Tapestry of Faith: What We Choose: An Adult Program on Ethics for Unitarian Universalists

Activity 4: A Life of Virtue - Mahatma Gandhi

Part of What We Choose

Activity time: 20 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Print and review the story "Mahatma Gandhi," and prepare to read it aloud or invite a participant to read it. If a participant will read, give them the story in advance.
  • Write on newsprint, and set aside:
    • In the light of Gandhi's example, how do you decide if you are doing too much, too little, or just enough to support a particular ethical/moral cause that is important to you?
    • If to live a moral life is to cultivate our character through virtuous decisions and actions, is constant vigilance and commitment required? What limits or challenges curtail your ability to live a moral life according to the philosophy of virtue ethics?

Description of Activity

Introduce the story using these or similar words:

Virtue ethics invites us to think about the role cultivation of virtue plays in our ethical decision making, and, more broadly, how virtue cultivation guides and shapes our lives. To what degree do we invite virtues such as egalitarianism, fairness, compassion, and justice to guide our lives? How does the practice of virtue shape our character? What does living a life of virtue ask of us? The life of Mahatma Gandhi provides one example of how a deeply respected spiritual leader responded to the call of virtue.

Read the story "Mahatma Gandhi" aloud. Then, invite brief questions and comments about the role of virtue in Gandhi's life. You might ask: "What wisdom and example does Gandhi's life offer for our own lives? What challenges?" Post the newsprint and invite participants to spend a couple of minutes in silence reflecting on the two questions before turning to a person nearby to share. Allow five minutes of paired sharing. Then, invite participants to turn attention to the large group and to share responses and insights from the partnered conversations. If there is time, take the conversation deeper with these additional questions:

  • How do we know whether or not we are living a virtuous life? Is the definition of virtue entirely subjective? By what authority do we decide which virtues are most important to cultivate?
  • Does the virtuous path require causes to exist for which we are willing to put ourselves at risk?

Including All Participants

Create a large-print handout with the discussion questions, to assist those who are visually impaired.