Physical Labour

Gandhi's Views On Environment

Gandhiji wrote in Indian Opinion on 15-1-1910, that intellectuals should contribute to upliftment of their fellow labourers by earning a living through physical labour:

"Last but not least, it seems to us that, after all, nature has intended man to earn his bread by manual labour-'by the sweat of his brow' and intended him to dedicate his intellect not towards multiplying his material wants and surrounding himself with enervating and soul-destroying luxuries, but towards uplifting his moral being-towards knowing the will of the Creator towards serving humanity and thus truly serving himself. If so, the profession of hawking, or, better still, simple agriculture or such other calling, must be the highest method of earning one's livelihood. And do not the millions do so ? No doubt many follow nature unconsciously. It remains for those who are endowed with more than the ordinary measure of intellect to copy the millions consciously and use their intellect for uplifting their fellow labourers. No longer will it then be possible for the intellectuals in their conceit to look down upon the 'hewers of wood and drawers of water'. For, of such is the world made."

Stressing the importance of bodily labour in Young India dated 15-10-1925, Gandhiji wrote the following:

"The rains come not through intellectual feats, but through sheer bodily labour. It is a well-established scientific fact that where forests are denuded of trees rains cease, where trees are planted rains are attracted and the volume of water received increases with the increase of vegetation. Laws of nature are still unexplored. We have but scratched the surface. Who knows all the il1 effects, moral and physical, of the cessation of bodily labour? Let me not be misunderstood. I do not discount the value of intellectual labour, but no amount of it is any compensation for bodily labour which everyone of us is born to give for the common good of all. It may be, often is, infinitely superior to body labour, but it never is or can be a substitute for it, even as intellectual food, though far superior to the grains we eat, never can be a substitute for them. Indeed without the products of the earth those of the intellect would be an impossibility."

While Gandhiji was having a discussion with a friend before 1-8-1936, he indicated that physical labour helps mental growth and development:

"But I tell you even taking my case that I am sure our minds would have been infinitely better if we laboured with our hands for eight hours. We would not have a single idle thought and I may tell you that my mind is not entirely free from idle thoughts. Even now I am what I am because I realized the value of physical labour at a very early stage of my life...Today's village culture, if culture it can be called, is an awful culture. The villagers live as worse than animals. Nature compels animals to work and live naturally. We have so debased our working classes that they cannot work and live naturally. If our people had laboured intelligently and with joy, we should have been quite different today...They tried to do it in ancient Rome and failed miserably. Culture without labour, or culture which is not the fruit of labour, would be 'Vomitoria' as Roman Catholic writer says. The Romans made indulgence a habit and were ruined. Man cannot develop his mind by simply writing and reading or making speeches all day long. All my reading I tell you was done in the leisure hours I got in jails, and I have benefited by it because all of it was done not desultorily but for some purpose. And though I have worked physically for days and months for eight hours on end I don't think I suffered from mental decay. I have often walked as much as 40 miles a day and yet never felt dull"