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Religious Instruction

I have experimented with quite a number of boys in order to understand how best to impart religious instruction and whilst I found that book instruction was some what of an aid, by itself it was useless. Religious instructions, I discovered was imparted by teachers living the religion themselves.  I have found that boys imbibe more from the teachers’ own lives than they do from the books that they read to them, or the lectures that they deliver to them with their lips. I have discovered to my great joy that boys and girls have unconsciously a faculty of penetration whereby they read the thoughts of their teachers. Woe to the teacher who teaches one thing with his lips, and carries another in his breast!

With Gandhiji in Ceylon, pp. 108-09

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 broadminded tolerance. This, if properly done, would help to give them a spiritual assurance and a better appreciation of their own religion. There is one rule, however, which should always be kept in mind while studying all great religions and that is, that one should study them only through the writings of known votaries of the respective religions. For instance, if one wants to study theBhagavata one should do so not through a translation of it made by a hostile critic but one prepared by a lover of the Bhagavata. Similarly to study the Bible one should study it through the commentaries of devoted Christians. This study of other religions besides one’s own will give one a grasp of the rock-bottom unity of all religions and afford a glimpse also of that universal and absolute truth which lies beyond the ‘dust of creeds and faiths’.

Let no one even for a moment entertain the fear that a reverent study of other religions is likely to weaken or shake one’s faith in one’s own. The Hindu system of philosophy regards all religions as containing the elements of truth in them and enjoins an attitude of respect and reverence towards them all. This of course presupposes regard for one’s own religion. Study and appreciation of other religions need not cause a weakening of that regard; it should mean extension of that regard to other religions.

In this respect religion stands on the same footing as culture. Just as preservation of one’s own culture does not mean contempt for that of others, but requires assimilation of the best that there may be in all the other cultures, even so should be the case with religion. Our present fears and apprehensions are a result of the poisonous atmosphere of mutual hatred, ill-will and distrust. We are constantly labouring under a nightmare of fear some one should stealthily undermine our faith or the faith or the faith of those who are dear and near to us. But this unnatural state will cease when we have learnt to cultivate respect and tolerance towards other religions and their votaries.

Young India, 6-12-‘28

Other Religions

I have come to the conclusion, in my own experience, that those who, no matter to what faith they belong, reverently study the teachings of other faiths, broaden, instead of narrowing them, their own hearts. Personally, I do not regard any of the great religions of the world as false. All have served in enriching mankind and are even now serving their purpose. Culture of the mind must be subservient to the culture of the heart.

‘Prayer’ by Gandhiji for reference

With Gandhiji in Ceylon, p. 144.

Bhagavata-a Hindu mythological book depicting the life of Krishna