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Gandhi: Self-Realization Through Politics:
The Mystery of Leadership

- Abstract

There has probably never been another “great man”—that vast, vague, abstract personage which we celebrate in human terms but conceive as a stuffed shirt—who has written so simple and direct a book as Gandhi’s Autobiography (Public Affairs Press, Washington, D.C., 1948). In the name of Truth, and for the purpose of describing his experiments with Truth, he tells us about his character, detail by detail, with a directness and completeness that is astonishing and shocking and that may appear irrelevant even after we have grasped the connection. But irrelevant these minutiae are not; Gandhi merely understood the facts of life better than the rest of us.

This Great Soul, Latter-day Avatar, Architect of India’s Freedom, as he was called, reveals to us his early attitudes toward parents and teachers, his sexual practices, his relations with his wife, his theories on the subjects of diet, medicine, and cleanliness, and his various experiments in these fields; he describes himself ironing collars with the same underlying seriousness and attachment to moral significance as when he tells of nursing the sick and the dying. Often one must laugh, our sophistication demands it; to withhold the ridicule this self-confessed quack frequently deserves, is to refuse to honor the simpleton in him, the plain nudnik, and to violate his unity. He was all of a piece, the man whose desire was “to wipe away every tear from every Indian eye,” the neurotic who regarded sexual intercourse without intent of producing children as a grave crime, the submissive rebel who spent his days confounding authority and meanwhile kept his eye open for a vegetable substitute for cow’s milk. It was all one with him.

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