During the days of my education
I had read practically nothing outside text-books, and after I launched into
active life I had very little time for reading. I cannot, therefore, claim much
book knowledge. However, I believe I have not lost much because of this enforced
restraint. On the contrary, the limited reading may be said to have enabled me
thoroughly to digest what I did read. Of these books, the one that brought about
an instantaneous and practical transformation in my life was Unto This Last. I
translated it later into Gujarati, entitling it Saryodaya (the welfare of all).
I believe that I discovered some of my deepest convictions reflected in this great book of Ruskin, and that
is why it so captured me and made me transform my life. A poet is one who can
call forth the good latent in the human breast. Poets do not influence all
alike, for everyone is not evolved in an equal measure.
The Teachings of Unto this Last I understand to be:
That the good of the individual is contained in the good of all.
That is lawyer’s work has the same value as the barber’s, inasmuch as all have the same right of earning their
livelihood from their work.
That a life of labour, i.e., the life of the tiller of the soil and the handicraftsman, is the life worth living.
The first of these I knew. The second I had dimly realized. The third had never occurred to me. Unto This Last
made it as clear as daylight for me that the second and the third were contained
in the first. I arose with the dawn, ready to reduce these principles to practice.
Autobiography, (1966), p. 224
A votary of Ahimsa cannot
subscribe to the utilitarian formula (of the greatest good of the greatest
number). He will strive for the greatest good of all and die in the attempt
to realize the idea. He will, therefore, be willing to die, so that the
others may live. He will serve himself with the rest, by himself dying. The
greatest good of all inevitably includes the good of the greatest number,
and therefore he and the utilitarian will converge in many points in their
career, but there does come a time when they must part company, and even
work in opposite directions. The utilitarian to be logical will never
sacrifice himself. The absolutist will even sacrifice himself.
Young India, 9-12-26, p. 432
I do not believe in the
doctrine of the greatest good of the greatest number. It means in its
nakedness that in order to achieve the supposed good of fifty-one per cent,
the interest of forty-nine percent may be, or rather, should be sacrificed.
It is a heartless doctrine and has done harm to humanity. The only real,
dignified, human doctrine is the greatest good of all, and this can only be
achieved by uttermost self-sacrifice.
The Diary of Mahadev Desai-I, (1953), p. 149
If we would see our dream
of Panchayat Raj1
, i.e., true democracy
realized, we would regard the humblest and lowest Indian as being equally
the ruler of India with the tallest in the land. This presupposes that all
are pure or will become pure if they are not. And purity must go
hand-in-hand with wisdom. No one would then harbor and distinction between
community and community, caste and outcaste. Everybody would regard all as
equal with oneself and hold them together in the silken net of love. No one
would regard another as untouchable. We would hold as equal the toiling
labourer and the rich capitalist. Everybody would know how to earn an honest
living by the sweat of one’s brow and make no distinction between
intellectual and physical labour. To hasten this consummation, we would
voluntarily turn ourselves into scavengers. No one who has wisdom will ever
touch opium, liquor or any intoxicants. Everybody would observe Swadeshi as
the rule of life and regard every woman, not being his wife, as his mother,
sister or daughter according to her age, never lust after her in his heart.
He would be ready to lay down his life when occasion demands it, never want
to take another’s life.
Harijan, 18-1-48, p. 517