by Maren Stark Schmidt
Ever notice how a word, a phrase, a quote or a book title keeps popping up? Over the past couple of years the following Gandhi quotes keeps showing up in my studies. Every time I read these seven statements I am astounded at the wisdom conveyed in so few words.
Gandhi is attributed with saying that these seven characteristics, the most spiritually perilous traits to humanity:
- Wealth without work
- Pleasure without conscience
- Knowledge without character
- Commerce without morality
- Science without humanity
- Worship without sacrifice
- Politics without principles
There are natural laws of physics, and if we choose to ignore the laws of gravity, thermodynamics or centrifugal motion, we risk dire consequences. We’ll fall, get burned or be thrown off the merry-go-round.
If we choose to ignore universal principles of human relations, we also put our lives at risk. In these seven lines Gandhi points out that the journey is more important than the destination, and that the means of our activities are as vital as the ends.
Wealth without work. When we don’t allow our children to experience the direct result of their labor, or the labor of others, we do them a disservice. Knowing how to sweep and mop a floor gives us an appreciation of a clean floor. A college freshman I know was shocked to learn he had to wash his own clothes. He had never considered, or appreciated, how his clothes appeared clean in his closet. Luxury without understanding the labor that achieved it is a dangerous way to live.
Pleasure without conscience. The by-product of learning is the fun that comes from learning. The reason to learn is in the sheer pleasure of knowing. When we seek pleasure without doing the work of obtaining knowledge, pleasure becomes an unsatisfying deed that can lead us into a life of searching for self-gratification instead of seeking its true source, knowledge.
Knowledge without character. We can be the most knowledgeable people in the world, but if others think we are jerks and don’t want anything to do with us, what good is knowledge? Knowledge is for the benefit of mankind, and without character, it benefits no one.
Commerce without morality. Or business without ethics. If we conduct our work without regard to how it affects the lives of others, we walk on thin ice. A quick read through the Wall Street Journal affirms Gandhi’s statement.
Science without humanity. Science, the observation of the world in order to create knowledge, needs at its core to be of service to mankind. In the words of Albert Schweitzer, ”I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”
Worship without sacrifice. Whatever we value in our lives, whatever we worship, we revere, we love–our families, our children, our spouses, our friends, our planet, our God–we must give these what they need to survive and be successful. Love and relationships do not exist without the giving of our being.
Politics without principles. We cannot chart a course for our communities without using the laws of universal principles to guide us. How can we otherwise make sure that there is ”liberty and justice for all?” Building community requires that we discuss and debate what is fair, respectful, honest, kind, right, trustworthy, responsible and more. Gandhi warns us that rules not based on sound principles turn to conflict and violence.
As we walk with our children though this adventure called life, let us heed Gandhi’s admonitions. As a means to our ends, let us reach our goals guided by universal principles. Because in their heart of hearts, our children understand that the ends and the means are inseparable.
“Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.” –Dalai Lama