Albert Einstein Expresses His Admiration for Mahatma Gandhi, in Letter and Audio

In 1931, Albert Einstein wrote to Mohandas K. Gandhi to express his great admiration for the Indian leader’s methods. Translated from German, the letter reads in part:

You have shown through your works, that it is possible to succeed without violence even with those who have not discarded the method of violence.

The letter long precedes the first atomic bombs and Einstein’s letters to F.D.R. warning of their development and use; though often discussed only in relation to the horrific events of World War II, the physicist’s opposition to violence and war was a longstanding passion for him. Einstein called his pacifism an “instinctive feeling” based only on his “deepest antipathy to every kind of cruelty and hatred,” rather than any “intellectual theory.” His politics often paralleled those of fellow intellectual giant and anti-war activist Bertrand Russell (the two collaborated on a 1955 “Manifesto” for peace).

Gandhi remained an important influence on Einstein’s life and thought. In the audio clip above from 1950, he again offers generous praise for the man known as “Mahatma” (great soul). In the recording, Einstein says of Gandhi:

I believe that Gandhi’s views were the most enlightened of all the political men of our time. We should strive to do things in his spirit: not to use violence in fighting for our cause, but by non-participation in anything you believe is evil.

Gandhi’s concept of satyagraha, which roughly translates as “devotion to the truth,” appealed to Einstein, perhaps, because of its principled stand against political expediency and for a kind of moral commitment that depended on self-scrutiny and inquiry into cause and effect. Like the counter-intuitive theories of Einstein and Russell, Gandhi biographer Mark Shepard writes that the concept of satyagraha is “a hard one to grasp”–Especially, “for those used to seeing power in the barrel of a gun.”

For more archival recordings of Einstein expressing his views on religion, war and peace, and science, visit American Public Media’s On Being website.

Related Content:

How Bertrand Russell Turned The Beatles Against the Vietnam War

Face to Face with Bertrand Russell: ‘Love is Wise, Hatred is Foolish’

Josh Jones is a writer, scholar, and musician. He recently completed a dissertation on land, literature, and labor.  



Make knowledge free & open. Share our posts with friends on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms:

by | Permalink | Comments (17) |

  • Hanoch

    Albert should have stuck to physics. “[N]on-participation in anything you believe is evil” is necessary to be a moral person, but patently insufficient. Should the Allies have thrown down their arms in the face of Nazi aggression?

    Thousands of years before Mahatma and Albert, a far more authoritative moral imperative was issued: “You shall not stand by your fellow’s blood.”

  • Mike

    Hanoch,
    Einstein signed a letter to Franklin Roosevelt urging him to pursue research into the atomic bomb because he was afraid the Nazis would get one first. Of course the weapon was used on the Japanese, and Einstein regretted his action.

  • Hanoch

    My understanding is that a ground invasion of Japan would have been far more costly in terms of human lives than the bombing.

  • Mike

    It just seemed strange, Hanoch, that you would use the example of ‘throwing down arms in the face of Nazi aggression’ in connection with Einstein.

  • Joan

    congrats, josh.
    much luck with the continuing journey…

  • Josh Jones

    Thanks, Joan!

  • Joeschmo

    To the Hanoch person above,
    Einstein started making his pacifism public after world war one because he realized something had to be done to prevent a future catastrophe. He urged citizens of all countries to refuse military service and that if enough refused, the governments could not possibly jail so many people. But with the rise of Hitler and Nazi Germany, Einstein realized that refusal and disarmament was not plausible since it was clear Germany was on the verge of war and that other European nations would now be unwise to not prepare. He actually upset many peace/pacifist groups because he stopped telling people to refuse military service in the mid-1930s. He fully understood what Germany(his homeland) was capable of and new that the Allies were completely justified in stopping them. Pacifism could work well in ghandis’s case but on a global scale Einstein said it could only truly work if there was a central, global organization (like the U.N. But actually capbable of dictating nations arms and weapons and such).

  • Dan Colman

    Just a quick question from the editor. Does anyone know which Facebook page promoted this post today?

    Thanks for any info,
    Dan

  • http://theanswertoworldpeace.com Dan Cohnan
  • Kristen

    Why did you photoshop Ghandi into the picture? The original is just of Einstein.

  • http://www.suburbanleaves.com mike

    Good piece Josh and generating discussion…great!

  • Carlo

    It’s funny to me how people making general comments here have no real knowledge of history but are QUICK TO REGURGITATE little phrases they have learned in the streets…

    So cute! JUST LIKE SHEEEEEPLE!

  • Carlo

    Warmongers always ask the question: Should we have let the Nazis win?

    Should USA have used the nuclear solution against Japan?

    That way they think they will always win the argument against non-violence.

    The truth is: you cannot argue with EVIL!

  • G. Krishnamurthy

    I have come to know that Einstein had only two portraits in his home, one of which was Mahatma Gandhi and the other of a scientist he had admired. Does anyone know who that scientist was?

  • Joe

    G.Krishnamurthy I think it’s Michael faraday

  • Nilanjana

    To @Hanoch, I do not know if you are at all knowledgeable about what non-violence is all about though the sentence “Should the Allies have thrown down their arms in the face of Nazi aggression?” makes me think you have misinterpreted this. In Gandhi’s time when the foreign British had unleashed ruthless torture on the Indians, do you think all Gandhi told us to do is ‘embrace’ our invaders and sit with our hands folded? NO. What Gandhi advocated for all his life is to oppose, to stand up for your countrymen but not using violence, which is possible, he showed us how. As he said, an eye for an eye will make the world blind. So next time you are posting a comment, at least make sure you know the fundamental conception.

  • Abhishek

    yet you create the atomic bomb

Quantcast