cover
(Translated from the original in Gujarati)
Other title: Satyanā prayogo athavā ātmakathā
NLB Call No.: 954.035 GAN

This book is about his pursuit towards self- realisation. It’s not an autobiography and some parts of the book, Gandhi presumes you know the context.

It’s a must-read to know more about the man, rather than the myth.

BOOK HIGHLIGHTS
Index pages 458 – 461 is an excellent summary of key points in his life, as described in the book.

Gandhi clarifies it is a book documenting his observations of his seeking various Truths. His Life’s Experiments.

In his Introduction, he explains why he agreed to write the book.

p X. “If anything that I write in these pages should touch the reader as touched with pride, then he must take it that there is something wrong with my quest, and that my glimpse are nothing more than,mirage. Let hundreds like me perish, but let the truth prevail. Let us not reduce the standard of truth for even by a hair’s breath from judging erring mere 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 must carry on his own experiments in accordance to his own inclinations and capacity.”

Says the title Mahatma (Great Soul) “has deeply pained” him.

He was timid and shy child as a child. Didn’t dare mix with his peers. Preferred to run home to wait upon his father who’s ill. Devoted to his father especially.

Knowingly did wrong (ate meat and stole) but also has conscience (which partly goes to explain his shyness and fear, which he says saved him from evils like visiting prostitutes — suggested that many youths engaged in undesirable actions bec they were introduced by friends and don’t have the courage to say no). Felt strongly about honesty (wrote a letter to his father to admit his guilt of eating meat).

Shy and uncomfortable in public speaking throughout his studies in England and even until his first court case. But already he had the foundations of courage (sticking to his vows and beliefs, like friends attempts to convert him to eat meat) and practice of non-violence.

From the cases he took on, he came to be associated with the struggle for justice, and most significantly, a philosophy of non-violence and voluntary subjugation to the laws of the land.

Non-violent Non-cooperation, i.e. Civil disobedience: a simple and powerful idea, yet requiring a mental paradigm shift, I think. You consciously disobey an unjust law without resorting to violence. And willingly submit to the consequences of breaking the law (e.g. Fine or jail). Inherent in the idea is that you will not lose your life in breaking the law. But Gandhi doesn’t define Civil Disobedience and leaves the casual reader uninformed.  [Again, one of the criticisms of the book, as Gandhi assumed he was writing for readers of his day rather than a text that long survives him. Then again, it could also be an example of his unassuming nature.]

p264 – his professed love of reading

281 – his Bhramacharya vow

288 – his wife’s refusal to break her religious vow by taking beef-tea when it may help her recover. [In this regards i’ve mixed feelings. If at that time beef tea was only available would I drink it, placing self before ideals? Should ideals come before life? But it’s a matter of degrees i think. Let’s say i’m stranded on an island with 2 other passengers. To survive we have to resort to cannabalism. Would i do it? It’s against my nature right now to do it and i’ve thought about this. In the end, even if i did, guilt would plague me and it might be even worse than death itself. So i can understand their religious stand. To say they were folly would be to impose my own Truth onto them. Which is a form of cultural fascism. Definitely not a Truth.]

p 294 – a caution.

p295 – Suggests a sch for ppl muslims, Hindus, christians. In Singapore this isn’t strange but in gandhi’s time it was, and remains so in places today. He recognised early that human beings have more in common, even religious doctrines, than differences.

p299 – leading by example

p300 – he suddenly mentions the Tamil training he learned when in jail but so far no explicit reference to why and when he was jailed. Also preceding chapter on Salt issue.

Final chapter (titled Farewell) he says his life from that point of writing has been so public that he longer needs to write about his life. Says his pursuit of the truth is still on-going and he’s not yet free of feelings of love, hatred, attachment and repulsion.

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