Back | Next

PHILOSOPHY > THE MIND OF MAHATMA GANDHI > My Hinduism Is Not Exclusive

 

My Hinduism Is Not Exclusive

All-embracing
FOR ME Hinduism is all-sufficing. Every variety of belief finds protection under its ample folk. (SW, p329)


I can no more describe my feelings for Hinduism than for my own wife. She moves me as no other woman in the world can. Not that she has no faults; I dare say she has many more than I see myself. But the feeling of an indescribable bond is there. Even so I feel for and about Hinduism with all its faults and limitations. (YI, 6-10-1921, p318)


...Hinduism is not an exclusive religion. In it there is room for the worship of all the prophets in the world. It is not a missionary religion in the ordinary sense of the term. It has no doubt absorbed many tribes in its fold, but this absorption has been of an evolutionary, imperceptible character. Hinduism tells every one to worship God according to his own faith or Dharma and so it lives at peace with all the religions. (ibid)


There is nothing in the world that would keep me from professing Christianity or any other faith, the moment I felt the truth of and the need for it. Where there is fear, there is no religion...If I could call myself, say, a Christian, or a Mussalman, with my own interpretation of the Bible or the Koran, I should not hesitate to call myself either. For then Hindu, Christian and Mussalman would be synonymous terms. I do believe that in the other world there are neither Hindus, nor Christians nor Mussalmans. They all are judged not according to their labels, or professions, but according to their actions, irrespective of their professions. During our earthly existence there will always be these labels. I, therefore, prefer to retain the label of my forefathers so long as it does not cramp my growth and does not debar me from assimilating all that is good anywhere else. (YI, 2-7-1926, p308)


I know that friends get confused when I say I am a Sanatanist Hindu and they fail to find in me things they associate with a man usually labeled as such. But that is because, in spite of my being a staunch Hindu, I find room in my faith for Christian and Islamic and Zoroastrian teaching, and, therefore, my Hinduism seems to some to be a conglomeration and some have even dubbed me an eclectic. Well, to call a man eclectic is to say that he has no faith, but mine is a broad faith which does not oppose Christians-not even a Plymouth Brother-not even the most fanatical Mussalman. It is a faith based on the broadest possible toleration. I refuse to abuse a man for his fanatical deeds because I try to see them from his point of view. It is that broad faith that sustains me. It is a somewhat embarrassing position, I know-but to others, not to me! (YI, 22-12-1927, p426)


The chief value of Hinduism lies in holding the actual belief that all life (not only human beings, but all sentient beings) is one, i.e., all life coming from the One universal source, call it Allah, God or Parameshwara. (H, 26-12-1936, p365)


My Hinduism is not sectarian. It includes all that I know to be best in Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism....Truth is my religion and ahimsa is the only way of its realization. I have rejected once and for all the doctrine of the sword. (H, 30-4-1938, p99)

Hinduism and Ahimsa
Hinduism with its message of ahimsa is to me the most glorious religion in the world-as my wife to me is the most beautiful woman in the world--but others may feel the same about their own religion.
(YI, 19-1-1928, p22)


The most distinctive and the largest contribution of Hinduism to India's culture is the doctrine of ahimsa. It has given a definite bias to the history of the country for the last three thousand years and over and it has not ceased to be a living force in the lives of India's millions even today. It is a growing doctrine, its message is still being delivered. Its teaching has so far permeated our people that an armed revolution has almost become an impossibility in India not because, as some would have it, we as a race are physically weak, for it does not require much physical strength so much as a devilish will to press a trigger to shoot a person, but because the tradition of ahimsa has struck deep root among the people. (H, 24-3-1929, p95)

Mother Gita
I do not believe that the Gita teaches violence for doing good. It is pre-eminently a description of the duel that goes on in our own hearts. The divine author has used a historical incident for inculcating the lesson of doing one's duty even at the peril of one's life. It inculcates performance of duty irrespective of the consequences, for we mortals, limited by our physical frames, are incapable of controlling actions, save our own. The Gita distinguished between the powers of light and darkness and demonstrates their incompatibility. (YI, 25-8-1920, p2)


Though I admire much in Christianity, I am unable to identify myself with orthodox Christianity...Hinduism as I know it entirely satisfies my soul, fills my whole being, and I find a solace in the Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads that I miss even in the Sermon on the Mount. Not that I do not prize the ideal presented therein; not that some of the precious teaching in the Sermon on the Mount have not left a deep impression upon me, but I must confess.... that, when doubt haunts me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and when I see not one ray of light on the horizon, I turn to the Bhagavad Gita, and find a verse to comfort me; and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow. My life has been full of external tragedies, and if they have not left any visible and indelible effect on me, I owe it to the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita. (YI, 6-8-1925, p274)


As for myself, I run to my Mother Gita whenever I find myself in difficulties, and up to now she has never failed to comfort me. It is possible that those who are getting comfort from the Gita may get greater help, and see something altogether new, if they come to know the way in which I understand it from day to day. (YI, 13-11-1930, p1)


Today the Gita is not only my bible or my Koran; it is more than that--it is my mother. I lost my earthly mother who gave me birth long ago; but this eternal mother has completely filled her place by my side ever since. She has never changed, she has never failed me. When I am in difficulty or distress, I seek refuge in her bosom. (H, 24-8-1934, p222)

The Way of the Buddha
It is my deliberate opinion that the essential part of the teachings of the Buddha now forms an integral part of Hinduism. It is impossible for Hindu India today to retrace her steps and go behind the great reformation that Gautama effected in Hinduism. By his immense sacrifice, by his great renunciation, and by the immaculate purity of his life he left an indelible impress upon Hinduism, and Hinduism owes an eternal debt of gratitude to that great teacher... What Hinduism did not assimilate of what passes as Buddhism today was not an essential part of the Buddha's life and his teachings.

It is my fixed opinion that Buddhism or, rather, the teaching of the Buddha found its full fruition in India and it could not be otherwise, for Gautama was himself a Hindu of Hindus. He was saturated with the best that was in Hinduism, and he gave life to some of the teachings that were buried in the Vedas and which were overgrown with weeds. His great Hindu spirit cut its way through the forest of words, meaningless words, which had overlaid the golden truth that was in the Vedas. He made some of the words in the Vedas yield a meaning to which the men of his generation were utter strangers, and he found in India the most congenial soil. And wherever the Buddha went, he was followed by and surrounded not by non-Hindus but Hindus, those who were themselves saturated with vedic law. But the Buddha's teaching, like his heart, was all-expanding and all-embracing and so it has survived his own body and swept across the face of the earth. And at the risk of being called a follower of the Buddha, I claim this achievement as a triumph of Hinduism. The Buddha never rejected Hinduism, but he broadened its base. He gave it a new life and a new interpretation. But...I want to submit to you that the teaching of the Buddha was not assimilated in its fullness whether it was in Ceylon, or in Burma, or in China, or in Tibet...
(YI, 24-11-1927, pp392-3)

Moral Government of World
I have heard it contended times without number and I have read in books also claiming to express the spirit of Buddhism that the Buddha did not believe in God. In my humble opinion such a belief contradicts the very central fact of the Buddha's teaching...The confusion has arisen over his rejection, and just rejection, of all the base things that passed in his generation under the name of God. He undoubtedly rejected the notion that a being called God was actuated by malice, could repent of his actions and, like the Kings of the earth, could possibly be open to temptations and bribes and could possibly have favourites. His whole soul rose in mighty indignation against the belief that a being called God required for his satisfaction the living blood of animals in order that he might be pleased-animals who were his own creation. He, therefore, reinstated God in the right place and dethroned the usurper who for the time being seemed to occupy that White Throne. He emphasized and re-declared the eternal and unalterable existence of the moral government of this universe. He unhesitatingly said that the law was God Himself.

God's laws are eternal and unalterable and not separable from God Himself. It is an indispensable condition of His very perfection. And hence the great confusion that the Buddha disbelieved in God and simply believed in the moral law, and because of this confusion about God Himself, arose the confusion about the proper understanding of the great word Nirvana. Nirvana is undoubtedly not utter extinction. So far as I have been able to understand the central fact of the Buddha's life, Nirvana is utter extinction of all that is base in us, all that is vicious in us, all that is corrupt and corruptible in us. Nirvana is not like the black, dead peace of the grave, but the living peace, the living happiness of a soul which is conscious of itself, and conscious of having found its own abode in the heart of the Eternal....

Great as the Buddha's contribution to humanity was in restoring God to His eternal place, in my humble opinion, greater still was his contribution to humanity in his exacting regard of all life, be it ever so low. (ibid, p393)

Christianity in the West
It is my firm opinion that Europe today represents not the spirit of God or Christianity, but the spirit of Satan. And Satan's successes are the greatest when he appears with the name of God on his lips. Europe is today only nominally Christian. In reality it is worshipping Mammon. 'It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom.' Thus really spoke Jesus Christ. His so-called followers measure their moral progress by their material possessions (YI, 8-9-1920, pp2-3)


It is a very curious commentary on the West that although it professes Christianity, there is no Christianity or Christ in the West, or there should have been no war. That is how I understand the message of Jesus. (H, 17-11-1946, p405)


Christianity became disfigured when it went to the West. I am sorry to have to say that.
(H, 20-4-1947, p116)


I ask my Christian brethren...not to take their Christianity as it is interpreted in the West. There, we know, they fight with one another as never before. After all, Jesus was an Asiatic depicted as wearing the Arabian flowing robe. He was the essence of meekness. I hope that the Christians of India will express in their lives Jesus the crucified, of the Bible, and not as interpreted in the West with her blood-stained fingers. I have no desire to criticize the West. I know and value the many virtues of the West. But I am bound to point out that Jesus of Asia is misrepresented in the West except in individuals.
(H, 7-9-1947, p315)


The indirect influence of Christianity has been to quicken Hinduism into life... But the effect of Christianity upon India in general must be judged by the life lived in our midst by the average Christian and its effect upon us. I am sorry to have to record my opinion that it has been disastrous. (YI, 31-7-1924, p254)

Personality of Christ
I may say that I have never been interested in a historical Jesus. I should not care if it was proved by someone that the man called Jesus never lived, and that [what] was narrated in the Gospels was a figment of the writer's imagination. For the Sermon on the Mount would still be true for me.
(YI, 31-12-1931, p429)


I cannot ascribe exclusive divinity to Jesus. He is as divine as Krishna or Rama or Mohamed or Zoroaster. Similarly, I do not regard every word of the Bible as the inspired word of God, even as I do not regard every word of the Vedas or the Koran as inspired. The sum total of each of these books is certainly inspired, but I miss that inspiration in many of the things taken individually. The Bible is as much a book of religion with me as the Gita and the Koran. (H, 6-3-1937, p25)


Though, I cannot claim to be a Christian in the sectarian sense, the example of Jesus' suffering is a factor in the composition of my undying faith in non-violence which rules all my actions, worldly and temporal.
(H, 7-1-1939, p417)

What Christ Means to Me
What...does Jesus mean to me? To me, He was one of the greatest teachers humanity has ever had. To His believers, He was God's only begotten Son. Could the fact that I do or do not accept this belief make Jesus have any more or less influence in my life? Is all the grandeur of His teaching and of His doctrine to be forbidden to me? I cannot believe so. (MR, Oct. 1941, pp406-7)


To me it [the word 'begotten'] implies a spiritual birth. My interpretation, in other words, is that in Jesus' own life is the key of His nearness to God; that He expressed, as no other could, the spirit and will of God. It is in this sense that I see Him and recognize Him as the Son of God. (ibid)


I believe that it is impossible to estimate the merits of the various religions of the world, and, moreover, I believe that it is unnecessary and harmful even to attempt it. But each one of them, in my judgment, embodies a common motivating force: the desire to uplift man's life and give it purpose. And because the life of Jesus has the significance and the transcendency to which I have alluded, I believe that He belongs not solely to Christianity, but to the entire world, to all races and people-it matters little under what flag, name or doctrine they may work, profess a faith, or worship a God inherited from their ancestors. (ibid)


There is much ignorance and superstition in India. But deep down in us is that faith in God-the instinct for religion. (H, 17-11-1946, p405)


If Mohamed came to India today, he would disown many of his so-called followers and own me as a true Muslim, as Jesus would own me as a true Christian. (ibid)


"How can we bring man back to God or the teaching of Jesus, or that of Mohamed?" I might give the answer that Jesus gave to one of his followers: "Do the will of my Father who is in Heaven, not merely say Lord, Lord." That holds true of you, me and everybody. If we have faith in the living God, all will be well with us. I hope not to lose that faith even to my dying day. In spite of my numerous failings and shortcomings of which I am but too well aware, my faith in God is burning brighter every day. (ibid)


If it did not, I would take the same prescription that I gave a women threatened with dishonour and with no prospect of help or escape, viz., commit suicide. (ibid)

Islam a Religion of Peace
I do regard Islam to be a religion of peace in the same sense as Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism are. No doubt there are differences in degree, but the object of these religions is peace. (YI, 20-1-1927, p21)


Islam's distinctive contribution to India's national culture is its unadulterated belief in the oneness of God and a practical application of the truth of the brotherhood of man for those who are nominally within its fold. I call these two distinctive contributions. For in Hinduism the spirit of brotherhood has become too much philosophized. Similarly, though philosophical Hinduism has no other god but God, it cannot be denied that practical Hinduism is not so emphatically uncompromising as Islam. (YI, 21-3-1929, p95)

Use of Force
There is nothing in the Koran to warrant the use of force for conversion. The Holy Book says in the clearest language possible, 'There is no compulsion in religion'. The Prophet's whole life is a repudiation of compulsion in religion. No Mussalman, to my knowledge, has ever approved of compulsion. Islam would cease to be a world religion of it were to rely upon force for its propagation. (YI, 29-9-1921, p307)


I have given my opinion that the followers of Islam are too free with the sword. But that is not due to the teaching of the Koran. This is due, in my opinion, to the environment in which Islam was born. Christianity has a bloody record against it not because Jesus was found wanting, but because the environment in which it spread was not responsive to his lofty teaching. (YI, 20-1-1927, p21)

The Koran
I have more than once read the Koran. My religion enables me, obliges me, to imbibe all that it good in all the great religions of the earth. (H, 28-10-1939, p317)


I certainly regard Islam as one of the inspired religions and, therefore, the Holy Koran as an inspired book and Muhammad as one of the prophets. (H, 13-7-1940, p207)


I have come to the conclusion that the teaching of the Koran is essentially in favour of non-violence. Non-violence is better than violence, it is said in the Koran. Non-violence is enjoined as a duty; violence is permitted as a necessity. (ibid, p193)