Satyagraha Institute works to promote the understanding and practice of satyagraha as a method for social change.
Mohandas Gandhi, who famously experimented with the possibilities of nonviolence, coined the Sanskrit term satyagraha to identify a method of social change. Gandhi proposed that satya (truth) combined with agraha (firmness) creates a useful social power that does not rely on harming others. Gandhi often referred to this power as “truth-force.” Satyagraha is a way of directly engaging with others to work out the difficult aspects of life without resorting to coercion, harm, or ill intention. Satyagraha is the social power which arises when we act with kindness, respect, patience, generosity, and selfless service.
1. To increase the number of leaders trained in the traditions of nonviolence.
Our world suffers for lack of leaders rooted in the traditions of nonviolence. When conflicts arise, many leaders teach us to wield threats, coercion, and harm. When unfamiliar perspectives disturb, many leaders rally us to certainty and defensiveness. When decisions must be made, many leaders encourage us to value self-interest, immediacy, and possession. As we follow these guides, the fabric of our community weakens, and life becomes more difficult for ourselves and others. Our goal is to create a different future by training leaders in the traditions of nonviolence.
2. To strengthen the community of practitioners, teachers, and future leaders who are committed to experimenting with satyagraha in their work.
Existing and upcoming leaders in our various communities have little opportunity to spend quality time with mentors in nonviolence. Our goal is to create a place where leaders can build relationships with mentors who are familiar with the knowledge, skills, and inner life associated with nonviolent social change.
3. To produce the premiere training opportunity for exploring how to create social change using the principles and tools of satyagraha.
Training in nonviolence typically follows one of three valuable traditions:
In the academic tradition, many colleges and universities offer programs in peace and justice studies. These programs are essential to educating our future leaders about the theory, history, and application of nonviolent social change.
In the activist tradition, a variety of organizations offer programs to train community organizers how to implement successful campaigns. If we want nonviolent social change to be more than just a dream, we need to invest in developing the skills, techniques, and strategies which these programs set forth.
In religious traditions around the globe, adherents are taught that by observing certain principles and values, we build a peaceful world. Even with our best theory and skills, we cannot create nonviolent social change without tending to matters such as respect, forgiveness, patience, and sensitivity to the well-being of our adversaries.
These three traditions are all necessary. Taken independently, however, they each have their weaknesses. Without academic rigor, activists and religious adherents miss the benefits of critical analysis and historical insight. Without activist skill, academics and religious adherents lack the competence to convert understanding and vision into reality. And without attention to the inner life, academics and activists risk leaving behind our most potent catalysts for transforming relationships and communities.
Our goal is to provide a unique training opportunity by integrating the best of these three traditions, rooting our program in attention to scholarship, attention to strategy, and attention to the inner life.
How Satyagraha Institute Makes a Difference
Our habits of violence are deeply ingrained, so it is fair to ask “How will this program change anything?” We believe that the path to change is rooted in three key principles:
1. Change happens one person at a time.
In other words, a community will change only to the extent that its individual members change. To the degree that we, as individuals, shift toward the ways of nonviolence, we create ripples which alter the nature of our relationships, communities, and nations. For this reason, we subscribe to the practice of being the change we want to see. The summer institute provides time, space, and support for individuals to wrangle with the tools of nonviolence and their assumptions about how conflict works.
2. The path to change requires face-to-face interaction and dialogue.
We believe in the dignity and potential of every human being, and these qualities are best nurtured by direct contact with other human beings. The summer institute provides guides who are experienced in the application of satyagraha. If we want to adopt new approaches to conflict, we need to spend quality time with those who can help us work through the difficult questions. Cell phones and computer interaction cannot match the power of studying, eating, talking, working, and relaxing with mentors.
3. Deep change requires time, experimentation, and support.
Few of us can make quick and substantial changes for the better. We usually need years to test our options, understand the results, and gradually develop new habits. We also tend to need much encouragement along the way. The summer institute provides a concrete opportunity to support this lifetime of development.