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 5: The Science of Satyagraha

We hold that our movement of passive resistance merits the approval of all religious men, of all true patriots, of all men of commonsense and integrity. It is a movement so potent as to compel the respect of our adversaries by virtue of our very non-resistance, of our willingness to suffer; and we are the more firm in our determination to offer this opposition, because we consider that our example, on a small scale in this Colony, whether successful or unsuccessful may well be adopted by every oppressed people, by every oppressed individual, as being a more reliable and more honourable instrument for securing the redress of wrongs than any which has heretofore been adopted.

The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi -Vol. VII, pp. 333-34, 4- 11-1907

Who, then, should be regarded as true Satyagrahis? Of course, they who possess virtues like compassion, etc.
Nowhere has it been said that suffering may not have to be undergone. And what does suffering after all mean? It is the mind, says the Gita, which is the cause of our bondage as well as of our freedom. Sudhanva was thrown into boiling oil. The person who got him thrown into it thought that he was inflicting suffering on Sudhanva; but for the latter it was a grand opportunity to show the intensity of his devotion.

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

The function of violence is to obtain reform by external means; the function of passive resistance, that is, soul-force, is to obtain it by growth from within; which, in its turn, is obtained by self-suffering, self- purification. Violence ever fails; passive resistance is ever successful. The fight of a passive resister is none the less spiritual because he fights to win. Indeed, he is obliged to fight to win, that is, to obtain the mastery of self. Passive resistance is always moral, never cruel; and any activity, mental or otherwise which fails in this test is undoubtedly not passive resistance.

The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi -Vol. X, p. 248, 10-5-1910

Passive resistance seeks to rejoin politics and religion and to test every one of our actions in the light of ethical principles. That Jesus refused to use soul-force to turn stones into bread only supports my argument. Modern civilization is at present engaged in attempting that impossible feat. The use of soul-force for turning stones into bread would have been considered, as it is still considered, as black magic.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. X, p. 248, 10-5-1910

An ignorant mother may, from the purest motives, administer a dose of opium to her child. Her motives will not cure her of her ignorance, nor, in the moral world purge her of the offence of killing her child. A passive resister, recognizing this principle and knowing that, in spite of the purity of his motives, his action may be utterly wrong, leaves judgment to the Supreme Being, and, in attempting to resist what he holds to be wrong, suffers only in his own person.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. X, p. 248, 10-5-1910

A pure passive resister cannot allow himself to be regarded as a martyr nor can he complain of the hardships of prison or any other hardships, nor may he make political capital out of what may appear to be injustice or ill-treatment, much less may he allow any matter of passive resistance to be advertised.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. X, p. 249, 10-5-1910

The Gujarati for passive resistance is truth force. I have variously defined it as truth force, love force or soul force. But truly there is nothing in words. What one has to do is to live a life of love in the midst of the hate we see everywhere. And we cannot do it without unconquerable faith in its absolute efficacy. A great queen named Mirabai lived two or three hundred years ago. She forsook her husband and everything and lived a life of absolute love. Her husband at last became her devotee.

My Dear Child, p. 13, 11-6-1917

I have presented to the youths and to Indians in general in my humble way a better and more effective method and that is the method of soul force or truth force or love force which for want of a better term I have described as passive resistance. And I am asking the leaders to adopt this method fully and boldly at this critical juncture. It involves self-suffering and that alone throughout. No government in the world can afford continually to imprison or molest innocent men; the British Government cannot afford it. It is its great secret and character that even when it does wrong, it seeks to justify it before the world on moral grounds.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XIII, p. 465, 7-7-1917

Satyagraha means fighting injustice by voluntarily submitting oneself to suffering.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XIV p. 172, 22-1-1918

The purpose of Satyagraha is not to save our face but to instill courage into the people and make them independent in spirit. If, because of fear, or distrust of us, people lose heart and pay up, they but deserve to pay (compulsorily). We, on our part, should exert ourselves still more to be worthy of their trust. This is the royal road of Satyagraha.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XIV, p. 179, 31-1-1918

Repression answers only so long as you can overawe people. But even cowards have been known to exhibit extraordinary courage under equally extraordinary stress. In offering the remedy of self-suffering which is one meaning of Satyagraha, I follow the spirit of our civilization and present the young portion with a remedy of which he need never despair.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XV, p. 106, 25-2-1919

Passive resistance poorly expresses the meaning conveyed by the Satyagraha.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XV p. 96, 23-2-1919

Satyagraha in the political field is an extension of the law that governs the members of a family.

Collected, Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XV p. 176, 3-4-1919

It is certainly the Bhagwadgita's intention that one should go on working without attachment to the fruits of work. I deduce the principle of Satyagraha from this. He who is free from such attachment will not kill the enemy but rather sacrifice himself. Killing any enemy proceeds from impatience and impatience proceeds from attachment.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XV, p. 312, 19-5-1919

As far back as 1889, when I had my first contact with the Gita, it gave me a hint of Satyagraha and, as I read it more and more, the hint developed into a full revelation of Satyagraha. That a man of Krishna's intelligence should indulge in all this wisdom of the Gita for the benefit of an Arjuna in flesh and blood, would be like killing the buffalo for a leather-strap. To believe he did so is to tarnish his name, if it is true that he was the Supreme God, and to do injustice to Arjuna if he was a warrior of experience and judgment.

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

Satyagraha, once started, ends only when it has achieved its aim. At times it does seem to have ended, but in fact it has not. When Satyagraha is likely to be confused with duragraha1, suspending it will be a way of launching true Satyagraha. It is such a subtle thing that only through experience and constant reflection do we come to understand a little of it.

Collected Works Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XV, p. 314, 20-5-1919

A Satyagrahi is ever his own master....
It is quite true that, when an organization offers Satyagraha, individuals should submit themselves to its discipline. But, once a person has become a Satyagrahi, he will always find opportunities for offering Satya¬graha....
To be a Satyagrahi is like walking on the blade of a sword.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XV, p. 315, 20-5-1919

I have often said, "One real Satyagrahi is enough for victory." This is becoming clear to me day by day. Even as a true coin fetches its full value, so does a true Satyagrahi fetch his full value, i.e., attain the intended result. And even as false coins or coins of lesser value mixing with the true may diminish for the time being the value of the true coin, it seems to me that a Satyagraha Sangh (Sabha) being a mixture is a weakness from the pure Satyagraha standpoint.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XV, p. 389, 25-6-1919

Civil resistance has come to stay. It is an eternal doctrine of life which we follow consciously or unconsciously in many walks of life.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XVI, p. 6, 4-8-1919

No weapon in the Government armoury can either overcome or destroy that eternal force. Indeed a time must come when civil resistance will be recognized as the most efficacious, if also the most harmless, remedy for securing redress of grievances.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XVI, p. 6, 4-8-1919

We must be honourable friends, or equally honou¬rable enemies. We shall be neither, unless we are manly, fearless and independent. . . to. . . say 'no' when we mean 'no' without fear of consequences. This is unadul¬terated civil resistance. It is the way to friendliness and friendship. The other is the age-worn method of open violence on honourable lines in so far as violence can be allowed to be honourable. For me the roots of violence are in dishonour. I have therefore ventured to present to India the former, in its complete form called Satyagraha, whose roots are always in honour.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XVI, p. 6, 4-8-1919

Satyagraha has presented the rising generation with a new hope, an open road and an infallible remedy for most ills of life. It has armed that generation with an indestructible and matchless force which anyone may wield with impunity. Satyagraha tells the youth of India, self-suffering is the only sure road to salvation— economic, political and spiritual.
For the most part, Satyagraha is "evil resistance" and "civil assistance". But sometimes 'it has to be "civil resistance".

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XVI, p. 50, 20-8-1919

Thoreau in his immortal essay shows that civil disobedience, not violence, is the true remedy. In civil disobedience, the resister suffers the consequences of disobedience. This was what Danial did when he disobeyed the law of the Medes and Persians. That is what John Bunyan did and that is what the raiyats have done in India from time immemorial. It is the law of our beings. Violence is the law of the beast in us. Self- suffering, i.e. civil resistance, is the law of the man in us. It is rarely that the occasion for civil resistance arises in a well-ordered State. But when it does, it becomes a duty that cannot be shirked by one who counts his honour, i.e., conscience, above everything.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XVI, p. 51, 20-8-1919

My truthfulness, I feel, is peculiarly my own. My Ahimsa is an intense feeling and the Satyagraha born of a blending of the two is indeed indescribable.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XVI, p. 147, 15-9-1919

A Satyagrahi is the strongest when he appears to the outsider to have weakened.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XVI, p. 249, 20-10-1919

I have drawn the distinction between passive resistance as understood and practised in the West and Satyagraha before I had evolved the doctrine of the latter to its full logical and spiritual extent. I often used passive resistance and Satyagraha as synonymous terms, but as the doctrine of Satyagraha developed, the expression passive resistance ceases even to be synonymous, as passive resistance has admitted of violence as in the case of suffragettes and has been universally acknowledged to be a weapon of the weak. Moreover passive resistance does not necessarily involve complete adherence to truth under every circumstance. Therefore it is different from Satyagraha in three essentials: Satyagraha is a weapon of the strong; it admits of no violence under any circumstance whatever; and it ever insists upon truth. I think I have now made the distinction perfectly clear.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XVI, p. 509, 25-1-1920

If we can organize non-co-operation without indulging in violence, we have every right to do so; it is in fact our duty to do so.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XVII, p. 368-69, 1-5-1920

Violence dies when it ceases to evoke response from its object. Non-violence is the corner-stone of the edifice of non-co-operation.

Famous Letters of Mahatma Gandhi, p. 42, Jan. 1921

Intolerance is a species of violence and therefore against our creed. Non-violent non-co-operation is an object lesson in democracy. The moment we are able to ensure non-violence, even under circumstances the most provoking that moment we have achieved our end, because that is the moment when we can offer complete non-co-operation.

Famous Letters of Mahatma Gandhi, p. 42, Jan. 1921

The civil disobedience of Bardoli can make no impression upon the country when disobedience of a criminal character goes on in other parts of the country, both for the same end. The whole conception of civil disobedience is based upon the assumption that it works in and through its completely non-violent character. I may be a bad student of human nature to believe that such an atmosphere can ever be brought about in a vast country like India, but that would be an argument for condemning my capacity for sound judgment, not for continuing a movement which is in that case bound to be unsuccessful. I personally can never be party to a movement half violent and half non-violent, even though it may result in the attainment of so-called Swaraj, for it will not be real Swaraj as I have conceived it.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XXII, pp. 350-51, 8-2-1922

There is such a close connection between the means and the end that it is difficult to say which of the two is more important. Or we may say that the means is the body and the end is the soul. The end is invisible, the means is visible. Now we shall have the pleasure of demonstrating this great truth.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XXIII, p. 69, 9-3-1922

There is no such thing as a settled fact in Satyagraha. If you find that you have erred at any stage, it is never too late to retrace your step. If, in Travancore, public opinion is not in favour, you may not overawe the public by a demonstration from outside. You must patiently wait and suffer. Reduce yourselves to the position of the suppressed classes. Live with them and suffer their humiliation. You are the first person to tell me that the public in Travancore are not with you.
If you are fighting as an enlightened Hindu against the bigoted Hindu, it is your bounden duty not only not to seek but respectfully to reject all support from non- Hindus. Surely, I do not need to prove the truth of such a simple proposition. I think I have traversed all the points raised by you in your manuscript. I have placed before you, in all humility, the view of Satyagraha as I know it; and since I am the author of the word, you must let me give its meaning, and if you do not accept the meaning, the proper thing is to find another word that will bear your own meaning. But, of course, this is a technical point. Even the author cannot claim any exclusive control over words he may coin or the meanings he may give to them. Once they escape his lips or pen, they are no longer his property.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XXIII, pp. 544-45. 6-5-1924

Satyagraha is taken up by one who feels that truth is being trampled under foot. He fights against error with only God as his support. He is never in search for any other support. It comes in time, and if it is legitimate, he accepts it. A Satyagrahi is pledged to fight single-handed in the face of starvation and worse.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XXIII, pp. 544-45, 6-5-1924

My belief in Satyagraha and non-violence is as green as ever.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XXVI, p. 208, 28-2-1925

  1. Insistence upon evil