Selections From Gandhi
[Encyclopedia of Gandhi's Thoughts]

Chapter-16: The Life of The Satyagrahi

633. You will have to take up sackcloth and ashes. You cannot serve God and Mammon both.

- Ceylon, 65.

A Life of Truth
634. A man is but the product of his thoughts; what he thinks, he becomes.

- ER, 60. 

635. Every one of you should, from this very moment, consider yourself a free man or woman and even act as if you are free and no longer under the heel of this Imperialism. This is no make-believe. You have to cultivate the spirit of freedom before it comes physically. The chains of a slave are broken the moment be considers himself a free man. He will then tell his master: I have been your slave all these days but I am no longer that now. You may kill me, but if you do not and if you release me from the bondage, I will ask for nothing more from you. For hence-forth instead of depending upon you I shall depend upon God for food and clothing. God has given me the urge for freedom and therefore. I deem myself to be a free man's.

- GC, 83.

On Faith and Activity
636. You should be pioneers in presenting a living faith to the world, and not the dry bones of a traditional faith which the world will not grasp.

-Ceylon, 112.

637.Every moment of our life should be filled with mental or physical activity, but that activity should be sattvika, tending to Truth. One, who has consecrated his life to service, cannot lie idle for a single moment. But one has to learn to distinguish between good activity and evil activity. This discrimination goes naturally with a single-minded devotion to service.


638. I have not the shadow of a doubt that any man or woman can achieve what I have, if he or she would make the same effort and cultivate the same hope and faith. Work without faith is like an attempt to reach the bottom of a bottomless pit.

-H, 3-10-36, 269.

639. Faith can only grow from within; it cannot be acquired vicariously. Nothing great in this would was ever accomplished without a living faith.

-H, 9-10-36, 292.

640. Faith can be developed. Only, the way it can be developed and in which it works differs from that in the case of violence. You cannot develop violence through prayer. Faith, on the other hand, cannot be developed except through prayer. Non-violence succeeds only when we have a living faith is God.

-H, 28-1-39, 443. cf. 31 ff.

641. If we do not build the movement on the solid rock of non-violence, it may any day tumble, like a pack of cards, with a whiff. We cannot serve God and Mammon.

-YI, 16-3-21, 82.

642. It is poor faith that needs fair weather for standing firm. That alone is true faith that stands the foulest weather.

-YI, 20-11-24, 383.

643. In every great cause it is not the number of fighters that counts but it is the quality of which they are made that becomes the deciding factor. The greatest men of the world have always stood alone. Take the great prophets, Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed - they all stood alone like many others whom I can name. But they had living faith in themselves and their God, and believing as they did that God was on their side, they never felt lonely.

-YI, 10-10-29, 330.

644.Meetings and group organizations are all right. They are of some help, but very little. They are like the scaffolding that an architect erects - a temporary and makeshift expedient. The thing that really matters is an invincible faith that cannot be quenched.

-H, 28-1-39, 443.

645. No matter how insignificant the thing you have to do, do it as will as you can, give it as much of your care and attention as you would give to the thing you regard as most important, For it will be by those small things that you shall be judged.

-H, 27-7-35, 191.

646. In every branch of reform constant study giving one a mastery over one’s subject is necessary. Ignorance is at the root of failures, partial or complete, of all reform movements whose merits are admitted. For every project masquerading under the name of reform is not necessarily worthy of being so designated.

-Y, 24-4-37,84.

Punctuality and Order
647. I have often expressed the opinion among friends that in the matter of capacity for detachment, Englishmen are far in advance of us. No matter how important national affairs may be, they will keep their meal hours and hours of recreation. They are not unnerved in the face of dangers or impending calamity, This may be called working in the spirit of the Gita. Among the political workers in India there are very few who come up to the Englishman's standard.
This English detachment is worthy of emulation. That it is used for the exploitation of the so-called uncivilized or semi-civilized races of the earth is another matter. It would be a distinct gain to the national cause if the leaders and workers strictly keep their hours. No man is expected to do more than he really can. If at the end of the day there is surplus work left or he can not get through it without missing a meal or encroaching upon the hours of sleep or recreation, there is mismanagement somewhere. I have no doubt that if we cultivate the habit of punctuality and acting according to programme, the index of national efficiency will go up, our advance towards our goal will be rapid, and the workers will be healthier and longer lived.

-H, 24-9-38, 266.

648. We often confuse spiritual knowledge with spiritual attainment. Spirituality is not a matter of knowing scriptures and engaging in philosophical discussions. It is a matter of heart culture, of immeasurable strength. Fearlessness is the first requisite of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral.

-YI, 13-10-21, 323.

649. Fearlessness is indispensable for the growth of the other noble qualities. How can one seek Truth, or cherish Love, without fearlessness? As Preterm says, The path of Hari (the Lord) is the path of the brave, not of cowards. Hari here means Truth, and the brave are those armed with fearlessness.

-YM, 40.

650. The remedy against cowardice is not physical culture but the braving of dangers. So long as parents of the middle-class Hindus, themselves timid, continue to transmit their timidity by keeping their grown-up children in cotton-wool, so long will there be the desire to shun dangers and run no risks. They will have to dare to leave their children alone, let them run risks and even at times get killed in so doing. The puniest individual may have a stout heart.

-YI, 29-5-24,177.

651. Swaraj won without sacrifice cannot last long. I would therefore like our people to get ready to make the highest sacrifice that they are capable of. In true sacrifice al the suffering is on one side - one is required to master the art of getting killed without killing, of gaining life by losing it. May India live up to this mantra!

- YI, 8-5-30, 161.

652. They must be ready to face bullets without flinching but also without lifting their little finger in so-called self-defense. A satyagrahi abjures the right of self-defense.

-H, 9-7-38, 173.

653. Nothing better can happen to a satyagrahi than meeting death all unsought in the very act of satyagraha, i.e. pursuing Truth.

-SA, 288.

654. Let us all be brave enough to die the death of a martyr, but let no one just for martyrdom.

- YI, 13-1-27, 10.

655.We are not to seek imprisonment out of bravado. The goal is the gateway to liberty and honour, when innocence finds itself in it.

-YI, 1-6-21, 171.

656. A non-co-operator is nothing if he is not humble. When self-satisfaction creeps over a man, he has ceased to grow and therefore has become unfit for freedom. He who offers a little sacrifice from a lowly and religious spirit quickly realizes the littleness of it. Once on the path of sacrifice, we find out the measure of our selfishness and must continually wish to give more and not be satisfied till there is a complete self-surrender.

-YI, 29-9-21, 306.

657. The satyagrahis course is plain. He must stand unmoved in the midst of al cross currents. He may not be impatient with blind orthodoxy, nor be irritated over the unbelief of the suppressed people. He must know that his suffering will melt the stoniest heart of the stoniest fanatic and that it will also be a wall of protection for the wavering Panchama brother who has been held under suppression for ages. He must know that relief will come when there is least hope for it. For such is the way of the cruelly kind Deity who insists upon testing His devotee through a fiery furnace and delights in humbling him to the dust.

-YI, 4-6-25, 189.

658. If patience is worth anything, it must endure to the end of time. And a living faith will last in the midst of the blackest storm.

-YI, 17-6-26, 215.

659. It is the duty of him who claims to serve humanity not to be angry with those whom he is serving.

-YI, 2-4-31, 54.

660. It is of little moment when the goal is reached so long as effort is not relaxed.

-GC, 74.

The Practice of an Ideal
661. We need not be afraid of ideals or of reducing them to practice even to the uttermost.

-Nat, 355.

662. We shall never achieve (our object) unless new facts are made to suit the principle, instead of performing the impossible feat of changing the principle to suit existing facts.

-YI, 26-1-22, 62.

663. No one need take fright at my observations, or give up the effort in despair. The taking of a vow does not mean that we are be to observe it completely from the very beginning; it does mean constant and honest effort in thought, word and deed with a view to its fulfillment. We must not practiced self-deception by resorting to some make-believe.

-ym 25.

664. Having ascertained the law of our being, we must set about reducing it to practice to the extent of our capacity and no further. That is the middle way.

-YI, 5-2-25, 48.

665. Striving does not require any quality unattainable by the lowliest among us. For Satyagraha is an attribute of the spirit within. It is latent in every one of us.

-YI, 26-12-24, 429.

Quality and Not Quantity
666. The best and the most solid work was done in the wilderness of minority.

-YI, 2-3-22, 135.

667. Strength of numbers is the delight of the timid. The valiant in spirit glory in fighting alone. And you are all here to cultivate that valour of the spirit. Be you one or many, this valour is the only valour, al else is false.

-YI, 17-6-26, 217.

What is True Victory?
668. For a fighter, the fight itself is victory for he takes delight in it alone.

-SA, 394.

669. A satyagrahi, whether free or incarcerated is ever victorious. He is vanquished only when he forsakes truth and non-violence and thus turns a deaf ear to the Inner voice. If, therefore, there is such a thing as defeat for even a satyagrahi, he alone is the cause of it.

670. Joy lies in the fight, in the attempt, in the suffering involved, not in the victory itself. For, victory is implied in such an attempt.

-H, 23-12-39, 386.

True Strength is Inward
671.I believe that I have an unflinching faith in God. For many years I have accorded intellectual assent to the proposition that death is only a big change in lie and nothing more, and should be welcome whenever it arrives. I have deliberately made a supreme attempt to cast out from my heart all fear whatsoever including the fear of death. Still I remember occasions inn my if when I have not rejoiced at the thought of approaching death as one might rejoice at the prospect of meeting a long lost friend. Thus man often remains weak notwithstanding all his efforts to be strong, and knowledge which stops at the head and does not penetrate into the heart is of but little use in the critical times of living experience. Then again the strength of the spirit within mostly evaporates when a man gets and accepts support from outside A satyagrahi must be always on his guard against such temptations.

-SA, 286.

Recognize Your own Limitations
672. I am conscious of my own limitations. That consciousness is my lonely strength. Whatever I mighty have been able to do in my life has proceeded more than anything else out of the realization of my own imitations.

-YI, 13-11-24, 378.

673.There are many things to do. Let each one of us choose our task and stick to it through thick and thin. Let us not think of the vastness. But let us pick up that portion which we can handle best.

-YI, 11-9-24, 298. cf. 400, 647, 664.

674.No man is expected to do more than he really can.

-H, 24-9-38, 266.

675.Everyone should learn how to measure his own weakness. He who, knowing his own weakness, imitates the strong, is bound to fail. Hence have I contended that everyone should construct his own restraints.

-H, 27-7-47, 252.

Know Thyself
676. Our difficulties are of two kinds: those that are imposed from without and those that are of our own creation. The later are far more dangerous, becausewe often hug them and are there-fore reluctant to remove them.

-YI, 10-11-20, Tagore, 752.

677.A knowledge of one as he is can always do good to the people, never any harm.

-YI, 25-2-26, 78.

678.Confession of error is like a broom that sweeps away dirt and leaves the surface cleaner than before. It is millions times Better to appear untrue before the world than to be untrue to ourselves.

-YI,16-2-22, 102,103.

Taking the Blame
679.There is no discredit greater than the refusal to acknowledge errors.

-H, 8-10-38, 279.

680.It is well to take the blame sometimes.

–Nat, 326.

681.I am used to misrepresentation all my life. It is the lot of every public worker. He has to have a tough hide. Life would be burdensome if every misrepresentation has to be answered and cleared. It is a rule of life with me never to explain misrepresentations except when the cause required correction. This rule has saved much time and worry.

-YI, 27-5-26, 193.

682. Self-restraint never accrues to the faint-hearted. It is the beautiful fruit of watchfulness and ceaseless effort is the form of prayer and fasting.

-H, 10-4-37, 68.

683.Everyone must remember that his most secret thoughts have an influence on himself as well as on others. He should, therefore, practise self-control, so as to put all evil thoughts out of his mind, and give room only for thoughts that are noble and great. He should keep his body as clean and spotless as his mind.

-ER, 59.

684.Inhibitions imposed from without rarely succeed, but when they are self-imposed they have a decidedly salutary effect.

-Auto, 398. Cf. 157.

Rules of Self-restraint
685.For the seeker who would live in fear of God, and who would see Him face to face, restraint in diet both as to quantity and quality is as essential as restraint in thought and speech.

-Auto, 334.

686.One should eat not in order to please the palate but just to keep the body going. When each organ or sense sub serves the body and through the body the soul, its specific relish disappears, and then alone does it begin to function in the way nature intended it to do.
Any number of experiments is too small and no sacrifice is too great for attaining this symphony with nature.

-Auto, 392.

687.It is my firm, belief that the strength of the soul grows in proportion as you subdue the flesh,

-YI, 23-10-24, 354.

688.My religion teaches me that whenever there is distress which one cannot remove, one must fast and pray.

-YI, 25-9-24, 319.

689.It is wrong to call me an ascetic. The ideals that regulate my life are presented for acceptance by mankind in general. I have arrived at them by gradual evolution. Every step was thought out, well-considered, and taken with the greatest deliberation. Both my continence and non-violence were derived from personal experience and became necessary in response to the calls of public duty, The isolated life I had to lead in South Africa whether as a householder, legal practitioner, social reformer or politician, required, for the due fulfillment of these duties, the strictest regulation of sexual life and a rigid practice of non-violence and truth in human relations, whether with my own countrymen or with the Europeans. I claim to be no more than an average man with less than average ability. Nor can I claim any special merit for such non-violence or continence as I have been able to reach with laborious research. I have not the shadow of a doubt that any man or woman can achieve what I have, if he or she would make the same effort and cultivate the same hope and faith.

-H, 3-10-36, 268.

690.He who has realized the misery of mankind in all its magnitude will never be stirred by passion.

-YI, 29-4-26, 157.

691.Realization of God is impossible without complete renunciation of the sexual desire.

-YI, 24-6-26, 230.

692.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 Rama Raj. Rule of al 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 an man who is a slave to lust.

-H, 21-11-36, 321.

693. Now for the definition - the meaning - of Brahmacharya. Its root meaning may be given thus: that conduct which puts one in touch with God.
The conduct consists in the fullest control over all the senses. This is the true and relevant meaning of the word.
Popularly it has come to mean mere physical control over the organ of generation. This narrow meaning has debased Brahmacharya and made its practice all but impossible. Control over the organ of generation is impossible without proper control over all the senses. They are all interdependent. Mind on the lower plane is included in the senses. Without control over the mind mere physical control, even if it can be attained for a time, is of little or no use.

-H, 13-6-36, 137.

694. Brahmacharya must be observed in thought, word and deed, 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.
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-c-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.

-YM, 18.

695.The mind is even more difficult to curb than the wind. Nevertheless the existence of God within makes even the 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 he necessary to attain it.

-Auto, 259.

696.It is better to enjoy through the body than to be enjoying the thought of it. It is good to disapprove of sensual desires as soon as they arise in the mind and try to deep them down; but if,. For want of physical enjoyment, the mind wallows in thoughts of enjoyment, then it is legitimate to satisfy the hunger of the body. About this I have no doubt.

-(Translated from the Hindi Navajivan of 9-5-29).

697.It was because this process of multiplication of wants out of proportion to our surroundings was discovered to be going on with increasing velocity that Non-co-operation was conceived. And thus conceived it was not non-co-operation with persons but with an attitude that was responsible for the system which had seized us in its serpentine coil and which was reducing us to dust. The system had raised the standard of living among us, its creatures, wholly unwarranted by the general condition of the country. And since India did not live upon exploitation of other peoples, the expansion of the middle class who were also the middlemen meant extinction of the lowest strata. Hence the smallest villages were dying out through sheer exhaustion. This was all plain to many of us in 1920. The arresting movement is yet in its infancy. Let us not hinder it by any hasty action.
This artificial increase in our wants has been felt more severely than it otherwise would have been, because of the persistence of the family system which the Western method is ill designed to support. The joint system having become wooden, its evils have become accentuated, its sweet graces have disappeared. Thus evil has been added to evil.
Our self-sacrifice must therefore be in terms of the requirements of the country. The reforms required are more from within than from without. A perfect constitution super-imposed upon a rotten internal condition will be like a whited sepulchre.
The process of self-purification must therefore be completed. The spirit of self-sacrifice must be extended. Great as the sacrifice has been, it is nothing compared to the demands made upon us by the country. We dare not support able-bodied members of the family - men or women - who will not work. We may not contribute a single piece towards the expenses of conforming to meaningless or superstitious customs, such as caste-dinners, or towards forming expensive marriage connections. Every marriage and every death brings an unnecessary cruel burden upon the head or the family. We must refuse to regard such acts of self-denial as self-sacrifice. They are evils to be counteracted with courage and resolution.
There is too, for us, the inordinately expensive education. When it is difficult for millions even to make the two ends meet, when millions are dying of starvation, it is monstrous to think if giving our relatives a costly education. Expansion of the mind will come from hard experience, not necessarily in the college or the school-room. When some of us deny ourselves and ours the so-called higher education, we shall find the true means of giving and receiving a really high education. Is there not, may there not be a way of each boy paying for his own education? There may be no such way. Whether there is or there is not such a way is irrelevant. But there is no doubt that when we deny ourselves the way of expensive education, seeing that aspiration after higher education is a laudable end, we shall find out a way of fulfilling it more in accord with our surroundings. The golden rule to apply in al such cases is resolutely to refuse to have what the millions cannot. The ability to refuse will not descend upon us all of a sudden. The first thing is to cultivate the mental attitude that we will not have possessions or facilities denied to millions, and the next immediate thing is to rearrange our lives as fast as possible in accordance with that mentality.
Without a large, very large, army of such self-sacrificing and determined workers, real progress of the masses, I hold to be an impossibility. And without that progress there is no such thing as Swaraj. Progress towards Swaraj will be in exact proportion to the increase in the number of workers who will dare to sacrifice their al for the cause of the poor.

-YI, 24-6-26, 226.

698.Whilst Gandhiji insists, as we have seen, on a village worker living on a villager's diet not costing say three annas a day, he is far from insisting on starvation or mortification of the flesh. To a worker who has imposed on himself a strict regimen involving only one meal a day, consisting generally of 15 tolas of rice boiled, amti (made of vegetables and dal ) and buttermilk, all costing only one anna per day, Gandhiji wrote:
Your meal is very meagre, it is starvation diet. In my opinion, you are not making full use of the instrument that God has put at your disposal. Do you know the story of the talents that were taken away from him who did not know how to use them, or having known would not use them?
‘Mortification of the flesh is a necessity when the flesh rebels against one; it is a sin when the flesh has come under subjection and can be used as an instrument of service. In other works, there is no inherent merit in mortification of the flesh.’

-H, 2-11-35, 299.

699.We should remember that Non-possession is a principle applicable to thoughts, as to things. One, 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.

-YM, 38.

700. Silence is part of the spiritual discipline of the votary of truth. Proneness to exaggerate, to suppress or modify the truth, willingly or unwillingly, is a natural weakness of man, and silence is necessary in order to surmount it. A man of few word will rarely be thoughtless in his speech; he will measure every word.

-Auto, 84.

Renunciation and Joy
701. No sacrifice is worth the name unless it is a joy. Sacrifice and a long face go ill together. Sacrifice is making sacrifice. He must be a poor specimen of humanity who is in need of sympathy for his sacrifice.

-YI, 25-6-25, 217

702.Forced sacrifice is no sacrifice. It will not last.

-YI, 11-8-20, Tagore, 410.

703.There should be no sorrow felt over one's sacrifice. That sacrifice which causes pain, loses its sacred character and will break down under stress. One gives up things that one considers to be injurious and therefore there should be pleasure attendant upon giving up.

-YI,15-7-26, 252,

Nature of True Restraint
704.Gandhiji's Favourite quotation from the sage Nishkulananda: Renunciation of objects, without the renunciation of desires, is short lived, however hard you may try.

-Auto, 20.

705.I know that the mental attitude is everything. Just as prayer may be merely a mechanical intonation as of a bird, so may a fast be a mere mechanical torture of the flesh. Neither will touch the soul within.

-YI, 16-2-22, 103.

706.Abstemiousness from intoxicating drinks and drugs, and from all kinds of foods, especially meat, is undoubtedly a great aid to the evolution of the spirit, but it is by no means an end in itself. Many a man eating meat and with everybody but living in the fear of God is nearer his freedom than a man religiously abstaining from meat and many other things, but blaspheming God in every one of his acts.

-YI, 6-10-21, 318.

707.I do feel that spiritual progress does demand at some stage that we should cease to kill our fellow creatures for the satisfaction of out bodily wants The beautiful lines of Goldsmith occur to me as I tell you of my vegetarian fad:
No flocks that range the valley free
To slaughter I condemn,
Taught by the Power that pities me
I learn to pity them.

-IC, 402.

708.Experince 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 al 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.

-YI, 7-10-26, 347.

709.By unnecessarily exercising ourselves over conundrums about the justifiability of man's killing creatures and animals of a lower order we often seem to forget our primary duties. Every one of us is not faced every day with the question of killing obnoxious animals. Most of us have not developed courage and love enough to practice ahimsa with regard to dangerous reptiles. We do not destroy the vipers of ill-will and anger in our bosom, but we dare to raise futile discussions about the propriety of killing obnoxious creatures and we thus move in a vicious circle. We fail in the primary duty and lay the unction to our souls that we are refraining from killing obnoxious life. One who desires to practice ahimsa must for he time being forget all about snakes etc Let him not worry if he cannot avoid killing them, but try for all he is worth to overcome the anger and ill-will of men by his patient endeavour as a first step towards cultivating universal love.
Abjure brinjals or potatoes by all means, if you will, but do not for heaven's sake begin to feel yourself self-righteous and flatter yourself that you are practicing ahimsa on that account. The very idea is enough to make one blush. Ahimsa in not a mere matter of dietetics, it transcends it. What a man eats or drinks matters little; it is the self-denial, the self-restraint behind it that matters. By all means practice as much restraint in the choice of the articles of your diet as you like. The restraint is commendable, even necessary, but it touches only the fringe of ahimsa. A man may allow himself a wide latitude in the mater of diet and yet may be a personification of ahimsa and compel our homage, if his heart overflows with love and melts at another's woe, and has been purged of al Passions. On the other hand, a man always over-scrupulous in diet is an utter stranger to ahimsa and a pitiful wretch if he is slave to selfishness and passions and is hard of heart.

-YI, 6-9-28, 300.