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 1: Faith in God

This world is transient. If, therefore, I leave this world, why should one be worried on that account? It should be enough to wish that nothing improper is done by me as long as I live. We should of course be careful that we do nothing improper even by mistake. True, I have not yet reached the stage when I can attain liberation but I do believe that if I leave this body while treading the path along which my thoughts are nowadays running, I shall be reborn and speedily attain to moksha1 at the end of that life.

The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi -Vol. VIII, p. 254, 21-5-1908

The body should not be dearer than the soul. He who knows the soul, and also knows that it is different from the body, will not try to protect his body by committing violence. All this is very difficult indeed; but he who has imbibed very noble ideas easily understands it and acts accordingly. The belief that the soul can do good or evil only when it is encased in a body is quite mistaken and terrible sins have been and are being committed owing to it. There is no such law that the soul can be known only at an advanced age. Many old men pass away without knowing the soul, while persons like the late Raichandbhai have been able to realize the self even at the age of 8. Mistakes are made and sins committed despite such knowledge; but these can be eliminated after very careful thought. The body has been given to us for curbing it.

The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi -Vol. IX, p. 418, 17-9-1908

To ask how there can be moksha if there is no God is to fail to understand moksha. We can grasp only a part of the meaning of moksha; the rest must be experienced; it cannot be put into words. We have no organs with which to describe it. In so far as we can understand, it means deliverance from having to assume an endless succession of various bodies, and from the resultant suffering. There is no need, however, to deny the existence of God. We may try to define God in accordance with the limits of our knowledge. At any rate, God is no dispenser of rewards and punishments, nor is He an active agent. But, if one atman2 can be conceived after the embodied atmans have become free; it is God. He is no material thing but pure consciousness. This is also the view of the advaitavadins.3 At no time and in no circumstances we need a kinglike God. By thinking that we do, we put a limit to the power of the atman, which is infinite.

The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi -Vol. XII, p. 92, 30-5-1913

We are to concern ourselves only with activities that tend to spiritual welfare. Everything else-even health- is subordinate to that. Certain it is that he he who strives to realize the Self will have everything else given to him.

The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi - Vol. XII, p. 125, 2-7-1913

God exists, and yet does not. He does not, in any literal sense. The atmah that has attained moksha is God and therefore omniscient. The true meaning of bhakti4 is search for the atman. When the atman realizes itself, bhakti is transformed into jnana.5
Narsimha (Mehta)6 and others gave themselves to such devoted search of the atman.
Krishna, Rama and others were divine incarnations, but we, too, can be like them when immense punya7 has accrued to us. The atmans about to attain moksha are so many divine incarnations. We need not believe in their perfection while yet alive.

The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi - Vol. XII, p. 126, 2- 7-1913

It is difficult to say who was the greatest among Krishna, Rama, the Buddha, Jesus, etc. Their achievements differed, because they lived in different times and under different circumstances. In point of character alone, possibly the Buddha was the greatest. But who can say ? They have been described by their devotees according to their own inclinations. Vaishanavas8 attribute perfection to Krishna. One has to, of course. Otherwise single-minded bhakti would be impossible. Christians do the same to Jesus. In India, Krishna being the last (of the incarnations), his figure is invested with especial greatness.

The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi - Vol XII, p. 126, 2-7-1913

Those who deny the existence of God will end up on the wrong path, for they will be obliged to deny the existence of the atman. Avatar9 is, and will always remain, a necessity. It is only when people are in utter despair and immorality is widespread that a belief in avatar comes to prevail. A small number following normal morality in the midst of a wicked majority looks for support. In a situation of this kind, a man of great moral strength who has no fear of the wicked but of whom the wicked stand in fear, is looked upon as an avatar after his death, or even during his lifetime. It is not probable, in most cases, that such a person regards himself as an avatar right from the beginning.

The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi - Vol. XII, p. 126, 2- 7-1913

Besides tamas, there are the qualities of rajas and sattava.10 The first keeps a man blind, ignorant and lethargic. The second makes him rash, daring and energetic in worldly pursuits. The quality of rajas predominates among the nations of Europe. Most of our activities are also of a like nature. Those endowed with the quality of sattva are tranquil, self-collected and discriminating. They do not bother themselves with the affairs of the world, but keep their minds fixed on God. This sattvic disposition has been rightly described as "soothfastness". "Soothfast" means calm. With "ness", the word becomes a noun and means peace. Only when the mind is peaceful one can realize God, and the state of mind in which such realization becomes possible is the sattvic state. God, as transcending the three qualities has no activity, good or otherwise, but (through) mava11 He exists as chaitanya.12 He is beyond the three qualities. When, however, He does engage Himself in some activity, such as instructing Arjuna, the impulse behind it is a sattvic one and, since activity as such is a mode of qualification, He (Krishna) is described as (God) in his sattva-qualified aspect.

The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi - Vol. XII, pp. 188-89, 17-9-1913

The body is sure to fall, and that, on the appointed day. Remedies occur to us accordingly. The atman, besides, is immortal and, though we seem to be concerned only with the body, our real concern should be for the atman. For a truth, we don't preserve the body for any length of time after the soul has left it.

The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi - Vol. XII, p. 373, 5-3-1914

There is no God but Truth. One's virtues are no dead matter but are all life.

The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi - Vol. XIV, p. 385, 1-5-1918

God's ways are inscrutable. Karma can never be undone. All action bears fruit, good or bad, and what we call an accident is not one in fact. It but seems so to us. No one dies before his time. Death, besides, is only the final transformation of the same entity, it is not a total annihilation. The atman is immortal. Even the transformation is only of the body. The state changes, not the atman.

The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi - Vol. XIV p. 502, 24-7-1918

Just as we are happy changing from an old house to a new one, we have no cause, surely, to mourn when an atman-friend gives up a worn-out body and assumes a new one. This would be true, whether the person died young or old. When exactly a body ceases to be serviceable, its Creator alone knows. We may not aspire to know it.

The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi - Vol. XV, p. 313, 19-5-1919

I have no axes to grind, no worldly ambition to serve. The only purpose of life is to see God face to face, and the more I see of life and its experiences, the more I feel that everyone does not receive the light in the same way even as, though the sun is the same, we see it differently from the equatorial regions, from the temperate zone and from the frigid zone.

The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi - Vol. XXIII, p. 267, 18-3-1924

In my opinion, God's name and God's work go hand to hand. There is no question of preference because the two are indivisible. A parrot-like repetition of the name is worse than useless, and service or action without the consciousness that it is done in God's name and for God's sake is also valueless, and if we sometimes pass our time in merely repeating the name of the deity as we have to, it is simply a course of preparation for self-dedication, that is, service for the sake of and in the name of God, and when we are thoroughly attuned, continued service in that spirit is itself equal to the repetition of the name of the deity. In the vast majority of cases, however, the setting apart a part of our time for prayer is a vital necessity. So far as I am aware, all scriptures and, certainly, the Indian scriptures, hold a guru13 to be absolutely indispensable, but if we cannot get a real guru, a sham substitute is not only useless but injurious. That is one of the reasons why I suppose the tenth guru established the Granth Sahib as the last Guru.
I have no spiritual guru, but believing in the institution, I have been in search of one for the last thirty years. The very search is the greatest consolation to me.

The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi - Vol. XXIII, p. 289, 1-3-1924

Why should one fear who knows that God is the Protector of all? By saying that God is the Protector of all I do not mean that none would be able to rob us or that no animal will attack us. It is no slur on God's protection if such things happen to us; it is only due to our lack of faith in Him. The river is for ever ready to give water to all. But if one does not go near it with a pot to get water, or avoids it thinking its water poisonous, how can that be the fault of the river ? All fear is a sign of lack of faith. But faith cannot be developed by means of reasoning. It comes gradually through quiet thinking, contemplation and practice. To develop such faith, we pray to God, read good books, seek the company of the good and take to sacrificial spinning at the wheel. He who has no faith will not even touch the spinning-wheel.

Bapu's Letters to Ashram Sisters, p. 28, 16-5-1927

Truth is that God saves me so long as He wants me in this body. The moment His wants are satisfied, no precautions on my part will save me.

Bapu's Letters to Mira, p. 91, 8-4-1929

Those who believe in God's guidance just do the best they can and never worry. The sun has never been known to suffer from overstrain and yet who slaves with such unexampled' regularity as he! And why should we think that the sun is inanimate ? The difference between him and us may be that he has no choice, we have a margin, no matter how precarious it may be. But no more speculation of this sort. Suffice it for us that we have his brilliant example in the matter of tireless energy. If we completely surrender ourselves to His will and really become ciphers, we too voluntarily give up the right of choice and then we need no wear and tear.

Bapu's Letters to Mira, p. 171, 11-2-1932

If we have trust in God, we should not worry even as we would not when we have a trustworthy doorkeeper or guard. And who can be a better doorkeeper or guard than God the never-failing. It is not enough that we sing about such things or have a mere intellectual grasp. It is necessary to feel the thing within. Feeling is exactly like feeling pain or pleasure. It admits of or needs no argument. Who can argue us out of our experience? I write this, because I want you to be absolutely free from all care and anxiety.

My Dear Child, p. 89, 13-4-1932

There cannot be any proof for the existence of God which is acceptable to human reason, for, God is beyond reason. We land ourselves in great difficulty if we think that reason is everything and that there is nothing beyond it. The human soul herself is beyond reason. People have tried to reason out her existence as well as the existence of God. But he who knows the soul and God by his intellect knows nothing. Intellect at times is useful in the acquisition of knowledge, but man who depends upon it, alone can never know the self, just as someone who knows the advantages of eating food- grains by his intellect cannot derive the benefits which accrue from actual eating. The soul and God are not objects of knowledge. They are knowers themselves and therefore cannot be apprehended by the intellect. There are two stages in the knowledge of God, (1) faith and (2) experience arising from faith. The great teachers of mankind have borne witness to the existence of God by their experience. And those whom the world would dismiss as fools have borne witness by their faith. If we share their faith, we shall have actual experience in God's good time. A man sees another with his eyes, but being deaf hears nothing. If then he says the other man cannot be heard he would be wrong of course. In the same way to say that God cannot be recognized by reason is to betray our ignorance. We cannot perceive God by the senses or apprehend Him by the intellect, just as we cannot hear with the eyes. A different faculty is needed to realize God and that faculty is unshakable faith. The intellect can be misled every moment as we know to our cost. But real faith can never be led astray.

My Dear Child, p. 89, 13-4-1932

Though death and life are the faces of the same com and though we should die as cheerfully as we live, it is necessary while there is life to give the body its due. lt is a charge given to us by God. And we have to take all reasonable care about it.

The Diary of Mahadev Desai, Vol. I, p. 124, 22-5-1932

I was at first lacking in faith, but, I acquired it by contemplation and study of religions. It grows stronger from day to day, as I have an increasing realization of the fact that God abides with me in my heart. . . . But . . . one man's experience in this line is of no use to another. Faith can be strengthened only by constant effort informed by faith.

The Diary of Mahadev Desai, Vol. I, p. 125, 23-5-1932

God means Truth. For the last few years I have been saying that Truth is God instead of 'God is Truth'. The former statement is more consonant with facts, for in this world there is nothing besides Truth. Truth here should be understood in a wide sense. It is full of intelligence. God as Truth and His Law are not different but one and the same; therefore it also is full of intelligence. Indeed it is all the same whether we say that the universe is a function of Truth or that it is a function of Law. This Truth is charged with infinite power. In the language of the Gita, (Chapter 10), the universe is sustained by a fraction of it. Therefore if you replace the word God by the word Truth wherever it occurs, you will have some idea of what I mean.
If God is, it is our duty to worship Him even if we recognize him as Truth. We tend to become what we worship. That is the whole and comprehensive meaning of prayer. Truth abides in the human heart. But we realize it indifferently or not at all. Sincere prayer is the key to such realization.

The Diary of Mahadev Desai, Vol. I, p. 160, 13-6-1932

The purpose of life is undoubtedly to know oneself! We cannot do it unless we learn to identify ourselves with all that lives. The sum-total of that life is God. Hence the necessity of realizing God living within every one of us. The instrument of this knowledge is boundless selfless service.

The Diary of Mahadev Desai, Vol. I, p. 184, 21-6-1932

The inner voice defies description. But sometimes we do feel that we receive an inspiration from within....

The Diary of Mahadev Desai, Vol. I, p. 275, 7-8-1932

My spiritual growth has been unnoticed like the growth of hair on our heads.

The Diary of Mahadev Desai, Vol. I, p. 275, 7-8-1932

Sorrows of God's servants are their joys. They are the fires through which God tries and purifies them. Unmixed joys of the earth will stink in our nostrils and we should die for want of the oxygen of sorrows.

Selected Letters-II, p. 34, 9-10-1932

When God is the care-taker for us all, why need we carry the burden? Ours is but to do the task that falls to our lot.

Selected Letters-II, p. 35, 22-10-1932

If we exist, God exists as well; for the totality of life is God even as the totality of solar rays is the sun. In order to have faith in this God, you must have faith m yourself. Faith in oneself can be won by the selfless service of humanity. Or else we may believe in God because all the world besides believes in Him.

Selected Letters-II, p. 32, 19-12-1932

Objects of senses are eradicated only by seeing God face to face, in other words by faith in God. To have complete faith in God is to see Him. Nor is the matter any better by assuming the existence of the fourth dimension. It ultimately points to the same thing. "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all else will be added unto you." When we meet Him we will dance in the joy of His Presence and there will be neither fear of snakes, nor of the death of dear ones. For there is no death and no snake bite in His Presence. The fact is that the most living faith too falls short of the perfect. Hence there is no such thing as complete absence of fear for the embodied, i.e. imprisoned soul. The possession of the body is a limitation. It is a wall of separation. We can therefore but try to shed our fear, i.e. increase our faith.

Bapu's Letters to Mira, p. 231, 22-12-1932

We are the Universe. We are in it and it is in us. God also is within us. Our eyes do not see the air that fills our bodies, but we have the faculty to perceive it. It is possible to develop the faculty of perceiving God and if we do succeed in doing so, we can even recognize God.

To Gandhian Capitalist, p. 150, 11-1-1933

If you have a living faith in a living God, you would feel His never-failing presence protecting you. Till that state is reached even faith in an individual clothed in flesh and bone is not of any avail. It is relying on a broken reed. You should first think this out clearly and then get the heart to co-operate with the intellect.

Bapu's Letters to Mira, p. 260, 4-5-1933

When we know that God Himself is the mystery of mysteries, why should anything that He does perplex us? If He acted as we would have Him do or if He acted exactly like us, we would not be His creatures and He our Creator. The impenetrable darkness that surrounds us is not a curse but a blessing. He has given us power to see the steps in front of us and it would be enough if Heavenly Light reveals that step to us. We can then sing with Newman 'One step enough for me'. And we may be sure from our past experience that then next step will always be in view. In other words the impenetrable darkness is nothing so impenetrable as we may imagine. But it seems impenetrable when in our impatience we want to look beyond that one step. And since God is love, we can say definitely that even the physical catastrophies that He sends now and then must be a blessing in disguise and they can be so only to those who regard them as a warning for introspection and self-purification.

My Dear Child, pp. 104-05, 31-3-1934

God watches us all not with a view to punish but to chasten.

Selected Letters-I, p. 17

The power that moves us is God. Just as a watch stops when its wound up spring has run out, so also when our spring is done, our cart comes to a dead halt. While it is still on the move, we feel that a certain freedom of action is granted to us. Let us use that freedom to learn and do the will of the great Carpenter.

Selected Letters-I, p. 23

I have known God only as Truth. There was a time when I had doubts about the existence of God, but I never doubted the existence of Truth. This Truth is not something material but pure intelligence. It rules over the universe; therefore it is Ishvara (The Lord). . . . This is for me almost a matter of experience.

Selected Letters-I, p. 38

Perfect realization of the Supreme is impossible so long as one is subject to the limitations of life. He might reach the door but cannot enter as he still bears his body like chains.

Selected Letters-I, p. 39

I say that Truth is God not because God is without form and so is Truth, but because Truth is the only comprehensive attribute of God. Other attributes are only partial expressions of the reality that is God.

Selected Letters-I, p. 55

By looking upon Truth as God we steer clear of quite a number of dangers. We lose all interest in seeing or hearing about miracles. Seeing God is difficult to understand; but seeing Truth presents no such difficulty. Seeing Truth is indeed a hard task, but as we approach nearer and nearer to truth, we catch a glimpse of the God of Truth, so that we hope to have a full view in His good time and our faith also burns brighter and brighter.

Selected Letters-I, p. 56

We may have any number of co-workers but God alone can be our friend. Friendship with men comes in the way of our friendship with God, as I have found from experience.

Selected Letters-I, p. 56

A man realizes the Supreme by becoming absolutely free from likes and dislikes and never otherwise. I hold that he who says that he has attained realization is far, far away from his destination. Realization is a matter of experience but does not lend itself to description in language.
I can live only in virtue of my faith in God. In my view there is no God different from Truth. Truth is God.

Selected Letters-I, p. 51

We must believe in the existence of God, inasmuch as we believe in our own. Living beings exist and so does God who is the sum-total of all life.
By a disbelief in God we injure ourselves in the same way as if we disbelieved in ourselves. That is to say, not to believe in God is something like suicide. But it is one thing to believe in God, and quite another thing to conduct ourselves as if we had such a living faith. As a matter of fact there is no atheist in the world; atheism is a mere presence.

Selected Letters-I, p. 51

  1. Freedom from birth
  2. The Self, not identifiable with any aspect of human individuality
  3. Those who hold the view that the atman, the Self in man, is not distinct from the Biahman, the Absolute.
  4. Devotion
  5. Knowledge
  6. Poet-Saint of Gujarat
  7. Accumulated merit
  8. A Hindu sect worshipping Vishnu—the second deity of sacred Triad (Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh)
  9. Incarnation
  10. Mental propensities derived from one's physiological equipment (Vide Bhagwad Gita, XIV, 5-8)
  11. A Vedantic concept, seeking to explain phenomenal existence
  12. Principle of life and consciousness
  13. Spiritual Guide