the Spirit of Mahatma Gandhi lives through every nonviolent action

Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Senior Gandhian Scholar, Professor, Editor and Linguist

Gandhi International Study and Research Institute, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No. – 09404955338, 09415777229


Mailing Address- C- 29, Swaraj Nagar, Panki, Kanpur- 208020, Uttar Pradesh, India


Animal Passion and Mahatma Gandhi 



When a wife does not agree with her husband’s views but is otherwise pure, the husband can win her over by affection free from animal passion. During the process, the husband must follow that which he regards as best, leaving the wife free to do as she thinks best. But she must not expect the husband to pay for her expensive tastes. The husband is bound to support her so far as food and clothing are concerned. She is entitled to divide his income, but she cannot expect him to incur debts for her. I am satisfied that where pure affection alone rules, all differences vanish or, in spite of differences, an honourable way out is found. 1

I am afraid that advocates of birth-control take it for granted that indulgence in animal passion is a necessity of life and in itself a desirable thing. The solicitude shown for the fair sex is most pathetic. In my opinion, it is insult to the fair sex to put up her case in support of birth-control by artificial methods. As it is, man has sufficiently degraded her for his lust, and artificial methods, no matter how well meaning the advocates may be, will still further degrade her. I know that there are modern women who advocate these methods. But I have little doubt that the vast majority of women will reject them as inconsistent with their dignity. If man means well by her, let him exercise control over himself. It is not she who tempts. In reality, man being the aggressor, are the real culprit and the tempter.  I urge the advocates of artificial methods to consider the consequences. Any large use of the methods is likely to result in the dissolution of the marriage bond and in free love. If a man may indulge in animal passion for the sake of it, what is he to do whilst he is, say, away from his home for any length of time, or when he is engaged as a soldier in a protracted war, or when he is widowed, or when his wife is too ill to permit him the indulgence without injury to her health notwithstanding the use of artificial methods? 2 

Animal passion can be restrained by realizing that we are men and not brutes. We are men destined to control our passions because we have outlived the mere animal life. 3 If we begin to believe that indulgence in animal passion is necessary, harmless and sinless, we shall want to give reins to it and shall be powerless to resist it. Whereas, if we educate ourselves to believe that such indulgence is harmful, sinful, and unnecessary and can be controlled, we shall discover that self-restraint is perfectly possible. Let us beware of the strong wine of libertinism that the intoxicated West sends us under the guise of new truth and so-called human freedom. Let us, on the contrary, listen to the sober voice from the West, that through the rich experience of its wise men at times percolates to us, i.e., if we have outgrown the ancient wisdom of our forefathers. 4

Mind takes a rope to be a snake and the man with that mentality turns pale and runs away or takes up a stick to belabor the fancied snake. Another mistakes a sister for wife and has animal passion rising in his breast. The passion subsides, the moment he discovers his mistake and so in the case quoted by the correspondent. No doubt, whilst ‘‘abstinence is practised under the false idea that the instinct is but a low pleasure”, it is likely ‘‘to produce irritability and the weakening of love”. But if abstinence is practised with the desire to strengthen the bond of love, to purify it and to conserve the vital energy for a better purpose, instead of promoting irritability, it will promote equanimity, and instead of loosening the bond of affection, strengthen it. Love based upon indulgence of animal passion is at best a selfish affair and likely to snap under the slightest strain. And why should the sexual act be a sacrament in the human species, if it is not that among the lower animals? Why should we not look at it as what it is in reality, i.e., a simple act of procreation to which we are helplessly drawn for the perpetuation of the species? Only a man having been gifted with a free will to a limited extent exercises the human prerogative of self-denial for the sake of the well-being of the species, for the sake of the nobler purpose, to which he is born, than his brother-animals. It is the force of habit which makes us thinks the sexual act to be necessary and desirable for the promotion of love, apart from procreation, in spite of innumerable experiences to the contrary that it does not deepen love, and that it is in no way necessary for its retention or enrichment. Indeed, instances can be quoted in which that bond has grown stronger with abstinence. No doubt abstinence must be a voluntary act undertaken for mutual moral advancement. 5 

What you say about the women of the West is only partly true and true also perhaps to an extent for the women of India. But these are society women and very few. So far as the vast majority of women are concerned, they are too engrossed in their own occupations even to think of animal passions. It is reserved for man to become aggressive when animal passion forces him. What you say about passivity is unfortunately too true the entire world over, and I do not know that the majority of women will ever be able to overcome that passivity. Perhaps the very construction of their bodies prevents the development of active resistance except under certain well-defined circumstances which are created by special culture. And it is because woman is passive that I have contended that it is man who is the more to blame than woman. And even the society woman of the West does not go beyond subtle attraction and blandishments. I have not known many cases of violence done by women to men. She has a remarkable capacity for controlling her and pining away rather than be aggressive even under raging passion within her breast. 6

The observance of such brahmacharya has been believed to be very difficult, almost impossible. In trying to find a reason for this belief, we see that the term brahmacharya has been taken in a narrow sense. Mere control of animal passion has been thought to be tantamount to observing brahmacharya. I feel that this conception is incomplete and wrong. 7 As I have stated at the very outset, we must give up all external fears. But the internal foes we must always fear. We are rightly afraid of animal passion, anger and the like. External fears cease of their own accord when once we have conquered these traitors within the camp. All such fears revolve round the body as the centre, and will therefore disappear as soon as we get rid of attachment for the body. We thus find that all external fear is the baseless fabric of our own vision. Fear has no place in our hearts when we have shaken off attachment for wealth, for family and for the body. “Enjoy the things of the earth by renouncing them’’ is the sovereign precept. Wealth, family and the body will be there just the same; we have only to change our attitude towards them. All these are not ours, but God’s. Nothing whatever in this world is ours. Even we ourselves are His. Why then should we entertain any fear? The Upanishad, therefore, directs us to give up attachment for things while we enjoy them. That is to say, we must be interested in them not as proprietors but only as trustees. He on whose behalf we hold them will give us the strength and the weapons requisite for defending them against all usurpers. When we thus cease to be masters and reduce ourselves to the rank of servants, humbler than the very dust under our feet, all fears will roll away like mists; we shall attain ineffable peace and see Satyanarayana, the God of Truth, face to face. 8

Animal passion, anger, desire like the winds toss me to and fro. Wife and children do not let me think of Thy name as my sheet-anchor. O Thou seat of Mercy, I am fatigued, powerless and distressed in this mid-ocean. O Lord, take me by the arm and pull me up to the shore. 9 If you are really free from any animal passion, you have a right to retain that freedom. You should share your opinion and your condition with your wife. If she on her part cannot restrain her animal appetites, seeing that there has been no consummation of marriage, she should be free to regard the present marriage as no marriage at all and to marry where she likes. If she is afraid of public opinion you should offer to help her to defy public opinion and in every way make her way smooth and easy. I am satisfied that in no case are you called upon to share the bed with your wife if you have really no desire.  He is no brahmachari who thinks that mere control of animal passion is the be-all and end-all of brahmacharya. No wonder if he finds it very difficult. He who attempts to control only one organ and allows all the others free play must not expect to achieve success. He might as well deliberately descend into a well and expect to keep his body dry. Those who would achieve an easy conquest of animal passion must give up all unnecessary things which stimulate it. They must control their palate and cease to read suggestive literature and to enjoy all luxuries. I have not the shadow of a doubt that they will find brahmacharya easy enough after such renunciation. 10

It is most dangerous to have a carnal mind constantly brooding over satisfaction of animal passion. You must surround him with all the affection you can give him and not judge him harshly. It is to his credit that he has striven all these years to control himself. Of course if you have the slightest desire to satisfy his craving, you should regard yourself at liberty to do so. For you both came to a joint conclusion about self-control. If now one party wishes to revise the agreement, the other may also, if there is the desire Whereas if you are satisfied that you have no craving at all, you must resist every entreaty from Satyavan as lovingly as possible, but with the utmost firmness. Let him read this letter. Let him think over it and pray to God for light. And if he finds that he cannot bring his passion under subjection, he must take another wife if you have no wish to surrender. You should part as friends. If you have to part, what happens to you is a matter of little concern. If you have the strength, as I know you have, you will earn your bread by your own labour. 11

The last is perhaps the fatal difficulty. Mine is a novel experiment, dangerous and, it may be, even impossible of achieving. The idea is to have a place where people can train themselves to lead the celibate life in the midst of ordinary temptations and fell not because they could not overcome animal passion. They have not gone so far. But they suppressed truth. Now truth can only be cultivated in the midst of men and women of different temperaments and subtle temptations. It is easy enough for a few people of similar habits not to deceive one another or be found out. That is no truth. It has to be lived in the natural surroundings. Exception has been taken even to the Ashram life as being not natural. 12 But the mere fact of the body is nothing without the will behind it. It must be a genuine confession of the inner fast, an irrepressible longing to express truth and nothing but truth. Therefore, those only are privileged to fast for the cause of truth who have worked for it and who have love in them even for opponents, who are free from animal passion and who have abjured earthly possessions and ambition. No one, therefore, may undertake, without previous preparation and discipline, the fast I have foreshadowed. 13

You know N.’s life. I have sent her to the Ashram so that she can be, if at all possible, protected against herself. In her letter received day before yesterday she told me that when she met you, you excited in her the animal passion. This need not mean any condemnation of you at all. How can a man help himself if a woman on seeing him has her lustfulness excited? It is given only to the rarest human beings to possess such innate purity that they would never be the occasion for exciting the lust of even the most depraved women. I write this, therefore, not to blame you but to warn you against having anything whatsoever to do with N. 14 When both want to satisfy animal passion without having to suffer the consequences of their act it is not love, it is lust. But if love is pure, it will transcend animal passion and will regulate itself. We have not had enough education of the passions. When a husband says, ‘Let us not have children, but let us have relations’, what is that but animal passion? If they do not want to have more children they should simply refuse to unite. Love becomes lust the moment you make it a means for the satisfaction of animal needs. It is just the same with food. If food is taken only for pleasure it is lust. You do not take chocolates for the sake of satisfying your hunger. You take them for pleasure and then ask the doctor for an antidote. Perhaps you tell the doctor that whisky befogs your brain and he gives you an antidote. Would it not be better not to take chocolates or whisky? 15

There is nothing in our society today which would conduce to self-control. Our very upbringing is against it. The primary concern of parents is to marry their children anyhow so that they may breed like rabbits. If they are girls, they are married at as early an age as they conveniently can be, irrespective of their moral welfare. The marriage ceremony is one long drawn-out agony of feasting and frivolity. The householder’s life is in keeping with the past life. It is a prolongation of self-indulgence. Holidays and social enjoyments are so arranged as to allow one the greatest latitude for sensuous living. The literature that is almost thrust on one generally panders to the animal passion. The most modern literature almost teaches that indulgence in it is a duty and total abstinence a sin. 16

We are flourishing. There is no cold yet. I have never been as fit as I have felt latterly. There is an interruption because the old devil in the shape of animal passion is at me. When he assails me, I do feel worried. But the thing will wear away. So you see the most relevant thing I do share with you. But you are not to disturb yourself over this. It worries without disturbing me or making me morose. I seek the presence of God. 17 Those who speak in the name of individual freedom do not know their India. There is as much right of a person to demand drinking facilities from the State as there is to demand facilities for the supply of public women for the satisfaction of his animal passion. I hope that those who pride themselves on their moderation in drinking will not feel hurt by the illustration I have taken. In this country we are not used to legislation for the regulation of vice. But in countries like Germany the houses of women who sell their virtue are licensed. I do not know what will be more resented in those countries, the stopping of the licences for the houses of ill fame or the houses of drink. When woman realizes her dignity she will refuse to sell her virtue and those members of the sex who are jealous of its honour will move heaven and earth to have legalized prostitution abolished. Will it be then contended that such abolition will go hard with the prostitutes and their dependants whose only means of livelihood depended upon this calling? 18 

Maintenance of perfect health should be considered almost an utter impossibility without the brahmacharya leading to the conservation of the sexual secretions. To countenance wastage of a secretion which has the power of creating another human being is, to say the least, an indication of gross ignorance. A firm grasp of the fact that semen is meant to be used only for procreation and not for self-indulgence, leaves no room whatsoever for indulging in animal passion. Assimilation of the knowledge that the vital fluid is never meant for waste should restrain men and women from becoming crazy over sexual intercourse. Marriage will then come to have a different significance and the way it is treated at present will appear disgusting. Marriage ought to signify a union of hearts between the two partners. A married couple is worthy of being considered brahmacharis if they never think of sexual intercourse except for the purposes of procreation. Such an intercourse is not possible unless both parties desire it. It will never be resorted to in order to satisfy passion without the desire for a child. After intercourse which has been performed as a matter of duty, the desire to repeat the process should never arise. 19

A Sanskrit text says that a man becomes what he eats. A glutton who exercises no restraint in eating is a slave to his animal passions. One, who has not been able to control his palate, will never be able to control the other senses. If this is true, it is clear that one should take just enough food for the requirements of the body and no more. The diet should be healthy and well-balanced. The body was never meant to be treated as a refuse been holding the foods that the palate demands. Food is meant to sustain the body. His body has been given to man as a means of self-realization. Self-realization means realization of God. A person, who has made this realization the object of his or her life, will never become a slave to the animal passion.  Uncertain faith in God and the future springs from the lust for life. This lust unhinges a man or a woman. Indecision consumes him or her. Faith in God will live when the animal passion dies. The two cannot co-exist. 20




  1. Letter to Hanseshwar Ray, August 9, 1924
  2. Young India, 2-4-1925
  3. Letter to Dhirendra Chandra Latiry, August 5, 1926
  4. Young India, 19-8-1926
  5. Young India, 16-9-1926
  6. Letter to Ada Rosen green, December 11, 1927
  7. Letter to Narandas Gandhi, August 3/5, 1930
  8. Letter to Narandas Gandhi, September 2, 1930
  9. 20-8-1930
  10. Letter to K. S. Nagarajan, May 7, 1931
  11. Letter to Francisca Standenath, September 15, 1932
  12. Letter to Mirabehn, April 6, 1933
  13. Harijan, 6-5-1933
  14. Letter to Hiralal Sharma, May 9, 1933
  15. Harijan, 25-1-1936
  16. Harijan, 21-3-1936
  17. Letter to Amrit Kaur, October 8, 1938
  18. Harijan, 17-6-1939
  19. December 11, 1942
  20. December 12, 1942



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