.  The old recipes no longer work.  In many cases the decision-making leaders are completely untrustworthy; lying has become a legitimate political tool.  The unfortunate diplomat of the UN or the European Union or the Organisation of African States, acting more or less in good faith is deceived and humiliated -- and the absurdly horrible struggle over nothing tangible just goes on.

But don=t think I exonerate the rich and powerful nations.  The dealings, particularly of Britain and the U.S. over the Gulf, the paranoid American support of revolting dictatorships, universal cowardice over East Timor, frightened dithering over Bosnia and Rwanda are instances of I callousness and incompetence shamefully combined.  The five permanent members of the Security Council not only share the disgrace (until recently) of being the only nuclear nations, but the most prolific exporters of arms to the rest of the world.  What hypocrisy!

I have tried to show the balance between the forces working internationally for order and harmony, and the negative forces working for violence and disorder.  In spite of what I have just said, I was for some years, even during the most grim days of the Cold War, relatively optimistic.  Now, I have to admit sadly, that I believe the forces of light are being eclipsed by the forces of darkness.  We live in a culture of violence, which we have all helped to create through working with its institutions and sharing -- to some extent -- in its values.  How Gandhi would have grieved.

The essence of this culture is what I cal), the Hydra.  The Hydra, according to the Greek legend was a frightful water serpent, which Hercules was ordered to destroy as one of his labours.  This was a terribly difficult task because the creature had many heads and as soon as one was cut off, another grew in its place.  Hercules managed to kill the Hydra, however, because he got his companion to cauterise the stump of neck after Hercules had cut off the head.

I use the term Hydra because human affairs are so interwoven that if we sort out one catastrophe without eliminating the root cause of the violence there will simply be another disaster.         For example, the people of Afghanistan evicted the invading Russians after eight years of desperate fighting.  But then they started with almost equal desperation, to fight among themselves.  This sort of interdependency, which may of course be benign as well as violent, occurs at all levels of human society, but on the world scale, until recently, the; interaction of events in China, let=s say, and Canada was minimal because of the difficulty of communication.  Now, however, reactions are almost instantaneous.  Think, for example, of how the so-called Tiger Economies collapsed one after another like dominoes.

This is what we call globalization, a popular new word for what has in fact always existed.  The slave trade is a simplified illustration from the past.  The slave ships sailed from England, France, Spain and Portugal full of guns and trinkets for the West African chiefs, who loaded them in exchange with the unfortunate men and women they had captured.  These were infamously transported to the Americas and sold.  The ships, then filled with rum, sugar and tobacco, sailed back to Europe.  But much more was also involved: the ship building industry, the manufacturing of the trade goods, the sale of the sugar, etc.  All these activities were interconnected in countless ways, but this does not mean that the different nations or enterprises cooperated; they were rivals and the slavers often fought each other on the high seas.

But this was as nothing compared with the enormous interlocking trade and industrial enterprises of today when many] a great corporation is wealthier than a medium sized nation, and its operations affect the diets, the tastes, the prosperity -- or poverty -- of us all; consider how manipulators of currency in Tokyo, London, or New York affect the lives of peasants in Turkey, Mali or Bolivia, and how a single financial speculator can shake the whole world=s economy; how the rich and powerful are able to use their armed forces to protect their financial interests; or how our switch at the breakfast table from tea to coffee would enrich or impoverish millions in Sri Lanka or Bangladesh.

 The size and intricacy of the contemporary world=s economic-political-military interdependency, the modern Hydra, makes it virtually impossible to deal effectively in isolation with any particular conflict or difficult situation.  There are often concatenations of forces, some present; some carried over from an imperial past.  No wonder that when some of today=s conflicts are eventually resolved, they just break out elsewhere; the fighting ended in Bosnia but erupted in neighbouring Kosovo.  There is an everlasting cycle of genocide in Rwanda and Burundi, of murder in Cambodia.  The complex, intertwined components of such struggles make them seem to be inoculated against peace.

Moreover, everything has been speeded up like a movie reeled forward with all the actors gabbling their words and moving their limbs most unnaturally fast.  It=s also universalised; we have all seen it over and over again.  Such is the Hydra.

III

The Hydra, of course, illustrates an important aspect of human, and indeed natural affairs: they are interdependent, constantly acting upon each other, as do the parts of an ecological system.  But if the Hydra is a natural and universal phenomenon, why is it so violent?   Is the interdependency that makes up the ecology of a forest -- the birds, animals, soil, bacteria, trees, etc.  -- violent?  Obviously not.  But among humans it is the driving force of motive that gives character to institutions or patterns of behaviour.  The dominant quality of our motives as individuals or societies may be: closer to Ahimsa, harmlessness and Satyagraha, soul force; or to the craving for profit and development, fashionably called growth.

In fact the creed of growth and profit has developed a terrific impact on the minds, on the hopes, tastes, needs and aspirations of literally billions of people.  There has been a great change in this respect.  As a young man I wandered around in remote corners of Europe and the Middle East, meeting people who were mostly very poor, living in a material sense very simply, and to modern eyes, primitive lives.  I learned that the people they most respected and admired were women or men who were skilled story tellers, or who knew the history of the clan, or were good craftsmen, or particularly devout or hospitable despite their poverty.  They had little respect for the rich landlord or merchant.  These may have been envied, but were often hated and despised for extortion and oppression.

Now, going back to such places several decades later, it is plain to see that the virus of material achievement has spread: the man who has been to the city and made enough money to buy a Peugeot, have Ian air-conditioned house, or even a bicycle is the role model.  The story teller has given way to the video; the craftsman to the Do It Yourself store.  I also have a video and visit the DIY store; there is nothing wrong in them, but they are not the substitute for skill and artistry.

Sad to say, however, those who haven=t been able, as we ironically say - - to make good, don=t just stay as they were: they >make poorer= and become ever more mired in poverty.  You either do better, or you do worse.  This goes both for whole nations, and within nations, a pattern increasingly characterising the free market.  None are more abjectly and irremediably poor than those in the rich countries.  >Oh,= say the rich, >it=s because they are lazy or stupid or have a bad lot of genes; but we help them by making money which then trickles down to them.=  Well, it could, but in fact it doesn=t.  There appears to be an implacable principle that the holders of power use their political and economic strength and skill to block the channels down which it could have flowed.  The taxation structure is often a tool used for creating dams and weirs to retain the cash flow from trickling downstream.

I would not suggest that there was any basic change in human nature during this century.  In fact the character of the nation state, which began to emerge in the late Middle Ages in Europe, laid the foundations of our current institutionalised greed.  The great Banks, such as Fugger and Banco Giro, emerged.  So did national armies and central governments, all of which needed available money for administration and for development.  Greed, thus crystallised in institutions a few hundred years ago, is nothing new.  But the opportunities, both social and technical, of our age were completely unprecedented on a world wide scale.  No wonder we have found them irresistible; no wonder that our personal views have adapted to our institutions.

But now the whole world is directly or indirectly, the victim of these grandiose follies.  The exploitation of opportunity, the rivalries, competitions, clashes of interest and development, the violence, the torture, the ruthless misuse of people and nature; above all the vast arsenals of terrible weapons used to gain, expand, and to protect our booty -- these are the price we pay for our pleasures and our comfort.

It is all too easy to blame our governments, the United Nations, or our favourite villains like Saddam Hussein or Idi Amin.  It is easy to disparage the failed attempts at what is known as conflict resolution or management or transformation, for not settling the conflicts, which disturb our tranquillity.  I have to say, nevertheless, that these attempts are never wasted; any good-hearted effort to reduce violence and suffering has a valuable, indeed indelible human impact.  However, the root causes, far beyond the specific immediate triggers, he in the interwoven economic, imperial and political motives of the powerful.  The atrocious tragedies of Rwanda and Burundi, for example, originated in the colonising approaches of Belgium, as indeed did those of what is now once again the Congo.  However, to do these some, but not too much, justice, those who planted the fatal seeds could hardly have predicted their disastrous germination.

And what was the basic flaw in our motives?  (I say >our= since none of my generation at any rate can escape some blame.) It was having changed the basic objective of profit, allied to possession and power, into a religion, not just a socio economic policy, but also the creed of Western civilisation, a faith which would take away all pain.  Like the Christian Church it has become institutionalised, but whereas the Church=s institutions have become increasingly remote from most so-called Christians= lives, the institutions of the growing Hydra creed have pervaded the whole global society -- particularly the economic ones which have woven themselves into the texture of our lives.

Of course there are gigantic profits to be made, and we can thank the Hydra for that.  Many of us are incredibly much richer than we were.  New technologies have opened fantastic opportunities for development and enrichment; if we have the basic financial resources we can become amazingly wealthy simply by employing a skilful stockbroker -- or of course, ruined, but that=s our own fault.  But, if we have been successful we have also become powerful.  There is no longer an aristocracy, not even a meritocracy, but a plutocracy, a cashocracy.  And its possession includes the means of defending and expanding its wealth -- the guns, the tanks, the planes, the nuclear devices.  I need not suggest to you what Gandhi would have thought of all this. 

IV

 Let me now switch to another aspect of the Hydra: ourselves.

How many of us have remained untouched by all these developments?  Certainly not me.  My tastes and expectations are very different from those of my mother who brought me up.  The standard of comfort in which I live, the ease of travel, the variety of foreign food available in the supermarket -- all of these are most beguiling.  If I had to live permanently (without running water, even though we had many other blessings -- I would find it very hard.  I get my bank to invest money -- and I get more.  I stipulated that I would not invest in any firm associated with arms manufacture or, before the overthrow of Apartheid, in South Africa.  I really knew, however, that this was a trick to salve my conscience.  Once you step; however gingerly, into the market, the chances are very high that some of what you have invested will eventually support an oppressive regime or contribute to creating some loathsome instrument of war.

But we have to face the fact that unless we live in a shack, preferably on a desert island, growing all our own food and the material for our clothes, we are a part of the dreaded Hydra, the very antithesis of Ahimsa and Satyagraha.

We cannot kill it because that would be suicide -- or we could, I suppose, in a desperate revolution in which half the population died, while the survivors simply became the monsters they had slain.  We have seen this already too often to be taken in by this simplistic solution.

More to the point would be for us to understand what I might call the Hydra in the Self.  This, of course, is nothing new.  Its name is greed, one of the bad old deadly sins.  In the past the Church tried to control it by both moral and institutional devices -- for example by the prohibition of the taking of interest.  In Islam, too, interest was prohibited.  Calvin, however, unless he has been wrongly interpreted, taught that God arbitrarily selected those who were to join him in heaven after death, but showered them with material favours in life; the inference was that wealth and godliness went hand in hand.  This was taken by many to legitimise business acumen.

To escape the doom that the Hydra threatens, there must be an enormous change wrought in the heart and mind of humanity, of ourselves, in fact.

As I say this, I can almost hear you thinking -- but politely to yourselves -- this fellow must be crazy, how can he expect us to switch direction in the way he is suggesting?

But no.  History is made up of such switches.  Even in my own lifetime there have been many: the astounding achievements of Mahatma Gandhi in ousting the British from India; the birth and surge forward of communism, and then its collapse, especially in Eastern Europe; the liberation of South Africa from Apartheid; the extraordinary decade of the sixties, whatever one may think of it followed by the almost complete reversal of the next decade; the rise of the very phenomenon I am referring to -- the overwhelming advance of the religion of the Market Mind, the triumph of the materialistic Profit Motive.  Many of these shifts have obviously been most undesirable -- what about National Socialism in Germany, the ascendancy of the dreaded Nazis?

The point I am emphasising, however, is that attitudes and beliefs and values do change.  They do so for two main r reasons.  Either people change their minds, to use the common phrase, because they dislike the way things are, or as a result of what I term extended mind; the collective mood shifts.  An example of this was the extraordinary outburst of grief at the death a couple of years ago, of Princess Diana.  A more subtle example on the small scale occurred when my wife and I were dining with friends one night in a Bangkok restaurant.  We were expecting another friend called John who was coming from some distance and no one knew when he would arrive.  Suddenly one of us said: John is just coming, I=ll go and meet him.  He got up and went out; in two minutes he >returned with John.  There was no possible physical means by which he could have known of John=s proximity.  And I could give many further examples from personal experience.  I suspect that this capacity in some form or other is very widespread, but in general unrecognised.  We only need to develop somewhat greater sensitivity.

For general purposes, however, we have to rely on more normal means of communicating ideas.  The great changes only came about in South Africa because thousands of people, over a period of years, came together and talked and talked and talked.  Many of these were, paradoxically, the clergy of the Dutch Reform Church which had laid the theological basis of the thoroughly unchristian system of Apartheid, but who had come to realise how wrong they had been.  Much the same happened in Eastern Europe to bring about t he bloodless revolution of 1989.  In Israel, too, it was this kind of communication which brought the peace process into being.  Sadly, however, the community of feeling achieved was not quite strong enough to secure real peace.

What is crucial is that we understand what is happening to us, the way in which our minds have been captured by and absorbed into the Market Mind, the Hydra.  And we must recognise the part we personally have played in the sad events, which we so greatly deprecate.  At the time of the terrible massacres in Rwanda, when a million people were butchered in a few weeks I saw an enormous mass grave in which hundreds of bodies lay packed together.  It was all too easy to think with horror and condemnation of the wickedness of the murderers.  But I know that the origins of the hatred, desperation, sense of injustice that had fuelled the deadly anger, were decisions made by the colonial powers in the highly cultured, highly materialistic civilization of Europe.

We have indeed come very far from the form of society envisaged by Gandhi.  How can we return?  I come now to a facet, largely neglected, of the Mahatma=s life, which may show a way bank to Ahimsa and Satyagraha.

V

We must now spend the last few minutes of this talk in considering the issues we have discussed from a quite different angle.

Everyone who knew Mahatma Gandhi commented on his happiness.  Although the situations with which he was dealing might be discouraging and depressing, he was cheerful.  The same is true; of another great being whom I have had the delightful privilege of getting to know, the Tibetan Dalai Lama.  Although he dedicates his life to the service of his suffering people for whom he feels most deeply, he exudes a loving and humorous warmth, which nourishes the soul.  Both would say that the appreciation of being alive, what in French is very rightly called joie de vivre, is an integral part of our nature; part of the great potential for love, wisdom, compassion, and courage that we all possess, but by no means recognise and/or strive to develop.  But we need these things; to the extent that they are underdeveloped, we are incomplete.

Certainly we all long for happiness.  You remember, I am sure that Jefferson said that, along with life and liberty, it was our inalienable right to pursue it.  But how successful are we in catching it?  In general, I would say, not very.

I tend to be fairly cheerful, but I an, not often completely happy.  Some time ago, however, I discovered what complete happiness felt like.  I woke up in a state of absolute bliss.  There was no reason whatsoever for this wonderful feeling; I just lay there in this amazing condition: joy personified.  After a while I went to sleep again, looking forward with delight at the thought of another blissful awakening.  But it was quite ordinary, pleasant enough, but it was as though the central heating had been turned down; not off, but down.

I have learned to distinguish between two main types of happiness (there are other subdivisions, but we need not bother about them here).  There is true, or as I call it, primal happiness, and there is conditional happiness.

Conditional happiness might be called If happiness.  I would be happy if -- I had this, knew this, could do this, did not have to attend this meeting, talk to that person, etc.  (I omit from this category such urgent personal matters as happiness dependant on the health of a child or other loved person.) Conditional happiness goals are basically fragile, fallible and impermanent.  Sexual craving (as opposed to love), good looks, physical prowess popularity, professional success, possessions which break or become outmoded, power, importance in some sphere that flatters the ego.

Oddly enough I had a lesson in conditional happiness when I was five.  I longed for a particular toy gun.  When I eventually succeeded in persuading my pacifist mother to buy it for me, I swore that I would never want anything else, that I would be happy forever.  But a few days later I found myself blubbering miserably over some infantile disaster.

 I then realised, and remember the moment well, that happiness does not come from what is external to oneself, but what is within us.

 But we have little idea of our own wonderful nature and its great potential for joy.  We are taught that we are basically bad; and we are bombarded and beguiled by propaganda and advertisements; telling us that what we need for happiness is this car or that holiday; or a sexual partner; using this face cream or that razor; or again that this political party; or this movement; or that therapy will help us to achieve what we believe brings happiness: Let me stress that there is nothing wrong in most of these things: a new car, a different razor, a Caribbean holiday may well be most enjoyable, but they simply release,= our happiness potential, they don=t create it, and they may indeed conceal it later when the pleasure that they gave -- as always -- fades away.  This is one of our commonest illusions.  We are all to some extent affected by this happiness stimulant that turns out to be toxic.

This is what is meant by materialism.  It has very dangerous consequences.  The more we imbibe it the more we suffer as the expected happiness fades or turns sour.  We are more liable to disappointment and may become angry, resentful, envious, even violent, blaming the people or circumstances we consider responsible.  And in these states we are less and less in touch with our own real wonderful human potentials.

In fact the more desperate our search for happiness, the more unhappy we become.

As I walk around London, or ride on the buses or underground, I feel surrounded by very unhappy people.  The expressions on their faces are tense and withdrawn as if they were enveloped by some inner conflict or worry.  They, which is to say we, are the creatures of the Hydra; also the victims.  But it is possible for us to tame it.

To regain our happiness and all the strength, which accompanies it, we must reject addiction to the deceitful happiness-medicines.  This is real liberation, freedom from the illusion that our natures are fatally flawed and that our miseries are implacably determined by our evil follies. If we overcome our corroding sense of guilt and inadequacy, we can learn to change the world -- then we can recognise the amazing potentials of our nature and their source.

This is what Mahatma Gandhi did, land this is the lesson he left for us to learn and act upon.