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 4: Truth and Non-violence

Untruth does not become truth because of purity of motive. Just as a moneyed man is said to have but one eye for watching things, there is only one path of truth. Likewise, there are many paths of untruth, in the same way that a thief has as many as four eyes, as the saying goes. A person lost in this mazy network of paths is ruined and, if he happens to be a guardian or trustee, he also ruins the person whose interests he is appointed to protect.

The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi -Vol. XV p. 23, 17-9-1918

Ignorance is also a kind of darkness, a species of un¬truth. It cannot, therefore, withstand knowledge or truth.

The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi -Vol. XVI, p., 87, 3-9-1918

My desire is to close this life searching for truth, acting truth and thinking truth and that alone, and I request the blessings of the nation that that desire of mine may be fulfilled.

The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi -Vol. XVI, p. 175, 28-9-1919

Truth has no form. Therefore everyone will form such an idea or image of truth as appeals to him, and there will be as many images of truth as there are men These will all be true as long as they last. For they enable a man to obtain everything he wants. As a matter of fact names such as Brahma, Vishnu, Ishvara, Bhagavan are either meaningless or at least not significant enough, whereas Satya (Truth) is the perfect name for God. If one says he will die for God's sake, he cannot make plain to others what he means, and people who hear him say so will hardly understand it. On the other hand one who says he will die for truth knows what he means, and his words will be generally understood by those who hear him.

The Diary of Mahadev Desai, Vol. I, p. 120, 20-5-1932

I feel that whilst we should spare evil-doers, we dare not be sparing in our condemnation of evil. Perfect gentleness is not inconsistent with clearest possible denunciation of what one knows to be evil, so long as that knowledge persists; and there would need to be no cause for regret later if our knowledge of the past was found to be a great error of judgment. In our endeavour to approach absolute truth we shall always have to be content with relative truth from time to time, the relative at each stage being for us as good as the absolute. It can be easily demonstrated that there would be no progress if there was no such confidence in oneself. Of course our language would be one of caution and hesitation if we had any doubt about the correctness of our position.

The Diary of Mahadev Desai, Vol. I, p. 129, 25-5-1932

One who resorts to untruth with any end in view whatsoever and is full of likes and dislikes can never attain the Supreme.

The Diary of Mahadev Desai, I, p. 250, 24-7-1932

To tread the path of truth implies an active life in the world of men. In the absence of such activity, there is no occasion for either pursuing or swerving from truth. The Gita has made it clear that a man cannot remain inactive even for a single moment. The differ¬ence between one who is a devotee of God and another who is not is that the former is active in the service of others, never gives up truth in the midst of activity and gradually overcomes his likes and dislikes, while the other is active for selfish reasons, and has no scruples whatever as regards the means he employs in order to achieve his selfish ends. This world is not something evil in itself, for only an active life in the world can help us to attain the goal of God-realization. This activity must be directed to the good of others. Selfish activity is fit only to be condemned and should be given up.

The Diary of Mahadev Desai, Vol. I p. 251, 24-7-1932

The truth, where it is relevant, must be told at any cost.

Selected Letters-I, p. 45

A lover of truth entertains only righteous wishes which are bound to be fulfilled. Our prayers bear fruit for the world to the extent that our soul is grounded in Truth. The universe is not different from us, and we are not different from the universe.

Selected Letters-I, p. 55

Non-violence and truth are convertible terms. This seems to be the idea behind the saying, "One must speak truth, truth that is agreeable." That is genuine truth which causes no pain, for that alone is non-violent. Truth may sound harsh but it can never result in suffering. Our employment of truth may offend the other person, but his conscience will tell him that what was said about him was true and was said with the best of motives. We are here interpreting truth in its widest connotation. Truth does not mean merely being truthful in speech; the term "truth" means exactly the same thing as it does in the sutra about Brahma alone being true. The English word "truth" also carries the same meaning.

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

Truth and non-violence are the same thing. The one includes the other. If anyone vowed to non-violence speaks or acts untruth, he will be violating his vow. If a man dedicated to truth commits violence, he will sacrifice truth. Even if a man refuses to reply, out of fear, he will be violating the vow of non-violence.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XIV, p. 157, 17-2-1918

You cannot teach Ahimsa to a man who cannot kill. You cannot make a dumb man appreciate the beauty and the merit of silence. Although I know that silence is most excellent, I do not hesitate to take means that would enable the dumb man to regain his speech. I do not believe in any Government,—but Parliamentary Government is perhaps better than capricious rule.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XIV P- 444, 22-6-1918

It is my practice of Ahimsa and failure to get our people even to understand the first principles of Ahimsa that have led to the discovery that all killing is not himsa, that, sometimes, practice of Ahimsa may even necessitate killing and that we as a nation have lost the true power of killing. It is clear that he who has lost the power to kill cannot practise non-killing. Ahimsa is a renunciation of the highest type. A weak and an effeminate nation cannot perform this grand act of renunciation, even as a mouse cannot be properly said to renounce the power of killing a cat. It may look terrible but it is true that we must by well-sustained, conscious effort, regain this power, and, then, if we can only do so, deliver the world from its travail of himsa by a continuous abdication of this power. I cannot describe to you in sufficiently telling language the grief I often used to feel as I watched my failure to carry conviction about Ahimsa even to the members of the Ashram. Not that they were unwilling listeners, but I could perceive, as I now think plainly, that they had not the capacity for apprehending the truth. It was like singing the finest music to ears untuned to any music. But today practically everyone at the Ashram understands it, and is aglow with the expectation that Ahimsa is a renunciation out of strength and not out of weakness. It is not possible to make any distinction between organized warfare and individual fighting. There must be an organized opposition and therefore even organized bloodshed, say, in the case of bandits. The noblest warrior is he who stands fearless in the face of immense odds. He then feels not the power to kill, but he is supremely triumphant in the knowledge that he has the willingness to die when by taking to his heels he might easily have saved his life. I do believe that we shall have to teach our children the art of self-defence.

Collected, Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XIV P- 485, 17-7-1918

I am more and more becoming convinced of the correctness of the non-violence doctrine. The greater the possession of brute force, the greater coward does the possessor become.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XVI, p. 58, 22-8-1919

We should remain non-violent, unmindful of whether we succeed or fail in our undertaking. This is the only natural way of demonstrating the principle of non-violence. It would be more correct to say that the result of Ahimsa is always good. Such being our firm faith, we are not concerned whether our efforts are crowned with success today or years later.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XXIV p. 273, 21-6-1924

It is one's duty to say only that which, after a painstaking inquiry, one has come to regard as the truth, even if the world considers it to be an error. In no other way can one become fearless. I cannot consider anything dearer to me than moksha. Yet even that moksha I would renounce if it were to conflict with truth and non-violence.

Collected Works Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XXV P- 127, 2-8-1924

The only way to conquer violence is through non¬violence pure and undefiled. I have said also that every violent act, word and even thought interferes with the progress of non-violent action. If in spite of such repeated warnings, people will resort to violence, I must own responsibility save such as inevitably attaches to every human being for the acts of every other human being. But the question of responsibility apart, I dare not postpone action on any cause whatsoever if non-violence is the force the seers of the world have claimed it to be and if I am not to belie my own extensive experience of its working.

Famous Letters of Mahatma Gandhi, p. 74

There is nothing wrong in an ordinary man wanting God to punish the wrongdoer. Non-violence is a new thing. It would be wrong for a non-violent man to call down the wrath of Gods or man. But a non-violent man must not see anything wrong in a persecuted man retaliating and seeking the assistance of others.

Letters to Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, p. 247