The story of my experiments with truth is the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi. The book covers Gandhiji’s early life up to 1921 when he was in his early 50s.
Initially, the book was written in weekly installments. Every week from 1925 to 1929, the Navjeevan journal would publish a new volume of autobiography.
However, this book will cover the synopsis of the final work, which was first published in the West in 1948.
Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most influential people of the 19th and 20th centuries. Gandhi was an Indian lawyer and anti-colonialist. He used non-violent resistance to campaign against British rule over India.
This resistance eventually led to India’s independence from Britain. Also, his peaceful approaches inspired civil rights movements around the world.
“When I feel down, I remember that throughout history the path of truth and love has always won. There are tyrants and murderers, and for a while, they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it – always.” – Mahatma Gandhi
“ Your beliefs become your thoughts ,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny”. – Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi was born on 2nd October 1869 in Porbandar. Porbandar is a small coastal town in North West India.
He was raised by his mother and father. His father was a local politician who worked for local Indian princes. Both his parents were less educated.
For example, his mother was illiterate, and his father learned to write only in his older years. Despite this, Gandhi’s parents were relatively wealthy for the area.
Hence Gandhiji could get a good education. Gandhiji was born in the Victorian era. This was the time when the British Empire was in full force.
Gandhi’s native India was one of the areas where he controlled most of the land. The narrative of Gandhi’s empire was a curious mixture of commercial greed and missionary endeavor.
India was considered the jewel in the crown of Queen Victoria’s empire. The rule of this British over India was called Raj by the British.
They were first colonized in India by the British East India Company in the 18th century. In the late 19th century, it was more popular than ever. The British became the rulers of India.
I lost no time in assuming the authority of a husband. . . (She) could not go out without my permission. – Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi was married at the young age of thirteen. He was married to a local girl of the same age named Kasturbai. Later in life, they will challenge the inhumane practice of child marriage.
However, at this time he was happy with his marriage. As their relationship progressed, they experienced many fights. Some were so severe that they did not speak for months.
“Of all the evils to which man has made himself liable, there is none so outrageous, shocking, or so brutal as to abuse the better half of humanity; Female race.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Educational and religious moderation
Gandhi was a shy child. He avoided sports, and struggled academically in school. Gandhi found multiplication tables particularly challenging.
Similarly, at this age he was not particularly interested in religion. His family, growing up, was religiously diverse. His mother was a devout Hindu, while his father and his friends often discussed Islam.
Besides, Jainism was very popular in his local area. Hence, from childhood, Gandhi was surrounded by a wide range of religions.
Although this upbringing likely shaped the man he would become, he had no interest in religion at an early age. In fact, it bored him. He also describes how he “leaned a little towards atheism.”
Gandhi’s father died when Gandhi was a young adult. Gandhi was chosen as the successor as head of the family. Therefore, he was encouraged to travel to England and study law.
His family wanted him to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a politician. Before Gandhi left for England, Gandhi’s mother was really worried.
She worried that England would corrupt Gandhi’s morals. To calm her nerves, Gandhi vowed to abstain from wine and meat.
Before leaving, an issue arose. Gandhiji’s caste elders came to know about his proposed visit to England. They objected because no member of their caste was allowed to go to England.
England was considered impure. However, Gandhiji was determined to go. So, he decided to quit and make ‘caste out’. Gandhi left for England.
Among the loved ones she left behind was her three-month-old first child, a boy named Harilal.
London to South Africa
Gandhi struggled to adapt when he arrived in London. He was a thin Indian with protruding ears and terrible shyness.
Although he had learned English at school, he could not communicate well. In fact, he was so embarrassed on the trip to Southampton that he ate in his cabin to avoid embarrassment.
After arriving in London, family friends took him under their wing. However, he still had hurdles to overcome. First, vegetarian food was very hard to come by in Victorian London.
Many Hindus living in London decided to abandon this Hindu scripture because it was difficult to follow. However, Gandhi promised.
Gandhi was not a man of broken promises. He lived mainly off porridge until he found the right restaurant.
Adapted to western culture
Although Gandhi initially struggled to adapt, he made a conscious effort to Westernize himself in some ways.
She took French, dance, elocution and violin lessons. Gandhi did not continue this for long, but it was a sign of his intent. He then started dressing in English fashion.
On top of this, Gandhiji started reading the Bible. He never accepted the idea of sin and salvation, but this fueled his passion for religion.
Also, he was inspired by Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. He called this sermon full of humility. After reading the Bible, Gandhi began reading one of the most sacred Hindu books: the Bhagavad-Gita.
He discovered the work through some friends involved in Theosophy, a superstition and orientalism fashionable in Victorian society. His poetry and message soon captivated him.
Gandhi became a barrister and returned home
“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep telling myself that I can’t do a certain thing, it’s possible that I might actually end up being unable to do it.
On the contrary, if I believe that I can do it, I will surely acquire the ability to do it, even if I do not have it at first.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhiji studied very hard to pass the bar. He passed and was admitted as a lawyer. The very next day, he went back to Bombay.
He was away from his home, wife and child for more than three years. He looked forward to seeing them again. However, his return home was not a welcome one.
What they were expecting. Gandhi’s mother died while he was abroad. The family decided to keep the news from him until he came home.
He did not want to interrupt his studies. He also expects to come back to a lot of work opportunities. This did not happen.
He struggled to find good paying work and he and his growing family struggled financially. His first lawsuit ended in disaster.
When his shyness overcame him. He was unable to cross-examine the witness. Following this failure, he tried to get a teaching position but was unsuccessful.
He eventually decided to accept an offer from a Muslim Indian firm to travel to South Africa for a year and advise on litigation.
South Africa was beginning to exhibit racist tendencies. These racist attitudes would eventually lead to the apartheid regime of the 20th century.
Although the black community was the most marginalized group in South Africa, the Indian population was also treated as second-class citizens.
Gandhiji would experience this discrimination while living in South Africa. While traveling by train, he was forced to wait all night at the Transvaal station.
Because he refused to give his first class seat to a white passenger. This experience angered him and led him to make his first public speech.
He addressed an assembly of Transvaal Indians and urged them to work hard and learn English. If they did this, they would be able to achieve political equality.
On the day of Gandhiji’s farewell party in South Africa, he was made aware of the Indian Franchise Bill. The bill was highly discriminatory against Indians.
The bill would disenfranchise Indians. He was shocked that no one opposed the bill. Hence, Gandhiji’s friends urged him to stay and help fight this bill.
He agreed to stay. However, he said that he could only stay for a month. That month will mark two years of preaching in South Africa. By the time Gandhiji left South Africa, he had been working there for twenty years.
Many people associate Gandhiji with India. However, he was also hugely influential in South Africa. This country is where he was first given the title of Mahatma, meaning great soul.
He returned to India briefly and was welcomed by fans. However, when he decided to return to South Africa, his reception was a little less friendly.
A rowdy crowd of whites awaited him in Port Natal. Gandhi developed a bad reputation and was seen as a rebel and troublemaker.
So, these whites decided to prevent him from coming to earth. However, they failed to do so. Although some disliked him, he had allies who were willing to help him.
Living in South Africa, Gandhi had to go through the Boer War. Although few people know this, Gandhi was loyal to Britain at this time.
Through pacifist approaches, Gandhi supported the British fighting the Boers. For example, he led the Indian medical corps to help serve the British. At this time he was a British patriot.
His views on empire would change dramatically throughout his life. He initially believed that empire was based on the principles of equality and liberty. These principles were dear to him.
The Making of Gandhi
“The seeker of truth must be humbler than dust. The world tramples the dust under his feet, but the seeker of truth must humble himself so that even the dust can trample him. Only then, and until then, will he get a glimpse of the truth. – Mahatma Gandhi
Some changes in Gandhiji’s personal life would make him more famous. First, he attained personal attainment of celibacy. Celibacy is voluntary abstinence from sexual relations.
Many Hindu men practice celibacy later in life, but Gandhi did so in his 30s. This was very rare and shows his commitment to his religion.
Gandhi explained that the reason behind this decision was that as a young man he absorbed lust too easily.
He gave an example of how he failed to live with his father when he loved his wife when he died. Gandhi never forgave himself.
Additionally, Gandhi added a specific approach to political opposition to his philosophy. This type of protest would soon be called Satyagraha.
Satyagraha translates as truth-force. Gandhi was committed to refusing to obey unjust authority. He implemented this in 1906 by encouraging the Indian community to take a pledge of disobedience.
This defiance was in response to the Transvaal government’s plan to register every Indian over the age of eight. Everyone in that meeting was ready to take the pledge, even if it put their lives in danger.
Gandhi was the first to appear before a magistrate for refusing to register. He was sentenced to two months but actually sought a longer sentence.
This kind of action was part of the practice of Satyagraha. Gandhi devoted his time in prison to reading.
Rebellion and Declaration of Independence
“It is the action, not the fruit of the action, that matters. You have to do the right thing.
It may not be in your power, perhaps not in your time, that any fruit will come.
But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. from your actions
You never know what the outcome will be. But if you do nothing, no one will
There will be no results.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Another example of satyagraha was shown in response to the Rowlatt Act in India. Gandhiji proposed that the entire country should join the strike. Therefore, the entire country will spend a day fasting, praying and abstaining from physical labor.
These practices would be in response to repressive new laws. The response was overwhelming. Millions of Indians did Satyagraha. However, this approach was potentially too rigid at a very early stage.
The British arrested them, and angry mobs filled Indian cities. Violence spread throughout the country. Instead of using this mob support, Gandhi told the mob to go home.
He did not want satyagraha if it meant violence. In 1920, Gandhi began traveling across India protesting British customs. He encouraged Indian people to give up their western clothes and British jobs.
His commitment to the cause encouraged other volunteers to follow him. By 1922, Gandhi believed that the time was right to move from non-cooperation to full civil disobedience.
However, a terrible incident happened in the meantime. A local constable was killed by a mob in Chauri Chauri, a city in India. Gandhi panicked and withdrew from leading the civil disobedience movement.
He spent time meditating and reading to recover. Gandhi would be arrested and serve time in prison again for sedition.
During his time in prison, his movement lost momentum. The Indians returned to their jobs. However, more worryingly, Indians and Muslims lost their unity.
It was Gandhi who united these two religions and without him violence would have erupted. Gandhi continued to fight for independence, and finally, in January 1930, Gandhi wrote the Declaration of Independence of India.
Gandhiji’s last years
“ I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; The evil he does is permanent.” – Mahatma Gandhi
During Gandhiji’s final years, India gained independence from Britain. Churchill lost the British election to the leftist Labor Party. Labor was determined to help advance Indian independence.
The three years after his wife’s death were disastrous. Along with losing his wife, he saw his country split into India and Pakistan. Gandhi argued against partition. He wanted unity.
They felt that partition would lead to violence and forced migration. Gandhi was right. Hindus and Muslims killed each other in appalling numbers on the newly created borders.
People had to seek safety on both sides of the border for religious reasons. Thousands died, maybe even millions. Gandhi felt that India had not learned from his teachings of non-violence and solidarity with others.
He tried to stop this violence but to no avail. He observed several fasts ’till death’ or peace in Delhi. A fast he initiated lasted five days until Muslim and Hindu leaders promised to make peace.
He was expected to do the same for Punjab after his recovery. However, it was not to be. On Friday 30th January 1948, a Hindu nationalist named Nathuram Vinayak Godse entered Gandhi’s garden.
Instead of getting angry or aggressive at the intruder, the Mahatma gave the man a Hindu boon. However, the man took out a gun from his pocket and proceeded to shoot Gandhi four times.
Smoke billowed around Gandhi as his hands folded in a peaceful pose. His dying words were Hi Rama…Ma, meaning ‘Oh Lord’.
The killer’s motivation was that he felt that Gandhi was too favorable to Muslims during the partition of India. Godse hoped that Gandhi’s death would lead to war between India and Pakistan and the end of the Muslim state.
Instead, it led to peace, as Hindus and Muslims alike joined in mourning for the slain Mahatma.
Indeed, the whole world mourned: flags were lowered to half-mast, and kings, popes and presidents sent condolences to India.