Gandhi's Views On God
My own experience has led me to the knowledge that the fullest life is
impossible without an immovable belief in a Living Law in obedience to which the
whole universe moves. A man without that faith is like a drop thrown out of the
ocean bound to perish. Every drop in the ocean shares its majesty and has the
honour of giving us the ozone of life.—H, 25-4-36, 84.
as Truth and Love
2. There is an indefinable mysterious power that pervades everything. I feel
it, though I do not see it. It is this unseen power that makes itself felt and
yet defies proof, because it is so unlike all that I perceive through out the
existence of God to a limited extent. (YI, II, 10-28, 340.)
I have made he world’s faith in God my own, and as my faith is ineffaceable, I
regard that to describe faith as experience is to tamper with Truth, it may
perhaps be more correct to say that I have no word for characterizing my belief
in God. –Auto, 34I.
God is that indefinable something which we all feel but which we do not know. To
me God is Truth and Love, God is ethics and morality. God is fearlessness, God
is the source of light and life and yet. He is above and beyond all these. God
is conscience. He is even the atheism of the atheist. He transcends speech and
reason. He is a personal God to those who need His touch. He is purest essence.
He simply Is to those who have faith. He is long suffering. He is patient but He
is also terrible. He is the greatest democrat the world knows. He is the
greatest tyrant ever known. We are not, He alone Is—YI,5-3-25, 81.
You have asked me why I consider that God is Truth. In my early youth I was
taught to repeat what in Hindu scriptures are known as one thousand names of
God. But these one thousand names of God were by no means exhaustive. We
believe-and I think it is the truth-that God has as many names as there are
creatures and, therefore, we also say that God is nameless and since God many
forms we also consider Him formless, and since He speaks to us through many
tongues we consider Him to be speechless and so on. And when I came to study
Islam I found that Islam too had many for God. I would say with those who say
that God is Love, God is Love. But deep down in me I used to say that thought
God may be, God, God is Truth, above all. If it is possible for the human tongue
to give the fullest description, I have come to the conclusion that for myself
God is Truth. But two years ago, I went a step further and said Truth is God.
You will see the fine distinction between the two statements, viz. That God is
Truth and Truth is God. And I came to that conclusion after a continuous and
relentless search after Truth which began nearly fifty years ago. I then found
that the nearest approach to Truth was love. But I also found that love has many
meanings in the English language at lest and that human love in the sense of
passion could become a degrading also. I found, too, that love in the sense of
never found a double meaning in connection with truth and not even the atheists
had demurred to the necessity or power of truth. But in their passion for
discovering truth the atheists have not hesitated to deny the very existence of
God-from their own point of view rightly. And it was because of this reasoning
that I saw that rather than say God is Truth I should say Truth is God. I recall
the name of Charles Brad laugh who delighted to call himself an atheist, but
knowing as I do something of, I would never regard him as an atheist. I would
call him a God-fearing man though I know he would reject the claim. His face
would redden if I would say, "Mr. Brad laugh, you are a truth-fearing man
and not a God-fearing man." I would automatically disarms his criticism by
saying that Truth is God, as I have disarmed the criticism of many a young man.
Add to this the difficulty that millions have taken the name of God and in His
name committed nameless atrocities. Not that scientists very often do not commit
cruelties in the name of truth. I know how in the name of truth and science
inhuman cruelties are perpetrated on animals when men perform vivisection. There
are thus a number of difficulties in the way, no matter how you describe God.
But the human mind is a limited thing and you have to labour under limitations
when you think of a being or entity who is beyond the power of man to grasp. And
than we have another thing in Hindu philosophy, viz. God alone is and nothing
else exists, and the same truth you find emphasized and exemplified in the
kalema of Islam. There you find it clearly stated-that God alone is and nothing
else exists. In fact the Sanskrit word for Truth is a word which literally means
that which exists-Sat. For these and several other reasons that I can give you I
have come to the conclusion that the definition-Truth is God-gives me the
greatest satisfaction. And when you want to find Truth as God the only
inevitable means is Love, i.e. non-violence, and since I believe that ultimately
means and end are convertible terms, I should not hesitate to say that God is
Love. at then is Truth?’ A difficult question, but I have solved it for myself
by saying that it is what the voice within tells you. How, then, you ask,
different people think of different and contrary truths? Well, seeing that the
human mind works through innumerable media and that the evolution of the human
mind is not the same for all, it follows that what may be truth for one may be
untruth for another, and hence those who have made experiment have come to the
conclusion that there are certain conditions to be observed in making those
experiments. Just as for conduction scientific experiments there is an
indispensable scientific course of instruction, in the same way strict
preliminary discipline is necessary to qualify a person to make experiments in
the spiritual realm. Everyone should, therefore, realize his limitations before
he speaks of his inner voice. Therefore, we have the belief based upon
experience, that those who would make individual search after truth as God, must
go through several vows, as for instance, the vow of truth, the vow of
brahmacharya (purity)-for you can not possibly divide your love for Truth and
God with anything else-the vow of non-violence, of poverty and non-possession
Unless you impose on yourselves the five vows, may not embark on the experiment
at all. There are several other conditions prescribed, but I must not take you
through all of them Suffice it to say that who have made these experiments know
that it is not proper for everyone to claim to hear the voice of conscience and
it is because we have at the present moment everyone claiming the right of
conscience without going through any discipline whatsoever that there is so much
untruth being delivered to a bewildered world. All that I can in true humility
present to you is that truth is not to be found by anybody who has not got an
abundant sense of humility. If you would swim on the bosom of the ocean of Truth
you must reduce yourselves to a zero. Further then this I cannot go along this
fascinating path. –YI, 3I-I-I2-3I, 427.
as Truth and the Law
6. I do not regard God as a person. Truth for me is God, and God’s Law and
God are not different things or facts, in the sense that an earthly king and his
law are different. Because God is an Idea, Law Himself. Therefore, it is
impossible to conceive God as breaking the Law, He therefore, does not rule our
actions and withdraw Himself. When we say He rules our actions, we are simply
using human language and we try to limit Him. Otherwise, He and His Law abide
everywhere and govern everything. Therefore, I do not think that He answers in
every detail every request of ours, but there is no doubt that He rules our
action. And I literally believe that not a blade of grass grows or moves without
His will. The free will we enjoy is less than that of a passenger on a crowded
deck." Do you feel a sense of freedom in your communion with God?" I
do. I do not feel cramped as I would on a boat full of passengers. Although I
know that my freedom is less than that of a passenger, I appreciate that freedom
as I have imbibed through and through the central teaching of the Gita that man
is the maker of his own destiny in the sense that he has freedom of choice as to
the manner in which he uses that freedom. But he is no controller of results.
The moment he thinks he is, he comes to grief.-H, 23-3-40, 55.
Man was supposed to be the maker of his own destiny. It is partly true. He can
make his destiny only in so far as he is allowed by the Great Power which
overrides all our intentions, all our plans and carries out His Own plans. I
call that Great Power not by the name of Allah, not by the name of Khuda or God
but by the name of Truth. For me, Truth is God and Truth overrides all our
plans. The whole truth is only embodied within the heart of that Great Power-
Truth. I was taught from my early days to regard Truth as unapproachable-
something that you cannot reach. A great Englishman taught me to believe that
God is unknowable. He is Knowable to the extent that our limited intellect
allows.-H, 20-4-47, II3.
Character of Truth
8. Truth is by nature self-evident. As soon as you remove the cobwebs of
ignorance that surround it, it shines clear.-YI, 27-5
Every expression of truth has in it the seeds of propagation, even as the sun
cannot hide its light.-MR,I935, 4I3.
Way of realizing Truth
is a very complex thing, and truth and non-violence present problems, which
often defy analysis and judgment. One discovers truth and the method of applying
the only legitimate means of vindicating it, i.e. Satyagraha or soul-force, by
patient endeavour and silent prayer. I can only assure friends that I spare no
pains to grope to my way to the right, and that humble but constant endeavour
and silent prayer are always my two trusty companions along the weary but
beautiful path that all seekers must tread. YI, I-6-2I, 174.
You cannot realize the wider consciousness, unless you subordinate completely
reason and intellect, and the body, too.–H
It is unnecessary to believe in an extra mundane Power called God in order to
sustain our faith in ahimsa. But God is not a Power residing in the clouds. God
is an unseen Power residing within us and nearer to us than finger-nails to the
flesh. There are many powers lying hidden within us and we find this Supreme
Power if we make diligent search with the fixed determination to find Him. One
such way of ahimsa. It is so very necessary because God is in every one of us
and, therefore, we have to identify ourselves with every human being without
exception. This is called cohesion or attraction in scientific language. In the
popular language it is called love. In the popular language it is called love.
It binds us to one another and to God. Ahimsa and love are one and the same
thing. I hope this is all clears to you.-(From a private letter, dated Sevagram,
13. I am but a poor struggling soul yearning to be wholly good-wholly
truthful and wholly non-violent in thought, word and deed; but ever failing to
reach the ideal which I know to be true. It is a painful climb, but the pain of
it is a positive pleasure to me. Each step upward makes me feel stronger and fit
for the next.-YI, 9-4-25,126.
But I know that I have still before me a difficult path to traverse. I must
reduce myself to zero. So long as one does not of his own free will put himself
last among his fellow creatures, there is no salvation for him. Ahimsa is the
farthest limit of humility.—Auto, 616.
I am impatient to realize the presence of my Maker, Who to me embodies Truth and
in the early part of my career I discovered that if I was to realize Truth, I
must obey, even at the cost of my life, the law of Love.-NV, 319.
I have but shadowed forth my intense longing to lose myself in the Eternal and
become merely a lump of clay in the Potter’s divine hands so that my service
may become more certain because uninterrupted by the baser self in me. –YI,
17. God as Truth has been for me a treasure beyond price; may He be so to every
one of us.-YM, 6.
Devotion to this Truth is the sole justification for our existence.-YM, 2.
But He is no God who merely satisfies the intellect, if He ever does. God to be
God must rule the heart and transform it. He must express Himself in every the
smallest act of His votary. This can only be done through a definite realization
more real than the five senses can ever produce. Sense perceptions can be, often
are false and deceptive, however real they may appear to us. Where there is
realization outside the senses it is infallible. It is proved not by extraneous
evidence but in the transformed conduct and character of those who have felt the
real presence of God within. Such testimony is to be found in the experiences of
an unbroken line of prophets and sages in all countries and climes. To reject
this evidence is to deny oneself.-YI,11-10-28, 340.
20. But it is impossible for us to realize perfect Truth so long as we are
imprisoned in this mortal frame. We can only visualize it in our imprisoned in
this mortal frame. We can only visualize it in our imagination. We cannot,
through the instrumentality of this ephemeral body, see face to face Truth which
is eternal. That is why in the last resort one must depend on faith.-YM,7.
No one can attain perfection while he is in the body for the simple reason that
the ideal state is impossible so long as one has not completely overcome his
ego, and ego cannot be wholly got rid of so long as one is tied down by the
shackles of the flesh.-YI, 20-9-28, 3I9.
will ever remain imperfect, and it will always be his part to try to be perfect.
So that perfection in love or non-possession will remain an unattainable ideal
as long as we are alive but towards which we must ceaselessly strive.-MR, I935,
23.Our existence as embodied being is purely momentary; what are a hundred
years in eternity? But if we shatter the chains of egotism, and melt into the
ocean of humanity, we share its dignity. To feel that we are something is to set
up a barrier between God and ourselves; to cease feeling that we are something
is become one with God. A drop in the ocean partakes of the greatness of its
parent, although it is unconscious of it. But it is dried up as soon as it
enters upon an existence independent of the ocean. We do not exaggerate, when we
say that life is a mere bubble.
A life of service must be one of humility. He; who could sacrifice his life for
others, has hardly time to reserve for himself a place in the sun. Inertia must
not be mistaken for humility, as it has been in Hinduism. True humility means
most strenuous and constant endeavour entirely directed towards the service of
humanity. God is continuously in action without resting for a single moment. If
we would serve Him or become one with Him, our activity must be as unwearied as
His. There may be momentary rest in store for the drop which is separated from
the ocean, but not for the drop in the ocean, which knows no rest. The same is
the case with ourselves. As soon as we become one with the ocean in the shape of
God, there is no more rest for us, nor indeed do we need rest any longer. Our
very sleep is action. For we sleep with thought of God, in our hearts. This
restlessness constitutes true rest. This never-ceasing agitation holds the key
to peace ineffable. This supreme state of total surrender is difficult to
describe, but not beyond the bound of human experience. It has been attained by
many dedicated souls, and may be attained by ourselves as well. This is the goal
which we of the Satyagraha Ashram have set before ourselves; all our observances
and activities are calculated to assist us in reaching it. We shall reach it
some day all unawares if we have truth in us. ("We shall reach it some day
all unawares while we are pursuing this, that and the other line of noble
action. It has a disconcertion knack of eluding pursuit if we make it an object
action."-as it appeared originally in the cyclostyled edition of YI.- YM,
No niggardly acceptance of the inevitable will appear pleasing to God. It must
be a thorough change of heart. –YI, 2-2-22, 74.
must go with God as my only guide. He is a jealous Lord. He will allow no one to
appear before Him in all one’s weakness, empty-handed and in a spirit of full
surrender, and then He enables you to stand before a whole world and protects
you from harm.-YI, 3-9-3I, 247.
26. I have no special revelation of God’s will. My firm belief is that He
reveals Himself daily to every human being but we shut our ears to ‘the still
small voice’. We shut our eyes to the Pillar of Fire in front of us. I realize
His omnipresence. –YI, 25-5-2I, I62.
step enough for me’
27. I do not want to foresee the future, I am concerned with taking care of the
present. God has given me no control over the moment following. –YI, 26-I2-24,
impenetrable darkness that surrounds us is not a curse but a blessing. He has
given us power to see only the step in front of us, and it should be enough if
Heavenly light reveals that step to us. We can then sing with Newman, ‘One
step enough for me’. And we may be sure from our past experience that the next
step will always be in view. In other words, the impenetrable darkness is
nothing so impenetrable as we imagine. But it seems impenetrable when, in our
impatience, we want to look beyond that one step.-H, 20-4-34, 78.
29. We are living in the midst of death. What is the value of ‘working for
our own schemes’ when they might be reduced to naught in the twinkling of an
eye, or when we may equally swiftly and unawares be taken away from them? But we
may feel strong as a rock, if we could truthfully say ‘we work for God and His
schemes’. Then nothing perishes. All perishing is them only what seems. Death
and destruction have them, but only then no reality about tem. For death and
destruction is then but a change.-YI, 23-9-26, 333.
Desire for Moksha
3o. This led the interviewer on to a fundamental question. From a reading of
Gandhiji’s writings the friend had gathered that the root of all of
Gandhiji’s activities was the desire for moksha, emancipation. But why was not
this aspect emphasized sufficiently? Gandhiji replied by taking recourse to a
simile. He said the desire for moksha was indeed there, but it was not meant for
anyone other than the individual himself. The world was interested in the
fruits, not root. For the tree itself, however the chief concern should be not
the fruit, but the root. It was in the depth of one’s being that the
individual had to concentrate. He had to nurse it with the water of his labour
and suffering. The root was his chief concern.-H, 28-9-47, 340.
31. Prayer is the very soul and essence of religion, and therefore, prayer
must be the very core of the life of man, for no man can live without
religion.-YI, 23-I-30, 25.
When a man is down, he prays to God to lift him up. The appalling disaster in
Quetta paralyses one. It baffles all attempt at reconstruction. The whole truth
about the disaster will perhaps never be known. The dead cannot be recalled to
life. Human effort must be there always. Those who are left behind must have
help. Such reconstruction as is possible sill no doubt undertaken. All this and
much more along the same line can never be a substitute for prayer. But why pray
at all? Does He stand in need of prayer to enable Him to do His duty? No, God
needs no reminder. He is within everyone. Nothing happens without His
permission. Our prayer is a heart search. It is a reminder to ourselves that we
are helpless without His support. No effort is complete without prayer,-without
a definite recognition that the best human endeavour is of no effect if it has
not God’s blessing behind. Prayer is a call to humility. It is a call to
self-Purification, to inward search. It ask those who appreciate the necessity
of inward purification to join in the prayer that we may read the purpose of God
in such visitations, that they may humble us and prepare us to face our Maker
whenever the call comes, and that we may be. –H, 8-6-35, I32.
Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of
one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than
words without a heart.-YI, 23-I-30, 25.
We are born to serve our fellowmen, and we cannot properly do so unless we are
wide awake There is an eternal struggle raging in man’s breast between the
powers of darkness and of light, and he who has not the sheet-anchor of prayer
to rely upon will be a victim to the powers of darkness. The man of prayer will
be at peace with himself and with the whole world, the man who goes about the
affairs of the world without a prayerful heart will be miserable and will make
the world also miserable. Apart therefore from its bearing on man’s condition
after death, prayer has incalculable value for man in this world of the living.
Prayer is the only means of bringing about orderliness and peace and repose in
our daily acts. We inmates of the Ashram who came here in search of truth and
for insistence on truth professed to believe in the efficacy of prayer, but had
never up to now made it a matter of vital concern. We did not bestow on it the
care that we did on other matters. I awoke from my slumbers one day and realizes
that I had been woefully negligent of my duty in the matter. I have suggested
measures of stern discipline and far from being any the worse, I hope we are the
better for it. For it is so obvious. Take care of the vital thing and other
things will take care of themselves. Rectify one angle of the square and the
other angles will be automatically right. –YI, 23-I-30, 26.
35. It is easy enough to say, ‘I do not believe in God.’ For God permits
all things to be said of Him with impunity. He looks at our acts. And any breach
of His law carries with it, not its vindictive, but its purifying, compelling
punishment. –YI, 23-9-26, 333.
36. God is the hardest taskmaster I have known on earth, and He tries you
through and through. And when you find that your faith is failing or your body
is failing you, and you are sinking, He comes to your assistance somehow or
other and proves to you that you must not lose your faith and that He is always
at your beck and call, but on His terms, not on your terms. –Nat, I069.
: From the book "Selections From Gandhi"