To many, the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi personifies peace. And to an extent, that’s true — a major tenet of Gandhi’s philosophy revolves around the pursuit of peace. But as he wrote in political articles, leaflets, speeches, and books, that peace can only arrive when a population is educated and reflective enough to receive it.
Influenced by the 19th-century transcendentalist movement, Mahatma Gandhi wrote about nonviolence and satyagraha (“holding onto truth”) as the only path to a peaceful future. His abhorrence of violence is matched by his conviction that civil disobedience is the most moral decision one can make in times of political upheaval.
“Complete civil disobedience is a state of peaceful revolution, a refusal to obey every single state-made law.” - Mahatma: Life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
“Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.” - Satyagraha Leaflet No. 13, 1919
“Non-violence is the first article of my faith. It is also the last article of my creed.” - Speech at the Great Trial of 1922
“I am endeavoring to show to my countrymen that violent non-co-operation only multiplies evil, and that as evil can only be sustained by violence, withdrawal of support of evil requires complete abstention from violence.” - Speech at the Great Trial of 1922
“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” - “The Doctrine of the Sword,” published in Young India
Gandhi’s emphasis on truth and love resonated with civil rights leaders around the world, including Martin Luther King, Jr. According to Gandhi, understanding pure love and truth was the first step to resisting the pull of violence.
“What barrier is there that love cannot break?” - Gandhi: An Autobiography
“Truth (Satya) implies love, and firmness (agraha) engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force. I thus began to call the Indian movement ‘Satyagraha’, that is to say, the Force which is born of Truth and Love or non-violence, and gave up the use of the phrase ‘passive resistance,’ in connection with it, so much so that even in English writing we often avoided it and used instead the word ‘Satyagraha’ itself or some other equivalent English phrase.” - Satyagraha in South Africa
“If we are to reach real peace in this world and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with children; and if they will grow up in their natural innocence, we won't have to struggle, we won't have to pass fruitless idle resolutions. But we shall go from love to love and peace to peace, until at last all the corners of the world are covered with that peace and love for which, consciously or unconsciously, the whole world is hungering.” - Young India, 1931
“I worship God as Truth only. I have not yet found Him, but I am seeking after Him.” - Gandhi: An Autobiography
“Truth alone will endure, all the rest will be swept away before the tide of time. I must continue to bear testimony to truth even if I am forsaken by all. Mine may today be a voice in the wilderness, but it will be heard when all other voices are silenced, if it is the voice of Truth.” - Basic Education
Many leaders see the political and religious worlds as separate. Gandhi saw them as inextricably linked — for better or for worse — and that one’s faith should influence their political standing.
“Truth has drawn me into the field of politics; and I can say without the slightest hesitation, and yet in all humility, that those who say that religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion means.” - Gandhi: An Autobiography
“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?” - Non-violence in Peace & War
“To call woman the weaker sex is a libel; it is man's injustice to woman. If by strength is meant brute strength, then, indeed, is woman less brute than man. If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man's superior.” - Young India, 1930
“I do not believe that the spiritual law works on a field of its own. On the contrary, it expresses itself only through the ordinary activities of life. It thus affects the economic, the social and the political fields.” - Young India, 1925
“The true source of rights is duty. If we all discharge our duties, rights will not be far to seek. If leaving duties unperformed we run after rights, they will escape us like a will-o'-the-wisp. The more we pursue them, the farther will they fly.” - Young India, 1925
While you’ve likely seen the quote “Be the change you want to see in the world” attributed to Gandhi, there’s no evidence that he actually said those words. However, many of his actual quotes reflect the same concept.
“It is noble voluntarily to do what is good and right. The true sign of man's nobility is the fact that, instead of being driven about like a cloud before the wind, he stands firm and can do, and in fact does, what he deems proper.” - Ethical Religion
“It has always been a mystery to me how men can feel themselves honoured by the humiliation of their fellow beings.” - Gandhi: An Autobiography
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.” - The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Volume XII, April 1913 to December 1914
“I believe in the essential unity of man and for that matter of all that lives. Therefore I believe that if one man gains spiritually, the whole world gains with him and if one man falls, the whole world falls to that extent.” - Young India, 1924
“Seven social sins: politics without principles, wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice.” - “Seven Social Sins,” published in Young India, 1925
Mahatma Gandhi’s quotes embody the strength and conviction of character required in times of social change. To read more quotes from like-minded writers and leaders, check out: