“I can conceive occasions when it would be my duty to vote for the military training of those who wish to take it. …It is not possible to make a person or a society nonviolent by compulsion.” ~ Gandhi, Young India, September 13, 1928
There is a fascinating, subtle difference between Gandhi’s vision, or commitment, and the way most of us see things. It meant that for him the principle of human dignity could on rare occasions take precedence over the principle of nonviolence itself; or maybe we should look at it this way: that for him, nonviolence was so much a question of a person’s inner disposition or spiritual state, that there could be times when one’s external behavior looked quite different. Another way to understand this might be that he was not an ideologue. He clung to principle, God knows, but the principle or principles he clung to were on a subtle plane a bit further than most of us can see clearly. It did, in fact, lead to quite a few misunderstandings even among his closest associates. There are times when faith can be a better guide than reason.
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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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