Impact of “Unto This Last” on Mahatma Gandhi
During a long train journey in South Africa, Gandhi was given a book of John Ruskin (Unto This Last) by one of his friends.
About this book, he has written that it brought an instantaneous change in his life. Gandhi derived the following 3 messages from this book:
“The good of the individual is contained in the good of all”. The concept of “Sarvodaya” and “Antyodaya” were the products of this influence of Ruskin on Gandhi. Here we note the following talisman of Gandhi, which is inspired from the ideal of Antyodaya:
Whenever you are in doubt or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test: ‘Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to Swaraj for the hungry and spiritually starving millions?’ then you will find your doubts and yourself melting away.
Thus for Gandhi, ‘Unto The Last’ would mean only the uplift of the last (Antyodaya). Ruskin’s Unto The Last had directly or indirectly had a profound influence on Gandhi in adopting the ideal of Sarvodaya as his life’s mission
Gandhi derived from this book that a “Lawyer’s work has the same value as the barber’s as all have the same right of earning their livelihood from their work”.
The third message Gandhi derived from this book was that a life of the tiller of the soil and that of handicraftsman / farmer / laborer is the life worth living. This message gave him a teaching that he would live a life of labor.
Inspired young Gandhi established the Phoenix Farm in 40 hectares of land near Durban and started publishing Indian Opinion from there.