Unveiling Gandhi’s Insights on the Atom Bomb

Here is a compilation of Gandhi’s views on the Atom Bomb issue. The quotes have been gleaned from ‘WHAT MAHATMA GANDHI SAID ABOUT THE ATOM BOMB’,  compiled by Dr. Y P Anand, he has been involved with Gandhian Institutions and Gandhian studies since he retired as a Civil Engineer. 


“There have been cataclysmic changes in the world. Do you still adhere to your faith in truth and nonviolence or has the atom bomb exploded your faith in truth and nonviolence?”


Not only has it not done so but it has clearly demonstrated to me that the twin forces of truth and nonviolence constitute the mightiest force in the world. Before them, the atom bomb is of no effect. These two opposing forces are wholly different in kind, the one (truth and nonviolence) are moral and spiritual, the other (atom bomb) is physical and material. The force of the spirit is ever progressive and endless. Its full expression makes it unconquerable in the world.

Harijan’ Revived.” (On way to Madura, 2.2.1946) [Harijan, 10.2.1946; Collected works of Mahatma Gandhi (hereafter it will be referred as CWMG). Vol. 83, pp. 77



A military officer in Poona, about to return to England, asked:

“We in the West, not only believe in violence but our society is based on it. Several subject races have won their independence through violence and are today living in peace. We have discovered the atom bomb for stopping violence. The last great war is a case in point. Has (Gandhiji) discovered any such power as the atom bomb, which will at once convert people to non-violence and bring about a rule of peace? Ask Gandhiji to exercise his power over the people and tell them to give up all thoughts of violence and adopt his creed.”


There is much confusion of thought in this question. The atom bomb has not stopped violence. People’s hearts are full of it and preparation for a third world war may even be said to be going on.”

“How Can Violence Be Stopped?” (Shimla, 9.5.1946) [Harijan, 19.5.1946; CWMG. 84, pp. 126-7]



“How would you meet the atom bomb…. with non-violence?” Maragaret Bourke-White, the American correspondent asked Gandhiji on the 30th January 1948, just a few hours before he was killed.”


“I will not go underground. I will not go into a shelter. I will come out in the open and let the pilot see I have not a trace of ill will against him. The pilot will not see our faces from his great height, I know. But the longing in our eyes that he will not come to harm would reach up to him and his eyes would be opened.

if those thousands who were done to death in Hiroshima, if they had died with that prayerful action-died openly with that prayer in their hearts-their sacrifice would not have gone in vain.

‘The Last Phase’ by Pyare Lal, Vol II. P.808, CWMG.90, pp. 522]


“The atom bomb was no great decision. Ir was merely a question of which side one took in the existing conflict. But the bomb undoubtedly was the last straw, the one which broke the camel’s back.” 

Nonviolence in Peace and War, by Mahatma Gandhi, edited by Thomas Merton, 1948.


“The atom bomb, which is the last word in violence today. Therefore, I suggested in 1920 the sue of non-violence and its inevitable twin companion truth, for canalizing hatred into the proper channel.”

How to Canalize Hatred.” (Sevagram, 15.2.1946) [Harijan, 24,2.1946; CWMG 83, pp. 134]


“Violence can only be effectively met by non-violence. This is an old established truth that the weapon of violence, even if it has the atom bomb, became useless when matched against true non-violence. That very few understand how to wield this weapon is true. It requires a lot of understanding and strength of mind. It is unlike what is needed in military schools and colleges. What it requires is purity of the mind. The difficulty one experiences in meeting HIMSA with AHIMSA arises from weakness of mind.”

….. Today there is gross economic inequality. The basis of socialism is economic equality. There can be no RAMRAJYA in the present state of iniquitous inequalities in which a few roll in riches and the masses do not get even enough to eat. I accepted the theory of socialism even while in South Africa. My opposition to the Socialists and others consists in attacking violence as a means of effecting any lasting reform.”

” How to Combat HIMSA.” (New Delhi, 25.5.1947) [Harijan, 1.6.1947; CWMG.88, pp. 1-2]


How do you think the succession of war such as we have witnessed of late can be stopped?


I have no doubt that unless big nations shed their desire for exploitation and the spirit of violence of which war is the natural expression and atom bomb the inevitable consequences, there is no hope for peace in the world. I tried to speak out during the war and wrote open letters to the British people, to Hitler and to the Japanese: and was dubbed a fifth columnist for my pains.”

“Discussion with the Director of a  British Daily”. [Harijan, 10.11.1946; CWMG.86, pp. 49]


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