Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truthby Mohandas Gandhi
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"My purpose," Mahatma Gandhi writes of this book, "is to describe experiments in the science of Satyagraha, not to say how good I am." Satyagraha, Gandhi's nonviolent protest movement (satya = true, agraha = firmness), came to stand, like its creator, as a moral principle and a rallying cry; the principle was truth and the cry freedom. The life of Gandhi has given fire and fiber to freedom fighters and to the untouchables of the world: hagiographers and patriots have capitalized on Mahatma myths. Yet Gandhi writes: "Often the title [Mahatma, Great Soul] has deeply pained me. . . . But I should certainly like to narrate my experiments in the spiritual field which are known only to myself, and from which I have derived such power as I possess for working in the political field."
Clearly, Gandhi never renounced the world; he was neither pacifist nor cult guru. Who was Gandhi? In the midst of resurging interest in the man who freed India, inspired the American Civil Rights Movement, and is revered, respected, and misunderstood all over the world, the time is proper to listen to Gandhi himself — in his own words, his own "confessions," his autobiography.
Gandhi made scrupulous truth-telling a religion and his Autobiography inevitably reminds one of other saints who have suffered and burned for their lapses. His simply narrated account of boyhood in Gujarat, marriage at age 13, legal studies in England, and growing desire for purity and reform has the force of a man extreme in all things. He details his gradual conversion to vegetarianism and ahimsa (non-violence) and the state of celibacy (brahmacharya, self-restraint) that became one of his more arduous spiritual trials. In the political realm he outlines the beginning of Satyagraha in South Africa and India, with accounts of the first Indian fasts and protests, his initial errors and misgivings, his jailings, and continued cordial dealings with the British overlords.
Gandhi was a fascinating, complex man, a brilliant leader and guide, a seeker of truth who died for his beliefs but had no use for martyrdom or sainthood. His story, the path to his vision of Satyagraha and human dignity, is a critical work of the twentieth century, and timeless in its courage and inspiration.
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This book must be read in context or else the reader will be disappointed. It is not the best book to read if you want to learn about Gandhi. It isn't much of an 'autobiography' in a typical sense. Gandhi doesn't directly cover the main events of his life that we know him today for. There is very little treatment about his non-violence movement and the protest marches. If you want to learn about the life of Gandhi, reading this book will leave you unfulfilled. For that, you're better off starting with Louis Fischer's 'Gandhi: His Life and Message for the World'. But Gandhi's Autobiography shows the reader how absolutely honest and humble he was. Gandhi exposes his idiosyncrasies, quirks, and his odd beliefs to anyone who cares to read. He completely downplays himself and his accomplishments by not writing about them and spends most of the pages dwelling on his faults, personal inner struggles, mundane aspects of his life, and strange experiments in diet. This is the closest anyone can get to glimpsing Gandhi's steam of consciousness and the ramblings of his mind.
The younger generation is growing up with the news of war, violence, bombs, and missiles. They should know that non-violence was the only method used to free India from the colonial rule.
Gandhi's life is an open book. His thoughts on non-violence, truth, and perseverance are examples to whole mankind irrespective race, creed, nationality and gender. He exemplifies simple life and is an inspiration to one and all. His bravery needs no armies, guns, or bombs. Truth is his only weapon and the mighty British Empire crumbles. His love for people for all peoples and life is unprecedented. He says 'A nation's greatness is measured by the way it treats its animals'