‘ Three Monkeys ‘



I do not know if you have heard about the figure of the three monkeys. It is in Kobe, Japan. Somebody had sent me a small figure—a replica of the original. It consists of the statuettes of the three monkeys. One of them has its mouth closed, the second its eyes and the third its ears. These monkeys teach the world to speak no evil, to see no evil, to hear no evil. This is the secret of non-co-operation. There is a protest demonstration going on here. If the demonstrators enter this pandal and attack us, I would ask you to stick to your places and take their blows. But I would certainly not ask you to go to the place of demonstration and invite their blows. This would mean deliberately inciting them. This is not non-violence. It is self-assertion.
I propose to adopt here this pattern of non-co-operation. Our entering politics will provoke them. It will be like feeding their wrath.Therefore, non-violence tells me that we should withdraw ourselves from politics. If people criticize, oppose or attack us even after we quit politics, we should put up with all this. After we have quit politics if anyone wishes to destroy us, let him do so.
In spite of all this, those who do not need the protection of the Sangh for their political work may continue there. For instance Vallabhbhai. What does he need the Sangh for ? He does not enhance his prestige by remaining with the Sangh. He had established his political prestige even before the Sangh was born. Thus, it is the Sangh that acquires prestige by his being in it. Then he happens to be a born politician. Politics is in his blood. He is not born for the constructive programme. In a way, he has accepted the constructive programme out of a sense of compulsion. It is not an inseparable part of his temperament as I claim it is in my case. Unlike me, he is not absorbed in the constructive programme. I was born for the constructive programme. It is part of my soul. Politics is a kind of botheration for me. I would dance for joy if I could shake it off. Sardar would hardly do any such thing. This is the main difference between us. He hears what I say and if I am making any mistake he can put me right.


CHI. BHAGWANJI,I have your letter. I got Puratan’s also. He is displeased that you sent his five-year-old note without his consent. It is his opinion now, i.e., after five years’ experience, that Dada is a spotless and simple-hearted man. Bhai Puratan believes that the allegation against Dada is the result of a conspiracy by some Harijans. I share his belief. These people have suffered so much that they have lost their humanity. This is of course not true of all of them. We must bear with all this. But while doing so we should not be misled into entertaining suspicions against anybody.

I understand Narahari’s criticism. It is a fact that you are collecting evidence. In doing so you cannot but start whisperings among the people. This would foul the atmosphere. And, moreover, you are forgetting your sphere of work. This is bound to interfere with your work. Why do you make yourself a watchman of anyone in the Ashram? It will be enough if others, you and I, all become our own watchmen. Supervision is Narahari’s job. If anybody wants to complain let him do so to him. You should plug your ears.I have a beautiful figure of three monkeys, which I always keep in front of me. They are three representations of the same monkey. His ears, mouth and eyes are closed. The lesson the figure teaches is that one should not listen to criticism of or see or speak of anybody’s defects. The original of this figure is found on a tall pillar in Japan, and was carved thousands of years ago. We should engrave this lesson in our hearts.  I will hear what you have to say when you come here. I am not inclined at present to send for anybody else. I would send for others only if I myself am shaken even a little in my mind. But if Narahari is positive in his view, I would not disregard him and make any inquiry. You may, with Narahari’s consent, stay for 15 days or more. But you need not come or stay specially for the sake of Nimu. She will get somebody to accompany her.

Blessings from , Bapu


CHI. CHAKRAYYA,It is sad that you had an attack of giddiness. I think it was due to the weight on your mind. So it is good that you wrote everything. But there is no reason to be sorry about it. The complaint about partiality is correct. None else is at fault except Ba and myself. Ba has not been able to give up [the feeling of] ‘mine’ and ‘thine’, and I cannot leave Ba. Hence the progress of the Ashram has stopped. But there are many good qualities in Ba, which I cannot forget. It is difficult to free oneself from ‘mine’ and ‘thine’. But the change that has taken place in Ba’s life is no small thing. From where did Ba attain such purity? Her simplicity, patience, etc., are qualities of a high order. Hencc Ba’s partiality deserves to be tolerated. There is no venom in her partiality.
You have been unfair to Krishnachandra and Shakaribehn.Krishnachandra does nothing for his own sake. He gave up his home, his studies, and he labours in the Ashram. If he tried to save five annas, it was not for himself. He will not be partial to anyone. lt is a different matter if he is frightened and is exploited by someone. So it is with Shakaribehn. If I relieve her from work, she would stay away, and also like it. She is like that.You should understand that all of us in the Ashram are imperfect; even then we try to be good. Your duty is to look at your own faults and be tolerant of others’. This rule is for us all. You have seen the figure of three monkeys on my desk, haven’t you? One monkey has closed his ears, another his eyes and the third one his mouth. The suggestion is, hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. I hope you would be satisfied with this. Read this letter again and again.Get well soon.
Blessings from


His remarks (Made during the previous day’s speech when it was reported to Gandhiji that some rickshaw-pullers were turned out of the prayer gathering because of their dirty clothes.) were taken to heart by one of the workers who has in charge of the meeting. On Subsequent inquiry Gandhiji learnt that the information which he had received was of doubtful authenticity. As a satyagrahi he felt he had fallen from grace in accepting a statement made to him without full scrutiny and by basing his public remarks thereon. Making a public confession of his mistake in his address after the prayers on the following day, he stressed the importance of speaking only when necessary and uttering every word after the most careful thought.
A satyagrahi cannot afford to be credulous or to be careless in his speech. There is a Sanskrit verse saying that not to begin is the first sign of wisdom, but once you begin a thing you should do it well. It would have been best not to have made use of the unsifted information. But having done so I should end it well by making the admission that on inquiry I found that the accusation could not be supported. There is a great piece of sculpture in Japan depicting three monkeys. One of them is shutting his mouth with his hands, the second is shutting his ears and the third is shutting his eyes. The lesson of the first one is not to speak unless absolutely necessary and then too, to weigh every word before speaking. The message of the second is not hear evil things, of the third not to let one’s eyes wander here, there and everywhere. Therefore, when going along the road, one should either contemplate the beauty of nature or else fix [one’s] gaze on the ground before one. He carried about the three gurus with him wherever he went and he advised them all to bear their instructions in mind.
Harijan, 16-6-1946

Photo – National Gandhi Museum,Delhi


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