Gandhi's Views On Truth
have still to relate some of my failings during this meat-eating period and also
previous to it, which date from before my marriage or soon after.
relative and I became fond of smoking. Not that we saw any good in smoking, or
were enamoured of the smell of a cigarette. We simply imagined a sort of
pleasure in emitting clouds of smoke from our mouths. My uncle had the habit,
and when we saw him smoking, we thought we should copy his example. But we had
no money. So we began pilfering stumps of cigarettes thrown away by my uncle.
stumps, however, were not always available, and could not emit much smoke
either. So we began to steal coppers from the servant's pocket money in order to
purchase Indian cigarettes. But the question was where to keep them. We could
not of course smoke in the presence of elders. We managed somehow for a few
weeks on these stolen coppers. In the meantime we heard that the stalks of a
certain plant were porous and could be smoked like cigarettes. We got them and
began this kind of smoking.
we were far from being satisfied with such things as these. Our want of
independence began to smart, It was unbearable that we should be unable to do
anything without the elders' permission. At last, in sheer disgust, we decided
to commit suicide!
how were we to do it? From where were we to get the poison? We heard that
Dhatura seeds were an effective poison. Off we went to the jungle in search of
these seeds, and got them. Evening was thought to be the auspicious hour. We
went to Kedarji Mandir, put ghee in the temple-lamp, had the Darshan and then
looked for a lonely corner. But our courage failed us. Supposing we were not
instantly killed? And what was the good of killing ourselves? Why not rather put
up with the lack of independence? But we swallowed two or three seeds
nevertheless. We dared not take more. Both of us fought shy of death, and
decided to go to Ramji Mandir to compose ourselves, and to dismiss the thought
realized that it was not as easy to commit suicide as to contemplate it. And
since then, whenever I have heard of someone threatening to commit suicide, it
has had little or on effect on me.
thought of suicide ultimately resulted in both of us bidding good- bye to the
habit of smoking stumps of cigarettes and of stealing the servant's coppers for
the purpose of smoking.
since I have been grown up, I have never desired to smoke and have always
regarded the habit of smoking as barbarous, dirty and harmful. I have never
understood why there is such a rage for smoking throughout the world. I cannot
bear to travel in a compartment full of people smoking. I become choked.
much more serious than this theft was the one I was guilty of a little later. I
pilfered the coppers when I was twelve or thirteen, possibly less. The other
theft was committed when I was fifteen. In this case I stole a bit of gold out
of my meat-eating brother's armlet. This brother had run into a debt of about
twenty-five rupees. He had on his arm an armlet of solid gold. It was not
difficult to clip a bit out of it.
it was done, and the debt cleared. But this became more than I could bear. I
resolved never to steal again. I also made up my mind to confess it to my
father. But I did not dare to speak. Not that I was afraid of my father beating
me. No I do not recall his ever having beaten any of us. I was afraid of the
pain that I should cause him. But I felt that the risk should be taken; that
there could not be a cleaning without a clean confession.
decided at last to write out the confession, to submit it to my father, and ask
his forgiveness. I wrote it on a slip of paper and handed it to him myself. In
this note not only did I confess my guilt, but I asked adequate punishment for
it, and closed with a request to him not to punish himself for my offence. I
also pledged myself never to steal in future.
was trembling as I handed the confession to my father. He was then suffering
from a fistula and was confined to bed. His bed was a plain wooden plank. I
handed him the note and sat opposite the plank.
read it through, and pearl-drops trickled down his cheeks, wetting the paper.
For a moment he closed his eyes in thought and then tore up the note. He had sat
up to read it. He again lay down. I also cried. I could see my father's agony.
If I were a painter I could draw a picture of the whole scene today. It is still
so vivid in my mind.
pearl-drops of love cleansed my heart, and washed my sin away. Only he who has
experienced such love can know what it is. As the hymn says: 'Only he Who is
smitten with the arrows of love. Knows its power.'
was, for me, an object-lesson in Ahimsa. Then I could read in it nothing more
than a father's love, but today I know that it was pure Ahimsa. When such Ahimsa
becomes all-embracing it transforms everything it touches. There is no limit to
sort of sublime forgiveness was not natural to my father. I had thought that he
would be angry, say hard things, and strike his forehead. But he was so
wonderfully peaceful, and I believe this was due to my clean confession. A clean
confession, combined with a promise never to commit the sin again, when offered
before one who has the right to receive it, is the purest type of repentance. I
know that my confession made my father feel absolutely safe about me, and
increased his affection for me beyond measure.
article is taken from the book "The selected works of Mahatma
Autbiography - Vol. I, (Navneet Publications, Ahmedabad, India]