Mahatma Gandhi: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”



Mahatma Gandhi never actually said this quote, which is commonly attributed to them. Instead he said something similar: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.”

So that’s a little teaching in itself. Do we want to see more truth in the world, or more falsehood? I know which I prefer.

When we look at the world around us, with its many serious problems, including poverty, injustice, war, overpopulation, and environmental degradation, we can become angry and frustrated, or passive and despondent. Not only are these responses ineffective at bringing about change, they are also part of the problem to begin with.

In order to bring about positive change in the world we need not only engagement with the outer world, but also engagement with our inner world. If we want to see greater awareness in the world, we have to cultivate awareness. If we want to see more love, we need to cultivate love. If we want to be genuinely helpful we have to learn to be less hateful and frustrated, and more compassionate.

Meditation can of course help here — a notion that Mahatma Gandhi would have agreed with. Meditation helps us to recognize unhelpful emotional patterns and to develop the mental freedom to choose more helpful responses.

The cultivation of mindfulness helps us see what’s going on within us. It lets us see our own reactivity, and also our potential for change.

The cultivation of lovingkindness helps us to find alternative and more compassionate responses to life. If we want to see greater harmony and less strife in the world, we need to learn to respond to frustrations with more patience and kindness than we do at present.

Trying to change the world without changing ourselves is largely pointless. We simply inflict our impatience and ignorance on others, and there are enough of those qualities in the world already. So we need to work on developing the qualities that the world most needs — awareness and compassion.

Of course changing ourselves without attempting to make the world a better place is just a form of selfishness — trying to curate personal experiences of happiness with no regard to others — and there’s enough of that in the world as well.

The world needs our help, so we need to do what we can to help ourselves to be better, so that we can make the world better as well.


8 Comments. Leave new

  • […] You must be the change you wish to see in the world Gandhi. Quote by Gandhi […]

  • […] during this impulse and be blissful we took that initial step to change your life. To counterfeit Mahatma Gandhi, “[Never forget that we are] a change we wish to see in a world.” Go out there and […]

  • I am a 59 yr old Right Winger who believes that Capitalism has been perverted and is seriously misunderstood. I came across Gandhi’s words about “being the change” in a book by John Mackey titled, Conscious Capitalism. I’m only half way through it but I recommend it highly. Also I am feeling the need to improve my health through diet, and reduce some of life’s stress through meditation. I intend to explore your web site soon. Thank you!

  • We are responding to this in my 6th grade gt elar class. this is really inspiring to me because change starts with one. You can’t complain about the rest of the world being negative wiithout making a positive change in yourself.

  • It is a solacing articles read in this critical hour of life in the world! Mahatma is forgotten everywhere but his message will resurrect again to bring peace and real progress to the world sooner or later! Meditation is the best way to compose mind and heart to see that golden dawning soon….!

  • ramnarine sahadeo
    September 23, 2013 9:57 pm

    the most impressive mind of the 20th century and yet so few of our children know about his THOUGHTS, WORDS, DEEDS, the title of my recent book on him. Regretfully the day has already come as predicted by Einstein when men scarcely believe that such a one walked upon this earth.
    my book contains lots of quotes from him, those he influenced but more importantly the book that guided him-the bhagavad-gita

  • […] I want to explain why I’m doing these “Working on it” posts. If you read my old blog, Quack This, then you know I can be quite the Negative Nelly. I didn’t want that on this blog and the very first thing I decided to do here was start the week on a positive note by posting something that makes me happy, hence my Monday “Makes me happy” posts. Starting the week with a positive focus is a good thing and should, I hope, breed more good things, no? That’s where the “Working on it” posts are coming from as well. I want change and even though this may be an over simplification of my most favorite quote, Gandhi said: […]

  • it is a nice thought by gandhiji .i guess it was told by him in the time of freedom struggle


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