I am afraid I must continue the digression until the next chapter. Along with my experiments in earth treatment, those in dietetics were also being carried on, and it may not be out of place here to make a few observations as regards the latter, though I shall have occasion to refer to them again later.
I may not, now or hereafter, enter into a detailed account of the
experiments in dietetics, for I did so in a series of Gujarati
articles which appeared years ago in Indian Opinion,
and which were afterwards published in the form of a book popularly
known in English as A Guide to Health.
Among my little books this has been the most widely read alike in
the East and in the West, a thing that I have not yet been able to
understand. It was written for the benefit of the readers of Indian Opinion.
But I know that the booklet has profoundly influenced the lives of
many, both in the East and in the West, who have never seen Indian Opinion.
For they have been corresponding with me on the subject. It has
therefore appeared necessary to say something here about the
booklet, for though I see no reason to alter the views set forth in
it, yet I have made certain radical changes in my actual practice,
of which all readers of the book do not know, and of which, I think,
they should be informed.
The booklet was written, like all my other writings, with a
spiritual end, which has always inspired every one of my actions,
and therefore it is a matter for deep distress to me that I am
unable today to practise some of the theories propounded in the
It is my firm conviction that man need take no milk at all, beyond
the mother's milk that he takes as a baby. His diet should consist
of nothing but sunbaked fruits and nuts. He can secure enough
nourishment both for the tissues and the nerves from fruits like
grapes and nuts like almonds. Restraint of the sexual and other
passions becomes easy for a man who lives on such food. My
co-workers and I have seen by experience that there is much truth in
the Indian proverb that as a man eats, so shall he become. These
views have been set out elaborately in the book.
But unfortunately in India I have found myself obliged to deny some
of my theories in practice. Whilst I was engaged on the recruiting
campaign in Kheda, an error in diet laid me low, and I was at
death's door. I tried in vain to rebuild a shattered constitution
without milk. I sought the help of the doctors, vaidyas
and scientists whom I knew, to recommend a substitute for milk. Some
suggested mung water, some mowhra
oil, some almond-milk. I wore out my body in experimenting on these,
but nothing could help me to leave the sick-bed. The
vaidyas read verses to me from Charaka to show that religious scruples about
diet have no place in therapeutics. So they could not be expected to
help me to live without milk. And how could those who
recommended beef-tea and brandy without hesitation help me to
persevere with a milkless diet?
I might not take cow's or buffalo's milk, as I was bound by a vow.
The vow of course meant the giving up of all milks, but as I had
mother cow's and mother buffalo's only in mind when I took the vow,
and as I wanted to live, I somehow beguiled myself into emphasizing
the letter of the vow and decided to take goat's milk. I was fully
conscious, when I started taking mother goat's milk, that the spirit
of my vow was destroyed.
But the idea of leading a campaign against the Rowlatt Act had
possessed me. And with it grew the desire to live. Consequently one
of the greatest experiments in my life came to a stop.
I know it is argued that the soul has nothing to do with what one
eats or drinks, as the soul neither eats nor drinks; that it is not
what you put inside from without, but what you express outwardly
from within, that matters. There is no doubt some force in this. But
rather than examine this reasoning, I shall content myself with
merely declaring my firm conviction that, for the seeker who would
live in fear of God and who would see Him face to face, restraint in
diet both as to quantity and quality is as essential as restraint in
thought and speech.
In a matter, however, where my theory has failed me, I should not
only give the information, but issue a grave warning against
adopting it. I would therefore urge those who, on the strength of
the theory propounded by me, may have given up milk, not to persist
in the experiment, unless they find it beneficial in every way, or
unless they are advised by experienced physicians. Up to now my
experience here has shown me that for those with a weak digestion
and for those who are confined to bed there is no light and
nourishing diet equal to that of milk.
I should be greatly obliged if anyone with experience in this line,
who happens to read this chapter, would tell me, if he has known
from experience, and not from reading, of a vegetable substitute for
milk, which is equally nourishing and digestible.