The quest for salvation led Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi to manifest his destiny in the realm of truth. His worldly desires and passions cast aside, Mahatma Gandhi subjected himself to experiments in truth. Gandhi did his story justice – conveying his inner workings as no biographer could.
Fifty years after his assassination, and 73 years after writing his autobiography, Gandhi’s experiments with truth still seem noble – yet unproved because they are not universally practiced. But each revelation in his autobiography still carries with it a heavy moral lesson.
At age 56, after a bout of appendicitis, Gandhi took up his autobiography “to take stock of his life and consider the directions for the future,” Sissela Bok wrote in the forward to the book.
But despite the moral impact of Gandhi: An Autobiography, The Story of My Experiments With Truth (Beacon Press), Gandhi narrates the action in a conversational, friendly tone.
Gandhi preaches the virtues of Satyagraha, which established his nonviolent agitation. But he does not assert his truth to be the ultimate truth. His writing, he asserts, is only a means to tell the story of his experimentation.
Satyagraha, which follows the dictum of truth, was Gandhi’s most famous experiment – with which he helped Indians in South Africa win minority rights and, in India, reclaim their country.
His attempts to find the perfect diet also provided him with an ongoing experiment. From non-vegetarianism to vegetarianism, to finally surviving solely on fruits and nuts, Gandhi controlled each morsel entering his body. Eat to live, not live to eat, he said. He allowed his body food for survival, but none for pleasures of the palate.
Desire to achieve moksha, the Sanskrit equivalent of salvation, led Gandhi to renounce sexual relations as well. Gandhi, with frustration, writes of several failed attempts before achieving this goal. He relates earnest love and passion for his wife.
Gandhi often refers to carnal desire as a severe weakness in his character. He recalls attending his father’s sickbed day and night – but missing the moment of death. Gandhi was with his wife overcome by passion.
Gandhi anecdotally notes that his experiments did not all succeed. He narrates each life experience through a prism of self-evaluation and criticism, finding fault in conclusions he believed appropriate at the time of the decision.
“For me (my conclusions) appear to be absolutely correct and seem for the time being to be final. And so long as my acts satisfy my reasons and my heart, I must firmly adhere to my original conclusion,” he writes.
But Gandhi realized, despite his deep dedication to truth and service to the world, he often erred in implementing his conclusions. His resolve to follow Satyagraha helped millions in his global family earn their rights. His immediate family, however, was left wanting. He did not always fulfill his role as son, brother, father and husband.
Gandhi’s dedication to the world community left his aged brother without his support. His oldest son felt as though he was denied a father’s guiding hand. Gandhi’s experiments also left his wife, Kasturbai, in a precarious position. Without material possessions, Kasturbai followed Gandhi on his travels.
Falling short in meeting his family’s needs sparked great struggle in the depths of his soul, Gandhi writes. But again, he acted on what he believed proper at the time. And he faithfully continued his experiments to achieve the purest form of truth.
At the time of his autobiography, Gandhi’s future still held a revolution and a partition of his country. It also still held the future of millions of others in its hands, while his experiments made subjects out of those millions.
Gandhi: An Autobiography, The Story of My Experiments With Truth gives incredible insight into this seemingly-stoic man’s struggles toward freedom and truth.