A Speech from Gandhi to his Students 1 December 1925

Think of last Tuesday, when I began my fast.  Why did I take that step?  There were three ways open to me.

  1. Punishment: I could have followed the easy road of corporal punishment.  Usually a teacher on detecting errors on the part of pupils would flatter himself with having done a good thing if he punished them.  I have been a teacher myself, though my preoccupations prevent me from teaching you during these days.  As a teacher I had no opinion but to reject this accepted method for I know by experience it is futile and harmful.
  2. Indifference: I could have left you to your fate.  Not unoften does a teacher do so.  “It is enough,” he argues, “That the boys do their lessons tolerably well and reproduce what they are taught.  Surely I am not concerned with their private behaviour.  And even if I was, how am I to keep watch over them?”  This indifference could not appeal to me.
  3. The third was the method of Love.  Your character is to me a sacred trust.  I must therefore try to enter into your lives, your innermost thoughts, your desires and your impulses, and help you to detect and eradicate impurities, if any.  For inward cleanliness is the first thing that should be taught, other things must follow after the first and most important lesson has gone home.  I discovered irregularities amongst you.  What was I to do?  Punishing you was out of the question.  Being the chief among the teachers, I had to take the punishment on myself in the form of the fast that breaks today.

I have learnt a lot during these days of quiet thinking.  What have you?  Could you assure me that you will never repeat your mistake?  You may err again but this fast will be lost on you if you do not realize the way out of it.

Gandhi, M. The Essential Writings of Mahatma Gandhi. “138. ‘To Thine Own Self Be True’.” Ed. Raghavan Iyer. New Delhi and Oxford: Oxford India Paperbacks, 1990. 228-9.


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