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. Sjt. 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 task, when I was discharged. Swami Anand has now repeated 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
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
field are now known, not only in 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 posses for working in the political field.
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 God face to face, to attain Moksha./1/
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 oneself 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 experimenters 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
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, meanwhile, 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 a mirage. Let hundreds like me perish, but let
truth prevail. Let us not reduce the standards 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 everyone 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, not 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
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.
So wicked and loathsome as I?
I have forsaken my Maker,
So faithless have I been.
But I must close. I can only
take up the actual story in the next chapter.
M. K. GANDHI
The Ashram, Sabarmati.
26th November, 1925
Lit. freedom from birth and death. The nearest English equivalent is salvation.