Purity of Means: Daily Metta

“I feel, too, that our progress towards the goal will be in exact proportion to the purity of our means.” ~ Gandhi, “Amrita Bazar Patrika,” September 17, 1933

Here’s where people might balk at Gandhi, call him a “purist” and then reject everything he has ever said about nonviolence. I’m not exaggerating, I’ve heard the discussions. But this is why we do the work that we do: we want to understand what he meant.

Here, “purity” means intention—and we might look to the etymology of the term ahimsa for more clarity. Ahimsa, Sanskrit for nonviolence, comes from a-, a negation, and himsa, harm. But Michael Nagler has pointed out in Search for a Nonviolent Future that the term goes deeper, beyond the act to the  intention behind it: ahimsa is about the desire or intent to harm. When this is gone, all that is left in the mind is love. It’s a simplicity of heart, a unification of our desires and a refusal to be willing to harm others for one’s own benefit. It’s not a lofty, or even moral ideal: it’s a state to be longed for. And the more we cultivate this awareness of others and ourselves, the more powerful our nonviolence can be—because our intention is love, not power.

Thanks for sharing a comment below.

About Daily Metta

Book cover imageStephanie Van Hook, the Metta Center’s executive director, launched Daily Metta in 2015 as a way to share Gandhi’s spiritual wisdom and experiments with nonviolence.

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.

Enjoy more Daily Metta: See the  archives

Get Daily Metta by email: Subscribe