It appears to me unnecessary for any prefatory note to be written to the Life and Speeches of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi; they live and speak for themselves. Personally, I have had such a great shrinking from writing anything, during his life-time, about one whom I reverence so deeply, that I have many times refused to do so. But a promise given in an unguarded moment now claims fulfilment, and I will write very briefly,
To Mr. Gandhi, any swerving from the truth, even in casual utterance, is intolerable; his speeches must be read as stating uncompromisingly what he feels to be true. They are in no sense diplomatic, or opportunist, or merely "political" using the word in its narrower sense. He never pays empty compliments : he never hesitates to say, for the truth's sake, what may be unpalatable to his audience.
I shrink, as I have said, out of the very reverence that I have for him, from writing for the cold printed page about his character; but I may perhaps not offend by setting down something, however inadequate, concerning his intellectual convictions. It is of the utmost importance to understand these; because, in his case, they are held so strongly, as to bind fast his whole life and to stamp it with an originality, all its own.
The greatest of all these is his conviction of the eternal and fundamental efficacy of ahimsa. What this means to him, will be explained a hundred times over in the writings which follow. To Mr. Gandhi, — it would not be too much to say, — ahimsa is the key to all higher existence. It is the divine life itself. I have never yet been able to reconcile this with his own recruiting campaign, for war purposes, during the year 1918. But he was, himself, able to reconcile it; and some day, no doubt, he will give