Gandhi dedicated his life to the wider purpose of discovering truth, or Satya. He tried to achieve this by learning from his own mistakes and conducting experiments on himself. He called his autobiography The Story of My Experiments with Truth.
Gandhi stated that the most important battle to fight was overcoming his own demons, fears; and insecurities. Gandhi summarized his beliefs first when he said “God is Truth”. He would later change this statement to “Truth is God”. Thus, Satya (Truth) in Gandhi’s philosophy is “God”.
The concept of nonviolence (ahimsa) and nonresistance has a long history in Indian religious thought and has had many revivals in Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Jewish and Christian contexts. Gandhi explains his philosophy and way of life in his autobiography The Story of “My Experiments with Truth”. He was quoted as saying:
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a .time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall-think of it, always”
“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruct ion is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?”
“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
“There are many causes that I am prepared to die f or but no causes that I am prepared to kill for.”
In applying these principles, Gandhi did not balk from taking them to their most logical extremes. In 1940, when invasion of the British Isles by Nazi Germany looked imminent, Gandhi offered the following advice to the British people (Non-Violence in Peace and War):
“I would like you to lay down the arms you have as being useless for saving you or humanity. You will invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of the countries you call your possessions. If these gentlemen choose to occupy your homes, you will vacate them. If they do not give you free passage out, you will allow yourselves, man, woman, and child, to be slaughtered, but you will refuse to owe allegiance to them:”
However, Gandhi was aware that this level of nonviolence required incredible faith and courage, which he realized not everyone possessed. He therefore advised that everyone need not keep to nonviolence, especially if it were used as a cover for cowardice:
“Gandhiguarded against attracting to his satyagraha movement those who feared to take up arms or felt themselves incapable of resistance. ‘I do believe, ‘ he wrote, ‘that where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence. “‘
”At every melting I repeated the warning that unless they felt that in non-violence they had come into possession of a force infinitely superior to the one they had and in the use of which they were adept, they should have nothing to do with non-violence and resume the arms they possessed before.”
It must never be said of the Khudai Khidmatgars that once so brave, they had become or been made cowards under Bad shah Khan’s influence. Their bravery consisted not in being good marksmen but in defying death and being ever ready to bare their breasts to the bullets.”