Mahatma Gandhi

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Truth alone will endure, all the rest will be swept away before the tide of time. I must continue to bear testimony to truth even if I am forsaken by all. Mine may today be a voice in the wilderness, but it will be heard when all other voices are silenced, if it is the voice of Truth.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (2 October 186930 January 1948), commonly known as Mahatma Gandhi (Sanskrit: महात्मा mahātmā "Great Soul"). In India he is generally regarded as Bapu (Gujarati: બાપુ bāpu "father") and Jathi Pitha ("father of the nation"); he was an advocate and pioneer of nonviolent social protest and direct action in the form he called Satyagraha. He led the struggle for India's independence from British colonial rule.

Quotes[edit]

Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.
The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
If India adopted the doctrine of love as an active part of her religion and introduced it in her politics, Swaraj would descend upon India from heaven. But I am painfully aware that that event is far off as yet.
The ideally non-violent state will be an ordered anarchy. That State is the best governed which is governed the least.
Religions are different roads converging to the same point. What does it matter that we take different road, so long as we reach the same goal. Wherein is the cause for quarrelling?
An unjust law is itself a species of violence. Arrest for its breach is more so.

1890s[edit]

  • Ours is one continual struggle against a degradation sought to be inflicted upon us by the Europeans, who desire to degrade us to the level of the raw Kaffir whose occupation is hunting, and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with and, then, pass his life in indolence and nakedness.
    • Address given in Bombay (26 September 1896), Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. 1, p. 410 (Electronic Book), New Delhi, Publications Division Government of India, 1999, 98 volumes.

1900s[edit]

  • One thing we have endeavoured to observe most scrupulously, namely, never to depart from the strictest facts and, in dealing with the difficult questions that have arisen during the year, we hope that we have used the utmost moderation possible under the circumstances. Our duty is very simple and plain. We want to serve the community, and in our own humble way to serve the Empire. We believe in the righteousness of the cause, which it is our privilege to espouse. We have an abiding faith in the mercy of the Almighty God, and we have firm faith in the British Constitution. That being so, we should fail in our duty if we wrote anything with a view to hurt. Facts we would always place before our readers, whether they are palatable or not, and it is by placing them constantly before the public in their nakedness that the misunderstanding between the two communities in South Africa can be removed.
  • Why, of all places in Johannesburg, the Indian location should be chosen for dumping down all kaffirs of the town, passes my comprehension. Of course, under my suggestion, the Town Council must withdraw the Kaffirs from the Location. About this mixing of the Kaffirs with the Indians I must confess I feel most strongly. I think it is very unfair to the Indian population, and it is an undue tax on even the proverbial patience of my countrymen.
    • Letter to Dr. Porter, Medical Officer of Health for Johannesburg (15 February 1905); later published in The Indian Opinion.
  • In this instance of the fire-arms, the Asiatic has been most improperly bracketed with the native. The British Indian does not need any such restrictions as are imposed by the Bill on the natives regarding the carrying of fire-arms. The prominent race can remain so by preventing the native from arming himself. Is there a slightest vestige of justification for so preventing the British Indian?
    • Comments on a court case in The Indian Opinion (25 March 1905)
  • You say that the magistrate's decision is unsatisfactory because it would enable a person, however unclean, to travel by a tram, and that even the Kaffirs would be able to do so. But the magistrate's decision is quite different. The Court declared that the Kaffirs have no legal right to travel by tram. And according to tram regulations, those in an unclean dress or in a drunken state are prohibited from boarding a tram. Thanks to the Court's decision, only clean Indians or coloured people other than Kaffirs, can now travel in the trams.
    • Comments on a court case in The Indian Opinion (2 June 1906)
  • A general belief seems to prevail in the colony that the Indians are little better, if at all, than the savages or natives of Africa. Even the children are taught to believe in that manner, with the result that the Indian is being dragged down to the position of a raw Kaffir.
    • During his time in South Africa from The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Government of India (CWMG), Vol I, p. 150
  • Kaffirs are as a rule uncivilised—the convicts even more so. They are troublesome, very dirty and live almost like animals.
    • "My Experience in Gaol", Indian Opinion (7 March 1908). Also: Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, op cit., Vol. 8, p. 199.
  • Leo Tolstoy's life has been devoted to replacing the method of violence for removing tyranny or securing reform by the method of non­resistance to evil. He would meet hatred expressed in violence by love expressed in self­suffering. He admits of no exception to whittle down this great and divine law of love. He applies it to all the problems that trouble mankind.
    • Introduction to the publication of Tolstoy's A Letter to a Hindu, Indian opinion, 25 December, (1909)
  • We are our own slaves, not of the British. This should be engraved on our minds. The whites cannot remain if we do not want them. If the idea is to drive them out with firearms, let every Indian consider what precious little profit Europe has found in these.
    • Introduction to the publication of Tolstoy's A Letter to a Hindu, Indian opinion, 25 December, (1909)

Hind Swaraj (1908)[edit]

One of the objects of a newspaper is to understand popular feeling and to give expression to it; another is to arouse among the people certain desirable sentiments; and the third is fearlessly to expose popular defects.
Full text online
  • In reality there are as many religions as there are individuals.
  • One of the objects of a newspaper is to understand popular feeling and to give expression to it; another is to arouse among the people certain desirable sentiments; and the third is fearlessly to expose popular defects.
    • Sect. 1
  • I believe that the civilization India evolved is not to be beaten in the world. Nothing can equal the seeds sown by our ancestors, Rome went, Greece shared the same fate; the might of the Pharaohs was broken; Japan has become Westernized; of China nothing can be said; but India is still, somehow or other, sound at the foundation. The people of Europe learn their lessons from the writings of the men of Greece or Rome, which exist no longer in their former glory. In trying to learn from them, the Europeans imagine that they will avoid the mistakes of Greece and Rome. Such is their pitiable condition. In the midst of all this India remains immovable and that is her glory. It is a charge against India that her people are so uncivilized, ignorant and stolid, that it is not possible to induce them to adopt any changes. It is a charge really against our merit. What we have tested and found true on the anvil of experience, we dare not change. Many thrust their advice upon India, and she remains steady. This is her beauty: it is the sheet-anchor of our hope.
    Civilization is that mode of conduct which points out to man the path of duty. Performance of duty and observance of morality are convertible terms. To observe morality is to attain mastery over our mind and our passions. So doing, we know ourselves. The Gujarati equivalent for civilization means “good conduct”.
    • Sect. 13
    • Variant translations: I believe that the civilisation into which India has evolved is not to be beaten in the world. Nothing can equal the seeds sown by our ancestry. Rome went; Greece shared the same fate; the might of the Pharaohs was broken; Japan has become westernised; of China nothing can be said; but India is still, somehow or other, sound at the foundation.
      Greece, Egypt, Rome — all have been erased from this world, yet we continue to exist. There is something in us, that our character never ceases from the face of this world, defying global hostility for centuries.

1910s[edit]

  • Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.
    • Satyagraha Leaflet No. 13 ( 3 May 1919)

1920s[edit]

  • I came in contact with every known Indian anarchist in London. Their bravery impressed me, but I felt that their zeal was misguided. I felt that violence was no remedy for India's ills, and that her civilisation required the use of a different and higher weapon for self-protection.
    • "A Word of Explanation" on his work Hind Swaraj (1908) in Young India (January 1921)
  • If India adopted the doctrine of love as an active part of her religion and introduced it in her politics. Swaraj would descend upon India from heaven. But I am painfully aware that that event is far off as yet.
    • "A Word of Explanation" in Young India (January 1921)
  • I have even seen the writings suggesting that I am playing a deep game, that I am using the present turmoil to foist my fads on India, and am making religious experiments at India's expense. I can only answer that Satyagraha is made of sterner stuff. There is nothing reserved and nothing secret in it.
    • "A Word of Explanation" in Young India (January 1921)
  • I claim that in losing the spinning wheel we lost our left lung. We are, therefore, suffering from galloping consumption. The restoration of the wheel arrests the progress of the fell disease.
  • A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.
    • In Ethical Religion, (Madras: S. Ganesan, 1922), Chapter 6, p. 61
  • The only tyrant I accept in this world is the "still small voice" within me. And even though I have to face the prospect of being a minority of one, I humbly believe I have the courage to be in such a hopeless minority.
    • In Young India (2 March 1922). Quoted in The Essential Gandhi: An Anthology of His Writings on His Life, Work, and Ideas edited by Louis Fischer (2002), p. 160.
  • If one has no affection for a person or a system, one should feel free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection so long as he does not contemplate, promote, or incite violence.
    • Statement during his trial for "exciting disaffection toward His Majesty's Government as established by law in India" (18 March 1922) [specific citation needed]
  • Nonviolence is the first article of my faith. It is also the last article of my creed.
    • Opening words of his defense speech at his trial Young India (23 March 1922)
  • Always believe in your dreams, because if you don't, you'll still have hope.
    • Young India (23 March 1924)
  • I wanted to know the best of the life of one (Muhammad) who holds today an undisputed sway over the hearts of millions of mankind. I became more than ever convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet the scrupulous regard for pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission. These and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every obstacle.
  • Some of my corresponents seem to think that I can work wonders. Let me say as a devotee of truth that I have no such gift. All the power I may have comes from God. But He does not work directly. He works through His numberless agencies. In this case it is the Congress.
    • From Young India (8 October 1924). Quoted in Teachings of Mahatma Gandhi (1945), edited by Jag Parvesh Chander, Indian Printing Works, page 242.
  • Seven social sins: politics without principles, wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, and worship without sacrifice.
    • A list closing an article in Young India (22 October 1925); Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi Vol. 33 (PDF) p. 135
    • Variant: The seven blunders that human society commits and cause all the violence: wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice, and politics without principles.
      • A written list given to his departing grandson Arun Gandhi (October 1947), as quoted in Marriot (Spring 1998). Some alternative or erroneous translations exist that use intros "There are seven sins in the world:", "Seven Blunders of the world:", "The things that will destroy us are", and items "politics without principle", "education without character", or "business without morality".
  • The cry for peace will be a cry in the wilderness, so long as the spirit of nonviolence does not dominate millions of men and women.
    An armed conflict between nations horrifies us. But the economic war is no better than an armed conflict. This is like a surgical operation. An economic war is prolonged torture. And its ravages are no less terrible than those depicted in the literature on war properly so called. We think nothing of the other because we are used to its deadly effects. ...
    The movement against war is sound. I pray for its success. But I cannot help the gnawing fear that the movement will fail if it does not touch the root of all evil — man's greed.
    • "Non-Violence — The Greatest Force" in The World Tomorrow (5 October 1926)
  • I have been known as a crank, faddist, madman. Evidently the reputation is well deserved. For wherever I go, I draw to myself cranks, faddists, and madmen.
    • Young India (13 June 1929); also in All Men Are Brothers: Autobiographical Reflections (2005) edited by Krishna Kripalani, p. 163
  • The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
    • "Interview to the Press" in Karachi about the execution of Bhagat Singh (23 March 1931); published in Young India (2 April 1931), reprinted in Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi Online Vol. 51. Gandhi begins by making a statement on his failure "to bring about the commutation of the death sentence of Bhagat Singh and his friends." He is asked two questions. First: "Do you not think it impolitic to forgive a government which has been guilty of a thousand murders?" Gandhi replies: "I do not know a single instance where forgiveness has been found so wanting as to be impolitic." In a follow-up question, Gandhi is asked: "But no country has ever shown such forgiveness as India is showing to Britain?" Gandhi replies: "That does not affect my reply. What is true of individuals is true of nations. One cannot forgive too much. The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."
  • An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it. Truth stands, even if there be no public support. It is self sustained.
    • Young India 1924-1926 (1927), p. 1285
  • I’m a lover of my own liberty, and so I would do nothing to restrict yours. I simply want to please my own conscience, which is God.
    • Young India (21 January 1927)
  • For one man cannot do right in one department of life whilst he is occupied in doing wrong in any other department. Life is one indivisible whole.
    • Young India (27 January 1927)
  • I came to the conclusion long ago … that all religions were true and also that all had some error in them, and whilst I hold by my own, I should hold others as dear as Hinduism. So we can only pray, if we are Hindus, not that a Christian should become a Hindu … But our innermost prayer should be a Hindu should be a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim, a Christian a better Christian.
    • Young India (19 January 1928)
  • My ambition is much higher than independence. Through the deliverance of India, I seek to deliver the so-called weaker races of the Earth from the crushing heels of Western exploitation in which England is the greatest partner.
    • Young India (12 January 1928). Quoted in The Essential Writings of Gandhi, edited by Judith Brown. Oxford University Press, 2008, (p. 153).

The Doctrine Of The Sword (1920)[edit]

I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honor than that she should in a cowardly manner become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonor.
But I believe that nonviolence is infinitely superior to violence, forgiveness is more manly than punishment, forgiveness adorns a soldier.
I am not pleading for India to practice nonviolence because it is weak. I want her to practice nonviolence being conscious of her strength and power.
"The Doctrine Of The Sword", in Young India (11 August 1920)
  • In this age of the rule of brute force, it is almost impossible for anyone to believe that anyone else could possibly reject the law of final supremacy of brute force. And so I receive anonymous letters advising me that I must not interfere with the progress of non-co-operation even though popular violence may break out. Others come to me and assuming that secretly I must be plotting violence, inquire when the happy moment for declaring open violence to arrive. They assure me that English never yield to anything but violence secret or open. Yet others I am informed, believe that I am the most rascally person living in India because I never give out my real intention and that they have not a shadow of a doubt that I believe in violence just as much as most people do.
    Such being the hold that the doctrine of the sword has on the majority of mankind, and as success of non-co-operation depends principally on absence of violence during its pendency and as my views in this matter affect the conduct of large number of people. I am anxious to state them as clearly as possible.
    I do believe that where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence I would advise violence.
  • I advocate training in arms for those who believe in the method of violence. I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honor than that she should in a cowardly manner become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonor.
    But I believe that nonviolence is infinitely superior to violence, forgiveness is more manly than punishment, forgiveness adorns a soldier.
    But abstinence is forgiveness only when there is the power to punish, it is meaningless when it pretends to proceed from a helpless creature. A mouse hardly forgives cat when it allows itself to be torn to pieces by her. … I do not believe myself to be a helpless creature. Only I want to use India's and my strength for better purpose.
    Let me not be misunderstood. Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.
  • We in India may in moment realize that one hundred thousand Englishmen need not frighten three hundred million human beings. A definite forgiveness would therefore mean a definite recognition of our strength. … I must not refrain from a saying that India can gain more by waiving the right of punishment. We have better work to do, a better mission to deliver to the world.
    I am not a visionary. I claim to be a practical idealist. The religion of nonviolence is not meant merely for the Rishis and saints. It is meant for the common people as well. Nonviolence is the law of our species as violence is the law of the brute. The spirit lies dormant in the brute and he knows no law but that of physical might. The dignity of man requires obedience to a higher law — to the strength of the spirit.
  • Nonviolence in its dynamic condition means conscious suffering. It does not means meek submission to the will of the evil-doer, but it means the putting of one's whole soul against the will of the tyrant. Working under this law of being , it is possible for a single individual to defy the whole might of an unjust empire to save his honor, his religion, his soul and lay the foundation for the empire's fall or its regeneration.
    And so I am not pleading for India to practice nonviolence because it is weak. I want her to practice nonviolence being conscious of her strength and power. No training in arms is required for realization of her strength. We seem to need it because we seem to think that we are but a lump of flesh. I want India to recognize that she has a soul that cannot perish and that can rise triumphant above every physical weakness and defy the physical combination of a whole world.
  • I invite even the school of violence to give this peaceful non-co-operation a trial. It will not fail through its inherent weakness. It may fail because of poverty of response. Then will be one time for real danger. The high-souled men, who are unable to suffer national humiliation any longer, will want to vent their wrath. They will take to violence.
  • I am wedded to India because I owe my all to her. I believe absolutely that she has a mission for the world. She is not to copy Europe blindly, India's acceptance of the doctrine of the sword will be the hour of my trial. I hope I shall not be found wanting. My religion has no geographical limits. If I have a living faith in it, it will transcend my love for India herself. My life is dedicated to service of India through the religion of nonviolence which I believed to be the root of Hinduism.
    Meanwhile I urge those who distrust me, not to disturb the even working of the struggle that has just commenced, by inciting to violence in the belief that I want violence I detest secrecy as a sin. Let them give nonviolence non co-operation a trial and they will find that I had no mental reservation whatsoever.

An Autobiography (1927)[edit]

I simply want to tell the story of my experiments with truth...as my life consists of nothing but those experiments.
An Autobiography or The Story of My Experiments with Truth (1927) These should eventually have citation by translation, edition, and section or page numbers
  • It is not my purpose to attempt a real autobiography. I simply want to tell the story of my experiments with truth...as my life consists of nothing but those experiments.
    • Introduction
  • In judging myself I shall try to be as harsh as truth, as I want others also to be. Measuring myself by that standard I must exclaim with Surdas: ' Where is there a wretch So wicked and loathsome as I? I have forsaken my Maker, So faithless have I been.' For it is an unbroken torture to me that I am still so far from him, who, as I fully know, governs every breath of my life, and whose offspring I am. I know that it is the evil passions within that keep me so far from Him, and yet I cannot get away from them.
    • Introduction
  • I am a Hindu by birth. And yet I do not know much of Hinduism, and I know less of other religions. In fact I do not know where I am, and what is and what should be my belief. I intend to make a careful study of my own religion and, as far as I can, of other religions as well.
    • Part II: First Day in Pretoria
  • Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest. If we want the Arms Act to be repealed, if we want to learn the use of arms, here is a golden opportunity. If the middle classes render voluntary help to Government in the hour of its trial, distrust will disappear, and the ban on possessing arms will be withdrawn.
    • From a leaflet urging Indians to serve with the British Army in World War I, Part V, Chapter 27, Recruiting Campaign
  • Jealousy does not wait for reasons.
    • Part I, Chapter 4, Playing the Husband
  • Nothing is impossible for pure love.
    • Part I, Chapter 4, Playing the Husband
  • I saw that bad handwriting should be regarded as a sign of an imperfect education.
    • Part I, Chapter 5, At the High School
  • Every Hindu boy and girl should possess sound Sanskrit learning.
    • Part I, Chapter 5, At the High School
  • It is now my opinion that in all Indian curricula of higher education there should be a place for Hindi, Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic and English, besides of course the vernacular.
    • Part I, Chapter 5, At the High School
  • Today I know that physical training should have as much place in the curriculum as mental training.
    • Part I, Chapter 5, At the High School
  • A man of truth must also be a man of care.
    • Part I, Chapter 5, At the High School
  • About this time, I heard of a well known Hindu having been converted to Christianity. It was the talk of the town that, when he was baptized, he had to eat beef and drink liquor, that he also had to change his clothes, and that thenceforth he began to go about in European costume including a hat. These things got on my nerves. Surely, thought I, a religion that compelled one to eat beef, drink liquor, and change one's own clothes did not deserve the name. I also heard that the new convert had already begun abusing the religion of his ancestors, their customs and their country. All these things created in me a dislike for Christianity.
    • Part I, Chapter 10, Glimpses of Religion
  • One golden rule is to accept the interpretation honestly put on the pledge by the party administering it.
    • Part I, Chapter 17, Experiments in Dietetics
  • A convert's enthusiasm for his new religion is greater than that of a person who is born in it.
    • Part I, Chapter 17, Experiments in Dietetics
  • Supplication, worship, prayer are no superstition; they are acts more real than the acts of eating, drinking, sitting or walking. It is no exaggeration to say that they alone are real, all else is unreal.
    • Part I, Chapter 21, 'Nirbal Ke Bala Rama'
  • Selfishness is blind.
    • Part II, Chapter 4, The First Shock
  • My joy was boundless. I had learnt the true practice of law. I had learnt to find out the better side of human nature and to enter men’s hearts. I realized the true function of a lawyer was to unite parties riven asunder. The lesson was so indelibly burnt into me that a large part of my time during the twenty years of my practice as a lawyer was occupied in bringing about private compromises of hundreds of cases. I lost nothing thereby - not even money, certainly not my soul.
    • Part II, Chapter 14, Preparation for the Case
  • But all my life though, the very insistence on truth has taught me to appreciate the beauty of compromise. I saw in later life that this spirit was an essential part of Satyagraha. It has often meant endangering my life and incurring the displeasure of friends. But truth is hard as adamant and tender as a blossom.
    • Part II, Chapter 18, Colour Bar
  • I had learnt at the onset not to carry on public work with borrowed money.
    • Part II, Chapter 19, Natal Indian Congress
  • "Hate the sin and not the sinner" is a precept which, though easy enough to understand, is rarely practiced, and that is why the poison of hatred spreads in the world.
    • Part IV, Chapter 9, A Tussle with Power
  • My uniform experience has convinced me that there is no other God than Truth.
    • Farewell, p. 453
  • 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 man who aspires after that cannot afford to keep out of any field of life. That is why 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.
    Identification with everything that lives is impossible without self-purification; without self-purification the observance of the law of Ahimsa must remain an empty dream; God can never be realized by one who is not pure of heart. Self-purification therefore must mean purification in all the walks of life. And purification being highly infectious, purification of oneself necessarily leads to the purification of one's surroundings.
    But the path of self-purification is hard and steep. To attain to perfect purity one has to become absolutely passion-free in thought, speech and action; to rise above the opposing currents of love and hatred, attachment and repulsion. I know that I have not in me as yet that triple purity, in spite of constant ceaseless striving for it. That is why the world's praise fails to move me, indeed it very often stings me. To conquer the subtle passions seems to me to be harder far than the physical conquest of the world by the force of arms. Ever since my return to India I have had experiences of the dormant passions lying hidden within me. The knowledge of them has made me feel humiliated though not defeated. The experiences and experiments have sustained me and given me great joy. But I know that I have still before me a difficult path to traverse. I must reduce myself to zero. So long as a man does not of his own free will put himself last among his fellow creatures, there is no salvation for him. Ahimsa is the farthest limit of humility.
    • Farewell, p. 454

1930s[edit]

  • To call woman the weaker sex is a libel; it is man's injustice to woman. If by strength is meant brute strength, then, indeed, is woman less brute than man. If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man's superior. Has she not greater intuition, is she not more self-sacrificing, has she not greater powers of endurance, has she not greater courage? Without her, man could not be. If nonviolence is the law of our being, the future is with woman. Who can make a more effective appeal to the heart than woman?
    • Young India (4 October 1930)
  • On all occasions of trial He has saved me. I know that the phrase 'God saved me' has a deeper meaning for me today, and still I feel that I have not yet grasped its entire meaning. Only richer experience can help me to a fuller understanding.
    But in all my trials — of a spiritual nature, as a lawyer, in conducting institutions, and in politics — I can say that God saved me. When every hope is gone, 'when helpers fail and comforts flee', I experience that help arrives somehow, from I know not where.
    • Young India (24 April 1931), p. 274
  • It is beyond my power to induce in you a belief in God. There are certain things which are self proved and certain which are not proved at all. The existence of God is like a geometrical axiom. It may be beyond our heart grasp. I shall not talk of an intellectual grasp. Intellectual attempts are more or less failures, as a rational explanation cannot give you the faith in a living God. For it is a thing beyond the grasp of reason. It transcends reason. There are numerous phenomena from which you can reason out the existence of God, but I shall not insult your intelligence by offering you a rational explanation of that type. I would have you brush aside all rational explanations and begin with a simple childlike faith in God. If I exist, God exists. With me it is a necessity of my being as it is with millions. They may not be able to talk about it, but from their life you can see that it is a part of their life. I am only asking you to restore the belief that has been undermined. In order to do so, you have to unlearn a lot of literature that dazzles your intelligence and throws you off your feet. Start with the faith which is also a token of humility and an admission that we know nothing, that we are less than atoms in this universe. We are less than atoms, I say, because the atom obeys the law of its being, whereas we in the insolence of our ignorance deny the law of nature. But I have no argument to address to those who have no faith.
    • Young India (24 September 1931); also in Teachings Of Mahatma Gandhi (1945), edited by Jag Parvesh Chander, p. 458 archive.org
  • England has got successful competitors in America, Japan, France, Germany. It has competitors in the handful of mills in India, and as there has been an awakening in India, even so there will be an awakening in South Africa with its vastly richer resources — natural , mineral and human. The mighty English look quite pigmies before the mighty races of Africa. They are noble savages after all, you will say. They are certainly noble, but no savages and in the course of a few years the Western nations may cease to find in Africa a dumping ground for their wares.
    • Statement at Oxford (24 October 1931), published in Young India Vol. 13 (1931), p. 355
  • If we are to reach real peace in this world and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with children; and if they will grow up in their natural innocence, we won’t have to struggle, we won’t have to pass fruitless idle resolutions. But we shall go from love to love and peace to peace, until at last all the corners of the world are covered with that peace and love for which, consciously or unconsciously, the whole world is hungering.
    • Young India (19 November 1931, p. 361)
  • For me the voice of God, of Conscience, of Truth or the Inner Voice or ‘the still small Voice’ mean one and the same thing. I saw no form. I have never tried, for I have always believed God to be without form. One who realizes God is freed from sin for ever.... But what I did hear was like a Voice from afar and yet quite near. It was as unmistakable as some human voice definitely speaking to me, and irresistible. I was not dreaming at the time I heard the Voice. The hearing of the Voice was preceded by a terrific struggle within me. Suddenly the Voice came upon me. I listened, made certain that it was the Voice, and the struggle ceased. I was calm. The determination was made accordingly, the date and the hour of the fast were fixed.... Could I give any further evidence that it was truly the Voice that I heard and that it was not an echo of my own heated imagination? I have no further evidence to convince the sceptic. He is free to say that it was all self-delusion or hallucination. It may well have been so. I can offer no proof to the contrary. But I can say this — that not the unanimous verdict of the whole world against me could shake me from the belief that what I heard was the true voice of God.
    • Harijan (1933, July 8); also in Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (Vol. 61), and in The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi (Prabhu and Rao, eds., 1967, pp. 33-34)
  • Man's excellence lies in his readiness to let others live and lay down his own life. As he progresses, his food also changes for the better. He has the capacity to grow still further. There have been many more discoveries after Darwin's. The book which you have been reading seems to be an old one. Whether it is old or new, the "Principle of the greatest good of the greatest number," or "survival of the fittest" is false.
    • In his Letter to Premabehn Kantak, in Collected Works, , Delhi. Ministry of Information (1969-94)., 50:309-10
  • I worship God as Truth only. I have not yet found Him, but I am seeking after Him.
    • An Autobiography (1936); also in All Men Are Brothers: Autobiographical Reflections (2005) edited by Krishna Kripalani, p. 63
  • It is impossible for me to reconcile myself to the idea of conversion after the style that goes on in India and elsewhere today. It is an error which is perhaps the greatest impediment to the world’s progress toward peace … Why should a Christian want to convert a Hindu to Christianity? Why should he not be satisfied if the Hindu is a good or godly man?
    • Harijan (30 January 1937)
  • If there ever could be a justifiable war in the name of and for humanity, a war against Germany, to prevent the wanton persecution of a whole race, would be completely justified. But I do not believe in any war. A discussion of the pros and cons of such a war is therefore outside my horizon or province.
  • The cry for the national home for the Jews does not make much appeal to me. The sanction for it is sought in the Bible and the tenacity with which the Jews have hankered after return to Palestine. Why should they not, like other peoples of the earth, make that country their home where they are born and where they earn their livelihood?
    • Gandhi's Collected Works, Vol 74 (1938)
  • Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. It is wrong and in-human to impose the Jews on the Arabs.
    • Gandhi's Collected Works, Vol 74 (1938)
  • Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest. [1]
    • Gandhi, An Autobiography, p. 446 (Beacon Press paperback edition)
  • Political power, in my opinion, cannot be our ultimate aim. It is one of the means used by men for their all-round advancement. The power to control national life through national representatives is called political power. Representatives will become unnecessary if the national life becomes so perfect as to be self-controlled. It will then be a state of enlightened anarchy in which each person will become his own ruler. He will conduct himself in such a way that his behaviour will not hamper the well-being of his neighbours. In an ideal State there will be no political institution and therefore no political power. That is why Thoreau has said in his classic statement that "that government is the best which governs the least". [From Hindi] Sarvodaya, January, 1939

1940s[edit]

It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.
  • I do not want to see the allies defeated. But I do not consider Hitler to be as bad as he is depicted. He is showing an ability that is amazing and seems to be gaining his victories without much bloodshed. Englishmen are showing the strength that Empire builders must have. I expect them to rise much higher than they seem to be doing.
    • Letter to Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, regarding the military situation between England and Germany (May 1940), quoted in Collected Works (1958), p. 70.
  • Whatever Hitler may ultimately prove to be, we know what Hitlerism has come to mean, It means naked, ruthless force reduced to an exact science and worked with scientific precision. In its effect it becomes almost irresistible.
    Hitlerism will never be defeated by counter-Hitlerism. It can only breed superior Hitlerism raised to nth degree. What is going on before our eyes is the demonstration of the futility of violence as also of Hitlerism.
    What will Hitler do with his victory? Can he digest so much power? Personally he will go as empty-handed as his not very remote predecessor Alexander. For the Germans he will have left not the pleasure of owning a mighty empire but the burden of sustaining its crushing weight. For they will not be able to hold all the conquered nations in perpetual subjection. And I doubt if the Germans of future generations will entertain unadulterated pride in the deeds for which Hitlerism will be deemed responsible. They will honour Herr Hitler as genius, as a brave man, a matchless organizer and much more. But I should hope that the Germans of the future will have learnt the art of discrimination even about their heroes. Anyway I think it will be allowed that all the blood that has been spilled by Hitler has added not a millionth part of an inch to the world’s moral stature.
    • Harijan (22 June 1940), after Nazi victories resulting in the occupation of France.
  • A seeker after Truth cannot afford to indulge in generalisation.

    Darwin for the greater part of his book Origin of the Species [sic] has simply massed fact upon fact without any theorising, and only towards the end has formulated his conclusion which, because of the sheer weight of testimony behind it, becomes almost irresistible. Yes I have criticised even Darwin's generalisation as being unwarranted.

    Science tells us that a proposition may hold good in nine hundred ninety-nine cases and yet fail in the thousandth case and thus be rendered untenable as a universal statement.

    • "Generalisation", from Harijan (6 July 1940). Quoted in Teachings of Mahatma Gandhi (1945), edited by Jag Parvesh Chander, Indian Printing Works, pages 243-244.
  • The ideally non-violent state will be an ordered anarchy. That State is the best governed which is governed the least.
    • From Discussion with BG Kher and others, August 15, 1940. Gandhi's Wisdom Box (1942), edited by Dewan Ram Parkash, p. 67 also in Collected works of Mahatma Gandhi Vol. 79 (PDF), p. 122
A non-violent soldier of freedom will covet nothing for himself, he fights only for the freedom of his country.
  • Ours is not a drive for power, but purely a non-violent fight for India’s independence. In a violent struggle, a successful general has been often known to effect a military coup and to set up a dictatorship. But under the Congress scheme of things, essentially non-violent as it is, there can be no room for dictatorship. A non-violent soldier of freedom will covet nothing for himself, he fights only for the freedom of his country.
  • I read Carlyle’s French Revolution while I was in prison, and Pandit Jawaharlal has told me something about the Russian revolution. But it is my conviction that inasmuch as these struggles were fought with the weapon of violence they failed to realize the democratic ideal. In the democracy which I have envisaged, a democracy established by non-violence, there will be equal freedom for all. Everybody will be his own master. It is to join a struggle for such democracy that I invite you today. Once you realize this you will forget the differences between the Hindus and Muslims, and think of yourselves as Indians only, engaged in the common struggle for independence.
  • We cannot evoke the true spirit of sacrifice and valour, so long as we are not free. I know the British Government will not be able to withhold freedom from us, when we have made enough self-sacrifice. We must, therefore, purge ourselves of hatred.
  • Religions are different roads converging to the same point. What does it matter that we take different road, so long as we reach the same goal. Wherein is the cause for quarreling?
    • Speaking of the conflict between Muslims and Hindus, in Hind Swaraj, Or Indian Home Rule (1946), p. 36
  • If you want to give a message again to the West, it must be a message of 'Love', it must be a message of 'Truth'. There must be a conquest — [audience claps] — please, please, please. That will interfere with my speech, and that will interfere with your understanding also. I want to capture your hearts and don't want to receive your claps. Let your hearts clap in unison with what I'm saying, and I think, I shall have finished my work. Therefore, I want you to go away with the thought that Asia has to conquer the West. Then, the question that a friend asked yesterday, "Did I believe in one world?" Of course, I believe in one world. And how can I possibly do otherwise, when I become an inheritor of the message of love that these great un-conquerable teachers left for us? You can redeliver that message now, in this age of democracy, in the age of awakening of the poorest of the poor, you can redeliver this message with the greatest emphasis.
  • Had we adopted non-violence as the weapon of the strong, because we realised that it was more effective than any other weapon, in fact the mightiest force in the world, we would have made use of its full potency and not have discarded it as soon as the fight against the British was over or we were in a position to wield conventional weapons. But as I have already said, we adopted it out of our helplessness. If we had the atom bomb, we would have used it against the British.
    • Speech (16 June 1947) as the official date for Indian independence approached (15 August 1947) , as quoted in Mahatma Gandhi: The Last Phase (1958) by Pyarelal Nayyar, p. 326.
  • The Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need but not for every man's greed.
  • Truth never damages a cause that is just.
  • In the dictionary of Satyagraha, there is no enemy.
    • Non-Violence in Peace and War (1948); also in Gandhi on Non-violence: Selected Texts from Mohandas K. Gandhi's Non-Violence in Peace and War (1965) edited by Thomas Merton
  • It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our breasts, than to put on the cloak of non-violence to cover impotence. Violence is any day preferable to impotence. There is hope for a violent man to become non-violent. There is no such hope for the impotent.
    • Non-Violence in Peace and War p. 254 (1948); also in Gandhi on Non-violence: Selected Texts from Mohandas K. Gandhi's Non-Violence in Peace and War (1965) edited by Thomas Merton; this has also appeared in paraphrased form as "if there is violence in our hearts."

To Every Briton (1940)[edit]

Open letter, "To Every Briton", New Delhi (2 July 1940); published in Harijan (6 July 1940)
  • This war has descended upon mankind as a curse and a warning. It is a curse inasmuch as it is brutalizing man on a scale hitherto unknown. All distinctions between combatants and noncombatants have been abolished. No one and nothing is to be spared. Lying has been reduced to an art. Britain was to defend small nationalities. One by one they have vanished, at least for the time being. It is also a warning. It is a warning that, if nobody reads the writing on the wall, man will be reduced to the state of the beast, whom he is shaming by his manners. I read the writing when the hostilities broke out. But I had not the courage to say the word. God has given me the courage to say it before it is too late.
  • I appeal for cessation of hostilities, not because you are too exhausted to fight, but because war is bad in essence. You want to kill Nazism. You will never kill it by its indifferent adoption. Your soldiers are doing the same work of destruction as the Germans. The only difference is that perhaps yours are not as thorough as the Germans. If that be so, yours will soon acquire the same thoroughness as theirs, if not much greater. On no other condition can you win the war. In other words, you will have to be more ruthless than the Nazis. No cause, however just, can warrant the indiscriminate slaughter that is going on minute by minute. I suggest that a cause that demands the inhumanities that are being perpetrated today cannot be called just.
  • I do not want Britain to be defeated, nor do I want her to be victorious in a trial of brute strength, whether expressed through the muscle or the brain. Your muscular bravery is an established fact. Need you demonstrate that your brain is also as unrivaled in destructive power as your muscle? I hope you do not wish to enter into such an undignified competition with the Nazis. I venture to present you with a nobler and a braver way, worthy of the bravest soldier. I want you to fight Nazism without arms, or, if I am to retain the military terminology, with non-violent arms. I would like you to lay down the arms you have as being useless for saving you or humanity. You will invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of the countries you call your possessions. Let them take possession of your beautiful island, with your many beautiful buildings. You will give all these, but neither your souls, nor your minds. If these gentlemen choose to occupy your homes, you will vacate them. If they do not give you free passage out, you will allow yourself, man, woman and child, to be slaughtered, but you will refuse to owe allegiance to them.
    This process or method, which I have called non-violent non-co-operation, is not without considerable success in its use in India. Your representatives in India may deny my claim. If they do, I shall feel sorry for them.
  • This is no appeal made by a man who does not know his business. I have been practising with scientific precision non-violence and its possibilities for an unbroken period of over fifty years. I have applied it in every walk of life, domestic, institutional, economic and political. I know of no single case in which it has failed. Where it has seemed sometimes to have failed, I have ascribed it to my imperfections. I claim no perfection for my self. But I do claim to be a passionate seeker after Truth, which is but another name for God. In the course of the search the discovery of non-violence came to me. Its spread is my life-mission. I have no interest in living except for the prosecution of that mission.
  • Whatever the ultimate fate of my country, my love for you remains, and will remain, undiminished. My non-violence demands universal love, and you are not a small part of it. It is that love which has prompted my appeal to you.
  • May God give power to every word of mine. In his name I began to write this, and in His name I close it. May your statesman have the wisdom and courage to respond to my appeal. I am telling His Excellency the Viceroy that my services are at the disposal of His Majesty’s Government, should they consider them of any practical use in advancing the object of my appeal.

Posthumous publications (1950s and later)[edit]

  • Hitler killed five million Jews. It is the greatest crime of our time. But the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher's knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs. As it is, they succumbed anyway in their millions.
    • The Life of Mahatma Gandhi (1950) by Louis Fischer. The quote is in the context of Gandhi's argument to his biographer that collective suicide would have been a heroic response that would have "aroused the world and the people of Germany to Hitler's violence".
  • Truth alone will endure, all the rest will be swept away before the tide of time. I must continue to bear testimony to truth even if I am forsaken by all. Mine may today be a voice in the wilderness, but it will be heard when all other voices are silenced, if it is the voice of Truth.
    • Basic Education (1951) p. 89
  • You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.
    • Gandhi: His Life and Message for the World (1954), by Louis Fischer, p.177
  • An unjust law is itself a species of violence. Arrest for its breach is more so. Now the law of nonviolence says that violence should be resisted not by counter-violence but by nonviolence. This I do by breaking the law and by peacefully submitting to arrest and imprisonment.
  • Poverty is the worst kind of violence.
    • As quoted in A Just Peace through Transformation: Cultural, Economic, and Political Foundations for Change (1988) by the International Peace Association
  • You assist an unjust administration most effectively by obeying its orders and decrees. An evil administration never deserves such allegiance. Allegiance to it means partaking of the evil.
    A good person will resist an evil system with his whole soul. Disobedience of the laws of an evil state is therefore a duty.
    • Non-Violent Resistance - Often misquoted as "You assist an evil system most effectively by obeying its orders and decrees. An evil system never deserves such allegiance."
  • All humanity is one undivided and indivisible family, and each one of us is responsible for the misdeeds of all the others. I cannot detach myself from the wickedest soul.[citation needed]
  • Remember that there is always a limit to self-indulgence but none to self-restraint, and let us daily progress in that direction.
  • My own experience but confirms the opinion that the Musalman as a rule is a bully, and the Hindu as rule is a coward.

  • I know of no one who has done more for humanity than Jesus. In fact, there is nothing wrong with Christianity ... The trouble is with you Christians. You do not begin to live up to your own teachings.


Disputed[edit]

  • We need to be the change we wish to see in the world.
    • Arun Gandhi's summary indirect quotation in "Arun Gandhi Shares the Mahatma's Message" by Michel W. Potts, in India - West [San Leandro, California] Vol. XXVII, No. 13 (1 February 2002) p. A34. Not found as a direct Gandhi quotation in the 98-volume authorized Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi. [Misquotes that Bapu is forced to wear. Morton, Brian (August 29, 2011). Falser Words Were Never Spoken. New York Times.]
    • Earlier variant: Be the change you wish to see. From "Be the change you wish to see: An interview with Arun Gandhi" by Carmella B'Hahn, Reclaiming Children and Youth [Bloomington] Vol. 10, No. 1 (Spring 2001) p. 6.
  • Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.
    • The earliest attribution of this to Gandhi yet located is in a T-shirt advertisement in Mother Jones, Vol. 8, No. 5 (June 1983), p. 46
  • First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
    • Describing the stages of a winning strategy of nonviolent activism. There is no record of Gandhi saying this. A close variant of the quotation first appears in a 1918 US trade union address by Nicholas Klein:
And, my friends, in this story you have a history of this entire movement. First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you. And that, is what is going to happen to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America.
  • In Freedom's Battle (1922), Gandhi wrote this:
  • Unfortunately for His Excellency the movement is likely to grow with ridicule as it is certain to flourish on repression. No vital movement can be killed except by the impatience, ignorance or laziness of its authors. A movement cannot be 'insane' that is conducted by men of action as I claim the members of the Non-co-operation Committee are. … Ridicule is like repression. Both give place to respect when they fail to produce the intended effect. … It will be admitted that non-co-operation has passed the stage [of] ridicule. Whether it will now be met by repression or respect remains to be seen. … But the testing time has now arrived. In a civilized country when ridicule fails to kill a movement it begins to command respect.
  • If you don't ask, you don't get.
    • Widespread late 20th century aphorism that appears to have been first attributed to Gandhi in various self-help books of the early 2000s. Google Books
  • Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
    • Variant on aphorism "Study as if you were to live forever. Live as if you were to die tomorrow" pre-dating Gandhi, variously attributed to Isidore of Seville (c. 560 – 636), in FPA Book of Quotations (1952) by Franklin Pierce Adams, or to Edmund Rich (1175–1240) in American Journal of Education (1877).
    • The 1995 book "The good boatman: a portrait of Gandhi," states that Gandhi subscribed "to the view that a man should live thinking he might die tomorrow but learn as if he would live forever."
    • In his 2010 Boyer lecture Glyn Davis (Professor of Political Science and Vice-Chancellor of Melbourne University) attributes the quote to Desiderius Erasmus. "He [Erasmus] reworked Pliny to urge 'live as if you are to die tomorrow, study as if you were to live forever'. Many students obey the first clause - the best heed both."
    • There is a similar quote by Johann Gottfried Herder: "Mensch, genieße dein Leben, als müssest morgen du weggehn; Schone dein Leben, als ob ewig du weiletest hier." ["Man, enjoy your life as if you were to depart tomorrow; spare your life as if you were to linger here forever."] (Zerstreute Blätter, 1785).
  • I have never advocated "passive" anything. We must never submit to unjust laws. Never. And our resistance must be active and provocative.
    • This may be derived from lines in the movie Gandhi (1982); such statements have not been located among published sources.
  • The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
    • Widely attributed to Gandhi, sometimes citing Ramachandra Krishna Prabhu, The Moral Basis of Vegetarianism (1959), but not verified. (Cf. Ralph Keyes, The Quote Verifier (2006), p. 74)
  • I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. The materialism of affluent Christian countries appears to contradict the claims of Jesus Christ that says it's not possible to worship both Mammon and God at the same time.
    • As quoted by William Rees-Mogg in The Times [London] (4 April 2005) {not found}. Gandhi here makes reference to a statement of Jesus: “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." (Luke 16:13); also partly quoted in Christianity in the Crosshairs: Real Life Solutions Discovered in the Line of Fire (2004, p. 74 books.google) by Bill Wilson. I have found no authoritative source for Gandhi saying this. The actual quote is attributed to Bara Dada, "Jesus is ideal and wonderful, but you Christians -- you are not like him." Source - Jones, E. Stanley. The Christ of the Indian Road, New York: The Abingdon Press,1925. (Page 114)
  • [asked what he thought of modern civilization] That would be a good idea.
    • variant: "I think it would be a good idea" when asked what he thought of Western civilization.
    • On p. 75 of Ralph Keyes' book The Quote Verifier (2006), Keyes writes: 'During his first visit to England, when asked what he though of modern civilization, Gandhi is said to have told news reporters, "That would be a good idea." The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations cites E. F. Schumacher's Good Work as its source for this Gandhiism, as does Nigel Rees in the Cassell Companion to Quotations. In that 1979 book, Schumacher said he saw Gandhi make this remark in a filmed record of his quizzing by reporters as he disembarked in Southampton while visiting England in 1930. Gandhi did not visit England in 1930. He did attend a roundtable conference on India's future in London the following year. Standard biographies of Gandhi do not report his making any such quip as he disembarked. Most often it has been revised to be Gandhi's assessment of "Western" civilization: "I think it would be a good idea." A retort such as this seems a little flip for Gandhi, and must be regarded as questionable. A comprehensive collection of his observations includes no such remark among twelve entries for "Civilization."'
    • The quote was attributed to Gandhi in various sources prior to Schumacher's 1979 book mentioned by Keyes above, though none have been found that mention where and when he gave this answer. The earliest located on google books being Reader's Digest, Volume 91 from 1967, p. 52, where it is attributed to a CBS News Special called "The Italians", described here as "a 1966 look at the nation and its people based on the book by Luigi Barzini", produced by Bernard Birnbaum and one of the 1966/1967 Emmy award winners. A discussion of the quote on "The Quote Investigator" website here mentions that on "The Italians" the quote was attributed to Gandhi.
  • What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.
    • Earliest instance of this quote found on google books is the 1989 book Forest primeval: the natural history of an ancient forest by Chris Maser, but there it appears to be Maser's own thought (see p. 230 followed by a different supposed Gandhi quote).


Misattributed[edit]

  • Hate the sin and love the sinner.
    • This is variant of a traditional Christian proverb; ie: "Hate the sin, but love the sinner" in Sermons, Lectures, and Occasional Discourses (1828) Edward Irving, and similar expressions date to those of Augustine of Hippo: "Love the sinner and hate the sin." Gandhi did express approval of such sentiments in his An Autobiography (1927): "Hate the sin and not the sinner" is a precept which, though easy enough to understand, is rarely practiced, and that is why the poison of hatred spreads in the world.
  • As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world — that is the myth of the "atomic age" — as in being able to remake ourselves.
  • Action expresses priorities.
    • Apparently a rephrasing of "Actions express priorities," from Peak Performers (1987) by Charles A. Garfield. The phrase is last-name-alphabetically adjacent to a Gandhi quote in at least one list of quotations.
  • There is enough wealth in the world to satisfy everyone's needs, ...'. This quote is actually credited to an American pastor of Swiss origin Frank Buchman, founder of the Moral Rearmament movement. Misquotes that Bapu is forced to wear.

Quotes about Gandhi[edit]

Unorthodox though he might be, Gandhi fitted into the traditional pattern of the sanyassi who practices non‑attachment in the search for Truth; he was the karma yogin, the man who perfects and purifies himself through action. ~ George Woodcock
Alphabetized by author
  • It is sometimes said that Britain liberated India. In fact the reverse is the truth. Gandhi and Nehru liberated us. By winning their freedom, they freed us from the ignorance and prejudice that lay behind the myth of Britain's imperial destiny.
    • Tony Benn, 1964. Quoted in Gandhi by David Arnold. Pearson Education, 2001.
  • It is impossible for me to ignore that you are in a different category from any person I have ever tried, or am likely to try. It is nevertheless my duty to sentence you – to six years imprisonment. [A stunned intake of breath from the whole courtroom, then in absolute silence the clerk scribbles the sentence in his notebook. A pause. The Judge lowers his eyes.] If however His Majesty's Government could – at some later date – see fit to reduce that term, no one would be better pleased than I.
    • Judge Broomfield, sentencing Gandhi, as depicted in the film Gandhi (1982)
  • Gandhi proved it is possible to fight for one's people and win without for a moment losing the world's respect.
    • Albert Camus, Preface to Algerian Reports, in Resistance, Rebellion and Death, Alfred A. Knopf, 1960.
  • It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr. Gandhi, a seditious middle temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the east, striding half-naked up the steps of the viceregal palace, while he is still organizing and conducting a defiant campaign of civil disobedience, to parley on equal terms with the representative of the king-emperor.
    • Winston Churchill addressing the Council of the West Essex Unionist Association (23 February 1931); as quoted in "Mr Churchill on India" in The Times (24 February 1931)
  • Mr. Gandhi has gone very high in my esteem since he stood up for the untouchables ... I do not care whether you are more or less loyal to Great Britain ... Tell Mr. Gandhi to use the powers that are offered and make the thing a success.
  • This Jonah of revolution, this general of unbroken disasters was the mascot of the bourgeoisie in each wave of the developing Indian struggle.Gandhi's strategy...was not a strategy intended to lead to the victory of independence, but to find the means in the midst of a formidable revolutionary wave to maintain leadership of the mass movement and yet place the maximum bounds and restraints upon it.
    • R. Palme Dutt, India Today, Gollancz, 1940. The "mascot of the bourgeoisie". line is quoted in Gandhi by David Arnold, Pearson Education, 2001.
  • A lot of people are waiting for Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi to come back — but they are gone. We are it. It is up to us. It is up to you.
    • Marian Wright Edelman, as quoted in The Art of Winning Commitment: 10 Ways Leaders Can Engage Minds, Hearts, And Spirits (2004) by Dick Richards, p. 11
  • Gandhi and Lord Irwin, former Viceroy to India, were friends. On their return from the Round Table Conference at London, Lord Irwin paid a visit to the Mahatma in his ashram. During the conversation Lord Irwin put this question to his host: "Mahatma, as man to man, tell me what you consider to be the solution to the problems of your country and mine." Taking up a little book from the nearby lampstand, Gandhi opened it to the fifth chapter of Matthew and replied, "When your country and mine shall get together on the teachings laid down by Christ in this Sermon on the Mount, we shall have solved the problems not only of our countries but those of the whole world."
    • Frank E. Eden, reporting what was related to him "by a friend who has traveled through India in the interest of mission work", in Treasury of the Christian Faith (Association Press, 1949), p. 43
  • Taken on the whole, I would believe that Gandhi's views were the most enlightened of all the political men of our time. We should strive to do things in his spirit: not to use violence for fighting for our cause, but by non-participation of anything you believe is evil.
  • Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth.
    • Albert Einstein, statement on the occasion of Gandhi's 70th birthday (1939); Einstein archive 32-601, published in Out of My Later Years (1950).
    • Variants:
    • Generations to come, it may be, will scarcely believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.
    • Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth.
  • Everyone concerned in the better future of mankind must be deeply moved by the tragic death of Mahatma Gandhi. He died as the victim of his own principles, the principle of nonviolence. He died because in time of disorder and general irritation in his country, he refused armed protection for himself. It was his unshakable belief that the use of force is an evil in itself, that therefore it must be avoided by those who are striving for supreme justice to his belief. With his belief in his heart and mind, he has led a great nation on to its liberation. He has demonstrated that a powerful human following can be assembled not only through the cunning game of the usual political manoeuvres and trickeries but through the cogent example of morally superior conduct of life.
    The admiration for Mahatma Gandhi in all countries of the world rests on recognition, mostly sub-conscious, recognition of the fact that in our time of utter moral decadence, he was the only statesman to stand for a higher level of human relationship in political sphere. This level we must, with all our forces, attempt to reach. We must learn the difficult lesson that an endurable future of humanity will be possible only if, also in international relations, decisions are based on law and justice and not on self-righteous power, as they have been upto now.
    • Albert Einstein, as quoted in Mahatma Gandhi and the U.S.A.‎ (1949) by Pasupuleti Gopala Krishnayya, p. 399
  • Mahatma Gandhi is the greatest living exponent of successful pacifism. He has demonstrated that pacifism in action can be a force in world politics. It proved itself, that is to say, a stronger instrument than the instrument of government by force and oppression. In South Africa, his success was complete; in India it was very considerable; and had his following been larger and more uniformly non-violent, his pacific instrument would have triumphed.
    • Laurence Housman, 1939, reprinted in S. Radhakrishnan, Mahatma Gandhi, essays and reflections on his life and work. George Allen & Unwin, 1949.
  • Gandhi, like Jefferson, thought of politics in moral and religious terms. That is why his proposed solutions bear so close a resemblance to those proposed by the great American. That he went further than Jefferson — for example, in recommending economic as well as political decentralization and in advocating the use of satyagraha in place of the ward's "elementary exercises of militia"-is due to the fact that his ethic was more radical and his religion more profoundly realistic than Jefferson's. Jefferson's plan was not adopted; nor was Gandhi's. So much the worse for us and our descendants.
    • Aldous Huxley, "A Note on Gandhi", in S. Radhakrishnan, Mahatma Gandhi, essays and reflections on his life and work. George Allen & Unwin, 1949.
  • Gandhi was the last political leader in the world who was a person, not a mask or a radio voice or an institution. The last on a human scale. The last for whom I felt neither fear nor contempt nor indifference but interest and affection...he was dear to me because he had no respect for railroads, assembly-belt production, and other knick-knacks of liberalistic progress, and insisted on examining their human (as against their metaphysical) value.
  • In the Civil Disobedience Campaign of 1930, Gandhi demonstrated the living power of non-violence, a magnificent example to a world that increasingly understands no power but the sword, and which is seemingly incapable of learning that violence never defeats violence but merely begets it.
    • Ethel Mannin, in S. Radhakrishnan, Mahatma Gandhi, essays and reflections on his life and work. George Allen & Unwin, 1949.
  • During the 1920’s and 1930’s young radicals like Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Bose and Jayaprakesh Narayan were straining at the leash: they fretted at the patient and peaceful methods of the Mahatma. The Indian communists dubbed him a charismatic but calculating leader who knew how to rouse the masses but deliberately contained and diverted their revolutionary ardour so as not to hurt the interests of British imperialists and Indian capitalists.
    • B. R. Nanda, Gandhi and his Critics, Delhi, Oxford University Press, 1985, (p. viii).
  • "I am mindful that I might not be standing before you today, as President of the United States, had it not been for Gandhi and the message he shared with America and the world.
    • Barack Obama in an address to a Joint Session of the Parliament of India
  • It is difficult to see how Gandhi's methods could be applied in a country where opponents of the regime disappear in the middle of the night and are never heard of again. Without a free press and the right of assembly, it is impossible not merely to appeal to outside opinion, but to bring a mass movement into being, or even to make your intentions known to your adversary.
    • George Orwell, in "Reflections on Gandhi", in Partisan Review (January 1949)
  • One feels of him that there was much he did not understand, but not that there was anything that he was frightened of saying or thinking. I have never been able to feel much liking for Gandhi, but I do not feel sure that as a political thinker he was wrong in the main, nor do I believe that his life was a failure. … One may feel, as I do, a sort of aesthetic distaste for Gandhi, one may reject the claims of sainthood made on his behalf (he never made any such claim himself, by the way), one may also reject sainthood as an ideal and therefore feel that Gandhi's basic aims were anti-human and reactionary: but regarded simply as a politician, and compared with the other leading political figures of our time, how clean a smell he has managed to leave behind!
    • George Orwell, in "Reflections on Gandhi", in Partisan Review (January 1949)
  • In the 1980s Gandhi began to influence European public life. He was acknowledged by non-violent revolutionaries in Eastern Europe-Lech Wałęsa in Poland and Václav Havel in Czechoslovakia. In the 1990s the Dalai Lama began to invoke Gandhi in his non-violent effort to gain automony for Tibet. In the 1990s Nelson Mandela was in position publicly to acknowledge that "the Gandhian influence dominated freedom struggles on the African continent until the 1960s". At the close of the 20th century, Time chose Gandhi along with Albert Einstein and Franklin Roosevelt as the three most influential persons of the century.
    • Lloyd I. Rudolph, "Postmodern Gandhi", in Postmodern Gandhi and Other Essays (2006), edited by Lloyd I. Rudolph and Susanne Hoeber Rudolph, (p.34).
  • It was Gandhi who made the most significant personal contribution in the history of the nonviolent technique, with his political experiments in the use of noncooperation, disobedience and defiance to control rulers, alter government policies, and undermine political systems. With these experiments the character of the technique was broadened and its practice refined. Among the modifications Gandhi introduced were greater attention to strategy and tactics, a more judicious use of the armory of nonviolent methods, and a conscious association between mass political action and the norm of nonviolence.
    • Gene Sharp, The Politics of Nonviolent Action: Part One: Power and Struggle. Porter Sargent, 1973, (p. 82).
  • Gandhi linked many ideas to satyagraha which aren't essential to it. His religious ideas (non-possession, non-acquisition, chastity, fasting, vegetarianism, teetotalism) and his economic ideas (self-sufficiency, "bread labour", and agarianianism) don't necessarily have anything to do with post-Gandhian nonviolence.
    • Nicolas Walter, Nonviolent Resistance: Men Against War, Nonviolence 63, 1963.
  • Gandhi was a completely unofficial man. He recognized the gulf that lay between the enjoyment of freedom and the exercise of authority. When the Indian National Congress, which he had led intermittently as a movement dedicated to achieving liberation by legal and extra‑legal means, itself grasped for power and became a political party, he withdrew. With an extraordinary persistence he made and kept himself one of the few free men of our time.
  • Much in his career remains unexplained if we forget his insistence that religion and politics were bound inextricably in the common search for Truth. "To me," he said, "Truth is God and there is no way to find Truth except the way of nonviolence." Truth conceived as God is of course the Absolute. Truth perceived by man must always be relative, changing according to human contacts developing as men understand better each other, their circumstances and themselves. Gandhi never set out to develop a fixed and final doctrine, but emphasized that his practice of ahimsa, or nonviolence, was always experimental, that his political struggle like his personal life was part of a continuing quest for Truth as manifested existentially, a quest that could never end because human understanding was incapable of comprehending the Absolute.
    The identification of Truth as the goal of political action, as well as of religious devotion, and the refusal to distinguish between religion and politics, form the background to the great divergences between Gandhi's revolutionary ideas and techniques and those of other contemporary revolutionists … Unorthodox though he might be, Gandhi fitted into the traditional pattern of the sanyassi who practices non‑attachment in the search for Truth; he was the karma yogin, the man who perfects and purifies himself through action. Yogic disciplines of all kinds are held in India to confer power over destiny, and Gandhi believed that positive action — love and nonviolence — could intangibly influence men and therefore events. With Truth as the goal and at the same time as the principle of action (for in Gandhian terms ends are emergent from means and hence virtually indistinguishable from them), there was no place in Gandhi's idea of revolution for conspiratorial methods or guerrilla activities.
  • Gandhi has sound economic and cultural reasons for encouraging the revival of cottage industries, but he does not counsel a fanatical repudiation of all modern progress. Machinery, trains, automobiles, the telegraph have played important parts in his own colossal life! Fifty years of public service, in prison and out, wrestling daily with practical details and harsh realities in the political world, have only increased his balance, open-mindedness, sanity, and humorous appreciation of the quaint human spectacle.
  • Sri Yukteswar used to poke gentle fun at the commonly inadequate conceptions of renunciation.
    "A beggar cannot renounce wealth," Master would say. "If a man laments: 'My business has failed; my wife has left me; I will renounce all and enter a monastery,' to what worldly sacrifice is he referring? He did not renounce wealth and love; they renounced him!"
    Saints like Gandhi, on the other hand, have made not only tangible material sacrifices, but also the more difficult renunciation of selfish motive and private goal, merging their inmost being in the stream of humanity as a whole.

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