An Autobiography (The Story of My Experiments with Truth)

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Item Code: IHL495
Author: Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
Publisher: Prakash Books India Pvt. Ltd.
Edition: 2009
ISBN: 9788172343118
Pages: 447
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 7.8 inch X 5.0 inch
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Shipped to 153 countries
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Book Description
Translator’s Preface

The first edition of Gandhiji's Autobiography was published in two volumes, Volume l in 1927 and Volume II in 1929. The original in Gujarati which was priced at one rupee has run through five editions, nearly 50,000 copies having been sold. The price of the English translation only issued in a 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 of 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 29—43 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 1928-9.

Author’s Introduction

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. Sit 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 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 fields 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 held. 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 Cod 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 one self 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, mean while, 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 breadth 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 every one may carry on his own experiments according to his own inclination 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, riot 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.

Back of the Book

This unusual autobiography “The Story of My Experiments with Truth”, is a window to the workings of Mahatma Gandhi’s mind-a window to the emotions of his heart - a window to understanding what drove this seemingly ordinary man to the heights of being the father of a nation-India.

Starting with his days as a boy, Gandhi takes one through his trials and turmoils and situations that moulded his philosophy of life-going through child marriage, his studies in England, practicing Law in South Africa - and his Satyagraha there-to the early beginnings of the Independence movement in India.

He did not aim to write an autobiography but rather share the experience of his various experiments with truth to arrive at what he perceived as Absolute Truth-the ideal of his struggle against racism, violence and colonialism.


1 Birth and Parentage 18
2 Childhood 20
3 Child Marriage 22
4 Playing the Husband 25
5 At the High School 27
6 A Tragedy 31
7 A Tragedy [CONTINUED] 54
8 Stealing and Atonement 57
9 My Fathers Death and My Double Shame 40
10 Glimpses of Religion 42
11 Preparation for England 46
12 Outcaste 49
13 In London at Last 52
14 My Choice 55
15 Paying the English Gentleman 57
16 Changes 60
17 Experiments in Dietetics 65
18 Shyness My Shield 67
19 The Canker of Untruth70
20 Acduaintance with Religions 75
21 Nirbal Ke Bal Ram 76
22 Narayan Hemchandra 78
23 The Great Exhibition 81
24 ‘Called’ - But Then? 83
25 My Helplessness 85
1 Raychandhai 89
2 How I Began Life 91
3 The First Case 94
4 The First Shock 97
5 Preparing for South Africa 100
6 Arrival in Natal 102
7 Some Experiences 105
8 On the Way to Pretoria 108
9 More Hardships 111
10 First Day in Pretoria 115
11 Christian Contacts 119
12 Seeking Touch with Indians 122
13 What It Is to Be a ‘Coolie’ 124
14 Preparation for the Case 127
15 Religious Ferment 130
16 Man Proposes, God Disposes 133
17 Settled in Natal 135
18 Colour Bar 139
19 Natal Indian Congress 142
20 Balasundaram 145
21 The £3 Tax 147
22 Comparative Study of Religions 150
23 As a Householder 153
24 Homeward 155
25 In India 158
26 Two Passions 161
27 The Bombay Meeting 164
28 Poona and Madras 167
29 ‘Return Soon' 169
1 Rumblings of the Storm 175
2 The Storm 175
3 The Test 178
4 The Calm after the Storm 182
5 Education of Children 184
6 Spirit of Service 187
7 Brahmacharya —I 189
8 Brahmacharya —II 192
9 Simple Life 196
10 The Boer War 198
11 Sanitary Reform and Famine Relief 200
12 Return to India 201
13 In India Again 204
14 Clerk and Bearer 207
15 In the Congress 209
16 Lord Curzon’s Durbar 210
17 A Month with Gokhale-I 212
18 A Month with Gokhale - Il 214
19 A Month with Gokhale — III 217
20 In Benares 219
21 Settled in Bombay? 225
22 Faith on its Trial 225
23 To South Africa Again 228
1 Love's Labour`s Lost? 232
2 Autocrats from Asia 234
3 Pocketed the Insult 236
4 Ouickened Spirit of Sacrifice 238
5 Result of introspection 259
6 A Sacrifice to Vegetarianism 242
7 Experiments in Earth and Water Treatment 244
8 A Warning 246
9 A Tussle with Power 248
10 A Sacred Recollection and Penance 250
11 Intimate European Contacts 255
12 European Contacts (CONTINUED) 255
13 Indian Opinion 257
14 Coolie Locations or Ghettoes? 259
15 The Black Plague — I 262
16 The Black Plague — II 264
17 Location in Flames 266
18 The Magic Spell of a Book 268
19 The Phoenix Settlement 270
20 The First Night 272
21 Polak takes the Plunge 274
22 Whom God Protects 276
23 A Peep into the Household 279
24 The Zulu 'Rebellion' 282
25 Heart Searchings 284
26 The Birth of Satyagraha 286
27 More Experiments in Dietetics 287
28 Kasturbai's Courage 289
29 Domestic Satyagraha 292
30 Towards Self-restraint 295
31 Fasting 296
32 As Schoolmaster 299
33 Literary Training 301
34 Training of the Spirit 303
35 Tares among the Wheat 305
36 Fasting as Penance 506
37 To Meet Gokhale 508
38 My Part in the War 310
39 A Spiritual Dilemma 312
40 Miniature Satyagraha 314
41 Gokhale's Charity 518
42 Treatment of Pleurisy 320
43 Homeward 322
44 Some Reminiscences of the Bar 525
45 Sharp Practice? 325
46 Clients Turned Co-workers 527
47 How a Client was Saved 528
1 The First Experience 333
2 With Gokhale in Poona 334
3 Was It a Threat? 336
4 Shantiniketan 339
5 Woes of Third Class Passengers 342
6 Wooing 345
7 Kumbha Mela 345
8 Lakshman Jhula 349
9 Founding of the Ashram 352
10 On the Anvil 354
11 Abolition of Indentured Emigration 356
12 The Stain of Indigo 360
13 The Gentle Bihari 362
14 Face to Face with Ahimsa 365
15 Case Withdrawn 368
16 Methods of Work 370
17 Companions 373
18 Penetrating the Villages 375
19 When a Governor is Good 377
20 In Touch with Labour379
21 A Peep into the Ashram 381
22 The Fast 383
23 The Kheda Satyagraha 386
24 The Onion Thief" 388
25 End of Kheda Satyagraha 390
26 Passion for Unity 392
27 Recruiting Campaign 395
28 Near Death's Door 400
29 The Rowlatt Bills and My Dilemma 404
30 That Wonderful Spectacle 407
31 That Memorable Week! —— 1 409
32 That Memorable Week! — II 414
33 ‘A Himalayan Miscalculation' 417
34 Navajivan and Young India 419
35 In the Punjab 421
36 The Khilafat; against Cow Protection? 424
37 The Amritsar Congress 428
38 Congress initiation 431
39 The Birth of Khadi 434
40 Found at Last! 436
41 An instructive Dialogue 438
42 Its Rising Tide 440
43 At Nagpur 444
Farewell 446
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