Quotes & Sources
PURPOSE: Our intention is to use the quotations on the Home Page to define key concepts and issues concerning nonviolence, rotating these on a monthly basis. We will also try to identify the sources of the quotes, providing detailed references here where known and adding short biographical descriptions of lesser-known authors. We welcome your suggestions, additions, and comments. Quotes & Sources page edited by Joseph Geraci.
Margaret BOURKE-WHITE, “Gandhi reading newspaper clippings with spinning wheel, 1946”; with thanks to and all rights reserved by Gandhi/Serve Foundation, Peter Ruhe, chairperson.
The quotes that follow have all appeared at the top of our Home Page in the quotes field.
“The way of violence is old and established. It is not so difficult to do research in it. The way of nonviolence is new. The science of nonviolence is yet taking shape. We are still not conversant with all its aspects. There is a wide scope for research and experiment in this field. You can apply all your talents to it.”
M. K. Gandhi
REFERENCE: GANDHI, Mohandas K. from Gandhi Seva Sangh Meeting, Malikanda, Bengal, in Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. 77; p. 383; also cited by KING, Mary Elizabeth, Gandhian Nonviolent Struggle and Untouchability in South India: The 1924-25 Vykom Satyagraha and the Mechanisms of Change, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2015; p. 261.
“You asked me why I consider that God is Truth . . . I would also say with those who say that God is Love, ‘God is Love.’ But deep down in me I used to say that though God may be Love, God is Truth above all. I have now come to the conclusion that for myself God is Truth, but two years ago I went a step further and said Truth is God. And I came to that conclusion after a continuous and relentless search after Truth, which began nearly fifty years ago. I then found that the nearest approach to Truth was through Love.”
M. K. Gandhi
REFERENCE: GANDHI, M. K. in Young India, December 31, 1931; p. 427.
“Nonviolence has become a fad in some circles, and this fact may cause the great moral awakening started by Gandhi to stray into ‘techniques of nonviolence’, which is a new religion of ‘works’. These techniques, of course, should not be ignored. They can be used to obtain good results after all, but with the risk of forgetting that nonviolence is above all a witness to God. Should nonviolence become a mere method to ‘gain the whole world’ it would quickly be used by political parties for ends of dubious integrity. And then what would be left of it?”
REFERENCE: TROCMÉ, André. Jesus and the Nonviolent Revolution. (Translated by Michael H. Shank and Marlin E. Miller) Scottdale (Pennsylvania): Herald Press, 1973; p. 168.
“Nonviolence is a direction, not a separating line. It has no boundaries.”
Thich Nhat Hahn
REFERENCE: INGRAM, Catherine. In the Footsteps of Gandhi: Conversations with Spiritual Social Activists. Berkeley: Parallax Press, 2003; p. 87.
“The term nonviolence is a literal translation of the Sanskrit word ahimsa that frequently appears in Buddhist and Hindu literature. It is composed of the negative prefix a-, and the noun himsa meaning the desire to harm or to do violence to another living being. Ahimsa is therefore the absence of all desire for violence, that is to say respect for all living beings in thought, word, and deed . . . Ahimsa expresses a liberation from the desire for violence.”
REFERENCE: MULLER, Jean-Marie. The Principle of Nonviolence: A Philosophical Path. (Foreword by Glenn D. Paige) Honolulu (Hawaii): Center for Global Nonkilling, 2014; pp. 54-55.
“There is another element in our struggle that then makes our resistance and nonviolence truly meaningful. That element is reconciliation. Our ultimate end must be the creation of the beloved community. The tactics of nonviolence without the spirit of nonviolence may become a new kind of violence.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
REFERENCE: LEWIS, David Levering, King: A Biography. Urbana (Indiana): Indiana University Press, 2013 (3rd paperback edition), p. 116.
“We should remember that once we cultivate a compassionate attitude, nonviolence comes automatically. Nonviolence is compassion in action. If you have hatred in your heart, then very often your actions will be violent, whereas if you have compassion in your heart, your actions will be nonviolent.”
“Nonviolence means dialogue, it means using language to communicate. And dialogue means compromise: listening to others’ views, and respecting others’ rights, in a spirit of reconciliation.”
REFERENCE: Both of the preceding quotes are from: The Dalai Lama’s Book of Love and Compassion, London: Thorsons, 2001; pp. 58 & 62 respectively. The Dalai Lama’s statements on nonviolence are chiefly in his The Four Noble Truths, and The Power of Compassion.
“Ahimsa means avoiding injury to anything on earth in thought, word, or deed.”
REFERENCE: Harijan, 7.9.1935, p. 234.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Gandhi created three newspapers with this title. Harijan Bandu in Gujarati, Harijan Sevak in Hindi, and Harijan in English. This quote is, therefore, from the English version. Harijan (child of God) was Gandhi’s term for dalits, more commonly known as untouchables.
“Ahimsa means not to hurt any living creature by thought, word, or deed, even for the supposed benefit of that creature. To observe this principle fully is impossible for men, who kill a number of living beings large and small as they breathe or blink or till the land.”
REFERENCE: GANDHI, M. K. In Search of the Supreme (edited by V. B. Kher). Ahmedabad: Navajivan, 1961, p. 28.
“The choice today is no longer between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
REFERENCE: KING, Martin Luther, Jr. A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr. p. 39.
“The struggle between the forces of good and evil is ceaseless and eternal. The former have Truth and Ahimsa as weapons against the latter’s falsehood, violence and brute force.”
REFERENCE: Statement made in a speech on Prayer, 30 November 1944; quoted in CHATTERJEE, Margaret. Gandhi’s Religious Thought. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983, p. 101.
“Gandhi believed that reality must be changed nonviolently lest we add to the total burden of suffering in the world, and that in so doing we chime in with reality at a deeper level since we are thereby operating according to the law of love.”
REFERENCE: CHATTERJEE, Margaret. Gandhi’s Religious Thought. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983, p. 77.
“Satyagraha is literally holding on to Truth and it means, therefore, Truth-force. Truth is soul or spirit. It is, therefore, known as soul-force.”
REFERENCE: Young India 23.3.1921.
Also cited in GANDHI, M. K. Non-violent Resistance. New York: Schocken Books, 1961. p. 1
BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE: The weekly periodical Young India was edited by Gandhi from 1919 to 1932. Issues and content before 1 January 1923 are in the public domain.
“Truth implies love, and firmness engenders force. I thus began to call the Indian movement satyagraha; that is to say, the force that is born of truth and love or nonviolence…. Satyagraha is soul-force pure and simple.”
REFERENCE: GANDHI, M. K. Satyagraha in South Africa. Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House, 1950. pp. 102, 105.
“The word Satyagraha is Sanskrit in origin. It is a compound word formed of Satya and Agraha. Satya means ‘truth’. Agraha means ‘holding fast,’ ‘adherence,’ ‘insistence.’ Thus the compound word denotes clinging to truth, holding fast to truth, insistence on truth.”
R. R. Diwakar
REFERENCE: DIWAKAR, R. R. Satyagraha: The Power of Truth. Hinsdale (Illinois): Henry Regnery, 1948. p. iii.
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE: R. R. Diwakar was a Gandhian activist (satyagrahi) jailed in the still notorious Nasik prison near Mumbai (then Bombay) for his participation in nonviolent protest. After Independence he had an eminent political career as Governor of Bihar and as a member of the Constituent Assembly of India. In the 1960s he became the Chairman of the Gandhi Peace Foundation. This work is more and more often cited as an essential text in the literature of nonviolence, although it hasbeen unavailable since this edition of 1948.
“There can be no Satyagraha in an unjust cause. Satyagraha in a just cause is vain, if the men espousing it are not determined and capable of fighting and suffering to the end; and the slightest use of violence often defeats a just cause. Satyagraha excludes the use of violence in any shape or form, whether in thought, speech, or deed. Given a just cause, capacity for endless suffering and avoidance of violence, victory is a certainty.”
REFERENCE: Young India 27.4.1921. (See Note above for Young India)
“Non-violence for me is not a mere experiment. It is part of my life. Satyagraha, Non-cooperation, Civil Disobedience, and the like, are necessary deductions from a fundamental proposition, that Non-violence is the law of life for human beings. For me it is both a means and an end.”
REFERENCE: Gandhi to M. Asaf Ali, 26 June 1933, Gandhi Papers, SN no. 19108.
“There is just the same inviolable connection between the means and the end as there is between the seed and the tree.”
REFERENCE: GANDHI, M. (edited by Anthony J. Parel) ‘Hind Swaraj’ and Other Writings. Cambridge (UK): Cambridge University Press, 2010, p. 79.
“Nonviolence in the truest sense is not a strategy that one uses simply because it is expedient at the moment; nonviolence is ultimately a way of life that men live by because of the sheer morality of its claim. But even granting this, the willingness to use nonviolence as a technique is a step forward. For he who goes this far is more likely to adopt nonviolence later as a way of life.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
REFERENCE: The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2001; p. 68. First trade paperback edition, and readily available.
“The use of satyagraha is based upon the immutable maxim that government of the people is possible only so long as they consent either consciously or unconsciously to be governed.”
REFERENCE: GANDHI, M. Indian Opinion, Golden Number, 1914; also quoted in GANDHI, Non-violent Resistance, p. 35 & Satyagraha in South Africa, p. 35; also in Gene SHARP, The Politics of Nonviolent Action: Part One: Power and Struggle. Boston: Extending Horizons Books, 2006 (9th printing), p. 84.
“If the maintenance of an unjust or non-democratic regime depends on the cooperation, submission and obedience of the populace, then the means for changing or abolishing it lies in the non-cooperation, defiance and disobedience of that populace. These could be undertaken, as Gandhi thought, without the use of physical violence, and even without hostility toward the members of the opponent group.”
REFERENCE: SHARP, Gene. The Politics of Nonviolent Action: Part One: Power and Struggle. Boston: Extending Horizons Books, 2006 (9th printing), p. 84.
Footer Woodcut and Gandhi Quote
The color woodcut at the bottom of our web pages was found on the web site of the Plain and Simple Bible Ministry in the blog entry for Thursday April 1, 2010. Their site does not identify the artist, nor have they answered our enquiries. We would be grateful to hear from the artist or from someone who can identify it for us.
“For me whatever is in the atoms and molecules is in the universe. I believe in the saying that what is in the microcosm of one’s self is reflected in the macrocosm.”
REFERENCE: 4 April 1947, The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (CWMG), vol. 87, p. 207.