SECTION I : Selected 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


Gandhi Letter 8 : To Maganlal Gandhi1

After March 14, 1915


You are right in what you think about non-violence. Its essentials are daya1, akrodha3, aman4, etc. Satyagraha is based on non-violence. We saw this clearly in Calcutta and came to the conclusion that we should include it among our vows. The thought led to the further conclusion that we must observe all the yamas5 and that, if we do so by way of vows, we perceive the inner significance of non-violence. In my talks with hundreds of men here I place the various yamas above everything else.
सियाराम प्रेमपीयूषपूरन होत जनमु न भरतको |
मुनिमनअगम यमनियमसमदम विषमव्रत आचरतको ||6
I remembered this verse in Calcutta on this occasion and pondered deeply over it. I am absolutely clear in my mind that India's deliverance and ours will be achieved through the observance of these vows.
In observing the vow of non-hoarding, the main thing to be borne in mind is not to store up anything which we do not require. For agriculture, we may keep bullocks, if we use them, and the equipment required for them. Where there is a recurring danger of famine, we shall no doubt store food grains. But we shall always ask ourselves whether bullocks and food grains are in fact needed. We are to observe all the yamas in thought as well, so that we shall grow more secure in them from day to day and come to think of fresh things to renounce. Renunciation has no limit to it. The more we renounce, the more shall we grow in the knowledge of the atman7. If the mind continues to move towards renunciation of the desire for hoarding and if in practice we give up hoarding as far as it is physically possible to do, we shall have kept the vow of non-hoarding.
The same is true about non-stealing. Non-hoarding refers to stocking of things not needed. Non-stealing refers to the use of such things. If I need only one shirt to cover myself with but use two, I am guilty of stealing one from another. For, a shirt which could have been of use to someone else does not belong to me. If five bananas are enough to keep me going, my eating a sixth one is a form of theft. Suppose we have a stock of 50 limes, thinking that among us all we would need them. I need only two, but take three because there are so many. This is theft.
Such unnecessary consumption is also a violation of the vow of non-violence. If, with the ideal of non-stealing in view, we reduce our consumption of things we would grow more generous. If we do so, actuated by the ideal of non-violence, we would grow more compassionate. In assuring, as it were, every animal or living thing that it need have no fear on our account, we entertain compassion—love—for it. A man who entertains such love will not find any living being inimical to him, not even in thought. That is the most emphatic conclusion of the Shastras and my experience as well.
The principle underlying all these vows is truth. By deceiving oneself, one may refuse to recognize an act of stealing or hoarding as such. Hence, by taking careful thought we can ensure at every step that truth prevails. Whenever we are in doubt whether a particular thing should be stored or not, the simple rule is not to store it. There is no violation of truth in renunciation. When in doubt about the wisdom of speaking, it is the duty of a man who has taken the vow of truth not to speak.
I want all of you to take only such vows as each one feels inclined to, of his own free will. I always feel that vows are necessary. But everyone may take them only when he himself feels the need and take only such as he wants to. Ramachandra may have been a man of great prowess, performed innumerable feats and killed hundreds of thousands of monsters, but no one would think of him today if he had not had such devoted men as Lakshmana and Bharata to follow him. The point is, if Ramchandra had had no more than extraordinary strength as a fighter, his greatness would have been forgotten after a while. There have been many brave warriors who killed monsters as he did. There has been none among them whose fame and greatness are sung in every home. Ramchandra possessed power of some other kind which he could induce into Lakshmana and Bharata and in virtue of which the latter became great men of austerities. Singing in praise of their austerities, Tulsidasji asked, who else, if Bharata had not been born and practised austerities unattainable even by great sages, would have turned an ignorant man like him to Rama? This is as much as to say that Lakshmana and Bharata were the guardians of Rama's fame, that is, of his teaching. Moreover, austerities are not everything. For, if Lakshmana went without food or sleep for 14 years, so did Indrajit.8 But the latter did not know the true significance of austerities which Lakshmana had learnt from Rama; on the contrary, he possessed a nature which inclined him to misuse the power earned through austerities and so came to be known merely as a monster and suffered defeat at the hands of Lakshmana, the man of self-mastery, a lover of God and seeker of deliverance. In the same way, however great the ideal of Gurudev,9 if there is no one to implement that ideal, it will remain hidden in the profound darkness of the ages. Conversely, if there are any to put it into practice, it will spread its light multiplied many times over. The steps which one has to climb in order to practise an ideal constitute tapas.10 One should realize, therefore, how very necessary it is to bring tapas— discipline—into the life of children.

Blessings from,

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XIII, pp. 37-39

  1. Maganlal Gandhi — Gandhiji's cousin; assisted Gandhiji for about a decade in his work in South Africa; left Phoenix in August 1914 with a party of about 25 students and teachers for India and with them stayed for some time at Tagore's Santiniketan; Manager, Sabarmati Ashram; Member, All-India Khadi Board. Such was his devotion to Construtive Programme that Gandhiji felt widowed by his untimely death in 1928.
  2. Compassion
  3. Freedom from anger
  4. Freedom from the desire to be respected
  5. Any great moral or religious duty or observance
  6. "If Bharata had not been born, imbued with the ambrosia of love for Sita and Rama, then who would have practised such self-control and strict observance, continence, restraint and rigorous vows as scarce enter the imagination of sages?" — Ayodhya Kanda (Second book) of Tulsidas' Ramayana. (Hill's translation).
  7. The Self
  8. Meghnad, son of Ravana, who had earned the name of Indrajit, by his victory over Indra, Chief of the Gods.
  9. Rabindranath Tagore
  10. Penance