Truth Is God

Gleanings from the writings of Mahatma Gandhi bearing on God, God-Realization and the Godly Way

Chapter 11: The Path of Ahimsa

The path of Truth is as narrow as it is straight. Even so is that of Ahimsa. It is like balancing oneself on the edge of a sword. By concentration an acrobat can walk on a rope. But the concentration required to tread the path of Truth and Ahimsa is far greater. The slightest inattention brings one tumbling to the ground. One can realize Truth and Ahimsa only by ceaseless striving. . . .
Ahimsa is not the crude thing it has been made to appear. Not to hurt any living things is no doubt a part of Ahimsa. But it is its least expression. The principle of Ahimsa is hurt by every evil thought, by undue haste, by lying, by hatred, by wishing ill to anybody. It is also violated by our holding on to what the world needs. But the world needs even what we eat day by day. In the place where we stand there are millions of a micro-organisms to whom the place belongs, and who are hurt by our presence there. What should we do then? Should we commit suicide? Even that is no solution, if we believe, as we do, that so long as the spirit is attached to the flesh, on every destruction of body it weaves for itself another. The body will cease to be only when we give up all attachment to it. This freedom from all attachment is the realization of God as Truth. Such realization cannot be attained in a hurry. The body does not belong to us. While it lasts we must use it as a trust handed over to our charge. Treating in this way the things of the flesh, we may one day expect to become free from the burden of the body. Realizing the limitations of the flesh, we must strive day by day towards the ideal with what strength we have in us.
It is perhaps clear from the foregoing, that without Ahimsa it is not possible to seek and find Truth.
Ahimsa and Truth are so interwined that it is practically impossible to disentangle and separate them. They are like the two sides of a coin, or rather of a smooth unstamped metallic disc. Who can say, which is the obverse, and which is the reverse? Nevertheless, Ahimsa is the means; Truth is the end. Means to be means must always be within our reach, and so Ahimsa is our supreme duty. If we take care of the means, we are bound to reach the end sooner or later. When once we have grasped this point, final victory is beyond question. Whatever difficulties we encounter, whatever apparent reverses we sustain, we may not give up the quest for Truth which alone is, being God Himself.

From Yeravda Mandir, Chapter II

Non-violence is an active force of the highest order. It is soul-force or the power of Godhead within us. Imperfect man cannot grasp the whole of that essence—he would not be able to bear its full blaze, but even an infinitesimal fraction of it, when it becomes active within us, can work wonders. The sun in the heavens fills the whole universe with its life-giving warmth. But if one went too near it, it would consume him to ashes. Even so, it is with Godhead. We become Godlike to the extent we realize non-violence, but we can never become wholly God. Non-violence is like radium in its action. An infinitesimal quantity of it embedded in a malignant growth, acts continuously, silently and ceaselessly till it has transformed the whole mass of the diseased tissue into a healthy one. Similarly, even a little of true non-violence acts in a silent, subtle, unseen way and leavens the whole society.

Harijan, 12-11-'38

Truth without humility would be an arrogant caricature. He who wants to practise truth knows how hard it is. The world may applaud his so-called triumphs. Little does the world know his falls. A truthful man is a chastened being. He has need to be humble. A man who wants to love the whole world including one who calls himself his enemy knows how impossible it is to do so in his own strength. He must be as mere dust before he can understand the elements of Ahimsa. He is nothing if he does not daily grow in humility as he grows in love.... And no one can see God face to face who has aught of the I in him. He must become a cypher if he would see God. Who shall dare say in this storm-tossed universe, 'I have won’? God triumphs in us, never we. . . .What is true of the physical world is true of the spiritual. If in order to gain a worldly battle, Europe sacrificed several million lives during the late war, itself a transitory event, what wonder that in the spiritual battle millions have to perish in the attempt so that one complete example may be left to the world ?

Young India, 25-6-'25

Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man. Destruction is not the law of the humans. Man lives freely by his readiness to die, if need be, at the hands of his brother, never by killing him. Every murder or injury, no matter for what cause, committed or inflicted on another is a crime against humanity.

Harijan, 20-7-'35

The virtues of mercy, non-violence, love and truth in any man can be truly tested only when they are pitted against ruthlessness, violence, hate and untruth.
If this is true, then it is incorrect to say that Ahimsa is of no avail before a murderer. It can certainly be said that to experiment with Ahimsa in face of a murderer is to seek self-destruction. But this is the real test of Ahimsa. He who gets himself killed out of sheer helplessness, however, can in no wise be said to have passed the test. He who when being killed bears no anger against this murderer and even asks God to forgive him is truly non-violent. History relates this of Jesus Christ. With his dying breath on his cross, he is reported to have said: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." We can get similar instances from other religions but the quotation is given because it is world famous.
It is another matter that our non-violence has not reached such heights. It would be wholly wrong for us to lower the standard of Ahimsa by reason of our own fault or lack of experience. Without true understanding of the ideal, we can never hope to reach it. It is necessary for us, therefore, to apply our reason to understand the power of non-violence.

Harijan, 28-4-'46

Ahimsa is a comprehensive principle. We are helpless mortals caught in the conflagration of Himsa. The saying that life lives on life has a deep meaning in it. Man cannot for a moment live without consciously or unconsciously committing outward Himsa. The very fact of his living— eating, drinking and moving about—necessarily involves some Himsa, destruction of life, be it ever so minute. A votary of Ahimsa therefore remains true to his faith if the spring of all his actions is compassion, if he shuns to the best of his ability the destruction of the tiniest creature, tries to save it, and thus incessantly strives to be free from the deadly coil of Himsa. He will be constantly growing in self-restraint and compassion, but he can never become entirely free from outward Himsa.

Autobiography (1948), pp. 427-28

Then again, because underlying Ahimsa is the unity of all life, the error of one cannot but affect all, and hence man cannot be wholly free from Himsa. So long as he continues to be a social being, he cannot but participate in the Himsa that the very existence, of society involves. When two nations are fighting, the duty of a votary of Ahimsa is to stop the war. He who is not equal to that duty, he who has no power of resisting war, he who is not qualified to resist war, may take part in war, and yet whole-heartedly try to free himself, his nation and the world from war.

Autobiography (1948), p. 428