The Elixir of Growth

Mohandas K. Gandhi - India
As heard on the This I Believe podcast, January 19, 2015
Mohandas K. Gandhi
photos in public domain, as found at commons.wikipedia.org

Mohandas Gandhi believed that none of the world's religions had a monopoly on wisdom and that all of them were the same at their core. He was much more concerned with the actions we take in the service of one another, especially in the service of the poor and oppressed.

I believe that the core of all religions is the same—otherwise they would not be religions. I consider myself a Hindu, Christian, Moslem, Jew, Parsi, Buddhist, and Confucian. Rivalry among creeds degrades them. The idea of “My God is better than your God” repels me.

Nor do I believe in the superiority of nations or races. There is good and bad in all of them. I would not hurt England to help India. Peace at the expense of some nations is only an armistice. Peace between countries must rest on the solid foundation of love between individuals. Love gives men a partnership in the cares and the needs of others. Hate and competitions then yield to cooperation.

Love between individuals is the elixir of growth. I believe that I achieve my highest stature by merging my ego in the other individuals. This is love, or tender identification.

My love of my fellow men does not depend on their agreeing with me or following me. I smile on the dissenter. Disloyalty to my ideas is a gulf easily bridged by friendship and affection.

Civilization, I hold, is the acceptance, aye, the encouragement of differences. Civilization thus becomes a synonym of democracy. Force, violence, pressure, or compulsion with a view to conformity is therefore both uncivilized and undemocratic.

Force leads to fear and fear makes a small man. I have tried, throughout life, to banish fear, for if I fear I am not free.

Fear, I am convinced, reside in possessions. My heart is where my worldly goods are, by worldly goods I mean not only treasure and property, I mean also power, popularity, even this body of mine. Were I to put a high value on these I would hesitate to give them up in payment for principles. An attack on my principles would then make me cringe and retreat.

I am not against wealth. I am against wealth that enslaves. No possession must have a veto power over my actions. I fast when the cause for which I fast is more important to me than life itself. I renounce because that which I renounce affords me less pleasure than the fruits of renunciation.

I am an ordering person, subject to many frailties, and if I have any right to speak about myself it is only thanks to my successful experiments in living. My life is action. I believe that I must live what I believe. I have attempted to eliminate the conflict between what I believe, what I do, and what I say. This is truth. I preach what I practice. The result is an integration which brings inner harmony. In the face of a wrong I cannot remain supine and merely wring my hands, utter pious regrets, and thereby salve my conscience. I share responsibility for all the evils in the world unless I combat them.

The poor and the oppressed are my first and chief preoccupation, but I will not act for them, I act with them. They must not be passive or indifferent. I fear resignation more than failure. Action in a right cause ennobles, though the results be meager, for means are more important than ends. Actually there are no ends in life (there is even no end to life, for every end is a beginning and another incarnation), there are only means, every means is a means to another means. Means, accordingly, make the man and they must be clean and beautiful.

I believe that God is no dictator. He leaves us the freedom to master ourselves.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) was the preeminent leader of the independence movement in British-ruled India. Employing nonviolent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. His essay was crafted by journalist and writer Louis Fischer, author of The Life of Mahatma Gandhi, from various books, articles, and speeches written by Gandhi during his lifetime.

Originally broadcast in 1954 as part of Edward R. Murrow's This I Believe series