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Mahatma Ghandi’s Seven Deadly Sins

By TJ Ray

Do posters ever catch your eye? Generally, I don’t pay attention to them, but in the last week I by chance saw the same little poster in three different places: a doctor’s office, a business, and a church. By the third time, I took the time to read the words and consider that they must be meaningful to the people who put them up.

Long ago I studied and tried to teach medieval literature.  One of the concepts that cropped up often in those Middle English lines was that of the Seven Deadly Sins, sins which were deadly because they might keep a soul out of Heaven. Quite recently a friend emailed me the Seven Deadly Sins according to Mahatma Gandhi.

1. Wealth without Work: How many folks are there who are wealthy and do not work? Do they have a sense of their idleness? More important might be the question of what they do with their wealth.

2. Pleasure without Conscience: Sadly, our society practices having fun in whatever form fun presents itself. If it’s fun, if a person gets a charge out of something, it is fine with us.

3. Science without Humanity: An old but not forgotten manifestation of this sin can be seen in the Nazi laboratories that did experiments using human subjects, including finding the most efficient and economical way to dispose of them. Currently there are folks creating more and more ways to drug people (perhaps the with the aim of creating Pleasure without Conscience).

4. Knowledge without Character: A somewhat elusive notion, perhaps demonstrated by those scientists who created the atomic bomb. Or might it describe a young generation, speedily tapping their digital devices, but absent human compassion?

5. Politics without Principle: Ah, any election offers examples of this sin. Modern technology easily distorts reality with its snippets and photographic tricks that make one’s opponent look like a jackass or worse.

6. Commerce without Morality:  How many ponzi schemes are there?  I learned the other day of a business in a neighboring city that requires its employees to pay the company a Wage Reduction. Yes, they must pay the company to work for the company. In the midst of all the moaning about jobs going overseas, may we not stop and consider that those shifts too often result from a board of directors seeing the opportunity to make greater profit by using foreign labor?

7. Worship without Sacrifice: This list is sometimes found in different order, but Worship without Sacrifice might well be the deadliest sin. One prayer book speaks of “comfortable words,” perhaps triggering a question: Is the purpose of worship to make us comfortable in a world full of misery and pain? Might one take the words from Macbeth’s soliloquy about life being full of sound and fury and substitute “church” for “life”? Or perhaps we should consider the admonition at the end of the Good Samaritan parable in the Bible:  “Go ye and do likewise.”

Now, as Gandhi might say, Shanti.

TJ Ray is a retired professor of English at Ole Miss.