Letters from Tolstoy to Gandhi

A friend of mine sent me a wonderful link which reveals, in summary, the contents of letters written by Leo Tolstoy to Mohandas Gandhi. Tolstoy was strongly advocating that love and passive resistance were needed to free people from disenfranchisement.

Here are two quotes from Tolstoy that I plucked from the link.

It is natural for men to help and to love one another, but not to torture and to kill one another.

As soon as men live entirely in accord with the law of love natural to their hearts and now revealed to them, which excludes all resistance by violence, and therefore hold aloof from all participation in violence — as soon as this happens, not only will hundreds be unable to enslave millions, but not even millions will be able to enslave a single individual.

Given the gravitas, causes and notoriety of these men, this is a fascinating read. The summary is not too long, but does offer links to the letters.

A key takeaway that resonates still today is fear mongering has been around for a long time. It serves as an enabler for a few to oppress the many. Per Tolstoy and Gandhi, it is defeated with love and passive resistance, not violence. In fact, Tolstoy rightfully asserts violence only begets more violence.

What makes this so impactful is Gandhi was an influence on Martin Luther King, so these writings are a terrific window into the seeds of civil disobedience.




17 thoughts on “Letters from Tolstoy to Gandhi

      • Lisa, it is funny you say that, as I was watching a scientist on CBS Good Morning this week and he was so passionately talking about the success and near breakthroughs on renewable energy. My wife and I commented how refreshing it was to see someone so enthusiastic. Great comment. Keith

      • Lisa’s comment got me thinking about an example of passion in moving forward causes. The famous “I have a dream,” speech by MLK was ad-libbed from earlier versions. During his planned speech which was less electrifying, the famous Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, urged from behind him to “tell them about your dream, Martin” which she had heard him do before. That passion made a huge difference that day and every day after. Keith

  1. Note to Readers: I mention two of my heroes above in Gandhi and MLK. I now think even more of Tolstoy with his writings to Gandhi. Another hero, Mother Teresa is about to be canonized. To become a Saint, a person must have two confirmed miracles. To me, her miracle is devoting each day to help people who are in need, then getting up each following day and doing it again. Her hard work was to help.

  2. Thank you so very much again for sharing this, Keith. Such wonderful and deep truths! It is for sure that way: violence causes more violence. We need to be and spread love, sow love, in order to reap love!

      • Great post about Resurrection. You may want to check out Hugh Curtler’s blog. He is a retired professor of literature and philosophy. He commented on this post, so you can find his link above.

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