‘Ahimsa Requires Us to Accept Our Limitations and Not to Feel Proud’

The discourse delivered by Mahatma Gandhi at the prayer meeting on January 17, 1948, the fifth day of his final fast.

Mahatma Gandhi. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Mahatma Gandhi. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Gandhi’s final fast (January 13-18, 1948): On the 70th anniversary to mark this historic protest, The Wire recalls the politics and ideals Gandhi represented and sacrificed his life for.

Below is the full text of Mahatma Gandhi’s discourse at the prayer meeting on January 17, 1948, the fifth day of his final fast. It has been taken from The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi.


Brothers and sisters,

God’s mercy it is that on this fifth day of the fast I can speak a few words without feeling exhausted. I have dictated the message for today which Sushilabehn will read out to you. Whatever you do words must be backed by your full mind and heart, or it will avail nothing. You will be making the greatest mistake if you think only of how I am to be kept alive. It is not in any human hand to keep me alive or to kill me. It is in god’s hands. I have not the least doubt about it, and no one else should have the least doubt. The meaning of this fast is that our hearts should be cleansed and awakened. In that alone lies the good of all. Please do nothing out of pity for me. I shall fast for as many days as I can and if it is the will of god that I should die then I shall die.

I know many of my friends are distressed and want me to terminate the fast at once. Today I cannot do so. When the occasion for it comes I shall not persist in the fast. Ahimsa requires us to accept our limitations and not to feel proud. It calls for humility. There is no pride in what I say. There is only pure love in it.

I repeat what I have said before – nothing is to be done under pressure of the fast. I have observed before that things done under pressure of a fast were undone after the fast was over. If any such thing happens, it would be a tragedy of the highest degree. There is no occasion for it at any time. What a spiritual fast does expect is cleansing of the heart. The cleansing, if it is honest, does not cease to be when the cause which induced it ceases. The cleansing of a wall seen in the form of a white-wash done to welcome a dear one does not cease when the dear one has come and gone. This material cleansing is bound to require renovation after some time. Cleansing of the heart once achieved only dies with one’s death. Apart from this legitimate and laudable pressure, the fast has no other function which can be described as proper.

Also read: The Day Gandhi Began His Last Fast

The number of telegrams coming from rajas, maharajas and common people continues to increase. There are telegrams from Pakistan too. They are good as far as they go. But as a friend and well-wisher I must say to all those who reside in Pakistan and mould its fortunes that they will fail to make Pakistan permanent if their conscience is not quickened and if they do not admit the wrongs for which Pakistan is responsible.

This does not mean that I do not wish a voluntary reunion, but I wish to remove and resist the idea that Pakistan should be reunited by force of arms. I hope that this will not be misunderstood as a note of discord, whilst I am lying on what is truly a death-bed. I hope all Pakistanis will realise that I would be untrue to them and to myself if out of weakness and for fear of hurting their feelings, I failed to convey to them what I truthfully feel. If I am wrong in my estimate, I should be so told and if I am convinced, I promise that I shall retract what I have said here. So far as I know, the point is not open to question.

My fast should not be considered a political move in any sense of the term. It is in obedience to the peremptory call of conscience and duty. It comes out of felt agony. I call to witness all my numerous Muslim friends in Delhi. Their representatives meet me almost every day to report the day’s events. Neither rajas and maharajas nor Hindus and Sikhs or any others would serve themselves or India as a whole, if at this, what is to me a sacred juncture, they mislead me with a view to terminating my fast. Let them know that I feel never so happy as when I am fasting for the spirit. This fast has brought me higher happiness than hitherto. No one need disturb this happy state, unless he can honestly claim that in his journey he has turned deliberately from Satan towards god.

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