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Appendix 3 : Eleven Vows of Mahatma Gandhi

  1. Brahmacharya -- chastity. It must be observed in thought, word and deed. The man wedded to Truth applies his talents to nothing else, no time for the selfish purpose of begetting children and running a household. Brahmacharya means control of all the organs of sense.
    Brahma Truth Control charya conduct

    Chastity brings firmness to the mind.

    A brahmachari is one who controls his organs of sense in thought, word and deed. Ordinary brahmacharya is not so difficult as it is supposed to be. Very few realize that a brahmachari has to control not one but all the organs of sense. He is no brahmachari who thinks that mere control of animal passion is the be all and end-all of brahmacharya. No wounder if he finds it very difficult. He who attempts to control only one organ and allows all the others free play must not expect to achieve success. He might as well deliberatley descend into a well and expect to keep his body dry.

    In brahmacharya as conceived by Gandhi, those who are married behave as if they were not married. Married people do well to renounce gratification outside the marital bond; theirs is a limited brahmacharya. But to look upon them as brahmacharis is to violence to that glorious term.

  2. Asvavda -- don’t eat merely for the taste of food. Eat with a contented and thankful mind. It calls for continual mindfulness. Partake of any food you get as a token of His love and bounty. Freedom from ‘slavery’ to the palate is consummation and a bliss. We have to always ascertain and face the truth of our bodily needs. To eat more than one needs -- is at once to be untruthful. Eating is necessary only for sustaining the body and keeping it a fit instrument for service, and must never be practised for self-indulgence. Food must therefore be taken, like medicine, under proper restraint. In pursuance of this principle one must eschew exciting foods, such as spices and condiments. Meat, liquor, tabacco, bhang etc. are to be excluded. This principle requries abstinence from feasts or dinners which have pleasure are their object. Keeping this vow strengthens the person to serve the country.

  3. Asteya -- not to commit theft. It forces us to face our basic needs, it discourages multiplication of wants and facilitates non-acquisitiveness. The significance of asteya is religious. It is theft, if we use articles which we do not really need.

  4. Apari graha -- Poverty -- not to possess property -- put faith in God as providence. The body also is a possession -- cease to worry about it and use it only to serve God through selfless service of others. This vow of non possession moves towards having as few needs as possible. This leads to a simpler life. Non possession applies to thought as well as to things. We aim to have no roof for our head, no clothing extra, no stock of food for the morrow. Non-stealing and non-possession are mental states only. No human being can keep these observances to perfection. But the seeker will cultivate the spirit of detachment and give up one possession after another. Everyone cannot be judged by the same standard. An ant may fall from grace if it stores two grains of food instead of one. An elephant on the other hand will have a lot of grass heaped before itself and yet it cannot be charged with having ‘great possessions’. Ordinary men and women can only cultivate mental detachment. So long as we are alive, we should render such service as we are capable of.

    This vow relates not only to conduct and property, but to thoughts as well -- utter dependence on God.

  5. Abhaya or fearlessness. We need courage (or fearlessness) to face ourselves and our own weaknesses. Humility and Abhaya are closely linked. Abhaya signifies postivies ourage and self-confidence born out of a living faith in God. It means the courage to face and overcome our weaknesses. To conquer fear one must endeavour to be free from fear of the rulers, thieves, poverty, and even death.

  6. Removal of Untouchability -- love all life as ourself and serve the whole world. The caste system is against the law of love. It is irreligious.

  7. Bread Labour -- work for your livelihood. This includes all types of work, bodily and intellectual -- reading, study, etc. Service of children, the disabled, the old and the sick is a duty incumbent on every person who has the required strength.

  8. Sarvadharma Samabhava -- equal respect for all religious. All religious are equal. One must respect the other person’s faith. We must realize that our religion too is imperfect in some respects and so needs for its growth watchful and constant reinterpretation. This vow asks not merly to respect the basic teachings of all religious faiths of the world constitute a revelation of Truth, with such tolerance comes communal harmony -- with no need for anyone to try to convert others. Pray that the defects in the various faiths may be overcome, and that they may advance, side by side towards perfection.

  9. Swadeshi -- synonymous with self-realization, Swadeshi stands for the final emancipation of the soul from her earthly bondage. It enjoins performance of one’s "first duty" or "service of immediate neighbours." Swadeshi stands for duty and pure service. One must use homemand or easily made articles. Using any foreign articles is a hindrance in following Truth. The concept of Swadeshi must be practised in every department of life. We serve the world best by first serving our neighbour. Observance of Swadeshi makes for order in the world; the breach of it leads to chaos. There is no place for self-interest in Swadeshi.

  10. Ahimsa -- Non-Violence : It is hurt by every evil thought, by undue haste, by lying, hatred, wishing ill to anyone -- by holding on to what the world needs. Ahimsa and Truth are so intertwined that it is impossible to separate them; like two sides of a coin. -- ahimsa is the means -- Truth is the end.

    Ahimas is our supreme duty. Ahimas means Universal Love. One who obeys the law of ahimsa cannot marry. Mere non-killing is not enough. The active part of Non-violence is Love. The law of Love requires equal consideration for all life from the tiniest insect to the highest man. One who follows this law must not be angry even with the perpetrator of the greatest imaginable wrong, but must love him, wish him well and serve him. Although he must thus love the wrong-doer, he must never submit to his wrong or his injustice, but must oppose it with all his might, and must patiently and without resentment suffer all the hardships to which the wrong-doer may subject him in punishment for his opposition.

    To observe this principle fully is impossible for men, who kill a number of living beings large and small as they breathe or blink or till the land. We catch and hurt snakes or scorpians for fear of being bitten and leave them in some out-of-the way place if we do not kill them. Hurting them in this way may be unavoidable, but is clearly himsa as defined above.

    The violence described above is easily recognised as such. But what about our being angry with one another? A teacher inflicting corporal punishment on his pupils, a mother taking her children to task, a man losing his temper in his dealings with equals, all these are guilty of violence. Violence is there where there is attachment on the one hand and dislike on the other. The subtle violence involved in injuring the feelings of other people day in and day out is possibly very much worse than cutting off someone’s head! The subtle violence inolved in daily loss of temper and the like defies all attempts at calculation.

    If a thief comes, do not inflict punishment on them or call the police. We must find out and apply methods which would put a stop to thieving altogether. First of all diminish the number of ‘possessions’ so as not to tempt others. Secondly, bring about a reformation in the surrounding villages.

  11. Truth -- truth is God and one must try to realize it. One who follows this law must not be angry even when the wrongdoer does a great harm. One must love him, wish him well and serve him. However, he must never submit to his wrong or his injustice. Devotion to Truth (God) is the sole justification for our existence. Truth should be the very breath of our life. Truth in tought, speech, and action. The quest of truth involves tapas -- self-suffering -- sometimes even to death. Pursuit of truth is pure Bhakti (devotion). It is the path that leads to God. There is no place in it for cowardice, or defeat. God as Truth is a treasure beyond price.

    Whenever one is found telling a lie, effective steps should be taken to deal with the situation as symptomatic of a serious disease.

    1. Check the purity of the person -- if they are free of guilt, the atmosphere about them is bound to be affected by thier innocence.
    2. Public confession is encouraged, and then the person must do penance. They must fast and pray. Untruth is more poisonous and more subtle than any poison gas whatever, but it dare not enter where the head of the institution is wide awake and has a spiritual outlook on life.

    Bodily penance has a threefold influence, first over the penitent, secondly over the wrongdoer and thirdly over the congregation.

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