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Gandhian Philosophy: Freedom, Truth and the Inner Voice

Updated on January 20, 2016

Highlights of Gandhi's Ideas on Freedom, Truth, and the Inner Voice

  • truth and freedom are essential components within the Gandhian
    conception of Ahimsa, non-violence
  • freedom is one of the greatest components to the success of non-violence
  • responsiveness to the Inner Voice is the best motive an individual can have
  • practice of Swaraj, self-rule
  • the quintessential role of the inner voice in relation Ahimsa, non-violence
  • discernment, the abilitiy to discriminate Truth from non-Truth

Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi smiling 1945
Gandhi smiling 1945 | Source

Freedom and Truth

Like that of truth, the role of freedom is also an essential component within the Gandhian conception of Ahimsa. Gandhi interprets freedom as one of the greatest components to the success of non-violence. Freedom acts like a mirror to objectively identify one's limitations in relation to strategies used in non-violence. Gandhi describes freedom as follows:

"To pursue one's own good in one's own way thereby making a creative approach to inner sensibilities is the essence of freedom. This essence of freedom incorporates the initial mandate that freedom would, or rather, should, be above any possibility of inflicting harm to anybody nor should it encroach another's freedom." (Chakrabarti,63)

Freedom goes deep into the pattern of Gandhian non-violence. Gandhi suggests that thought and activity be controlled by non-violence, but also allows freedom to play an essential part. Gandhi reminds us that freedom is irrelevant without non-violence. In fact Gandhi never made a compromise with violence even if freedom might be possible through illegal or violent means. Gandhi clearly advocates that the means are the ends.
If non-violent means in harmony with Truth are employed, then a peaceful result in harmony with Truth shall naturally follow.
According to Gandhi, to think of what we ought to be, rather than what we are, is the greatest contribution of freedom to humanity. The positive outcome of human endeavour is when one thinks of what one ought to be, because then one really starts to evolve.
How can one attain the freedom that Gandhi feels is so important? One would pursue one's own good in one's own way, mindful of the goodness of one and all. Gandhi feels that the greater the exercise of violence, the less is the evolution of humanity. Conversely, non-violence, if channelled through the exercise of freedom ensures broadness of vision and an expansion of one's outlook.


From the Gandhian perspective, freedom and non-violence are so closely linked that the greatest of all human benefit, benevolence, will manifest from the two. Gandhi also intensifies the test of freedom in his approach to non-violence. He intensifies the test from the point of view of perfection. Gandhi visualizes perfect freedom as the freedom to act in harmony with the Divine, Truth, or God. Furthermore, Gandhi explains that to be in harmony with God is to be responsive to one's conscience or inner voice -- the will to be free, safe and calm. Thus, Gandhi's vision brings forth a new awareness to the future potential of humanity; the potential of love, harmony and freedom manifest in the world. Gandhi's concept of non-violence suggests the necessity of firstly an inwardness of vision (listening to the inner voice), and secondly an outward purification (Dharma, right action, in responsiveness to the inner voice).
In light of Gandhian ideology, responding to one's inner voice is the best motive an individual can have. Gandhi suggests that one's Dharma (right action) is to take action in response to one's inner voice. Gandhi describes responding to one's inner voice as a means of joyously giving one's life, without reservation. In other words one would thereby be practising Sarvodaya (a devoted commitment for the welfare of all).

Inspirational Gandhi Quotes


Modern Civilization

Gandhi explains that the inner voice closely watches the progress of civilization. The inner voice notices and warns humanity about approaching danger as well. The cry of approaching danger brings to attention certain aspects of the world that take away from the meaning of the existence of humanity. The inner voice promotes and suggests a quest for freedom, meaning and community. The inner voice suggests that the design of civilization can be refashioned to promote the development of human potential rather than stifling it. Gandhi believes that:
"Never before have structures and institutions assumed such a paralyzing impact
on the flowering of human potentiali
ties as they have today." (Ramashray, 14)
Gandhi criticizes moden civilization for its extreme dependency on science, technology, and self-aggrandizement. As a result modern society has drained the meaning out of human existence. To counteract such a degression, Gandhi advocates listening to and acting upon the guidance of one's inner voice.

Mahatma Gandhi - Pilgrim Of Peace

Historical Moments When Gandhi Responded to the Inner Voice

Gandhi writes about the inner voice in his letter to the News Chronicle, February 21, 1931:
"... I cannot say what I shall then do, for in all such things I am not guided
by reason, but by instinct or in other words by the inner voice and one never
knows where that voice would lead you to."
(Collected Works of Gandhi, XLV, 213)
Gandhi clearly refers to the inner voice as the motivating force of his actions.
As well as the making and keeping of vows, Gandhi connects prayer and the repetition of mantra (names of God), to his ability of clearly hearing the inner voice. In his own words Gandhi asserts:
"The inner voice is something which cannot be described in words. But sometimes
we have a positive feeling that something in us prompts us to do a certain thing.
The time when I learned to recognize the voice was, I may say, when I started praying
regularly. That is, it was about 1906."
(Collected Works of Gandhi, L, 326)
There are numerous references to Gandhi taking action in response to the inner voice. For example, in Gandhi's autobiography, his first mention of responding to the inner voice was when he decided to extend his stay in England.
Also, Gandhi always turned to the guidance of the inner voice before undertaking a fast (Chandra, 38). There are many references to Gandhi taking action in response to the inner voice. Some examples cited are as follows:

  1. Cancellation of the decision to go to Europe, in 1926.
  2. Suspension of civil disobedience for 6 weeks in May, 1933
  3. Addition of village industries to Khadi in January, 1934.
  4. Neither acceptance, nor rejection resolution on the 'Communal Award' in June, 1934.
  5. Retirement from congress. The idea came to him as if in a flash in July, 1934; it was put into action two months later." (Chandra, 37)

In Gandhi's own words he refers to the inner voice as follows:
"Truth is what the voice within tells you. Those who would make individual search
after Truth as God, must go through several vows. If you would swim on the bottom
of the Ocean of Truth you must reduce yourself to a zero."
(Chakrabarti, 79)
Gandhian ideology explains the importance of Truth as a goal in one's life. One is only able to discriminate Truth from non-Truth when listening to one's inner voice. If one is merely projecting one's ego, then it is impossible to even hear the inner voice. By "reducing oneself to a zero" Gandhi refers to the process of transcending one's limited ego. When the ego is transcended one becomes free to be aligned with Truth, and the inner voice becomes crystal clear.

The Inner Voice In Relation To Ahimsa, Non-Violence

Gandhi never claims that he has achieved the objective of Ahimsa, non-violence, completely. He explains that absolute non-violence is an eternal search. Gandhi describes himself as being one with a "goal" of absolute non-violence:
"I am but a poor struggling soul yearning to be wholly good -- wholly truthful
and wholly
non-violent in thought, word and deed, but ever failing to reach the ideal
which I know to be true."
(Khanna, 87)
Gandhi attempts to reach the point at which the grace of intuitive insight reigns supreme, which can only be achieved as one looses one's sense of separate ego existence. Gandhi feels that each and every person has the potential to awaken the sense of the True by a deepened sense of inner awareness. In order to practise Ahimsa, non-violence, the discriminative faculty of the inner voice must be awakened, and only then the spiritual insight achieved opens the way of social service, human love and the practise of Ahimsa in its Truest sense. Selfless service of others leads to self-purification. This, in turn, makes us responsive to the Divine. In Gandhi's own words:
"A ceaseless effort to attain self-purification can develop in us the capacity to
hear correctly and clearly the 'still small voice within.' " (Khanna, 148)
Gandhi provides us with a broad vision of non-violence as containing both negative and positive aspects. The negative aspect of non-violence consists of actions one must refrain from -- non-co-operation with evil, do not harm, do not have ill-will. The positive aspect of non-violence includes active love, active compassion, active caring, active communicating and active truthfulness. Only a negative understanding of non-violence is not enough. Furthermore, for a complete understanding of non-violence, one must implement the guidance of one's inner voice. The main key of Ahimsa, non-violence, is to communicate, rather than retaliate. Non-action in the face of injustice is considered to be violence. The ultimate goal in the practise of Ahimsa, non-violence, is that we not de-humanize another by perceiving them as other, but rather that we perceive humanity as of one soul. One can only maintain violence by making an enemy of the other. Gandhi suggests that we understand that others are not obstacles. Be opposed to negative actions, or injustices while maintaining an active, positive expression of love toward one and all. Be responsive to the inner voice and then one will practise Ahimsa -- as the means to the goal of consciousness of absolute good, in harmony with God, in responsiveness to the inner voice. In Gandhi's own experience:
"The hearing of the voice was preceded by a terrific struggle within me. Suddenly the
voice came upon me. I listened, made certain it was the voice, and the struggle
ceased. I was calm."
(Khanna, 149)

Gandhi - Truth is what the Inner Voice reveals


Gandhi - Freedom, Truth and the Inner Voice

From my perspective, the inner voice is central to the Gandhian concept of Ahimsa (Non-violence). At the very least, reference to non-violence is misleading if left unqualified -- and in fact unjustified if not accurately described in terms of Gandhi's personal understanding of what constitutes non-violence. The Gandhian conception of non-violence, is based on specific reference to freedom and love. These two essential characteristics of Gandhi's thinking in relation to non-violence doubtlessly provide us with a heightened sense of what constitutes non-violence. Also, the inner voice is of great significance in the understanding and practice of Ahimsa, non-violence. Freedom and love are of paramount importance to Gandhian thought. Also, Ahimsa, non-violence, cannot be adequately practised unless one listens to and is responsive to the inner voice.
In light of Gandhian thought, the ability to discrimintate Truth from non-Truth is a natural flowering of one's ability to listen and respond to the inner voice. Gandhi's vision of Ahimsa incorporates the inner voice as essential. Furthermore, Gandhi reveals Freedom and Love as essential components in the effective practise of Ahimsa, non-violence. However, the heart of the Gandhian concept of Ahimsa is his reference to the paramount importance of listening and responding to the innner voice. Thereby, one is able to know when, how and if to take action in response to any situation.
The above insights into Gandhian thought, demonstrate how the inner voice links Gandhi's apperception of freedom, love and Ahimsa, non-violence, into a cohesive "science of non-violence" that culminates in positive, progressive reality transformation, for the good of one and all.

Sanskrit Terminology

Abhaya ... fearlessness
Ahimsa ... non-violence
Aparigraha ... non-possession
Asteya ... non-stealing
Asvada ... control of palate
Brahmacarya ... celibacy
Dharma ... right action
Mantra ... repetition of God's names
Sarvodaya ... a devoted commitment for the welfare of all
Satya ... Truth
Swaraj ... Self-rule


Backianadan, J.
Love in the Life and Works of Gandhi 1991
Sterling Publishers Ltd.
New Delhi, India.

Chakrabarti, Mohit
Gandhian Mysticism 1989
Chawla Composers,
New Delhi, India.

Gandhi, Mahatma
The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi XLV 1971
Shantilal Navajivan Press,
Ahmedabad, India.

Gandhi, Mahatma
The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi L 1972
Shantilal Navajivan Press,
Ahmedabad, India.

Khanna, Dr. S.
Gandhi and the Good Life 1985
Gandhi Peace Foundation
Central Electric Press,
New Delhi, India.

Shukla, Chandra
Gandhi's View of Life 1956
Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan,
Bombay, India.

The practice of non-violence based on Gandhi's ideas of Freedom, Love and the Inner Voice will help to create peace on earth.

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Gandhi provides excellent insights about how to create more peace on earth.

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© 2014 Deborah Morrison


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    • deborahmorrison1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Deborah Morrison 

      2 years ago from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

      Thanks kindly Boston, and Larry! I'm delighted to know that you both enjoyed my article about Mahatma Gandhi, who was a truly Great Soul! His teachings and influence carry on to this very day!

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma

      One of the finest human beings to ever exist. Great hub.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Wow! Talk about a posting knicnokg my socks off!

    • deborahmorrison1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Deborah Morrison 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

      Nell, I am pleased to know that you enjoyed reading about Gandhi. Yes, Mahatma Gandhi was a Great Soul.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      3 years ago from England

      This man was one of only an amazing few that has ever been in history, we don't know why, or how but somehow we always know when someone is special, this was great reading! voted up and shared, nell

    • deborahmorrison1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Deborah Morrison 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

      Sriramapriya & Mel, thanks kindly to both or you for sharing your messages, expressing your personal perspectives and also providing more wonderful Gandhi quotes!

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      3 years ago from San Diego California

      This man was a treasure to the entire human race, not just the Indian subcontinent. I had never heard that idea "the means are the ends" articulated before, but I can see the truth in it, because violence, even if used in the name of "freedom" begets more violence. Wonderful hub!

    • sriramapriya profile image


      3 years ago from India

      Excellent! No words to explain about our Father of Nation. Great person. You are amazing write. We need peace in world. Favorite Quotes of Gandhi Ji are

      "The greatness of humanity is not in being human, but in being humane"

      Do or Die

      “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”

    • deborahmorrison1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Deborah Morrison 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

      Here is the Prayer For Peace by Mahatma Gandhi

      Prayer For Peace

      I offer you peace.

      I offer you love.

      I offer you friendship.

      I hear your need.

      I feel your feelings.

      My wisdom flows from

      the highest Source.

      I salute that Source in you.

      Let us work together

      for unity and love.

      - Mahatma Gandhi

    • ezzly profile image


      3 years ago

      Wonderful , thanks for sharing and I agree , I mean how does violence solve anything ! Peace to you

    • deborahmorrison1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Deborah Morrison 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

      Thank you for your comment ezzly. Yes, Ahimsa, non-violence, if understood and practiced by humanity would create peace on earth. It was Gandhi's intention to live according to Ahimsa, non-violence, and his life was a great example on how to do this.

    • ezzly profile image


      3 years ago

      Very interesting read I had never even heard of the concept of Ahimsa!


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