Leo Tolstoy – second letter to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi


Letter to a Hindu was a letter written by Leo Tolstoy to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on 14 December 1908.

I received your magazine “Indian Opinion” and was glad to know everything that is written there about “non-resisting”.  And I wanted to tell you the thoughts that this reading evoked in me. – Leo Tolstoy

The longer I live, and especially now, when I vividly feel the nearness of death, I want to tell others what I feel so vividly and which, in my opinion, is of great importance, namely, about what is called “non-resistance” but that in essence is nothing but the teaching of love, not perverted by false interpretations. The fact that love, that is, the striving for the unity of human souls, and the activity resulting from this striving, is the highest and only law of human life, it is in the depths of the soul that every person feels and knows (as we see it most clearly in children), knows, until he is confused by the false teachings of the world. This law was proclaimed by all, both Indian and Chinese and Jewish, Greek, Roman sages of the world. Leo Tolstoy

I think that it was most clearly expressed by Christ, who even bluntly said that in this alone is the whole law and the prophets. But this is not enough, foreseeing the perversion to which this law is subjected and may be subjected, he directly pointed to the danger of perverting it, which is inherent in people living with worldly interests, namely, to allow oneself to defend these interests by force, that is, as he said: “To respond to blows with blows, to take back the assigned objects by force”, etc. etc. Leo Tolstoy

He knew, as every rational person cannot fail to know, that the use of violence is incompatible with love as the fundamental law of life, that, as soon as violence is allowed, in any cases, the insufficiency of the law of love is recognized and therefore the law itself is denied. The entire Christian civilization, so brilliant in appearance, grew up on this obvious and strange, sometimes conscious, mostly unconscious, misunderstanding and contradiction. Leo Tolstoy

In essence, as soon as opposition was allowed with love, so there was no longer and could not be love as a law of life, and if there was no law of love, then there was no law, except violence, that is, the power of the strongest. This is how Christian mankind lived for 19 centuries. True, at all times people were guided by one violence in the structure of their lives. The difference between the life of Christian nations and all others is only in the fact that in the Christian world the law of love was expressed so clearly and definitely as it was not expressed in any other religious teaching, and that the people of the Christian world solemnly accepted this law and at the same time allowed violence and built their lives on violence. Leo Tolstoy

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And therefore the whole life of Christian peoples is a continuous contradiction between what they profess and what they build their lives on: the contradiction between love, recognized as the law of life, and violence, even recognized as a necessity in different forms, such as the power of rulers, courts and troops. recognized and praised. This contradiction has all grown along with the development of the people of the Christian world and has recently come to the last degree. Leo Tolstoy

The question now stands, obviously, like this: one of two things: either to admit that we do not recognize any religious and moral teaching and are guided in the organization of our life by one power of the strong, or that all of our taxes collected by violence, judicial and police institutions and, most importantly, troops must be destroyed. Leo Tolstoy

This spring, at the examination of the law of God at one of the women’s institutes in Moscow, the teacher of the law, and then the bishop who was present, asked the girls about the commandments and especially about the sixth. To the correct answer about the commandment, the bishop usually asked another question: “Is murder always forbidden by the law of God?” … Leo Tolstoy

However, when one of these unfortunate girls (what I am telling is not a fiction, but a fact transmitted to me by an eyewitness) was asked the same usual question to her answer: “Is murder always sinful?”, She, worrying and blushing, resolutely She replied that she always answered all the usual sophisms of the bishop with a resolute conviction that murder is always forbidden and that murder is forbidden in the “Old Testament” and that Christ forbids not only murder, but also any evil against a brother. And, despite all his greatness and the art of eloquence, the bishop fell silent, and the girl left the winner. Leo Tolstoy

Yes, we can talk in our newspapers about the successes of aviation, about difficult diplomatic relations, about various clubs, discoveries, alliances of all kinds, so-called works of art, and hush up what this girl said; but this cannot be hushed up, because it feels more or less vaguely, but every person of the Christian world feels it. Socialism, communism, anarchism, the Salvation Army, increasing crime, unemployment of the population, increasing insane luxury of the rich and poverty of the poor, a terribly increasing number of suicides – all these are signs of that internal contradiction that must and cannot but be resolved. And, of course, it is allowed in the sense of recognizing the law of love and denying all violence. And therefore, your activity in the Transvaal, as it seems to us at the end of the world, is the most central thing, Leo Tolstoy

I think you will be pleased to know that in Russia, too, this activity is rapidly developing in the form of refusals from military service, which are becoming more and more every year. No matter how insignificant the number of your people, who “do not resist”, we also have a number of those who refuse in Russia, both of them can safely say that God is with them. And God is more powerful than people.

The recognition of Christianity, albeit in the perverted form in which it is professed among Christian peoples, and at the same time the recognition of the need for troops and weapons to kill on the largest scale in wars, is such an obvious, flagrant contradiction that it inevitably must sooner or later, probably very early, to reveal and destroy either the recognition of the Christian religion, which is necessary to maintain power, or the existence of the army and all the violence it supports, which is no less necessary for power.

This contradiction is felt by all governments, both your British and our Russians, and out of a natural sense of self-preservation is persecuted by these governments more energetically, as we see in Russia, and as can be seen from the articles of your magazine, than any other anti-government activity. Governments know what their main danger is, and vigilantly guard in this matter not only their own interests, but also the question: “To be or not to be?”

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