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Religious Violence & Non-Violence
As the truth is relative and it changes constantly based on one's own experiences and in some cases on revelations, and since the world, although based on eternal values, is constantly changing, the story of Gandhi's life is the story of a constant evolution on the way to face God. The book Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth is the story of a man who found that pure love is the best tool to use on the path to one's achievement: be it a person or a whole nation.
Ghandi is the personality everyone knows something about, although very few people actually know more than his contribution thorough non-violence that led to ending the century old dominance and control of the British over what are today India and Pakistan. In his introduction to his book Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, Ghandi explains his decision to write about his life as a determination to remain truthful to himself, to the world and to his wish "to see God face-to-face" (Gandhi, xxvi). Gandhi as a deeply religious man and a politically involved figure who believed to have reached the essence of his religiousness did not dismiss the suggestion to write about his life. Even if autobiographical narratives were characteristic to the Western world, Gandhi avows having conceived the writings based on his own experiences as an account of his dealings with finding the path, the solution to his struggle to find the essence, the meaning of existence and more especially, to share his findings with those of the others.
The truth and his duty to be truthful in word and thoughts were the leading characters in the story of Gandhi's life as he writes in his Autobiography. His struggle to find out what the truth encompasses for those who decide to remain truthful to themselves while utterly aware of their condition of social beings testifies of his fight with the weaknesses of the body and the acknowledgement of the human condition that makes one an easy pray to the easiest way out of any situation.
The leading thought in this account of the life of a political leader, martyr and a symbol of freedom is that although as humans we are more or less destined to make mistakes and to fail, we always have the choice to better ourselves through the teachings of our own mistakes. One hardship after another, especially during the most fragile years of one's youth, as soon as acknowledged as a preparatory stage for the finding of the right path to reach the divinity, appear in Gandhi's book as not only necessary but also steps inevitable to be taken. Gandhi is always careful to emphasize that there are few certainties in life and they only come after a long chain of experiences. And even as they come, they may be changing into something different, so that in the end, only one constant remains eternal, unchanged and that is love.
Hinduism and its religious sacred texts profoundly influenced Gandhi in his actions and the way he shaped his life along with that of his fellow co-nationals. One of the most impressive traits of his account of his own fight to find the essence of religion is that Gandhi is not pretending to have found the absolute truth. He does not try to convert, he does not write like a missionary. Although he had countless followers and left his mark on the destinies of more than one country, Gandhi's modesty surpasses the teachings of his religion. Regardless of the religion he was born with, Gandhi's experiences testify of a man who sought the essence of human existence in a world made of people who have the right and the duty to take the path to reach God though the best means available to them. Religion has a meaning in Gandhi's book as long as it leads to the same aim: finding God. Gandhi identified himself at times with a whole nation. He never ceased to try new paths and learn from his own mistakes as well as from those of the others.
An autobiography is written with the advantage of the hindsight and Gandhi is always careful to present the earlier stages of his life through the lenses of the wisdom of the older age. Customs and social rules that he accepted as a child and a young boy are taken under the merciless magnifying glass of maturity and exposed either as good or bad, depending of the results of having lived through them. The accounts of a lifetime experience are inevitably written from a historical point-of-view, but the temporal dimension is accompanied by the spiritual evolution of a man who as he is careful to point out the character of "experiments with the truth" he grew up with. He underlines that only a child can be completely and unintentionally sincere. That is why Gandhi, who read tens and thousands of religious as well as profane books, makes clear from the beginning that, the truth is as easy to understand for an adult as it is for a child. Truth, as the aim of every religious undertaking, regardless of the religion, is destined to give people hope.
Gandhi as the Indian hero and the father of the liberation movement of the new state is careful to present his life experiences as the result of the most common strivings to understand the truth and act according to its principles. And, in the end, it is important to understand that it is not what he found, but how he found it. The way to know oneself in order to get to know the rest is easy only if one is wiling to give up one's place as the center of the universe. As Gandhi states in the introduction to his autobiography: "the instruments for the quest of truth are as simple as they are difficult. They may appear quite impossible to an arrogant person, and quite possible to an innocent child" (Gandhi, xxviii).
Gandhi's book about his life journey is inevitably following a historical timeline, but as underlined before, this temporal dimension is only necessary because the spiritual evolution he achieved as well as his political successful undertakings came as the result of his experiences of a lifetime. Throughout his autobiography, Gandhi is careful to emphasize that his repeated trials, failures and successes, have taught him how to escape the things that form the pollutants of one's life in order to understand the essence.
Society's mistakes, child marriages that were the custom in India by the end of the nineteenth century and the laws and rules of the conjugal life taught to the newly wedded children in little pamphlets as well as his own mistakes, the blinding passion of a young boy who "unwittingly hurled" himself along with his wife "into the ocean of life" (Gandhi, p.11) contributed to Gandhi's first wrongful steps on the path of conjugal life. Gandhi presents his regrets of not having known how to overcome his and his wife's innocence in order to help her start on her own path, as an individual completely responsible for her own fate: "I must therefore confess that most of my efforts to instruct Kasturbai in our youth were unsuccessful. And when I awoke from the sleep of lust, I had already launched forth into public life, which did not leave me much spare time"(Gandhi, p. 13). After having recognized his mistakes and confessed, Gandhi adds one certainty that he will repeat throughout the book: "I know that nothing is impossible for pure love"(Gandhi, p.13). This is his way of telling the readers that he found the secret to enlightenment after series of failures. Pure love is the way to overcome any obstacles and Gandhi's deeds are the expression of this conclusion.
As a child, who grew up in Porbandar, from parents with little education, but great knowledge from experience and their religious life, Gandhi presents the first years of his childhood as being marked by the personalities of his parents and their love for their family. Along with the family life, it came the responsibility of having to follow the customs his family respected for centuries: he marries from the age of thirteen, when he was still a boy and became a father, even if only for a few days, at the age of sixteen.
In spite of the limitations of the social conventions his family was very strict to follow, Gandhi describes the life of a child who enjoyed the love and worth of a big family. He received love and was able to respond with love. This is one aspect that he hints to the reader as having influenced his experiences with the truth. Love started with his love for his parents and siblings, continued with the more complex aspects of his love and passion for his wife and went through the acknowledgment of the more encompassing love for…[continue]
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