“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.
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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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