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 18: Health and Hygene

What service will an army of doctors render to the country ? What great things are they going to achieve by dissecting dead bodies, by killing animals, and by cramming worthless dicta for five or seven years? What will the country gain by the ability to cure physical diseases? That will simply increase our attachment to the body. We can formulate a plan for preventing the growth of disease even without the knowledge of medical science. This does not mean that there should be no doctors or physicians at all. They will always be with us. The point is that many a young man who gives an undue importance to this profession and wastes hundreds of rupees and several years qualifying for it, ought not to do so. We must know that we are not, nor are we going to be, benefited in the least by allopathic doctors.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. X, p. 206, 2-4-1910

Milk ... is but another form of meat and man has no right to take it. [To argue] that because a baby sucks the mother's milk, man should take cow's milk is the very limit of ignorance.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XII, p. 127, 2-7-1913

One should make do with the fewest possible articles [of food] and in the smallest possible quantity, no more than what is absolutely necessary to pay the body its hire. It will be best to frame the rules of our diet bearing this principle in mind.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XII, p. 387, 17-3-1914

It grieves me whenever I find that a medical man is weak or ailing. It is a perpetual reminder to us that medicine is such an incomplete, such an unreliable, and such an empirical science. If we think about it with sufficient detachment, we would at once realize its inherent weakness by understanding that there is no such thing as an absolute cure. The most potent drugs admit of innumerable exceptions. The most successful operation leaves literally and in the spirit a scar behind.

My Dear Child, p. 84, 20-8-1926

It is . . . enough for us to realise that every illness is but a breach of some unknown law of nature and to strive to know the laws and pray for power to obey. Heart prayer, therefore, whilst we are ill, is both work and medicine.

Bapu's Letters to Mira, p. 58, 9-7-1927

If we like tasty food, why hide that fact? Having a taste for good food is no sin. The sin lies in our hiding the craving, and then in secretly indulging in it. Every one, man or woman, is free to eat whatever he or she desires.... Any one may satisfy his taste for food, the only limitation being that the good food prepared should be within the rules of the common kitchen. None should cook dishes to satisfy special tastes whether secretly or openly, in one's quarters. One may go out and eat at a friend's place, there is nothing to hide in this and no restriction about what one might eat. One may also keep eatables such as dried fruits, etc. in one's room. It is better if such freedom is not availed of, but it is in no way binding. My earnest request to you is this: always seem what you are. Whatever you do, do it openly. Never allow yourself to be unduly influenced by another. But if ever you promise to do a thing even out of shame, never act contrary to it subsequently.

Bapu's Letters to Ashram Sisters, p. 64, 10-12-1928

For the child's cold, give it a sun-bath. This will act as hot fomentation, harden the skin and cure the cold.

Selected Letters-II, p. 21, 28-11-1930

Every sickness leaves behind it a legacy of weakness unless the system is allowed full rest and the mind relieved of tension. I suppose the mental control is the most difficult. For this the sovereign remedy is the application of the Gita. Each time mind suffers a shock, there is failure in application. Let good news as well as bad pass over you like water over a duck's back. When we hear any, our duty is merely to find out whether any action is necessary and if it is so, to do it as an instrument in the hands of Nature without being affected by or attached to the result. This detachment appears a scientific necessity when we remember that in bringing about a result more than one instrument is employed. Who shall dare say "I have done it"? . . . Any truth received by the brain must immediately be sent down to the heart. When it is not, it suffers abortion and then it lies on the brain as much poisonous matter. What poisons the brain poisons the whole system. Hence the necessity of using the brain as it should be merely as transmitting station. Whatever is there received is either transmitted to the heart for immediate action or it is rejected there and then as being unfit for transmission. Failure of the brain to perform this function properly is the cause of almost all the ills that flesh is heir to as also for mental exhaustion. If the brain simply performed its function, there need never be any brain-fag. So whenever we suffer from illness generally . . . there is not only a dietetic error but there is also failure on the part of the brain to function properly. The author of the Gita evidently saw this and gave the world the sovereign remedy in the clearest possible language.

Bapu's Letters to Mira, p. 139, 13-12-1930

It is my firm belief that in the vegetable kingdom there is undoubtedly something which can serve as an effective substitute for milk and is yet free from the drawbacks of milk. But the physicians who possess the qualifications necessary for such research never give thought to this subject.

To A Gandhian Capitalist, p. 75, 9-4-1932

You should cease to think the body as yours. It is God's, but God has given it to you for the time being to keep it clean and healthy and use it for His service. You are therefore the trustee, not the owner. An owner may abuse or misuse his property, but a trustee or keeper has to be very careful and make the best use of the property left under his care. So whilst you must not be anxious about the body, you have to take every care you can of it. God will take it away when He wishes.

Selected Letters-II, p. 27, 5-11-1932

More people are weak through over-feeding or wrong-feeding than through under-feeding. It is wonder¬ful, if we chose the right diet, what an extraordinarily small quantity would suffice!

Bapu's Letters to Mira, p. 254, 13-3-1933

Green vegetables, bread or chapati, milk and a little fruit is perfect food. When one gets milk, pulse is a harmful superfluity. One gets all the protein needed in milk.

Selected Letters-II, p. 24, 21-3-1933

As a confirmed believer in the natural mode of living, I think that we can rebuild shattered bodies by conforming to the laws of nature. Very often I have known persons who have succeeded in getting better where medical assistance has failed. This is no reflection on the doctor brother.

Letters to Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, p. 10, 17-1-1935

Physical suffering can be and should be transmitted into spiritual joy. It is difficult process but it has to be gone through, if one is to be truly rich. This forced illness should be used for enriching one's thoughts.

Letters to Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, p. 232, 21-10-1946

Take food as you would take medicine, and not in order to gratify the palate. Keep mind and body fully engaged in acts of service. Meditate on God as Truth.

Selected Letters-I, p. 37

I have learnt from childhood, and experience has confirmed the soundness of teaching, that spiritual gifts should not be used for the purpose of healing bodily ailments. I do however believe in abstention from use of drugs and the like. But this is purely on physical, hygienic grounds. I do also believe in utter reliance upon God, but then not in the hope that He will heal me, but in order to submit entirely to His will, and to share the fate of millions who, even though they wished to, can have no scientific medical help.

Selected Letters-I, p. 45

Give the poor and the afflicted the benefit of your medical knowledge free of charge.

Selected Letters-II, p. 31

Take great care of the body as a trustee of God's property. Do not pamper or spoil it, fill it with dirt or overload it.

Selected Letters-II, p. 33