My rating: 3 of 5 stars
As a record of maintaining a clear political mind and one’s search for strong character I enjoyed this book. Concerning his spiritual searches, I thought they were interesting to read, though I disagreed with him and, often times, found his point of view quite difficult to accept.
I must mention one thing which is not in the book before I continue, but is relevant to this biography, and that is that it could be said that Gandhi was a pedophile. He was known to sleep with his niece naked, and there are differing reports as to how far his behavior went. He also had a covey of teenage girls that surrounded him always, and there are accounts, perhaps apocryphal, related to his pedophilia therein as well. Supposedly he did these things in the name of ‘strengthening his self-control over lust.’ If that was his motivation, I don’t think it is an excusable one.
I mention these things only because I think it relevant to place the autobiography into context. The autobiography was written during the time of the above mentioned events, and there were also accounts surfacing as well about a supposed romantic affair between Gandhi and Sarla Devi. Who can say whether this influenced his writing in the process?
That being said, I believe his writing is full of an honest voice. His thought process and judgment are intriguing, naturally. He states at the end of the book that he has written it as he believes that insomuch as it helps another to find Truth, it is valuable. His memories of how he learned to be honest in his relationships are particularly valuable, as he often explains how he came to understand and admit when he was wrong, what words he used to express his apology, and how he accepted the answer–which was nearly always met with kindness.
His attitude towards his wife, which he explains in this autobiography, is often criticized as being abusive. I agree with that. It can also be understood that the Hindu religion sees women as servants and subjects to the husband. It seemed to me that, as he continually developed his point of view on how to treat his wife, he did seem to value his wife’s natural rights more and more.
For those who do not speak Hindi, you will find it difficult to keep track of characters, names, and places. It’s good to have access to the internet nearby in order to understand the meaning behind words such as “brahmacharya,” “ahimsa,” and “satyagraha.”
I had to disagree strongly with his opinion that Christ was either just a spiritual teacher, or that the Bible is just a metaphor for finding the divine God. Anyone who reads the Bible honestly will realize that it does not leave either of those two options to the reader. Christ claims to be the son of God, not a spiritual teacher. Either he was a blasphemer, a lunatic, or the divine Son of God he claimed to be. Secondly, the Bible claims itself to be a historical account. If it is not, it is based upon a lie as well, and in that event it could not be said to be capable of leading one to ultimate Truth.
I give the book three stars for its clarity of thought and effective voice.