Gandhiji perhaps never wrote merely for the pleasure of writing. Thought and writing were always tools with him for more efficient action. They were used either to clear up a knotty problem in his own mind or in that of his co-workers. His writings therefore do not exactly give a correct representation of what he actually was but what he always tried to be. It is a record of ideals and aspirations and of criticism of events and situations in the light of those ideals. By their very nature they reflect the difficulties which confronted him from time to time and also how he was able to met them more or less successful in the course of life's experiments. The reader should approach this book of selections with that reservation in mind then he will be able to gather whatever help he can in the pursuit of his own ideal.
A word is now necessary to explain the arrangement followed in the presentation of the selections. The foundation of Gandhiji's life was formed by his living and growing faith in God, and in the oneness of the whole human family. So his ideas about God have been given the first place in the first chapter. The discipline which every man should follow in order to realize his highest ideal, whether we call it God, or Truth, or Humanity, is common to all; and it comes in the second chapter. The third contains a summary of Gandhiji's views on various philosophical, social and political questions, and may thus be regarded as practically a summary of the rest of the book. In fact, this is why a few passages occurring elsewhere, have also found place in this chapter on fundamental ideas.
Chapters four to eight contain his views on the production and distribution of wealth, his criticism of existing arrangements in society, and the means he suggested, from time to time, for bringing about a more desirable transformation. Chapters nine is an explosion of his political idealism; while ten gives us his practical programme for securing economic as well as political independence for India.
Gandhiji's message is however significant not for India alone. He proposed the nonviolent technique, not only as a substitute for violent conflicts within a narrow social group, but in that of international relations as well. But nonviolence cannot be suddenly forced upon an unprepared humanity, and in a hostile social environment. There the man of nonviolence has to move cautiously, adapting his step to the exigencies of every special set of circumstances. The chapter on satyagraha details how the technique has developed and actually taken shape on the Indian soil. Others may profit by the experiences of India in this direction. This satyagraha has moreover demanded from the Indian political worker a measure of idealism and of discipline, which the reader will find described in the following chapter.
The remaining portion of the book is a record of Gandhiji's opinion on various subjects. The seventeenth contains his views on religion, in its institutional aspect; while the eighteenth gives his ideas on marriage and related topics. His opinion regarding the future role of women in society has also found a place in this chapter. Education comes next; and this is followed by the last chapter covering subjects like Art, Music, Swadeshi, the management of public institutions and so on.
The book thus covers, in brief, a wide range of subjects and as one progresses in its study, one is often left with a thirst for fuller information on the subject of his interest. The Navjivan Publishing House has been issuing, for sometime past, a series of volumes, each containing Gandhiji's writings on one specific topic or another; and the interested reader must turn to them for fuller information, when the files of the young India or the Harijan are not available to him. The present selection does not pretend to do anything more than a glimpse of what he can gather if he ventures through the forest of writings contained in those two journals.
The index at the end of the book has been prepared with some care; and we should advise the reader to use it frequently, so that he may profit by similar passages occurring elsewhere in the body of the book.
NIRMAL KUMAR BOSE