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PHILOSOPHY > THE MIND OF MAHATMA GANDHI > My Inconsistencies

 

My Inconsistencies

I DECLINE to be slave to precedents or practice I cannot understand or defend on a moral basis.
(YI, 21-7-1921, p228)


I must admit my many inconsistencies. But since I am called 'Mahatma', I might well endorse Emerson's saying that 'Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.' There is, I fancy, a method in my inconsistencies. In my opinion, there is a consistency running through my seeming inconsistencies, as in Nature there is unity running through seeming diversity. (YI, 13-2-1930, p52)


Friends who know me have certified that I am as much a moderate as I am an extremist and as much a conservative as I am a radical. Hence, perhaps, my good fortune to have friends among these extreme types of men. The mixture is due, I believe, to my view of ahimsa.


Inconsistency is only apparent. It appears so to many friends because of my responsiveness to varying circumstances. Seeming consistency may really be sheer obstinacy. (YI, 16-4-1931, p77)

Fetish of Consistency
I am not at all concerned with appearing to be consistent. In my pursuit after Truth I have discarded many ideas and learnt many new things. Old as I am in age, I have no feeling that I have ceased to grow inwardly or that my growth will stop with the dissolution of the flesh. What I am concerned with is my readiness to obey the call of Truth, my God, from moment to moment. (H, 29-4-1933, p2)


I have never made a fetish of consistency. I am a votary of Truth and I must say what I feel and think at a given moment on the question, without regard to what I may have said before on it. … As my vision gets clearer, my views must grow clearer with daily practice. Where I have deliberately altered an opinion, the change should be obvious, only, a careful eye would notice a gradual and imperceptible evolution.
(H, 28-9-1934, p. 260)


My aim is not to be consistent with my previous statements on a given question, but to be consistent with truth as it may present itself to me at a given moment. The result has been that I have grown from truth to truth. (H, 30-9-1939, p288)

No Expedience
I have sacrificed no principle to gain a political advantage. (YI, 12-3-1925, p91)


I am not aware of having done a single thing in my life as a matter of expedience. I have ever held that the highest morality is also the highest expedience. (H, 8-12-1933, p8)

Compromise
I have often been charged with having an unyielding nature. I have been told that I would not bow to the decisions of the majority. I have been accused of being autocratic. … I have never been able to subscribe to the charge of obstinacy or autocracy. On the contrary, I pride myself on my yielding nature in non-vital matters. I detest autocracy. Valuing my freedom and independence, I equally cherish them for others. I have no desire to carry a single soul with me if I cannot appeal to his or her reason.


My unconventionality I carry to the point of rejecting the divinity of the oldest Shastras if they cannot convince my reason. But I have found by experience that, if I wish to live in society and retain my independence, I must limit the points of utter independence to matters of first-rate importance. In all others which do not involve a departure from one's personal religion or moral code, one must yield to the majority. (YI, 14-7-1920, p4)


All my life through, the very insistence on truth has taught me to appreciate the beauty of compromise. I saw in later life that this spirit was an essential part of satyagraha. It has often meant endangering my life and incurring the displeasure of friends. But truth is hard as adamant and tender as a blossom. (A, p107)


Human life is a series of compromises, and it is not always easy to achieve in practice what one has found to be true in theory. (H, 5-9-1936, p237)


There are eternal principles, which admit of no compromise, and one must be prepared to lay down one's life in the practice of them. (ibid, p238)