Thursday, November 12, 2015

Gandhi: The Story of My Experiments with Truth

Title:  Gandhi: An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth 
Author:  Mahatma Gandhi
Published:  1927
Challenge:  The Well-Educated Mind Reading Challenge (biographies)

When I began the next book on The Well-Educated Mind autobiography list, I predicted it would take three months to read due to the chunkiness of the book and the magnitude of its author.  But Gandhi's Autobiography was pleasantly simple and strangely captivating that I breezed right through it in a month.  I like when a book beckons me to read it. 

A young Gandhi

Gandhi's Autobiography covers about thirty years of his life, from his youth in the late 1800's to the early 1920s.  In his introduction, he said his objective for writing an autobiography was to "tell a story of [his] numerous experiments with truth."   Truth was the "eternal," “sovereign" standard. His goal was to "achieve...self-realization, to see God face to face..." He said, "I worship God as Truth only.  I have not yet found Him, but I am seeking after Him."

Gandhi's Success

Early in life, Gandhi recognized his passion for truth.  He sought it in every aspect of his work and personal life.  It was the ultimate ideal worth fighting for.  He said, "But one thing took deep root in me - the conviction that morality is the basis of things, and that truth is the substance of all morality.  Truth became my sole objective."  

He never set out to become the Mahatmas Gandhi, as the world knows him today, but in his quest for truth, he was moved or called to defend it wherever there was injustice.  As people tend to respect and love those who speak for truth and justice, Gandhi drew much attention to himself; but what really made him different was his approach to achieving truth and justice, using what he called Satyagraha, which means "clinging to truth."  It became a philosophy or practice that involved non-violent force or resistance. Returning good for evil became his guiding concept.  

 In his travels between Britain, India, and South Africa, he experienced and witnessed many injustices that he wanted to change.  For a man who understood truth as the only way of life, he was astonished that people were treated unfairly based on the color of their skin or their socio or economic status.  Equally, he was incensed that victims accepted the mistreatment and did not know any better because of their ignorance.  Gandhi set out to change both.  

As a lawyer, he had knowledge of the law and access to the courts; and when the legal system did not work, he used other methods.  Not only did he get arrested a few times and spent time in jail, but he eventually caused laws to be changed; and most importantly, he taught victims to recognize prejudice and how to press for equal treatment. Gandhi demonstrated how to campaign by leading the way and setting an example.  He lived what he preached, and he made a difference.  

Gandhi's Struggles

But like all men, Gandhi had his burdens: he struggled with developing a perfect diet, eliminating lust from his marriage, creating a model utopian community to work and live, sifting through world religions and philosophies, and finding and knowing the True God.  I believe he struggled with self-realization, the concept that one may reach ultimate perfection if he strives for his full potential, physically and intellectually. To reach this full potential, Gandhi denied himself all pleasure of food, sex, comfort, convenience, and even efficiency.  

One night I went to dinner with my husband.  While I was enjoying my favorite pizza at Oggi's, I was thinking about how Gandhi refused himself delicious food when God gave us yummy food to eat and enjoy.  No way!  I am grateful for my taste buds.  

And when Gandhi struggled with his natural feelings of physical attraction toward his own wife, I knew he did not understand God's essential gift to married couples.  In fact, Scripture tells us that since it is more difficult for man to remain celibate and single: GET MARRIED!  

In the ashram community Gandhi created, he expected the lowest level of efficiency in tools, machinery, and work to be used because the harder the struggle, the better the outcome. Those are my words, but the idea was plain: if workers used a more efficient tool or machine, they were not working hard enough; they were not struggling; therefore, they may not perceive truth at its purest.

Also, I wonder if Gandhi ever found God, the One True God, before his assassination in 1948.  In his autobiography, he saw all religions as a way to the same God, just with varying practices.  He sought a perfect religion in order to reach God, but none of them satisfied him.  He personally rejected Islam, Christianity, and parts of Hinduism, but he used his Hindu customs, like Ahimsa (non-violence), to lay the foundation of Satyagraha. Gandhi struggled like so many other people do to create their own God in their own image or in an image that they are comfortable with.  He thought he could be equal with God by achieving the perfect way to live in peace and harmony with the world.  So while God offers peace through the sacrifice of His Son, Gandhi sought to find peace in the way he lived through his own means.  

Final Rant

Because I thoroughly enjoy reading about other people's life stories, Gandhi's Autobiography was a great read.  While I disagree with some of his personal ideas about God and truth, and how he treated his wife (though she consented to his lifestyle and followed him willingly), I still think the world could use more Gandhis.  

Injustice will always exist, and we need courageous leaders who will stand for righteousness. Gandhi confronted real racism, true oppression, and genuine prejudice; yet, he never resorted to violence, encouraged the destruction of private and public property, or overthrew the government.

Compare that to America today where protests amount to TEMPER TANTRUMS over opposing opinions, ideologies, and FEELINGS, in the form of vile threats and fear, mob rule, violence, stopping traffic and business, destruction of other people's property, burning police vehicles, ambushing law enforcement, and murdering unrelated individuals, in order to meet irrelevant demands.

Gandhi focused his grievances with those responsible for the offense, and he wanted that particular offense righted, and nothing more. He utilized the law first, but if that did not work, he tried other non-violent tactics.  Today's activism is only hot, retaliatory emotion designed to cause chaos and fear, which only leads to more anger and hatred. BULLIES are what they are!  

Gandhi was not a bully.  He would be shocked if he knew what people considered injustice (in America) today, how it invokes anger and violent protest, and the thuggery used to demand outrageous change.  I'm so sick of it that if people actually used Gandhi's tactics for REAL grievances, it would be a welcome sight of change, for once.


  1. What a great posting! Ghandi, like so many other tragic figures (e.g., Greek tragic heroes, many Bible figures [Job and Jesus to mind], and others) are engaged in the "agon" -- a struggle against themselves, others, and the Divine. How we handle the "agon" defines us in more ways than we usually want to admit. Flannery O'Connor, BTW, the subject of my latest blog posting, also has characters engaged in the "agon." All the best from R.T. at

    1. I've not heard of "agon." But the struggle w/ self if very common - true.

  2. What a great review, Ruth! I really enjoyed reading this. Also we could really use a Gandhi.

    1. Yes, it would be a blessing, especially after what happened in Paris tonight, and is happening all too frequently around the world. Imagine what Gandhi would say.

  3. Excellent review! I was so impressed with Gandhi's fortitude and conviction. He didn't let anything sway him .... politics, societal beliefs, family, etc. Sometimes it was rather startling, but one can understand why he was well respected.

    As for the next bio, did you see the post in the GRs group? When would you like to start it?

    1. Hi, Cleo, I answered you at GR. I'm going to hold off until January. I really need to focus on finishing my last few books.

  4. There's an excellent movie adaptation of this biography / life story. If you haven't seen it. :)

    1. I saw this in the 80s when it first came out. Then I rented it the other night and fell asleep 1/2 way through, and I never finished watching it. It is actually very good, but very long. I also like Ben Kingsley, who did an excellent job.