Fourth International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns - Brussels, Belgium 1992

Conscience, Non-violence and WTR for the 2lst Century

particularly as seen from the viewpoint of the non-western world

Workshop 4

Resource Person: Arya Bhardwaj; Chairperson: Trix van Vugt.

Arya Bhardwaj comes from India. He studied sociology and in 1977 he founded the movement ‘Gandhi in Action’. A movement to promote Gandhi's life and philosophy on a global level.

Arya has no experience with War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns. However he is interested in the subject and participated in the WTR conference in Italy.

Conscience in Indian terms is ‘Atman’. And Atman is nothing else than the soul. The soul is the spirit and bring us all together. This formulation comes from the Vedas. The oldest written books in the world. The Vedas explain human life and the guiding forces. The most important guiding force is the ‘soul force’. You can explain force as to fight for your rights, but in Indian tradition force is to give rights to the others. In that way everybody has rights. It is a duty to protect the rights of the others and to seek harmony. This is the way in India because everybody lives in units (families, communities, villages). It is normal to give food to a widow. It is a society of natural solidarity not of western laws and competition. This traditional Indian live and view of conscience is not actual anymore due to western influence. The Indian way is to think in communities, the western way is to think in states. And the concept of states is the concept of collective violence. It is us against them.

There are two developments which threaten conscience, the real soul.

  1. External circumstances.
  2. Inward forces: the fear within.
  3. Freedom in the 21st century is to free ourselves from the states. And non-violence is the way to reach that. Gandhi saw non-violence as an instrument of social changes, an instrument to seek the truth. Non-violence is to believe in truth and harmony. Convincing other people is not the way to non-violence. The soul force is the way. The respect of your own soul and the soul of the other. The soul has compassion and love. The soul force stands against the brute force of the external circumstances.
  4. So we will have to change the external circumstances. States are built on fear not on harmony. I call this ‘fear psychosis’. And the concept of non-violence is to get rid of the fear psychosis. People who refuse to pay war tax try to overcome the fear psychosis.
  5. But what is even more important: we have to overcome the fear in ourselves. Listening to your soul force is to create the peace within you. That is of course difficult, because the dominant western system lives with an ideology of fear. So people are biased by fear. But the people themselves make the fear. It is not an external problem, it comes from within. The solution is to work on yourself. Let the fear not come in your mind. The next step is to meet people without fear. Than you have a (small) community without fear. Nobody is your enemy. And who knows, at one moment in the 2lth century you have a world without fear, without enemies.

Ignace de Haes