The above statement by Mahatma Gandhi was the cornerstone of his concept of Satyagraha (translated as “insistence on truth”), along with non-violence.
Gandhiji believed that “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Fighting against a brutal, heavily militarized colonial regime, he understood that violence could not be the solution. Moreover, he believed that humans are not inherently violent, and thus he sought to bring about a transformation.
By the quote, Gandhiji emphasizes that not retaliating against violence does not make someone weak or a coward, contrary to common perception. Responding to violence or injustice with more violence or a larger injustice is a vicious cycle, not true bravery. Real bravery lies in forgiving the perpetrator; since by that, we achieve victory over our own instinct of resorting to violence. It signifies us as being in control of our emotions and actions and senses, which is a greater victory than any other.
Gandhiji was profoundly influenced by Jainism, from where he adopted his creed of non-violence. “Jina” means “Conqueror” (of senses) and Jainism places Jina higher than God itself.
Moreover, forgiveness will make the perpetrators see the error of their ways, and lead to a moral transformation in them, setting off a virtuous cycle where those doing injustice get reformed for the betterment of themselves and all mankind.
In present times as well, we come across many situations where we may have been wronged either inadvertently or purposefully. In such circumstances, we should not be quick to take revenge; rather we must seek to forgive the injustice if it was done inadvertently. If done purposefully, we must also seek to engender a transformation in the perpetrator, instead of seeking revenge and responding with even more malice.
The communal riots that happen around the country, and the menace of terrorism around the world, show how important the quote by Gandhiji is in the present times, and what significance it occupies nearly a century after it was spoken.