Kasturba: My Teacher In Nonviolence

January 16, 2015

Every week, we feature excerpts by Gandhi that lend insight into his values and personal practices. In his later years, his personal secretary, Pyarelal Nayyar, wrote about the intimate life of Gandhi. During an extensive tour of the North-West frontier province in the company of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Gandhi revealed one of his greatest teachers: his wife, Kasturba. Below some of his words addressed to members of the warrior-like Shanti Sena/Peace Army.

August 01, 1938

“I learnt the lesson of nonviolence from my wife, when I tried to bend her to my will. Her determined resistance to my will, on the one hand, and her quiet submission to the suffering my stupidity involved, on the other, ultimately made me ashamed of myself and cured me of my stupidity in thinking that I was born to rule over her and, in the end, she became my teacher in nonviolence.” --​MK Gandhi (Source: A Pilgrimage for Peace by Pyarelal)

Kasturba, similarly, paid this great tribute to her husband: 

"I thank you for having had the privilege of being your lifelong companion and helpmate. I thank you for the most perfect marriage in the world, based on brahmacharya (self-control) and not on sex. I thank you for having considered me your equal in your life work for India. I thank you for not being one of those husbands who spend their time in gambling, racing, women, wine, and song, tiring of their wives and children as the little boy quickly tires of his childhood toys. How thankful I am that you were not one of those husbands who devote their time to growing rich on the exploitation of the labor of others.

How thankful I am that you put God and country before bribes, that you had the courage of your convictions and a complete and implicit faith in God. How thankful I am for a husband that put God and his country before me. I am grateful to you for your tolerance of me and my shortcomings of youth, when I grumbled and rebelled against the change you made in our mode of living, from so much to so little.

As a young child, I lived in your parents' home; your mother was a great and good woman; she trained me, taught me how to be a brave, courageous wife and how to keep the love and respect of her son, my future husband. As the years passed and you became India's most beloved leader, I had none of the fears that beset the wife who may be cast aside when her husband has climbed the ladder of success, as so often happens in other countries. I knew that death would still find us husband and wife.
" (Source: Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramhansa Yogananda)

Be The Change

This week, sit down with a woman who inspires you, and explore what you can learn to integrate some of her wisdom in your life.