“Means and ends are convertible terms in my philosophy of life.”
–Gandhi (Young India, 12-26-1924, p. 424)
Where conventional thought suggests that the “ends justify the means,” Gandhi emphasized the importance of the means–how we do it– over the ends–what we want to happen. He is only being practical, as our means are the only thing that we actually can control. Of course we must envision and hope for a certain end, but ultimately, this is never fully in our hands. As we explored in the Gita Theory of Action, the fulfillment of our selfless goal is only possible in so far as we let go of our attachment to the results of our actions, performing our duty as best we can in the moment.
To put it another way, our means are like seeds. If we want corn, we don’t plant tomatoes, we plant corn. If we want to harvest peace, we plant seeds of peace. Simple. And how powerful, when we can remember to apply it where it really counts.
Experiment in Nonviolence:
Listen to a politician from any party discuss how they are going to achieve peace and security through violent means. From the Gandhian angle, how might focusing on the means instead of the ends achieve their goals more safely and effectively?
Daily Metta 2015, a service of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, is a daily reflection on the strategic and spiritual insights of Mahatma Gandhi in thought, word and deed. As Gandhi called his life an “experiment in truth,” we have included an experiment in nonviolence to accompany each Daily Metta. Check in every day for new inspiration. Each year will be dedicated to another wisdom teacher.