SECTION II : Extracts From Letters

[ from Selected Works of Mahatma Gandhi : Vol - 4 ]

Mahatma Gandhi

Selected Works of Mahatma Gandhi
Volume IV

Table of Contents

  • Foreword
  • Publisher's Note



  1. Faith in God
  2. Religions and Scriptures
  3. Value of Prayer
  4. Truth and Non-violence
  5. The Science of Satyagraha
  6. Fasting in Satyagraha
  7. Unto This Last
  8. Khadi and Village Industry
  9. East and West
  10. Hindu-Muslim Unity
  11. Upliftment of Women
  12. The Good of All
  13. India's Freedom
  14. Education
  15. Caste System and Untouchability
  16. Brahmacharya
  17. Fearlessness
  18. Health and Hygene
  19. Self-restraint
  20. Self-development
  21. Selfless Service
  22. Voluntary Poverty

About This Volumes

Selected Works of Mahatma Gandhi

Selected Works of Mahatma Gandhi comprises of Five volumes.

  • Vol-I: Autobiography
  • Vol-II: Satyagraha in South Africa
  • Vol-III: Basic Works
    1. Ethical Religion
    2. Unto This Last
    3. Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule
    4. From Yeravada Mandir
    5. Discourses on the Gita
    6. Constructive Programme
    7. Key to Health
  • Vol-IV: Selected Letters
  • Vol-V: Voice of Truth

This book, Selected Letters, is volume-4.

Written by : M. K. Gandhi
General Editor : Shriman Narayan
Volume Selected Works of Mahatma Gandhi : A set of five books
ISBN: 81-7229-278-3 (set)
Printed and Published by :
Jitendra T. Desai
Navajivan Mudranalaya,
© Navajivan Trust, 1968


Chapter 16: Brahmacharya

The vow of Brahmacharya and other vows are holy and bring happiness only when they are taken as a spiritual discipline. If resorted to by a demon, they only add to misery.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. IX, p. 117, 28-12-1908

When we have any doubt concerning problems of morality, we may disregard the orders of other elders; nay, it would be our duty to disobey them. But when there is no doubt about the morality of a question, even parents' orders can be disregarded; nay, it will be our duty to do so. If my father asks me to steal, I must not. If I want to observe Brahmacharya and my parents' orders are to the contrary, I must politely disobey them.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. X, p. 406, 8-2-1911

To indulge in the pleasures of the senses and then assert that one does nothing, that the senses just go their way, that one is a mere observer; all this is vain chatter. He alone may argue thus who has achieved complete mastery over his senses and whose senses function only to keep the body going. By the same token, there is not one among us who is fit enough to speak these words and there will be none till we have achieved true poverty. There is no reason to believe that kings are kings in virtue of their punya. All that can be said is that they are kings because of their deeds. But to say that these were necessarily good deeds seems entirely wrong, considering the nature of the atman.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XI, p. 150, 23-8-1911

The desire must be suppressed with the utmost effort. Improper desires will always occur. By suppress¬ing them every time, we grow firmer in mind and gain in spiritual strength.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XII, p. 389, 17-3-1914

Everything is transient, except the atman. Not only should we keep reminding ourselves of this but we should work on accordingly. The more I reflect, the more insistently I feel the supreme importance of Truth and Brahmacharya. The latter, together with all other rules of morality, is comprehended in truth. I cannot help thinking; however, the Brahmacharya is important enough to share the place of honour with truth. It is my unshakable faith that these two can conquer any obstacle whatever. The real obstacles are the evil desires of the mind. If, for our happiness, we depend in no way on our outward relations with others, we would always think of what we ought to do rather than of what people might say.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XII, p. 396, 22-3-1914

Truthfulness, Brahmacharya, non-violence, non- stealing and non-hoarding, these five rules of life are obligatory on all aspirants. Everyone should be an aspirant. A man's character, therefore, is to be built on the foundation of these disciplines. Beyond doubt, they are to be observed by everyone in the world. Though a businessman, one must never utter or practice untruth; though married, one must remain celibate; though keeping oneself alive, one can practise non-violence. It is difficult to be of the world and yet not to steal (to observe the rule of non-stealing and not to hoard wealth or any other thing. One must, nevertheless, keep that as an ideal to be attained and have some limit in these respects; when the mind has begun to turn away from these things, one may even embrace the supreme renunciation.

To A Gandhian Capitalist, XIII, pp. 17-18, 7-22-1915

It is my conviction that one cannot build one's character without the help of vows. They are to a man what anchor is to a ship. A ship without an anchor is tossed to and fro and finally broken on the rocks; without vows, human beings meet a similar fate. The vow of truth includes all others. How would a man who respects truth violate Brahmacharya or steal anything? "Brahma alone is real; all else is non-existent." If this sutra is true, knowledge of Brahma is implied in the observance of truth.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XIV p. 97, 22-11-1917

There is no temptation so difficult to overcome as that of the palate and it is because it is so difficult that we think so little about it. In my opinion, mastery of the palate means mastery of everything.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XV p. 34, 29-8-1918

In order to observe Brahmacharya the following things are absolutely necessary: (1) solitude; (2) modera¬tion in eating; (3) good books; (4) regular meditation; (5) plenty of physical and mental labour; (6) abstaining from spicy and intoxicating food or drinks; (7) abstain¬ing from shows and other things having a sex appeal; (8) giving up the desire for sexual intercourse; (9) avoiding being alone with a woman; (10) repeating Ramanama or some other mantra (formula).

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XXV PP- 133-34, 13-9-1924

Brahmacharya is such only if it persists under all conditions and in the face of every possible temptation. If a beautiful woman approaches the marble statue of a man, it will not be affected in the least. A Brahmachari is one who reacts in a similar case in the same way as marble does. But just as the marble statue refrains from using its eyes or ears, even so a man should avoid every occasion of sin.

The Diary of Mahadev Desai, Vol. I, p. 80, 19-4-1932

Brahmacharya hardly deserves the name if it can be observed only by avoiding the company of women even when such company is kept with a view to serve. It amounts to physical renunciation unbacked by the essential mental detachment, and lets us down in critical times. The Gita is right in saying (II: 59) that one's yearning for the pleasures of the world withers away only when he has had the beautific vision. But the converse of this statement is equally true: one must not hope for realization so long as he yearns after the fleshpots of Egypt. That is to say, the two things go hand to hand. The yearning departs when one beholds the Supreme. Although the objects of sense have disappeared, the yearning for them has not been thoroughly uprooted. Therefore there is a possibility of desire raising its head so long as one has not seen God. After a man has seen Him desire becomes an impossibility; indeed he ceases to be masculine and becomes sexless. He is no longer a significant figure but is reduced to zero. In other words his personality melts away in that of God. The idea becomes clearer if in place of the words param, God, Brahma, we used the word satya or truth. There is no room here for self-deception. If there is any one in the Ashram who talks of taking the whole world for his family but harbours evil thoughts in his mind, he is a mithyachari (hypocrite) in the language of the Gita (III: 6) while we are all along thinking of a satyachari (truthful person) and how he should behave.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. I, pp. 80-81, 19-4-1932

It is a sin to believe that anyone else is inferior or superior to ourselves. We are all equal. It is the touch of sin that pollutes us, and never that of a human being. None are high and none are low for one who would devote his life to service. The distinction between high and low is a blot on Hinduism, which we must obliterate.

The Diary of Mahadev Desai, Vol. 1, pp. 286-87, 14-8-1932

Wandering thoughts can never be a stage in spiritual development. They do trouble most of us; hence the usual emphasis laid on mental concentration. What we have to bear in mind is this. We think a multitude of thoughts which involve a waste of mental energy even as sensuality results in the waste of vital energy. Just as physical debility affects the mind, so also mental debility affects the body. Therefore, I understand Brahmacharya in a comprehensive sense and look upon aimless thinking as a breach of it. We have made Brahmacharya difficult to achieve by understanding it in a narrow sense. But if we accept the broader definition and try to restrain all the eleven organs of sense, the control of animal passion becomes comparatively very much easier.

The Diary of Mahadev Desai, Vol. 1, p. 305, 23-8-1932

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 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 succor from thousands of miles.

Bapu's Letters to Mira, p. 257, 27-4-1933

Brahmacharya is a mental state. It is undoubtedly helped by abstemiousness in all respects. But diet plays the least part in giving one the necessary mental state. Not that wrong diet will not hinder progress. What I want to say is that the right diet taken in moderation is not the only thing in the observance of Brahmacharya though it is undoubtedly one of the necessary things. Indulgence of the palate will be the surest sign of a weak mental state which is repugnant to Brahmacharya. The sovereign remedy for the observance of Brahmacharya is realization that the soul is a part of the Divine and that the Divine resides within us. A heart grasp of this fact induces mental purity and strength.

Selected Letters-II, p. 3