In response to:
Letter to Gandhi from the July 31, 1969 issue
To the Editors:
Erikson’s “Letter to Gandhi” [NYR July 31] was quite interesting and quite timely. However he translates Satyagraha literally as truth-force which is not right:
Agraha=Insistence or Persistent demanding
Satyagraha=Persistent demand for truth, or Insistence for truth.
Therefore literally Satyagraha would be a weaker term than Truth-force but carries perfectly the idea which Gandhi wanted to convey, viz.: “to demand that both the masses and the [British] government of India demand and pursue the truth rather than the prevalent law.”
Also Erikson seems to be unduly harsh on Gandhi for his puritanical behavior and ideas. One must keep in mind that despite his puritanism, in modern times Gandhi was a strong opponent of Purdah and the confining of women to home. Thousands and thousands of women marched hand in hand with men in the independence movement. Even the women who rarely saw the sunlight came out and participated in the freedom movement, which was not a meager achievement. India has a fierce puritanical tradition, especially with the coming of Islam (though it is probably true that this was not the case till the sixth or seventh century A.D.) and any type of movement, religious, social, or political, in order to be successful, has to downplay sex. Gandhi being an intensely practical man probably knew it, so he kept the movement away from sexual liberation and permissiveness, but again I am guessing.
Compliments to Erikson for writing a very stimulating article.
L. N. Gupta