[ Translated from the original in Gujarati by Valji Govindji Desai]

Ashram Observances


Table of Contents

About This Book

Author : M. K. Gandhi
Translated from the original in Gujarati by : Valji Govindji Desai
First Edition : 3,000 copies, 1955
Total : 16,000 copies
ISBN : 81-7229-216-3
Printed and Published by : Navajivan Publishing House,
Tel. +91-79-27540635
© Navajivan Trust, 1955


Appendix A : Satyagraha Ashram

Satyagraha Ashram Founded on Vaishakha Shudi 11, Samvat 1971, -May 25, 1915- at Kochrab, Ahmedabad and since removed to Sabarmati, a junction station near Ahmedabad.
Object : The object of this Ashram is that its members should qualify themselves for, and make a constant endeavour towards, the service of the country, not inconsistent with the universal welfare.
Observances : The following observances are essential for the fulfillment of the above object:

  1. Truth
    Truth is not fulfilled by mere abstinence from telling or practising an untruth in ordinary relations with fellow-men. But Truth is God, the one and only Reality. All other observances take their rise from the quest for, and the worship of, Truth. Worshippers of Truth must not resort to untruth, even for what they may believe to be the good of the country, and they may be required, like Prahlad, civilly to disobey the orders even of parents and elders in virtue of their paramount loyalty to Truth.
  2. Non-violence or Love
    Mere non-killing is not enough. The active part of Non-violence is Love. The law of Love requires equal consideration for all life from the tiniest insect to the highest man. One who follows this law must not be angry even with the perpetrator of the greatest imaginable wrong, but must love him, wish him well and serve him. Although he must thus love the wrong-doer, he must never submit to his wrong or his injustice, but must oppose it with all his might, and must patiently and without resentment suffer all the hardships to which the wrong-doer may subject him in punishment for his opposition.
  3. Chastity (Brahmacharya)
    Observance of the foregoing principles is impossible without the observance of celibacy. It is not enough that one should not look upon any woman or man with a lustful eye; animal passion must be so controlled as to be excluded even from the mind. If married, one must not have a carnal mind regarding one's wife or husband, but must consider her or him as one's lifelong friend, and establish relationship of perfect purity. A sinful touch, gesture or word is a direct breach of this principle.
  4. Control of the Palate
    The observance of brahmacharya has been found, from experience, to be extremely difficult so long as one has not acquired mastery over taste. Control of the palate has therefore been placed as a principle by itself. Eating is necessary only for sustaining the body and keeping it a fit instrument for service, and must never be practised for self-indulgence. Food must therefore be taken, like medicine, under proper restraint. In pursuance of this principle one must eschew exciting foods, such as spices and condiments. Meat, liquor, tobacco, bhang etc. are excluded from the Ashram. This principle requires abstinence from feasts or dinners which have pleasure as their object.
  5. Non-stealing
    It is not enough not to take another's property without his permission. One becomes guilty of theft even by using differently anything which one has received in trust for use in a particular way, as well as by using a thing longer than the period for which it has been lent. It is also theft if one receives anything which he does not really need. The fine truth at the bottom of this principle is that Nature provides just enough and no more, for our daily need.
  6. Non-possession or Poverty
    This principle is really a part of No. V. Just as one must not receive, so must one not possess anything which one does not really need. It would be a breach of this principle to possess unnecessary foodstuffs, clothing, or furniture. For instance one must not keep a chair if one can do without it. In observing this principle one is led to a progressive simplification of one's own life.
  7. Physical Labour
    Physical labour is essential for the observance of Non- stealing and Non-possession. Man can be saved from injuring society, as well as himself, only if he sustains his physical existence by physical labour. Able-bodied adults must do all their personal work themselves, and must not be served by others, except for proper reasons. But they must at the same time remember, that service of children, as well as of the disabled, the old and the sick, is a duty incumbent on every person who has the required strength.
  8. Swadeshi
    Man is not omnipotent. He therefore serves the world best by first serving his neighbour. This is Swadeshi, a principle which is broken when one professes to serve those who are more remote in preference to those who are near.
    Observance of Swadeshi makes for order in the world ; the breach of it leads to chaos. Following this principle, one must as far as possible purchase one's requirements locally and not buy things imported from foreign lands, which can easily be manufactured in the country. There is no place for self-interest in Swadeshi, which enjoins the sacrifice of oneself for the family, of the family for the village, of the village for the country, and of the country for humanity.
  9. Fearlessness
    One cannot follow Truth or Love so long as one is subject to fear. As there is at present a reign* of fear in the country, meditation on and cultivation of fearlessness have a particular importance. Hence its separate mention as an observance. A seeker after Truth must give up the fear of parents, caste, government, robbers etc., and he must not be frightened by poverty or death.
  10. Removal of Untouchability
    Untouchability, which has taken such deep root in Hinduism, is altogether irreligious. Its removal has therefore been treated as an independent principle. The so-called untouchables have an equal place in the Ashram with other classes. The Ashram does not believe in caste which, it considers, has injured Hinduism, because its implications of superior and inferior status, and of pollution by contact are contrary to the law of Love. The Ashram however believes in varnashrama dharma. The division of varncis is based upon occupation, and therefore, a person should maintain himself by following the hereditary occupation, not inconsistent with fundamental morals, and should devote all his spare time and energy to the acquisition and advancement of true knowledge. The ashramas (the four stages) spoken of in the smritis are conducive to the welfare of mankind. Though, therefore, the Ashram believes in varnashrama dharma. there is no place in it for distinction of varnas as the Ashram life is conceived in the light of the comprehensive and non-formal sannyasa of the Bhagavadgita.
  11. Tolerance
    The Ashram believes that the principal faiths of the world constitute a revelation of Truth, but as they have all been outlined by imperfect man, they have been affected by imperfections and alloyed with untruth. One must therefore entertain the same respect for the religious faiths of others as one accords to one's own. Where such tolerance becomes a law of life, conflict between different faiths .becomes impossible, and so does all effort to convert other people to one's own faith. One can only pray that the defects in the various faiths may be overcome, and that they may advance, side by side, towards perfection.

As a result of and in order to help fulfillment of these observances, the following activities are carried on in the Ashram :

  1. Worship
    The social (as distinguished from the individual) activities of the Ashram commence every day with the congregational morning worship at 4: 15 to 4: 45 and close with the evening prayer at 7 to 7: 30. All inmates are expected to attend the worship. This worship has been conceived as an aid to self- purification and dedication of one's all to God.
  2. Sanitary Service
    This is an essential and sacred service and yet it is looked down upon in society, with the result that it is generally neglected and affords considerable scope for improvement. The Ashram, therefore, lays special stress upon engaging no outside labour for this work. The members themselves attend in turns to the whole of the sanitation. New entrants are generally first of all attached to this department. Trenches are sunk to the depth of nine inches, and the nightsoil is buried in them and covered with the excavated earth. It thus becomes converted into valuable manure. Calls of nature are attended to only at places assigned for the purpose. Care is taken that the roads and paths should not be spoilt by spitting or otherwise.
  3. Sacrificial Spinning
    Today Indians most urgent problem is the growing starvation of her millions, which is chiefly due to the deliberate destruction, by alien rule, of her principal auxiliary industry of hand-spinning. With a view to its rehabilitation in national life, spinning has been made the central activity of the Ashram, and is compulsory for all members as a national sacrifice. The following are the various branches of work in this department:
    I. Cotton cultivation
    II. Workshop for making and repairing spinning wheels, spindles, carding bows et cetera;
    III. Ginning;
    IV. Carding;
    V. Spinning;
    VI. Weaving cloth, carpets, tape, rope, et cetera;
    VII. Dyeing and printing.
  4. Agriculture
    Cotton for the khadi work and fodder crops for the cattle are the chief activities of this department. Vegetables fruit are also grown in order to make the Ashram as far as possible self-contained.
  5. Dairy
    An attempt is being made to convert into a model dairy the Ashram dairy which supplies milk to the inmates. Since last year this dairy is being carried on in consonance with the principles of and with the pecuniary help of the All-India Cow Protection Association, but as an integral part of the Ashram itself. There are at present 27 cows, 47 calves and young stock, 10 bullocks and 4 bulls. The average daily output of milk is 200 pounds.
  6. Tannery
    At the instance and with the help of the All-India Cow Protection Association, a tannery has been established for the tanning of dead-cattle hides. There is attached to it a sandal and shoe-making department. The dairy and tannery have been established because the Ashram believes, in spite of the claim Hindus make to the protection of the cow, that Indian cattle will further and further deteriorate and ultimately die out, carrying man along with them, unless vigorous attention is paid to cattle-breeding, cattle-feeding and the utilization in the country of dead-cattle hides.
  7. National Education
    An attempt is made in the Ashram to import such education as is conducive to national welfare. In order that spiritual, intellectual and physical development may proceed side by side, an atmosphere of industry has been created, and letters are not given more than their due importance. Character building is attended to in the smallest detail. 'Untouchable' children are freely admitted. Women are given special attention with a view to improving their status, and they are accorded the same opportunities for self-culture as the men.

    The Ashram accepts the following principles of the Gujarat Vidyapith:

    1. The principal object of the Vidyapith shall be to prepare workers of character, ability, education and conscientiousness, necessary for the conduct of the movements connected with the attainment of Swaraj.
    2. All the institutions conducted by and affiliated to the Vidyapith shall be fully non-co-operating and shall therefore have nothing to do with any help from Government.*
    3. Whereas the Vidyapith has come into being in connection with the Swaraj movement, and non-violent non- co-operation as a means thereof, its teachers and trustees shall restrict themselves to those means only which are not inconsistent with truth and non-violence and shall consciously strive to carry them out.
    4. The teachers and the trustees of the Vidyapith, as also all the institutions affiliated to it, shall regard untouchability as a blot on Hinduism, shall strive to the best of their power for its removal, and shall not exclude a boy or girl for reason of his or her untouchability nor shall give him or her differential treatment having once accorded admission to him or her.
    5. The teachers and the trustees of, and all the institutions affiliated to, the Vidyapith shall regard hand spinning as an essential part of the Swaraj movement and shall therefore spin regularly, except when disabled, and shall habitually wear Khadi.
    6. The language of the province shall have the principal place in the Vidyapith and shall be the medium of instruction.
      Explanation : Languages other than Gujarati may be taught by direct method.
    7. The teaching of Hindi-Hindustani shall be compulsory in the curricula of the Vidyapith.
    8. Manual training shall receive the same importance as intellectual training and only such occupations as are useful for the life of the nation shall be taught.
    9. Whereas the growth of the nation depends not on its cities but its villages, the bulk of the funds of the Vidyapith and a majority of the teachers of the Vidyapith shall be employed in the propagation of education conducive to the welfare of the villages.
    10. In laying down the curricula, the needs of village dwellers shall have principal consideration.
    11. There shall be complete toleration of all established religions in all institutions conducted by and affiliated to the Vidyapith; and for the spiritual development of the pupils, religious instruction shall be imparted in consonance with truth and non-violence.
    12. For the physical development of the nation physical exercise and physical training shall be compulsory in all the institutions conducted by and affiliated to the Vidyapith.
      Note : Hindi-Hindustani means the language commonly spoken by the masses of the North - both Hindu and Musalman - and written in the Devanagari or the Arabic script.
  8. Khadi Technical School
    A separate technical school is conducted, which prepares candidates for the Khadi Service on behalf of the All-India Spinners' Association... The curriculum is as follows:
    • 21 weeks spinning...
    • 7 weeks carding...
    • 2 weeks ginning...
    • Handloom weaving...
    • Carpentry...
    The average monthly food bill per student amounts to about 12 rupees...

Daily Routine

4 a.m.Rising from bed
4:15 to 4.45Morning prayer
5 to 6:10Bath, exercise, study
6:10 to 6:30Breakfast
6.30 to 7Women's prayer class
7 to 10:30Body labour, education and sanitation
10:45 to 11:15Dinner
11:15 to 12Rest
12 to 4:30Body labour including classes
4.30 to 5:30Recreation
5:30 to 6Supper
6 to 7Recreation
7 to 7:30Common worship
7.30 to 9Recreation
9Retiring bell

Note : These hours are subject to change whenever necessary.

  1. A reference to British rule in India. V. G. D.
  2. Refers to the British Government. V. G. D.