Okay, so who's this Gandhi guy people talk about? You might recognize his image, or maybe you've heard about the biographical film bearing his name that won eight Oscars. We bet you've seen the famous quote misattributed to him: "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."
But, who was he?
Someone you should definitely know about, that's who.
Mohandas K. Gandhi was the foremost leader who used nonviolent civil disobedience—that means protest and non-cooperation without hurting anyone—to rally India to independence from Britain in the first half of the 1900s and who conducted plenty of other mass actions fighting for the rights of Indians in his country and in South Africa. Oh, yeah: and his life inspired others famous for their human rights work, including Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela.
No biggie, right? Wrong. Huge biggie. One of the biggest biggies. This dude was out-of-control influential as a leader, political figure, and icon of human rights.
But, how about Gandhi the man? What was he like behind the scenes?
Luckily for you, O Inquisitive Shmooper, The Story of My Experiments with Truth, first published in two volumes in 1927 and 1929, is Gandhi's autobiography. Between the pages of this book, the Big G (note: no one calls Gandhi that) reveals what makes him tick. We get an intimate look at Gandhi's life—he wrote other works, but this autobiography is all about his ideals, beliefs, thoughts, and feelings—not the famous campaigns you can read about elsewhere.
In short, this autobiography details how Gandhi, across his life, was someone who searched for Truth with a capital T—which he identifies with God—by purifying himself through fasting, diet control, giving up sex, the study of religion, and other techniques. He sees ahimsa, or non-violence, as the means by which to find truth. It means more than just refraining from hurting people: it means loving all life on earth and seeking to do good for everyone, even those who oppose you. The Story of My Experiments with Truth aims to get you to take up that torch, too.
We're not going to say that this book is going to get you to give up meat. We're not going to say that this book is going to get you to swear yourself to celibacy. And we're definitely not saying that, just by reading this book, you're going to be able to practice ahimsa without a hitch.
What we are going to say is that, if you read this book, you'll come away amazed by Gandhi. (It's basically impossible to not be amazed by Gandhi.) We'll also bet that you'll come away with a new appreciation for how improving yourself can contribute to improving the world around you.
Okay, we lied. Not about the Gandhi part, but about the 'nuff said part—because it's impossible to talk about Gandhi too much. This guy is credited with freeing the second-most populous nation on earth from British colonial rule.
This guy served as an inspiration for people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela—and when you're inspiring two of the most inspiring dudes who ever lived, you know you're doing it right.
This is the man of whom Albert Einstein (yes, freakin' Einstein) said: "Generations to come will scarcely believe that such a one as this walked the earth in flesh and blood."
And—oh, yeah—did we mention the part about Gandhi changing the entire dang course of the entire dang world while speaking about the importance of non-violent action? Oh, yeah—did we mention that he basically coined the idea of non-violence?
Once more, with emphasis: DANG. (And we never use shouty caps, guys. But Gandhi deserves a "dang" in all caps, 72-point font.)
Phew. Now that we've told you about how awesomesauce Gandhi is, it's time to tell you why this book is worth not only a read through, but a read-every-year through: The Story of My Experiments with Truth is Gandhi's autobiography.
It's not just a list of facts, like what you'd hear some tweedy-sounding History Channel dude lecturing on about. This is Gandhi's personal life, as told by Gandhi. He shoots straight. He tells you about his entire life, warts and all.
Here are some of Gandhi's warty low points: dude misses his father's death because he's busy having sex. He tries to blend into posh British society even though it means kind of turning his back on his culture. He gets mad. He gets lusty. He gets confused.
But Gandhi being Gandhi, he moves past all that. He goes from a young whippersnapper of 13 to an 18-year-old so impossibly self-possessed that he decides to study law in England…even though it means getting kicked out of his caste. He then goes on to study languages, religions, literature, and other human beings with such intensity and discipline that he's able to come to some pretty deep conclusions about the state of humanity and the world.
Here's the real beauty of this book: Gandhi's autobiography shows us a powerful role model for change. Sure, you might not be trying to live only on fruits and nuts (like Gandhi did), but you might be striving to improve yourself in some way that's still a challenge. Watching Gandhi's masterful self-control and hearing him express his convictions about his ideals is both a) inspiring and b) comforting. Gandhi encourages us, but he also tells us that it's okay to take life seriously and try to be the best we can be.
Without coming off as judgmental or self-righteous, he tells us why he humbly believes his deeds bring him closer to truth and God. Reading about how he implements these changes—or experiments with truth, as he calls them—we can't help but be mind-boggled. And deeply inspired.
By changing ourselves, Gandhi says, we're soon able to change the world around us since, as he puts it, purification is highly infectious. It may seem like an impossible task to someday make a difference in the world, but it starts with the little things…and this book is an illustration of just how much power can be drawn from implementing small changes in your life.
Once more: DANG.
This info-packed website is maintained by Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal and the Gandhi Research Foundation.
Gandhi Heritage Portal
Check out this website for an excellent repository of Gandhi data.
Gandhi Research Foundation
Still don't have enough Gandhi in your life? See this website, the official home of the Gandhi Research Foundation, for even more.
Gandhi: The Movie
Here's a film biography of Gandhi's life that won a whopping eight Oscars.
Gandhi, My Father
What's it like when your father is a worldwide hero? This movie is an account of the troubled relationship between Gandhi and his eldest son.
The Making of the Mahatma
This is a film about the early life of Gandhi in South Africa.
George Orwell's short essay on Gandhi
What did the author of 1984 and Animal Farm make of Gandhi? Find out here.
Gandhi's New York Times obituary
Obituaries are articles marking the death of someone, and those in The New York Times are recognized as very important pieces.
How did Gandhi influence Martin Luther King, Jr.?
This article by an Indian ambassador explores Gandhi's influence on the famous U.S. civil rights leader.
Rare interview with Gandhi
This brief video of a few minutes is one of the few video interviews of Gandhi available.
Collection of Gandhi-related videos
Here we have a webpage full of Gandhi videos for you to check out, including one where Martin Luther King, Jr. explains Gandhi's influence on him.
Get your Gandhi on, audio-wise, at this webpage, which has links to lots of Gandhi audio clips, including The Story of My Experiments with Truth as a free audiobook.
The man himself.
Here are some less-common Gandhi pics.