: The Eleven Vows of Gandhi Bapu:
Mangal Prabhat (?From Yervada Mandir?) can
be considered as one of the three
most important books by Gandhiji. In his autobiography, ?My experiments
with Truth?, he traces his evolution. In ?Hind-Swaraj?,
he presents the picture of the society he wanted, and the means to establish
such a society. In ?Mangal Prabhat,? Gandhiji briefly describes
his famous eleven vows. He also discusses the necessity of vows and the
importance of humility for the practice of vows.
The book ?Mangal Prabhat? is in fact a collection of weekly
letters written by
Gandhiji in 1930 to the inmates of Sabarmati Ashram while he was inYervada
jail. Hence the name ?From Yervada Mandir? for the English edition.
The vows had been prescribed as a part of Ashram discipline. Gandhiji
wanted ashramites to fully understand the meaning and the importance of
the vows. He wanted them to understand the spiritual basis of the ashram
life. Some practical advice is also given in these letters.
The letters were written in Gujarati. They have been translated in many
?Mangal Prabhat? is a small book, but it is a treasure house
of wisdom. It
contains the essence of Gandhiji?s teaching. It has therefore inspired
lakhs of people. It has changed many lives. It will continue to guide
the coming generations.
The Eleven vows
Ancient tradition has prescribed five Yamas for spiritual seekers :
Gandhiji added six more vows:
3) Control of the palate
5) Equal respect for all religions
6) Removal of untouchability
These are the eleven vows described in ?Mangal Prabhat.?
Gandhiji and the Vows
The Meaning of a vow
A vow is an observance consciously undertaken for a worthy cause. Gandhiji
defined a vow, as doing at any cost something that one ought to do. Our
higher impulses and duties dictate us to do something. But our weaknesses
prohibit us from doing that. This obstructs our development. Hence a vow
should be taken. Taking a vow strengthens our will. It prevents us from
The vows put before us an ideal. We may not be able
to achieve that, but the vow guarantees our progress on the right path.
It brings forth latent energy. Human life has a purpose. We are not animals.
We can rise higher. For this, we should discipline ourselves. Vows are
important in this regard.
Why did Gandhiji give importance to vow?
Gandhiji wanted to change the individual and through him to change the
society. Individuals should imbibe new values for this purpose. They should
know the purpose of life. They should strive to fulfill that purpose.
Gandhiji held that the purpose of life is to realize Truth. Non-violence
is the means for this.
Non-violence means detached, selfless love for all.
All life should be organized accordingly. Senses should be controlled.
Life should be considered as one. The eleven vows prescribed by Gandhiji
were for this purpose. They also give guidelines for personal conduct.
Gandhiji gives very wide and novel meanings to the vows. They do not remain
individual virtues prescribed for the selected few. They become social
virtues. The vows show Gandhiji?s understanding of the social situation
of his time and the direction of social change he wanted. He wanted to
bridge the gap between the principles and the practice.
Importance given to a vow means that man is important. He can change the
world. He is the maker of his destiny.