Mahatma Gandhi’s speech at Asian Relations Conference 1947

Mahatma Gandhi addressing the closing plenary session of the Asian Conference. Jawaharlal Nehru is seen on the right.

Mahatma Gandhi addressing the closing plenary session of the Asian Conference. Jawaharlal Nehru is seen on the right. Press Information Bureau/India

By Mahatma Gandhi | Asian Relations Conference 1947

NEW DELHI, India, 1 April 1947

(Mahatma Gandhi arrived at the meeting accompanied by Pandit Nehru and Khan Adbul Ghaffar Khan. He was welcomed by the Chairman and Mr. Han Lih-wu of China who called him “the spiritual leader of India”, “the light of Asia”, and “a great man of the world”. Upon their request Mahatma Gandhi addressed the plenary session on the proposed permanent Asian institute.)

I do not know if I can offer any remarks of a helpful nature and therein lies a confession of my ignorance. By correspondence I know almost all parts of the world. I do not recall any single country which is represented in this Conference and with which I have not corresponded, but I must confess that I know very few of you personally. Some parts of the question of an Asian institute were discussed by Pandit Nehru with me yesterday. Realising the gross physical limitations of mine I thought I would not be able to say anything useful here but this is a question after my heart — whether I think an institute should be formed. Having assembled here and so eagerly, this is a great event for us all who belong to Asia. It is a great event certainly for us in India that perhaps for the first time in our history such a Conference takes place on Indian soil.

I am sorry to have to say that we seem to be fighting. We do not know what it is that can keep peace between us and within ourselves. We have so many opinions formed that we do not know how to settle between ourselves in a human manner. We think we must resort to the law of the jungle. It is shameful thing and it is an exhibition which I would like you not to carry to your respective countries but bury here. I think you will admit that India is now on the eve of her full independence, independence of every foreigner who wants to own this country and be its lord and master. It is not as if we want to change our masters. We want to be our masters. But how shall we be masters, I do not know. All I know is that we should do our duty and leave the result to the powerful hands of God. Man is supposed to be the maker of his own destiny. It is only partially true. He can make his own destiny only in so far he is allowed by the Great Power which overrides all our intentions and plans. I call that Great Power not by the name of God but by a word which I first used in a church or chapel — I forget which — in Switzerland where I was on a visit to meet the great sage Romain Rolland. He said “God is Truth”. I said, “I want to reverse the position and say ‘Truth is God’.” To that I cling even today. That Truth overrides all our plans and is a power which we do not know. When we say we are true, we say what is true. It is only partially true, not wholly. The whole truth is embodied only in the heart of that Great Power. I may also call it Force but I have no better word than Truth. Therefore my God is Truth, and everything that I see around me must be reduced to that Truth which no one can describe. I was taught from my early days to regard that as unapproachable. You cannot reach that Truth. A great Englishman taught me to believe that He was unknowable. I cannot share that expression. He is knowable, but knowable only to the extent that our little intellect would allow us. If he is unknowable, then, of course, there would be no God. For me He is there. I came to recognise that He was best represented by the word Truth. Hence I would say that to you, gentlemen from different parts of Asia, having come here and with eagerness, would meet yearly or once in two or three years. You should carry away sweet memories of the meeting and make every effort to build that great edifice of Truth. That is what you should do.

The representatives of all Asian powers and Asian peoples have come together. Is it in order to wage war against Europe, against America, against non-Asians? I say emphatically “no”. That is not India’s mission and I am free to confess that I would feel extremely sorry if India, having won her independence essentially or rather predominantly through non-violent means, was going to use it for the suppression of other parts of the world — let alone Asian powers — of European powers because they have exploited the different races inhabiting this vast continent called Asia. I think that would be a sorry thing. You should all go away with the fixed determination that Asia shall live, shall live as free as the other Western nations who flatter themselves into the belief that they are free. I do not regard them as free at all, but I do not want to enter into the labyrinths of that topic. I just want to say that the idea is sound that such a Conference should be renewed at the stated times.

[Asked if he subscribed to the theory of “One World’ and whether it would succeed in present conditions, Mahatma Gandhi said: ] Well, it is a good question to ask. That enables you to read my mind somewhat. I must confess to you that I would not like to live in this world if it was not to be one world. Certainly I would like to see that dream realised in my lifetime; not in the present generation, but in my lifetime. Suppose all the representatives who have come here from Asia go away with one mind and fixed determination that they will strive their best to have only one world, then, of course, they will have to work out ways and means. I dare say that if you go away with a determination to carry your will through, there is no doubt that in your generation you will certainly see the dream realised.

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