Mahatma Gandhi, born October 2, 1869 in Porbandar, Kathiawar Agency, British India, had a law degree but realized he was too introverted to practice law. Raised in a merchant caste family, he opted to pursue another line of work that would in later years earn him the name “Mahatma,” which means “The great-souled one.”
Gandhi’s mother raised her son to have simple needs, be a vegetarian, shun violence and tolerate the views of others. He appreciated this upbringing so much that he once quipped, “It may be possible to gild pure gold, but who can make his mother more beautiful?”
Gandhi devoted his life to fight for Indian independence from the British Empire through non-violent civil disobedience, a path that led his countrymen to immortalize him as the “Father of India.” Throughout the rest of the world, the date of his birth is celebrated as the International Day of Nonviolence.
How did such a lowly individual come to become such an impactful leader? What propelled him to stand up against injustice, government oppressions and change the world?
Here are 10 eternally inspiring quotes from Gandhi that’ll give you a glimpse into his mind. The quotes are simple truths and powerful exhortation by Gandhi himself that can change your life. They’ll encourage you to get up and play your part in making the world a better place. Enjoy.
1. “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Gandhi wished to see an end of poverty and Indians gain more rights. He wished governments stopped oppressing citizens and violating their basic human rights. So he stood up and began to champion for civil rights and inspire freedom movements around the world. In the end, he became the change he wanted to see in the world. You must be willing to roll up your sleeves, get in the ring and fight for the change you wish to see. It starts with you — your personal resolve and willingness to sacrifice for change.
2. “An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.”
Inspiring words are great. They help to highlight problems and strengthen people’s convictions. But, words alone are not enough. Gandhi believed in taking action—non-violent action. It doesn’t really matter how small or how radical your actions are, or even if you succeed, taking action is its own reward. As Gandhi himself observed, “Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment, full effort is full victory.” Don’t be indifferent or a silent observer of ills in the world. Act now to bring positive change.
3. “My life is my message.”
In the course of his straggles for freedom and justice, Gandhi developed a concept he called “satyagraha.” This was in essence a philosophy devoted to the truth and non-violence. He modeled an ascetic lifestyle that incorporated prayer, fasting and meditation. He started wearing a traditional white dhoti or long loincloth, and was arrested several times for leading peaceful protests. His campaigns were to ease poverty, increase religious tolerance and expand human rights, including women’s rights. His life was his message. And his followers saw it and started calling him “Mahatma.” Your life should be your message too.
4. “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
If you are struggling to find yourself or the meaning of your existence, commit yourself to the service of others. There you will find yourself because you are part of the whole, and the whole is part of you. Your welfare is interlinked with the welfare of others in the human family.
5. “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
No one knows what will happen the next minute, let alone the next hour or tomorrow. Tomorrow might in fact never come. So do your absolute best now. Learn as much as you can about how to improve the world now. Show up and make the world better now. Now is the only time you are sure of.
On January 30, 1948, Gandhi was assassinated while walking to a prayer meeting in New Delhi. The assassin, a young Hindu extremist, was angry because Gandhi had been negotiating with Muslims. But, Gandhi lived each day of his adult life to the fullest. Because of that, and inspite of being assassinated at age 78, his legacy lives on years later. It can never be killed.
6. “I am a humble but very earnest seeker after truth.”
Wicked forces in the world wish to hide and stifle the truth. Seek out the truth and guard it earnestly because the truth shall set you free; the truth shall set the world free. Gandhi believed so much in seeking after the truth because, as he put it himself, “Truth never damages a cause that is just.” Truth may in fact damage an unjust cause.
7. “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
In 1930, Gandhi led a march to the sea to protest Salt Laws that required Indians to purchase expensive British salt rather than mine their own. Many observers laughed at the protestors and others just ignored them. The protesters boiled salt water and extracted “illegal” salt. Gandhi was arrested, but soon after released so that he could attend round table negotiations in London.
The Round Table Conference was not great for Gandhi, but he met the King of England and gained international exposure. Those who laughed at him were not laughing any more. He won. Stand fast and fight for a better world inspite of people’s ridicule and mockery. You will win in the end.
8. “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”
According to Gandhi, vengeance and violent retaliation is not the answer for injustice. Gandhi actually believed that,“Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.” So, he firmly asserted: “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”
This conviction that violence is not the answer worked for Gandhi; it worked for Martin Luther King Jr.; it can work for you too!
9. “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
Forgiveness is often quite hard. That is why it’s an attribute of the strong. It’s a gift that warms the heart and cools the sting. It is a sign of strength. When you forgive it does not delete a memory, it creates a new way to remember. It allows you to change your attitude. When your attitude changes, so does the attitude of the world toward you change. You influence the world positively by being generous with forgiveness.
10. “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”
You don’t have get your bowels in an uproar and huff and puff to make a change in this world. This is self evident in Gandhi’s own life. He was one of the gentlest beings to ever walk the earth. And if you thought being gentle is a weakness, you couldn’t be more wrong. A gentle, forceful nature is what made Gandhi one of most revered spiritual-nationalist leader the world has seen. Gandhi is a testament that no matter what your circumstances, with a gentle, resolute spirit you can change the world.
Featured photo credit: Timothy Tolle via flickr.com