to members of his Ashram at Sabarmati during 1930 a series of weekly discourses
from the Yeravda Jail (which he called mandir or temple). Those
discourses dealing with the Ashram vows of Truth, Non-violence, Brahmacharya or
Chastity, Non-possession and Non-stealing are given hereunder. The remaining
vows of the Ashram are: Control of the Palate, Fearlessness, Removal of
Untouchability, Bread Labour, Equality of Religions and Swadeshi. Gandhiji's
discourses on these also will be found in the booklet From Yeravda Mandir.1
Some of them have been treated in other parts of this present volume.]
Importance of Vows
Taking vows is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. To do at any cost something
that one ought to do constitutes a vow. It becomes a bulwark of strength. A man
who says that he will do something 'as far as possible', betrays either his
pride or his weakness. I have noticed in my own case, as well as in the case of
others, that the limitation 'as far as possible' provides a fatal loophole. To
do something 'as far as possible' is to succumb to the very first temptation.
There is no sense in saying that one would observe truth 'as far as possible'.
Even as no businessman will look at a note in which a man promises to pay a
certain amount on a certain date 'as far as possible', so will God refuse to
accept a promissory note drawn by one, who will observe truth 'as far as possible'.
God is the very image of the vow. God would cease to be God if He swerved from His own
laws even by a hair's breadth. The sun is a great keeper of observances; hence
the possibility of measuring time and publishing almanacs. All business depends
upon men fulfilling their promises. Are such promises less necessary in
character-building or self-realization? We should therefore never doubt the
necessity of vows for the purpose of self-purification and self-realization.
From Yeravda Mandir, 1945, pp. 51-52
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.
Devotion to this Truth is the sole justification for our existence. All our activities
should be centred in Truth. Truth should be the very breath of our life. When
once this stage in the pilgrim's progress is reached, all other rules of correct
living will come without effort, and obedience to them will be instinctive. But
without Truth it would be impossible to observe any principles or rules in life.
Generally speaking, observation of the law of Truth is understood merely to mean that we
must speak the truth. But we in the Ashram should understand the word Satya
or Truth in a much wider sense. There should be Truth in thought, Truth in
speech, and Truth in action.
But Truth is the right designation of God. Hence there is nothing wrong in every man
following Truth according to his lights. Indeed it is his duty to do so. Then if
there is a mistake on the part of any one so following Truth, it will be
automatically set right. For the quest of Truth involves tapas—
self-suffering, sometimes even unto death. There can be no place in it for even
a trace of self-interest. In such selfless search for Truth nobody can lose his
bearings for long. Directly he takes to the wrong path he stumbles, and is thus
redirected to the right path. Therefore the pursuit of Truth is true bhakti
(devotion). It is the path that leads to God.
How beautiful it would be, if all of us, young and old, men and women, devoted
ourselves wholly to Truth in all that we might do in our waking hours, whether
working, eating, drinking or playing, till dissolution of the body makes us one
with Truth ? God as Truth has been for me a treasure beyond price; may He be so
to every one of us.
From Yeravda Mandir, 1945, pp. 1-4
He who would go in for novel experiments must begin with himself. That leads to a
quicker discovery of Truth, and God always protects the honest experimenter.
Autobiography, 1948, p. 376
A devotee of Truth may not do anything in deference to convention. He must always hold
himself open to correction, and whenever he discovers himself to be wrong he must confess it at all costs and atone for it.
Autobiography, 1948, p. 429
A clean confession, combined with a promise never to commit the sin again, when offered
before one who has the right to receive it, is the purest type of repentance.
Autobiography, 1948, p. 42
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.
Autobiography, 1948, p. 84
Silence is a great help to a seeker after Truth like myself. In the attitude of silence
the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive
resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest
after Truth, and the soul requires inward restfulness to attain its full height.
It (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 practised 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
B. AHIMSA OR LOVE
It is impossible for us to realize perfect Truth so long as we are imprisoned in this
mortal frame. We can only visualize it in our imagination. We cannot, through
the instrumentality of this ephemeral body, see face to face Truth which is
eternal. That is why in the last resort we must depend on faith.
It appears that the impossibility of full realization of Truth in this mortal body
led some ancient seeker after Truth to the appreciation of Ahimsa. The question
which confronted him was: "Shall I bear with those who create difficulties for
me, or shall I destroy them?" The seeker realized that he who went on destroying
others did not make headway but simply stayed where he was, while the man who
suffered those who created difficulties marched ahead, and at time even took the
others with him. The first act of destruction taught him that the Truth which
was the object of his quest was not outside himself but within. Hence the more
he took to violence, the more he receded from Truth. For in fighting the
imagined enemy without, he neglected the enemy within.
We punish thieves, because we think they harass us. They may leave us alone; but they will
only transfer their attentions to another victim. This other victim however is
also a human being, ourselves in a different form, and so we are caught 'in a
vicious circle. The trouble from thieves continues to increase, as they think it
is their business to steal. In the end we see that it is better to endure the
thieves than to punish them. The forbearance may even bring them to their
senses. By enduring them we realize that thieves are not different from
ourselves, they are our brethren, our friends, and may not be punished. But
whilst we may bear with the thieves, we may not endure the infliction. That
would only induce cowardice. So we realize a further duty. Since we regard the
thieves as our kith and kin, they must be made to realize the kinship. And so we
must take pains to devise ways and means of winning them over. This is the path
of Ahimsa. It may entail continuous suffering and the cultivating of endless
patience. Given these two conditions, the thief is bound in the end to turn away
from his evil ways. Thus step by step we learn how to make friends with all the
world; we realize the greatness of God—of Truth. Our peace of mind increases in
spite of suffering; we become braver and more enterprising; we understand here
clearly the difference between what is everlasting and what is not; we learn how
to distinguish between what is our duty and what is not. Our pride melts away,
and we become humble. Our worldly attachments diminish, and the evil within us
diminishes from day to day.
Ahimsa is not the crude thing it has been made to appear. Not to hurt any living thing is
no doubt a part of Ahimsa. But it is its least expression. The principle of
Ahimsa is violated by every evil thought, by undue haste, by lying, by hatred,
by wishing ill to anybody. It is also violated by our holding on to what the
world needs. But the world needs even what we eat day by day.
Realizing the limitations of the flesh, we must strive day by day towards the idea with
what strength we have in us.
It is perhaps clear from the foregoing, that without Ahimsa it is not possible to seek
and find Truth. Ahimsa and Truth are so intertwined that it is practically
impossible to disentangle and separate them. They are like the two sides of a
coin, or rather of a smooth unstamped metallic disc. Who can say, which is the
obverse, and which is the reverse? Nevertheless Ahimsa is the means; Truth is
the end. Means to be means must always be within our reach, and so Ahimsa is our
supreme duty If we take care of the means, we are bound to reach the end sooner
or later. When once we have grasped this point, final victory is beyond
question. Whatever difficulties we encounter, whatever apparent reverses we
sustain, we may not give up the quest for Truth which alone is being God Himself.
From Yeravda Mandir, 1945, pp. 5-9
C. BRAHMACHARYA OR CHASTITY
Brahmacharya, like all other observances, must be observed in thought, word and deed. We are
told in the Gita, and experience will corroborate the statement, that the
foolish man, who appears to control his body, but is nursing evil thoughts in
his mind, makes a vain effort. It may be harmful to suppress the body, if the
mind is at the same time allowed to go astray. Where the mind wanders, the body
must follow sooner or later.
The man, who is wedded to Truth and worships Truth alone, proves unfaithful to her, if he
applies his talents to anything else. How then can he minister to the senses? A
man, whose activities are wholly consecrated to the realization of Truth, which
requires utter selflessness, can have no time for the selfish purpose of
begetting children and running a household. Realization of Truth through
self-gratification should, after what has been said before, appear a
contradiction in terms.
If we look at it from the standpoint of Ahimsa, we find that the fulfillment of Ahimsa
is impossible without utter selflessness. Ahimsa means Universal Love. If a man
gives his love to one woman, or a woman to one man, what is there left for all
the world besides? It simply means, "we two first, and the devil take all the
rest of them." As a faithful wife must be prepared to sacrifice her all for the
sake of her husband, and a faithful husband for the sake of his wife, it is
clear that such persons cannot rise to the height of Universal Love or look upon
all mankind as kith and kin. For they have created a boundary wall round their
love. The larger their family, the farther are they from Universal Love. Hence
one who would obey the law of Ahimsa cannot marry, not to speak of gratification
outside the marital bond.
Then what about people who are already married ? Will they never be able to realize Truth?
Can they never offer up their all at the altar of humanity? There is a way out
for them. They can behave as if they were not married. Those who have enjoyed
this happy condition will be able to bear me out. Many have to my knowledge
successfully tried the experiment. If the married couple can think of each other
as brother and sister, they are freed for universal service. The very thought
that all the women in the world arc his sisters, mothers or daughters will at
once ennoble a man and snap his chains. The husband and wife do not lose
anything here, but only add to their resources and even to their family. Their
love becomes free from the impurity of lust and so grows stronger. With the
disappearance of this impurity, they can serve each other better, and the
occasions for quarrel become fewer. There are more occasions for quarrelling
where the love is selfish and bounded.
If the foregoing argument is appreciated, a consideration of the physical benefits of
chastity becomes a matter of secondary importance. How foolish it is
intentionally to dissipate vital energy in sensual enjoyment ! It is a grave
misuse to fritter away for physical gratification that which is given to man and
woman for the full development of their bodily and mental powers. Such misuse is
the root cause of many a disease.
It is necessary here to appreciate a distinction. It is one thing to allow the mind to
harbour impure thoughts; it is a different thing altogether if it strays among
them in spite of ourselves. Victory will be ours in the end, if we
non-co-operate with the mind in its evil wanderings.
We experience every moment of our lives, that often while the body is subject to
our control, the mind is not. This physical control should never be relaxed, and
in addition, we must put forth a constant endeavour to bring the mind under
control. We can do nothing more, nothing less. If we give way to the mind, the
body and the mind will pull different ways, and we shall be false to ourselves.
Body and mind may be said to go together so long as we continue to resist the
approach of every evil thought.
The observance of brahmacharya has been believed to be very difficult, almost
impossible. In trying to find a reason for this belief, we see that the term
brahmacharya has been taken in a narrow sense. Mere control of animal
passion has been thought to be tantamount to observing brahmacharya. I
feel that this conception is incomplete and wrong. Brahmacharya means
control of all the organs of sense. He who attempts to control only one organ,
and allows all the others free play, is bound to find his effort futile. To hear
suggestive stories with the ears, to see suggestive sights with the eyes, to
taste stimulating food with the tongue, to touch exciting things with the hands,
and then at the same time expect to control the only remaining organ is like
putting one's hands in a fire and then expecting to escape being burnt. He
therefore who is resolved to control the one must be likewise determined to
control the rest. I have always felt that much harm has been done by the narrow
definition of brahmacharya. If we practise simultaneous self-control in
all directions, the attempt will be scientific and possible of success.
Let us remember the root meaning of brahmacharya. Charya means course of
conduct; brahmacharya conduct adapted to the search of Brahma,
i.e., Truth. From this etymological meaning arises the special meaning, viz.,
control of all the senses. We must entirely forget the incomplete definition
which restricts itself to the sexual aspect only.
From Yeravda Mandir, 1945, pp. 10-14
The knowledge that a perfect observance of brahma charya means realization of
Brahma, I did not owe to a study of the Shastras. It slowly grew upon me
with experience. The Shastraic texts on the subject I read only later in life.
Realization of God is impossible without complete renunciation of the sexual desire.
Young India, 24-6-'26, p. 230
The conquest of lust is the highest endeavour of a man or woman's existence. Without
overcoming lust man cannot hope to rule over self. And without rule over self
there can be no Swaraj or Ramaraj. Rule of all without rule of oneself would
prove to be as deceptive and disappointing as a painted toy-mango, charming to
look at outwardly but hollow and empty within. No worker who has not overcome
lust can hope to render any genuine service to the cause of Harijans, communal
unity, Khadi, cow protection or village reconstruction. Great causes like these
cannot be served by intellectual equipment alone, they call for spiritual effort
or soul-force. Soul-force comes only through God's grace, and God's grace never
descends upon a man who is a slave to lust.
Harijan, 21-11-'36 p.321
Remember my definition of brahmacharya. It means not suppression of one or more
senses but complete mastery over them all. The two states are fundamentally
different. I can suppress all my senses today but it may take aeons to conquer
them. Conquest means using them as my willing slaves. I can prick the ear
drum and suppress the sense of hearing by a simple, painless operation. This is
worthless. I must train the ear so that it refuses to hear gossip, lewd talk,
blasphemy, but it is open to the celestial music, it will hear the most distant
cry for succour from thousands of miles. Saint Ramdas is said to have done so.
Then how to use the organs of generation? By transmitting the most creative
energy that we possess from creating counterparts of our flesh into creating
constructive work for the whole of life.
Bapu's Letters to Mir a, 1949, pp. 257-58
Aids to Brahmacharya
A friend writes :
'I am miserable. I am haunted by carnal thoughts even whilst I am in my office, on the
road, by night and day, whilst reading and working, even whilst I am praying.
How is a wandering mind to be controlled? How is one to learn to look upon
every woman as one's mother? How is the eye to radiate forth purest love? How
can evil thoughts be eradicated? I have before me your article on
brahmacharya (written years ago), but it has failed to help me.'
This condition is heart rending. Many suffer from it. But so long as the mind is
engaged in a perpetual struggle against evil thoughts, there is no reason to
despair. When the eye offends, it should be closed. When the ears offend they
should be stopped. It is best always to walk with downcast eyes. They will then
have no occasion to go astray. All haunts of filthy talk or unclean music should
be avoided. There should be full control of the palate. I know that he who has
not mastered his palate cannot master the carnal desire. It is difficult I know
to master the palate. But mastery of the palate means automatic mastery of the
other senses. One of the rules for control of the palate is to abjure completely
or, as much as possible, all condiments. A more difficult rule is to cultivate
the feeling that the food we eat is to sustain the body, never to satisfy the
palate. We take air not for the pleasure of it but to breathe. We drink water to
quench our thirst; and so should we take food to satisfy our hunger. But from
childhood upwards we are brought up to a different habit. Our parents make us
cultivate all sorts of tastes, not with a view to our nourishment, but for
indulging their affection for us. We thus get spoiled. We have therefore to
struggle against the results of our own upbringing.
There is however a golden rule for gaining control of the carnal desire. It is the
repetition of the divine word Rama or such other mantra.
Everyone must select the mantra after his heart. I have suggested the word Rama
because I was brought up to repeat it in my childhood and I have ever got
strength and sustenance out of it. Whichever mantra is selected one
should be identified with it whilst repeating it. I have not the least doubt of
ultimate success as a result of repetition of some such mantra incomplete
faith, even though other thoughts distract the mind. The mantra will be
the light of one's life and will keep one from all distress. Such holy
mantras should obviously never be used for material ends. If their use is
strictly restricted to the preservation of morals, the result attained will be
startling. Of course a mere repetition of such mantra
parrot-wise would be of no avail. One should throw his whole soul into it. The
parrot repeats it like a machine. We should repeat it with a view to preventing
the approach of unwelcome thoughts and with full faith in the efficacy of the
mantra that end.
Young India, 5-6-'24, pp. 186-87
Control of the palate is the first essential in the observance of the vow. I found that
complete control of the palate made the observance very easy, and so I now
pursued my dietetic experiments not merely from the vegetarian's but also from
the brahmachari's point of view. As the result of these experiments I saw
that the brahmachari's food should be limited, simple, spiceless, and, if
Six years of experiment have showed me that the brahmachari's ideal food is fresh
fruit and nuts. The immunity from passion that I enjoyed when I lived on this
food was unknown to me after I changed that diet. Brahmacharya needed no
effort on my part in South Africa when I lived on fruits and nuts alone. It has
been a master of very great effort ever since I began to take milk.
As an external aid to brahmacharya, fasting is as necessary as selection and
restriction in diet. So overpowering are the senses that they can be kept under
control only when they are completely hedged in on all sides, from above and
from beneath. It is common knowledge that they are powerless without food, and
so fasting undertaken with a view to control of the senses is, I have no doubt,
very helpful. With some, fasting is of no avail, because assuming that
mechanical fasting alone will make them immune, they keep their bodies without
food, but feast their minds upon all sorts of delicacies, thinking all the while
what they will eat and what they will drink after the fast terminates. Such
fasting helps them in controlling neither palate nor lust. Fasting is useful,
when mind cooperates with starving body, that is to say, when it cultivates
distaste for the objects that are denied to the body. Mind is at the root of all
sensuality. Fasting, therefore, has a limited use, for a fasting man may
continue to be swayed by passion. But it may be said that extinction of the
sexual passion is as a rule impossible without fasting, which may be said to be
indispensable for the observance of brahmacharya.
Every day I have been realizing more and more the necessity for restraints of the kind I
have detailed above. There is no limit to the possibilities of renunciation,
even as there is none to those of brahmacharya. Such brahmacharya
is impossible of attainment by limited effort. For many it must remain only as
an ideal. An aspirant after brahmacharya will always be conscious of his
shortcomings, will seek out the passions lingering in the innermost recesses of
his heart and will incessantly strive to get rid of them. So long as thought is
not under complete control of the will, brahmacharya in its fullness is
absent. Involuntary thought is an affection of the mind, and curbing of
thought, therefore, means curbing of the mind which is even more difficult to
curb than the wind. Nevertheless the existence of God within makes even control
of the mind possible. Let no one think that it is impossible because it is
difficult. It is the highest goal, and it is no wonder that the highest effort
should be necessary to attain it.
But it was after coming to India (from South Africa) that I realized that such
brahmacharya was impossible to attain by mere human effort. Until then I had
been labouring under the delusion that fruit diet alone would enable me to
eradicate all passions, and I had flattered myself with the belief that I had
nothing more to do.
But I must not anticipate the chapter of my struggle. Meanwhile let me make it clear
that those who desire to observe brahmacharya with a view to realizing
God need not despair, provided their faith in God is equal to their confidence
in their own effort. His name and His grace are the last resources of the
aspirant after moksha.
Autobiography, 1948, pp. 256-60
Experience teaches that animal food is unsuited to those who would curb their
passions. But it is wrong to overestimate the importance of food in the
formation of character or in subjugating the flesh. Diet is a powerful factor
not to be neglected. But to sum up all religion in terms of diet, as is often
done in India, is as wrong as it is to disregard all restraint in regard to diet
and to give full reins to one's appetite.
Young India, 7-10-'26, p. 347
Steps to Brahmacharya
The first step is the realisation of its necessity.
The next is gradual control of the senses. A brahmachari must needs control his
palate. He must eat to live, and not for enjoyment. He must see only clean
things and close his eyes before anything unclean. It is thus a sign of polite
breeding to walk with one's eyes towards the ground and not wandering about from
object to object. A brahmachari will likewise hear nothing obscene or
unclean, smell no strong, stimulating things. The smell of clean earth is far
sweeter than the fragrance of artificial scents and essences. Let the aspirant
to brahmacharya also keep his hands and feet engaged in all the waking
hours in healthful activity. Let him also fast occasionally.
The third step is to have clean companions—clean friends and clean books.
The last and not the least is prayer. Let him repeat Ramanama with all his heart
regularly everyday, and ask for divine grace.
None of these things are difficult for an average man or woman. They are simplicity
itself. But their very simplicity is embarrassing. Where there is a will, the
way is simple enough. Men have not the will for it and hence vainly grope. The
fact that the world rests on the observance, more or less, of brahmacharya
or restraint, means that it is necessary and practicable.
Young India, 29-4-'26, pp. 157-58
Patanjali has described five disciplines. And for this age the five have been expanded
into eleven. They are: non-violence, truth, non-stealing, brahmacharya,
non-possession, bread labour, control of the palate, fearlessness, equal regard
for all religions, Swadeshi and removal of untouchability.
It is well to bear in mind that all the disciplines are of equal importance. If one is
broken all are. Therefore, it is essential that all the disciplines should be
taken as one. This enables one to realize the full meaning and significance of
Harijan, 8-6-'47, p. 180
There can be no two opinions about the necessity of birth-control. But the only method
handed down from ages past is self-control or brahmacharya. It is an
infallible sovereign remedy doing good to those who practise it. And medical men
will earn the gratitude of mankind, if instead of devising artificial means of
birth-control, they will find out the means of self-control. The union is meant
not for pleasure but for bringing forth progeny. And union is a crime when the
desire for progeny is absent.
Artificial methods are like putting a premium upon vice. They make man and woman
reckless. And respectability that is being given to the methods must hasten the
dissolution of the restraints that public opinion puts upon one. Adoption of
artificial methods must result in imbecility and nervous prostration. The remedy
will be found to be worse than the disease. It is wrong and immoral to seek to
escape the consequences of one's acts. It is good for a person who overeats to
have an ache and a fast. It is bad for him to indulge his appetite and then
escape the consequences by taking tonics or other medicines. It is still worse
for a person to indulge in his animal passions and escape the consequences of
his acts. Nature is relentless and will have full revenge for any such violation
of her laws. Moral results can only be produced by moral restraints. All other
restraints defeat the very purpose for which they are intended. The reasoning
underlying the use of artificial methods is that indulgence is a necessity of
life. Nothing can be more fallacious. Let those who are eager so see the births
regulated explore the lawful means devised by the ancients and try to find out
how they can be revived. An enormous amount of spade work lies in front of them.
Early marriages are a fruitful source of adding to the population. The present
mode of life has also a great deal to do with the evil of unchecked procreation.
If these causes are investigated and dealt with, society- will be morally
elevated. If they are ignored by impatient zealots and if artificial methods
become the order of the day, nothing but moral degradation can be the result. A
society that has already become enervated through a variety of causes will
become still further enervated by the adoption of artificial methods. Those men
therefore who are light-heartedly advocating artificial methods cannot do better
than study the subject afresh, stay their injurious activity and popularize
brahmacharya both for the married and the unmarried. That is the only noble
and straight method of birth-control.
Young India, 12-3-'25, pp. 88-89
D. NON-POSSESSION OR POVERTY
Possession implies provision for the future. A seeker after Truth, a follower of
the law of Love, cannot hold anything against tomorrow. God never stores for the
morrow: He never creates more than what is strictly needed for the moment. If
therefore we repose faith in His providence, we should rest assured that He will
give us every day our daily bread, meaning everything that we require. Saints
and devotees, who have lived in such faith, have always derived a justification
for it from their experience. Our ignorance or negligence of the Divine Law,
which gives to man from day to day his daily bread and no more, has given rise
to inequalities with all the miseries attendant upon them. The rich have a
superfluous store of things which they do not need, and which are therefore
neglected and wasted, while millions are starved to death for want of
sustenance. If each retained possession only of what he needed, no one would be
in want, and all would live in contentment. As it is, the rich are discontented
no less than the poor. The poor man would fain become a millionaire, and the
millionaire a multimillionaire. The rich should take the initiative in
dispossession with a view to a universal diffusion of the spirit of contentment.
If only they keep their own property within moderate limits, the starving will
be easily fed, and will learn the lesson of contentment along with the rich.
Perfect fulfillment of the ideal of Non-possession requires that man should,
like the birds, have no roof over his head, no clothing and no stock of food for
the morrow. He will indeed need his daily bread, but it will be God's business,
and not his, to provide it. Only the fewest possible, if any at all, can reach
this ideal. We ordinary seekers may not be repelled by the seeming
impossibility. But we must keep the ideal constantly in view, and in the light
thereof, critically examine our possessions, and try to reduce them.
Civilization, in the real sense of the term, consists not in the multiplication,
but in the deliberate and voluntary reduction of wants. This alone promotes real
happiness and contentment, and increases the capacity for service.
We thus arrive at the ideal of total renunciation, and learn to use the body for the
purpose of service so long as it exists, so much so that service, and not bread,
becomes with us the staff of life. We eat and drink, sleep and wake, for service
alone. Such an attitude of mind brings us real happiness, and the beatific
vision in the fullness of time. Let us all examine ourselves from this
We should remember that Non-possession is a principle applicable to thoughts, as well as
to things. A man who fills his brain with useless knowledge violates that
inestimable principle. Thoughts, which turn us away from God, or do not turn us
towards Him, constitute impediments in our way.
From Yeravda Mandir, 1945, pp. 23-26
A certain degree of physical harmony and comfort is necessary, but above that level, it
becomes a hindrance instead of help. Therefore the ideal of creating an
unlimited number of wants and satisfying them seems to be a delusion and a
snare. The satisfaction of one's physical needs, even the intellectual needs of
one's narrow self must meet at a point a dead stop, before it degenerates into
physical and intellectual voluptuousness. A man must arrange his physical and
cultural circumstances so that they may not hinder him in his service of
humanity, on which all his energies should be concentrated.
Harijan, 29-8-'36, p. 226
I own no property and yet I feel that I am perhaps the richest man in the world. For I
have never been in want either for myself or for my public concerns. God has
always and invariably responded in time. I can recall several occasions when
almost the last penny had been spent for my public activities. Moneys then came
in from the most unexpected quarters. These responses have made me humble and
filled me with a faith in God and His goodness that will stand the strain of
utter distress if it ever becomes my lot in life. It is open to the world,
therefore, to laugh at my dispossessing myself of all property. For me the
dispossession has been a positive gain. I would like people to compete with me
in my contentment. It is the richest treasure I own. Hence it is perhaps right
to say that though I preach poverty, I am a rich man.
This Was Bapu, R. X. Prabhu, 1954, p. 120
I doubt if the Steel Age is an advance on the Flint Age. I am indifferent. It is the
evolution of the soul to which the intellect and all our faculties have to be devoted.
Young India, 13-10-'21, p. 325
It is impossible that a person should steal, and simultaneously claim to know Truth
or cherish Love. Yet every one of us is consciously or unconsciously more or
less guilty of theft.
It is theft to take something from another even with his permission if we have no real
need of it. We should not receive any single thing that we do not need. Theft of
this description generally has food for its object. It is theft for me to take
any fruit that I do not need, or to take it in a larger quantity than is
necessary. We are not always aware of our real needs, and most of us improperly
multiply our wants, and thus unconsciously make thieves of ourselves. If we
devote some thought to the subject, we shall find that we can get rid of quite a
number of our wants. One who follows the observance of Non-stealing will bring
about a progressive reduction of his own wants. Much of the distressing poverty
in this world has arisen out of breaches of the principle of Non-stealing.
There is besides another kind of theft subtler and far more degrading to the human
spirit. It is theft mentally to desire acquisition of anything belonging to
others, or to cast a greedy eye on it.
One, who observes the principle of Non-stealing, will refuse to bother himself about
things to be acquired in the future. This evil anxiety for the future will be
found at the root of many a theft. Today we only desire possession of a thing;
tomorrow we shall begin to adopt measures, straight if possible, crooked when
thought necessary, to acquire its possession.
Ideas may be stolen no less than material things. One who egotistically claims to have
originated some good idea, which, really speaking, did not originate with him,
is guilty of a theft of ideas. Many learned men have committed such theft in
the course of world history.
One who takes up the observance of Non-stealing has therefore to be humble, thoughtful,
vigilant and in habits simple.
From Yeravda Mandir, 1945, pp. 19-22
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 thieve it from somebody else. I venture to suggest
that it is the fundamental law of Nature, without exception, that Nature
produces enough for our wants from day to day, and if only everybody took enough
for himself and nothing more, there would be no pauperism in this world, there
would be no man dying of starvation in this world. But so long as we have got
this inequality, so long we are thieving. I am no socialist and I do not want to
dispossess those who have got possessions; but I do say that, personally, those
of us who want to see light out of darkness have to follow this rule. I do not
want to dispossess anybody. 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
want. In India we have got three millions of people having to be satisfied with
one meal a day. You and I, who ought to know better, must adjust our wants, and
even undergo voluntary starvation in order that they may be nursed, fed and clothed.
Speeches and Writings of Mahatma Gandhi, p. 384
If we are to be non-violent, we must not wish for anything on this earth which the
meanest or the lowest of human beings cannot have.
With Gandhiji in Ceylon, 1928, by Mahadev Desai, p. 132
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