–Gandhi (Harijan, January 4, 1948)
If there is one quotation of Gandhi’s that could rival the misattributed, paraphrase Be the Change that we all know and love, it’s this one from 1948. Uttered a couple of weeks before he shed his body, it sheds light on his entire thinking around spirituality and politics, and consequently on the essence of his nonviolence: Life is sacred, so our dealings with all of life and one another should reflect this. Our flesh and blood are the real temples, the real churches, or sacred spaces, whatever you want to call it. What does it mean in practice? In a word: reverence. And in another: dignity. And a caveat: toward our own bodies, too: in fact, maybe them first of all. It’s a radical idea. Would we fill a temple with polluting chemicals and violent images? And how do we feel when people carry violence into such places? But we do this to our bodies and are often unaware of what kind of message we are giving to the world. When we each occupy this temple within, when we act toward it with stewardship, as trustees rather than owners (a really radical idea), we can become a place for healing, a place felt as home to others as well. Ansari of Herat, a mystic from the Islamic faith once said it this way, “Make your best endeavor to worship at the temple of the heart.” It’s a rich challenge.