Sunday, 30 November 2014

Mahatma Gandhi

The book I opted for in 1962 was not “one flew over the Chuckoo's nest”, not “a Clockwork Orange”, but The Essential Gandhi: An Anthology of His Writings on His Life, Work, and Ideas . I have never read the other two famous books as well, all published for the first time in 1962, but I wanted my list a bit to represent my personality: a little bit of everything. I did not know anything about Gandhi emoviexcept the fact that he was killed, except that he stood for non-violence behavior. I was surprised to learn he was born in 1869. It is significant his name is still a household name after so many years, Never even seen the Ben Kingsley movie in 1982. So I started the book with and an open mind. And critics say there are far better biographies about the man. And perhaps there are. Gandi wrote this book himself but did not always put things into a context, he assumed we already know things. He simply is a diary writer, not a writer. And the narrator wrote in between the context so people could understand the bigger picture. Also it seems the Indian language is more compact than the English language so the writer had to put in words to allow the reader to understand.  But to read the words from Gandhi himself is such a humbling experience, it outweighs the acknowledged drawbacks with ease.


Mahatma is Sanskrit for “Great Soul”. Gandhi himself thought the title foisted on him, was more a burden than he was very proud of it. In the book he writes:
"Truth to me is infinitely dearer that the "mahatmaship" witch is purely a burden. It is my knowledge of my limitations and my nothingness which so far saved me from the oppressiveness of "mahatmaship". The Mahatma I must leave to his fate. Though a non-coöperator I shall gladly subscribe to a bill to make it criminal for anybody to call me Mahatma and to touch my feet..."
  I will not repeat the life story - and the story of the book that describes it. I'm simply not good enough to do it in a single blog post. What I will do is to take a few quotes I think that are worth remembering:

Of Children

Gandhi's correspondence with children gave him much joy, and he attended to it with the same devotion and care he showed all his work. A little girl once wrote to him "We are working to prevent war and making posters. God bless you". Gandhi gave his reply:
I was delighted to have your sweet notes with funny drawings made by you... Yes, it is little children like you who will stop all war. This means you never quarrel with other boys and girls or among yourselves... May God bless you all. My kisses to you all if you will let me kiss you..."

Of Love and War

"Mankind has to get out of violence only through non-violence. As bombs will nt be destroyed by counter bombs. Hatred can be overcome only by love. Counter-hatred only increases the surface as well as the depth of hatred".

Of discrimination

 "It is a law of nature that the skin of races living near the equator should be black. And if we believe that there must be beauty in everything fashioned by nature, we woud ... steer clear of all narrow and one-sided conceptions of beauty. In my opinion, there is no place on earth and no race which is not capable of producing the fines types of humanity, given suitable opportunities and education"

 Of voluntary poverty

"And those who have followed out of this vow of voluntary poverty to the fullest extent possible... testify that when you dispossess yourself everything you have, you really possess all the treasures of the world."

 Of parent responsibility

"My brother gave me up, and practically stopped all communication. I was deeply distressed, but it would have been a greater distress to give up what I considered to be my duty.  But that did not affect my devotion to him. His great love for me was at the root of his misery. Near the end of his life, however, he appreciated my viewpoint. He commended his sons to my care, to be brought up as I thought fit. His sons had been brought up in the old atmosphere and could not change their course of life. I could not draw them to me. It was not their fault. Who can erase the impressions with witch he is  born? It is idle to expect one's children and wards necessarily to follow the same course of evolution as oneself. 
This instance to some extent serves to show what a terrible responsibility it is to be a parent."

Just five, not famous, examples of the wisdom of the book. I found reading it a humbling experience. It is one thing to say you believe in something, is it another to give your properties away. Your pride away. Your life away for it. Gandhi did all that and more. The book is an inspiration to read more about the man and the things that he believed in. What the world needs now is more people like Gandhi that say "Anger is the enemy of non-violence and pride is a monster that swallows it up."

I'm glad I chose this book, it will not be the last time I have read parts of it.
But looking at the right side of my blog says I have only 7 days left to read the 1963 book, the Letters of Vincent van Gogh. And I'm sure it is pride that made me buy the English version instead of the Dutch.



  1. When the leaders in the world would act according to Gandhi's principles the world would be a better one.
    Thanks for reminding us.


    1. Yes, the problems Gandhi faced are the problems of today, but his solutions could be the solutions of tomorrow. All we have to deal with is toleration that someone else thinks differently.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Appy,

  2. You are so right , appy.

    Han this book is for sure on My : To read book.
    Thank you for sharing.

    Take care, Mona Lisa

    1. On your TBR-list Mona Lisa. With all those challenges with Han ahead? Well you do read fast! Grin,

      No serious, it is a very good book and I know you will enjoy it as much as I did.

      Thank you for your lovely comment,

  3. I have not read any of the biographies of Gandhi but I do like the idea of reading his own words rather than what others have written about him. Thank you Han...will have to check this out.

    Hugs and Blessings...

    1. I didn't either Cat, but I think you will like it. Please browse around, for the book is not very cheap.

      Thank you for your nice comment,

  4. Impressive. He was a wonderful man and left behind some great wisdom. But the book, for me - an avid reader, might be too much. Let me know how it is. The movie was too long for me to sit through in one sitting

    1. It is not an easy book to read, so if you are interested in his way of life it is an easy read, but otherwise you might not finish it and the book is too expensive to read only half of it.

      Not many people know their own limitations, Blonde,


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