Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sunday Thoughts: Gandhi’s Seven Deadly Sins of the Contemporary World

Gandhi, when he was asked what he thought of 20th Century civilization, replied, I think it would be a very good idea.

Mahatma Gandhi wrote that the seven sins of the world were:

  • Wealth without work
  • Pleasure without conscience
  • Knowledge without character
  • Commerce without morality
  • Science without humanity
  • Religion without sacrifice
  • Politics without principle

Dr. Stephen R. Covey, author of the best selling book The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, has written a commentary on Gandhi’s Seven Sins. Below are (generally) the first line of Covey’s observations. You may read his entire commentary here at the Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal/Gandhi Book Centre.

Wealth without work

This refers to the practice of getting something for nothing–manipulating markets and assets so you don't have to work or produce added value, just manipulate people and things.

Pleasure without conscience

The chief query of the immature, greedy, selfish, and sensuous has always been, "What's in it for me? Will this please me? Will it ease me?"

Knowledge without character

As dangerous as a little knowledge is, even more dangerous is much knowledge without a strong, principled character. Purely intellectual development without commensurate internal character development makes as much sense as putting a high-powered sports car in the hands of a teenager who is high on drugs.

Commerce without morality

In his book Moral Sentiment, which preceded Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith explained how foundational to the success of our systems is the moral foundation: how we treat each other, the spirit of benevolence, of service, of contribution. If we ignore the moral foundation and allow economic systems to operate without moral foundation and without continued education, we will soon create an amoral, if not immoral, society and business.

Science without humanity

If science becomes all technique and technology, it quickly degenerates into man against humanity. Technologies come from the paradigms of science. And if there's very little understanding of the higher human purposes that the technology is striving to serve, we become victims of our own technocracy.

Religion without sacrifice

Without sacrifice we may become active in a church but remain inactive in its gospel. In other words, we go for the social facade of religion and the piety of religious practices. There is no real walking with people or going the second mile or trying to deal with our social problems…. It takes sacrifice to serve the needs of other people - the sacrifice of our own pride and prejudice, among other things.

Politics without principle

If there is no principle, there is no true north, nothing you can depend upon. The focus on the personality ethic is the instant creation of an image that sells well in the social and economic marketplace. You see politicians spending millions of dollars to create an image, even though it's superficial, lacking substance, in order to get votes and gain office. And when it works, it leads to a political system operating independently of the natural laws that should govern—that are built into the Declaration of Independence : "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness . . . . "

I believe Gandhi’s observations are well worth considering now—at our present moment in history.

[My thanks to the Reverend Douglas Fowler for inspiring this post]


  1. I so agree with Gandhi's observations!

  2. Most definatly something to ponder. I always liked "There is more to life than increasing it's speed.
    ".. makes so much sense to me. We are always too quick to get through the work week or get to a vacation, or rush to the store. It isn't often that we just sit and let life roll slowly so that we can enjoy it.

  3. Several of those hit home, in that sometimes I need to be reminded. We have a new priest. He told the parish members, "You are not doing enough" - many people got angry. Hearing the truth is very difficult.

  4. Good blog for a Sunday.

  5. Great post Nick, and I think the first sentence of this post is the best line of all. Cheers!!

  6. WOW !
    All true to christain morality.
    (and just about every other religion)
    Shame that we all have that little fallen angel on our shoulders whispering into our ears.
    I have sort of been regaining some kind of faith, however, I dont think that we Christians have a monopoly on morality.

  7. Gandhi is one of the people for whom I have the greatest admiration. Sadly, I agree with your last statement. Mother Theresa was another remarkable person. I've often wondered what if they formed the ultimate couple, but then I stop myself and realize that isn't the point.

    Anyway, perhaps a bit further from the point, Gandhi's zinger under his picture reminded me of one from the world of sports.

    When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers first entered the NFL, they lost 20-something straight games. Their coach was understandably worn down by the team's losing ways, but he never lost his sense of humor. When asked by a reporter what he thought of his team's execution, the coach replied that he thought it was a good idea.

  8. You're right Nick, Gandhi's words do still apply -

    & probably will 'til the end of time.

  9. Excellent post!! A few of my co-workers should read that... :/

  10. Really nice to read these. I love me some Gandhi. Thank you for the reminders.

    P.S. I'm on your blogroll! Thanks Nick! I feel so honored!

  11. Good stuff from both Gandhi and Covey.

  12. Fantastic stuff Nick.

    Ghandi's example is one we should all try and emulate,

    Love and peace, M

  13. Thiis is very true: "Gandhi, when he was asked what he thought of 20th Century civilization, replied, 'I think it would be a very good idea.'"