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Gandhi on Non-Violence

Last time, we talked about Gandhi’s transformation from misogyny to non-violence (love). Below are some of his thoughts on Ahimsa (non-violence).

Non-violence is the only true force in life. …When the practice of non-violence becomes universal, God will reign on earth as He does in heaven.

Jesus lived and died in vain if He did not teach us to regulate the whole of life by the eternal law of love. …I claim to be a passionate seeker after truth, which is but another name for God.

Man as animal is violent but as spirit is non-violent. The moment he awakes to the spirit within he cannot remain violent. (Gandhi calls spirit satyagraha, soul force) Even being physically weak or lame is not a handicap, and even a frail woman or a child can pit herself or himself on equal terms against a giant armed with the most powerful weapons.

The first principle of non-violent action is that of non-cooperation with everything humiliating.

Prayer is the first and the last lesson in learning the noble and brave art of sacrificing self in the various walks of life culminating in the defense of one’s nation’s liberty and honor.


Truth never damages a cause that is just.

Non-violence is not a cover for cowardice, but is the supreme virtue of the brave…Cowardice is wholly inconsistent with non-violence…There is hope for a violent man to become non-violent. There is no such hope for the impotent.

Strength comes from God…Never have I attributed any independent strength to myself. Inaction…is rank cowardice and unmanly. It must be shunned at all cost.

Sabotage is a form of violence.

We have to organize for action a vast people that have been crushed under the heel of unspeakable tyranny for centuries. They cannot be organized by other than open, truthful means.

Fear of the foreigner is what gives rise to hatred. Fear gone, there can be no hatred.

If we cease to be inferiors, [others] cannot be our superior.

Self-respect and honor cannot be protected by others. They are for each individual himself or herself to guard.

It is the law of love that rules mankind. Had violence, i.e., hate ruled us, we should have become extinct long ago.

My notion of democracy is that under it the weakest should have the same opportunity as the strongest. This can never happen except through non-violence…Western democracy, as it functions today, is diluted Nazism or fascism.


You cannot build non-violence on a factory civilization.

Morality is contraband in war.

Human dignity is best preserved not by developing the capacity to deal destruction but by refusing to retaliate.

Just as one must learn the art of killing in the training for violence, so one must learn the art of dying in the training for non-violence…The positively necessary training for a non-violent army is an immovable faith in God.

Quotes are from Gandhi on Non-Violence by Thomas Merton, © 1965 New Directions Publishing Corporation, New York, NY 10011.

Top photo – Nathan Howard, freelance photographer of Portland, July 4th BLM protest, Willamette Week. Bottom photo – BLM protest, Bangor Daily News

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