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September 4, 2021

Tolstoy wrote it.

Gandhi read it.

The effects of that combination rippled through four centuries – and ripples still. First published in 1894 it has left – and leaves – its mark through the present 21st century.

It was Gandhi‘s reading of it in the 20th century that set in motion a series of influences – and events resulting from them.

It began with Gandhi’s own liberation of India from longtime British colonial rule. It continued to Martin Luther King Jr.’s leading the Civil Rights movement, and to Nelson Mandela’s toppling of Apartheid in South Africa.

The common thread linking these events is the philosophy of non-violence to attain liberation and justice. Tolstoy based his thoughts on Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. In The Kingdom of God is Within You Tolstoy bypassed dogma and focused on a strictly literal interpretation of Christ‘s words. He advocated completely restructuring society based on love and truth rather than on political and military might.

Gandhi was not a Christian, yet this book revolutionized his thoughts and his life. He wrote:

“When I was passing through a severe crisis of skepticism and doubt, I came across Tolstoy’s book The Kingdom of God is Within You, and was deeply impressed by it. I was at that time a believer in violence. Its reading cured me of my skepticism and made me a firm believer in… non-violence… Tolstoy’s life with its oceanlike love should serve as a beacon of light and a never-failing source of inspiration.”

And so it has – and does. The Kingdom of God is Within You is widely recognized as a masterpiece of philosophical and religious thought. It is as relevant today as it ever was.