I am really stoked to finally be able to write this. I've been working on reading this book on and off for about 2 years, and it feels so incredible to have finally finished Gandhi An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments With Truth.
So, first things first, Why this review?
The answer, in short, is that Gandhi is such an incredible man, I want to give you the opportunity to learn some of the things I've learned.
The next important thing to look at is, Well, who is Gandhi?
Gandhi is a follower of the Truth (God) first, a practitioner and advocate of non-violence second, and a lawyer third. He grew up in India, had an arranged marriage when he was 13, and traveled to Britain to study law when he was about 18. He studied there for a few years, and then spent time in South Africa trying to bring about social reform. When World War I started he went up to Britain to try to help as a medic, but was eventually sent home to help out in India. When he got back there, he continued his practice as a lawyer with his main mission to help people. Near the end of the book there is some discussion of the early stages of his nonviolent (Ahimsa) movement and then BAM.
The book is actually about 400 pages of how Gandhi grew to be the man who would reform India. It is NOT 450 pages of how Gandhi actually reformed India though... If only I had known... But still, I don't regret it.
The next question to look at is: What did I learn? or maybe a better question, "What are the fundamental lessons of this book?"
I think the answer to this question can best be taken from his farewell address (and no, there are NOT any spoilers here)
"But the path of self-purification is hard and steep. To attain to perfect purity one has to become absolutely passion-free in thought, speech and action; to rise above the opposing currents of love and hatred, attachment and repulsion. I know that I have not in me as yet that triple purity, in spite of constant ceaseless striving for it. That is why the world's praise fails to move me, indeed it very often stings me. To conquer the subtle passions seems to me to be harder far than the physical conquest of the world by force of arms. Ever since my return to India I have had experiences of the dormant passions lying hidden within me. The knowledge of them has made me feel humiliated though not defeated. The experiences and experiments have sustained me great joy. But I know that I have still before me a difficult path to traverse. I must reduce myself to zero. So long as man does not of his own free will put himself last among fellow creatures, there is no salvation for him. Ahimsa [non violence] is the farthest limit of humility.
In bidding farewell to the reader, for the time being at any rate, I ask him to join with me in prayer to the God of Truth that He may grant me the boon of Ahimsa in mind, word and deed. "
-Gandhi, page 454
I really couldn't sum it up better than that. The major focus of this book is how he faces challenges and overcomes them through his reliance on God. The book also focuses on understanding the spirit of self-reliance and non-violence. I will say that Gandhi sets a pretty high standard. I can't honestly say that I've been converted and plan to give up all my worldly pleasures to live a simple life. I can say though, that Gandhi has shown me the importance of living an honest life, and he has shown me that even the best men struggle with living a purer life. Knowing this has helped me in trying to live a better life, as it has reassured me that living a purer life will always have its struggles.
The last question that I feel ought to be answered is:
Should you read this book?
The short answer is probably not. The book is a very tough read, and you can learn about Gandhi in so many more interesting ways.
I'd say if you do both of these things and still want more, then you should check the book out.
PS- This is what's next (hopefully): AWOL on the AT