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138. All Life is One
Gandhiji wanted to card some cotton and make slivers before going to bed, even though it was getting late. Mirabahen wanted to put the bow, etc., ready, and being in a hurry, she asked a local volunteer to fetch her from the garden some babul tree leaves, which one requires for applying to the gut of the bow.
The boy brought her a large bunch, and as he handed it to her, she was surprised to notice that each little leaf was tightly folded up. She took them to Gandhiji's room. "Do you see, Bapu," she said, "the little leaves have all gone to sleep."
"Of course," replied Gandhiji, looking up with indignation and pity in his eyes, "trees are living beings just like ourselves. They live and breathe, they feed and drink as we do, and like us they need sleep. It is a wretched thing to go and tear the leaves of a tree at night when it is resting. And why have you brought such a huge quantity? Only a few leaves were necessary. Surely you have heard what I said at the meeting yesterday of the poor flowers and how deeply it pains me that people should pluck those masses of delicate blossoms to fling in my face and hang round my neck. Was not it thoughtless to send someone out like that to worry and pain a tree at such a late hour when it had folded its leaves in sleep ? We should feel a more living bond between ourselves and the rest of animate creation."
“Yes, Bapu, I know—I understand,” said Mira, hanging her head in shame. "It was very thoughtless of me. In future I will go myself, and I will endeavour never again unnecessarily to disturb the peaceful sleep of the trees by plucking their foliage after dark."
When Mirabahen wrote this incident down later, Gandhiji made the following comment :
"Let not the reader call this sentimental twaddle,' or accuse me or Mirabahen of hopeless inconsistency in that we swallow a camel when we eat vegetables by the cartload and strain at a gnat because we would not care to pluck a leaf from a tree having its night's rest. 'Even a butcher may be to a certain extent humane.' Because a man eats mutton, he does not slaughter a herd of sheep when they are asleep. The essence of manliness consists in showing the utmost consideration to all life, animal as well as vegetable. He who in search of pleasure shows little consideration for others is surely less than a man. He is thoughtless."