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THE SELECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI > Vol. V - THE VOICE OF TRUTH > Part II- Section II: Means and Ends > The law of Human Species
The law of Human Species
The world is full of Himsa and Nature does appear to be ‘red in tooth and claw’. But if we bear in mind that man is higher than the brute, then is man superior to that nature. If man has a divine mission to fulfil, a mission that becomes him, it is that of Ahimsa. Standing as he does in the midst of Himsa, he can retire into the innermost depths of his heart and declare to the world around him that his mission in this world of Himsa is Ahimsa and only to the extent that he practices it does he adorn his kind. Man’s nature then he is not Himsa, but Ahimsa, for he can speak from experience his innermost conviction that he is not the body but Atman and that he may use the body only with a view to expressing the Atman only with a view to self-realization. And from that experience he evolves the ethics of subduing desire, anger, ignorance, malice and other passions, puts forth his best effort to achieve the end and finally attains complete success. Only when his efforts reach that consummation can he be said to have fulfilled himself, to have acted according to his nature. Conquest of one’s passions, therefore, is not super-human, but human, and observance of Ahimsa is heroism of the highest type, with no room therein for cowardice or weakness.
Young India, 24-6-‘26, p. 230
Non-violence is not a cloistered virtue confined only to the Rishi1 and the cave-dweller. It is capable of being practiced by the millions, not with full knowledge if its implications, but because it is the Law of our Species. It distinguishes man from the brute. But man has not shed the brute in him. He has to strive to do so. This striving applies to the practice of non-violence, not to the belief in it. I cannot strive to believe in a principle: I either believe in it or I do not. And if I believe in it, I must bravely strive to practice it. Ahimsa is an attribute of the brave. Cowardice and Ahimsa do not go together any more than water and fire.
Harijan, 4-11-‘39, p. 331
I am not visionary. I claim to be a practical idealist. The religion of non-violence is not meant merely for the Rishis and saints. It is meant for the common people as well. Non-violence 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. The Rishis, who discovered the Law of non-violence in the midst of violence, were greater geniuses than Newton. They were themselves greater warriors than Wellington. Having themselves known the use of arms, they realized their uselessness and taught a weary world that its salvation lay not through violence but through non-violence.
Young India, 11-8-‘20, p. 3
Non-violence is the law of the human race and is infinitely greater than and superior to brute force.
In the last resort, it does not avail to those who do not possess a living faith in the God of Love.
Non-violence affords the fullest protection to one’s self-respect and sense of honour, but not always to possession of land or movable property, though its habitual practice does prove a better bulwark than the possession of armed men to defend them. Non-violence in the very nature of things is of no assistance in the defence of ill-gotten gains and immoral acts.
Individuals or nations, who would practice non-violence, must be prepared to sacrifice (nations to the last man) their all except honour. It is, therefore, inconsistent with the possession of other people’s countries, i. e. modern Imperialism, which is frankly based on force for its defence.
Non-violence is a power which can be wielded equally by all—children, young men and women or grown-up people, provided they have a living faith in the God of Love and have, therefore, equal love for all mankind. When non-violence is accepted as the Law of Life, it must pervade the whole being and not be applied to isolated acts.
It is a profound error to suppose that whilst the Law is good enough for individual, it is not for masses of mankind.
Harijan, 5-9-‘36, p. 236
Consciously or unconsciously, we are acting non-violently towards one another in daily life. All well constructed societies are based on the Law of Non-violence. I have found that life persists in the midst of destruction and, therefore, there must be a higher law than that of destruction. Only under that law would a well-ordered society be intelligible and life worth living. And, if that is the Law of Life we have to work it out in daily life. Whenever there are jars, wherever you are confronted with an opponent, conquer him with love. In this crude manner, I have worked it out in my life. That does not mean that all my difficulties are solved. Only I have found that this Law of Love has answered as the Law of destruction has never done.
Young India, 1-10-‘31, p. 286
I claim that even now, though the social structure is not based on a conscious acceptance of non-violence, all the world over mankind lives and men retain their possessions on the sufferance of one another. If they had not done so, only the fewest and the most ferocious would have survived. But such is not the case. Families are bound together by ties of love, and so are groups in the so-called civilized society called nations. Only they do not recognize the supremacy of the Law of Non-violence. It follows, therefore, that they have not investigated its vast possibilities.
Harijan, 22-2-‘42, p. 48
Scientists tell us that without the presence of the cohesive force amongst the atoms that comprise this globe of ours, it would crumble to pieces and we would cease to exist. And even as there is cohesive force in blind matter so must there be in all things animate; and the name for that cohesive force among animate beings is Love. We notice it between father and son, between brother and sister, friend and friend. But we have to learn to use that force among all that lives, and in the use of it consists our knowledge of God. Where there is Love, there is Life; hatred leads to destruction.
Young India, 5-5-‘20, p. 7
All the saints of the world, ancient and modern, were each according to his light and capacity a living illustration of the Supreme Law of our Being. That the brute in us seems so often to gain an easy triumph is true enough. That, however, does not disprove the Law. It shows the difficulty of practice. How should it be otherwise with a Law which is as high as Truth itself? When the practice of the Law becomes universal, God will reign on earth as He does in Heaven. We know the earth, and we are strangers to the heaven within us. If it is allowed that for some the practice of love is possible, it is arrogance not to allow even the possibility of its practice in all the others.
Harijan, 26-9-‘36, p. 260
The man who discovered for us law of Love was a far greater scientist than any of our modern scientists. Only our explorations have not gone far enough and so it is not possible for everyone to see all its workings. Such, at any rate, is the hallucination, if it is one, under which I am labouring. The more I work at this Law, the more I feel the delight in life, the delight in the scheme of this universe. It gives me a peace and a meaning of mysteries of Nature that I have no power to describe.
Young India, 1-10-‘31, p. 287
The sum total of the experience of mankind is that men somehow or other live on. From which fact I infer that it is the Law of Love that rules mankind. Had violence, i.e. hate, ruled us, we should have become extinct long ago. And yet the tragedy of it is that the so-called civilized men and nations conduct themselves as if the basis of society was violence. It gives me ineffable joy to make experiments proving that Love is the supreme and only Law of Life. Much evidence to the contrary cannot shake my faith.
Harijan, 13-4-‘40, p. 90
This would is held together by bonds of love. History does not record the day-to-day incidents of love and service. It only records incidents of conflict and wars. Actually, however, acts of love and service are much more common in this world than conflicts and quarrels. We find innumerable villages and towns flourishing in the world. If the world were always full of quarrel and discord, they could not possibly exist.
Bapu’s Letters to Ashram sisters, (1960), p. 113
If we turn our eyes to the time of which history has any record down to our own time we shall find that man has been steadily progressing towards Ahimsa. Our remote ancestors were cannibals. Then came a time when they were fed up with cannibalism and they began to live on chase. Next came a stage when man was ashamed of leading the life of a wandering hunter. He, therefore, took to agriculture and depended principally on Mother Earth for his food. Thus, from being a nomad, he settled down to civilized stable life, founded villages and towns, and from member of a family he became member of a community and a nation. All these are signs of progressive Ahimsa and diminishing Himsa. Had it been otherwise, the human species should have been extinct by now, even as many of the lower species have disappeared.
Harijan, 11-8-‘40, p. 245
Modern science is replete with illustrations of the seemingly impossible having become possible within living memory. But the victories of physical science would be nothing against the victory of the Science of life, which is summed up in Love which is the Law of our Being. I know that it cannot be proved by argument. It shall be proved by persons living it in their lives, in utter disregard of consequences to themselves. There is no real gain without sacrifice. And since demonstration of the Law of Love is the realest gain, sacrifice too must be the greatest required.
Harijan, 26-9-‘36, p. 260
If we believe that mankind has steadily progressed towards Ahimsa, it follows that it has to progress towards it still further. Nothing in this world is static, everything is kinetic. If there is no progression, then there is inevitable retrogression. No one can remain without the eternal cycle, unless it be God Himself.
Harijan, 11-8-‘40, p. 245
1. A Seer