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An Autobiography (The Story of My Experiments with Truth)

An Autobiography (The Story of My Experiments with Truth)
Item Code: NAF845
Author: M. K. Gandhi
Publisher: Navajivan Publishing House
Language: English
Edition: 2018
ISBN: 9788172290085
Pages: 472 (32 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details: 7.0 inch X 5.0 inch
weight of the book: 320 gms
Translator’s Preface

The first edition of Gandhiji’s Autobiography was published in two volumes Vol. I in 1927 and Vol. II in 1929. The original in Gujarati which was priced at Re. 1/- has run through five editions, nearly 50,000 copies having been sold. The price of the English translation (only issued in library edition) was prohibitive for the Indian reader, and a cheap edition has long been needed it is now being issued in one volume. The translation, as it appeared serially in Young India, had, it may be noted, the benefit to Gandhiji’s revision. It has now undergone careful revision, and from the point of view of language, it has had the benefit of careful revision by a revered friend, who, among many other things, has the reputation of being an eminent English scholar. Before undertaking the task, he made it a condition that his name should on no account be given out. I accept the condition. It is needless to say it heightens my sense of gratitude to him. Chapters XXIX-XLIII of Part V were translated by my friend and colleague Pyarelal during my absence in Bardoli at the time of the Bardoli Agrarian Inquiry by the Broomfield Committee in 1928-29.



Four or five years ago, at the instance of some of my nearest co-workers, I agreed to write my autobiography. I made the start, but scarcely had I turned over the first sheet when riots broke out in Bombay and the work remained at a standstill. Then followed a series of events which culminated in my imprisonment at Yeravda. Sjt. Jeramdas, who was one of my fellow-prisoners there, asked me to put everything else on one side and finish writing the autobiography. I replied that I had already framed a programme of study for myself, and that I could not think of doing anything else until this course was complete. I should indeed have finished the autobiography had I gone through my full term of imprisonment at Yeravda, for there was still a year left to complete the task, when I was discharged. Swami Anand has now repeated the proposal, and as I have finished the history of Satyagraha in South Africa, I am tempted to undertake the autobiography for Navajivan. The Swami wanted me to write it separately for publication as a book. But I have no spare time. I could only write a chapter week by week. Something has to be written for Navajivan every week. Why should it not be the autobiography? The Swami agreed to the proposal, and here am I hard at work.

But a God-fearing friend had his doubts, which he shared with me on my day of silence. “What has set you on this adventure?” he asked. “Writing an autobiography is a practice peculiar to the West. I know of nobody in the East having written one, except amongst those who have come under Western influence. And what will you write? Supposing you reject tomorrow the things you hold as principles today, or supposing you revise in the future your plans of today, is it not likely that the men who shape their conduct on the authority of your word, spoken or written, may be misled? Don’t you think it would be better not to write anything like an autobiography, at any rate just yet?”

This argument had some effect on me. But it is not my purpose to attempt a real autobiography. I simply want to tell the story of my numerous experiments with truth, and as my life consists of nothing but those experiments, it is true that the story will take the shape of an autobiography. But I shall not mind, if every page of it speaks only of my experiments. I believe, or at any rate flatter myself with the belief, that a connected account of all these experiments will not be without benefit to the reader. My experiments in the political field are now known, not only to India, but to a certain extent to the ‘civilized’ world. For me, they have not much value; and the title of ‘Mahatma’ that they have won for me has, therefore, even less. Often the title has deeply pained me; and there is not a moment I can recall when it may be said to have tickled 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. If the experiments are really spiritual, then there can be no room for self-praise. They can only add to my humility. The more I reflect and look back on the past, the more vividly do I feel my limitations.

What I want to achieve – what I have been striving and pining to achieve these thirty years – is self-realization, to see God face to face, to attain Moksha. I live and move and have my being in pursuit of this goal. All that I do by way of speaking and writing, and all my ventures in the political field, are directed to this same end. But as I have all along believed that what is possible for one is possible for all, my experiments have not been conducted in the closet, but in the open; and I do not think that this fact detracts from their spiritual value. There are some things which are known only to oneself and one’s Maker. These are clearly incommunicable. The experiments I am about to relate are not such. But they are spiritual, or rather moral; for the essence of religion is morality.

Only those matters of religion that can be comprehended as much by children as by older people, will be included in this story. If I can narrate them in a dispassionate and humble spirit, many other experiments will find in them provision for their onward march. Far be it from me to claim any degree of perfection for these experiments. I claim for them nothing more than does a scientist who, though he conducts his experiments with the utmost accuracy, forethought and minuteness, never claims any finality about his conclusions, but keeps an open mind regarding them. I have gone through deep self-introspection, searched myself through and through, and examined and analysed every psychological situation. Yet I am far from claiming any finality or infallibility about my conclusions. One claim I do indeed make and it is this. For me they appear to be absolutely correct, and seem for the time being to be final. For if they were not, I should base no action on them. But at every step I have carried out the process of acceptance or rejection and acted accordingly. And so long as my acts satisfy my reason and my heart, I must firmly adhere to my original conclusions.

If I had only to discuss academic principles, I should clearly not attempt an autobiography. But my purpose being to give an account of various practical applications of these principles, I have given the chapters I propose to write the title of The Story of My Experiments with Truth. These will of course include experiments with non-violence, celibacy and other principles of conduct believed to be distinct from truth. But for me, truth is the sovereign principle, which includes numerous other principles. This truth is not only truthfulness in word, but truthfulness in thought also, and not only the relative truth of our conception, but the Absolute Truth, the Eternal Principle, that is God. There are innumerable definitions of God, because His manifestations are innumerable. They overwhelm me with wonder and awe and for a moment stun me. But I worship God as Truth only. I have not yet found Him, but I am seeking after Him. I am prepared to sacrifice the things dearest to me in pursuit of this quest. Even if the sacrifice demanded be my very life, I hope I may be prepared to give it. But as long as I have not realized this Absolute Truth, so long must I hold by the relative truth as I have conceived it. That relative truth must, meanwhile, be my beacon, my shield and buckler. Though this path is strait and narrow and sharp as the razor’s edge, for me it has been the quickest and easiest. Even my Himalayan blunders have seemed trifling to me because I have kept strictly to this path. For the path has saved me from coming to grief, and I have gone forward according to my light. Often in my progress I have had faint glimpses of the Absolute Truth, God, and daily the conviction is growing upon me that He alone is real and all else is unreal. Let those, who wish, realize how the conviction has grown upon me; let them share my experiments and share also my conviction if they can. The further conviction has been growing upon me that whatever is possible for me is possible even for a child, and I have sound reasons for saying so. The instruments for the quest of truth are as simple as they are difficult. They may appear quite impossible to an arrogant person, and quite possible to an innocent child. The seeker after truth should be humbler than the dust. The world crushes the dust under its feet, but the seeker after truth should so humble himself that even the dust could crush him. Only then, and not till then, will he have a glimpse of truth. The dialogue between Vasishtha and Vishvamitra makes this abundantly clear. Christianity and Islam also amply bear it out.

If anything that I write in these pages should strike the reader as being touched with pride, then he must take it that there is something wrong with my quest, and that my glimpses are no more than mirage. Let hundreds like me perish, but let truth prevail. Let us not reduce the standard of truth even by a hair’s breadh for judging erring mortals like myself.

I hope and pray that no one will regard the advice interspersed in the following chapters as authoritative. The experiments narrated should be regarded as illustrations, in the light of which everyone may carry on his own experiments according to his own inclinations and capacity. I trust that to this limited extent the illustrations will be really helpful; because I am not going either to conceal or understate any ugly things that must be told. I hope to acquaint the reader fully with all my faults and errors. My purpose is to describe experiments in the science of Satyagraha, not to say how good I am. In judging myself I shall try to be as harsh as truth, as I want others also to be. Measuring myself by that standard I must exclaim with Surdas:
Where is there a wretch
So wicked and loathsome as I?
I have forsaken my Maker,
So faithless have I been.

For it is an unbroken torture to me that I am still so far from Him, Who as I fully know, governs every breath of my life, and Whose offspring I am. I know that it is the evil passions within that keep me so far from Him, and yet I cannot get away from them.

But I must close. I can only take up the actual story in the next chapter.




  Translator's Preface (Mahadev Desai) viii
  Introduction ix
  PART I  
I Birth And Parentage 3
II Childhood 5
III Child Marriage 7
IV Playing The Husband 10
V At The High School 13
VI A Tragedy 17
VII A Tragedy (Contd.) 20
VIII Stealing And Atonement 23
IX My Father's Death And My Double Shame 26
X Glimpses Of Religion 29
XI Preparation For England 33
XII Outcaste 37
XIII In London At Last 39
XIV My Choice 42
XV Playing The English Gentleman 45
XVI Changes 48
XVII Experiments In Dietetics 52
XVIII Shyness My Shield 55
XIX The Canker of Untruth 59
XX Acquaintance with Religions 62
XXI Nirbal Ke Bal Ram 65
XXII Narayan Hemchandra 67
XXIII The Great Exhibition 71
XXIV Called' -But Then? 73
XXV My Helplessness 75
I Raychandbhai 81
II How I Began Life 84
III The First Case 87
IV The First Shock 90
V Preparing For South Africa 93
VI Arrival In Natal 95
VII Some Experiences 98
VIII On The Way to Pretoria 101
IX More Hardships 105
X First Day In Pretoria 109
XI Christian Contacts 113
XII Seeking Touch with Indians 116
XIII What It is to be A 'Coolie' 119
XIV Preparation For The Case 122
XV Religious Ferment 125
XVI Man Proposes, God Disposes 128
XVII Settled In Natal 130
XVIII Colour Bar 134
XIX Natal Indian Gongress 137
XX Balasundaram 141
XXI The £3 Tax 143
XXII Comparative Study of Religious 146
XXIII As a Householder 149
XXIV Homeward 155
XXV In India 158
XXVI Two Passions 161
XXVII The Bombay Meeting 164
XXVIII Poona And Madras 166
XXIX Return Soon'  
I Rumblings of the Storm 171
II The Storm 173
III The Test 176
IV The Calm After The Storm 180
V Education of Children 183
VI Spirit of Service 186
VII Brahmacharya-I 189
VIII Brahmacharya-II 192
IX Simple Life 196
X The Boer War 198
XI Sanitary Reform And Famine Relief 200
XII Return To India 202
XIII In India Again 205
XIV Clerk And Bearer 208
XV In The Congress 210
XVI Lord Curzon's Darbar 212
XVII A Month with Gokhale-I 213
XVIII A Month with Gokhale-II 216
XIX A Month with Gokhale-III 218
XX In Benares 221
XXI Settled in Bombay? 225
XXII Faith On Its Trial 227
XXIII To South Africa Again 230
I Love's Labour's Lost'? 235
II Autocrats From Asia 237
III Pocketed The Insult 239
IV Quickened Spirit of Sacrifice 241
V Result of Introspection 243
VI A Sacrifice To Vegetarianism 246
VII Experiments In Earth And Water Treatment 248
VIII A Warning 250
IX A Tussle With Power 252
X A Sacred Recollection And Penance 255
XI Intimate European contacts 257
XII European Contacts (Contd.) 260
XIII Indian Opinion' 262
XIV Coolie Locations or Ghettoes? 265
XV The Black Plague-I 267
XVI The Black Plague-II 269
XVII Location in Flames 272
XVIII The Magic Spell of a Book 274
XIX The Phoenix Settlement 276
XX The First Night 278
XXI Polak Takes The Plunge 280
XXII Whom God Protects 282
XXIII A Peep Into The Household 285
XXIV The Zulu 'Rebellion' 288
XXV Heart Searchings 291
XXVI The Birth of Satyagraha 293
XXVII More Experiments In Dietetics 295
XXVIII Kasturbai's Courage 297
XXIX Domestic Satyagraha 300
XXX Towards Self-Restraint 302
XXXI Fasting 304
XXXII As Schoolmaster 307
XXXIII Literary Training 309
XXXIV Training of The Spirit 311
XXXV Tares Among The Wheat 313
XXXVI Fasting As Penance 315
XXXVII To Meet Gokhale 317
XXXVIII My Part in The War 319
XXXIX A Spiritual Dilemma 321
XL Miniature Satyagraha 323
XLI Gokhale's Charity 327
XLII Treatment of Pleurisy 329
XLIII Homeward 331
XLIV Some Reminiscences of The Bar 332
XLV Sharp Practice? 335
XLVI Clients Turned Co-workers 336
XLVII How A Client Was Saved 338
  PART V  
I The First Experience 343
II With Gokhale In Poona 345
III Was It a Threat? 347
IV Shantiniketan 350
V Woes of Third Class Passengers 353
VI Wooing 355
VII Kumbha Mela 356
VIII Lakshman Jhula 360
IX Founding of The Ashram 363
X On The Anvil 365
XI Abolition of Indentured Emigration 368
XII The Stain of Indigo 372
XIII The Gentle Bihari 374
XIV Face to Face With Ahimsa 377
XV Case Withdrawn 380
XVI Methods of Work 383
XVII Companions 385
XVIII Penetrating The Villages 388
XIX When A Governor is Good 390
XX in Touch with Labour 391
XXI A Peep Into The Ashram 394
XXII The Fast 396
XXIII The Kheda Satyagraha 400
XXIV The Onion Thief' 402
XXV End of Kheda Satyagraha 404
XXVI Passion For Unity 406
XXVII Recruiting Campaign 409
XXVIII Near Death's Door 415
XXIX The Rowlatt Bills And My Dilemma 419
XXX That Wonderful Spectacle! 422
XXXI That Memorable Week!-I 425
XXXII That Memorable Week!-II 430
XXXIII A Himalayan Miscalculation' 433
XXXIV Navajivan' And 'Young India' 435
XXXV In The Punjab 438
XXXVI The Khilafat Against cow Protection? 441
XXXVII The Amritsar Congress 445
XXXVIII Congress Initiation 449
XXXIX The Birth of Khadi 451
XL Found At Last! 454
XLI An Instructive Dialogue 456
XLII Its Rising Tide 459
XLIII At Nagpur 462
  Farewell 464
  Index 467
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