Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Gandhiji on restarting milk

January 21, 1919
BHAISHRI NARAHARI(Co-worker of Gandhiji)
I was very glad to read your criticism of the freedom I have allowed myself in regard to milk. If any person feels that a friend of his has shown weakness, through illness maybe, or for any other reason, it is his duty to draw the friend’s attention to the weakness he has observed. A man is under so strong a temptation to fall, and Nature herself has made it so very easy for him to indulge in self-deception, that even a vigilant person, if he is weak, or if his abstinences lack the genuine spirit of renunciation, is sure to fall.
Therefore, as I have said above, friends must keep an eye on one another and I wish that all of you maintain such watch ever so thoroughly. It is in this that our elevation lies, yours and mine. Before making any great change, I invariably consult Mahadev at any rate but I have always felt that, because of his boundless love for me, he is incapable of noting any shortcomings in me and that, when he does, he condones them. I do not, therefore, get full benefit out of my consultations with him. Had you made your remarks in your letter to me, I would have felt happier. I am sure of this, at any rate, that when friends place the argument on the other side, I understand it very well because I take an entirely detached view. That is why I feel that,whenever we do not think alike, you should all come out with your disagreement immediately. That will not disturb me very much; rather, I shall be free from the unhappy position of having to be my own judge. 
Personally, I feel convinced that I have fully succeeded in observing my vows with the utmost strictness. I deliberated for twenty-four hours before I commenced taking goat’s milk; I would even say that, whenever I have allowed myself any freedom, there have always been strong reasons for doing so. I am not at all anxious to live on and, though more than five months have elapsed since I fell ill, this indifference of mine remains. When I took the vow of not taking milk, I had, or could have, no thought in my mind of any milk other than that of the cow or the buffalo. I had considered the matter very carefully when I took the vow to refrain from milk. I was painfully aware of the ill-treatment of cows and buffaloes and that was the reason for my taking the vow concerning milk. 
What is my duty in the present circumstances? Should I accept the natural meaning that suggests itself or the one that is drawn out with much hair-splitting? It appears to me that I should allow myself as much freedom as is consistent with a very liberal construction of my vows. I will not admit that, through the freedom I have allowed myself, I am in any way violating my vow, even on the strictest view of it. The medical experiment [of a milkless diet] I was making may indeed receive a great setback, but an experiment in medical science is no affair of the spirit. The ideal of self-control and the spiritual intention behind the
renunciation of milk have remained quite unaffected. With the passing of days, friends become more insistent. Dr. Mehta goes on sending telegrams. Thousands of other Indians are extremely agitated over my illness. Though Ba is not always weeping and grieving over my illness, yet I know that her soul is in torment. What should I do under such circumstances? The question can have only one answer. Without detracting ever so little from my vow, I should adopt a liberal attitude wherever possible and allow myself some freedom. I shall stop here today. There are many other arguments, but I have placed only the main one before you. If my argument does not satisfy you, and if you still see weakness in my action, do let me have your criticism.If you do so, moreover, after consulting others, I shall be happy indeed. 
Even if your criticism appears just to me, for the present I shall continue taking milk. Do not, therefore, hesitate out of fear that I might give it up. I am very glad that you teach Manibehn(Addressee’s wife) with care. If we could place all our women in the forefront, we would produce big results. [From Gujarati]
Mahadevbhaini Diary, Vol. V

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