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THE SELECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI > Vol. V - THE VOICE OF TRUTH > Part II- Section II: Means and Ends > Non-violence and Cowardice

Non-violence and Cowardice

I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence…. But I believe that non-violence 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 pretend to proceed from a helpless creature.

Young India, 11-8-‘20, p. 3

That non-violence can work to a certain extent in the hands of the weak is true. It has so worked with us. But when it becomes a cloak for our weakness, it emasculates us. Far better than emasculation would be the bravery of those who use physical force. Far better than cowardice would be meeting one’s death fighting. We were perhaps all originally brutes, and I am prepared to believe that we have become men by a slow process of evolution from the brute. We were thus born with brute strength, but we were born men in order to realize God who dwells in us. That indeed is the privilege of man, and it distinguishes him from the brute creation. But to realize God is to see Him in all that lives, i.e. to realize our oneness with all creation. This is impossible unless we voluntarily shun physical force and develop conscious non-violence that is latent in every one of us. This can only come out of strength.

Harijan, 2-4-‘38, p. 65

Non-violence and cowardice are contradictory terms. Non-violence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice. Non-violence springs from love, cowardice from hate. Non-violence always suffers, cowardice would always inflict suffering.

Young India, 31-10-‘29, p. 356

Non-violence and cowardice go ill together. I can imagine a fully armed man to be at heart a coward. Possession of arms implies an element of fear, if not cowardice. But true non-violence is an impossibility without the possession of unadulterated fearlessness.

Harijan, 15-7-‘39, p. 201

Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.

Young India, 11-8-‘20, p. 3

A small body of determined spirit fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.

Harijan, 19-11-‘38, p. 343

Where there is fear there is no religion.

Young India, 2-9-‘26, p. 308

Let us fear God and we shall cease to fear man.

Speeches and Writings of Mahatma Gandhi, (1933), p. 330

Spirituality is not a matter of knowing scriptures and engaging in philosophical discussions. It is a matter of heart culture, of immeasurable strength. Fearlessness is the first requisite of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral.

Young India, 13-10-‘21, p. 323