44. Mortification of the flesh

Whilst Gandhiji insists, as we have seen, on a village worker living on a villager's diet not costing say three annas a day, he is far from insisting on starvation or mortification of the flesh. To a worker who has imposed on himself a strict regimen involving only one meal a day, consisting generally of 15 tolas of raw rice boiled, amti (made of vegetable and dal) and buttermilk, all costing only one anna per day, Gandhiji wrote:

"Your meal is very meagre, it is starvation diet. In my opinion, you are not making full use of the instrument that God has put at your disposal. You know the story of the talents* that were taken away from him who did not know how to use them, or having known would not use them ?

"Mortification of the flesh is a necessity when the flesh rebels against one; it is a sin when the flesh has come under subjection and can be used as an instrument of service. In other words there is no inherent merit in mortification of the flesh."

M. D.
Harijan, 2-11-1935

[1] 'Take therefore the talent from him' (who had not used his talent but buried it) 'and give it unto him which hath ten talents' (who had made ten out of the five given him). 'For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.' Mat. 25: 28-29.