“A Gujarati didactic stanza likewise gripped my mind and heart. Its precept, return good for evil, became my guiding principle.” ~ Gandhi, Autobiography, Chapter X
When Gandhi uses terms like “good and evil,” we have to be clear about what he means. “Evil” does not apply to people, it means the energy behind an action: something intended to harm, to degrade, something consciously cruel, based on the illusion that we are separate. To that, one offers its opposite: the intention to heal, to uplift, to be consciously compassionate based on the awareness that we are one. Here are those famous lines in English translation:
For a bowl of water give a goodly meal;
For a kindly greeting bow thou down with zeal;
For a simple penny pay thou back with gold;
If they life be rescued, life do not withhold.
Thus the words and actions of the wise regard;
Every little service tenfold they reward.
But the truly noble know all men as one,
And return with gladness good for evil done.
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Our 2016 Daily Metta continues with Gandhi on weekdays. On weekends, we share videos that complement Michael Nagler’s award-winning book, The Search for a Nonviolent Future: A Promise of Peace for Ourselves, Our Families, and Our World. To help readers engage with the book more deeply, the Metta Center offers a free PDF study guide.
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