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


Qualities of votaries of Non-violence

True Ahimsa would wear a smile even on death bed brought about by an assailant. It is only with that Ahimsa that we can befriend our opponents and win their love.

Harijan, 2-3-‘40, p. 19


Non-violence is a weapon of the strong. With the weak it might easily be hypocrisy. Fear and Love are contradictory terms. Love is reckless in giving away, oblivious as to what it gets in return. Love wrestles with the world as with itself, and ultimately gains a mastery over all other feelings. My daily experience, as of those who are working with me, is that every problem would lend itself to solution if we are determined to make the Law of Truth and Non-violence the Law of Life. For Truth and Non-violence are, to me, faces of the same coin.

Young India, 1-10-‘31, p. 287


Every action is a resultant of a multitude of forces even of a contrary nature. There is no waste of energy. So we learn in the books on mechanics. This is equally true of human actions. The difference is that in the one case we generally know the forces at work, and when we do, we can mathematically foretell the resultant. In the case of human actions, they result from a concurrence of forces, of most of which we have no knowledge. But our ignorance must not be made to serve the cause of disbelief in the power of these forces. Rather is our ignorance a cause for greater faith. And non-violence being the mightiest force in the world and also the most elusive in its working, it demands the greatest exercise of faith. Even as we believe in God in faith, so have we to believe in non-violence in faith.

Harijan, 7-1-‘39, 417


A man can not then practice Ahimsa and be a coward at the same time. The practice of Ahimsa calls forth the greatest courage. It is the most soldierly of a soldier’s virtues.

The Modern Review, October, 1916


Ahimsa is a weapon of matchless potency. It is the summum bonum of life. It is an attribute of the brave; in fact, it is their all. It does not come within the reach of the coward. It is no wooden or lifeless dogma, but living and a life-giving force. It is the special attribute of the soul. That is why it has been described as the highest Dharma.

Young India, 6-9-‘28, p. 301


My Ahimsa is neither maimed nor weak. It is all-powerful. Where there is Ahimsa there is Truth; and Truth is God. How He manifests Himself, I cannot say. All I know is that He is all-pervading and where He is, all is well. There is, therefore, one law for all. Where ever in the world Truth and Non-violence reign supreme, there is peace and bliss. That these exist nowhere shows that they are hidden from man for the time being. But they cannot disappear for ever. That faith must sustain the faithful.

Harijan, 29-9-‘46, p. 332


The way of Non-violence and Truth is sharp as the razor’s edge. Its practice is more than our daily food. Rightly taken, food sustains the body; rightly practiced, non-violence sustains the soul. The body food we can only take in measured quantities and at stated intervals; non-violence, which is the spiritual food, we have to take in continually. There is no such thing as station. I have to be conscious every moment that I am pursuing the goal, and have to examine myself in terms of that goal.

Harijan, 2-4-‘38, p. 65


Your Ahimsa to be effective, must shine through your speech, your action, your general behavior. A votary of Ahimsa must cultivate a habit of unremitting toil, Sleepless vigilance, ceaseless self-control.

Harijan, 6-5-‘39, p. 113


The very first step in non-violence is that we cultivate in our daily life, as between ourselves, truthfulness, humility, tolerance, loving kindness. Honesty, they say in English, is the best policy. But in terms of non-violence, it is not mere policy. Policies may and do change. Non-violence is an unchangeable creed. It has to be pursued in face of violence raging around you. Non-violence with a non-violent man is no merit. In fact, it becomes difficult to say whether it is non-violence at all. But when it pitted against violence, then one realizes the difference between the two. This we cannot do unless we are ever wakeful, ever vigilant, ever striving.

Harijan, 2-4-‘38, p. 65


Ahimsa magnifies one’s own defects and minimizes those of the opponent. It regards the mote in one’s own eye as beam, and the beam in the opponent’s eye as a mote.

Harijan, 13-5-’39,  p. 121


A votary of Ahimsa has, therefore, to be incorruptible, fair and square in his dealings, truthful, straightforward and utterly selfless. He must have also true humility.

Harijan, 20-5-‘39, p. 133


Strange as it may appear, the fact remains that people find the easiest of things oftentimes to be the most difficult to follow. The reason, to borrow a term from the science of physics, lies in our inertia. Physicists tell us that inertia is an essential, and in its own place a most useful quality of matter. It is that alone which steadies the universe and prevents it from flying off at a tangent. But for it the latter would be a chaos of motion. But inertia becomes an incubus and a vice when it ties the mind down to old ruts. It is this kind of inertia which is responsible for our rooted prejudice that to practice pure Ahimsa is difficult. It is up to us to get rid of this incubus. The first step in this direction is firmly to resolve that all untruth and Himsa shall hereafter be taboo to us, whatever sacrifice it might seem to involve. For, the good these may seem to achieve is in appearance only, but in reality it is deadly poison. If our resolve is firm and our conviction clear, it would mean half the battle won, and the practice of these two qualities would come comparatively easy to us.

Harijan, 21-7-‘40, p. 215


If the method of violence takes plenty of training, the method of non-violence takes even more training, and that training is much more difficult than the training for violence. The first essential of that training is a living faith in God. He who has a living faith in God will not do evil deeds with the name of God on his lips. He will not rely on the sword, but will rely solely on God. But you may say that a coward may also pass off as a believer in God, saying he does not use the sword. Cowardice is no sign of belief in God. The true man of God has the strength to use the sword, but will not use it knowing that every man is the image of God.

Harijan, 14-5-‘38, p. 110


‘Enmity vanishes before Ahimsa’ is a great aphorism. It means that the greatest enmity requires an equal measure of Ahimsa for its abatement. Cultivation of this virtue may need long practice, even extending to several births. It does not become useless on that account. Travelling along the route, the pilgrim will meet richer experiences from day to day so that he may have a glimpse of the beauty he is destined to see at the top. This will add to his zest. No one is entitled to infer from this that the path will be a continuous carpet of roses without thorns. A poet has sung that the way reach God accrues only to the very brave, never to the faint-hearted.

Harijan, 14-12-‘47, p. 468


Non-violence, to be a potent force, must begin with the mind. Non-violence of the mere body without the co-operation of the mind is non-violence of the weak or the cowardly, and has, therefore, no potency. It is degrading performance. If we bear malice and hatred in our bosoms and pretend not to retaliate, it must recoil upon us and lead us and lead to our destruction.

Young India, 2-4-‘31, p. 58


It takes fairly strenuous course of training to attain to a mental state of non-violence.

In daily life, it has to be a course of discipline though one may not like it, like for instance the life of a soldier. But I agree that unless there is a hearty co-operation of the mind the mere outward observance will be simply a mask, harmful both to the man himself and to others. The perfect state is reached only when mind and body and speech are in proper co-ordination.

Young India, 1-10-‘31, p. 287


This non-violence cannot be learnt by staying at home. It needs enterprise. In order to test ourselves we should learn to dare danger and death, mortify the flesh and acquire the capacity to endure all manner of hardships. He who trembles or takes to his heels the moment he sees two people fighting is not non-violent, but a coward. A non-violent person will lay down his life in preventing such quarrels. The bravery of the non-violent is vastly superior to that of the violent. The badge of the violent is his weapon—spear, or sword, or rifle. God is the shield of the non-violent.

Harijan, 1-9-‘40, p. 268


The alphabet of Ahimsa is best learnt in the domestic school, and I can say from experience that, if we secure there, we are sure to do so everywhere else. For a non-violent person, the whole world is one family. He will thus fear none, nor will others fear him.

Harijan, 21-7-‘40, p. 214


Non-violence is not mere disarmament. Nor is it the weapon of the weak and the impotent. A child who has not the strength to wield the lathi does not practice non-violence. More powerful than all the armaments, non-violence is a unique force that has come into the world. He who has not learnt to feel it to be a weapon infinitely more potent than brute force has not understood its true nature. This non-violence cannot be ‘taught’ through word of mouth. But it can be kindled in our heart through the grace of God, in answer to earnest prayer.

Harijan, 10-12-‘38, p. 377


Non-violence cannot be preached. It has to be practiced.

Harijan, 20-3-‘37, p. 42


Man and his deed are two distinct things. Whereas a good deed should call forth approbation and a wicked deed disapprobation, the doer of the deed, whether good or wicked, always deserves respect or pity at the case may be. ‘Hate the sin and not the sinner’ is a precept which, though easy enough to understand, is rarely practiced, and that is why the poison of hatred spreads in the world.

An Autobiography, (1966), p. 206


If one does not practice non-violence in one’s personal relations with others and hopes to use it in bigger affairs, one is vastly mistaken. Non-violence, like charity, must begin at home. But if it is necessary for the individual to be trained in non-violence, it is even more necessary for the nation to be trained likewise. One cannot be non-violent in one’s own circle and violent outside it.

Harijan, 28-1-‘39, p. 441


If you really want to cultivate non-violence, you should take a pledge that, come what may, you will not give way to anger or order about members of your household or lord it over them. You can thus utilize trifling little occasions in everyday life to cultivate non-violence in your own person and teach it to your children.

A pilgrimage for Peace, (1950), p. 90


I hold that non-violence is not merely a personal virtue. It is also a social virtue, to be cultivated like the other virtues. Surely, society is largely regulated by the expression of non-violence in its mutual dealings. What I ask for is an extension of it on a larger, national and international scale.

Harijan, 7-1-‘39, p. 417


We have to make Truth and Non-violence not matters for mere individual practice, but for practice by groups and communities and nations. That, at any rate, is my dream. I shall live and die in trying to realize it. My faith helps me to discover new truths every day. Ahimsa is the attribute of the soul, and therefore, to be practiced by everybody in all the affairs of life. If I cannot be practiced in all departments, it has no practical value.

Harijan, 2-3-‘40, p. 23


It follows therefore, that if non-violence becomes successfully established in one place, its influence will spread everywhere… The basic principle on which the practice of non-violence rests is that what holds good in respect of oneself equally applies to the whole universe.

Harijan, 12-11-‘38, p. 327


That non-violence which only an individual can use is not of much use in terms of society. Man is a social being. His accomplishments to be of use must be such as any person with sufficient diligence can attain. That which can be exercised only among friends is of value only as a spark of non-violence. It cannot merit the appellation of Ahimsa.

Harijan, 14-12-‘47, p. 468


To practice non-violence in mundane matters is to know its true value. It is to bring heaven upon earth. There is no such thing as the other world. All words are one. There is no ‘here’ and no ‘there’. As Jeans has demonstrated, the whole universe including the most distant stars, invisible even through the most powerful telescope in the world, is compressed in an atom. I hold it, therefore, to be wrong to limit the use of non-violence to cave-dwellers and for acquiring merit for a favoured position in the other world. All virtue ceases to have use, if it serves no purpose in every walk of life.

Harijan, 26-7-‘42, p. 248


The simplest things have the knack sometimes of appearing to us as the hardest. If our hearts were opened, we should have no difficulty. Non-violence is a matter of the heart. It does not come to us through any intellectual feat. Everyone has faith in God though everyone does not know it. For, everyone has faith in himself and that multiplied to nth degree is God. The sum total of all that lives is god. We may not be God but we are of God—even as a little drop of water is of the ocean. Imagine it torn away from the ocean and flung millions of miles away. It becomes helpless torn from its surroundings, and cannot feel the might and majesty of the ocean. But if someone could point out to it that it is of the ocean, its faith would revive, it would dance with joy and whole of the might and majesty of the ocean would be reflected in it. Even so it is with all non-violent activities.

Harijan, 3-6-‘39, p. 151


If one has pride and egoism, there is no non-violence. Non-violence is impossible without humility. My own experience is that whenever I have acted non-violently I have been led on it and sustained in it by the higher promptings of an Unseen Power. Through my own will I should have miserably failed.

Harijan, 28-1-‘39, p. 442


I have learned this one lesson—that what is impossible with man is child’s play with God, and if we have faith in that Divinity which presides on the destiny of the meanest of His creation, I have no doubt that all things are possible; and in that final hope, I live and pass my time and endeavour to obey His will.

Young India, 19-11-‘31, p. 361


I know the path. It is straight and narrow. It is like the edge of a sword. I rejoice to walk on it. I weep when I slip. God’s word is: “He who strives never perishes.” I have implicit faith in that promise. Though, therefore, from my weakness I fail a thousand times, I will not lose faith.

Young India, 17-6-‘26, p. 215