Part II: Was Gandhi a Christian in faith and Hindu in name?

This article has been co-authored by Shanmukh, Saswati Sarkar, Divya Kumar Soti and Dikgaj.

 |  Breaking views  |   Long-form |   18-07-2015
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Conflict of Hindu and Christian values in Gandhi-Revolutionary Debate 

In the prequel we have shown that many of Gandhi’s contemporaries, both Hindus and Christians, had seen him as a Christian rather than a Hindu. We had also shown that deeply influenced by Christian teachings Gandhi seriously pondered on converting to Christianity, but desisted ostensibly because he could be a good Christian and follow Jesus Christ’s teachings while being a Hindu. But, Gandhi was perhaps wrong in his conclusion there. There are fundamental differences in theological principles between Christian principles, as observed in Gandhi’s actions and articulations, and core Hindu doctrines. We had shown that one of the stated foundations of Gandhi’s freedom struggle, not resisting evil by force, was derived from Tolstoy, and was in conflict with all Indic schools, spanning from Hinduism (Sanatan Dharma) to Jainism (the closest to Gandhi’s stated principles among Indic schools). We now enunciate how Gandhi observed other core aspects of Christian theology which would again be in conflict with Indic theology. We conclude this article by expounding on Gandhi’s contributions in the spread of Christianity in India, and the tangible benefits he received in return.  

Section E: Gandhi’s God is more Abrahamic than Indic 

In the passages we quoted in Section C from the debate, it becomes apparent that Gandhi envisioned God as almighty, omniscient and omnipotent. His God is incapable of human errors, is beyond doubt and criticism, can not assume human forms, is not subject to the norms of mortals. Mere mortals ought not seek to understand nor explain the choices of his God, let alone seek to emulate Him. We provide further evidence that substantiate the above thesis: .

Gandhi has reported his answer to a question posed to him on May 26, 1946 (Harijan, 2-6-1946): 

 Q. You have often said that when you talk of "Rama" you refer to the Ruler of the Universe and not to Rama, the son of Dasaratha. But we find that your Ramdhun calls on "Sitarama", "Rajarama", and it ends with "Victory to Rama, Lord of Sita". Who is this Rama if not the son of the King Dasaratha? 

A. I have answered such questions before…. In Ramdhun, "Sitarama", "Rajarama" are undoubtedly repeated. Is not this Rama the same as the son of Dasaratha? Tulsidas has answered this question. But let me put down my own view. More potent than Rama is the name. Thousands of people doubtless look upon Rama and Krishna as historical figures and literally believe that God came down in person on earth in the form of Rama the son of Dasaratha, and that by worshipping him one can attain salvation. Hindu Dharma is like a boundless ocean teeming with priceless gems. The deeper you dive into it the more treasures you find. In Hindu religion, God is known by various names. Thousands of people doubtless look upon Rama and Krishna as historical figures and literally believe that God came down in person on earth in the form of Rama the son of Dasharatha, and that by worshipping Him one can attain salvation. The same thing holds good about Krishna. History, imagination and truth have got so inextricably mixed up, it is next to impossible to disentangle them. I have accepted all the names and forms attributed to God as symbols denoting one formless omnipotent Rama. p. 44-45, [32].

Again: "Tyagaraja had sung that if all the attributes are put on one side and the glory of Ramanama on the other, the latter would far outweigh the former. Thinking of the historical Rama of Valmiki or Tulsidas, one was liable to have many doubts as for instance why Rama banished Sita. And so on. But when one thought of Ramanama in the abstract, forgetting who Rama was and what he did, Rama at once became the omnipresent and omnipotent God, above doubt and criticism."  pp.298-299, [14] p.467, [59]. 

Next: "It was ignorance to say that he [Gandhi] coupled Rama, a mere man, with God. He had repeatedly made it clear that his Rama was the same as God. His Rama was before, is present now and would be for all time. He was Unborn and Uncreated." (4/2/1946) pp. 365, [37]

Gandhi is likely dubious that God can be born as a son of the mortal Dasharatha, and the avatars are incapable of human fallibilities. As Radha Rajan has observed, "Gandhi’s prayer meetings were described by Gandhi himself as his 'covenant with God' and attracted sometimes thousands and even lakhs of people. At these mammoth gatherings, Gandhi spoke to the people about the importance of spinning, about growing more food, about maintaining silence and order in his presence, about hygiene, about the evil of untouchability, about serving the Muslims generously and without political motives and about the power of Ramanaama as the panacea for all physical and mental ills, including malaria and nervous breakdown. While Gandhi ascribed miracle cure powers to Ramanaama and made it sound like an incantation, Gandhi gave Srirama himself a monotheist Christian 'father-who art-in-heaven' connotation, cleverly sidestepping the pointed question of whether his Rama was the historical Rama who was the son of Dasaratha and the husband of Sita." p.467, [59]

From times immemorial Indic philosophies have either been atheist (निरीश्वरवाद): (eg, Sankhya, Buddhism, Jainism), or have considered celestial beings, including Gods, as near and dear – a son, a brother, a mother, a beloved and a friend. Their manifestations in earth, in form of avatars, had rarely exerted their divine might, and accomplished their goals through efforts that mortals would be capable of. They were also shown to be fallible to human weaknesses and to accept the consequences thereof. The concept that Gods are above the laws is not a Hindu concept. 

Hindu deities, either in their celestial forms, or when they  accepted  the form of avatars, act in accordance to the status and resources available to them most of the time. Thus, Krishna did not use his omnipotence to destroy Kamsa and the rest of the Rakshasas of Mathura, but acted in accordance with his situation while growing up in Brindavana, including manifesting a lot of human emotions. Similarly, Rama used the resources at his disposal to destroy the Rakshasas. He underwent the pain of separation when Sita was abducted by Ravana. He was even defeated at one stage by Indrajit and was bound in Sarpabandha arrows. He was forced to have recourse to subterfuge to defeat Vaali, thus gaining the infamy of using unfair means to defeat him. Rama manifested anger, sorrow, tiredness and a whole lot of other emotions, in consonance with his physical and mental state. Similarly, Shri Krishna stole butter as a child, growing up with his adoptive mother Yashoda, and would frequently be punished by her. Siva demonstrated intense grief when his wife Sati died. Thus, neither the deities, nor their avatar states rendered them immune to their surroundings. This is a common theme across Hindu theology.

Next, Hindu theology applied Karma to both mortals and immortals. When Indra killed Vritra by unfair means, he was not spared. He needed to do tapasya to get rid of his sins. There are umpteen instances of the Gods doing wrong and being cursed by the sages (Indra by Chavana, Yama by Maandavya, etc). Shri Krishna was falsely accused in the Shamantaka Mani case, where he unwittingly ended up offending Lord Ganapathi. He had to undergo the penalties there, accept the pain caused by his mistake and clear his name by painstaking efforts. He also humbly accepted Gandhari's curse, with folded hands, accepting that his deeds to destroy the Kauravas were not above reproach, and that the fate that befell the Kurus would also befall the Yadavas.

Another interesting sidelight is that Gandhi almost never invoked female deities in his speeches and writings. His conception of the Almighty is always a male, a "He", which is consistent with the Biblical (Abrahamic) reference to the almighty. On the other hand, Bhavani and Chandikaamba are routinely invoked by Barindra Ghosh and Aurobindo Ghosh respectively. Ascribing masculine gender to the Almighty (whatever might be the form of the conception of this Almighty) is not an Indic thought in general, except when the Almighty has been specified in the form of one of the deities (like Shiva, or Vishnu, or the avatars). Even the Vaishnavite school, which considers Vishnu as the supreme God, and Krishna as his manifestation, largely worships Radha along with Krishna, and some Vaishnav sub-schools give more importance to Radha than Sri Krishna. Shri Krishna Himself defines His female manifestations in Bhagwat Gita (10:34). Shaiva and Shakta Schools worship Almighty as Ardhanarishwar (Half Female, Half Male). Agam and Nigam Granthas give primary importance to the worship of Shakti. It is notable here that Agams are narrated by Shiva (God in Male manifestation) Himself. Harivansha (Appendix to Mahabharata) specifically mentions that masculine gender is manifestation of Shiva and feminine gender is manifestation of Shakti. (Vishnu Parva, 27:60). Atharvaveda eulogises and worships Supreme Cosmic Force in Female form (See Devya Athavasheersha). Of the six major schools of Hinduism (Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa, Vedanta), the former is atheist (निरीश्वरवाद) like Buddhist and Jain schools, while the latter five accept the existence of the Brahman, but refer to Brahma in neuter gender. 

Therefore, on the whole, (and as we have seen in context of Gita, Section D.2), Gandhi clearly sought to reinterpret and reconstruct sacred texts of Hinduism as also the essence of the avatars presented therein. And, even when Gandhi spoke of Indic deities, his interpretation was more in line with the Abrahamic monotheism, than with the Hindu monistic view. Recall that he had justified reinterpreting the Kurukhestra war as a symbolic contest between the good and the evil citing analogies from Abrahamic texts (Section D.2). An American missionary, Stanley Jones, who was a close acquaintance of Gandhi had written: "He [Gandhi] said, 'I would suggest that you must practice your religion without adulterating or toning it down.' This is just as remarkable as the first. The greatest living non-Christian asks us not to adulterate it or tone it down, not to meet them with an emasculated gospel, but to take it in its rugged simplicity and high demand. ... " Chapter VI, The Great Hindrance [15]. It is indeed remarkable that the man who would reinterpret the religion he ostensibly practised without any compunction, would counsel a preacher of a different religion to practice an unadulterated version of his. It perhaps indicates that he was intrinsically uncomfortable with the core principles of Hinduism, so he needed to reconstruct and reinterpret them, while Christianity in its pristine form appealed to him organically.       

Gandhi’s urge to reinterpret likely also stemmed from his recognition of the irreconciliable contradiction of his theory of non-violence with pre-existing Hindu concepts, texts and memes. He could not afford to have his contemporary Hindus inspired by Rama’s and Krishna’s examples to adopt means that he did not want them to apply on aggressors, British and Muslims. He could not therefore accept them as historical (he had been ambivalent about their histriocity) as that would lend credence to using their political and military actions as templates for current times. He could not dismiss Rama and Krishna as fictional characters as that would alienate from him large numbers of common practising Hindus who would view the same as sacrilege. And, such dismissals would also weaken the moral authority of a Rama and a Krishna who Gandhi planned to reconstruct and bestow with the abstractions that he cherished such as non-resistance of evil by force. He needed the avatars to establish trust with the common Hindu through shared memetic understanding, but he also needed to defang them of all attributes that could overthrow the rule-by-trusteeship model Gandhi sought to impose from the top. He therefore took the old route undertaken by the organised religious institutions of 1) separating "God" from his/her/its "creation" so that the creation dare not emulate or seek to understand the motives of the creator (the distinctions in the terminology had been chosen for this very purpose); and 2) bestowing the right and the power to interpret only on some chosen few, that is,  the cult leaders (Gandhi in this case). Reconstructing the existing narratives as collections of vague, spiritual symbolisms would facilitate the above by allowing for contextual and opportunistic reinterpretations of the older memes as per the personal agenda of the cult leaders (Gandhi again). Such interpretations naturally delegitimised the previously held narrative of the divine intervening on the side of justice and denied their utilisations as templates to current populations in whose subjugation and controlled release of dissent, the ruling and aspiring elite, which Gandhi represented, was vested in.      

But, did Hindu scriptures  leave open the possibility that the celestial beings could not be emulated? We examine this question applying Gandhi’s logic. Since Shri Krishna was God personified according to Hindu scriptures as well as according to Gandhi, why then being omnipotent, again according to Gandhi, he was enacting the drama of Mahabharata? Shri Krishna could have neutralised Kauravas using his omnipotence and installed Pandavas on the throne without any war. Instead, he refused to take up arms and assumed only the role of a guide and asked Arjun to fight for justice on his own. Clearly, what Shri Krishna was doing was for Lok Shiksha or teaching the mankind that it should learn to strive for justice on its own. 

Two verses from Gita substantiate our contention above: 

कर्मणैव हि संसिद्धिमस्थिता जनकादयः।

लोकसंग्रहमेवापि संपश्यन्कर्तुमर्हसि॥  ||3-20||

(Translated: Verily by action alone, Janaka and others attained perfectionalso, simply with the view for the guidance of men, thou shouldst perform action.)

यद्यदाचरति श्रेष्ठस्ततदेवेतरो जनः।

स यत्प्रमाणं कुरुते लोकस्दनुवर्तते॥ ||3-21||

(Whatsoever the superior person does, that is followed by others. What he demonstrated by action, that, people follow.)

Thus, Shri Krishna was fully conscious that in coming ages Indics would try to follow and imitate him, so he was performing his actions "to provide a template for them". And, by repeatedly telling revolutionaries to desist from imitating Shri Krishna, Gandhi showed his logical inconsistency as also his ignorance of the basic principles of the concept of avatars.

Thus, one cannot but broadly agree with nobel laureate VS Naipaul (barring his unjustified castigation of rural India): "It is not easy to enter the culturally denuded mind of the Gandhi who went to England in 1888. He had the most basic idea, a village idea, of Indian religion and the epics, but he didn’t know the history of India, not even a school version; he didn’t know the geography, hardly had a map of the world in his head. He didn’t know about books and modern plays, hardly had an idea of news and newspapers." pp. 165-166, [73]. It does not seem that Gandhi’s understanding of Hinduism has been informed through in depth reading subsequent to the stage of life that Naipaul describes above.  

Section F: The principle of suffering  

Gandhi was particularly obsessed with suffering. Suffering to convert an opponent as also as a tool for salvaging others had a great fascination for him. In Hind Swaraj, in which he expounded on his philosophy, he wrote: "Passive resistance is a method of securing rights by personal suffering; it is the reverse of resistance by arms." p. 292, [62], p. 197, [59]. Then again, "The method [passive resistance] adopted also is idealised, as we seek to bring about relief through personal suffering by disregard of the law, which we hold to be against our conscience and our self-respect." (30/11/1909) p. 335, [16], and "The function of violence is to obtain reform by external means; the function of passive resistance, that is, soul-force, is to obtain it by growth from within; which, in its turn, is obtained by self-suffering, self-purification." (10/5/1910) p. 39,  [17], p. 61, [59]. Thus, his preference for passive resistance as a method was based on the fact that it induced self-suffering.   

Gandhi averred, "Since then [1920] the conviction has been growing upon me, that things of fundamental importance to the people are not secured by reason alone, but have to be purchased with their suffering. Suffering is the law of human beings; war is the law of the jungle. But suffering is infinitely more powerful than the law of the jungle for converting the opponent and opening his ears, which are otherwise shut, to the voice of reason. Nobody has probably drawn up more petitions or espoused more forlorn causes than I, and I have come to this fundamental conclusion that, if you want something really important to be done, you must not merely satisfy the reason, you must move the heart also. The appeal of reason is more to the head, but the penetration of the heart comes from suffering. It opens up the inner understanding in man. Suffering is the badge of the human race, not the sword." p. 48, [58].

Gandhi further claimed: "Suffering is the mark of the human tribe. It is an eternal law. The mother suffers so that her child may live. Life comes out of death. No country has ever risen without being purified through the fire of suffering... It is impossible to do away with the law of suffering which is the one indispensable condition of our being. Progress is to be measured by the amount of suffering undergone... the purer the suffering, the greater the progress." [69]-[72]. 

As may be observed from his claims, Gandhi saw particular bonus in suffering. However, suffering as a means of progress, physical or moral, has never been advocated in Hindu philosophies. Suffering, with the exception of fasting and abstinence (in some sects and at very specific times), is certainly not considered holy in Hinduism, as a form of purification, as viewed by Gandhi. Fasting and abstinence, even practised according to Hindu rites, is done as part of a ritual in general, and not as a standalone practice as often undertaken by Gandhi.

In contrast, suffering, in and of itself, too, has a prominent place in Christian theology. The idea of suffering (mortification of the flesh) seems to come from the Bible itself. "For if you live after the flesh, you shall die: but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live." Romans, 8:13, [61]. In other verses of the Bible, suffering seems to be prized as useful in moral development, or to procure the love of the Lord. In Romans 5:3-5, [61], it says, "And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us." Similarly, there are other verses in the Bible that imply that suffering purify the sufferer or endear him to the Lord. We produce here a few verses that give the meaning. In 1 Peter 1:6-7, [61] it is said, "Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found to praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ." Here, too, faith is merely being tested by suffering and the one that passes the test of faith will be rewarded. Similarly, in 2 Corinthians 4:17, [61] it is said, "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Suffering prepares one for an eternal reward beyond all comparison. Another verse (Psalm 119:71), [61] values affliction for the moral effect it produces, "It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes."

Unsurprisingly, then, the value of suffering for Christians has been confirmed by the authorities of the different sects of Christianity. Pope John XXIII wrote in [41]: "But the faithful must also be encouraged to do outward acts of penance, both to keep their bodies under the strict control of reason and faith, and to make amends for their own and other people's sins... St. Augustine issued the same insistent warning: "It is not enough for a man to change his ways for the better and to give up the practice of evil, unless by painful penance, sorrowing humility, the sacrifice of a contrite heart and the giving of alms he makes amends to God for all that he has done wrong."

Even the Lutherans seem to approve of suffering as holy and penitentiary, as evidenced by the Augsburg confession of the Lutheran church p.150, [34], "For they [our teachers] have always taught concerning the cross that it behooves Christians to bear afflictions. This is the true, earnest, and unfeigned mortification, to wit, to be exercised with diverse afflictions, and to be crucified with Christ. Moreover, they teach that every Christian ought to train and subdue himself with bodily restraints, or bodily exercises and labors that neither satiety nor slothfulness tempt him to sin, but not that we may merit grace or make satisfaction for sins by such exercises. And such external discipline ought to be urged at all times, not only on a few and set days. So Christ commands, Luke 21:34: Take heed lest your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting; also Matt. 17:21: This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. Paul also says, 1 Cor. 9:27: I keep under my body and bring it into subjection. Here he clearly shows that he was keeping under his body, not to merit forgiveness of sins by that discipline, but to have his body in subjection and fitted for spiritual things, and for the discharge of duty according to his calling."

Others like Saint Faustina have openly valued sufferings, "Sufferings, adversities, humiliations, failures and suspicions that have come my way are splinters that keep alive the fire of my love for you, O Jesus."

Gandhi underwent many fasts for purification. For these fasts, he derived at least a part of his justification and inspiration from Christianity. In a speech in 1946, he said, "Fasting cannot be undertaken mechanically. It is a powerful thing but a dangerous thing, if handled amateurishly. It requires complete self-purification, much more than what is required in facing death with retaliation even in mind. One such act of perfect sacrifice would suffice for the whole world. Such is held to be Jesus' example." [35]

Another particular peculiarity of Gandhi is that he often fasted in penance for others’ misdeeds and/or tried to procure forgiveness for others, even when neither the forgiveness, nor the request that Gandhi obtain forgiveness for the guilty was sought. There is one particular case, from Gandhi’s own autobiography [55], that is worth quoting in its entirety here.

"In those days I had to move between Johannesburg and Phoenix. Once when I was in Johannesburg, I received tidings of the moral fall of two of the inmates of the Ashram. News of an apparent failure or reverse in the Satyagraha struggle would not have shocked me, but this news came upon me like a thunderbolt. The same day I took the train for Phoenix. Mr Kallenbach insisted on accompanying me. He had noticed the state I was in. He would not brook the thought of my going alone, for he happened to be the bearer of the tidings which had so upset me. During the journey my duty seemed clear to me. I felt that the guardian or teacher was responsible, to some extent at least, for the lapse of his ward or pupil. So my responsibility regarding the incident in question became clear to me as daylight. My wife had already warned me in the matter, but being of a trusting nature, I had ignored her caution. I felt that the only way the guilty parties could be made to realise my distress and the depth of their own fall would be for me to do some penance. So I imposed upon myself a fast for seven days and a vow to have only one meal a day for a period of four months and a half. Mr Kallenbach tried to dissuade me, but in vain. He finally conceded the propriety of the penance, and insisted on joining me. I could not resist his transparent affection.

I felt greatly relieved, for the decision meant a heavy load off my mind. The anger against the guilty parties subsided and gave place to the purest pity for them. Thus considerably eased, I reached Phoenix, I made further investigation and acquainted myself with some more details I needed to know.  My penance pained everybody, but it cleared the atmosphere. Everyone came to realise what a terrible thing it was to be sinful, and the bond that bound me to the boys and girls became stronger and truer." pp. 414-415, [55]

Here, it is clear that Gandhi is doing penance for what his pupils did, by choosing to suffer for their failures. Suffering for another has no place in Hindu thought, unless two men are guilty of the same sin in the same way (King Somaka and his chief priest), or it is sought by the guilty party (curse of Yayati being taken by his son). By and large, each individual suffers the consequence of his deeds as per the laws of karma. However, in Christianity, suffering for another, even when not sought, has a vital place, as evidenced by the belief that Jesus Christ himself suffered for the whole of humanity. Indeed, a renowned Christian missionary, Stanley Jones, who was well-acquainted with Gandhi, recognised such fasts undertaken by Gandhi as Christian and simultaneously non-Hindu acts:

"The doctrine of Karma, as ordinarily held, has little or no room for the cross in it. According to it, you are being meted out, to the last jot and title, the results of your actions in a previous birth. Everything is held in the iron grip of that law of rewards and punishments. If you help a man it is because his Karma calls for that help; if you hurt him, it is for the same reason. All suffering is punitive and the result of previous sin. This thought prompted a man to ask me in one of my meetings 'if Jesus must not have been a very wicked man in a previous birth, since he was such a terrible sufferer in this one.' This was a view consistent with the doctrine. There is little or no room for vicarious suffering for others.

But with this teaching of Gandhi that they can joyously take on themselves suffering for the sake of national ends, there has come into the atmosphere a new sensitiveness to the cross...

When in South Africa carrying on his passive resistance movement against the South African government (which struggle, by the way, he won), the indentured coolies in whose behalf he was fighting with non-violent weapons, got out of hand again and again. He remonstrated, but all to no avail. Finally, without word he went off and began to fast. He had fasted for two days when word went around among the coolies that Gandhi was fasting because of what they were doing. That changed matters immediately. They came to him with folded hands and begged him to desist from the fast, promising him that they would do anything if only he would stop it. Suffering love had conquered.

In his ashram one of the boys told him something that he believed but later found out that the boy had lied to him. Gandhi called the school together and solemnly said, "Boys, I am sorry to find out that one of you is a liar. As punishment I am going off and fast today." That may be passed with a smile, but not if you knew the dead earnestness of Gandhi and the sheer moral weight of the man. There could not have been a more terrific punishment, for long after any physical pain from physical punishment would have died away there would persist the spiritual pain from the lashings of conscience awakened by the sufferings of the man who loved him. In the light of Gandhi’s acting thus it becomes easy for them to step up from the thought that if one man would take on himself suffering to bring a boy back from a lie to the truth, then if there were One divine enough and holy enough, he might take on his soul the very sin of a whole race to bring us back to good and to God. The cross thus bursts into meaning when lightened up by this lesser act.”  Chapter IV, Jesus Comes Through Irregular Channels-Mahatma Gandhi’s Part, [15] 

Jainism does recommend fasting and some other forms of suffering to atone for bad karma that accumulates over lifetimes (anasan, kayaklesa in external Nirjara [5], [2]). Jainism, however, believes that karma attached to the soul of an individual can be exhausted only by oneself and not by others’ suffering or penance. The concept of suffering for others, which Gandhi adhered to, is a purely Christian idea.  In addition, Gandhi rarely, if ever, referred to Karma, in context of  suffering  or even otherwise.  

Tolstoy's view of suffering is different from Gandhi's in some ways. While Tolstoy, like Gandhi, sees merit in suffering as a catalyst of moral progress, he does not attach any particular importance to suffering in and of itself.  Suffering is the principal subject of one of Tolstoy's greatest philosophical explorations, The Death of Ivan Ilyich (Смерть Ивана Ильича), where the author sets out his view of suffering. Ivan Ilyich suffers terribly from his mortal illness, but his suffering ends when he discovers a higher purpose of life. Suffering is only an instrument for Ivan Ilyich to reach enlightenment, so to speak. Even in War and Peace (Война и мир), Tolstoy views suffering as a means of knowing oneself and in conquest of suffering, one progresses morally. But while Tolstoy views suffering as useful in progress, he sees nothing holy about it.

Section G: Poverty is the road to Salvation 

Gandhi prized poverty, which is again, often, a hallmark of Christianity: "After a great deal of experience, it seems to me that those who want to become passive resisters for the service of the country have to observe perfect chastity, adopt poverty, follow truth and cultivate fearlessness." p. 296, [62]. Indeed, at an address at the Muir College Economic Society, Allahabad, Gandhi, citing Christian theology, averred that there is a direct correlation between material progress and moral regress: "Does economic progress clash with real progress? By economic progress, I take it, we mean material advancement without limit and by real progress we mean moral progress, which again is the same thing as progress of the permanent element in us. The subject may therefore be stated thus: 'Does not moral progress increase in the same proportion as material progress?.... If I were not afraid of treading on dangerous ground, I would even come nearer home and show you that possession of riches has been a hindrance to real growth. I venture to think that the scriptures of the world are far safer and sounder treatises on laws of economics than many of the modern text-books. The question we are asking ourselves this evening is not a new one. It was addressed to Jesus two thousand years ago. St. Mark (ch.10, vv. 17-31) has vividly described the scene. Jesus is in his solemn mood; he is earnest. He talks of eternity. He knows the world about him. He is himself the greatest economist of his time. He succeeded in economizing time and space – he transcended them. It is to him at his best that one comes running, kneels down and asks: ‘Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?’ .....Then Jesus beholding him, loved him and said unto him: ‘One thing thou lackest. Go thy way, sell whatever thou hast and give to the poor and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven – come take up the cross and follow me.’  And Jesus looked round about and said unto his disciples: ‘How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God.’ And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again and said unto them: ‘Children, how hard it is for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. Here you have an eternal rule of life stated in the noblest words the English language is capable of producing......

I should not have laboured my point as I have done, if I did not believe that, in so far as we have made the modern materialistic craze our goal, in so far are we going downhill in the path of progress. I hold that economic progress in the sense I have put it is antagonistic to real progress. Hence the ancient ideal has been the limitation of activities promoting wealth. This does not put an end to all material ambition. We should still have, as we have always had, in our midst people who make the pursuit of wealth their aim in life. But we have always recognised that it is a fall from the ideal. It is a beautiful thing to know that the wealthiest among us have often felt that to have remained voluntarily poor would have been a higher state for them. That you cannot serve God and Mammon is an economic truth of the highest value. We have to make our choice. Western nations today are groaning under the heel of the monster-god of materialism. Their moral growth has become stunted. They measure their progress in £. s. d. American wealth has become the standard. She [sic] is the envy of the other nations. I have heard many of our countrymen say that we will gain American wealth but avoid its methods. I venture to suggest that such an attempt if it were made is foredoomed to failure. We cannot be ‘wise, temperate and furious’ in a moment. I would have our leaders to teach us to be morally supreme in the world. This land of ours was once, we are told, the abode of the gods. It is not possible to conceive gods inhabiting a land which is made hideous by the smoke and the din of null chimneys and factories and whose roadways are traversed by rushing engines dragging numerous cars crowded with men mostly who know not what they are after, who are often absent-minded, and whose tempers do not improve by being uncomfortably packed like sardines in boxes and finding themselves in the midst of utter strangers who would oust them if they could and whom they would in their turn oust similarly. I refer to these things because they are held to be symbolical of material progress. But they add not an atom to our happiness...

In a series of chapters, he [Wallace, the great scientist] then proceeds to examine the position of the English nation under the advance in wealth it has made. He says: 'This rapid growth of wealth and increase of our power over nature put too great a strain upon our crude civilization, on our superficial Christianity, and it was accompanied by various forms of social immorality almost as amazing and unprecedented.'  

He then shows how factories have risen on the corpses of men, women and children, how as the country has rapidly advanced in riches, it has gone down in morality. He shows this by dealing with insanitation, life-destroying trades, adulteration, bribery and gambling. He shows how, with the advance of wealth, justice has become immoral, deaths from alcoholism and suicide have increased. the average of premature births and congenital defects has increased, and prostitution has become an institution. He concludes his examination by these pregnant remarks: 

'The proceedings of the divorce courts show other aspects of the result of wealth and leisure, while a friend who had been good deal in London society assured me that both in country houses and in London various kinds of orgies were occasionally to be met with which would hardly have been surpassed in the period of the most dissolute emperors. Of war, too, I need say nothing. It has always been more or less chronic since the rise of the Roman Empire; but there is now undoubtedly a disinclination for war among all civilized peoples. Yet the vast burden of armaments, taken together with the most pious declarations in favour of peace, must be held to show an almost total absence of morality as a guiding principle among the governing classes.'" pp. 274-278, [38].  

Gandhi therefore ostensibly attached negative connotations with wealth and material property. His speech above, exemplifying his inspiration from the Bible for his love and admiration of poverty, is another testament to where Gandhi's inspiration lay.

In Hinduism, धर्म (righteous life and duties), अर्थ (economic goals and economic duties), काम (personal desires), and मोक्ष (salvation) are recognised as the valid goals of a person (पुरुषार्थाः).  The accumulation of wealth by moral means, for the purposes of enjoyment, for the purposes of use for oneself and one's dependents and for the purposes of charity has been heartily encouraged in multiple Hindu scriptures. Rigveda espouses:

परि चिन मर्तो दरविणं ममन्याद रतस्य पथा नमसाविवासेत ।

अत सवेन करतुना सं वदेत शरेयांसन्दक्षं मनसा जग्र्भ्यात || (Rigveda 10.31.2)

(Let a man think on wealth and earn it humbly, by moral means

Consulting one's own conscience, and heartily gain prosperity)

Indeed, right from the king to the commoner, accumulation of wealth was recommended. A common blessing in यजुर्वेद for the king runs as follows:

बहुग्वै बह्वश्वायै बह्वजाविकायै। बहूव्रीहि यवायै बहुमाषतिलायै। बहुहिरण्यायै बहुहस्तिकायै। बहुदासपूरुषायै रयिमत्यै पुष्टिमत्यै । बहुरायस्फोटायै राजाऽस्तु।

(Many cows, horses, goats and sheep, a lot of rice and barley, a lot of sesame and millets, a lot of gold and many elephants, many servants, may the king have!) 

The Mahabharata recommends building up of wealth, suggesting that wealth is the source of all Dharma.

धऩाद्धि धर्मः स्रवति शैलादपि नदी यथा। (Shantiparva, Mahabharata)

Hindus worship the Goddess of wealth, Laxmi,  openly, courting her blessings during Diwali. The Bhagavadgita also celebrates wealth, and Krishna himself calls Shree/Lakshmi his own manifestation. 

कीर्तिः श्रीवाक्च नारीणां स्मृतिर्मेधा धृतिः क्षमा॥ (सर्ग10, श्लोक 34)

Rig Veda worships Lakshmi or Shri and seeks her blessing against poverty (Alakshmi):

चन्द्रां प्रभासां यशसा ज्वलन्तीं श्रियं लोके देवजुष्टामुदाराम् । तां पद्मिनीमीं शरणमहं प्रपद्येऽलक्ष्मीर्मे नश्यतां त्वां वृणे ॥

Who is the Embodiment of Shri and Whose Glory Shines like the Splendour of the Moon in all the Worlds; Who is Noble and Who is Worshipped by the Devas. I take Refuge at Her Feet, Who Abides in the Lotus; By Her Grace, let the Alakshmi (in the form of Evil, Distress and Poverty) within and without be Destroyed.

Shri Suktam goes one step further and prays for Rashtra to become realm of Shri or Lakshmi:

उपैतु मां देवसखः कीर्तिश्च मणिना सह । प्रादुर्भूतोऽस्मि राष्ट्रेऽस्मिन् कीर्तिमृद्धिं ददातु मे ॥

By Whose Presence will Come Near me the Companions of the Devas along with Glory and various Jewels, And I will be Reborn in the Realm (Rashtra) of Sri which will Grant me Inner Glory and Outer Prosperity.

A full reading of the Arthashaastra merely precludes the usurping of the state by the merchants and their influence, but encourages the legitimate pursuit of wealth, and discourages subsistence on others’ resources. It is clear that economic prosperity creates prosperity of the people. It greatly prizes and encourages both domestic and international trade, and recommends a series of measures that procure the safety of the merchants in unsafe and foreign places. The Arthashaastra has this to say about the duties of the superintendent of commerce of a king: 

Then he may send one quarter of his valuable merchandise through safe roads to different markets on land. In view of large profits, he (the deputed merchant) may make friendship with the forest-guards, boundary-guards, and officers in charge of cities and of country-parts (of the foreign king). He shall take care to secure his treasure (sára) and life from danger pp. 138, [24].

Having gathered information as to the transaction in commercial towns along the banks of rivers, he shall transport his merchandise to profitable markets and avoid unprofitable ones. pp. 139, [24] 

Thus, Radha Rajan has correctly opined, "Hindu tradition celebrated abundance and prosperity for all institutions and collectives: for temples, mathams, kingdoms, for village, society and nation, while Christ and Christianity celebrated poverty for the individual of faith. Varnashramdharma’s primary responsibility was creating abundance and prosperity in every aspect of collective life: in food, in the creative arts and culture, in knowledge, and in trade and commerce. Kshatriya dharma ensured that society remained peaceful, stable and undisturbed in its primary responsibility to create wealth and abundance for all. ‘Embracing poverty’ militates against Hindu varna dharma." pp.76-78, [59].

It is nonetheless worthwhile to note that the Church did not practise what Jesus preached as they constitute one of the richest institutions, worldwide. Gandhi’s choices coincided with the church’s in this respect. He sustained his activities through generous contributions from the richest industrialists of contemporary India, some of whom (Birla, Bajaj) constituted members of his inner circle as well and exerted substantial say on the policies he adopted [6]. In June 1942, Louis Fischer, the American journalist, asked Gandhi: "Very highly placed Britishers had told me that Congress was in the hands of big business and that Gandhi was supported by the Bombay mill-owners who gave him as much money as he wanted. What truth is there in these assertions?" Gandhi replied: "Unfortunately, they are true." Fischer asked: "What proportion of the Congress budget is covered by rich Indians?" Gandhi replied: "Practically, all of it. In this ashram, for instance we could live much more poorly than we do and spend less money. But, we do not, and the money comes from our rich friends." pp.405, [18], pp. 405-406, p. 122, [3]. Industrialists also funded many social service organisations, which were under the sole control of Gandhi – the Gandhi Seva Sangh, All India Spinners Association, All India Village Industries Association, Go Seva Sangh, Talimi Sangh, Harijan Sevak Sangh. p. 123, [3]. These  organisations helped Gandhi capture the Congress machinery. p. 138, [1]. Gandhi and his coterie regularly stayed at the Birla houses in different parts of India. His correspondences were regularly directed to and from Birla houses. p. 130, p. 144 [47]. He was assassinated in Birla house in Delhi. His staunch follower Vallabhbhai Patel also died in Birla house. p. X1X, [4].

Section H: Satan – a pure, unadulterated evil    

Bible dwells on the concept of Satan, a being of pure evil, and posits him as a contrast to its monotheistic God. The concept of Satan, or any being of pure evil, is alien to Indic thought.  The worst of the Rakshasas had some good attributes in them, and the idea that everyone (including Rakshasas) were mixtures of good and evil is at the core of Indic theology.  

Gandhi repeatedly invoked the imagery of Satan in his speeches and aryicles. He routinely compared both the Revolutionaries and the British government with Satan. p. 140, [28]. Gandhi therefore ascribed pure evil to the Revolutionaries and their motives. While debating with the revolutionaries he said: "Armed conspiracies against something satanic is like matching satans against Satan. But since one Satan is one too many for me, I would not multiply him." p. 140, [28]. Earlier, he wrote in his book, Hind Swaraj: "The means may be likened to a seed, the end to a tree; and there is just the same inviolable connection between the means and the end as there is between the seed and the tree. I am not likely to obtain the result flowing from the worship of God by laying myself prostrate before Satan. If, therefore, anyone were to say: 'I want to worship God; it does not matter that I do so by means of Satan', it would be set down as ignorant folly." p. 287, [62]. Then again, "The British Government in India constitutes a struggle between the Modern Civilisation, which is the Kingdom of Satan, and the Ancient Civilisation, which is the Kingdom of God. The one is the God of War, the other is the God of Love." p. 458, [62]. Describing his inner deliberations after the Chauri Chaura violence in February, 1922, which lead him to call off the Non-Cooperation Movement, he wrote: "'But what about your manifesto to the Viceroy and your rejoinder to his reply?' spoke the voice of Satan [in Gandhi’s mind]. It was the bitterest cup of humiliation to drink. 'Surely it is cowardly to withdraw the next day after pompous threats to the government and promises to the people of Bardoli.' Thus Satan’s invitation was to deny Truth and therefore Religion, to deny God Himself." p. 178, [64]. Gandhi therefore organically related to Biblical memes. 

Section I:  The Christian Missionary in Gandhi    

Gandhi ostensibly personally believed that conversion from one religion to another was futile and had repeatedly opposed predatory proselytising, as frequently resorted to by Christian missionaries. [19]. Yet, he received strong support from a section of Christian missionaries and Christian thinkers. He  had close associations with many Christian missionaries (Joseph Doke, Charlie Andrews, Dr Stanley Jones, Agatha Harrison and Horace Alexander, to name only a few) and Christian thinkers (Tolstoy, Emerson, Thoreau, Mirabehn or Margaret Slade and Madame Blavatsky). "While Joseph Doke wrote Gandhi’s biography during Gandhi’s South African days, Stanley Jones, an  American missionary paid wholesome tribute to Gandhi in his book The Christ of the Indian Road." p. 459, [59]. G D Birla, a member of Gandhi’s inner circle, has observed that: "There were other friends, notably the Quakers, whose religious feelings made them sympathetic with Bapu’s nonviolent creed. In India, they had their counterpart in missionaries, most of whom, whether British or American, sympathised openly with the National Movement.’’  p. 230, [4]. As we have shown in Section D.1, the essence of Gandhi’s philosophy may be traced to Tolstoy, who in turn derived much of his worldview from the Quakers.   

We now explore why the Christian missionaries supported Gandhi despite his apparent aversion to conversion and predatory proselytising. First, Gandhi  actively assisted in proselytising despite his stated aversion. He had helped organise gatherings where Christian missionaries could preach the message of Christ. As American missionary Stanley Jones had written, “One of the missionaries wrote to Mr Gandhi and told him that I was giving addresses in the city, and asked him to kindly write to his Nationalists and ask them to come. He wrote back immediately, for he is very prompt in his correspondence, and said that we would be very happy to have his people come, in fact, had written them to that effect. When they got this word they came to us and asked if they could not take charge of the meetings. I told them that I was not going to talk politics, but Christ. Nevertheless, three of the leading Hindu Nationalists signed the notices that went out calling the meetings. The hall filled up immediately, so we had to go out into the open air. I saw at once that a good many of my hearers did not understand English....I turned to my chairman and said, 'I am not sure what I should do, for I do not know Gujarati [that was the local language]. I only know Hindustani, and there is no Christian here to interpret for me.'  He promptly replied. 'I shall be very happy indeed to interpret for you if you like.'  .....And he did! The next night they gave me another interpreter, also a Hindu, and we gave the message of the cross through him." Chapter V, Through the Regular Channels-Some Evangelistic Series [15]. He had also assured missionary Dr Foss Westcott about allowing proselytising in independent India: "Of course conversions will, so far as I know, continue under swaraj but there would be no State favouritism as there has been during the British regime." pp. 76-77, [20], p. 58, [19]. 

Stanley Jones had also observed how Gandhi  offered valuable counsel as to how to naturalise Christianity in India, as also intrinsically related to the core principles of Christianity: "In conversation with him one day I said, 'Mahatma Gandhi, I am very anxious to see Christianity naturalised in India, so that it shall be no longer a foreign thing identified with a foreign people and a foreign government, but a part of the national life of India and contributing its power to India’s uplift and redemption. What would you suggest that we do to make that possible?' He very gravely and thoughtfully replied: 'I would suggest, first, that all of you Christians, missionaries and all, must begin to live more like Jesus Christ.' He needn’t have said anything more – that was quite enough. I knew that looking through his eyes were the three hundred millions of India, and speaking through his voice were the dumb millions of the East saying to me, a representative of the West, and through me to the very West itself, 'If you will come to us in the spirit of your Master, we cannot resist you.' Never was there a greater challenge to the West than that, and never was it more sincerely given. 'Second,' he said, 'I would suggest that you must practise your religion without adulterating or toning it down.” This is just as remarkable as the first. The greatest living non-Christian asks us not to adulterate it or tone it down, not to meet them with an emasculated gospel, but to take it in its rugged simplicity and high demand. ....Third, I would suggest that you must put your emphasis upon love, for love is the center and soul of Christianity.' He did not mean love as a sentiment, but love as a working force, the one real power in a moral universe, and he wanted it applied between individuals and groups and races and nations, the one cement and salvation of the world. With a soul so sensitive to the meaning of love no wonder there were tears in his eyes when I read him at that point the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. 'Fourth, I would suggest that you study the non-Christian religions and culture more sympathetically in order to find the good that is in them, so that you might have a more sympathetic approach to the people.' Quite right. We should be grateful for any truth found anywhere, knowing that it is a finger post that points to Jesus, who is the Truth. 

When I mentioned these four things to the Chief Justice of the High Court in North India, the noble, sympathetic, Christian Britisher exclaimed: 'He could not have put his finger on four more important things. It took spiritual genius and insight to do that.'"  Chapter VI, The Great Hindrance [15]   

As an aside, in the above excerpt, Stanley Jones had referred to Indian masses as dumb millions, a phrase that Gandhi used frequently too. 

It  is then but expected that Stanley Jones would find Gandhians as spiritual-as Aurobindo Ghosh had noted they were following Christian notions of spirituality: "While there are many notable and noble exceptions, it is a truism to say that in war carried on by physical arms the men who are engaged in it are brutalised – the more so, the more efficient. On the contrary, I have found that the men who threw themselves in with Gandhi and really practised his program were spiritualised; it deepened their sense of moral values and made them self-sacrificial.” Chapter V, Through the Regular Channels-Some Evangelistic Series [15]   

Stanley Jones had recorded one instance where Gandhi’s fast had led to resolutions recognising the right to convert to a different religion: "It [a 21-day fast undertaken by Gandhi to improve amity between Hindus and Muslims] touched India to the quick, for they are an emotionally responsive people. They called a Unity Conference on the tenth day of his fast. It was composed of representatives of the various religions of India, including the Metropolitan, the head of the Church of England in India. They debated back and forth the questions at issue. Though Gandhi was lying in weakness upon his couch in another part of the city, his spirit pressed upon them in the conference for a solution. They passed resolutions covering their points of difference and appointed a commission of twenty-five as a Permanent Board of Adjudication on inter-communal matters. But the most remarkable resolution was the one in which they stated that 'We recognise the right of an individual to change his faith at will, provided no inducement is offered to effect that change, such as the offering of material gain,' and, further, 'We also recognise the right of that individual not to suffer persecution from the community which he may leave.' When one remembers that in Islam apostasy meant death, and in Hinduism social death, then this resolution marks a national epoch and is really a National Declaration of Religious Freedom. The silent pressure of the spirit of Gandhi was doing its work. And Gandhi’s spirit was being pressed upon by the Spirit of Jesus." Chapter IV, Jesus Comes Through Irregular Channels-Mahatma Gandhi’s Part, [15] 

Second, and more importantly, the Christian missionaries recognised the preponderance of Christian thoughts in Gandhi’s world view as also conflict with the Hindu doctrine of Karma; they also noted the frequent references to the New Testament in his political lectures, and observance of Christian practices in his programme. Missionaries have noted that Indian masses could also recognise the connection between Gandhi and Christianity, and that Gandhians in effect practised Christianity without formally converting. All of the above had in turn entrenched Christian thoughts and symbolisms in Hindu psyche, and enhanced the acceptability of the missionaries in India and therefore the efficacy of proselytising. Prominent missionaries have also commended Gandhi on making it easy for the British to contain the freedom struggle and denounced the revolutionaries as Bengal anarchists (the latter is but expected as the revolutionaries were intrinsically more Indic and therefore doctrinally in conflict with Christianity).       

Stanley Jones had written: "While a Christian lecturer was commenting on this remarkable permeation of the atmosphere of India with the thought and spirit of Jesus, a Hindu turned and said to me, 'Yes, but he failed to say that Mahatma Gandhi was responsible for a great deal of this new interest in Jesus.' I could only agree with him that the criticism was just.

Mahatma Gandhi does not call himself a Christian. The fact is that he calls himself a Hindu. But by his life and outlook and methods he has been the medium through which a great deal of this interest in Christ has come. 

He saw clearly that there were two ways that India might gain her freedom. She might take the way of the sword and the bomb - the way that Mohammed Ali and Shankat Ali, the Mohammedan leaders, untamed by Gandhi, would have taken; and the way that the Bengal anarchists have actually taken. The fires of rebellion were underneath. The flash of a bomb here and there let the world see in that lurid light what was there. Gandhi brought all this hidden discontent to the open. A member of the secret police told me that it was comparatively easy for them now since Gandhi’s advent, that they simply went to the Non-Cooperation Headquarters and asked what would be the next step in their program in the fight with the government and they told him just what they would do next. Gandhi turned the streams of discontent and rebellion into open and frank channels.

He rejected both the sword and the bomb, not because it was expedient, but because he believed with all his soul in something else, in another type of power-soul force or the power of suffering - and another type of victory - a victory over oneself, this inward victory being the precursor of the outward national victory. In the fires of that suffering there would come the inward freedom, the purefaction of the social and political life from within. 

Now for the first time in human history, a nation in the attainment of its national ends repudiated physical force and substituted the power of soul force, and has made inward national regeneration a vital part of its program. This is certainly an infinitely more Christian way than we have ordinarily taken in the West. Had the Indian people really caught the ideal on a national scale and put it into practice, as an inner circle caught and practiced it, they would have risen to almost unparalleled moral heights. As one English writer, who is not supposed to be sympathetic, put it, 'Had India really practised Gandhi’s programme, no nation on Earth could have denied to India the moral leadership of the world.' They would have shown us a way of the vicious circle into which militarism has got us. They would have demonstrated what we all vaguely feel, that the final power of the world resides in soul.

The daily Anglo-Indian paper, The Statesman, after bitterly fighting Gandhi and his movement, acknowledged in its editorial columns that Gandhi 'had put sincerity into politics'. He did more: he put the cross into politics.

The movement as a political movement failed, for violence crept into it. The movement failed, but it was not a failure. The immediate end was not accomplished, but it left a spiritual deposit in the mind of India that will never be lost.

At the close of an address on Gandhi in America a man arose and asked why I talked on Gandhi and his movement when both of them were abject failures. I replied that I did so because I belonged to that other and greater Failure of human history-to the Man who began a kingdom with initial success and then it all ended in a cross, a bitter and shameful failure. But Golgotha’s failure was the world’s most amazing success. A recent dramatist made the centurion say to Mary as she stood by the cross: “I tell you, woman, that this dead Son of yours, disfigured, shamed, spat upon, has built this day a kingdom that can never die. The living glory of him ruled it. The earth is his and he made it. He and his brothers have been molding and making it through the long ages; they are the only ones who ever did possess it; not the proud, not the idle, not the vaunting empires of the world. Something has happened on this hill to-day to shake all the kingdoms of blood and fear to dust. The Earth is his, the Earth is theirs and they made it. The meek, the terrible meek, the fierce agonizing meek are about to enter into their inheritance.” If the meek shall finally inherit Earth, then Gandhi must get his portion, for he belongs to the meek, the terrible meek.’’ Chapter IV, Jesus Comes Through Irregular Channels-Mahatma Gandhi’s Part, [15]

Note that Indics never celebrated timidity – they believed that "वीरभोग्या वसुंधऱा" – its valour that conquers the earth. But, Jones had rightly recognised Gandhi as meek, and more importantly, one who espoused timidity consistent with Christian theology. 

Stanley Jones continued (parts of the excerpts below have been reproduced earlier in the piece, but we still repeat them to provide the entire sequence of arguments which is critical to our thesis as to the acts and speeches of Gandhi facilitated the spread of Christianity in India): "Do not misunderstand me, I do not draw the parallels, thereby suggesting that these events are comparable in their effects upon human history, but belonging to the Great Failure that meant world redemption, I am predisposed to understand a failure that may mean something bigger than political success for India-and beyond.

Gandhi did not fail. The Indian people failed Gandhi. It was their failure. But in apparent failure he really succeeded. I would rather think of him as Gandhi the defeated, but holding firm and with unsoured spirit to the belief that somehow, someway the power of his ideal must conquer, than to see Gandhi seated by some other method as the first president of the Indian Republic. We have plenty of presidents throughout the world. We have a new crop every election day. China has one every few months by the clicking of political and military machinery, but few outside China know their names; but the name of Gandhi haunts us, shocks us, appeals to us. If Gandhi should die right now in the moment of his most apparent failure, disagree with him as I do in many things, I would hold him to be the most successful man who has lived in the East or West in the last ten years. I think history will bear that out. I would rather be a Wilson or a Gandhi defeated, but holding to ideals not yet accepted, than to be a Clemenceau, the tiger, standing victorious over a fallen foe.

Gandhi’s movement in its failure left a new spiritual deposit in the mind of India. The cross has become intelligible and vital. Up to a few years ago one was preaching against a stone wall in preaching the cross in India. The whole underlying philosophy of things was against it. The doctrine of Karma, as ordinarily held, has little or no room for the cross in it. According to it, you are being meted out, to the last jot and title, the results of your actions in a previous birth. Everything is held in the iron grip of that law of rewards and punishments. If you help a man it is because his Karma calls for that help; if you hurt him, it is for the same reason. All suffering is punitive and the result of previous sin. This thought prompted a man to ask me in one of my meetings 'if Jesus must not have been a very wicked man in a previous birth, since he was such a terrible sufferer in this one'. This was a view consistent with the doctrine. There is little or no room for vicarious suffering for others.

But with this teaching of Gandhi that they can joyously take on themselves suffering for the sake of national ends, there has come into the atmosphere a new sensitiveness to the cross. A brilliant Hindu thinker, writing on this subject, said, 'What the missionaries have not been able to do in fifty years Gandhi by his life and trial and incarceration has done, namely, he has turned the eyes of India toward the cross.' I am a missionary, and you would expect that to make us missionaries wince a bit, but it does not. We do not mind who gets the credit. We are not there for credit, but for reality. We desire so desperately that India and the world may see the cross that we rejoice if anyone, even one outside our fold, helps India see that cross. Today in India you can step up from this nationalist thinking straight to the heart of the cross. It is the message that goes through with power.

Even a Mohammedan editor caught the inner meaning of things-and it is difficult for Mohammedans who have other ideas of power-and expressed it in an editorial thus: 'From the mere standpoint of strategy it is infinitely better for the missionaries to depend upon the cross and its meaning of self-sacrifice than upon all the empires and their backing.'

This little window lets us see a good deal: In a nationalist paper at the time of great national excitement there appeared this flaming headline, 'A Dreadful Night of Crucifixion'. I read through the account with eagerness to see what had happened. It was a vivid account of how Akali Sikhs, resisters, were severely beaten by the police. It ended with this sentence: 'Gentle reader, on that dreadful night Christ was again crucified.' This was written by a Hindu for Hindus and Mohammedans, but they had caught the idea that Christ was identified in some mysterious way with the pain and suffering and oppression of men. Whether the text taken will bear the burden of the meaning given to it is not the question; the idea lives on even after the event to which it is applied passes away. That idea is that Christ suffers in the suffering of men.

A nationalist put the matter to me this way: 'It is you Christians who can understand the inner meaning of our movement better than others, for it has a kinship to the underlying thought of Christianity.' The man who said this was a man of beautiful character and was acting upon the inner meaning. One nationalist asked me, 'Do you not think that the Non-Cooperation movement is an application of the principles of Jesus to the present political situation?'

Some of the Hindus have been concerned about this too definitely Christian aspect of things. One of them asked in my meeting, 'Just as the British government conquered India through the sons of the soil, that is, through Indian troops, aren’t you trying to conquer India for Christianity in the same way, namely, by using a son of the soil, Gandhi?' Of course this was preposterous, for Gandhi is the last man on Earth who can be 'handled'; but the point is that the questioner saw the Christian drift of things. 

In one of the important conferences when the nationalist leaders were discussing this question of procedure a Hindu nationalist said, 'I oppose this non-violent non-cooperation. I ask you is it Hindu teaching ? It is not. Is it Mohammedan teaching ? It is not. I will tell you what it is, it is Christian teaching. I therefore oppose it.'

Even among the ordinary villagers this drift is noted. At – the missionaries had been bitterly opposed by the Hindus in their preaching at a mela, a religious fair. But this year of which I speak the Hindus came and helped them, saying: 'We are allies now, since Mahatma Gandhi is following Christ.' The question of whether he would say he is not is not the paramount thing - the point is that the villagers saw the inner relationship of things.

This viewpoint of the villagers is not to be wondered at when an instance like this occurs: On the arrival of the train the great crowd gathered for a speech. Gandhi came out, took out a New Testament and read the Beatitudes and then finished saying: 'That is my address to you. Act upon that.' That was all the speech he gave. But it spoke volumes. In one place the nationalists were forbidden by the government to carry the national flag beyond a certain point on a bridge which led into the European or Civil section of the town. The nationalists made it an issue. The magistrate, who arrested and tried most of them, remarked to me that those whom he arrested were much more Christian in their spirit than he was. They would let him know what time they were coming across the bridge with the flag and how many! Would he please be prepared for twenty-five to-day. Of the twelve hundred who were arrested in that flag agitation, although none of them were professed Christians, and although they could take into jail with them only a limited number of things which they had to produce before the magistrate, the vast majority took New Testaments with them to read while there. The reason they did so becomes apparent when one of them remarked, 'We now know what it means for you Christians to suffer for Christ.' The cross had become not a doctrine, but a living thing to them. 

Sometimes things took a rather amusing, if not ludicrous turn, as when a Hindu nationalist who was being tried by a British judge, began his defense with these words, 'And they shall deliver you up before kings and governors and magistrates for my name’s sake,' and ended up his statement with the words, 'Father, forgive them, they know not what they do!'

But the real force of it strikes one when Gandhi himself exemplifies it. He is ready to apply this principle of conquering by soul force not merely against the British Government, but against his own people as well. When he feels they are in the wrong. This, of course, would have little or no effect were not Gandhi the soul of sincerity and utterly fearless.

When in South Africa carrying on his passive resistance movement against the South African government (which struggle, by the way, he won) the indentured coolies in whose behalf he was fighting with non-violent weapons, got out of hand again and again. He remonstrated, but all to no avail. Finally without word he went off and began to fast. he had fasted for two days when word went around among the coolies that Gandhi was fasting because of what they were doing. That changed matters immediately. They came to him with folded hands and begged him to desist from the fast, promising him that they would do anything if only he would stop it. Suffering love had conquered.

In his ashram one of the boys told him something that he believed but later found out that the boy had lied to him. Gandhi called the school together and solemnly said, 'Boys, I am sorry to find out that one of you is a liar. As punishment I am going off and fast to-day.' That may be passed with a smile, but not if you knew the dead earnestness of Gandhi and the sheer moral weight of the man. There could not have been a more terrific punishment, for long after any physical pain from physical punishment would have died away there would persist the spiritual pain from the lashings of conscience awakened by the sufferings of the man who loved him. In the light of Gandhi’s acting thus it becomes easy for them to step up from the thought that if one man would take on himself suffering to bring a boy back from a lie to the truth, then if there were One divine enough and holy enough, he might take on his soul the very sin of a whole race to bring us back to good and to God. The cross thus bursts into meaning when lightened up by this lesser act. 

This is all the more vividly seen in Gandhi’s recent fast of twenty-one days. A fast of that length of time is serious when we recall that Gandhi had not really recovered from his operation and that he ordinarily weighs less than a hundred pounds. But when he came out of jail he found the Hindus and Mohammedans suspicious, jealous, and divided. Before his arrest they had become united in his person, but when he was taken away and put in jail they fell apart. He knew that the moment India was united that moment India was free. He pleaded and remonstrated, but the divisions persisted and became acute. Out of sheer sorrow of heart he announced that he would undergo, as a penance, a fast of twenty-one days. 

It touched India to the quick, for they are an emotionally responsive people. They called a Unity Conference on the tenth day of his fast. It was composed of representatives of the various religions of India, including the Metropolitan, the head of the Church of England in India. They debated back and forth the questions at issue. Though Gandhi was lying in weakness upon his couch in another part of the city, his spirit pressed upon them in the conference for a solution. They passed resolutions covering their points of difference and appointed a commission of twenty-five as a Permanent Board of Adjudication on inter-communal matters.  But the most remarkable resolution was the one in which they stated that 'We recognise the right of an individual to change his faith at will, provided no inducement is offered to effect that change, such as the offering of material gain,' and, further, 'We also recognise the right of that individual not to suffer persecution from the community which he may leave.' When one remembers that in Islam apostasy meant death, and in Hinduism social death, then this resolution marks a national epoch and is really a National Declaration of Religious Freedom. The silent pressure of the spirit of Gandhi was doing its work. And Gandhi’s spirit was being pressed upon by the Spirit of Jesus.         

On the eighteenth day of the fast, Mr CF Andrews, who was editing Gandhi’s paper, Young India, while he was fasting, wrote an editorial in which he described Gandhi lying upon his couch on the upper veranda in Delhi, weak and emaciated. He pictured the fort which could be seen in the distance, reminding them of the struggle for the possession of the kingdom; below the fort Englishmen could be seen going out to their golf; nearer at hand the crowds of his own people surged through the bazaar intent on buying and selling. While Andrews watched him there that verse of Scripture rushed to his mind: 'Is it nothing to you, ye that pass by? Is there any sorrow like unto my sorrow?' He ended it with this sentence: 'As I looked upon him there and caught the meaning of it all, I felt as never before in my own experience the meaning of the cross.' 

Andrews spoke out in these last sentences the very thought of the heart of India. India has seen the meaning of the cross in one of her sons. As a former fiery opponent of Christianity, a nationalist leader, said, 'I never understood the meaning of Christianity until I saw it in Gandhi.' While this inspires us and we are deeply grateful for it, nevertheless, it is a sword that cuts two ways, for some of us have been there these years and deeply regret that Christianity did not burst into meaning through us. However, we are glad that India is seeing. And let it be quietly said that we too are seeing." Chapter IV, Jesus Comes Through Irregular Channels-Mahatma Gandhi’s Part, [15] 

It is therefore clear that Christian missionaries supported Gandhi because he enhanced the spread of Christianity in India, partly by design and partly by coincidence. As a Hindu had observed to Jones, Just as the British government conquered India through the sons of the soil, that is, through Indian troops, aren’t you trying to conquer India for Christianity in the same way, namely, by using a son of the soil, Gandhi?’’ The son of the soil who helped spread Christianity was generously remunerated for the services he offered, in kind if not in cash – the missionaries acted as Gandhi’s emissaries worldwide and helped globalise his name brand utilising their reach in the West (note how Stanley Jones paid a glowing tribute to Gandhi in America). The predominantly Christian West encouraged this globalisation as Gandhi practised with almost religious fervour those attributes of Christianity that weakened a state (eg, non-resistance of evil by force, seeking to convert opponents by inducing mass suffering, etc). The same attributes have been eschewed in practice by the Western nations (in Europe and North America). As Jones had observed, Gandhi’s modus operandi made it much easier for the British to contain the freedom struggle in contrast to those adopted by the revolutionaries. The British administration naturally commended Gandhi for his spirituality and his disciples as better Christians than the administrative agents themselves were. The interests of a nation were therefore sacrificed at the altar of the leader’s personal stature, as had been done repeatedly ever since (eg., by Nehru and Manmohan).       

Acknowledgement

The views in this piece should be attributed to the authors in their personal capacity, but the research has been facilitated by several individuals and organisations. India Today and Shri Hari Kiran Vadlamani have provided the authors with books that have been used in this research. Ms Kaveree Bamzai, Editor at Large, India Today Group, and her team, have supported the authors with intellectual and editorial assistance throughout. Shri Vadlamanai has inspired us by leading multiple different Indic efforts. He has founded a not for profit "INDIC ACADEMY",  for  a) nourishment to scholars for their research in Indology; b) nurturing young scholars in Indology; c) arming public intellectuals with right books and access to research on all aspects related Indology/Sanatana Dharma; and d) grooming young public intellectuals in Indology/Sanatana Dharma. Dr Sulekh Jain of International School of Jainism and Ms Sunita Nahar have enlightened the authors on core principles of Jainism and have pointed out invaluable resources on academic study of Jainism to the authors.  

  

References:

[1] Subhas Chandra Bose, The Indian Struggle (1920-1942)

[2] http://www.umich.edu/~umjains/jainismsimplified/chapter16.html

[3] Suniti Ghosh, The Tragic Partition of Bengal

[4] G D Birla, In the Shadow of the Mahatma

[5] Karma Tattvas

[6] Saswati Sarkar, Shanmukh, Dikgaj, Chandra Mauli Singh, Why Brits disliked Netaji and made a Mahatma out of Gandhi 

[7] http://www.jainworld.com/phil/ahimsa/cohimsa.htm

[8] Tara Sethia and Satyaranjan Banarjee, Ahimsā, Anekānta, and Jainism

[9] Aidan D Rankin and Kanti V Mardia, Living Jainism: An Ethical Science

[10] Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Gandhi's appeal in a speech in Nadiad, 22/06/1918. http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL017.PDF

[11] Nirmal Kumar Bose, Selections From Gandhi, Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, April, 1957

[12] Saswati Sarkar, Fundamental Conflicts in Indian nationhood: Gandhi vs Revolutionaries

 [13] Saswati Sarkar, Shanmukh, Dikgaj, Netaji’s Modernism Versus Gandhi’s Spiritual Swaraj

[14] Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Speech at prayer meeting, Madras, 24/01/1946. http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL089.PDF 

[15] E Stanley Jones, The Christ of the Indian Road

[16] Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Interview to Cape Argus, November 30, 1909. http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL010.PDF

[17] - ibid, Letter to WJ Wybergh, May 10, 1910. http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL011.PDF

[18] – ibid, Interview to Louis Fischer, 04/06/1942.  http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL082.PDF

[19] http://www.stephen-knapp.com/mahatma_gandhi_on_conversion1.htm

[20] Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Interview to Louis Fischer, 26/6/1946. http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL091.PDF

[21] Millie Graham Polak, Mr Gandhi, the man http://www.mkgandhi.org/ebks/gandhitheman.pdf 

[22] Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Speech at Prayer Meeting, March 21, 1947. http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL094.PDF

[23] –ibid, Satyagraha Leaflet No. 18, True Meaning of Bhagvad Gita's Teahings, May 8, 1919. http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL018.PDF

[24] Chanakya, Arthashaastra. Translated into English by Shama Shastri.

[25] Saswati Sarkar, Shanmukh, Dikgaj, Did Mahatma Gandhi really oppose violence?

[26] Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi,  A revolutionary’s defence, Young India, February 12, 1925 http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL030.PDF

[27] –ibid, To Another Revolutionary, on 12/03/1925 http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL030.PDF

[28] –ibid, My Friend, The Revolutionary, Young India, April 9, 1925  http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL031.PDF 

[29] –ibid, To Revolutionary In The Making, Young India, April 30, 1925 http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL031.PDF

[30] –ibid, At It Again, Young India, May 5, 1925 http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL031.PDF

[31] –ibid, On The Verge Of It, Young India, May 21, 1925 http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL031.PDF

[32]  -ibid, Gandhi's speech in New Delhi, Who is Rama?, 26/05/1946, Harijan http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL091.PDF 

[33] –ibid, The Philosophy of the Bomb, Young India,  January 2, 1930, reproduced in To Make the Deaf Hear by S Irfan Habib, Appendix C.3, pp. 205-217  

[34] Juergen Ludwig Neve, The Augsburg Confession: A Brief Review of Its History and an Interpretation of Its Doctrinal Articles, with Introductory Discussions on Confessional Questions. Lutheran Publication Society.

[35] Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, 

[36] Letter from Archimandrite Tikhon, Secretary of the Patriarchal Cultural Council to Sergei Vadimovich Stepashin, President of the Russian Book Union, http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/42983.htm  

[37] Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Gandhi speech at Prayer Meeting, 04/02/1946, http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL093.PDF 

[38] –ibid, Gandhi's speech at the Muir College Economic Society, Allahabad, 22/12/1916, http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL015.PDF 

 [39] Jogesh Chandra Chatterji, In Search of Freedom 

[40] Manmathnath Gupta, They Lived Dangerously

[41] Pope John Paul XXIII, Paenitentiam Agere, 01/07/1962

 [42] All Men are Brothers, Life and Thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi as Told in his Own Words, Compiled and Edited by Krishna Kripalani; Introduction by Sarvepelli Radhakrishnan 

[43] Subhas Chandra Bose, "To Delhi, To Delhi", Speech delivered as the Supreme Commander of the Inidian National Army at a military review of the INA (July 5, 1943), Netaji: Collected Works, Vol. 12, Writings and Speeches, 1943-45

[44] Ramesh Chandra Majumdar, History and Culture of the Indian people – Vol. XI - The Struggle For Freedom

[45] Abhas Chatterjee, 'The Concept of Hindu Nation', Voice of India, 1995 

[46] Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God is Within You, 1893. 

[47]  Subhas Chandra Bose, Congress President, Speeches, Articles and Letters, January 1938 - May 1939, Bose: Collected Works, Vol. 9 

[48] Gary Solis, Law of Armed Conflicts, Cambridge University Press.

[49]  Gita Vaachaspati Dinannath Bhargav Dinesh, Shri Hari Gita

 [50] Sri Aurobindo Ghosh, India's Rebirth 

[51] Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Talk with Refugees, April 4, 1947 http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL094.PDF

[52] ibid, Speech at Prayer Meeting, April 6, 1947, New Delhi, http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL094.PDF

[53]  ibid, Speech at Prayer Meeting, April 7, 1947 http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL094.PDF

[54] ibid, Speech at Prayer Meeting, May 1, 1947, http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL095.PDF 

[55] MK Gandhi, An Autobiography: Or The Story of My Experiments with Truth http://www.mkgandhi.org/ebks/An%20Autobiography.pdf 

[56] http://www.mkgandhi.org/museum/tolstoy_farm.htm

[57] Subhas Chandra Bose, Writings and Speeches 1941-1943, Netaji: Collected Works, Vol. 11, Face to Face with the German Fuhrer, Record of the Conference between Hitler and Bose, 29 May, 1942 

[58] Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Gandhi's speech at Birmingham Meeting on 18/10/1931. Young India, November 5, 1931.

[59] Radha Rajan, Eclipse of the Hindu Nation 

[60]  http://www.mkgandhi.org/articles/earlydays.htm

[61] Bible, http://www.godvine.com/bible/ 

[62] Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Indian Home Rule, http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL010.PDF

 [63] E Krishnamacharya, Our Heritage

 [64] Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, The Crime of Chauri Chaura http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL026.PDF

[65] Aurobindo Ghosh, The Doctrine of Passive Resistance, Part III, Its Necessity, Bande Mataram, Calcutta, April 13, 1907 http://www.aurobindo.ru/workings/sa/37_06_07/0098_e.htm

[66] Saswati Sarkar, Shanmukh, Dikgaj and Divya Kumar Soti, Was Mahatma Gandhi a hypocrite?  

[67] Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule, Young India, January 26, 1921 http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL022.PDF 

[68]  –ibid, Letter to Jawaharlal Nehru, October 5, 1945 http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL088.PDF

[69] http://www.mkgandhi.org/articles/strength.htm 

[70] Jai Narain Sharma, Rediscovering Gandhi, vol. 3, pp. 16

[71] Kshitis Roy, Gandhi Memorial Peace Number, pp. 287-288

[72] Michael Reisch, Routledge International Handbook of Social Justice, obtains the quote from Romain Rolland, "Gandhi: Man who became one with the universal being", pp. 40

[73] VS Naipaul, A Writer’s People, India Again: the Mahatma and After 

[74] Bhagavad Gita, http://www.sanskritweb.net/sansdocs/gita-big.pdf 

[75] Bharavi, Kiratarjuniyam

Go to Part I: Was Gandhi a Christian in faith and Hindu in name?

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