“What I hold to be essential”–Daily Metta

November 28:

gandhi-21“I, having made up my mind to surrender every non-essential, gain greater strength than ever before to die for the defense and preservation of what I hold to be essential.”

–Gandhi (Mahatma, vol 6, p.3)

There’s a story about a man who was being mugged, and he fought tooth and nail to ward off his attacker. He was otherwise a physically weak-looking person and the mugger was taken aback that he had put up a fight, and took off. At this point, a crowd had gathered around him, and one friend asked him, “You must have had a lot of money to defend yourself so fiercely.” And the villager replied, “No. I didn’t have any money, but I didn’t want anyone to find out.”

Gandhi saw that people will take big risks and place great value on matters of otherwise little importance, while remaining complacent and feeling powerless in regard to issues that are essential, especially in terms of matters of self-respect. He insisted, time and again, in his writings and in his own personal example, to use the following guideline: compromise (read: be flexible, open to negotiation) wherever possible, but not when it comes to essentials. But he goes even further: in essential matters be willing to give your life. In other words, never, ever be willing to compromise your core values, no matter in what circumstances you may find yourself. By modeling the art of compromise, he demonstrated to his opponents how to do the same, without losing face.

Experiment in Nonviolence:

Ask yourself: what is non-negotiable for you? Be willing to be flexible with anything else.