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88. Punishes Himself for others' sins

Gandhiji invariably punished himself, rather than inflict any punishment on those under his care or those who professed to follow him, when the latter failed to keep up their pledges to him or sinned secretly. His fasts both in the Phoenix Settlement in South Africa and at Sabarmati Ashram for the moral fall of some of the inmates are well known. Swami Bhavani Dayal, who lived with Gandhiji in the Phoenix Settlement for some years, relates a typical instance of such vicarious self-suffering on the part of Bapu. Once some young recruits, who had recently joined the Settlement after pledging themselves to consume only salt less meals for a month, got so tired of the simple dishes that they sent for spiced and delicious food from Durban and surreptitiously partook of it. One of them, who had himself shared the food, informed Bapu of it. During the evening prayer, when Bapu questioned them one by one, they all denied the charge and accused the informer as a liar. "At' this, Bapu," says the Swamiji "began beating his own cheeks with terrible force and said, 'It is not your fault in hiding the truth from me, I am to blame for it, because I have not attained yet the virtue of truth, the truth flees from me.' He continued strik­ing himself. This was too much to bear and one by one the inmates came forward and confessed the truth."