Monday, June 2, 2008

Gandhi's autobiography

I started reading Gandhi An Autobiography. I have owned the book for years but for some reason never started reading it. I am convinced the reason is because I wouldn't have understood it nearly as clearly as I do now.

What's funny is I started it two Fridays ago. A week passed before I read any more. During this week I made a vow (one could say) to stop drinking alcohol. The second Friday, when I picked the book up again, Gandhi was talking about how his vows (ie: vegetarian diet, non-consumption of alcohol, monogamy, celibacy) have been liberating to him. On this topic I'm not very eloquent so let me quote the passage that resonated with me deeply:

The importance of vows grew upon me more clearly than ever before. I realized that a vow, far from closing the door to real freedom, opened it. Up to this time I had not met with success because the will had been lacking, because I had had no faith in myself, no faith in the grace of God, and therefore, my mind had been tossed on the boisterous sea of doubt. I realized that in refusing to take a vow man was drawn into temptation, and to be bound by a vow was like a passage from libertinism to a real monogamous marriage. 'I believe in effort, I do not want to bind myself with vows,' is the mentality of weakness and betrays a subtle desire for the thing to be avoided. Or where can be the difficulty in making a final decision? I vow to flee from the serpent which I know will bite me, I do not simply make an effort to flee from him. I know that mere effort may mean certain death. Mere effort means ignorance of the certain fact that the serpent is bound to kill me.[bold added] The fact, therefore, that I could rest content with an effort only, means that I have not yet clearly realized the necesity of definite action. 'But supposing my views are changed in the future, how can I bind myself to a vow?' Such a doubt oftern deters us. But that doubt also betrays a lack of clear perception that a particular thing must be renounced. That is why Nishkulanand has sung"

'Renunciation without aversion is not lasting.'

Where therefore the desire is gone, a vow of renunciation is the natural and inevitable fruit.

(Last paragraph of Part III, Chapter 7- pg 207)

This is what I felt when I woke up last Monday at 3:00AM, my mind clear and my body horribly intoxicated, when I decided I was not going to consume alcohol anymore. I just spent this past weekend sober, the first weekend sober in a long while.

If I had read that Gandhi passage before I took my own vow, I know I would not have really understood what he was saying. But it was simply amazing to read over those words and to really feel the new truth I felt in them. My vow for sobreity liberates me from my ego's desire to get drunk. The part of me that loves myself does not want to trash my body anymore, and by taking this vow, I am free to carry on with my life without giving my ego any reason to indulge in "just one drink" with friends on a Friday night...which inevitably turns into two, and then three drinks every Friday night, and then maybe Saturday too....and why not an occasional weekday too to help with the stress?...

No, I am free from that.

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