The Timeless Wisdom of Gandhi

This week, up until Oct 2, the posts will be dedicated to remembering Gandhiji. This issue, it is quotes from his writing, focussing on the ethical foundations of economics. As relevant today, as ever. As relevant at an individual level, as for a country. Food for thought indeed.

Earth provides enough for every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.

Popularized by Gandhi

Civilization, in the real sense of the term, consists not in the multiplication, but in the deliberate and voluntary reduction of wants.

Complete Works of Mahatma Gandhi. Vol 44, 103-104.

This mad rush for wealth must cease, and the labourer must be assure, not only of a living wage, but a daily task that is not mere drudgery.

Young India, 13 Nov 1924.

I must confess, I do not draw a sharp or any distinction between economics and ethics.  Economics that hurt the well-being of an individual or nation are immoral and therefore sinful. Thus the economics that permit one country to prey upon another are immoral. It is sinful to buy and use articles made by sweated labour.

Young India, 13 Nov 1924.

We may neither take nor keep a superfluous thing..

Harijan. 31 March, 1946.
The real meaning of economic equality is ‘To each according to his need.’

Harijan. 31 March, 1946.

A certain degree of physical harmony and comfort is necessary, but above a certain level it becomes hindrance instead of help. Therefore the ideal of creating an unlimited number of wants and satisfying them seems to a delusion and a snare.

CWMG. Vol  63. 241.

I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and weakest man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore to him a control over this own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to Swaraj for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away.

CWMG. Vol 89. 125.

Economic equality …mean(s), however, that every will have a proper house to live in, sufficient and balanced food to eat, and sufficient khadi with which to cover himself. It also means that the cruel inequality that obtains today will be removed by purely non-violent means.

Harijan. 18 August, 1940.


These are from a compilation I was lucky enough to work on, launched at the Gandhi Ashram by Mr. Steven Rockefeller, to commemorate the Tenth Anniversary of the Earth Charter.

Sarabhai, K., Raghunathan M., Modi A. (Compiled). Earth Charter & Gandhi: Towards a Sustainable World. Ahmedabad. Centre for Environment Education. 2010.

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