Back | Next
THE SELECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI > Vol. V - THE VOICE OF TRUTH > Part II- Section I: Truth, World and Man > Truth and God
Truth and God
For me, Truth is the sovereign principle, which includes numerous other principles. This truth is not only truthfulness in word, but truthfulness in thought also, and not only the relative truth of our conception, but the Absolute Truth, the Eternal principle, that is God. There are innumerable definitions of God, because His manifestations are innumerable. They overwhelm me with wonder and awe and for a moment stun me. But I worship God as Truth only. I have not yet found Him, but I am seeking after Him. I am prepared to sacrifice the things dearest to me in pursuit of this quest. Even if the sacrifice demanded be my very life, I hope I may be prepared to give it.
But as long as I have not realized this Absolute truth, so long must I hold by the relative truth as I have conceived it. That relative truth must, meanwhile, be my beacon, my shield and buckler. Though this path is straight and narrow and sharp as the razor’s edge, for me it has been the quickest and easiest. Even my Himalayan blunders have seemed trifling to me because I have kept strictly to this path. For the path has saved me from coming to grief, and I have gone forward according to my light. Often in my progress I have had faint glimpses of the Absolute Truth, God and daily the conviction is growing upon me that He alone is real and all else is unreal.
Introduction to An Autobiography, (1966), p. 11
The word Satya (Truth) is derived from Sat, which means ‘being’. Nothing is or exists in reality except Truth. That is why Sat or Truth is perhaps the most important name of God. In fact it is more correct to say that Truth is God, than to say that God is Truth. But as we cannot do without a ruler or a general, such names of God as ‘King of Kings’ or ‘The Amighty’ are and will remain generally current. On deeper thinking, however, it will be realized, that Sat or Satya is the only correct and fully significant name for God.
And where there is Truth, there also is knowledge which is true. Where there is no Truth, there can be no true knowledge. That is why word Chit or knowledge is associated with the name of God. And where there is true knowledge, there is always bliss (Ananda). Their sorrow has no place. And even as Truth is eternal, so is the bliss derived from it. Hence we know God as sat-chit-ananda, one who combines in Himself Truth, knowledge and Bliss.
From Yeravada Mandir (1957), pp. 1-2
It is that which alone is, which constitutes the stuff of which all things are made, which subsists by virtue of its own power, which is not supported by anything else but supports everything that exists. Truth alone is eternal, everything else is momentary. It need not assume shape or form. It is pure intelligence as well as pure bliss. We call it Ishwara1 because everything is regulated by its will. It and the law it promulgates are one. Therefore, it is not a blind law. It governs the entire universe.
Ashram Observance in Action (1959), p. 37
Truth is God—nothing else, nothing less… The nearest word answering to Truth in Sanskrit is Sat. Sat means ‘being’. God alone is Sat. He alone is; nothing and no one else is. Everything else is illusion. Satya means sat. Truth alone is in the world, nothing else is. This is easy enough to understand. Then what is truth? For us it is a relative term. Absolute Truth is God. Whatever we understand by God is implied in Truth…. It alone really sustains us. For a time many other things may sustain us, but this alone sustains us for all time.
Truth gives perennial joy. In Sanskrit we have the word Sat, Chit, Ananda. It is a fine combination. The three together make one word. Truth is knowledge also. It is life. You feel vitality in you when you have got Truth in you. Again it gives bliss. It is a permanent thing of which you cannot be robbed. You may be sent to the gallows, or put to torture; but if you have Truth in you, you will experience an inner joy.
Conversations of Gandhiji (1949), pp. 35-36
In my early youth I was taught to repeat what in Hindu scriptures are known as one thousand names of God. But these one thousand names of God were by no means exhaustive. We believe—and I think it is the truth—that God has as many names as there are creatures and, therefore we also say that God is nameless and, since God has many forms we also consider Him formless, and since He speaks to us through many tongues, we consider Him to be speechless and so on. And so when I came to study Islam I found that Islam too had many names for God. I would say with those who say God is Love, God is Love. But deep down in me I used to say that though God may be Love, God is Truth, above all. If it is possible for the human tongue to give the fullest description of god, I have come to the conclusion that for myself, God is Truth.
But two years ago, I went a step further and said that Truth is God. You will see the fine distinction between the two statements, viz. that God is Truth and Truth is God. And I came to that conclusion after a continuous and relentless search after Truth which began nearly fifty years ago. I then found that the nearest approach to Truth was through Love. But I also found that the love has many meanings in the English language at least and that human love in the sense of passion could become a degrading thing also. I found too that love in the sense of Ahimsa2, had only a limited number of votaries in the world. But I never found a double meaning in connection with Truth and even atheists had not demurred to the necessity or power of Truth. But in their passion for discovering Truth the atheists have not hesitated to deny the very existence of God—from their own point of view rightly. And it was because of this reasoning that I saw that rather than say that God is Truth I should say that Truth is God.
I recall the name of Charles Bradlaugh who delighted to call himself an atheist, but knowing as I do something of Him, I would never regard him as an atheist. I would call him a God fearing man, though I know that he would reject the claim. His face would redden if I would say that “Mr. Bradlaugh, you are a Truth-fearing man, and so a God-fearing man.” I would automatically disarm his criticism by saying that Truth is God, as I have disarmed criticisms of many a young man. Add to this the great difficulty that millions have taken the name of God and in His name committed nameless atrocities. Not that scientists very often do not commit cruelties in the name of Truth. I know how in the name of Truth and science inhuman cruelties are perpetrated on animals when men perform vivisection. There are thus a number of difficulties in the way, no matter how you describe God. But the human mind is a limited thing, and you have to labour under limitations when you think of a being or an entity who is beyond the power of man to grasp.
And when we another thing in Hindu philosophy, viz. God alone is and nothing else exists, and the same truth you find emphasized and exemplified in the Kalma3 of Islam. There you find it clearly stated that God alone is and nothing else exists. In fact Sanskrit word for Truth is a word which literally means that which exists—Sat. For these and several other reasons that I can give you I have come to the conclusion that the definition, ‘Truth is God’, gives me the greatest satisfaction. And when you want to find Truth as God the only inevitable means is Love, i.e., non-violence, and since I believe that ultimately the means and end are convertible terms, I should not hesitate to say that God is Love.
Young India, 31-12-‘31, pp. 427-28
The seers have described God as ‘Neti’, ‘Neti’ (‘Not this’, Not this’). Truth will elude you. The sum total of all that is true is Truth. But you can’t sum up all that is true…. There are things that can’t be analyzed. God who can be analyzed by my poor intellect won’t satisfy me. Therefore I do not try to analyze Him. I go behind the relative to the absolute and I get my peace of mind.
An ashiest with Gandhi (1958), p. 30
God is not a person…. The truth is that God is the force. He is the essence of life. He is pure and undefiled consciousness. He is eternal. And yet, strangely enough, all are not able to derive either benefit from or shelter in the all-pervading living presence.
Harijan, 22-6-‘47, p. 200
God is not some person outside ourselves or away from the universe. He pervades everything, and is omniscient as well as omnipotent. He does not need any praise or petitions. Being immanent in all beings, He hears everything and reads our innermost thoughts. He abides in our hearts and is nearer to us than the nails are to the fingers.
Ashram Observances in Action (1959), p. 36
He is the greatest democrat the world knows, for He leaves us ‘unfettered’ to make our own choice between evil and good. He is the greatest tyrant ever known, for He often dashes the cup from our lips and under cover of free will leaves us a margin so wholly inadequate as to provide only mirth for Himself at our expense. Therefore it is that Hinduism calls it all His sport—Lila, or calls it all an illusion—Maya. We are not, He alone Is. And if we will be, we must eternally sing His praise and do His will. Let us dance to the tune of His Bansi-lute, and all would be well.
Young India, 5-3-25, p. 81
God is good not in the same sense as X is good. X is comparatively good. He is more good than evil, but God is wholly good. There is no evil in Him. God made man in His own image. Unfortunately for us man fashioned Him in his own. This arrogation has landed mankind in a sea of troubles. God is the Supreme Alchemist. In His presence all iron and dross turn into pure gold. Similarly does all evil turn into good.
Again God lives but not as we. His creatures live but to die. But God is life. Therefore, goodness and all it connotes is not an attribute. Goodness is God. Goodness conceived as apart from Him is a lifeless thing and exists only whilst it is a paying policy. So are all morals. If they are to live in us they must be considered and cultivated in their relation to God. We try to become good because we want to reach and realize God. All the dry ethics of the world turn to dust because apart from God they are lifeless. Coming from God, they come with life in them. They become part of us and ennoble us.
Conversely, God conceived without Goodness is without life. We give him life in our vain imaginings.
Harijan, 24-8-47, p. 289
God is that indefinable something which we all feel but which we do not know…. To me God is Truth and Love; God is ethics and morality; God is fearlessness. God is the source of Light and Life and yet He is above and beyond all these. God is conscience. He is even the atheism of the atheist. For in His boundless love God permits the atheist to live. He is the searcher of hearts. He transcends speech and reason. He knows us and our hearts better than we do ourselves. He does not take us at our word for He knows that we often do not mean it, some knowingly and others unknowingly. He is a personal God to those who need His personal presence. He is embodied to those who need His touch. He is the purest essence. He simply is to those who have faith. He is all things to all men. He is in us and yet above and beyond us. One may banish the word ‘God’, but one has no power to banish the Thing Itself.
Young India, 5-3-‘25, pp. 80-81
There is an indefinable mysterious Power that pervades everything. I feel it, though I do not see it. It is this Unseen Power which makes itself felt and yet defies all proof, because it is so unlike all that I perceive through my senses. It transcends the senses.
But it is possible to reason out the existence of God to a limited extent. Even in ordinary affairs we know that people do not know who rules or why and how he rules. And yet they know that there is a power that certainly rules. In my tour last year in Mysore I met many poor villagers and I found upon inquiry that they did not know who ruled Mysore. They simply said some God ruled it. If the knowledge of these poor people was so limited about their ruler, I who am infinitely lesser than God, than they to their ruler, need not be surprised if I do not realize the presence of God, the King of Kings. Nevertheless I do feel as the poor villagers felt about Mysore that there is orderliness in the Universe, there is an unalterable Law governing everything and every being that exists or lives. It is not a blind law; for no blind law can govern the conduct of living beings and thanks to the marvelous researches of Sir J. C. Bose, it can now be proved that even matter is life. That Law then which governs all life is God. Law and the Lawgiver are one. I may not deny the law or the lawgiver, because I know so little about it or Him. Even as my denial or ignorance of the existence of an earthy power will avail me nothing, so will not my denial of God and His law liberate from it operation; whereas humble and mute acceptance of Divine Authority makes life’s journey easier even as the acceptance of earthly rules makes life under it easier.
I do dimly perceive that whilst everything around me is ever-changing, ever-dying, there is underlying all that change a Living Power that is changeless, that holds all together, that creates, dissolves, and re-creates. That informing Power or Spirit is God. And since nothing else I see merely through the senses can or will persist, He alone is.
And is this Power benevolent or malevolent? I see it as purely benevolent. For I can see that in the midst of death life persists, in the midst of untruth truth persists, in the midst of darkness light persists. Hence I gather that God is Life, Truth, Light. He is Love. He is the Supreme Good.
Young India, 11-10-‘28, p. 340
But He is no God who merely satisfies the intellect, If He ever does. God to be God must rule the heart and transform it. He must express Himself in every smallest act of His votary. This can only be done through a definite realization more real than the five senses can ever produce. Sense perceptions can be, often are, false and deceptive, however real they may appear to us. Where there is realization outside the senses it is infallible. It is proved not by extraneous evidence but in the transformed conduct and character of those who have felt the real presence of God within.
Such testimony is to be found in the experiences of an unbroken line of prophets and sages in all countries and climes. To reject this evidence is to deny oneself.
This realization is preceded by an immovable faith. He who would in his own person test the fact of God’s presence can do so by a living faith. And since faith itself cannot be proved by extraneous evidence, the safest course is to believe in the moral government of the world and therefore in the supremacy of the moral law, the law of Truth and Love. Exercise of faith will be the safest where there is a clear determination summarily to reject all that is contrary to Truth and Love.
I confess….that I have no argument to convince….through reason. Faith transcends reason. All I can advise is not to attempt the impossible.
Young India, 11-10-‘28, pp. 340-41
If we exist, if our parents and their parents have existed, then it is proper to believe in the Parent of the whole creation. If He is not, we are nowhere…. He is one and yet many; He is smaller than an atom, and bigger than the Himalayas; He is contained even in a drop of the ocean, and yet not even the seven seas can compass Him. Reason is powerless to know Him. He is beyond the reach or grasp of Reason. But I need not labour the point. Faith is essential in this matter. My logic can make and unmake innumerable hypotheses. An atheist might floor me in a debate. But my faith runs so very much faster than my reason that I can challenge the whole world and say, “God is, was and ever shall be.”
Young India, 21-1-‘26, p.30
Experience has humbled me enough to let me realize the specific limitations of Reason. Just as matter misplaced becomes dirt, Reason misused becomes lunacy.
Rationalists are admirable beings, rationalism is a hideous monster when it claims for itself omnipotence. Attribution of omnipotence to Reason is as bad a piece of idolatry as is worship of stock and stone believing it to be God...
I plead not for suppression of Reason, but for a due recognition of that in us which sanctifies Reason itself.
Young India, 14-10-‘26, p. 359
There are subjects where Reason cannot take us far and we have to accept things on faith. Faith then does not contradict Reason but transcends it. Faith is a kind of sixth sense which works in cases which are without the purview of Reason.
Harijan, 6-3-‘37, p. 26.
3. Basic Muslim prayer