Thus Spake Gandhi

Select quotations by Mahatma Gandhi

The Meaning of God

Law-giver and Law

God may be called by any other name so long as it connotes the living Law of Life-in other words, the Law and the Law-giver rolled into one. (H, 14-4-1946, p80)


God Himself is both the Law and the Law-giver. The question of anyone creating Him, therefore, does not arise, least of all by an insignificant creature such as man. Man can build a dam, but he cannot create a river. He can manufacture a chair, but it is beyond him to make the wood. He can, however, picture God in his mind in many ways. But how can man who is unable to create even a river or wood create God? That God has created man is, therefore, the pure truth. The contrary is an illusion. However, anyone may, if he likes, say that God is neither the doer nor the cause. Either is predicable of him. (ibid)


No Personal God

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. …The free will we enjoy is less than that of a passenger on a crowded deck.


…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, 23-2-1940, p55)


Let this however be quite clear. The Almighty is not a person like us. He or It is the greatest living Force or Law in the world. Accordingly, He does not act by caprice, nor does that Law admit of any amendment or improvement. His will is fixed and changeless, everything else changes every second. (H, 28-7-1946, p233)


His Personality

I have not seen God face to face. If I had, I would have no need to be speaking to you. My thought would be potent enough to render speech and action on my part unnecessary. But I have an undying faith in the existence of God. Millions all over the world share this faith with me. The most learned cannot shake the faith of the illiterate millions. (H, 3-8-1947, p262)


God is wholly good. There is no evil in Him. God made man in His own image. Unfortunately for us, man has fashioned Him in his own. This arrogation has landed mankind in a sea of troubles. God is the Supreme Alchemist. In His presence all iron and dross turn into pure gold. Similarly does all evil turn into good.


Again, God lives, but not as we. His creatures live but to die. But God is life. Therefore, goodness and all it connotes is not an attribute.


Goodness is God. Goodness conceived as apart from Him is a lifeless thing and exists only whilst it is a paying policy. So are all morals. If they are to live in us, they must be considered and cultivated in their relation to God. We try to become good because we want to reach and realize God. All the dry ethics of the world turn to dust because apart from God they are lifeless. Coming from God, they come with life in them. They become part of us and ennoble us.


Conversely, God conceived without goodness is without life. We give Him life in our vain imagining. (H, 24-8-1947, p285)


There is a big gulf between ‘seeing God face to face’ and ‘seeing Him in the embodiment of Truth from a far distance’. In my opinion, the two statements are not only not incompatible but each explains the other. We see the Himalayas from a very great distance and when we are on the top, we have seen the Himalayas face to face. Millions can see them from hundreds of miles if they are within the range of that seeing distance, but few having arrived at the top, after years of travel, see them face to face. (H, 23-11-1947, p432)


I have never had [the slightest doubt] about the reality that God Is and that His most graphic name is Truth. (H, 25-1-1948, p535)


Power of God

Everything that has a beginning must end. The sun, the moon and the earth must all perish one day, even though it might be after an incalculable number of years. God alone is immortal, imperishable. How can anyone find words to describe Him? (H, 16-6-1946, p183)


God cannot be realized through the intellect. Intellect can lead one to a certain extent and no further. It is a matter of faith and experience derived from faith. One might rely on the experience of one’s betters or else be satisfied with nothing less than personal experience. Full faith does not feel the want of experience. (H, 4-8-1946, p249)


God alone knows Absolute Truth. Therefore, I have often said, Truth is God. It follows that man, a finite being, cannot know Absolute Truth. (H, 7-4-1946, p70)


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 un-approachable—something that you cannot reach. A great Englishman taught me to believe that God is unknowable. He is knowable, but knowable only to the extent that our limited intellect allows. (H, 20-4-1947, p109)


God is all-powerful. He can change the hearts of man and bring real peace among them. (H, 3-8-1947, p262)


His Rule

Today, in the West, people talk of Christ, but it is really the Anti-Christ that rules their lives. Similarly, there are people who talk of Islam, but really follow the way of Satan. It is a deplorable state of affairs. …If people follow the way of God, there will not be all this corruption and profiteering that we see in the world. The rich are becoming richer and the poor poorer. Hunger, nakedness and death stare one in the face. These are not the marks of the Kingdom of God, but that of Satan, Ravana or Anti-Christ. We cannot expect to bring the reign of God on earth by merely repeating His name with the lips. Our conduct must conform to His ways instead of Satan’s. (H, 23-6-1946, pp186-7)


Only when God reigns in men’s hearts will they be able to shed their anger. (H, 20-4-1947, p118)


All universal rules of conduct known as God’s commandments are simple and easy to understand and carry out if the will is there. They only appear to be difficult because of the inertia, which governs mankind. Man is a progressive being. There is nothing at a standstill in nature. Only God is motionless for, He was, is and will be the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, and yet is ever moving. We need not, however, worry ourselves over the attributes of God. We have to realize that we are ever progressing. Hence, I hold that if mankind is to live, it has to come growingly under the sway of truth and non-violence. It is in view of these two fundamental rules of conduct that I and you have to work and live. (H, 9-11-1947, p406)


A mind not set on God is given to wandering and lacks the quality of a temple of worship. (ibid)


Genesis of Evil

Why is there evil in the world is a difficult question to answer. I can only give what I may call a villager’s answer. If there is good, there must also be evil, just as where there is light there is also darkness, but it is true only so far as we human mortals are concerned. Before God there is nothing good, nothing evil. We poor villagers may talk of His dispensation in human terms, but our language is not God’s.

The Vedanta says the world is maya. Even that explanation is a babbling of imperfect humanity. I, therefore, say that I am not going to bother my head about it. Even if I was allowed to peep into the innermost recesses of God’s chamber I should not care to do it. For I should not know what to do there. It is enough for our spiritual growth to know that God is always with the doer of good. That again is a villager’s explanation. (H, 7-9-1935, p233)


I cannot account for the existence of evil by any rational method. To want to do so is to be coequal with God. I am therefore humble enough to recognize evil as such. And I call God long-suffering and patient precisely because He permits evil in the world. I know that He has no evil. He is the author of it and yet untouched by it.

I know too that I shall never know God if I do not wrestle with and against evil even at the cost of life itself. I am fortified in the belief by my own humble and limited experience. The purer I try to become, the nearer I feel to be to God. How much more should I be, when my faith is not a mere apology as it is today but has become as immovable as the Himalayas and as white and bright as the snows on their peaks? (YI, 11-10-1928, p341)


In a strictly scientific sense God is at the bottom of both good and evil. He directs the assassin’s dagger no less than the surgeon’s knife. But for all that good and evil are, for human purposes, from each other distinct and incompatible, being symbolical of light and darkness, God and Satan… (H, 20-2-1937, p9)


To say that God permits evil in this world may not be pleasing to the ear. But if He is held responsible for the good, it follows that He has to be responsible for the evil too. Did not God permit Ravana to exhibit unparalleled strength? Perhaps, the root cause of the perplexity arises from a lack of the real understanding of what God is. God is not a person. He transcends description. He is the Law-maker, the Law and the Executor. No human being can well arrogate these powers to himself. If he did, he would be looked upon as an unadulterated dictator. They become only Him whom we worship as God. This is the reality, a clear understanding of which will answer the question [‘Does God permit evil?’] (H, 24-2-1946, p24)


There is a saying to the effect that the outer is only the reflection of the inner. If you are good, the whole world will be good to you. On the contrary, if you feel tempted to regard anybody as evil, the odds are that the evil is within you.…

We must neither think evil about others nor suspect others of thinking evil about us. Proneness to lend ear to evil reports is a sign of lack of faith. (H, 28-4-1946, p111)



I do [believe in miracles] and I do not. God does not work through miracles. But the divine mind is revealed in a flash and it appears like a miracle to man. We do not know God, we know Him only through the working of His law. He and His law are one. There is nothing outside His law. Even earthquakes and tempests do not occur without His will-not a blade of grass grows but He will it. Satan is here only on His sufferance, not independently of Him. (H, 7-4-1946, pp75-76)


Man cannot be transformed from bad to good overnight. God does not exercise magic. He too is within His own law. His law, however, is different from the law of the State. There may be mistakes in the latter, but God cannot err. If he were to go beyond the limits of His law, the world will be lost. (H, 19-5-1946, p136)


History provides us with a whole series of miracles of masses of people being converted to a particular view-point in the twinkling of an eye. Take the Boer War. It has given to the English language the word 'Maffeking'. People went mad on the Maffeking Day. Yet, inside of two years, the whole British nation underwent a transformation. Henry Campbell Bannerman became the Premier and practically all the gains of war were given up. The recent Labour victory at the polls is another instance in point. To me it is a sufficient miracle that, in spite of his oratory and brilliance, Churchill should cease to be the idol of the British people who till yesterday hung on his lips and listened to him in awe. All these instances are enough to sustain the faith of a believer like me that, when all other powers are gone one will remain, call it God, Nature or whatever you like. (H, 10-11-1946, p389)



All embodied life is in reality an incarnation of God, but it is not usual to consider every living being an incarnation. Future generations pay this homage to one who, in his own generation, has been extraordinarily religious in his conduct. I can see nothing wrong in this procedure; it takes nothing from God's greatness, and there is no violence done to Truth.....


This belief in incarnation is a testimony of man's lofty spiritual ambition. Man is not at peace with himself till he has become like unto God. The endeavour to reach this state is the supreme, the only ambition worth having. And this is self-realization. And this self-realization is the subject of the Gita, as it is of all scriptures. (YI, 6-8-1931, p206)


Belief, therefore, in prophets or incarnations who have lived in remote ages is not an idle superstition, but a satisfaction of an inmost spiritual want. (YI, 14-4-1927, p120)


God's Laws

Human language can but imperfectly describe God's ways. I am sensible of the fact that they are indescribable and inscrutable. But if mortal man will dare to describe them, he has no better medium than his own inarticulate speech. (A, p317)


We do not know all the laws of God nor their working. Knowledge of the tallest scientist or the greatest spiritualist is like a particle of dust. If God is not a personal being for me like my earthly father, He is infinitely more. He rules me in the tiniest detail of my life. I believe literally that not a leaf moves but by His will. Every breath I take depends upon His sufferance.


He and His law are one. The Law is God. Anything attributed to Him is not a mere attribute. He is the attribute. He is Truth, Love, Law and a million other things that human ingenuity can name. (H, 16-2-1934, p4)


The laws of Nature are changeless, unchangeable, and there are no miracles in the sense of infringement or interruption of Nature's laws. But we, limited beings, fancy all kinds of things and impute our limitations to God. We may copy God, but not He us. We may not divide Time for Him. Time for Him is eternity. For us there is past, present and future. And what is human life of a hundred years but less than a mere speck in the eternity of Time? (H, 17-4-1947, p87)


Nature's Visitations

I share the belief with the whole world-civilized and uncivilized-that calamities such as the Bihar one [earth-quake] come to mankind as chastisement for their sins. When that conviction comes from the heart, people pray, repent and purify themselves….


I have but a limited knowledge of His purpose. Such calamities are not a mere caprice of the deity or Nature. They obey fixed laws as surely as the planets move in obedience to laws governing their movements. Only we do not know the laws governing these events and, therefore, call them calamities or disturbances. (H, 2-2-1934, p1)


This earthly existence of ours is more brittle than the glass bangles that ladies wear. You can keep glass bangles for thousands of years if you treasure them in a chest and let them remain untouched. But this earthly existence is so fickle that it may be wiped out in the twinkling of an eye. Therefore, while we have yet breathing time, let us get rid of the distinctions of high and low, purify our hearts and be ready to face our Maker when an earthquake or some natural calamity or death in the ordinary course overtakes us. (ibid, p5)


There is a divine purpose behind every physical calamity. That perfected science will one day be able to tell us beforehand when earthquakes will occur, as it tells us today of eclipses, is quite possible. It will be another triumph of the human mind. But such triumph even indefinitely multiplied can bring about no purification of self without which nothing is of any value.


I ask those who appreciate the necessity of inward purification to join the prayer that we may read the purpose of God behind such visitations, that they may humble us and prepare us to face our Maker whenever the call comes, and that we may be ever ready to share the sufferings of our fellows whosoever they may be. (H, 8-6-1935, p132)


God's Names

God has a thousand names, or rather, He is Nameless. We may worship or pray to Him by whichever name that pleases us. Some call Him Rama, some Krishna, others call Him Rahim, and yet others call Him God. All worship the same spirit, but as all foods do not agree with all, all names do not appeal to all. Each chooses the name according to his associations, and He, being the In-Dweller, All-Powerful and Omniscient knows our innermost feelings and responds to us according to our deserts.


Worship or prayer, therefore, is not to be performed with the lips, but with the heart. And that is why it can be performed equally by the dumb and the stammerer, by the ignorant and the stupid. And the prayers of those whose tongues are nectared but whose hearts are full of poison are never heard. He, therefore, who would pray to God, must cleanse his heart.


Rama was not only on the lips of Hanuman, He was enthroned in his heart. He gave Hanuman exhaustless strength. In His strength he lifted the mountain and crossed the ocean. (YI, 24-9-1925, p331)


I talk of God exactly as I believe Him to be… I believe God to be creative as well as non-creative. This too is the result of my acceptance of the doctrine of the manyness of reality. From the platform of the Jains I prove the non-creative aspect of God, and from that of Ramanuja the creative aspect. As a matter of fact, we are all thinking of the Unthinkable, describing the Indescribable, seeking to know the Unknown, and that is why our speech falters, is inadequate and even often contradictory. That is why the Vedas describe Brahman as 'not this', 'not this'. (H, 21-1-1926, p30)


In my opinion, Rama, Rahaman, Ahuramazda, God or Krishna are all attempts on the part of man to name that invisible force which is the greatest of all forces. It is inherent in man, imperfect though he be, ceaselessly to strive after perfection. In the attempt he falls into reverie. And, just as a child tries to stand, falls down again and again and ultimately learns how to walk, even so man, with all his intelligence, is a mere infant as compared to the infinite and ageless God. This may appear to be an exaggeration but is not. Man can only describe God in his own poor language. (H, 18-8-1946, p267)