Quote of the book
“Experience has taught me that silence is part of the spiritual discipline of the votary of truth”
5 key points
- Gandhi was introverted and quiet, explaining how as a child he was naturally shy and kept his thoughts and words to himself.
- For Gandhi, taking a walk helped to shape his thoughts and keep him healthy. This is something he emphasises throughout his book.
- Vegetarianism was a big part of Gandhi’s life, though it was only in London that he felt more spiritual about the practice.
- Gandhi was an advocate of learning several languages. He could speak English, Hindi and Gujarati. He also spent time studying several others including French, Tamil, Latin, and several regional Indian languages.
- Gandhi’s approach to life, in general, was in the service of others. Through journalism, law, the people he met, and the decisions he made, his philosophy remained to serve others.
This book is an essential read for anyone interested in general philosophy, South Asian history, and spirituality.
Gandhi wrote the majority of his autobiography in prison, when the British authorities at the time put him on trial for delivering speeches encouraging people to rebel against the authorities. The book overall follows Gandhi’s journey during his search for truth. As part of the search for truth, Gandhi touches upon several aspects of Hindu philosophy, notably Dharma, Moksha and Ahimsa.
Gandhi starts the book by explaining his childhood. He was born into a less well-off family and married at age 13. In school, he was shy and quiet, keeping his thoughts and words to himself. He would go straight to school and come straight home. He shares about his younger life, speaking openly about his perception of himself as a husband and his short break from vegetarianism.
He went to London to study law. It was only in London that he felt more spiritual about his vegetarianism. He devotes some time to explaining this. He then spends time in South Africa practising law. He describes his experiences of facing prejudice for being Indian. For example, he explains how he was unable to get a haircut or travel 1st class on a train.
He explains his journey of experimentation, such as experimenting with alternative treatments to those that the doctor suggested, particularly when they conflicted with his spirituality for vegetarianism. He argued that if the experimentation is honest, then God rewards this, and it leads to “a quicker discovery of truth”.
In the final part, Gandhi elaborates on his political activities. He also reflects on the poverty and inequality in India as well as his passion for unity between Hindus and Muslims. He emphasises this as part of establishing a more peaceful India, in order to be ready for Independence from the British.
It is empowering to see the growth of an influential figure who does not have the loudest voice in the room. Gandhi writes in a modest and humble manner, sharing his introspection of his behaviour towards the people in his life and the reasoning behind his decisions. Whilst in Benares, India, he was given the title of Mahatma, and his reflection upon being bestowed with this title is reflective of his humility.
As a book, it is an accessible read. Having some very basic knowledge of South Asian philosophies will enhance the experience, but it is by no means necessary, as the spiritual and philosophical concepts are universal.
This book is multifaceted and thus it could be approached from different angles. It offers an insight into South Asian history during the time of the British Empire. It offers philosophy, spanning from Hindu philosophy, spirituality, religion, and what in the modern day is widely known as veganism. It also offers an insight into the mind of one of the greatest leaders of modern history.
Overall rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐