Gandhi?s autobiography, which he had titled ?My experiments with
Truth? can be rated as one of the most popular and the most influential
books in the recent history. It was written at the instance of Swami Anand.
It appeared in the Weekly ?Navjivan? during 1925-28.
It covers Gandhiji?s life up to 1920. He did not
cover the period after that as it was well known to the people and most
of the concerned persons were alive. Besides he felt that his experiments
in that period were yet to yield definite conclusions.
Gandhiji?s autobiography is very different from
other autobiographies. The autobiographies normally contain self-praise
by the authors. They want to criticize their opponents and boost their
own image in the people?s eyes. Gandhiji?s autobiography is
completely free from all this. It is marked with humility and truthfulness.
He had not hidden anything. In fact, he is rather too harsh on himself.
He did not want to show to the world how good he was. He only wanted to
tell the people the story of his experiments with Truth.
Truth, for Gandhi, was the supreme principle, which
includes many other principles. Realization of the Truth is the purpose
of human life. Gandhi always strove to realize the Truth. He continuously
tried to remove impurities in himself. He always tried to stick to the
Truth as he knew and to apply the knowledge of the Truth to everyday life.
He tried to apply the spiritual principles to the practical situations.
He did it in the scientific spirit. Sticking to the truth means Satyagrah.
Gandhi therefore called his experiments as ?Experiments with Truth?
or ?Experiments in the science of Satyagrah.?
Gandhiji also requested the readers to treat those experiments as illustrative
and to carry out their own experiments in that light.
Gandhiji: An Introduction
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was a man considered one of
the great sages and prophets. He was held as another Buddha, another Jesus,
Indians called him the ?Father of the Nation?. They showered
their love, respect and devotion on him in an unprecedented measure. They
thronged his way to have a glimpse of him, to hear one world from his
lips. They applied on their foreheads the dust on the path he had trodden.
For them, he was almost an incarnation of God, who had come to break the
chains of their slavery. The whole world bowed to him in reverence. Even
his opponents held him in great respect.
Mohandas Gandhi was, however, not a great scholar, nor
was he a great warrior. He was not born with exceptional faculties. Neither
was he a good orator, nor a great writer. He did not claim anything exclusively
divine in him. He did not claim being a prophet or having superhuman powers.
He considered himself an average man with average abilities. Born in a
middle class Bania family in an obscure princely State in a corner of
India, he was a mediocre student, shy and nervous. He could not muster
courage to speak in public. His first attempt at legal practice miserably
But he was a humble seeker of Truth. He was a man with exceptional sincerity,
honesty and truthfulness. For him, understanding meant action. Once any
principle appealed to him, he immediately began to translate that in practice.
He did not flinch from taking risks and did not mind confessing mistakes.
No opposition, scorn or ridicule could affect him. Truth was his sole
guiding star. He was ever-growing; hence he was often found inconsistent.
He was not concerned with appearing to be consistent. He preferred to
be consistent only with the light within.
He sacrificed his all and identified himself with the
poorest of the poor. He dressed like them, lived like them. In the oppressed
and the depressed people, he saw God. For him, they too were sparks of
the divine light. They might not have anything else, but they too had
a soul. For Gandhiji, soul-force was the source of the greatest power.
He strove to awaken the soul-force within himself and within his fellowmen.
He was convinced that the potentialities of the soul-force have no limit.
He himself was a living example of this conviction. That is why this tiny
and fragile man could mobilise the masses and defeat the mighty British
empire. His eleven vows, his technique of Satyagrah, his constructive
programme - all were meant to awaken and strengthen the soul-force.
He awakened and aroused a nation from semi-consciousness.
It was a Herculean task. For, India was not a united country, it was a
sub-continent. It was a society divided in different classes, castes and
races, in people with different languages, religions and cultures.
It was a society where almost half of the population
i.e., women, was behind purdah or confined to the four walls of houses,
where one-fourth of the population - the depressed classes - was living
marginalised life, where many did not have a single full meal every day.
Gandhiji made the oppressed sections wake up and break their chains. He
mobilised the people and united them to work for the cause of Swaraj,
which gave them a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose.
Gandhiji wanted to win Swaraj for the masses. For him,
Swaraj did not mean replacement of White masters by brown masters. Swaraj
meant self-rule by all. He said:?Real Swaraj will come, not by the
acquisition of the authority by a few, but by the acquisition of the capacity
by all to resist authority when it is abused.? He worked to develop
such a capacity. Development of such a capacity involved transformation
of the individual.
Transformation of the individual and transformation of the society - they
were not separate, unrelated things for Gandhiji. Revolutionary social
philosophies had concentrated on changing the society. On the other hand,
spiritual seekers had concentrated on the inner change. Gandhiji not only
bridged the gap between these extremes, he fused them together. Gandhiji
was thus both a saint and a social revolutionary.
For Gandhiji, unity of life was great truth. His principle of non-violence
stemmed from this conviction. Non-violence was not a matter of policy
for him; it was a matter of faith. He applied the doctrine to all the
departments of individual and social life and in so doing revolutionized
the doctrine, made it dynamic and creative. He believed that a true civilization
could be built on the basis of such non-violence only.
He rejected the modern civilization. For him, it was a disease and a curse.
This civilization leads to violence, conflicts, corruption, injustices,
exploitation, oppression, mistrust and a process of dehumanisation. It
has led the world to a deep crisis. The earth?s resources are being
cornered by a handful of people without any concern for others and for
the coming generations. The conventional energy sources are getting depleted.
Forests are being destroyed. Air, water, soil-everything has been polluted.
We are living under the shadow of nuclear war and environmental
disasters. Thinking men the world over are looking to Gandhiji to find
a way out of this crisis and to build an alternative model of sustainable
development. Gandhiji knew that the earth has enough to satisfy everybody?s
need but not anybody?s greed. He had called for the replacement of
greed with love.
Gandhiji is, therefore, now a source of inspiration
and a reference book for all those fighting against racial discrimination,
oppression, domination, wars, nuclear energy, environmental degradation,
lack of freedom and human rights- for all those who are fighting for a
better world, a better quality of life.
Gandhiji is, therefore, no longer an individual.
He is a symbol of all that is the best and the most enduring in the human
tradition. And he is also a symbol of the alternative in all areas of
life-agriculture, industry, technology, education, health, economy, political
organisation etc. He is a man of the future - a future that has to be
shaped if the human race has to survive and progress on the path of evolution.