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THE SELECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI > Vol. V - THE VOICE OF TRUTH > Part II- Section II: Means and Ends > Fasting in Satyagraha


Fasting in Satyagraha

Fasting is a potent weapon in the Satyagraha armory. It cannot be taken by everyone... Mere physical capacity to take it is no qualification for it. It is of no use without a living faith in God. It should never be a mechanical effort or a mere limitation. It must come from the depth of one’s soul. It is, therefore, always rare.

Harijan, 18-3-39, p. 56


There can be no room for selfishness, anger, lack of faith, or impatience in a pure fast… Infinite patience, firm resolve, single-mindedness of purpose, perfect calm, and no anger must of necessity be there. But since it is impossible for a person to develop all these qualities all at once, no one who has not devoted himself to following the laws of Ahimsa should undertake a Satyagrahi fast.

Harijan, 13-10-40, p. 322


Fasting unto death is the last and the most potent weapon in the armoury of Satyagraha. It is a sacred thing. But it must be accepted with all its implications. It is not the fast itself, but what it implies that matters.

Harijan, 18-8-46, p. 262


Fasting cannot be undertaken mechanically. It is a powerful thing but a dangerous thing, if handled amateurishly. It requires complete self-purification, much more than what is required in facing death with retaliation even in mind. One such act of perfect sacrifice would suffice for the whole world. Such is held to be Jesus’ example.

Harijan, 27-10-46, p. 372


Of course, it is not to be denied that fasts can be really coercive. Such are fasts to attain a selfish object. A fast undertaken to wring money from a person or for fulfilling some such personal end would amount to the exercise of coercion or undue influence. I would unhesitatingly advocate resistance of such undue influence. I have my successfully resisted it in the fasts that have been undertaken or threatened against me. And if it is argued that the dividing line between a selfish and unselfish end is often very thin, I would urge that a person who regards the end of a fast to be selfish or otherwise base should resolutely refuse to yield to it, even though the refusal may result in the death of the fasting person. If people will cultivate the habit of disregarding fasts which in their opinion are taken for unworthy ends, such fasts will be robbed of the taint of coercion and undue influence. Like all human institutions, fasting can be both legitimately and illegitimately used.

Harijan, 9-9-33, p. 4


If a man, however popular and great he may be, takes up an improper cause fasts in defence of the impropriety, it is the duty of his friends (among whom I count myself), fellow-workers and relatives to let him die rather than that an improper cause should triumph so that he may live. Fairest means cease to be fair when the end sought is unfair.

Harijan, 17-3-46, p. 43


Fast is the last weapon in the armory of the votary of Ahimsa. When human ingenuity fails, the votary fasts. This fasting quickens the spirit of prayer, that is to say, the fasting is a spiritual act and, therefore, addressed to God. The effect of such action on the life of the people is that when the person fasting is at all known to them their sleeping conscience is awakened. But there is the danger that the people through mistaken sympathy may act against their will in order to save the life of the loved one. This danger has got to be faced. One ought not to be deterred from right action when one is sure of the rightness. It can put promote circumspection. Such a fast is undertaken in obedience to the dictates of the inner voice and therefore prevents haste.

Harijan, 21-12-47, p. 476


Fasting unto death is an integral part of Satyagraha programme, and it is the greatest and most effective weapon in its armory under given circumstances. Not every one is qualified for undertaking it without a proper course of training.

Harijan, 26-7-42, p. 248