Selected Letters of Gandhi : Part-2

A collection of Mahatma Gandhi letters.

Chapter-12: The Gita Doctrine

To a new Ashramites who suggested that we should ask thieves to stay in the Ashram, and allow stray cattle to consume the food crops in the Ashram farm, for the Gita asks us to cultivate Equimindedness (samatva) in chapter II, verse 48

The question you have raised cannot be settled with the help of logic alone, for if they are, the legitimate conclusion would be this that a man should unto death. The idea of sannyasa (renunciation) appears to be a consequence of this train of thought, and is only the half-way house to such a fast. But this heroism is impossible to man; even if he makes this impossible possible, his mind will rise in rebellion and create several worlds of its own. I think that the Gita teaching arose from some such line of thought. The Gita first of all points out the summon bonus of life and secondly tells us how we should live so as to make continuous progress towards it. Its teaching may be thus summarized : ‘Discharge fully whatever duty comes your way as you march to your goal, nut be detached from the fruits of your actions.’ This is the principle we apply in solving the problems which face the Ashram. As for thieves, we would certainly invite them to join the Ashram if we could, but as we have not still acquired the capacity to assimilate such refractory material, we deal with them as we think fit in view of our spiritual poverty. As regards stray cattle and insects which damage our crops, we have not still been able to devise non-violent methods of dealing with them. We therefore do some violence to them out of sheer helplessness. To drive out stray cattle by shouting at or beating them; to frighten birds away by throwing or pretending to throw stones at them, to destroy insects in course of ploughing operations or otherwise, to catch hold of snakes and carry them out of harm’s way or to permit people to kill them if that is impossible,- all those things are, I am aware, a negation of the Ashram ideal. But the Ashram and its members are far from perfect. Therefore they take such action, although it is wrong. Thus alone can they find out the way to the Eternal City. I have not the shadow of a doubt that to give up all activity is very much worse than to act as we are doing. The author of the Gita says : ‘all action is clouded by defects as fire by smoke’ (XVIII, 48). Therefore, we should be humble, do our allotted duty in a spirit of service and realize that we are mere tools in the hands of the ‘Great Carpenter’.

Written there on the same day.