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THE SELECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI > Vol. V - THE VOICE OF TRUTH > Part II- Section I: Truth, World and Man > Self-discipline


Self-discipline

Faith

It is the faith that steers us through stormy seas, faith that moves mountains and faith that jumps across the ocean. That faith is nothing but a living, wide awake consciousness of God within. He who has achieved that faith wants nothing. Bodily diseased he is spiritually healthy, physically poor, he rolls in spiritual riches.

Young India, 24-9-‘25, p. 331


Without faith this world would come to naught in a moment. True faith is appropriation of the reasoned experience of people whom we believe to have lived a life purified by prayer and penance. Belief therefore in prophets or incarnations who have lived in remote ages is not an idle superstition but a satisfaction of an inmost spiritual want.

Young India, 14-4-‘27, p. 120


Faith is not a delicate flower which would wither under the slightest stormy weather. Faith is like the Himalaya mountains which cannot possibly change. No storm can possibly remove the Himalaya mountains from their foundations… And I want every one of you to cultivate that faith in God and religion.

Harijan, 26-1-‘34, p. 8


A man without faith is like drop thrown out of the ocean bound to perish. Every drop in the ocean shares its majesty and has the honour of giving us the ozone of life.

Harijan, 25-4-‘36, p. 84


That faith is of little value which can flourish only in fair weather. Faith in order to be of any value has to survive the severest trials. Your faith is a whited sepulcher if it cannot stand against the calumny of the whole world.

Young India, 25-4-‘29, p. 134


Prayer

Prayer is the first and the last lesson in learning the noble and the brave art of sacrificing self in the various walks of life culminating the defence of one’s nations liberty and honour. Undoubtedly, prayer requires a living faith in God.

Harijan , 14-4-‘46, p. 80


Prayer is impossibility without a living faith in the presence of God within.

Young India, 20-12-‘28, p. 420


I believe that prayer is the very soul and essence of religion, and therefore prayer must be the very core of life of man, for no man can live without religion. There are some who in the egotism of their reason declare that they have nothing to do with religion. But it is like a man saying that he breathes but that he has no nose. Whether by reason, or by instinct, or by superstition, man acknowledges some sort of relationship with the divine. The rankest agnostic or atheist does acknowledge the need of a moral principle, and associates something good with its observance and something bad with its non-observance. Bradlaugh, whose atheism is well known, always insisted on proclaiming his innermost conviction. He had to suffer a lot for thus speaking the truth, but he delighted in it and said that truth is its own reward. Not that he was quite insensible to the joy resulting from the observance of truth. This joy however is not at all worldly, but springs out of communion with the divine. That is why I have said that even a man who disowns religion cannot and does not live without religion.

Young India, 23-1-‘30 p. 25


Now I come to the next thing, viz. that prayer is the very core of man’s life, as it is the most vital part of religion. Prayer is either petitional or in its wider sense is inward communion. In either case the ultimate result is the same. Even when it is petitional, the petition should be for the cleansing and purification of the soul, for freeing it from the layers of ignorance and darkness that envelope it. He there fore who hungers for the awakening of the divine in him must fall back on prayer. But prayer is no mere exercise of words or of the ears, it is no mere repletion of empty formula. Any amount of repetition of Ramanama is futile if it fails to stir the soul. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart. It must be in clear response to the spirit which hungers for it. And even as a hungry man relishes a hearty meal, a hungry soul will relish a heart-felt prayer. And I am giving you a bit of my experience and that of my companions when I say that he who has experienced the magic of prayer may do without food for days together but not a single moment without prayer. For without prayer there is no inward peace.

Young India, 23-1-‘30, p. 25


I have talked of necessity for prayer, and therethrough I have dealt with the essence of prayer. We are born to serve our fellowmen, and we cannot properly do so unless we are wide awake. There is an eternal struggle raging in man’s breast between the powers of darkness and of light, and who has not the sheet anchor of prayer to rely upon will be victim to the powers of darkness. The man of the prayer will be at peace with himself and with the whole world, the man who goes about the affairs of the world without a prayerful heart will be miserable and will make the world also miserable. Apart therefore from its bearing on man’s condition after death, prayer has incalculable value for man in this world of the living. Prayer is the only means of bringing about orderliness and peace and repose in our daily acts. We inmates of the Ashram who came here in search of truth and for insistence on truth professed to believe in the efficacy of prayers but had never up to now made it a matter of vital concern. We did not bestow on it the care that we did on other matters. I awoke from my slumbers one day and realized that I had been woefully negligent of my duty in the matter. I have therefore suggested measures of stern discipline and far from being any the worse, I hope we are the better for it. For it is so obvious. Take care of the vital thing and other things will take care of themselves. Rectify on angle of a square, and the other angles will be automatically right.

Young India, 23-1-‘30, p. 26


Prayer needs no speech. It is in itself independent of any sensuous effort. I have not the slightest doubt that prayer is an unfailing means of cleansing the heart of passions. But it must be combined with the utmost humility.

An Autobiography, (1966), p. 54


As I believe that silent prayer is often a mightier (force) than any overt act, in my helplessness I continuously pray in the faith that the prayer of a pure heart never goes unanswered.

Young India, 22-9-‘27, p. 321


Prayer is for remembering God, and for purifying the heart and can be offered even when observing silence.

Harijan, 20-4-‘47, p. 118


I can give my own testimony and say that a heartfelt prayer is undoubtedly the most potent instrument that man possesses for overcoming cowardice and all other bad old habits.

Young India, 20-12-‘28, p. 420


As food is necessary for the body, prayer is necessary for the soul. A man may be able to do without food for a number of days—as MacSwiney did for over 70 days—but believing in God, man cannot, should not, live a moment without prayer.

Young India, 15-12-‘27, p. 424


True meditation consists in closing the eyes and ears of the mind to all else except the object of one’s devotion. Hence closing of eyes during the prayers is an aid to such concentration. Man’s conception of God is naturally limited. Each one has, therefore, to think of Him as best appeals to him, provided that the conception is pure and uplifting.

Harijan, 18-8-‘46, p. 265


I have never found Him lacking in response. I have found Him nearest at hand when the horizon seemed darkest—in my ordeals in jails when it was not all smooth sailing for me. I cannot recall a moment in my life when I had a sense of desertion by God.

Harijan, 24-12-‘38, p. 395


If you would ask Him to help you, you would go to Him in all your nakedness, approach Him without reservations, also without fear or doubts as to how He can help a fallen being like you. He who has helped millions, who have approached Him, is He going to desert you? He makes no exceptions whatsoever and you will find that every one of your prayers will be answered. The prayer of even the most impure will be answered. I am telling this out of my personal experience, I have gone through the purgatory. Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and everything will be added unto you.

Young India, 4-4-‘29, p. 111


I agree that, if a man could practice the presence of God all the twenty-four hours, there would be no need for a separate time for prayer. But most people find this impossible. The sordid everyday world is too much with them. For them the practice of complete withdrawal of the mind from all outward things, even though it might be only for a few minutes every day, will be found to be of infinite use. Silent communion will help them to experience an undisturbed peace in the midst of turmoil, to curb anger and cultivate patience.

Harijan 28-4-‘46, p. 109


Prayer is the key of the morning and the bolt of the evening.

Young India, 23-1-‘30, p. 25


…I have given my personal testimony. Let everyone try and find that, as a result of daily prayer, he adds something new to his life, something with which nothing can be compared.

Young India, 24-9-‘31, p. 274


No act of mine is done without prayer. Man is a fallible being. He can never be sure of his steps. What he may regard as answer to prayer may be an echo of his pride. For infallible guidance man has to have a perfectly innocent heart incapable of evil. I can lay no such claim. Mine is a struggling, striving, erring, imperfect soul.

Young India, 25-9-‘24, p. 313


I claim to be man of faith and prayer, and even if I were cut to pieces, I trust God would give me the strength not to deny Him and to assert that He is.

Young India, 8-12-‘27, p. 413


Even if I am killed I will not give up repeating the names of Rama and Rahim, which mean to me the same God. With these names on my lips, I will die cheerfully.

Harijan, 20-4-‘47, p. 118


God answers the prayer in His own way, not ours. His ways are different from the ways of mortals. Hence they are inscrutable. Prayer presupposes faith. No prayer goes in vain. Prayer is like any other action. It bears fruit whether we see it or not, and the fruit of heart, prayer is far more potent than action so called.

Harijan, 29-6-‘47, p. 215


One with a wicked heart can never be conscious of the all-purifying presence of God.

Harijan, 29-6-‘47, p. 209


When the mind is completely filled with His spirit one cannot harbor ill-will or hatred towards any one had reciprocally the enemy will shed his enmity and become a friend. It is not my claim that I have always succeeded in converting enemies into friends, but in numerous cases it has been my experience that when the mind is filled with His peace all hatred ceases. An unbroken succession of world teachers since the beginning of time have borne testimony to the same. I claim no merit for it. I know it is entirely due to God’s grace.

Harijan, 28-4-‘46, p. 109


My uniform experience has convinced me that there is no other God than Truth… The only means for the realization of Truth is Ahimsa… The little fleeting glimpses, therefore, that I have been able to have of Truth can hardly convey an idea of the indescribable luster of Truth, a million times more intense than that of the sun we daily see with our eyes. In fact what I have caught is only the faintest glimmer of that mighty effulgence. But this much I can say with assurance, as a result of all my experiments, that a perfect vision of Truth can only follow a complete realization of Ahimsa.

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 man who aspires after that cannot afford to keep out of any field of life…

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 the 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.

An Autobiography, (1966), pp. 382-83


The instruments for the quest of truth are as simple as they are difficult. They may appear quite impossible to an arrogant person, and quite possible to an innocent child. The seeker after the truth should be humbler than the dust. The world crushes the dust under its feet, but the seeker after truth should so humble himself that even the dust could crush him. Only then, and not till then, will he have a glimpse of Truth.

Introduction to An Autobiography, (1966), p. 11


Who knows the perishable nature of flesh from the imperishable nature of the Spirit, instinctively knows that self-realization is impossible without self-discipline and self-restraint. The body may either be a play-ground of passion, or a temple of self-realization. If it is the latter, there is no room there for libertinism. The Spirit needs must curb the flesh every moment.

Young India, 3-6-‘26, p. 205


If the heart is pure, the grosser impulses of the body will have no scope. But what do we mean by the heart? And when may we believe the heart to be pure? The heart is nothing else but the Atman or the seat of the Atman. To imagine that it is pure is to imply perfect realization of the Atman and, in the presence of such realization, the cravings, of the senses are inconceivable. But ordinarily we attribute purity to the heart when we are but striving after such purity - Say, I love you. This only means that I try to cultivate such a feeling for you. If I have unceasing love, I should be a perfectly enlightened man, which, indeed, I am not. Anyone for whom I have true love will not misunderstand my intentions or words, nor will such a one bear ill-will to me. It follows from this that, when anyone looks upon us as his enemy, the fault is primarily ours… Perfect purity of heart, therefore, is the final stage. Before we have reached that stage, as we advance towards greater and greater purity, the cravings of the senses will subside in corresponding measure.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XII, p. 376


Not until we have reduced ourselves to nothingness can we conquer the evil in us. God demands nothing less than complete self-surrender as the price for the only real freedom that is worth having.

Young India, 20-12-‘28, p. 420


Not truth simply as we ordinarily understand it, that as far as possible we ought not to resort to a lie; that is to say, not truth which merely answers the saying “Honesty is the best policy” implying that if it is not the best policy, we may depart from it. But truth, as it is conceived here, means that we have to rule our life by this law of Truth at any cost. In order to clarify the definition, I have drawn upon the celebrated illustration of the life of Prahlad. For the sake of Truth, he dared to oppose his own father, and he defended himself, not by retaliation, by paying his father back in his own coin, but in defence of Truth as he knew it, he was prepared to die without caring to return the blows that he received from his father or from those who were charged with his father’s instructions. Not only that; he would not even parry the blows. On the contrary, with a smile on his lips, he underwent the innumerable tortures to which he was subjected, with the result that at last Truth rose triumphant. Not that Prahlad suffered the tortures because he knew that some day or other in his very lifetime he would be able to demonstrate the infallibility of the law of Truth. The fact was there; but if he had died in the midst of tortures, he would still have adhered to Truth. That is the Truth which I would like to follow. There was an incident I noticed yesterday. It was trifling incident, but I think these trifling incidents are like straws which show which way the wind is blowing. It happened like this. I was talking to a friend who wanted to talk to me aside, and we were engaged in a private conversation. Another friend dropped in, and he politely asked whether he was intruding. The friend to whom I was talking said: “Oh, no there is nothing private here.” I felt taken aback a little, because as I was taken aside, I knew that so far as this friend was concerned, the conversation was private. But he immediately out of politeness, I would call it over-politeness, said that there was no private conversation and that he (the other friend) could join. I suggest to you that this is a departure from my definition of Truth. I think that friend should have, in the gentlest manner possible, but still openly and frankly said, “Yes just now, as you rightly say, you would be intruding,” without giving  the slightest offence to the person if he was himself a gentleman and we are bound to consider everybody a gentleman unless he proves to be otherwise. But I may be told that the incident, after all, proves the genteelity of the nation. I think that it is over-proving the case. If we continue to say these things out of politeness, we really become a nation of hypocrites. I recall a conversation I had with an English friend. He was comparatively a stranger. He is principal of a college and has been in India for several years. He was comparing notes with me, and he asked me whether I would admit that we, unlike most Englishman, would not dare to say no when it was no that we meant. And I must confess that I immediately said yes; I agreed with that statement. We do hesitate to say no frankly and boldly, when we want to pay undue regard to the sentiment of the person whom we are addressing. In this Ashram1 we make it a rule that we must say no when we mean no, regardless of consequences. This then is the first rule.

Ashram Observances in Action, (1959), pp. 127-30


Ahimsa

Literally Ahimsa means non-killing. But to me it has a world of meaning and takes me into realms much higher, infinitely higher, than the realm to which I would go if I merely understood by Ahimsa—non-killing. Ahimsa really means that you may not offend anybody, you may not harbor an uncharitable thought even in connection with one who may consider himself to be your enemy. Pray notice the guarded nature of this thought. I do not say “whom you consider your enemy,” but “who may consider himself your enemy.” For one who follows the doctrine of Ahimsa there is no room for an enemy; he denies the existence of an enemy. But there are people who consider themselves to be his enemies, and he cannot help it. So it is held that we may not harbor an evil thought even in connection with such persons. If we return blow for blow, we depart from the doctrine of Ahimsa. But I go further. If we resent a friend’s action or the so-called enemy’s action, we still fall short of this doctrine. But when I say we should not resent, I do not say that we should acquiesce. By resenting I mean wishing that some harm should be done to the enemy, or that he should be put out of the way not even by any action of ours, but by the action of somebody else, or say by divine agency. If we harbor even this thought, we commit a breach of Ahimsa. Those who join the Ashram have literally to accept that meaning. That does not mean that we practice this doctrine in its entirety. Far from it. It is ideal which we have to reach, and it is an ideal to be reached even at this very moment I few were capable of doing so. But it is not a proposition in geometry to be learnt by heart; it is not even like solving difficult problems in higher mathematics; it is infinitely more difficult than that. Many of you have burnt midnight oil in solving those problems. If you want to follow out this doctrine, you will have to do much more than burn the midnight oil. You will have to pass many a sleepless night, and go through many a mental torture and agony before you can reach, before you can even be within measureable distance of this goal. It is goal, and nothing less than that, you and I have to reach, if we want to understand what religious life means. I will not say more on this doctrine than this; that a man who believes in the efficacy of this doctrine finds, in the ultimate stage when he is about to reach the goal, the whole world at his feet. Not that he wants the whole world at his feet, but it must be so. If you express your love—Ahimsa—in such a manner that it impresses itself indelibly upon your so-called enemy, he must return that love. Another thought which comes out of this is that under this rule there is no room for organized assassinations, and there is no room for murders even openly committed, and there is no room for any violence even for the sake of your country, and even for guarding the honour of precious ones that may be in your charge. After all that would be a poor defence of honour. The doctrine of Ahimsa tells us that we may guard the honour of those who are in our charge by delivering ourselves into the hands of the man who would commit the sacrilege. And that requires far greater physical and mental courage than the delivering of blows. You may have some degree of physical power,—I do not say courage,—and you may use that power. But after that is expended, what happens? The other man is filled with wrath and indignation, and you have made him more angry by matching your violence against his; and when he has done you to death, the rest of his violence is delivered against your charge. But if you do not retaliate but stand your ground between your charge and the opponent, simply receiving the blows without retaliating, what happens? I give you my promise that the whole of his violence will be expended on you, and your charge will be left unscathed. Under this plan of life there is no conception of patriotism which justifies such wars as you witness today in Europe.

Ashram Observances in Action, (1959), pp. 130-134


Celibacy

Those who want to perform national service, or those who want to have a glimpse of real religious life, must lead a celibate life, no matter whether married or unmarried. Marriage but brings a woman closer to the man, and they become friends in a special sense, never to be parted either in this life or in the lives that are to come. I do not think, that in our conception of marriage, our lust should necessarily enter. Be that as it may, this is what is placed before those who come to the Ashram.

Ashram Observances in Action, (1959), p. 134


The world seems to be running after things of transitory value. It has no time for the other. And yet when one thinks a little deeper it becomes clear that it is the things eternal that count in the end.

What is Brahmacharya1? It is the way of life which leads us to Brahma(God). It includes full control over the process of reproduction. The control must be in thought, word and deed. If the thought is not under control, the other two have no value. There is saying in Hindustani: “He whose heart is pure has the all purifying waters of the Ganges in his house.” For one whose thought is under control, the other is mere child’s play. The Brahmachari2 of my conception will be healthy and will easily live long. He will not even suffer from so much as a headache. Mental and physical work will not cause fatigue. He is ever bright, never slothful. Outward neatness will be an exact reflection of the inner. He will exhibit all the attributes of the steadfast one described in the Gita. It need cause no worry if not one person is met with answering the description.

Is it strange that one who is able completely to conserve and sublimate the vital fluid which has the potentiality of creating human beings, should exhibit all the attributes described above? Who can measure the creative strength of such sublimation, one drop of which has the potentiality of bringing into being a human life? Patanajali has described five disciplines. It is not possible to isolate any one of these and practice it. It may be posited in the case of Truth, because it really includes the other four. And for this age the five have been expanded into eleven. Acharya Vinoda has put them in the form of a Marathi verse: They are non-violence, truth, non-stealing, Brahmacharya, non-possession, bread labour, control of the palate, fearlessness, equal regard for all religions, Swadeshi3 and removal of untouchability.

All these can be derived from truth. But life is complex. It is not possible to enunciate one grand principle and leave the rest to follow of itself. Even when we know a proposition, its corollaries have to be worked out.

It is well to bear in mind that all the disciplines are of equal importance. If one is broken all are. There seems to be a popular belief amongst us that breach of truth or non-violence is pardonable. Non-stealing and non-possession are rarely mentioned. We hardly recognize the necessity of observing them. But a fancied breach of Brahmacharya excites wrath and worse.

There must be something seriously wrong with a society in which values are exaggerated and underestimated. Moreover, to use the word Brahmacharya in a narrow sense is to detract from its value. Such detraction increases the difficulty of proper observance. When it is isolated even the elementary observance becomes difficult, if not impossible. Therefore, it is essential that all the disciplines should be taken as one. This enables one to realize the full meaning and significance of Brahmacharya.

Harijan, 8-6-‘47, p. 180


Control of the Palate

A man who wants to control animal passion does so more easily if he controls his palate. I am afraid this is a rather difficult observance. I am just now coming after having inspected the Victoria hostel. I saw there not to my dismay,—though it should be to my dismay,—but I am used to it now, that there are so many kitchens, not kitchens that are established in order to serve caste restrictions but kitchens that have become necessary in order that people can have the condiments and the exact weight of the condiments to which they are accustomed in the places from which they have come. And therefore we find that for the Brahmans themselves there are different compartments and different kitchens catering for the delicate tastes of all those different groups. I suggest that this is simply slavery to the palate, rather than mastery over it. I may say this. Unless we take our mind off from this habit, unless we shut our eyes to the tea shops and coffee shops and all these kitchens, unless we are satisfied with foods that are necessary for the maintenance of health, and unless we are prepared to rid ourselves of stimulating, heating and exciting condiments that we mix with our food, we shall certainly not be able to control the over-abundant and unnecessary stimulation that we may have. If we do not do that, the result naturally is that we abuse ourselves and we abuse even the sacred trust given to us, and we become inferior to animals. Eating, drinking and indulging in passion we share in common with the animals; but have you ever seen a horse or a cow indulging in the abuse of the palate as we do? Do you suppose that it is a sign of civilization, a sign of real life that we should multiply our eatables so far that we do not even know where we are and seek dish after dish until at last we have become absolutely mad and run after the newspaper sheets which give us advertisements about these dishes?

Ashram Observances in Action, (1959), pp. 134-35


Non-stealing

I suggest that we are thieves in a way. If I take anything that I do not need for my own immediate use and keep it, I steal it from somebody else. I venture to suggest that it is the fundamental law of Nature without exception, that she produces enough for our wants from day to day, and if everybody took enough for himself and nothing more, there would be no pauperism, there would be no man dying of starvation in this world. But so long as we have got this inequality, so long we are stealing, I am no socialist, and I do not want to dispossess those who have got possessions; but I do say that those of us who want to see light out of darkness have to follow this rule in their own lives. I do not want to dispossess anybody, for I should then be departing from the rule of Ahimsa. If somebody else possesses more than I do, let him. But so far as my own life has to be regulated, I do say that I dare not possess anything which I do not need. In India we have got millions of people living on one meal a day and that meal consisting of a Chapati4 with no fat spread on it and a pinch of salt. You and I have no right to anything more until these millions are clothed and fed better. You and I, who ought to know better, must adjust our wants, and even undergo voluntary starvation, in order that they may be fed and clothed.

Ashram Observances in Action, (1959), pp. 136-7


Non-Possession

This principle is really a part of Non-stealing. Just as one must not receive, so must one not possess anything which one does not really need. It would be a breach of this principle to possess unnecessary food-stuffs, clothing, or furniture. For instance, one must not keep a chair if one can do without it. In observing this principle one is led to a progressive simplification of one’s own life.

Ashram Observances in Action, (1959), p. 113


Physical Labour

Physical labour is essential for the observance of Non-stealing and Non-possession. Man can be saved from injuring society, as well as himself, only if he sustains his physical existence by physical labour. Able-bodied adults must do all their personal work themselves, and must not be served by others, except for proper reasons. But they must at the same time, remember, that service of children, as well as of the disabled, the old and the sick, is a duty incumbent on every person who has the required strength.

Ashram Observances in Action, (1959), p. 113


Swadeshi

Swadeshi is an essential observance. I suggest that we are departing from one of the sacred laws of our being when we leave our neighbor and go out somewhere else in order to satisfy our wants. If a man comes from Bombay here and offers you wares, you are not justified in supporting the Bombay merchant so long as you have got a merchant at your very door, born and bred in Madras. That is my view of Swadeshi. In your village, so long as you have got your village barber, you are bound to support him to the exclusion of the finished barber who may come to you from Madras. If you find it necessary that your village barber should reach the attainments of the barber from Madras, you may train him to that. Send him to Madras by all means, if you wish, in order that he may learn his calling. Until you do that you are not justified in going to another barber. That is Swadeshi. So when we find that there are many things that we cannot get in India, we must try to do without them. We have to do without many things, which we may consider necessary; but believe me, when you are in that frame of mind, you will find a great burden taken off your shoulders, even as the Pilgrim did in the inimitable book, The Pilgrim’s Progress. There came a time when the mighty burden that the Pilgrim was carrying on his shoulders dropped from him, and he felt a freer man than he was when he started on the journey. So will you feel freer men than you are now, immediately you adopt Swadeshi.

Ashram Observances in Action, (1959), pp. 137-39


Fearlessness

I found, throughout my wanderings in India, that India, educated India is seized with a paralyzing fear. We may not open our lips in public; we may not declare our confirmed opinions in public; we may hold those opinions and may talk about them secretly, but they are not for public consumption. If we had taken a vow of silence, I would have nothing to say. But when we open our lips in public, we say things we do not really believe in. I do not know whether this is not true of almost every public man who speaks in India. I then suggest to you that there is only one Being,—if Being is the proper term to be used,—whom we have to fear, and that is God. When we fear God, we shall fear no man, no matter how highly placed he may be. And if you want to follow the vow of Truth in any shape or form, you must be fearless. And so you find, in the Bhagwadgita, fearlessness is designated the first essential quality of a good man. We fear consequences, and therefore we are afraid to tell the truth. A man who fears God will certainly not fear any earthly consequence. Before we can aspire to understand what religion is, and before we can aspire to guide the destinies of India, do you not see that we should adopt this habit of fearlessness? Or shall we overawe our countrymen, even as we are overawed? We thus see how important fearlessness is.

Ashram Observances in Action, (1959), pp. 139-40


Removing Untouchability

Untouchability is a blot that Hinduism today carries with it. I decline to believe that it has been handed to us from immemorial times. I think that this miserable, wretched, enslaving spirit of untouchability must have come to us when we were in the cycle of our lives at our lowest ebb, and that evil has still stuck to us and it still remains with us. It is to my mind a curse that has come to us, and so long as that curse remains with us, so long I think we are bound to hold that every affliction that we labour under in this sacred land is a fit and proper punishment for this great crime that we are committing. That any person should be considered untouchable because of his calling passes one’s comprehension; and you, the student world who receive all this modern education, if you become a party to this crime, it were better that you received no education whatsoever.

Ashram Observances in action, (1959), pp. 140-41


Silence

It has often occurred to me that a seeker after Truth has to be silent. I know the wonderful efficacy of silence. I visited a Trappist monastery in South Africa. A beautiful place it was. Most of the inmates of that place were under a vow of silence. I inquired of the Father the motive of it and he said the motive is apparent : “We are frail human beings. We do not know very often what we say. If we want to listen to the still small voice that is always speaking within us, it will not be heard if we continually speak.” I understood that precious lesson. I know the secret of silence.

Young India, 6-8-‘25, pp. 274-5


Experience has taught me that silence is part of the spiritual discipline of a votary of Truth. Proneness to exaggerate, to suppress or modify the truth, wittingly or unwittingly, is a natural weakness of man, and silence is necessary in order to surmount it. A man of few words will rarely be thoughtless in his speech; he will measure every word.

An Autobiography, (1966), p. 46


Silence has now become both a physical and spiritual necessity for me. Originally it was taken to relieve the sense of pressure. Then I wanted time for writing. After, however, I had practiced it for some time I saw the spiritual value of it. It suddenly flashed across my mind that that was the time when I could best hold communion with God. And now I feel as though I was naturally built for silence.

Harijan, 10-12-‘38, pp. 373-74


Silence of the sewn-up lips is no silence. One may achieve the same result by chopping off one’s tongue, but that too would not be silence. He is truly silent who, having the capacity to speak, utters no idle word.

Harijan, 24-6-‘33, p.5


Humility

Truth is not to be found by anybody who has not got an abundant sense of humility. If you would swim on the bosom of the ocean of Truth you must reduce yourself to zero.

Young India, 31-12-‘31, p. 428


The spirit of non-violence necessarily leads to humility. Non-violence means reliance on God, the Rock of Ages. If we would seek His aid, we must approach Him with a humble and contrite heart… We must act, even as the mango tree which droops as It bears fruit. Its grandeur lies in its majestic lowliness.

Young India, 12-1-‘21, p. 13


Humility must not be here confounded with mere manners or etiquette. One man will sometimes prostrate himself before another, although his heart is full of bitterness against him. This is not humility, but cunning. A man may chant Ramanama6, or tell his beads all day long, and move in society like a sage; but if he is selfish at heart, he is not meek, but only hypocritical.

A humble person is not himself conscious of his humility. Truth and the like perhaps admit of measurement, but not humility. Inborn humility can never remain hidden, and yet the possessor is unaware of its existence. The story of Vasistha and Vishvamitra furnishes a very good case in point. Humility should make the possessor realize, that he is as nothing. Directly we imagine ourselves to be something, there is egotism. If a man who keeps observances is proud of keeping them, they will lose much, if not all of their value. And a man who is proud of his virtue often becomes a curse to society. Society will not appreciate it, and he himself will fail to reap any benefit from it. Only a little thought will suffice to convince us, that all creatures are nothing more than mere atom in this universe. Our existence as embodied being is purely momentary; what are a hundred years in eternity? But if we shatter the chains of egotism, and melt into the ocean of humility, we share its dignity. To feel that we are something is to set up a barrier between God and ourselves; to cease feeling that we are something is to become one with god. A drop in the ocean partakes of the greatness of its parent, although it is unconscious of it. But it is dried up, as soon as it enters upon an existence independent of the ocean. We do not exaggerate, when we say that life on earth is a mere bubble.

A life of service must be one of humility. He who would sacrifice his life for others has hardly time to reserve for himself a place in the sun. Inertia must not be mistaken for humility, as it has been in Hinduism. True humility means most strenuous and constant endeavor entirely directed towards the service of humanity. God is continuously in action without resting for a single moment. If we would serve Him or become one with Him, our activity must be as unwearied as His. There may be momentary rest in store for the drop which is separated from the ocean, but not for the drop in the ocean, which knows no rest. The same is the case with ourselves. As soon as we become one with the ocean in the shape of God, there is no more rest for us, nor indeed do we need rest any longer. Our very sleep is action. For we sleep with the thought of God in our hearts. This restlessness constitutes true rest. This never ceasing agitation holds the key to peace ineffable. This supreme state of total surrender is difficult to describe, but not beyond the bounds of human experience. It has been attained by many dedicated souls, and may be attained by ourselves as well.

From Yervada Mandir, (1957), pp. 45-48


1. A place for disciplined community living

2. Celibacy; observance of chastity or continence in the quest of God.

3. A celibate

4. Literally of one’s own country; insistence on the use of goods made in one’s own country, preferably hand-made and those too of the neighbours first.

5. Thin flat cake made of flour; unleavened bread.

6. Literally, the name of Rama, recitation of God’s name