It has been 140 years since the birth of Mahatma Gandhi. And his autobiography continues to be a bestseller with annual sales of 200,000 copies even in these rapidly changing times.
Most of Gandhi’s written works have been compiled into 100 volumes. These are known as the Complete Works of Mahatma Gandhi, and they run into about 50,000 pages.
The apostle of non-violence is said to be the only public figure to have written so much.
“He wrote without stopping. When his right hand got tired, he would use his left. There is still so much of his work not in the public domain – as many as 30,000 pages are scattered in the form of letters and other writings,” said Anupam Mishra, director Gandhi Peace Foundation.
Here are some excerpts from his writings.
Absence of Hatred
“I hold myself to be incapable of hating any being on earth. By a long course of prayerful discipline, I have ceased for over forty years to hate anybody. I know this is a big claim. Nevertheless, I make it in all humility. But I can and do hate evil wherever it exists. I hate the system of government that the British people have set up in India. I hate the ruthless exploitation of India even as I hate from the bottom of my heart the hideous system of untouchability for which millions of Hindus have made themselves responsible. But I do not hate the domineering Englishmen as I refuse to hate the domineering Hindus. I seek to reform them in all the loving ways that are open to me.”
“The trouble with our votaries of ahimsa is that they have made of ahimsa a blind fetish and put the greatest obstacle in the way of the spread of true ahimsa in our midst. The current-and, in my opinion, mistaken-view of ahimsa has drugged our conscience and rendered us insensible to a host of other and more insidious forms of himsa like harsh words, harsh judgements, ill will, anger, spite and lust of cruelty; it has made us forget that there may be far more himsa in the slow torture of men and animals, the starvation and exploitation to which they are subjected out of selfish greed, the wanton humiliation and oppression of the weak and the killing of their self-respect that we witness all around us today.”
On Voluntary Poverty
“When I found myself drawn into the political coil, I asked myself what was necessary for me, in order to remain untouched by immorality, by untruth, by what is known as political gain. I came definitely to the conclusion that, if I had to serve the people in whose midst my life was cast and of whose difficulties I was a witness from day to day, I must discard all wealth, all possession.
I cannot tell you with truth that, when this belief came to me, I discarded everything immediately. I must confess to you that progress at first was slow. And now, as I recall those days of struggle, I remember that it was also painful in the beginning. But, as days went by, I saw that I had to throw overboard many other things which I used to consider as mine, and a time came when it became a matter of positive joy to give up those things. One after another then, by almost geometric progression, things slipped away from me. And, as I am describing my experiences, I can say a great burden fell off my shoulders and I felt that I could now walk with ease and do my work also in the service of my fellow men with great comfort and still greater joy. The possession of anything then became a troublesome thing and a burden.”
On travelling in third class in trains
“The third class compartments are practically as dirty, and the closet arrangements as bad, today as they were then, There may be a little improvement now, but the difference between the facilities provided for the first and the third classes is out of all proportion to the difference between the fares for the two classes. Third class passengers are treated like sheep and their comforts are sheep’s comforts. In Europe I travelled third and only once first, just to see what it was like but there I noticed no such difference between the first and the third classes. In South Africa class comforts are better there than here. In parts of South Africa third class compartments are provided with sleeping accommodation and cushioned seats. The accommodation is also regulated, so as to prevent overcrowding, whereas here I have found the regulation limit usually exceeded.
The indifference of the railway authorities to the comforts of the third class passengers, combined with the dirty and inconsiderate habits of the passengers themselves, makes third class travelling a trial for a passenger of cleanly ways.
I can think of only one remedy for this awful state of things that educated men should make a point of travelling third class and reforming the habits of the people, as also of never letting the railway authorities rest in peace, sending in complaints wherever necessary, never resorting to bribes or any unlawful means for obtaining their own comforts, and never putting up with infringements of rules on the part of anyone concerned. This, I am sure, would bring about considerable improvement.”
About denying his children education in ‘elite’schools
“I could have sent them to the schools for European children, but only as a matter of favour and exception. No other Indian children were allowed to attend them.Had I been without a sense of self-respect and satisfied of myself with having for my children the education that other children could not get, I should have deprived them of the object-lesson in liberty and self-respect that I gave them at the cost of the literary training. And where a choice has to be made between liberty and learning, who will not say that the former has to be preferred a thousand times to the latter”
About accepting Gifts
“The Natal Indians bathed me with the nectar of love. Farewell meetings were arranged at every place, and costly gifts were presented to me. The gifts of course included things in gold and silver, but there were articles of costly diamond as well.
What right had I to accept all these gifts ? Accepting them, how could I persuade myself that I was serving the community without remuneration ? All the gifts, excepting a few from my clients, were purely for my service to the community, and I could make no difference between my clients and co-workers; for the clients also helped me in my public work.
The evening I was presented with the bulk of these things I had a sleepless night. I walked up and down my room deeply agitated, but could find no solution. It was difficult for me to forego gifts worth hundreds, it was more difficult to keep them.
I decided that I could not keep these things. I drafted a letter, creating a trust of them in favour of the community
I am definitely of opinion that a public worker should accept no costly gifts.”
” Satyagraha is a relentless search for truth and a determination to search truth….Satyagraha is an attribute of the spirit within….Satyagraha has been designed as an effective substitute for violence…. Satyagraha is a process of educating public opinion, such that it covers all the elements of the society and makes itself irresistible….The fight of Satyagraha is for the strong in spirit, not the doubter or the timid. Satyagraha teaches us the art of living as well as dying….Satyagraha, of which civil-resistance is but a part, is to me the universal law of life….Satyagraha can rid society of all evils, political, economic, and moral…A genuine Satyagraha should never excite contempt in the opponent even when it fails to command regard or respect….Satyagraha thrives on repression till at last the repressor is tired and the object of Satyagraha is gained….Satyagraha does not depend on the outside [for] help; it derives all its strength from within….The method of Satyagraha requires that the Satyagrahi should never lose hope, so long as there is the slightest ground left for it….In the dictionary of Satyagraha, there is no enemy. Since Satyagraha is a method of conversion and conviction, it seeks never to use the slightest coercion… For a Satyagraha brigade, only those are eligible who believe in ahimsa–nonviolence and satya–truth… A Satyagrahi has infinite patience, abundant faith in others, and ample hope….A Satyagrahi cannot go to law for a personal wrong….In the code of the Satyagrahi, there is no such thing as surrender to brute force.”
About his Autobiography
“My uniform experience has convinced me that there is no other God than Truth. And if every page of these chapters does not proclaim to the reader that the only means for the realization of Truth is ahimsa, I shall deem all my labour in writing these chapters to have been in vain. And even though my efforts in this behalf may prove fruitless, let the readers know that the vehicle, not the great principle, is at fault.”