Thus Spake Gandhi

Select quotations by Mahatma Gandhi

The Marriage Ideal

The ideal that marriage aims at is that of spiritual union through the physical. The human love that it incarnates is intended to serve as a stepping–stone to divine or universal love. (YI, 21-5-1931, p. 115)


Absolute renunciation, absolute brahmacharya, is the ideal state. If you dare not think of it, marry by all means, but even then live a life of self-control. (H, 7-9-1935, p. 234)


The idea of absolute brahmacharya or of married brahmacharya is for those who aspire to spiritual or higher life; it is the sine qua non of such life. (H, 5-6-1937, p. 134)


Marriage is a natural thing in life, and to consider it derogatory in any sense is wholly wrong….. The ideal is to look upon marriage as a sacrament, and therefore, to lead a life of self-restraint in the married estate. (H, 22-3-1942, p. 38)


Marriage for the satisfaction of sexual appetite is no marriage. It is uyabhichara-concupiscence. 

(H, 24-4-1937, p. 82)


Manu has described the first child as dharmaja-born out of a sense of duty, and children born after the first as kamaja –carnally born. That gives in a nutshell the law of sexual relations. And what is God but the Law? And to obey god is to perform the Law. (ibid, p. 83)


Sexual intercourse for the purpose of carnal satisfaction is reversion to animality, and it should, therefore, be man’s endeavour to rise above it. But failure to do so as between husband and wife cannot be regarded as a sin or a matter of obloquy. Millions in this world eat for the satisfaction of their palate; similarly, millions of the husbands and wives indulge in the sexual act for their carnal satisfaction and will continue to do so and also pay the inexorable penalty in the shape of numberless ills with which nature visits all violations of its order. (H, 5-6-1937, p. 134)


Undefiled love between husband and wife takes one nearer God than any other love. When sex is mixed with the undefiled love, it takes one away from one’s Maker. Hence, if there be no sex consciousness and sexual contact, it is a question whether there is an occasion for marriage. (H, 19-10-1947, p. 374)


Aim of Marriage

Those marriages which are undertaken for the sake of joint service carry their own blessings. Those entered upon for self-satisfaction are wholly unworthy of any. (H, 19-5-1946, p. 133)


Rightly speaking, the true purpose of marriage should be and is intimate friendship and companionship between man and woman. There is in it no room for sexual satisfaction. That marriage is no marriage which takes place for the satisfaction of the sex desire. That satisfaction is a denial of true friendship.


I know of English marriages undertaken for the sake of companionship and mutual service. If a reference to my own married life is not considered irrelevant, I may say that my wife and I tasted the real bliss o married life when we renounced sexual contact, and that in the heyday of youth. It was then that our companionship blossomed and both of us were enabled to render real service to India and humanity in general…… Indeed, this self-denial was born out of our great desire for service.


Of course, innumerable marriages take place in the natural course of events and such will continue. The physical side of married life is given pre-eminence in these.


Innumerable persons eat in order to satisfy the palate, but such indulgence does not, therefore, became one’s duty. Very few eat to live, but they are the one who really know the law of eating. Similarly, those only really marry who marry in order to experience the purity and sanctity of the marriage tie and thereby realize the divinity within. (ibid)


Connubial Relations

The wife is not the husband’s bondslave, but his companion and his help-mate, and an equal partner in all his joys and sorrows- as free as the husband to choose her own path. (A, p. 18)


For me, the married state is as much a state of discipline as any other. life is duty, a probation. Married life is intended to promote mutual good, both here and here after. It is meant also to serve humanity.


When one partner breaks the law of discipline, the right accrues to the other of breaking the bond. The breach here is moral and not physical. It precludes divorce. The wife or the husband separates but to serve the end for which they have united.


Hinduism regards each as absolute equal of the other. No doubt a different practice has grown up, no one knows since when. But we have many other evils crept into it. This, however, I do know – that Hinduism leaves the individual absolutely free to do what he or she likes for the sake of self-realization for which and which alone he or she is born. (Yi, 21-10-1926, p.365)


My ideal of a wife is Sita and of a husband Rama. But Sita was no slave of Rama. Or each was slave of the other. Rama is ever considerate to Sita. (ibid, p. 364)


You will guard your wife's honour and be not her master, but her true friend. You will hold her body and your soul as sacred as I trust she will hold her body and your soul. To that end you will have to live a life of prayerful toil, and simplicity and self-restraint. Let not either of you regard another as the object of his or her lust . (YI, 2-2-1928, p. 35)


I admit that between husband and wife there should be no secret from one another. I hold that husband and wife merge in each other. They are one in two or two in one. (H, 9-3-1940, p. 30)


Forced Marriage

It is wholly wrong of parents to force marriage on their daughters. It is also wrong to keep their daughters unfit for earning their living. No father has a right to turn a daughter out on to the streets for refusal to marry. (H, 15-9-1946, p.311-12)


Civil Marriage

I do not believe in them (civil marriage), but I welcome the institution of civil marriage as a much–needed reform. (H, 16-31947, p. 68)