33. Unity of All Life
My ethics not only permit me to claim but require me to own kinship with not merely the ape but the horse and the sheep, the lion and the leopard, the snake and the scorpion. (Not so need these kinsfolk regard themselves.) The hard ethics which rule my life, and I hold ought to rule that of every man and woman, imposes this unilateral obligation upon us. And it is so imposed because man alone is made in the image of God. That some of us do not recognize that status of ours, makes no difference, except that then we do not get the benefit of the status, even as a lion brought up in the company of sheep may not know his own status and, therefore, does not receive its benefits; but it belongs to him nevertheless, and, the moment he realizes it, he begins to exercise his dominion over the sheep. But no sheep masquerading as a lion can ever attain the leonine status. And, to prove the proposition, that man is made in the image of God, it is surely unnecessary to show that all men admittedly exhibit that image in their own persons. It is enough to show that one man at least has done so. And, will it be denied that the great religious teachers of mankind have exhibited the image of God in their own persons ?
Young India, 8-7-'26
I do not want to live at the cost of the life even of a snake. I should let him bite me to death rather than kill him. But it is likely that if God puts me to that cruel test and permits a snake to assault me, I may not have the courage to die, but that the beast in me may assert itself and I may seek to kill the snake in defending this perishable body. I admit that my belief has not become incarnate in me as to warrant my stating emphatically that I have shed all fear of snakes so as to befriend them as I would like to be able to. It is my implicit belief that snakes, tigers, etc. are God's answer to the poisonous, wicked, evil thoughts we harbour. ... I believe that all life is one. Thoughts take definite forms. Tigers and snakes have kinship with us. They are a warning to us to avoid harbouring evil, wicked, lustful thoughts. If I want to rid the earth of venomous beasts and reptiles, I must rid myself of all venomous thoughts. I shall not do so if in my impatient ignorance and in my desire to prolong the existence of the body I seek to kill the so-called venomous beasts and reptiles. If in not seeking to defend myself against such noxious animals, I die, I should rise again a better and fuller man. With that faith in me how should I seek to kill a fellow being in a snake ?
Young India, 14-4-'27
We are living in the midst of death trying to grope our way to Truth, Perhaps it is as well that we are beset with danger at every point in our life, for, in spite of our knowledge of the danger and of our precarious existence, our indifference to the source of all life is excelled only by our amazing arrogance.
Young India, 7-7-'27
All life in the flesh exists by some Himsa. Hence the highest religion has been defined by a negative word Ahimsa. The world is bound in a chain of destruction. In other words Himsa is an inherent necessity for life in the body. That is why a votary of Ahimsa always prays for ultimate deliverance from the bondage of the flesh.
Young India, 4-10-'28
I am painfully aware of the fact that my desire to continue life in the body involves me in constant Himsa. That is why I am becoming growingly indifferent to this physical body of mine. For instance, I know that in the act of respiration I destroy innumerable invisible germs floating in the air. But I do not stop breathing. The consumption of vegetables involves Himsa, but I find that I cannot give them up. Again, there is Himsa in the use of antiseptics, yet I cannot bring myself to discard the use of disinfectants like kerosene, etc. to rid myself of the mosquito pest and the like. I suffer snakes to be killed in the Ashram when it is impossible to catch them and put them out of harm's way. I even tolerate the use of the stick to drive the bullocks in the Ashram. Thus there is no end to Himsa which I directly and indirectly commit. If, as a result of this humble confession of mine, friends choose to give me up as lost, I would be sorry, but nothing will induce me to try to conceal my imperfections in the practice of Ahimsa. All I claim for myself is that I am ceaselessly trying to understand the implications of great ideals like Ahimsa and to practise them in thought, word and deed and that not without a certain measure of success as I think. But I know that I have a long distance yet to cover in this direction.
Young India, 1-11-28
I believe myself to be saturated with Ahimsa—nonviolence. Ahimsa and Truth are as my two lungs. I cannot live without them. But I see every moment, with more and more clearness, the immense power of Ahimsa and the littleness of man. Even the forest dweller cannot be entirely free from violence, in spite of his limitless compassion. With every breath he commits a certain amount of violence. The body itself is a house of slaughter, and, therefore, Moksha and Eternal Bliss consist in perfect deliverance from the body, and therefore, all pleasure, save the joy of Moksha, is evanescent, imperfect. That being the case, we have to drink, in daily life, many a bitter draught of violence.
Young India, 21-10-'26
I verily believe that man's habit of killing man on the slightest pretext has darkened his reason and he gives himself liberties with - other life which he would shudder to take if he really believed that God was a God of Love and Mercy. Anyway though for fear of death I may kill tigers, snakes, fleas, mosquitoes and the like, I ever pray for illumination that will shed all fear of death and thus refusing to take life know the better way, for : Taught by the Power that pities me I learn to pity them.
The cow is the purest type of sub-human life. She pleads before us on behalf of the whole of the sub-human species for justice to it at the hands of man, the first among all that lives, She seems to speak to us through her eye; You are not appointed over us to kill us and eat our flesh or otherwise ill-treat us, but to be our friend and guardian.'
Young India, 26-6-'24
It is for me a poem of pity. I worship it and I shall defend its worship against the whole world.
Young India, 1-1-'25