–Gandhi (Harijan, April, 28, 1946)
Gandhi had very few possessions: a pair of glasses, two pairs of homemade sandals for different occasions, some books, a spinning wheel, and little else. Each item has a story and a lesson to teach us. The item that stands out the most, in this connection, is a small wooden statue of the three monkeys telling us to “See No Evil, Hear No Evil and Speak No Evil.” It represents the sophistication of his understanding of the human mind and what philosophers call “the problem of evil.”
Gandhi’s answer to the problem of “evil” was two-fold. First of all, to recognize the nature of the world is understand the nature of dualities. If we have “goodness” in the world, then we will have its opposite. Yet, we can move closer to “the good,” which for Gandhi was tied intimately with nonviolence and Truth, which is the greatest challenge we have as human beings.
Furthermore, Gandhi said that evil only existed so long as we gave our attention to it: our ears, our eyes, our words, our mind, etc. This certainly does not mean ignoring acts of cruelty and intentional harm; rather, it means resisting dehumanization, it means raising the humanity of the person who was so morally degraded as to commit an act of intentional cruelty. This is why, in spite of all of their actions, Gandhi never called the British “evil.” He wanted to water the seed of a different quality within them and within his movement.
Experiment in Nonviolence:
The kind of concentration, skill of mind, required to resist in this way is greatly aided by the practice of meditation. Just as we do in meditation, whenever the mind wanders into an illusion about the person in front of us, including ourselves, we bring our minds back to what is good in them. Try this.
Daily Metta 2015, a service of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, is a daily reflection on the strategic and spiritual insights of Mahatma Gandhi in thought, word and deed. As Gandhi called his life an “experiment in truth,” we have included an experiment in nonviolence to accompany each Daily Metta. Check in every day for new inspiration. Each year will be dedicated to another wisdom teacher.