Vaiṣṇavaism and Gandhi’s AhiṁsĀ: Expression of the Largest Love

How to Cite

Veena R. Howard. (2022). Vaiṣṇavaism and Gandhi’s AhiṁsĀ: Expression of the Largest Love: Journal of Vaishnava Studies. Journal of Vaishnava Studies, 26(2), 115–123. Retrieved from


Numerous studies trace the roots of Mahatma Gandhi’s ahiṁsā (nonviolence) to the Jain vratas and Yoga yamas. However, Gandhi’s own accounts of how he situated his method of ahiṁsā within his family’s Vaiṣṇava tradition has generally been overlooked. In 1916, in response to critics of his method, Gandhi responded: “By birth I am a Vaishnavite, and was taught ahimsa in my childhood,” and he proceeded to quote scriptures that ascribed extraordinary power to those who practiced nonviolence.1 For his practice of ahiṁsā, Gandhi defined it not simply as abstention from violent actions, but a practice of love, compassion, and service: “In positive form, ahimsa means the largest love, the greatest charity. If I am a follower of ahimsa, I must love my enemy.”

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.