In November 1936, Basil Mathews asked M.K. Gandhi, “Where do you find the seat of authority?” Gandhi pointed to his breast, probably to the very same spot through which one of the bullets entered and lodged itself in his body, and replied, “It lies here. I exercise my judgement about every scripture, including the Gita.” What Gandhi was pointing out was what Socrates called his daimon/ daemon, his inner voice. If the inner voice or the conscience is the source of authority, it is the source of all judgement of truth; if it is the measure of things, then disobedience of what is repugnant to it becomes not only an imperative, but that capacity defines for such an individual the very idea of human vocation.
Gandhi was a supreme artist of disobedience. He disobeyed the empire, authorities of scriptures, injunctions of traditions, ‘laws’ of economic behaviour, gendered notions of work and action, even the political movement and party he led and helped shape. He disregarded the notion that politics was a zero sum game. His ashrams were nothing like the aranyaka of the ancient past, and his religion a radical disregard of rituals of worship. His quest for brahmacharya—as a mode of conduct that leads one to truth—led him to disobey not only the norms of being a grihastha—a householder—but also of the conduct expected of a brahmachari. His civil disobedience and non-violent resistance redefined the scope of ethical action in public life. Even on the question of non-violence, Gandhi pushed the notion to its limits by insisting at least in one instance that taking life could be an act of pure ahimsa.