SELECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI >  VOL. IV - SELECTED LETTERS > SECTION ONE : SELECTED LETTERS > To A Friend
52. To A Friend1
148, Russa Road,
Calcutta,
August 1, 1925
DEAR FRIEND,
I have your letter. A man who owns land which is haunted by wild beasts will be able to excuse himself for shooting them. It would be classed as inevitable Himsa. It will be justified on the ground of necessity, but there is no doubt that, if one has a full perception of Ahimsa, it would be well for him to let his land be overrun by wild beasts or be himself killed by them. Ahimsa is not a mechanical matter, it is personal to everyone. More¬over, possession of property against the whole world is inconsistent with Ahimsa. A man who will follow the principle of non-violence to its uttermost limit has nothing in this world he can call his own. He must merge himself into the whole, which includes snakes, scorpions, tigers, wolves, etc. There are instances on record of innocent men whose innocence even wild beasts have recognized. We must all strive to reach that Stage.
The same remark applies to your second question. It is Himsa to kill the germs and the insects, but even as we commit Himsa by taking vegetable food (for vegetables have life) but regard it as inevitable, so must we treat the germ life. You will recognize that the doctrine of necessity can be stretched so as to justify even man-eating.
A man who believes in Ahimsa carefully refrains from every act that leads to injury. [My] argument only applies to those who believe in Ahimsa. The necessity that I have in mind is a universal necessity, hence it is not permissible to take Ahimsa beyond a limit. That is why the Shastras of custom only permit Himsa in certain cases. It is not only lawful but obligatory upon everyone to make the least use possible of the permission and relaxation. It is unlawful to go beyond the limitation.
Yours sincerely,
M. K. GANDHI

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XXVIII, pp. 3-4

1 The identity of the addressee is not ascertainable.