In a world where war is common, violence can start to seem kind of acceptable…as long as it's against the baddies. After all, many people would fight to defend themselves or get revenge—which they might consider to be justice.
Gandhi fully rejects this approach in The Story of My Experiments with Truth. But his philosophy of non-violence, or ahimsa, means more than simply refraining from striking your opponents. It means seeking to do them good. Some seriously inspiring quotes are headed your way—after all, some of these gems inspired Nelson Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Non-violence is the only acceptable approach for activists to take.
Militancy on the part of activists is acceptable.
What is truth? According to Gandhi in his autobiography The Story of My Experiments with Truth, it's God and the greatest good after which we should be seeking. While most of us associate the term "experiment" with controlled settings in laboratories (and maybe with Frankenstein), Gandhi applies it to his actions in the everyday world.
He seeks to find truth by participating in politics, restraining his passions, and being honest in business and law. The foundation of his search for truth is ahimsa, or non-violence. Check out these quotations to better understand his view.
Truth can only be obtained by rigorous application of the scientific method.
There can be truth, even if imperfect, in everyday life, in matters ranging from business to diet.
Inspired by his devout mother and the religious tolerance of his father, Gandhi sought to understand all the religions he came across…and he describes this process in The Story of My Experiments with Truth.
His own view is that God is truth and that to realize yourself fully—which he sees as a religious quest—you must participate in all areas of life, including politics. Whereas many feel religion to be a private matter, something you shouldn't discuss with others, Gandhi, while tolerant, is forthright about his own beliefs.
Religion is a matter for public discussion and debate, including in the field of politics.
Religion is a private matter and doesn't have a place in politics.
Often we know the basics of history's social justice movements—what legislation was passed, the names of leaders—but less often do we see behind the scenes. In his autobiography The Story of My Experiments with Truth, Gandhi shows us what made him able to lead India to independence.
His spiritual training was the source of his power, and he also developed strong views on how public workers should handle money and conduct their lives. Take a look at these quotations to understand Gandhi's advice on making the world a better place.
Money tends to corrupt social movements, so activists shouldn't try to store it up.
Those conducting public movements need to collect as much money as possible to succeed.
Duty is, well, what you have to do. But what happens when your sense of duty conflicts with other ideals? In The Story of My Experiments with Truth, Gandhi explains why he participates in war on the side of the British Empire despite his commitment to non-violence.
Since he demands rights from the empire, he feels he's obliged to defend it when called upon to do so, and he thinks this choice might develop in him the capacity to resist war. Besides the war shenanigans, Gandhi also tells us about his and the community's duty to fight for political rights.
An advocate of non-violence shouldn't participate in war at all.
In some cases, an advocate of non-violence should participate in war.
In The Story of My Experiments with Truth, Gandhi displays an admirable dedication to morality and ethics—far more than most people can claim. But by no means is he perfect; he tells us how he learns from his own wrongdoing.
But from honesty to vegetarianism, from keeping vows to self-denial, these quotations reveal the depth of Gandhi's commitment to doing what he believes is right. After all, he thinks that morality is the basis of all things, including the experiments by which he lives his life.
People should learn self-denial to be fully moral.
It's not necessary to be ascetic to be a moral person.
The caste system in India is a centuries-old system dividing up people by profession and birth, but it's changed in recent times, with discrimination based on caste becoming illegal. That's in part thanks to Gandhi, who tells us in his autobiography The Story of My Experiments with Truth about prejudice against the untouchables, or members of a group considered below the four main castes.
The caste system is part of his religion of Hinduism, but Gandhi thinks his faith must be changed to abolish untouchability. These quotations depict what untouchability was like in Gandhi's day.
Untouchability is part of Hinduism and Indian traditions and should continue to exist at least in some form.
Untouchability should be abolished.
In The Story of My Experiments with Truth, Gandhi tells us his own theories on education—learn multiple languages, strengthen your body, and mind your handwriting. He thinks children learn best from their parents and strives to teach his own kids—but says he neglects their literary training.
He also believes teachers should practice what they preach—so his students took up spiritual studies and learned about liberty. What would it be like to have had Gandhi as your teacher? We're pretty sure it'd be a different experience.
Education should include spiritual and political training.
Education should stick to subjects that everyone can agree on.
In The Story of My Experiments with Truth, Gandhi describes the relationship between the foreign British rulers and the subjugated Indian members of the empire's colony. The story starts with himself as he travels to England to study law. He temporarily adopts some British customs but sticks to his vows instead of taking up meat eating and liquor drinking.
When he returns to India years later, he advocates for the speaking of the native languages over the rulers' English, demonstrating the importance of language in identity formation. These quotations show how the idea of foreignness played out in the life of the famous Indian leader.
People should prioritize the language of their home country.
If foreign languages offer more advantages, people should prioritize them.
If there's one bit of Gandhi gossip you've heard, it's that the man gave up sex. In The Story of My Experiments with Truth, he fills us in on his practice of brahmacharya, which means conduct leading one to God…and abstaining from sexual behavior.
Lust, he says, gets in the way of everything, including his relationship with his wife. To root it out, you have to not just abstain from sex but learn to control your other senses, too, reining them in instead of indulging them.
People should give up sex to get closer to God.
Giving up sex isn't necessary for living an idealistic life.