Gandhi's 'knowledge of truth' available to all - at a price

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Arts Reporter

Mahatma Gandhi's personal and annotated copy of The Bhagavadgita, the sacred Hindi work he used for his spiritual guidance, is to be sold at auction later this month.

Heavily marked with comments in pencil, the book, estimated to raise up to pounds 8,000, was described by the campaigner for Indian independence as "the supreme book for the knowledge of the truth".

The Indian leader, who chanted passages from the Gita every day, "regard[ed] it as practically a scientific system by which self-realisation could eventually be attained" according to a biographer, Vincent Sheean. Although Gandhi was born in India, this copy is an English text. Marked "M K Gandhi 4/11/04", the 1898 edition was translated by Kashinath Trimbak Telang and published by the Clarendon Press, Oxford. Its owner's annotations provide a unique insight. Although the pencil comments in English are restricted to page references, the underlined passages throw light on his personal philosophy.

One reads: "Actions ... do not fetter one who is self-possessed, who has renounced action by devotion, and who has destroyed misgivings by knowledge."Another observes: "One who is self-restrained, whose understanding is unattached everywhere, from whom affections have departed, obtains the supreme perfection of freedom from action by renunciation."

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in 1869 in western India, but began his career studying law in England and then practising in South Africa. He returned to India in 1915 and established ascendancy over the Indian National Congress Party.

Five years later he persuaded it to adopt a policy of non-violent non- co-operation to secure India's independence. His spiritual principles governed an austere private life, of which the Gita was a central focus. Imprisoned by the government for his ideals, which only earned him further prestige as a "mahatma" - great soul - he was assassinated in January 1948 by a Hindu extremist.