The Meaning of Satyagraha

Satyagraha is a term used by the Mahatma Gandhi to describe the kind of activism he undertook. Satya refers to the Truth underlying all of creation, which is inherently peaceful. Satya’s other meaning is “God,” as in Sat-Chit-Ananda. Agraha means “to hold fast.” Satyagraha then means to hold fast to this Truth.” Whereas all creation, from our bodies, to solar systems are born and die, only the underlying Truth behind creation remains ever present, and ever harmonious.

Ahimsa or Non-Violence

The primary principle behind Satyagraha is Ahimsa. Ahimsa means non-violence. Martin Luther King, Jr. called Satyagraha “soul force.” While non-violence may outwardly appear passive, it is actually a powerful force of rapid and radical change; it is the force of the Truth. Consider what both Gandhi and King were able to do without bloodshed.

Ahimsa: “Let Thy Will Be Done”

Gandhi frequently quoted an Upanishad: “Ahimsa paramo dharma,” which may be translated “non-harming is the highest path.” Ahimsa points to the harmony of the Truth. That harmony is also called love, the primal unity. So, ahimsa paramo dharma can also mean “love in action.”
Gandhi cultivated ahimsa within himself. He received hostility, but refused to be forced to hate the hostile. He entered dangerous situations, but refused to entertain fear. Holding on to Truth, he would not allow conditioned reactions to deter him from his mission to affirm the dignity of a nation.

As Gandhi received hostility, and returned love, he burned hostility out of his own mind, leaving its true nature uncovered by mental defilements such as hatred/violence and greed/desire.

Tapas: Returning Love, for Hostility

The technique that Gandhi used to burn away his own hostility is called Tapas. In Tapas, when you experience a hostile circumstance, you hold fast to the Truth, your own inner nature – and return love and compassion.
Ordinarily, we react to hostility with hostility, with Tapas, you transform the hostility within you into love. As sages throughout the ages have understood, when you cultivate perfect ahimsa within yourself, you will experience it outside of yourself. This idea is represented in the old image of a yogi mediating in the forest, with a tiger, scorpion and cobra lying peacefully beside him.
Even when you experience a thought or feeling that would generate violence/hatred or greed/desire, recognize what it is, and witness it as a tiny energy movement passing through your vast consciousness. It too will dissolve, leaving you in your natural, harmonious state.

Dharma is Harmony

Every individual’s true nature is harmonious. When hostility is burned away, we are able to perceive this nature as Being, Consciousness, and Bliss. In the cultivation of this harmony, we access our own dharmic paths, dissolving the Ego, becoming instruments of our higher nature.


The only freedom that we truly possess is the freedom to be harmonious within. No thought or feeling or circumstance can then enslave us and cause us to behave like automatons, with a predictable reaction. It is our choice; will we live as angels, or as like a pack of wild dogs?

The Ego vs. Your True Nature or Soul

There is a simple truth that you can prove to yourself if you choose to commit yourself to quieting your own mind. Thoughts in your mind are generating your Ego – or false sense of selfhood. But there is something else underlying the thoughts, it is the medium in which thoughts arise – and that is your true nature or Soul.

The primary movements of the Ego are fear and desire. The core attributes of the Soul are love and harmony. Gandhi said that he “became zero” then all good things flowed through him. This is a way of saying that he was dissolving his Ego. We too can become zero. In becoming zero, we cease to act as an impediment to the harmony of Truth flowing through us into the world we create.

Action by a Satyagrahi

A circumstance may require action, but that action will be rooted in harmony, and not hostility. The more quiet your own mind, the more likely that inspiration for the perfect action will arise within you. Consider the inspiration Gandhi received in undertaking his march to the sea to collect salt – an action that was both powerful and peaceful.

Add Mantra and Meditation to Tapas

Besides Tapas, Gandhi quieted his mind using Mantra and Meditation. There are a multitude of mantras and many meditation techniques. Choose what resonates for you.

Satyagraha Movement: Conclusion

There are no priests or judges in the practice of Satyagraha. To become a Satyagrahi is a commitment you make to yourself to be perfectly liberated from hostile thoughts, feelings and circumstances.

Every life is a world unto itself. By generating peacefulness and harmony within ourselves, we transform our world. But in a larger sense, we each become a powerful force for harmony, as Gandhi was.
This group is an opportunity to share our experiences with Satyagraha practice, no matter how big or small.

Whatever arises, witness and love.