Walking was a rejection of speed, accelerated consumption, and mindless productivism.

For Ghandi, the real struggle was between a civilization that idolizes industrialization and one that still prefers manual labour and spirituality. The struggle is not about East and West, or conqueror and the conquered. The struggle is between fast and slow.

The slow tranquil energy was maternal and feminine. Slow walking was the domain of women. For Ghandi, walking nurtured endurance and humility. It also nurtured simplicity and non-possession (aparigraha). While walking nurtured simplicity, simplicity also make it possible for us to go faster. Simplicity was important to Ghandi because to live beyond your needs was already exploitation.

Walking also nurtures autonomy. When you walk, you rely on yourself. You do not depend on fuel or machine.

Walking also nurtures proximity. Through walking, you are exposed to people in their natural environments and in their daily routines. “Walking is the right speed to understand, to feel close.”

Walking nurtures firmness and endurance.

Satya Graha is a concept that combines force and truth into one. It roughly translates to “truth-force”. One needs to anchor oneself to truth. Walking nurtures satya graha. To perform satya graha, one needs to be able to repress rage but also weather discouragement and cowardice. The goal is to be serene and calm in the middle of difficulties because one is anchored to truth. Walking helps cleanse these negative emotions.

This self-mastery of knowing the truth, and fighting for it in a calm, serene manner, is the precondition for perfect love and non-violence or ahimsa.

Nonviolence is not passive. It is active. It opposes physical force with the force of the soul alone. It destroys the culture of violence by putting violence to shame. Holding firm despite being violently attacked degrades the person using the violence.



Gros, F. (2014). A Philosophy of Walking. Verso.

The concept of marching fulfilled by itself the double ideal contained in the term swadeshi

the slowness of the march constitutes a rejection of speed: the Mahatma’s mistrust of the machine, accelerated consumption, mindless productivism.

For Gandhi, the real opposition wasn’t between East and West, but rather between a civilization of speed, machinery and the accumulation of forces and one of transmission, prayer and manual labour. Which doesn’t imply, however, that the choice is between the inertia of tradition and the conquerors’ dynamism, but rather between two energies: the energy of the immemorial and the energy of change. Gandhi’s choice was not between conservative torpor and adventurous boldness, but between calm force and perpetual agitation, the quiet illumination and the blinding flash.

Gandhi liked to think of that tranquil energy as maternal, feminine. For centuries in traditional societies, slow walking was the preserve of women

Walking with Gandhi nurtured the slow energies of endurance. With walking, you are far removed from the lightning action, the fine deed, the exploit. It is done with that humility Gandhi loved: constant reminder of our gravity, our weakness.

Walking also fitted with the theme of simplification he pursued all his life, taking the paths of non-possession (aparigraha).

his simplification of life enabled him to go faster, straighter, more dependably to the essential. Walking is of a perfect simplicity: one foot in front of the other, there’s no other way of advancing on two legs. But beyond that, the simplicity had a political aim. To live above your needs, Gandhi warned, is to be already exploiting your neighbour.

The task was to get rid of everything that might pointlessly encumber, embarrass, obstruct. Walking – marching – promoted an ideal of autonomy.

The concept of marching fulfilled by itself the double ideal contained in the term swadeshi

It signifies both ‘proximity’ and ‘autarchy’. During a march, you make contact with people living their daily lives: you pass the fields where they work, and in front of their houses. You stop and talk. Walking is the right speed to understand, to feel close. Apart from that, you depend on yourself alone to advance. Given that you are up to it, your will alone is in charge, and you await only your own injunction. Neither machine nor fuel. Especially as walking can seem positively nutritious.


is the idea of force and truth rolled into one, the idea that one should be anchored firmly to truth as to a solid rock. Walking calls for determination, tenacity and willpower. Accordingly, during his years of struggle among the community structures he had set up here and there, Gandhi had managed to train some disciples along these lines. The key virtue of the satyagrahi is internal self-discipline. It means being ready to take blows without returning them, go quietly when unjustly arrested, and suffer humiliation, slander and insult without replying. The mastery needed is double-sided: an ability to repress outbursts of rage and indignation, but also to weather moments of discouragement or cowardice; to remain calm, immobile, serene, sure of yourself and of the truth. Walking drains anger away, it purifies.

That perfect self-mastery is the precondition for a perfect love of all beings and for non-violence: ahimsa.

Non-violence wasn’t a simple rejection of force. It was more a matter of opposing physical force with the force of the soul alone. Gandhi did not say: make no resistance when the blows rain down, when the brutality redoubles. He said almost the opposite: resist with your entire soul by standing up for as long as possible, never surrendering any of your dignity, and without showing the slightest aggression or doing anything at all that might restore, between the whipper and the whipped, any reciprocity or equivalence in a community of violence and hate. On the contrary, show immense compassion for the one who is beating you. The relation should remain asymmetric in every respect: on one side a blind, physical, hate-filled rage, on the other a spiritual force of love. If you hold firm, then the relation is reversed; physical force degrades the one who uses it, who becomes a furious beast, while all human qualities are reflected in his prone victim, raised to a state of pure humanity by the attempt to lay him low. Non-violence puts violence to shame. To continue beating someone who opposes physical brutality with pure humanity, simple dignity, is to lose your honour and your soul there and then.