35 Quotes from Gandhi: Understanding His Philosophy

December 4, 2017

Quotes from Gandhi are still inspiring people today all over the world. The pacifist leader par excellence has had a significant impact on our way of thinking, with his spirituality, simplicity of heart and philosophy of non-violence. His legacy is like none other. Few figures in history have inspired us like he has to live in peace and in accordance with the truth.

Experts in Mahatma Gandhi’s work say that his philosophy is tremendously multifaceted and quite complex at times, so much so that it would take several volumes to even just sketch its outlines.

But for those who want to dive into his work for the first time, Gandhi’s philosophy can be divided into 4 main parts: nonviolence, Sarvodaya (socially committed Buddhism), Satyagraha (the force of the soul), and the search for the truth.

These are four well-defined yet interconnected areas where religious ideas harmonize with social ideals to form one clear purpose and hope: to urge humanity to trust in itself, to convince ourselves that we are able to create positive changes in our society, while attaining greater moral growth.

Best quotes from Gandhi about non-violence

These brief testimonies, encapsulated in simple phrases, feature in several of his books. When we read them, we intuit almost instantly that we are not dealing with the work of someone who wanted to impose a rigid doctrine on the world.

On the contrary, they are a set of principles that invite us to reflect, and that can be applied to any area of ​​our life, helping us understand, for example, that the basic things we need to break the cycle of violence are love, dialogue, and respect for the other.

That’s why we suggest reading and reflecting on them at your own pace, without judgement but with a willingness to learn new things. They are more than relevant in today’s world.

Gandhi with officials

1. You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if some drops are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty

Ahimsa is a concept from Sanskrit and gives rise to the philosophy of non-violence and respect for life that is so characteristic of Gandhi.

Likewise, if there was one thing that defined him it was his unwavering hope in humanity. This hope is why he encouraged people to have a positive attitude of tolerance, patience, and charity, and to never lose faith in mankind.

2. Violence is fear of the other’s ideals

This is one of Gandhi’s most famous phrases and the one that best defines the essence of his philosophy: we should not be afraid of things that are different. We should not fear those who think differently or have different opinions. Fearing “the other” is a symptom of weakness.

3. An eye for an eye and everyone will be blind

Violence only breeds violence. Humanity must stop using aggression, revenge, and hatred to communicate. The only thing it does is make evil chronic.

4. Hate and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding

Gandhi advocated the importance of dialogue as a way of getting past differences and intolerance. Only those who are able to humbly speak to each other face-to-face can achieve a correct understanding.

5. Poverty is the worst form of violence

One of Gandhi’s phrases which is still highly relevant. Poverty remains a structural violence that is not getting better and in fact continues being ignored.

6. I suppose that leadership once meant force but today it means getting along with people

A good leader does not impose themselves using power or violence, but with respect, with sensitivity of heart.

“Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of the true democratic spirit.”

-Mahatma Gandhi-

8. There are two types of power: one is obtained through fear of punishment, and the other through acts of love. Power based on love is more effective and permanent than fear of punishment

For Gandhi, love is the way to truth. Once we have made this our ideal, we will be able to fight against violence to make respect, coexistence, and charity the foundation of our society.

9. Non-violence requires a double faith, faith in God and faith in man

Non-violence for Gandhi was a “great power” that must be accepted as the law of life. It should impregnate our whole being and all of our thoughts. I should be reflected in our actions.

“Anger is the enemy of non-violence, and pride is a monster that absorbs it.”

-Mahatma Gandhi-

Best quotes from Gandhi about Satyagraha (force of soul)

11. The purpose of life is to live correctly, think correctly, and act correctly

The principle of Satyagraha is essential to understanding Gandhi’s philosophy. This concept tells us that a person must live in harmony with himself, free from fear and prejudice, and always adhering to the ideal of truth as the purpose of life.

12. Happiness is when what you think, say, and do are in harmony

This is the principle of harmony between thought and action.

13. Be the change you wish to see in the world

A Satyagrahi, that is, a person who is brave and has the principle of respect, love, and truth in his heart, sees himself as capable of making this world a much better place.

“Love is the most powerful force that exists”

-Mahatma Gandhi-

15. Justice through love is redemption, justice through the law is punishment

The principles of Gandhi always have a moral connotation. One major principle is a clear resistance to injustice, the development of a spirit of service, self-denial, and sacrifice. He therefore always stressed the importance of making love and simplicity our best weapons.

Quotes from Gandhi about the Sarvodaya: a committed society

Gandhi dreamed of an ideal society, free from all forms of exploitation, social differences, violence, and injustice. Here are quotes that reflect this high purpose, a commitment we are all responsible for.

a bird fluttering his wings as a hand holds him

16. The future depends on what you do today

The future of our society depends on the small changes we can do now, committing ourselves to the principles of love and justice.

18. There is enough in the world to cover the needs of man, but not his greed

This social objective, described by Gandhi as Sarvodaya, is a term that he himself coined. It can be translated as the need to seek the welfare of all without exception. Thus, it is clear that greed has no place in a world where there are already enough resources and opportunities for everybody if we make it so.

19. An honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress

Dialogue and its importance in smoothing out rough edges and differences make a basic tenet of Gandhi’s philosophy. A respectful disagreement between two people is a way of making progress in any walk of life.

20. It is not enough for our ears to be satisfied, for our eyes to be satisfied; our hearts must be touched and our hands and feet must move

A society that wants change must be a society capable of doing, shifting, and generating a movement that starts with the individual, with one’s own heart, and must then be reflected in our actions. A good leader must therefore be capable of instilling real hope in their people that they can make change.

21. No culture can survive if it wants to be exclusive

The concept of Satyagraha can and should be practiced in every cultural environment, because otherwise, we are lost. Exclusion, mistrust, the differences between my religion and your religion, the fierce antagonisms between my ideas and yours, do nothing but build walls and sow the seed of violence.

“Those who cannot give up their attachment to the outcome of their work are on the wrong path”

-Mahatma Gandhi-

Gandhi walking with a follower down a colorful Indian road

23. It is difficult, but not impossible, to run a business completely honestly

Moral force is the engine that should power every good society, starting from the bottom, in our own homes and small businesses. Therefore, according to Gandhi, each individual should be trained in honesty, humility, and justice in order to be a productive citizen, assuming responsibility, and fulfilling their duties to create a much better world.

24. A leader is useless when he acts against the impulses of his own conscience

This is one of Gandhi’s most famous quotes. Something he advocated without fail was political decentralization to keep power from being in the hands one person, a power that will almost always get the better of him.

Little by little the all-powerful leader will seek only their own gain. Therefore Gandhi always advocated direct, participatory democracy.

25. Peace between countries must be based on love between individuals

Only through love can truth and peace be attained in society. In fact, one constant idea in Gandhi’s philosophy is that the concept we have of God is love itself and it is the only way to weaken our enemies and the forces of evil.

In order to reach this ideal of a perfect society Gandhi dreamed of, we must start with ourselves and those around us. If we respect and love our family, our neighbors and our community, we must also be able to do the same with the countries around us.

 26. If we want true peace in the world, start with the children

To create a better society and a more noble future governed by love and harmony, we must care for and educate our younger generations in the principles of peace and non-violence.

Quotes from Gandhi about truth

The true meaning behind the key concepts of Gandhi’s philosophy lies in their etymological roots. The word “truth” has its origin in the Sanskrit term “Satya”, and “sat” means “what exists, what is real.” So for Gandhi, the idea of ​​truth applies when thought is in tune with actions and when a society has a moral code that encourages this high purpose in its citizens.

Here are quotes that best represent this idea.

27. Truth remains even if it doesn’t have any public support

This is one of Gandhi’s most well-known phrases, referring to the idea that one must be able to maintain, safeguard, and defend their own truth even though the majority may be pushing us in the opposite direction.

“Even if you are one in a minority, truth is truth”

-Mahatma Gandhi-

28. Truth is evident by nature. When you remove the cobwebs of ignorance that surround it, it shines free

The truth is always there, right in front of us. However, we often let ourselves be manipulated, and carried away by laziness, submissiveness, or even ignorance. Few acts require as much courage as finding truth and acting in accordance with it.

Gandhi weaving

29. My life is my message

We said a moment ago that “Satya”, meaning “true” in Sanskrit, means what is real, what exists. In turn, Gandhi taught that truth is meaningless if you think one thing and do the opposite. Therefore, this pacifist leader of India always lived in harmony with everything he preached and led a humble life dedicated to others.

30. Believing in something and not living it is dishonest

Here we can see the same principle reflected again: the need to live in harmony with our own truth, with our own beliefs.

31. Truth prevails, even if there is no public support. It stands on its own

Some say Gandhi was an idealist, and we can agree that’s true. However, in many of his texts and in these quotes from Gandhi, we can see that it is a very practical, useful idealism that can be applied to many areas of our lives.

Every one of us at some point in our lives, whether at home or in the workplace, have defended truth even if we had no support. Sooner or later falsehood and injustice will fall…

32. Truth never harms a just house

As much as we fear telling the truth, if we do it in a place that is just, it will always be respected and valued.

“Morality is the basis of things and truth is the substance of morality.”

-Mahatma Gandhi-

34. Everyone who wants to can hear their inner voice. It is inside all of us

To make contact with truth and act accordingly, we must listen to our inner voice. Our internal dialogue should be constant and permanent. It’s the only way we will find the strength to act in the face of what we consider unjust and against truth.

35. The goal is truth and the path is love

The opposite of violence is love, and the only way to build a society capable of defending truth, capable of thinking and acting in accordance with this principle, is to take the path of charity, dialogue, equality, fraternity, and justice.

quotes from Gandhi

To conclude, as you can see, Gandhi’s philosophy not only has moral, political, and religious implications. Above all, it is a compendium of knowledge that may be rooted in Indian culture, but is so relevant to us today. 

Bibliographical references

Gandhi, M.K. (1993). An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments With Truth. Boston: Beacon Press.

Wolpert, S. (2001). Gandhi’s Passion: The Life and Legacy of Mahatma Gandhi. Oxford University Press.

Gandhi, Mahatma (1989) “The words of Gandhi” Madrid: SIDDHARTH MEHTA EDICIONES

Gandhi, Mahatma (2016) “The food of the soul”. José J. de Olañeta