“The Story of My Experiments with Truth” by Mahatma Gandhi is definitely not a literary piece. There is no flow in the thoughts, no beauty of the prose, and is too long for our generation. But isn’t it how life is – up and down, sometimes not making any sense especially when it is interrupted by a new thought. And long when every moment is significant.
All Indians are taught of Gandhi since childhood, which may be one of the reasons why today’s generation is not so keen on reading about him. But with so many great people like Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr singing his praises, I thought it’s time to give his autobiography, a try.
Well, in short, it is about truth, as is evident from the name. It seems truthful of him, at least. No self-boasting or hiding information, just truthful, sometimes abashedly so. It is all his thoughts in his own words, and thus paints a vivid picture of him, his personality.
How ordinary becomes extraordinary.
So who was Gandhi, apart from the man leading India’s freedom struggle, and how did he become a Mahatma? What is the face behind the Mahatma? This book explains it all and in a much better way than the school textbooks. In fact, I am totally surprised by this book, the one thing that struck me most was how ordinary he seemed to be. The way he represented himself is exactly how we all think of ourselves. There was just one thing extraordinary about him that he was a man of determination. This one trait led him to paths, that ordinary people do not traverse. We all adjust and compromise and that is how we remain ordinary.
According to him he was not even a good barrister, not a great husband, and has been on the right path only cause of luck or God. It seems with just one virtue, his fetish for truth, he catapulted to the wall of fame.
There is a strange humility in his work, even the name of the book is humble – it is not his belief in truth but experiments. The weaknesses that he represented about himself, none of us will ever even say aloud. Who will agree to be a nervous wreck, enough to lose his first case disastrously?
This story is about how he overcame all his weaknesses and got full control over his mind.
He seemed to be a man of extremes with every quality to an extent that can not be easily tolerated. Truthfulness that can never be practical. Stubborn to a fault. Hellbent on nursing people. In fact, he was always looking out for someone to nurse, as it made him happy. A stickler for cleanliness especially in communities. Whatever he did – he did to the extreme, taught to the extreme. I do not believe in extremes, but the truth is extreme people can only bring in revolutions and huge transformations.
Like our generation today, he would read of all religions and then follow whatever he likes. No wonder he got killed for such thoughts. It was a radical world then. Again the important point in his case is, he would follow the goodness from each religion. Don’t you think, if we follow even 5 good principles of any religion, we can become great humans? Alas! even that is a challenging task for us.
He may have started ordinary but by sticking to few fundamental principles of spirituality he became extraordinary.
What can our generation learn from him?
What I like about any book is what I take from it. In our daily life, we do not need to enter the political field or transform large associations. He started slow, it was a letter at a time to the relevant authorities. Even common people like us can accomplish such things. We may be ignored, or not. The idea is to persist. I have never been in favor of a violent protest but his path of silent protests has a ringing spiritual essence. Have you ever noticed, it is tough to ignore a persistent person? Fortunately, in our world of Customer Cares, e-mails, and Twitter, it is a lot easy to be persistent.
The other interesting point I learned from him is – when making a stand if you do not come across as a savage, it helps. The power of polite society as shown by Gandhi & Mandela is humongous. The more decent you are, the more numbers of society will follow you, and the more followers the more the immensity of its impact.
My favorite part of the book is the part in South Africa as till then he was a nobody, like billions of us. It was that threshold point, till where we can easily follow him.
A short book review
This book was not about self-aggrandizement, like other autobiographies. He defined his image as he sees in the mirror. Nothing more, nothing less. And of course, there are many lessons to learn here. I won’t call this an irresistible page-turner and it is definitely too lengthy, but for those who want to learn from great minds and who want to be inspired in life, this book is a must. And a great mind he definitely had.
Read it the way I do, a few pages a day, and get inspired.
I have done my own experiments with truth, which made me realize that truth gives us internal peace and spiritual power. You can also let me know in the comments if you have are interested to experiment with truth and non-violence. And what is that first step you would like to take on this journey?