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SELECTED LETTERS > SELECTED LETTERS FROM SELECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI To Maganlal Gandhi
 

To Maganlal Gandhi.¹ (After March 14, 1915)

Bhaishri Maganlal,

You are right in what you think about non-violence. It essentials are daya², akrodha³, aman, etc. clearly in Calcutta and came to the conclusion that we should include it among our vows. The thought led to the further conclusion that we do so by way of vows, we perceive the inner significance of non-violence. In my talks with hundreds of men here I place the various yamas above everything else.

¹ Maganlal Gandhi-Gandhiji's cousin; assisted Gandhiji for about a decade in his work in South Africa; left Phoenix in August 1914 with a party of about 25 students and teachers for India and with them stayed for some tim Tagore's Shanti Niketan; Manager, Sabarmati Ashram; Member, All India Khadi Board. Such was his devotion to Constructive Programme that Gandhiji felt widowed by his untimely death in 1928.
². Compassion
³.
Freedom from anger
. Freedom from the desire to be respected
. Any great moral or religious duty or observance

In observing the vow of non-hoarding, the main thing to be borne in mind is not to store up anything which we do not require. For agriculture, we may keep bullocks, if we use them, and the equipment required for them. Where there is a recurring danger of famine, we shall no doubt store food-grains. But we shall always ask ourselves whether bullocks and food-grains are in fact needed. We are to observe all the yamas in thought as well, so that we shall grow more secure in them from day to day and come to think of fresh things to renounce. Renunciation has no limit to it. The more we renounce, the more shall we grow in the knowledge of the atman.1 If the mind continues to move towards renunciation of the desire for hoarding and if in practice we give up hoarding as far as it is physically possible to do, we shall have kept the vow of non-hoarding.

The same is true about about non-stealing. Non-hoarding refers to stocking of things not needed. Non-stealing refers to the use of such things. Non-stealing refers to the use of such things. If I need only one shirt to cover myself with but use two, I am guilty of stealing one from another. For, a short which could have been of use to someone else does not belong to me. If five bananas are enough to keep me going, my eating a sixth one is a form of theft. Suppose we have a stock of 50 limes, thinking that among us all we would need them. I need only two, but take three because there are so many. This is theft.

Such unnecessary consumption is also a violation of the vow of non-violence. If with the ideal of non-stealing in view, we reduce our consumption of things we would grow more generous. If, we do so, actuated by the ideal -violence, we would grow more compassionate. In assuring, as it were, every animal or living thing that it need have no fear on our account, we entertain such love will not find any living being inimical to him, not even in thought. That is the most emphatic conclusion of the Shastras and my experience as well.

The principle underlying all these vows in truth. By deceiving oneself, one may refuse to recognize an act of stealing or hoarding as such. Hence, by taking careful thought we can ensure at every step that truth prevails. Whenever we are in doubt whether a particular thing should be stored or not, the wisdom of speaking, it is the duty of a man who has taken the vow of truth not to speak.
I want all of you to take only such vows as each one feels inclined to, of his own free will. I always feel that vows are necessary. But everyone may take them only when he himself feels the need and take only such as he wants to.

Ramchandra may have been a man of great prowess, performed innumerable feats and killed hundreds of thousands of monsters, but no one would think of him today if he had not had such devoted men as Lakshmana and Bharata to follow him. The points is, if Ramchandra had had no more than extraordinary strength as a fighter, his greatness would have been forgotten after a while. There have been many brave warriors who killed monsters as he did. There has been none among them whose fame and greatness are sung in every home. Ramchandra possessed power of some other kind which he could induce into Lakshmana and Bharata and in virtue of which the latter became great men of austerities. Singing in praise of their austerities, Tulsidasji asked, who else, if Bharata had not been born and practised austerities unattainable even by great sages, would have else, if Bharata had not been born and practised austerities unattainable even by great sages, would have turned an ignorant man like him to Rama? This is as much as to say that Lakshmana and Bharata were the guardians of Rama's fame, that is, of his teaching. Moreover, austerities are not everything. For, if Lakshmana went without food or sleep for 14 years, so did Indrajit1. But the latter did not know the true significance of austerities which Lakshmana had learnt from Rama; on the contrary, he possessed a nature which inclined him to misuse the power earned through austerities and so came to be known merely as a monster and suffered defeat at the hands of Lakshmana, the man of self-mastery, a lover of God and seeker of deliverance. In the same way, however great the ideal of Gurudev, (Rabindranath Tagore) if there is no one to implement that ideal, it will spread its light multiplied many times over. The steps which one has to climb in order to practice an ideal constitute tapas. (Penance) One should realize, therefore, how very necessary it is to bring tapas-discipline-into the life of children.

(Meghnad, son of Ravana, who had earned the name of Indrajit, by his victory over Indra, chief of the Gods.)

Blessing from Bapu
Source: Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. pp 37-39