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Authors: Mahatma Gandhi

The Essential Gandhi

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General Editors
John F. Thornton
Susan B. Varenne


The Bhagavad Gita
The Book of Job
Buddhist Wisdom: The Diamond Sutra and The Heart Sutra
The Confessions of Saint Augustine
The Desert Fathers
Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions
Faith and Freedom: An Invitation to the Writings of Martin Luther
The Five Scrolls
The Imitation of Christ
Introduction to the Devout Life
The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi
The Rule of St. Benedict
John Henry Newman: Selected Sermons, Prayers, and Devotions
A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius
The Wisdom of John Paul II


Copyright © 1962 by Louis Fischer
Copyright renewed 1990 by Victor Fischer and George Fischer
Preface by Eknath Easwaran copyright © 2002 by
The Blue Mountain Center of Meditation

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. This edition was first published with a different foreword by Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, in 1983.

Vintage is a registered trademark and Vintage Spiritual Classics and colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.
The research for this book was done by Deirdre Randall.

The editor is grateful to the Navajivan Trust of India for permission to use extracts from the writings of Mahatma Gandhi. The editor also wishes to thank: Asia Publishing House, for permission to reproduce excerpts from
A Bunch of Old Letters,
by Jawaharlal Nehru; Narayan Desai, for permission to reproduce excerpts from
The Diary of Mahadev Desai;
Harper & Brothers, for permission to quote from
The Life of Mahatma Gandhi,
by Louis Fischer; and New American Library, for permission to quote from
Gandhi: His Life and Message for the World,
by Louis Fischer.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Gandhi, Mahatma, 1869–1948.
The essential Gandhi.
Reprint. Originally published: New York: Random House, [1962]
1. Gandhi, Mahatma, 1869–1948. 2. Statesmen—India—Biography.
I. Fischer, Louis, 1896–1970.   II. Title.
[DS481.G3A28 1983] 954.03′5′0924 [B] 82-48890

eISBN: 978-0-307-81620-7



by John F. Thornton and Susan B. Varenne, General Editors

A turn or shift of sorts is becoming evident in the reflections of men and women today on their life experiences. Not quite as adamantly secular, and perhaps a little less insistent on material satisfactions, the reading public has recently developed a certain attraction to testimonies that human life is leavened by a Presence that blesses and sanctifies. Recovery, whether from addictions or personal traumas, illness, or even painful misalignments in human affairs, is evolving from the standard therapeutic goal of enhanced self-esteem. Many now seek a deeper healing that embraces the whole person, including the soul. Contemporary books provide accounts of the invisible assistance of angels. The laying on of hands in prayer has made an appearance at the hospital bedside. Guides for the spiritually perplexed have risen to the tops of bestseller lists. The darkest shadows of skepticism and unbelief, which have eclipsed the presence of the Divine in our materialistic age, are beginning to lighten and part.

If the power and presence of God are real and effective, what do they mean for human experience? What does God offer to men and women, and what does He ask in return? How do we recognize Him? Know Him? Respond to Him? God has a reputation for being both benevolent and wrathful. Which will He be for me, and when? Can these aspects of the Divine somehow be reconciled? Where is God when I suffer? Can I lose Him? Is God truthful, and are His promises to be trusted?

Are we really as precious to God as we are to ourselves and to our loved ones? Do His providence and amazing grace guide our faltering steps toward Him, even in spite of ourselves? Will God abandon us if the sin is serious enough, or if we have episodes of resistance
and forgetfulness? These are fundamental questions any person might address to God during a lifetime. They are pressing and difficult, often becoming wounds in the soul of the person who yearns for the power and courage of hope, especially in stressful times.

The Vintage Spiritual Classics present the testimony of writers across the centuries who have considered all these difficulties and who have pondered the mysterious ways, unfathomable mercies and deep consolations afforded by God to those who call upon Him from out of the depths of their lives. These writers, then, are our companions, even our champions, in a common effort to discern the meaning of God in personal experience. For God is personal to us. To whom does He speak if not to us, provided we have the desire to hear Him deep within our hearts?

Each volume opens with a specially commissioned essay by a well-known contemporary writer that offers the reader an appreciation of its intrinsic value. A chronology of the general historical context of each author and his work often is provided, as are suggestions for further reading.

We offer a final word about the act of reading these spiritual classics. From the very earliest accounts of monastic practice—dating back to the fourth century—it is evident that a form of reading called
lectio divina
(divine, or spiritual, reading) was essential to any deliberate spiritual life. This kind of reading is quite different from scanning a text for useful facts and bits of information, or advancing along an exciting plot line to a climax in the action. It is, rather, a meditative approach by which the reader seeks to savor and taste the beauty and truth of every phrase and passage. This process of contemplative reading has the effect of enkindling in the reader compunction for past behavior that has been less than beautiful and true. At the same time, it increases the desire to seek a realm where all that is lovely and unspoiled may be found. There are four steps in
lectio divina:
first, to read; next to meditate; then to rest in the sense of God’s nearness; and ultimately, to resolve to govern one’s actions in the light of new understanding. This kind of reading is itself an act of prayer. And indeed, it is in prayer that God manifests His Presence to us.


by Eknath Easwaran

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