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THE SELECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI > Vol. V - THE VOICE OF TRUTH > Part II- Section V: Religion and Culture > The essential unity of all religions
The essential unity of all religions
There is no religion higher than the Truth and Righteousness.
Selections From Gandhi, (1957), p. 254
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 whichever 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 should utterly restless until it has found itself, known its Marker and appreciated the true correspondence between the Maker and itself.
Young India, 12-5-20, p. 2
The root of religion is ‘that which binds’. The root meaning of its Sanskrit equivalent Dharma is ‘that which holds’. It sustains a person as nothing else does. It is rock-bottom fundamental morality. When morally incarnates itself in a living man it becomes religion, because it binds, it holds, it sustains him in the hour of trial.
Harijan, 26-1-34, p. 7
Religion binds man to God and man to man.
Harijan, 4-5-40, p. 117
Religion which takes no count of practical affairs and does not help to solve them, is no religion.
Young India, 7-5-25, p. 164
I reject any religious doctrine that does not appeal to reason and is in conflict with morality. I tolerate unreasonable religious sentiment when it is not immoral.
Young India, 27-7-20, p. 4
True religion and true morality are inseparably bound up with each other. Religion is to morality what water is to the seed that is sown in the soil.
Selections from Gandhi, (1957), p. 255
True morality consists, not in following the beaten track, but in finding out of the true path for ourselves and in fearlessly following it.
Selections from Gandhi, (1957), p. 254
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 different faiths from the standpoint of the followers of those faiths we should find that they were at bottom all one and were all helpful to one another.
Harijan, 16-2-34, pp. 5-6
I believe in the truth of all religions of the world. And since my youth upward, it has been a humble but persistent effort on my to understand the truth of all the religions of the world, and adopt and assimilate in my own thought, word, and deed all that I have found to be best in those religions. The faith that I profess not only permits me to do so but renders it obligatory for me to take the best from whatsoever source it may come.
Harijan, 16-2-34, p. 7
For me the different religions are beautiful flowers from the same garden, or they are branches of the same majestic tree. Therefore they are equally true, though being received and interpreted through human instruments equally imperfect.
Harijan, 30-1-37, p. 407
Each religion has its own contribution to make to human evolution. I regard the great faiths of the world as so many branches of a tree, each distinct from the other though having the same source.
Harijan, 28-1-39, p. 448
All prayer, in whatever language or from whatever religion it was, was prayer addressed to one and the same God and taught mankind that all belonged to one family and should bear love to one another.
All religions enjoined worship of one God who was all pervasive. He was present even in a droplet of water or in a tiny speck of dust.
Various religions were like the leaves on a tree. No two leaves were alike, yet there was no antagonism between them or between the branches on which they grew. Even so, there is an underlying unity in the variety which we see in God’s creation.
Harijan, 26-5-46, p. 154
“Would you say then that your religion is a synthesis of all religions?”
Yes, if you will. But I would call that synthesis Hinduism, and for you the synthesis will be Christianity. If I did not do so, you would always be patronizing me, as many Christians do now, saying, “How nice it would be if Gandhi accepted Christianity,” and Muslims would be doing the same saying, “How nice it would be if Gandhi accepted Islam!” That immediately puts a barrier between you and me. Do you see that?
Harijan, 6-3-37, p. 27
It is the duty of everyone to study the scriptures of religions other than his own. This enables people to keep their religion pure and rid it of blemishes. Moreover, we have Christians, Muslims, Parsis and followers of other religions amongst us. It behaves the Hindus to study their religious books if they regard them as their brothers.
Harijan, 25-5-47, p. 166
For me all the principal religions are equal in the sense that they are all true. They are supplying a felt want in the spiritual progress of humanity. Hence I have had no difficulty in bringing up Muslim, Parsi and Christian children under my care in their own faith. Indeed, I had to study some literature for their sake when their parents wanted me to teach them particular forms of worship according to special books.
Harijan, 6-4-34, p. 59
I hold that it is the duty of every cultured man or woman to read sympathetically the scriptures of the world. If we are to respect others’ religions as we would have them to respect our own, a friendly study of world’s religions is a sacred duty.
Young India, 2-9-26, p. 308
All men are born free and equal, but one is much stronger or weaker than another physically and mentally. Therefore superficially there is no equality between the two. But there an essential equality. In our nakedness God is not going to think of me as Gandhi and you as Keithan. And what are we in this mighty universe? We are less than atoms, and as between atoms there is no use asking which is smaller and which is bigger. Inherently we are equal. The differences of race and skin and of mind and body and of climate and nation are transitory. In the same way essentially all religious are equal.
Harijan, 13-3-37, p. 58
They are equally true and equally imperfect. The finer the line you draw, the nearer it approaches Euclid’s true straight line, but it never is the true straight line. The tree of Religion is the same, there is not that physical equality between the branches. They are all growing, and the person who belongs to the growing branch must not gloat over it and say, ‘Mine is the superior one’. None is superior, none is inferior, to the other.
Harijan, 13-3-37, p. 38
Just as a tree had a million leaves, similarly though God was one, there were as many religions as there were men and women though they were rooted in one God.
Harijan, 16-3-47, p. 63
I am a believer in the truth of all the great religions of the world. There will be no lasting peace on earth unless we learn not merely to tolerate but even to respect the other faiths as our own. A reverent study of the sayings of different teachers of mankind is a step in the direction of such mutual respect.
In search of the Supreme, Vol. III, (1962) p. 10
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 and identical conception of God. Therefore, there will, perhaps, always be different religions answering to different temperaments and climatic conditions. But I can clearly see the time coming when people belonging to different faiths will have the same regard for other faiths that they have for their own. I think that we have to find unity in diversity… We are all children of one and the same God and, therefore, absolutely equal.
Harijan, 2-2-34, p. 8
How can there be room for distinctions of high and low where there is this all-embracing fundamental unity underlying the outward diversity? For that is a fact meeting you at every step in dairy life. The final goal of all religions is to realize this essential oneness.
The essence of all religions is one; only their approaches are different.
Gandhiji’s View of Life, (1954), p. 158
The propagation of truth and non-violence can be done less by books than by actually living those principles. Life truly lived is more than books.
Harijan, 13-5-39, p. 122
After long study and experience, I have come to the conclusion that (1) all religions are true; (2) all religions have some error in them; (3) all religions are almost as dear to me as my own Hinduism, inasmuch as all human beings should be as dear to one as one’s own close relatives. My own veneration for other faiths is the same as that for my own faith; therefore no thought of conversion is possible. The aim of the Fellowship should be to help a Hindu to Become a better Hindu, a Musalman to become a better Musalman, and a Christian a better Christian. The attitude of patronizing toleration is false to the spirit of International Fellowship. If I have a suspicion in my mind that my religion is more or less true, and that other’s are more or less false, instead of being more or less true, then though I may have some sort of fellowship with them, it is of an entirely different kind from the one we need in the International Fellowship. Our prayer for other must be NOT “God, give all the light that Thou has given me,” BUT “Give all the light and truth he needs for his highest development.” Pray merely that your friends may become better men, whatever their form of religion.
Selections from Gandhi, (1957), pp. 258-59
I do not believe in people in people telling others of their faith, especially with a view to conversion. Faith does not admit of telling. It has to be lived and then it becomes self-propagating.
Young India, 20-10-27, p. 352
Preaching jars on me and makes no appeal me, and I get suspicious of missionaries who preach. But I love those who never preach but live the life according to their lights. Their lives are silent, yet most effective testimonies. Therefore, I cannot say what to preach, but I can say that a life of service and uttermost simplicity is the best preaching. If, therefore, you go on serving people and ask them also to serve, they would understand. But you quote instead John 3, 16, and ask them to believe it. That has no appeal to me, and I am sure people will not understand it. Where there has been acceptance of the gospel though preaching, my complaint is that there has been some motive.
A rose does not need to preach. It simply spreads its fragrance. The fragrance is its own sermon. If it had human understanding and if it could engage a number of preaches, the preachers would not be able to sell more roses than the fragrance itself could do. The fragrance of religious and spiritual life is much finer and subtler than of the rose.
Harijan, 29-3-35, p. 50
You bid good-bye to humility the moment you say that life is not adequate and that you must supplement it by speech. Human species need not go to animals and shout to them: “We are humans.” The animals know them as humans. The language of the soul never lends itself to expression. It rises superior to the body. Language is a limitation of the truth which can be only respected by life.
Harijan, 12-12-36, p. 351
There is no occasion for articulate expression. Life is its own expression. I take the simile of the rose I used years ago. The rose does not need to write a book or deliver a sermon on the scent it sheds all round, nor on the beauty which everyone who has eyes can see. Well, spiritual life is infinitely superior to the beautiful and fragrant rose, and I make bold to say that the moment there is a spiritual expression in life, the surroundings will readily respond. There are passages in the Bible, the Gita, the Bhagavata, the Koran, which eloquently show this.”Wherever,” we read, “Krishna appeared, people acted like those possessed.” The same thing about Jesus. But to come nearer home, why are people touched as if by magic wherever Jawaharlal goes? They sometimes do not even know he has come, and yet they take sudden fire from the very thought that he is coming. Now there it may not be described as a spiritual influence, but there is a subtle influence and it is unquestionably there, call it by what name you like. They do not want to hear him, they simply want to see him. And that is natural. You cannot deal with millions in any other way. Spiritual life has grater potency than Marconi waves. When there is no medium between me and my Lord and I simply becomes a willing vessel for his influences to flow into it, then I overflow as the water of the Ganges at its source. There is no desire to speak when one lives the truth. Truth is most economical of words. Truth is most economical of words. There is thus no truer or other evangelism than life.
Harijan, 12-12-36, p. 353
The time has now passed when the followers of one religion can stand and say, ours is the only true religion and all others are false. The growing spirit of toleration towards all religions is a happy augury of future.
The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. V, p. 49
India, with its ancient religions, has much to give, and the bond of unity between us can best be fostered by a wholehearted sympathy and appreciation of each other’s form of religion. A greater toleration on this important question would mean a wider charity in our everyday relations, and the existing misunderstandings would be swept away.
The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. p. 50
“How could you reconcile yourself to believing all religions to be true?”
That has been my fundamental position for years. Underlying it is the idea that you don’t become the judges of the world. Differences in the world there have been, and will be. God is all-powerful. He appears in many shapes and forms. If we search, we may find as many religions as there are men. Hundreds of men are merely striving to know the Truth. They will put the Truth in their own way. No two men will put it in identical terms. Though I know that God, the all-powerful, resides in every one of us, we are imperfect media. We are all different. No two bodies are identically the same. No two leaves of the tree are identically the same; there is bound to be some difference. Each one prays to God according to his own light. Whom am I to judge and say that I pray better than you do? I don’t judge the Muslims, Parsis, Christians, and Jews. If I am a seeker of Truth, it is quite sufficient for me. I cannot say that because I have seen God in this way, the whole world must see Him in that way. All religions are true and equal. That, however, is not to say that they are equally true in religious terms or are absolutely true. Another man’s religions is true for him, as mine is for me. I cannot be a judge of his religion. That is my fundamental position.
Conversations of Gandhiji, (1949), p. 85
The need of the moment is not one religion, but mutual respect and tolerance of the devotees of the different religions. We want to reach not the dead level, but unity in diversity. Any attempt to root out traditions, effects of heredity, climate and other surroundings is not only bound to fail, but is a sacrilege.
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.
Young India, 25-9-24, pp. 317-18