Mahatma Gandhi’s Concept of Truth

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Mahatma Gandhi’s concept of truth it as the moral truth or truth fullness as the essential vow to be lived attain God realisation. In this chapter deals with the basic concept of Mahatma Gandhi’s truth and how the truth related to other concepts of Gandhi like Truth and Ahimsa, Truth and Satyagraha, Truth and Religion, Truth and Sarvodaya and Truth and Society.

The Concept of Truth

The concept of truth (Satya) is fundamental to the thought of Mahatma Gandhi. When Gandhi calls God ‘Truth’ he relates to ‘Being’ in the Indian Philosophical background. ‘The word Truth (Satya) is derived from sat which means that which is. Satya means a state of being. Nothing is exists in reality except Truth. That is why sat or satya is the right name of God. In fact it is more correct to say that truth is God than to say God is Truth’. He uses the word Truth as the equivalent to the Sanskrit word Satya. The root of Satya is sat which literally means ‘to be’ or ‘to exist’. Sat is that which exist, that is reality or being. According to Mahatma Gandhi ‘Sat is the metaphysical expression of ultimate reality’. Sat is reality God because He is the only Being that exist ultimately and eternally. God is truth or reality and it is the ontological state of God. The words of Gandhi that “often in my progress I have had faint glimpses of the absolute truth, God and daily the conviction is growing upon me that He alone is real and all else is unreal”. God is being, the ground of all that is. In this sense Sat or Truth is the very ‘to be’ of God. God is Satya or Truth that is being.

In the statement, truth is God we have a total and complete identification of God with truth. According to ‘Truth is not a mere attribute of God but he is that’. Truth is very nature of God. For Gandhi the term Truth and God are synonymous. He considers truth as the only one inevitable attribute of God without which God cannot be God. Truth is not merely one of the attributes of God, but He is that. In God there is no difference between the attribute and his divine nature.

The various activities of human beings in the realms of politics, economics, morality, are etc. are to be centred on truth. The Words of Mahatma Gandhi “I hate arts for art’s sake, which I think is a lamentable aberration of the human mind”. Truth is beauty and the latter is the expression of the former. He said “I see and find beauty in the truth or through truth. Whenever men begin to see beauty in the truth then true art will arise”.

Mahatma Gandhi uses the term Truth in three senses. First, God as the Absolute Truth is used in the metaphysical sense as the being or reality. For Gandhi God alone is true that is ultimate reality. Therefore He states “God is Truth. All else is unreal and false. Other things therefore, can be true only in a relative sense”. The creatures are only relatively true and real as they depend or come from God. Secondly, Mahatma Gandhi also uses truth in the epistemological truth, which we known through intellect and experience. On the epistemological level, the term truth is used to connote the relative truths the human beings have. Thirdly, truth means for Gandhi as the norm of morality to be followed, like truthfulness in thought, word and actions. Mahatma Gandhi make a distinction between Absolute Truth (God) and the relative Truth which the human being possess. ‘Gandhi Distinguished between relative truth as perceived by finite individuals, relative to a particular set of ideas and circumstances and truth as the Summum Bonum that is Absolut Truth which he identified with God’. God is described is in the same context as an impersonal force and essence of life and also as omniscient, omnipotent and benevolent.

Truth and Basic Concepts of Mahatma Gandhi

Truth and Ahimsa

Mahatma Gandhi’s existential quest for truth he stresses the importance of Ahimsa (Non-violence). As we have seen he maintains that there is an inextricable relation between Ahimsa and Truth. They are so closely interrelated that it is difficult to separate them. They are like two side of coin. “Ahimsa is my God and Truth is my God. When I look for Ahimsa, truth says, find it through me”.it is Gandhi’s contention that the only inevitable means for the attainment of truth is Ahimsa. Ahimsa is the Means and Truth the end. But since ends and means are convertible terms for Gandhi, Truth and Ahimsa are intertwined. The practice of Ahimsa inevitably leads to truth. Conversely the practice of Him as can never lead to truth. ‘Ahimsa could be described as the means leading to the realization of truth as the end or goal, but since means and end are convertible terms in Gandhi’s philosophy of life to practice Ahimsa is to realize truth and to realize truth is to practice Ahimsa’. That is as far as Gandhi is concerned, the attainment of one involves also the realization of the other.

If we ask why Gandhi lays so much stress on the relation between Truth and Ahimsa, we have to look again at his view of the self. ‘As we have indicated he makes no distinction between the Self or Atman and Truth or God. Self-realization or the realization of God. Mahatma Gandhi maintains what he climes Advaita or non-Dualistic position when he says that the self within man is at one with the essence of reality, which is Truth or God. But if the kernel of an individual, the higher Self, is the Atman which is at one with Truth or God, then to inflect deliberate violence on another is to violate one’s higher Self or Atman’. The basic presupposition here is the indivisibility of truth and the essential unity of life, a presupposition Gandhi maintains when he says “I believe in Advaita, I believe in the essential unity of man and for that matter, of all that lives”. Mahatma Gandhi explains that God is Truth and Truth is Love.

Gandhi states: “Ahimsa is my God, and Truth is my God. When I look for Ahimsa, Truth says, Find it out through me. When I look for Truth Ahimsa says find it out through me”. Brahman or God the ultimate ontological reality manifest himself concretely in the world of phenomena as Ahimsa the law of love. God is love and it is His every essence. S. Verma writes the book of Metaphysical Foundation of Mahatma Gandhi: “the equation of Truth and Ahimsa is the most original contribution of Gandhi to Indian metaphysical thought”. It shows the Ahimsa as the metaphysical principle is the mundane expression of Truth God. Gandhi explains the relation between Truth- God and Ahimsa is the greatest force man has been endowed with. Truth is the only goal of Gandhi. For God is none other than Truth. But truth cannot be never will be reached except through non- violence. Non- violence is the proper means for attainment of Truth.

Truth and Religion

Gandhi’s concept of Religion corresponds his concept of Truth. Truth transcends all concrete or particular instance of truth yet particular instances of truth are necessary in order to understand what it means to speak of Absolute Truth. As Gandhi glimpses of absolute truth through instances of relative truth it might be said he has glimpses of Religion through particular historical religion. ‘It is that which binds man indissolubly to truth. It is belief in an ordered moral government of the universe. It is that permanent element in human nature which causes the soul to be restless until it realizes itself to be at one with Truth or God’.

Since different religion are different meditations through which human beings can achieve union with God, there is truth sufficient for the salvation of the individuals in their respective religions. All religions are God given revelations for necessary for the people to whom they are addressed. There is an element of truth in all religions because their origin is from God.

The one, true and perfect religion Gandhi refers to beyond prediction and not capable of being realized within finite existence. No particular religion can ever embody the perfection of religion or lay claim to a monopoly of truth. Yet particular religions, it might be said, are necessary to convey the meaning of religion in the same way as particular truths are necessary to convey the meaning of truth. But as particular truths do not embody the fullness of truth so particular religion do not embody the fullness of religion.

Truth and Satyagraha

The word Satya means Truth and Gandhi understand it as Moral Truth or Truthfulness, as the essential vow to be lived to attain God realization. To live a life of truthfulness, Gandhi suggests Satyagraha as the way of life from himself and for others. ‘The term Satyagraha comes from the Sanskrit word Satya (truth) and Agraha (holding on). Literally it means holding on the truths’. ‘Gandhi says: the word Satyagraha was coined in South Africa to distinguish the non- violent resistance of the Indians of South Africa from contemporary ‘passive resistance’. On truth. The words of Gandhi: “Satyagraha literally means utter insistence upon truth. Where man insists on truth, it gives him power”.

As Truth and Ahimsa are closely intertwined like two side of a coin so are Ahimsa and Satyagraha are interrelated. The interconnection of these three concepts in Mahatma Gandhi’s thought is such that it is difficult to treat them separately. If we analyse the concepts one is necessarily involve the other two. Satyagraha is a direct corollary of truth and non-violence. Satyagraha is the complete and total stance for truthfulness in thought, word and action in order to conquer evil with non- violence and thus established a Sarvodaya society. Gandhi explains: “Satyagraha is soul force. Truth is the very substance of the soul. That is why this force is called Satyagraha”. These information shows the Satyagraha is basically a way of life in which true and non-violence.

Truth and Sarvodaya

‘The concept of Sarvodaya Gandhi really means universal uplift or the welfare of all men and not just the welfare, or greatest happiness of the greatest number’. (An analysis of Gandhi’s basic philosophy reveals that it consists of one fundamental concept of truth. From truth derived from non- violence, love, non- exploitation, non- possession, equality etc. Non- violence is a power of that can be wielded equally by all children, men, women, young, or adults, provided they have a living faith in God of love and therefore, equal love of all mankind.) Gandhi, calls “Satya and Ahimsa two sides of a smooth unstamped metallic disc nevertheless, to Gandhi, Ahimsa is the means and Satya the end”. True and non- violence were two pillars on which Gandhi strove to build the edifice of social reconstruction for Sarvodaya.

Gandhi presented the Sarvodaya as God oriented vision in which the human being is considered as a spiritual being. (In his personal life he directed all his activities towards a god experiences. By reinstatement of God and spiritual values in the lives of human beings, he invited others to follow him for the integral liberation of all.) According to Gandhi “human efforts to establish lasting peace finds success only when individuals are ready to live a God oriented”.

Truth and Society

‘Gandhi’s beliefs concerning the nature of truth and its interrelatedness with ahimsa and beliefs about nature of the true self and the unity of the all existence, find expression through the techniques of the Satyagraha and Sarvodaya’. (His kinship with all men and his concern for the welfare of the all men is revealed particular in his attitude towards, and treatment of, the untouchables). The people are in no way different from them and they are clearly not to be regarded as outcastes. As Harijan they partake of the nature of God or Truth and must therefore, be considered at one with caste members of Hindhu society in particular and with a man kind of general.

He relates the question of untouchability to his basic beliefs concerning Truth, Ahimsa, and Sarvodaya. He states: “the observance not fulfilled merely by making friend with untouchables, but by loving all life as one’s own self. Removal of untouchability means love for and service of the whole world and it thus merges into truth and ahimsa”.Gandhi’s attitude to women like his attitude to untouchability springs from his basic conviction that we are all one in that we share the same Atman or Soul. The unity of mankind derives from the unity of truth which is God.

The primary aim and purpose of education for Gandhi is to develop the mind and build up character. (The Gandhi’s educational concerns are rooted in his fundamental belief in the true nature of the self, the essential unity of mankind and the indivisibility of Truth.) ‘The concept of the ideal still informs the way in which he looks at particular empirical systems in the same way as the concept of Absolut Truth informs his choice of relative truths to be his beacon and guide’. Gandhi proposes a system of education which he thinks meets the needs of the people of India and in so doing he acts in accordance with the religious and ethical ideals acquired within his own form of life and which he calls truth.

The Gandhi has proposed economic theory that is oriented towards people. (In his economic policy derives from his quest for Truth or God. No form of industrial development can be tolerated which dehumanizes or degrades the lives of people and adds to their misery. That would constitute a form of Himsa and would be contrary to the Truth.) ‘True economic never militates against the highest ethical standard, just as all true ethics to be worth its name must at the same time be also good economics’. (On the other hand to serve one’s fellowmen by the introduction of the right kind of industrial development that nourishes rather than destroying existing communities is a form of Ahimsa and consistent with the Truth. Gandhi’s experiment with truth in the economic sphere meant that where, in his view, economic policies militated against ethical standards and undermined the moral well- being of individuals and welfare of the people as whole they should be discarded. The ideal still informs the way in which one examines particular economic system in the same way as the concept of Absolute Truth informs our choice of relative truths to be our guide. Gandhi propose an economic system that in his view approximate to the ideal and is in accord with the principle of Sarvodaya and Spirit of Truth.)

Truth and Ahimsa must incarnate in socialism. The metaphysical basis of Gandhi’s political philosophy is made explicit here. (His socialism which he climes, is a natural development of his ideas and not a philosophy that he has acquired springs from his belief in the interrelation of Truth and Ahimsa. When Gandhi climes that truth and ahimsa must incarnate in socialism and that he has no doubt that non- violent methods can bring it about the question that arises is whether he is contradicting his views concerning the unattainability and non-realizability of absolute. He stress as we have seen that he has glimpses only of Absolute Truth and that he has to content himself with making relative truth his beacon and guide.)


Gandhi’s affirmation of truth is a matter of faith and informs the spirit in which he lives. According to the concept of Mahatma Gandhi Truth is the God His expressed preference for the statement Truth is God rather than God is the Truth. The relation between absolute truth and relative truth the view of Gandhi is paralleled by what he has to say about the relation between religion and religions. The interrelation between Truth and other concepts of Mahatma Gandhi like Ahimsa, Satyagraha, Religion, Sarvodaya and Society are explicit in the manner in which his religious and ethical ideals determine his way of life and every concepts focusing to the Absolute Truth or God.


  1. Glyn Richards, The Philosophy of Gandhi, Routtedge Curzon Press, United Kigdom,1991.
  2. Davis Kavunkal MST, Philosophical Fundation of Mahatma Gandhi’s Vision of Sarvodaya, Darmaram Publication, Bangalore and Ruhalaya Publication, Ujain, 2000.
  3. Dhirendra Mohan Datto, The Philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, The university of Wisconsin Press, 1953.
  4. Chandra Shanker Sukla, edct. K M Munshi and R R Diwakar, Gandhi’s Views of Life, Bharathiya Vidyabhavan, Bombay,1951.
  5. Edct. T K Mahadevan, Truth and Non- Violence, Gandhi’s Peace Foundation, New Delhi, 1969.
  6. The collected works of Mahatma Gandhi, New Delhi: Publication Division, Mistry of Information and Brodcasting, Government of India, 1958-94.
  7. M K Gandhi, edt.Mahadev Desai, An Autobiography, Navajeevan Publishing House, Ahmedabad,1983.
  8. Dr. Vellarakal Paul, Sarvodaya A Gandhian Vision for the Kingdom of God, OIRSI publishing, Kottayam, 2010.
  9. R. Kokanadakar, Gandhian Thought, Central Techno Publications, Nagpur, 2008.

Cite this paper

Mahatma Gandhi’s Concept of Truth. (2020, Nov 27). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/mahatma-gandhis-concept-of-truth/



What did Gandhi say about honesty?
Gandhi believed that honesty was the best policy and that it was essential for building trust and integrity in society. He famously said, Truth never damages a cause that is just.
Who described Gandhi as living truth?
Gandhi was described as living truth by Martin Luther King Jr. in his speech, "Loving Your Enemies."
Why did Gandhi say God is Truth to truth is God '?
Gandhi said that God appears not in person but in action. He advocated truth in thought, truth in speech and truth in action. Truth for him was not merely a philosophical concept; it was the basis of moral life and acted as a link between moral principles and our actions so that moral life can be attained in practice .
Why was truth so important to Gandhi?
Truth is taken by Gandhi as the supreme principle of moral life since it is the law that regulates all human actions . All actions are judged as morally good if they are based on truth; otherwise they are morally bad or evil in nature. Gandhian morality could therefore be called the morality of truth.
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