Back | Next

PHILOSOPHY > THE MIND OF MAHATMA GANDHI > The Gospel of Faith

 

The Gospel Of Faith

IT IS faith that steers us through stormy seas, faith that moves mountains and faith that jumps across the ocean. That faith is nothing but a living, wide-awake consciousness of God within. He who has achieved that faith wants nothing. Bodily diseased, he is spiritually healthy; physically poor, he rolls in spiritual riches. (YI, 24-9-1925, p. 331)


Without faith this world would come to naught in a moment. True faith is appropriation of the reasoned experience of people whom we believe to have lived a life purified by prayer and penance. Belief, therefore, in prophets or incarnations who have lived in remote ages is not an idle superstition but a satisfaction of an inmost spiritual want. (YI, 14-4-1927, p. 120)


Faith is not a delicate flower, which would wither under the slightest stormy weather. Faith is like the Himalaya mountains which cannot possibly change. No storm can possibly remove the Himalaya mountains from their foundations. … And I want every one of you to cultivate that faith in God and religion.
(H, 26-1-1934, p. 8)

Limitations of Reason
Experience has humbled me enough to let me realize the specific limitations of reason. Just as matter misplaced becomes dirt, reason misused becomes lunacy.


Rationalists are admirable beings, rationalism is a hideous monster when it claims for itself omnipotence. Attribution of omnipotence to reason is as bad a piece of idolatry as is worship of stock and stone believing it to be God. (YI, 14-10-1924, p. 359)


I plead not for the suppression of reason, but for a due recognition of that in us which sanctifies reason itself. (ibid)


To me it is as plain as a pikestaff that, where there is an appeal to reason pure and undefiled, there should be no appeal to authority however great it may be. (YI, 26-9-1929, p. 316)


There are subjects where Reason cannot take us far and we have to accept things on faith. Faith then does not contradict Reason but transcends it. Faith is a kind of sixth sense which works in cases which are without the purview of Reason. (H, 6-3-1937, p.26)

Meaning of Religion
Let me explain what I mean by religion. It is not the Hindu religion which I certainly prize above all other religions, but the religion which transcends Hinduism, which changes one's very nature, which binds one indissolubly to the truth within and which ever purifies. It is the permanent element in human nature which counts no cost too great in order to find full expression and which leaves the soul utterly restless until it has found itself, known its Maker and appreciated the true correspondence between the Maker and itself. (YI, 12-5-1920, p. 2)


By religion, I do not mean formal religion, or customary religion, but that religion which underlies all religions, which brings us face to face with our Maker. (MKG, p. 7)

My Religion
My religion has no geographical limits. If I have a living faith in it, it will transcend my love for India herself. (YI, 11-8-1920, p. 4)


Mine is not a religion of the prison-house. It has room for the least among God's creation. But it is proof against insolence, pride of race, religion or colour. (YI, 1-6-1921, p. 171)


There is undoubtedly a sense in which the statement is true when I say that I hold my religion dearer than my country and that, therefore, I am a Hindu first and nationalist after. I do not become on that score a less nationalist than the best of them. I simply thereby imply that the interests of my country are identical with those of my religion.


Similarly when I say that I prize my own salvation above everything else, above the salvation of India, it does not mean that my personal salvation requires a sacrifice of India's political or any other salvation. But it implies necessarily that the two go together. (YI, 23-2-1922, p. 123)


This is the maxim of life which I have accepted, namely, that no work done by any man, no matter how great he is, will really prosper unless he has religious backing. (SW, pp. 377-8)


I have abundant faith in my cause and humanity. Indian humanity is no worse than any other; possibly it is better. Indeed, the cause presumes faith in human nature. Dark though the path appears, God will light it and guide my steps, if I have faith in His guidance and humility enough to acknowledge my helplessness without that infallible guidance. (YI, 27-11-1924, p. 391)


This may be considered to be quixotic, but it is my firm faith that he who undertakes to do something in the name of God, and in full faith in Him, even at the end of his days, does not work in vain; and I am sure that the work I have undertaken is not mine, but is God's. (H, 1-3-1935, p. 24)


That is dharma which is enjoined by the holy books, followed by the sages, interpreted by the learned and which appealed to the heart. The first three conditions must be fulfilled before the fourth comes into operation. Thus one has no right to follow the precepts of an ignorant man or a rascal even though they commend themselves to one. Rigorous observance of harmlessness, non-enmity and renunciation are the first requisites for a person to entitle him to lay down the law, i.e., dharma. (H, 17-11-1946, p. 397)

Futility of Force
I have a deep conviction that no religion can be sustained by brute force. On the contrary, those who take the sword always perish by the sword. (H, 9-3-1934, p. 29)


Religions, like nations, are being weighed in the balance. That religion and that nation will be blotted out of the face of earth, which pins its faith to injustice, untruth or violence. (H, 12-9-1936, p. 247)

Morality
With me moral includes spiritual. …In my career as a reformer, I have regarded everything from the moral standpoint. Whether I am engaged in tackling a political question or a social or an economic one, the moral side of it always obtrudes itself and it pervades my whole attitude. (H, 29-3-1935, p. 51)


There is no such thing as absolute morality for all times. But there is a relative morality, which is absolute enough for imperfect mortals that we are. Thus, it is absolutely immoral to drink spirituous liquors except as medicine, in medicinal doses and under medical advice. Similarly, it is absolutely wrong to see lustfully any woman other than one's wife. Both these positions have been proved by cold reason. Counter-arguments have always been advanced. They have been advanced against the very existence of God-the Sum of all that Is. Faith that transcends reason is our only Rock of Ages. …My faith has saved me and is still saving me from pitfalls. It has never betrayed me. It has never been known to betray anyone.
(H, 23-12-1939, p. 387)

Diversity of Religion
In reality there are as many religions as there are individuals. (HS, p. 49)


Religions are different roads converging upon the same point. What does it matter that we take different roads, so long as we reach the same goal? (ibid, p. 50)


I do not share the belief that there can or will be on earth one religion. I am striving, therefore, to find a common factor and to induce mutual tolerance. (YI, 31-7-1924, p. 254)

Basic Unity
The soul of religions is one, but it is encased in a multitude of forms. The latter will persist to the end of time. Wise men will ignore the outward crust and see the same soul living under a variety of crusts.
(YI, 25-9-1924, p. 318)


I believe that all the great religions of the world are true more or less. I say 'more or less' because I believe that everything that the human hand touches, by reason of the very fact that human beings are imperfect, becomes imperfect. Perfection is the exclusive attribute of God and it is indescribable, untranslatable. I do believe that it is possible for every human being to become perfect even as God is perfect. It is necessary for us all to aspire after perfection, but when that blessed state is attained, it becomes indescribable, indefinable. And I therefore admit, in all humility, that even the Vedas, the Koran and the Bible are imperfect word of God and, imperfect beings that we are, swayed to and fro by a multitude of passions, it is impossible for us even to understand this word of God in its fullness.
(YI, 22-9-1927, p. 319)


I should love all the men-not only in India but in the world-belonging to the different faiths, to become better people by contact with one another, and if that happens, the world will be a much better place to live in than it is today. I plead for the broadest toleration, and I am working to that end. I ask people to examine every religion from the point of the religionists themselves. I do not expect the India of my dream to develop one religion, i.e., to be wholly Hindu, or wholly Christian, or wholly Mussalman, but I want it to be wholly tolerant, with its religions working side by side with one another. (YI, 22-12-1927, p. 425)


I came to the conclusion long ago, after prayerful search and study and discussion with as many people as I could meet, that all religions were true and also that all had some error in them, and that, whilst I hold by my own, I should hold others as dear as Hinduism, from which it logically follows that we should hold all as dear as our nearest kith and kin and that we should make no distinction between them.
(YI, 19-1-1928, p.22)


Belief in one God is the corner stone of all religions. But I do not foresee a time when there would be only one religion on earth in practice. In theory, since there is one God, there can be only one religion. But in practice, no two persons I have known have had the same identical conception of God. Therefore, there will, perhaps, always be different religions answering to different temperaments and climatic conditions.
(H, 2-2-1934, p. 8)


I believe in the fundamental truth of all great religions of the world. I believe that they are all God-given, and I believe that they were necessary for the people to whom these religions were revealed. And I believe that, if only we could all of us read the scriptures of the different faiths from the standpoint of the followers of those faiths, we should find that they were at the bottom all one and were all helpful to one another. (H, 16-12-1934, p. 5-6)


Religions are not for separating men from one another. They are meant to bind them.
(H, 8-6-1940, p. 157)

The Scriptures
For me the Vedas are divine and unwritten. 'The letter killeth.' It is the spirit that giveth the light. And the spirit of the Vedas is purity, truth, innocence, chastity, humility, simplicity, forgiveness, godliness, and all that makes a man or woman noble and brave. (YI, 19-1-1921, p. 22)


I do not believe in the exclusive divinity of the Vedas. I believe the Bible, the Koran and Zend Avesta to be as much divinely inspired as the Vedas. My belief in the Hindu scriptures does not require me to accept every word and every verse as divinely inspired.....I decline to be bound by an interpretation, however learned it may be, if it is repugnant to reason or moral sense. (YI, 6-10-1921, p. 317)


I am not a literalist. Therefore, I try to understand the spirit of the various scriptures of the world. I apply the test of Truth and ahimsa laid down by these very scriptures for interpretation. I reject what is inconsistent with that test, and appropriate all that is consistent with it. (YI, 27-8-1925, p. 293)


I have not been able to see any difference between the Sermon on the Mount and the Bhagavad Gita. What the Sermon describes in a graphic manner, the Bhagavad Gita reduces to a scientific formula. It may not be a scientific book in the accepted sense of the term, but it has argued out the law of love-the law of abandon, as I would call it-in a scientific manner. The Sermon on the Mount gives the same law in wonderful language. The New Testament gave me comfort and boundless joy, as it came after the repulsion that parts of the Old had given me. Today, supposing I was deprived of the Gita and forgot all its contents but had a copy of the Sermon, I should derive the same joy from it as I do from the Gita.
(YI, 22-12-1927, p. 426)


There is one thing in me and that is that I love to see the bright side of things and not the seamy side, and so I can derive comfort and inspiration from any great book of any great religion. I may not be able to reproduce a single verse from the Gita or the New Testament; a Hindu child or Christian child may be able to repeat the verses better; but those clever children cannot deprive me of the assimilation that is in me today of the spirit of the two books. (ibid)


One's experience, therefore, must be the final guide. The written word undoubtedly helps, but even that has to be interpreted, and when there are conflicting interpretations, the seeker is the final arbiter.
(H, 22-12-1933, p. 3)


I believe I have no superstition in me. Truth is not truth merely because it is ancient. Nor is it necessarily to be regarded with suspicion because it is ancient. There are some fundamentals of life, which may not be lightly given up because they are difficult of enforcement in one's life. (H, 14-3-1936, p. 36)

Religious Instruction
If India is not to declare spiritual bankruptcy, religious instruction of its youth must be held to be at least as necessary as secular instruction. It is true that knowledge of religious books is no equivalent of that of religion. But if we cannot have religion, we must be satisfied with providing our boys and girls with what is next best. And whether there is such instruction given in the schools or not, grown-up students must cultivate the art of self-help about matters religious as about others. They may start their own class just as they have their debating, and now, spinners' clubs. (YI, 25-8-1927, p. 272)


I do not believe that the State can concern itself or cope with religious education. I believe that religious education must be the sole concern of religious associations. Do not mix up religion and ethics. I believe that fundamental ethics is common to all religions. Teaching of fundamental ethics is undoubtedly a function of the State. By religion I have not in mind fundamental ethics but what goes by the name of denominationalism. We have suffered enough from State-aided religion and a State Church. A society or a group, which depends partly or wholly on State aid for the existence of its religion, does not deserve, or, better still, does not have any religion worth the name. (H, 23-3-1947, p. 76)


A curriculum of religious instruction should include a study of the tenets of faiths other than one's own. For this purpose the students should be trained to cultivate the habit of understanding and appreciating the doctrines of various great religions of the world in a spirit of reverence and broad-minded tolerance. (YI, 6-12-1928, p406)