Thus Spake Gandhi

Select quotations by Mahatma Gandhi

The Gospel of Fearlessness

Fearlessness is the first requisite of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral. (YI, 13-10-1921, p. 323)


Where there is fear there is no religion. (YI, 2-9-1926, p. 308)


Every reader of the Gita is aware that fearlessness heads the list of the Divine Attributes enumerated in the 16th Chapter. Whether this is merely due to the exigencies of metre, or whether the pride of place has been deliberately yielded to fearlessness is more than I can say. In my opinion, however, fearlessness richly deserves the first rank assigned to it there, perhaps, by accident.


Fearlessness is a sine qua non for the growth of the other noble qualities. How can one seek truth or cherish Love without fearlessness? As Pritam has it, 'The Path of Hari (the Lord) is the path of the brave, not of cowards.' Hari here means Truth, and the brave are those armed with fearlessness, not with the sword, the rifle or other carnal weapons, which are affected only by cowards. (YI, 11-9-1930, pp. 1-2)


Fearlessness connotes freedom from all external fear - fear of disease, bodily injury or death, of dispossession, of losing one's nearest and dearest, of losing reputation or giving offence, and so on. (ibid)


Attainment of Fearlessness

Perfect fearlessness can be attained only by him who has realized the Supreme, as it implies the height of freedom from delusions. But one can always progress towards this goal by determined and constant endeavour and by increasing confidence in oneself….


As for the internal foes, we must ever walk in their fear. We are rightly afraid of Animal Passion, Anger and the like. External fears cease of their own accord when once we have conquered these traitors within the camp. All fears revolve round the body as the centre, and would, therefore, disappear as soon as one got rid of the attachment for the body.


We thus find that all fear is the baseless fabric of our own vision. Fear has no place in our hearts when we have shaken off the attachment for wealth, for family and for the body. 'Tena tyaktena bhunjithah' (enjoy the things of the earth by renouncing them) is a noble commandment. The wealth, the family and the body will be there, just the same; we have only to change our attitude to them. All these are not ours but God's. Nothing whatever in this world is ours. Even we ourselves are His. Why then should we entertain any fears?


The Upanishad, therefore, directs us 'to give up attachment for things while we enjoy them'. That is to say, we must be interested inthem not as proprietors but only as trustees. He on whose behalf we hold them will give us the strength and the weapons requisite for defending them against all comers.

When we thus cease to be masters and reduce ourselves to the rank of servants humbler than the very dust under our feet, all fears will roll away like mists; we shall attain ineffable peace and see Satya- Narayan (the God of Truth) face to face. (ibid)


Fear of God

Let us fear God and we shall cease to fear man. (SW, p. 130)


There is so much superstition and hypocrisy around that one is afraid even to do the right thing. But if one gives way to fear, even truth will have to be suppressed. The golden rule is to act fearlessly upon what one believes to be right. (H, 2-6-1946, p. 160)


Fearlessness does not mean arrogance or aggressiveness. That in itself is a sign of fear. Fearlessness presupposes calmness and peace of mind. For that it is necessary to have a living faith in God. (H, 3-11-1946, p. 388)


Fear is a thing which I dislike. Why should one man be afraid of another man? Man should stand in fear of God alone, and then he can shed all other fears. (H, 5-1-1947, p. 477)


Bravery of the Soul

Each individual must be taught the art of self-defense. It is more a mental state that has to be inculcated than that our bodies should be trained for retaliation. Our mental training has been one of feeling helpless. Bravery is not a quality of the body, it is the soul. I have seen cowards encased in tough muscle and rare courage in the frailest body… The weakest of us physically must be taught the art of facing dangers and giving a good account of ourselves. (YI, 20-10-1921, p. 335)


We stand on the threshold of twilight-whether morning or evening twilight we know not. One is followed by the night, the other heralds the dawn. If we want to see the dawning day after the twilight and not the mournful night, it behoves everyone of us…to realize the truth at this juncture, to stand for it against any odds and to preach and practice it, at any cost, unflinchingly. (SW, p. 303)


We have chosen for our march towards freedom the ancient path of truth and non-violence, and we must let God's covenant, that those who tread on the straight and narrow path shall never come to grief, inspire us with faith and hope. (YI, 2-4-1931, p. 54)


In this country of self-suppression and timidity, almost bordering on cowardice, we cannot have too much bravery, too much self-sacrifice… I want… the greater bravery of the meek, the gentle and the nonviolent, the bravery that will mount the gallows without injuring, or harbouring any thought of injury to a single soul. (ibid, p. 58)


There is no bravery greater than a resolute refusal to bend the knee to an earthly power, no matter how great, and that, without bitterness of spirit and in the fullness of faith that the spirit alone lives, nothing else does. (H, 15-10-1938, p. 291)


We have two choices before us. We can become a great military power or, if we follow my way, we can become a great non-violent and invincible power. In either case the first condition is the shedding of all fear. (H, 26-10-1947, p. 382)