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.
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;
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.
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