Talk on the Gandhian Salt March April 7, 2006
By Hattie Nestel
Navigation Bar

  I began doing peacewalks in 1985 by going to Japan and walking to Hiroshima with the Buddhist order of Nipponzon Myohoji. In 1986 I went to India and in 1987 went to Nicaragua and also Cape Canaveral. I have continued walking, including an Auschwitz to Hiroshima walk in 1995 including walking thru the middle east and Iraq. I had also met Phil Berrigan and Wally Nelson in 1982 and had begun doing civil disobedience and had become a war tax resister./ In 1986 my 9 year old son and I moved from Brattleboro, Vt. to the Leverett Peace Pagoda where I lived and developed the gardens for the next 12 years. All during those years I continued with active civil disobedience, national and international walks as well as local campaigns which included opposing a history textbook for the 8th graders at the Amherst Jr. High School and working to elect the first two minorities, who were both women, to the Amherst school Board.

  There is an historical connection between the founder of Nipponzon Myohoji and Gandhi that began in 1933 when Fuji Guruji went to India to meet and then live at Gandhi’s Ashram. Gandhi loved the prayer, Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo and integrated it into his daily prayers which practice continues til this day at the Gandhi ashrams.

  This year was the 75th anniversary of the original Gandhian Salt March. Our reenactment of this historic walk was initiated by a Monk of Nipponzon Myohoji , Morito shonin, with whom I had walked before in both India and the United States. This small Buddhist order is dedicated to walking for peace and in particular Nuclear Abolition. Although Gandhi took 25 days for this walk of 225 miles, our schedule allowed us only 15 days. Therefore, we had to begin walking quite early, sometimes by 5 AM and often did not arrive at our night staying place until 8 P.M. Although the monk led the daily walk, the Gandhians organized it and supported us with hospitality arrangements in the same villages, schools and community centers that had welcomed Gandhi.

  Our walk was composed of about 40 people from 11 countries. We had 4 monks from our order, two Nepalese monks, one Tibetan monk, a Muslim devotee from India and other Indians and walkers from Vietnam, Australia, Tamil Nadu, Germany, Italy, England, Japan and the United States. We also had numerous Gandhians that joined for a day or two as we walked through their villages. The focus, practice and wealth of information within this group was vibrant and enriching.

  Each day would begin with interfaith prayers, followed by chai and biscuits. We’d generally walk all day, taking a break from noon til 3 when it is too hot to walk. Our support vehicle transported our bags and came back to assist anyone who needed a break or was sick. While walking thru the towns we were greeted and welcomed by school children who lined the streets, often offering songs and dances as well as a red spot for our third eye and a few grains of rice as well as leis of flowers and garlands of Khadi.

  Although I began reading Gandhi after my first walk in India in 1986, I felt as though I was more ready to glean his wisdom at this time and so again, bought more books and read them during breaks and other down times during my six weeks that I was there. In particular I have become very involved with others in our area that are trying to shut down Vermont Yankee and wanted to see if I a better understanding of Gandhi would help me in this endeavor.

  Gandhi had gone thru many transformations during his life as he practiced and experimented with non-violence. Of particular importance in his development were John Ruskin’s book Unto This Last, Tolstoy’s, The Kingdom of God is Within and Thoreau. Every time he came to a deeper understanding of non-violence he immediately changed his life to live the new concept.

  The Satyagrapha movement and Ahimsa developed through practice as did his habits of fasting, shared earnings and labor that he initiated into his Ashrams. His talks, letters and writings have been published and comprise over 100 volumes. .

  Einstein said of Gandhi, “I regard Gandhi as the only true great figure of our age…. The life of Mahatma Gandhi was so great that the future generation would refuse to believe that such a person lived”

  I think for those of us that want to engage in the practice of non-violence it is imperative to read Gandhi. He advocated anyone engaging in a struggle involving civil disobedience thoroughly understand its deepest implications and conditions one needed to impose on oneself so that the purity of ones means would be reflected in the ends. He also was a master at looking at himself with unstinting scrutiny and admitting his mistakes .His search for the Truth which he felt could only be realized through the practice of Ahimsa was his lifelong struggle. He defined Ahimsa as a comprehensive principle where all actions emanate from ones desire to be true to ones faith and sense of compassion. He saw Ahimsa as the unity of all life, where the error of one affects all.

  Towards the end of his life he stated, “ My uniform experience has convinced me that there is no other god than Truth and the only means for the realization of Truth is Ahimsa. To see the universal and all pervading Spirit of Truth face to face one must be able to love the meanest of creation as oneself. And a person whop aspires after that cannot afford to keep out of any field of life. That is who my devotion to Truth has drawn me into the field of politics and I can say, without the slightest hesitation and yet in all humility that those who say that religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion means.

  “Without self-purification the observance of the law of Ahimsa is an empty dream. Purification of oneself leads to the purification of ones surroundings. But the path of self-purification is hard and steep. I know that I have still before me a difficult path to traverse. I must reduce myself to zero. My experiences and experiments have sustained me and given me great joy. I ask the reader to join with me in prayer to the God of Truth to grant me the boon of Ahimsa in mind, word and Deed.”


To download an RTF copy click here.

Site Indexes
FootPrints For
Peace Home
Site Search










Submit Feedback
 It would be wise to edit your text in a .txt work file and then copy and paste it into the form text box. You could lose it if you forget to include the required fields or have some sort of blocking software that will not allow you to post to this form.

 Your name may be used but your email address will not be published.
Your Name (required)

Your Email:

Your Feedback Text (required)