There is one thing that matters—to set a chime of words tinkling in the minds of a few fastidious people.Logan Pearsall Smith
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- Religion is not familiar ground for me, and as I have grown older, I have definitely drifted away from it. I have something else in its place, something older than just intellect and reason, which gives me strength and hope. Apart from this indefinable and indefinite urge, which may have just a tinge of religion in it and yet is wholly different from it, I have grown entirely to rely on the workings of the mind. Perhaps they are weak supports to rely upon, but, search as I will, I can see no better ones.
- Letter to Mahatma Gandhi (1933), as quoted in "Nehru's Faith" by Sunil Khilnani, in The New Republic (24 May 2004), p. 27
- The most effective pose is one in which there seems to be the least of posing, and Jawahar had learned well to act without the paint and powder of an actor ... What is behind that mask of his? ... what will to power? ... He has the power in him to do great good for India or great injury ... Men like Jawaharlal, with all their capacity for great and good work, are unsafe in a democracy.
He calls himself a democrat and a socialist, and no doubt he does so in all earnestness, but every psychologist knows that the mind is ultimately slave to the heart ... Jawahar has all the makings of a dictator in him — vast popularity, a strong will, ability, hardness, an intolerance for others and a certain contempt for the weak and inefficient ... In this revolutionary epoch, Caesarism is always at the door. Is it not possible that Jawahar might fancy himself as a Caesar? ... He must be checked. We want no Caesars.
- Great causes and little men go ill together.
- The Indian Annual Register Vol.1 (January-June 1939)
- Most of us seldom take the trouble to think. It is a troublesome and fatiguing process and often leads to uncomfortable conclusions. But crises and deadlocks when they occur have at least this advantage, that they force us to think.
- The Unity of India : Collected Writings, 1937-1940 (1942), p. 94
- Because we have sought to cover up past evil, though it still persists, we have been powerless to check the new evil of today.
Evil unchecked grows, Evil tolerated poisons the whole system. And because we have tolerated our past and present evils, international affairs are poisoned and law and justice have disappeared from them.
- The Unity of India : Collected Writings, 1937-1940 (1942), p. 280
- They fought because they were paid for it; they were not interested very much in the conquest of Greece. The Athenians on the other hand, fought for their freedom. They preferred to die rather than lose their freedom, and those who are prepared to die for any cause are seldom defeated.
- On the defeat of the forces of Darius the Great of Persia at the Battle of Marathon, in Glimpses of World History; Being Further Letters to His Daughter, Written In Prison, And Containing A Rambling Account of History For Young People (1942); also in Nehru on World History (1960} edited by Saul K. Padover, p. 14
- We must constantly remind ourselves that whatever our religion or creed, we are all one people. I regret that many recent disturbances have given us a bad name. Many have acquiesced to the prevailing spirit. This is not citizenship. Citizenship consists in the service of the country. We must prevail on the evil-doers to stop their activities. If you, men of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force, serve your countrymen without distinction of class and religion, you will bring honour to yourselves and to your country.
- Radio address to the Defence Services (1 December 1947)
- In times of crisis it is not unnatural for those who are involved in it deeply to regard calm objectivity in others as irrational, short-sighted, negative, unreal or even unmanly. But I should like to make it clear that the policy India has sought to pursue is not a negative and neutral policy. It is a positive and vital policy that flows from our struggle for freedom and from the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. Peace is not only an absolute necessity for us in India in order to progress and develop but also of paramount importance to the world. How can that peace be preserved? Not by surrendering to aggression, not by compromising with evil or injustice but also not by the talking and preparing for war! Aggression has to be met, for it endangers peace. At the same time, the lesson of the past two wars has to be remembered and it seems to me astonishing that, in spite of that lesson, we go the same way. The very processes of marshaling the world into two hostile camps precipitates the conflict that it had sought to avoid. It produces a sense of terrible fear and that fear darkens men's minds and leads them to wrong courses. There is perhaps nothing so bad and so dangerous in life as fear. As a great President of the United States said, there is nothing really to fear except fear itself.
- Speech at Columbia University (1949); published in Speeches 1949 - 1953 p. 402; as quoted in Sources of Indian Tradition (1988) by Stephen Hay, p. 350
- Wars are fought to gain a certain objective. War itself is not the objective; victory is not the objective; you fight to remove the obstruction that comes in the way of your objective. If you let victory become the end in itself then you've gone astray and forgotten what you were originally fighting about.
- If in the modern world wars have unfortunately to be fought (and they do, it seems) then they must be stopped at the first possible moment, otherwise they corrupt us, they create new problems and make our future even more uncertain. That is more than morality; it's sense.
- Interview by James Cameron in Picture Post (28 October 1950)
- Ultimately what we really are matters more than what other people think of us. One has to face the modern world with its good as well as its bad and it is better on the whole, I think, that we give even licence than suppress the normal flow of opinion. That is the democratic method. But having laid that down, still I would beg to say that there is a limit to the licence that one can allow, more so in times of great peril to the State.
- Parliamentary Debates [Parliament of India] Pt.2 V.12-13 (1951); also quoted in Glorious Thoughts of Nehru (1964), p. 146
- I want to go rapidly towards my objective. But fundamentally even the results of action do not worry me so much. Action itself, so long as I am convinced that it is right action, gives me satisfaction. In my general outlook on life I am a socialist and it is a socialist order that I should like to see established in India and the world.
- Statement of 1951, in Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru Vol. 5 (1987), p. 321
- I have become a queer mixture of the East and the West ... Out of place everywhere, at home nowhere. Perhaps my thoughts and approach to life are more akin to what is called Western than Eastern, but India clings to me, as she does to all her children, in innumerable ways ... I am a stranger and alien in the West. I cannot be of it. But in my own country also, sometimes I have an exile's feeling.
- As quoted in Ambassador's Report (1954) by Chester Bowles, p.59
- Every little thing counts in a crisis and we want our weight felt and our voice heard in quarters which are for the avoidance of world conflict.
- Jawaharlal Nehru's Speeches 1949 - 1953 (1954), p. 144
- Theoretical approaches have their place and are, I suppose, essential but a theory must be tempered with reality.
- Jawaharlal Nehru's Speeches 1949 - 1953 (1954), p. 235
- Without peace, all other dreams vanish and are reduced to ashes.
- Address to the United Nations (28 August 1954); as quoted in The Macmillan Dictionary of Political Quotations (1993) by Lewis D. Eigen and Jonathan Paul Siegel, p. 698
- The only alternative to coexistence is codestruction.
- As quoted in The Observer [London] (29 August 1954)
- Democracy and socialism are means to an end, not the end itself. We talk of the good of society. Is this something apart from, and transcending, the good of the individuals composing it? If the individual is ignored and sacrificed for what is considered the good of the society, is that the right objective to have?
It was agreed that the individual should not be sacrificed and indeed that real social progress will come only when opportunity is given to the individual to develop, provided "the individual" is not a selected group but comprises the whole community. The touchstone, therefore, should be how far any political or social theory enables the individual to rise above his petty self and thus think in terms of the good of all. The law of life should not be competition or acquisitiveness but cooperation, the good of each contributing to the good of all.
- As quoted in World Marxist Review : Problems of Peace and Socialism (1958), p. 40
- You don't change the course of history by turning the faces of portraits to the wall.
- Statement to Nikita Khrushchev, as quoted in The New York Post (1 April 1959), and in The Cynic's Lexicon : A Dictionary of Amoral Advice (1984) by Jonathon Green, p. 184
- We talk about a secular state in India. It is perhaps not very easy even to find a good word in Hindi for "secular". Some people think it means something opposed to religion. That obviously is not correct. What it means is that it is state which honours all faiths equally and gives them equal opportunities; that, as a state, it does not allow itself to be attached to one faith or religion, which then becomes the state religion.
- Statement of 1961, as quoted in Locked Minds, Modern Myths (1997) by T. N. Madan
- Democracy is good. I say this because other systems are worse. So we are forced to accept democracy. It has good points and also bad. But merely saying that democracy will solve all problems is utterly wrong. Problems are solved by intelligence and hard work.
- As quoted in The New York Times (15 January 1961), and in Lifetime Speaker's Encyclopedia (1962) by Jacob Morton Braude, p. 173
- Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit. It is never a narrowing of the mind or a restriction of the human spirit or the country's spirit.
- The Quintessence of Nehru (1961) edited by K. T. Narasimhachar, p. 120
- Time is not measured by the passing of years but by what one does, what one feels, and what one achieves.
- As quoted in Al Arab Vol. 9 (1970) by the League of Arab States, p. 9
- America is a country no one should go to for the first time.
- As quoted in The Traveling Curmudgeon : Irreverent Notes, Quotes, and Anecdotes on Dismal Destinations, Excess Baggage, The Full Upright Position, and Other Reasons Not To Go There (2003) by Jon Winokur, p. 5
- We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.
- As quoted in Building A Life Of Value : Timeless Wisdom to Inspire and Empower Us (2005) by Jason A. Merchey, p. 74
The Discovery of India (1946)
- The discovery of India — what have I discovered? It was presumptuous of me to imagine that I could unveil her and find out what she is today and what she was in the long past. Today she is four hundred million separate individual men and women, each differing from the other, each living in a private universe of thought and feeling. If this is so in the present, how much more so to grasp that multitudinous past of innumerable successions of human beings. Yet something has bound them together and binds them still. India is a geographical and economic entity, a cultural unity amidst diversity, a bundle of contradictions held together by strong but invisible threads. Overwhelmed again and again her spirit was never conquered, and today when she appears to be a plaything of a proud conqueror, she remains unsubdued and unconquered. About her there is the elusive quality of a legend of long ago; some enchantment seems to have held her mind. She is a myth and an idea, a dream and a vision, and yet very real and present and pervasive.
- The world of today has achieved much, but for all its declared love for humanity, it has based itself far more on hatred and violence than on the virtues that make one human. War is the negation of truth and humanity. War may be unavoidable sometimes, but its progeny are terrible to contemplate. Not mere killing, form man must die, but the deliberate and persistent propagation of hatred and falsehood, which gradually become the normal habits of the people. It is dangerous and harmful to be guided in our life's course by hatreds and aversions, for they are wasteful of energy and limit and twist the mind and prevent it from perceiving truth.
- History is almost always written by the victors and conquerors and gives their view. Or, at any rate, the victors' version is given prominence and holds the field.
A Tryst With Destiny (1947)
- Speech in the Constituent Assembly of India, on the eve of India's independence (14 August 1947) Full text at Wikisource
- Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment, we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.
- Freedom and power bring responsibility.
- The ambition of the greatest men of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us, but so long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over.
And so we have to labour and to work, and work hard, to give reality to our dreams. Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world, for all the nations and peoples are too closely knit together today for any one of them to imagine that it can live apart. Peace has been said to be indivisible; so is freedom, so is prosperity now, and so also is disaster in this One World that can no longer be split into isolated fragments.
The Light Has Gone Out (1948)
- Friends and Comrades, the light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere. I do not know what to tell you and how to say it. Our beloved leader, Bapu as we called him, the Father of the Nation, is no more.
- The light has gone out, I said, and yet I was wrong. For the light that shone in this country was no ordinary light. The light that has illumined this country for these many years will illumine this country for many more years, and a thousand years later, that light will be seen in this country and the world will see it and it will give solace to innumerable hearts. For that light represented something more than the immediate past, it represented the living, the eternal truths, reminding us of the right path, drawing us from error, taking this ancient country to freedom.
- A great disaster is a symbol to us to remember all the big things of life and forget the small things of which we have thought too much. In his death he has reminded us of the big things of life, the living truth, and if we remember that, then it will be well with India.
Speech to the US Congress (13 October 1949)
- Where freedom is menaced or justice threatened or where aggression takes place, we cannot be and shall not be neutral.
- We have achieved political freedom but our revolution is not yet complete and is still in progress, for political freedom without the assurance of the right to live and to pursue happiness, which economic progress alone can bring, can never satisfy a people. Therefore, our immediate task is to raise the living standards of our people, to remove all that comes in the way of the economic growth of the nation. We have tackled the major problem of India, as it is today the major problem of Asia, the agrarian problem. Much that was feudal in our system of land tenure is being changed so that the fruits of cultivation should go to the tiller of the soil and that he may be secure in the possession of the land he cultivates. In a country of which agriculture is still the principal industry, this reform is essential not only for the well-being and contentment of the individual but also for the stability of society. One of the main causes of social instability in many parts of the world, more especially in Asia, is agrarian discontent due to the continuance of systems of land tenure which are completely out of place in the modem world. Another — and one which is also true of the greater part of Asia and Africa — is the low standard of living of the masses.
- India is industrially more developed than many less fortunate countries and is reckoned as the seventh or eighth among the world's industrial nations. But this arithmetical distinction cannot conceal the poverty of the great majority of our people. To remove this poverty by greater production, more equitable distribution, better education and better health, is the paramount need and the most pressing task before us and we are determined to accomplish this task. We realize that self-help is the first condition of success for a nation, no less than for an individual. We are conscious that ours must be the primary effort and we shall seek succour from none to escape from any part of our own responsibility. But though our economic potential is great, its conversion into finished wealth will need much mechanical and technological aid. We shall, therefore, gladly welcome such aid and co-operation on terms that are of mutual benefit. We believe that this may well help in the solution of the larger problems that confront the world. But we do not seek any material advantage in exchange for any part of our hard-won freedom.
Autobiography (1936; 1949; 1958)
- Several editions of Nehru's autobiography were published in his lifetime, including An Autobiography (1936), Jawaharlal Nehru, An Autobiography, with Musings on Recent Events in India (1949), and Toward Freedom : The Autobiography of Jawaharlal Nehru (1958) Some passages occur in all of these, but with slight variations of wording.
- Religion merges into mysticism and metaphysics and philosophy. There have been great mystics, attractive figures, who cannot easily be disposed of as self-deluded fools. Yet, mysticism (in the narrow sense of the word) irritates me; it appears to be vague and soft and flabby, not a rigorous discipline of the mind but a surrender of mental faculties and living in a sea of emotional experience. The experience may lead occasionally to some insight into inner and less obvious processes, but it is also likely to lead to self-delusion.
- Essentially I am interested in this world, in this life, not in some other world or future life. Whether there is such a thing as soul, or whether there is survival after death or not, I do not know; and important as these questions are, the do not trouble me the least.
- What the mysterious is I do not know. I do not call it God because God has come to mean much that I do not believe in. I find myself incapable of thinking of a deity or of any unknown supreme power in anthropomorphic terms, and the fact that many people think so is continually a source of surprise to me. Any idea of a personal God seems very odd to me.
Intellectually, I can appreciate to some extent the conception of monism, and I have been attracted towards the Advaita (non-dualist) philosophy of the Vedanta, though I do not presume to understand it in all its depth and intricacy, and I realise that merely an intellectual appreciation of such matters does not carry one far.
- India is supposed to be a religious country above everything else, and Hindu and Moslem and Sikh and others take pride in their faiths and testify to their truth by breaking heads. The spectacle of what is called religion, or at any rate organised religion, in India and elsewhere has filled me with horror, and I have frequently condemned it and wished to make a clean sweep of it. Almost always it seems to stand for blind belief and reaction, dogma and bigotry, superstition and exploitation, and the preservation of vested interests. And yet I knew well that there was something else in it, something which supplied a deep inner craving of human beings. How else could it have been the tremendous power it has been and brought peace and comfort to innumerable tortured souls? Was that peace merely the shelter of blind belief and absence of questioning, the calm that comes from being safe in harbour, protected from the storms of the open sea, or was it something more? In some cases certainly it was something more.
But organized religion, whatever its past may have been, today is largely an empty form devoid of real content. Mr. G. K. Chesterton has compared it (not his own particular brand of religion, but other!) to a fossil which is the form of an animal or organism from which all its own organic substance has entirely disappeared, but has kept its shape, because it has been filled up by some totally different substance. And, even where something of value still remains, it is enveloped by other and harmful contents. That seems to have happened in our Eastern religions as well as in the Western.
- I knew that Gandhiji usually acts on instinct (I prefer to call it that than the "inner voice" or an answer to prayer) and very often that instinct is right. He has repeatedly shown what a wonderful knack he has of sensing the mass mind and of acting at the psychological moment. The reasons which he afterward adduces to justify his action are usually afterthoughts and seldom carry one very far. A leader or a man of action in a crisis almost always acts subconsciously and then thinks of the reasons for his action.
- Action to be effective must be directed to clearly conceived ends. Life is not all logic, and those ends will have to be varied from time to time to fit in with it, but some end must always be clearly envisaged.
- To be in good moral condition requires at least as much training as to be in good physical condition. But that certainly does not mean asceticism or self-mortification. Nor do I appreciate in the least the idealization of the "simple peasant life." I have almost a horror of it, and instead of submitting to it myself I want to drag out even the peasantry from it, not to urbanization, but to the spread of urban cultural facilities to rural areas.
- Organised religion allying itself to theology and often more concerned with its vested interests than with the things of the spirit encourages a temper which is the very opposite of science. It produces narrowness and intolerance, credulity and superstition, emotionalism and irrationalism. It tends to close and limit the mind of man and to produce a temper of a dependent, unfree person.
Even if God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him, so Voltaire, said ... perhaps that is true, and indeed the mind of man has always been trying to fashion some such mental image or conception which grew with the mind's growth. But there is something also in the reverse proposition: even if God exist, it may be desirable not to look up to Him or to rely upon Him. Too much dependence on supernatural forces may lead, and has often led, to loss of self-reliance in man, and to a blunting of his capacity and creative ability. And yet some faith seems necessary in things of the spirit which are beyond the scope of our physical world, some reliance on moral, spiritual, and idealistic conceptions, or else we have no anchorage, no objectives or purpose in life. Whether we believe in God or not, it is impossible not to believe in something, whether we call it a creative life-giving force, or vital energy inherent in matter which gives it its capacity for self-movement and change and growth, or by some other name, something that is as real, though elusive, as life is real when contrasted with death.
- Facts are facts and will not disappear on account of your likes.
- Failure comes only when we forget our ideals and objectives and principles.
- I do not attach much importance to America's bombs. I attach importance to her great vitality and integrity. The strength of America is deeper and more significant than her financial power.
- I have always thought that the best way to find out what is right and what is not right, what should be done and what should not be done, is not to give a sermon, but to talk and discuss, and out of discussion sometimes a little bit of truth comes out.
- I want nothing to do with any religion concerned with keeping the masses satisfied to live in hunger, filth, and ignorance. I want nothing to do with any order, religious or otherwise, which does not teach people that they are capable of becoming happier and more civilized on this earth, capable of becoming master of his fate and captain of his soul.
- Ignorance is always afraid of change.
- It is a fundamental rule of human life that, if the approach is good, the response is good.
- It is only too easy to make suggestions and later try to escape the consequences of what we say.
- It is science alone that can solve the problems of hunger and poverty, of insanitation and illiteracy, of superstition and deadening of custom and tradition, of vast resources running to waste, or a rich country inhabited by starving poor... Who indeed could afford to ignore science today? At every turn we have to seek its aid... The future belongs to science and those who make friends with science.
- It is the habit of every aggressor nation to claim that it is acting on the defensive.
- Let us be a little humble; let us think that the truth may not perhaps be entirely with us.
- Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you represents determinism; the way you play it is free will.
- Variants: Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you is determinism; the way you play it is free will.
Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will.
- Variants: Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you is determinism; the way you play it is free will.
- Logic and cold reason are poor weapons to fight fear and distrust. Only faith and generosity can overcome them.
- Loyal and efficient work in a great cause, even though it may not be immediately recognized, ultimately bears fruit.
- No country or people who are slaves to dogma and the dogmatic mentality can progress, and unhappily our country and people have become extraordinarily dogmatic and little-minded.
- Obviously, the highest type of efficiency is that which can utilize existing material to the best advantage.
- Our chief defect is that we are more given to talking about things than to doing them.
- Peace is not a relationship of nations. It is a condition of mind brought about by a serenity of soul. Peace is not merely the absence of war. It is also a state of mind. Lasting peace can come only to peaceful people.
- Variant: Peace is not a relationship of nations. It is a condition of mind brought about by a serenity of soul. Lasting peace can come only to peaceful people.
- Socialism is . . . not only a way of life, but a certain scientific approach to social and economic problems.
- The art of a people is a true mirror to their minds.
- The basic fact of today is the tremendous pace of change in human life.
- The forces in a capitalist society, if left unchecked, tend to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.
- The man who has gotten everything he wants is all in favor of peace and order.
- The person who talks most of his own virtue is often the least virtuous.
- The policy of being too cautious is the greatest risk of all.
- The purely agitational attitude is not good enough for a detailed consideration of a subject.
- There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.
- What we need is a generation of peace.
Quotes about Nehru
- So important to all of us, that if he did not exist — as Voltaire said of God — he would have to be invented. ... One of the most difficult men with whom I have ever had to deal.
- Dean Acheson in a memorandum of a meeting with Nehru (12 October 1949) as quoted in "Indo-American Relations, 1947-50 : A Missed Opportunity in Asia" by Dennis Merrill, in Diplomatic History Vol. 11 No. 3 (July 1987); also in Nehru The Making of India (1989) by M. J. Akbar, and "Books of The Times; Biography of Nehru From a New Point of View" in The New York Times (16 May 1989)
- My father was a statesman, I’m a political woman. My father was a saint. I’m not.
- Thirty years of struggle and sacrifice have left their mark. Each year has taken away something of the warmth, gaiety and outgoing charm ... The brown eyes that were ever ready to sparkle at some witty sally often hold an expression now of hard defiance or weary frustration. His face is that of a tired man who seems to be driven by some internal force which never relents, never lets go. His smile today is the smile of a self-possessed man, a polite Prime Minister, fully aware of his power, defying any criticism... In the eyes of the world, he is undoubtedly the only man in India who can guide and control her destiny in these difficult times. Nevertheless, there is danger for him and for India if he is spoiled too much with adulation. In his own words, "It must be checked. We want no Caesars!"
- Krishna Nehru Hutheesing, Nehru's sister, as quoted in "Clear-Eyed Sister" in TIME magazine (3 January 1955)
- Upon Gandhi's assassination in 1948, a year after independence, Nehru, the country's first Prime Minister, became the keeper of the national flame, the most visible embodiment of India's struggle for freedom. Gandhi's death could have led Nehru to assume untrammeled power. Instead, he spent a lifetime trying to instill the habits of democracy in his people — a disdain for dictators, a respect for parliamentary procedures, an abiding faith in the constitutional system. He himself was such a convinced democrat that, at the crest of his rise, he authored an anonymous article warning Indians of the dangers of giving dictatorial temptations to Jawaharlal Nehru. "He must be checked," he wrote of himself. "We want no Caesars."
- Shashi Tharoor in "Gandhi & Nehru" at TIME