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A study on Truth experiments - Mahatma Gandhi vs. Swami Vivekananda

A study on Truth experiments - Mahatma Gandhi vs. Swami Vivekananda


Mahatma Gandhi's experiments with Truth


Truth is the right designation of God.  There is no other God than Truth. Everything else is transitory and illusory. Truth is what the voice within tells you. Truth is like a vast tree which yields more and more fruit the more you nurture it.    


A perfect vision of Truth can only follow a complete realization of Ahimsa.


Religious truth, or for that matter any truth, requires a calm and meditative atmosphere for its percolation. All faiths constitute a revelation of Truth, but all are imperfect and liable to error.  To see the universal and all-pervading spirit of Truth face to face one must be able to love the meanest of creation as oneself. And a man who aspires after that cannot afford to keep out of any field of life. That is why my devotion to Truth has drawn me into the field of politics; and I can say without the slightest hesitation, and yet in all humility, that those who say that religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion means.         


A man of truth must ever be confident, if he has also equal need to be diffident. A seeker after truth, a follower of the law of Love, cannot hold anything against tomorrow. Even the atheists, who have pretended to disbelieve in God, have believed in Truth.    


God of truth and justice can never create distinctions of high and low among His own children. For me, Rama and Rahim are one and the same deity. I acknowledge no other God but the one God of truth and righteousness.


Truth alone will endure, all the rest will be swept away before the tide of time.    


Swami Vivekanada's experiments with Truth



As a child, Narendranath learned the principles of truth from his parents.


"Always follow the truth without caring about the result. Very often you may have to suffer injustice or unpleasant consequences for holding to the truth; but you must not, under any circumstances, abandon it." Many times, he proudly said to an audience, “I am indebted to my mother for whatever knowledge I have acquired.”


From his father, he had learnt the art of grasping the essentials of things, seeing truth from the widest and most comprehensive standpoints, and holding to the real issue under discussion. "Bible and the poetry of Hafiz, both of which", he believed, "contained truths unmatched by human thinking elsewhere.”


He wrote in his first song, the following lines:




Mount the path of truth,

O mind! Unflaggingly climb,

With love as the lamp to light your way.

As your provision on the journey, take with you

The virtues, hidden carefully;

For, like two highwaymen,

Greed and delusion wait to rob you of your wealth.

And keep beside you constantly,

As guards to shelter you from harm,

Calmness of mind and self-control.





As a grownup saint, Swami Vivekananda, had a diversified vision on Truth.


Do not believe in a thing because you have read about it in a book. Do not believe in a thing because another man has said it was true. Do not believe in words because they are hallowed by tradition. Find out the truth for yourself. Reason it out. That is realization.


Never allow any deviation from bodily and mental chastity, nor any compromise with truth and renunciation. Everything else he left to the will of the Divine Mother of the Universe (Goddess Kali in Hindu scriptures)


Unwary devotees of God fall victims to mental and physical breakdown. “Of one hundred persons who take up the spiritual life,” he grimly warned, “eighty turn out to be charlatans, fifteen insane, and only five, maybe, get a glimpse of the real truth.”


The Hindus must go back to the eternal truths of their religion, hearken to the message of the Upanishads, respect temples and religious symbols, and take pride in their birth in the holy land of India.


An honest Sannyasin (saint) will never be afraid of speaking the truth, even though it may cost him his very life. I swear, I can never tell a lie.


All religions are but so many paths to reach the same goal. The Swami gave utterance to the yearning of the modern world to break down the barriers of caste, colour, and creed and to fuse all people into one humanity. And this is the truth I learned from my master Sri Ramakrishna.


I do not believe in any politics. God and truth are the only politics in the world; everything else is trash.


To all the propositions from religious cranks, his only answer was: "I stand for Truth. Truth will never ally itself with falsehood. Even if the entire world should be against me, Truth must prevail in the end."


Religious experiences could stand on the same footing as scientific truths, being based on experimentation, observation, and verification. Therefore genuine spiritual experiences must not be dogmatically discarded as lacking rational evidence. Various disciplines of concentration, with the warning, however, that they should not be pursued without the help of a qualified teacher.


Without truth, non-injury, continence, non-stealing, cleanliness, and austerity, he repeated, there could be no spirituality.


I have a truth to teach — I, the child of God. And He that gave me the truth will send me fellow workers from earths’ bravest and best.'


“I shall work incessantly,” he wrote, “until I die, and even after death I shall work for the good of the world. Truth is infinitely weightier than untruth.... It is the force of character, of purity, and of truth — of personality.”


“I want you to keep your own belief; I want to make the Methodist a better Methodist, the Presbyterian a better Presbyterian, the Unitarian a better Unitarian. I want to teach you to live the truth, to reveal the light within your own soul.”


Truth is as old as the immemorial hills, as old as humanity, as old as creation, as old as the Great God. If I have told you in such words as will make you think, make you live up to your thinking, do I not do well in telling it?


Anything that makes you weak physically, intellectually, and spiritually, rejects as poison; there is no life in it, it cannot be true. Truth is strengthening. Truth is purity, truth is all knowledge. Truth must be strengthening, must be enlightening, must be invigorating. Give up these weakening mysticisms and be strong. The greatest truths are the simplest things in the world, simple as your own existence.


Heroism is the soul of action. Everyone must see the ultimate truth in all its terrible nakedness, and refused to soften it in any shape or manner. The love of Truth expected nothing in return; he scorned the bargain of 'giving to get in return' and all its promise of paradise.


"Dependence is misery. Independence is happiness." The Advaita (One of the three Hindu philosophies formulated by Saint Sankara) is the only system which gives unto man complete possession of him and takes off all dependence and its associated superstitions, thus making us brave to suffer, brave to do, and in the long run to attain to Absolute Freedom.




Truth has a great potential of absorbing the whole of a man, more specifically, these two great men of India. While Gandhiji put the faith on Truth in God through non-violent means, Swamiji put Truth in an omni-present, omni-potent dimensions. While Gandhiji strive for truth experiments for the lowest of the creatures in the world, Swamiji used Truth as a spiritual means to reach the eternity in everyone’s life.  While Gandhiji had probed into human created world and its complexities, and simplifying them by constant analysis and living closer to people. Swamiji in his own way explored the Vedic scriptures and found the complexities being simplified by becoming closer to God he knew.


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Comment by Dipak Dholakia on January 23, 2012 at 18:12

I would like to say what Mr. Cusick has said in slightly a different way.I think justice and righteousness are truth in action; they cannot be different from Truth. Mercy is a way to accept the limitations of my own judgement about my own righteousness.

About charity, I feel it is a status-quoist concept which hinders the process of changing the exploitative order. But, if one is positively inclined to define it, one may say it is also sharing and acceptance of the fellow being whose existence is a hard fact..Truth thus encompasses all. 

When Gandhi said "Truth is God" I think he meant the overarching power of truth. He thought people were familiar with the concept of God and therefore he equated Truth with that familiar notion. Actually, I do not think he would accept even God beyond Truth. It is why he worked for people who really existed and not for God in any spiritual sense.

Significantly, Balaji has very aptly summed up this : "While Gandhiji had probed into human created world and its complexities, and simplifying them by constant analysis and living closer to people. Swamiji in his own way explored the Vedic scriptures and found the complexities being simplified by becoming closer to God he knew." That is the real difference in their methods of approaching Truth.


Comment by JP Cusick on January 23, 2012 at 17:14

It is more accurate to view the truth as God rather than God as truth.

That is an important distinction, because God is far more that just truth.

God is love, and God is justice, righteousness, virtue, mercy, charity, and more, so truth is a part of God.

Comment by Dipak Dholakia on January 23, 2012 at 16:29

Posting again with correction: It is a good comparison. I liked reading your article.

Comment by Dipak Dholakia on January 23, 2012 at 16:28

It is a good comparison. I liked reading our article.

Comment by Balamurali Balaji on January 19, 2012 at 8:23
Thanks for the comments, Mr.Gene.

Swami, according to Hindu practice, is a guru with disciples who has dedicated his life in the service of God spreading the spiritual and religious messages among the people.

Literally, the word Swami refer to God or King.
Comment by Gene Chapman on January 19, 2012 at 5:39

Thanks.  That was a good read.  What is a Swami?

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