Dr Peter Gonsalves – Gandhi and the Popes

Profile Dr Peter Gonsalves LE Mag July 2018

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GANDHI’S JESUS by Dr Peter Gonsalves. This article is an extract from the author’s book, Gandhi and the Popes (Peter Lang, 2015). It is the last of his Gandhian trilogy, preceded by Clothing for Liberation (Sage 2010) and Khadi: Gandhi’s Mega Symbol of Subversion (Sage 2012).

Dr Peter Gonsalves is the Dean of the Faculty of Social Communication at the Salesian Pontifical University, Rome. A member of SIGNIS, a world association for communicators, he has also written a manual for South Asian educators entitled Exercises in Media Education. www.petergonsalves.in      www.amazon.com

Books by Dr Peter GonsalvesWhen Paul VI wrote a letter to the President of India in 1969, he said, “One cannot forget Gandhi’s profound admiration and esteem for the person of Jesus Christ, whose Sermon on the Mount greatly influenced his own thought and action.”[1] In 1986, John Paul II read aloud the beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount at Gandhi’s tomb as if to remind the world that they were the words “with which the Mahatma was very familiar and in which he found the confirmation of the deep thoughts of his heart.”[2] Benedict XVI’s reply to a question on inter-religious dialogue in 2008, drew attention to the impact of Christ’s Sermon on Gandhi yet again.

  • Exponents of non-Christian religions have said to me: the presence of Christianity is a reference point for us that helps us, even if we do not convert. Let us think of the great figure of Mahatma Gandhi: although he remained firmly bound to his own religion, the Sermon on the Mount was a fundamental reference point for him which shaped his whole life. Thus, the leaven of [Christian] faith, even if it did not convert him to Christianity, entered his life.[3]

Indeed, Gandhi felt drawn to the life and teachings of Jesus. Books have been written on the subject by several authors, especially by those in the West.[4] One book, The Message of Jesus Christ, which was a compilation of his thoughts on Christianity, was assembled by his followers and even published under his supervision.[5] Although the popes’ statements about the ‘Jesus effect’ on Gandhi are based on historical evidence, we still ought to examine the nature and extent of the effect, and the reaction it had on his contemporaries.

Early Christian Impressions

As a boy, Gandhi was unable to bear the sight of street-corner missionaries preaching against Hindus and their gods. He was repulsed by the attitude of Christian converts who took to eating beef, drinking liquor, wearing Western attire, denigrating the religion of their ancestors and despising traditional customs and their country. Only when he landed in England as a student of law did he encounter Christians of a different ilk. The first vegetarian Christian he met patiently showed him that meat-eating and liquor-drinking were not biblical regulations. He advised him to read the Bible to discover more. Gandhi confessed that he “plodded through [the Old Testament] … with much difficulty without the least interest or understanding.”[6]  The New Testament, however, produced a different impression and the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapters 5 to 7, went straight to his heart.[7] The figure that attracted him most was the person of Jesus.[8]

“I saw that the Sermon on the Mount was the whole of Christianity for him who wanted to live a Christian life. It is that Sermon which has endeared Jesus to me.”[9] The call to turn the other cheek ‘delighted him beyond measure.’[10] He could not help comparing it with the Gita because, “[it] echoed something I had learnt in childhood and something which seemed to be part of my being and which I felt was being acted up to in the daily life around me.”[11]

In South Africa, one of the sources that introduced him to a deeper understanding of the Sermon was Leo Tolstoy’s book that took its title from the Gospel of St. Luke, Chapter 17, verse 21, The Kingdom of God is Within You.[12] Tolstoy explained that Christianity was founded on a non-violent ethic that was active, not passive. A passive non-violence abstained from doing harm to others. An active non-violence resisted violence through non-violent ways. This meant doing good to those who hate, walking the extra mile and loving one’s adversary. The conclusion of the book provided the punchline: “The only meaning of man’s life consists in serving the world by cooperating in the establishment of the Kingdom of God.”[13] It challenged Gandhi’s Hindu understanding of the ways to moksha.[14] He began to reinterpret the concept of the karma marg in the Bhagavad Gita as selfless service to the underprivileged (seva) and not merely as selfless-action. He considered social service the supreme way to attain moksha, in comparison to the ways of individual enlightenment (jnana marg) and personal devotion (bhakti marg).[15] Tolstoy’s book so ‘overwhelmed’[16] him that he translated it into his native Gujarati, made it his vademecum, initiated a correspondence with Tolstoy, and suggested it as compulsory reading for his followers at the Phoenix Settlement and Tolstoy Farm.

He was also brought under the “magic spell”[17] of John Ruskin’s Unto this Last[18] – a book that drew inspiration from Christ’s parable of the vineyard in the Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter 20, verses 1 to 14. The parable refers to the ‘last’ as the labourers who, despite being recruited at the day’s end, received the full day’s wage just like the average labourer. Ruskin’s essay was critical of the capitalist bourgeois economists of the 18th and 19th centuries who were unfair to the weaker sections of society and who in turn were often unable to obtain a decent living wage because they lacked opportunities or skills. It brought about “an instantaneous and practical transformation”[19] in Gandhi’s life. He translated it in 1908 under the title, Sarvodaya (well-being of all). He even practised the equal wage system at his Phoenix Settlement where each inmate received the same salary without distinction of function, race or nationality. The book was an essential influence in his elaboration of an Indian theory of equality linked to social economy. [20]

By his own admission through emotive language,[21] it is evident that Christ’s teaching and example did have an effect on Gandhi’s own thinking. It was caused directly by his reading of the Gospels or indirectly through Christ-inspired literature and witnesses who lived their Christian faith.

Christ’s Teachings through Hindu Eyes

However impressive Christ’s influence might have been on Gandhi, it would be a misconception to think that he imbibed what he read univocally and exclusively. Much like the influence of all other scriptures, he adopted and creatively adapted what he read while adhering firmly to the Hindu religious framework.[22] His dedication to the Advaita School gave him the sense of unity and coherence that he relentlessly sought. Consider, for example, this statement on the Sermon.

  • I may say that I have never been interested in a historical Jesus. I should not care if it was proved by someone that the man called Jesus never lived, and that [what] was narrated in the Gospels was a figment of the writer’s imagination. For the Sermon on the Mount would still be true for me.[23]

These euphoric expressions seemed grossly exaggerated to his Christian acquaintances. Yet, his emphasis on the symbolic rather than the historical was in line with Hindu oral tradition that was often misunderstood by the rationally inclined Western mind.[24] Gandhi found value even in interpreting Hindu myths despite their lack of historical accuracy.[25] Needless to say, the ambiguity of his hermeneutical approach to religious literature also disturbed Hindu orthodoxy when he judged their beliefs by the same yardstick.

  • My Rama, the Rama of our prayers is not the historical Rama, the son of Dasharatha, the king of Ayodhya. He is the eternal, the unborn, the one without a second […] who belongs equally to all.[26]

Or again:

  • I have not been able to see any difference between the Sermon on the Mount and the Bhagavad Gita. What the Sermon describes in a graphic manner, the Bhagavad Gita reduces to a scientific formula. […] Today, supposing I was deprived of the Gita and forgot all its contents but had a copy of the Sermon, I should derive the same joy from it as I do from the Gita.[27]

And more brazenly:

  • The Mahabharata is the story of a bloody war. But I have maintained in the teeth of orthodox Hindu opposition that it is a book written to establish the futility of war and violence.[28]

This scrutiny of religions according to his own hermeneutical principles, and his decision to consider all religions equal while refusing to consider any one of them superior to the others, was the typically Gandhian tightrope walk. Not all his admirers could deal with this apparent ambiguity.[29] It exasperated those who were confused, disappointed the unconvinced, and vindicated his sworn enemies.

Another aspect of Christianity that attracted Gandhi was the Crucifix, the symbol of Jesus’ non-violent submission to suffering love. He probably saw in the Cross the apotheosis of his own life: to be semi-nude and ‘nailed’ to an excruciating tapasya (austerity) for the liberation of oppressed peoples, beginning with his own. He declared: “Though I cannot claim to be a Christian in the sectarian sense, the example of Jesus’ suffering is a factor in the composition of my undying faith in non-violence which rules all my actions, worldly and temporal.” [30] As with the Sermon on the Mount, so with the Cross: Gandhi assimilated and let himself be inspired through his personalized and ecumenical manner of perceiving religions. Bhikhu Parekh demonstrates this in his analysis of Gandhi’s reinterpretation of ahimsa.

  • He abstracted what he took to be the central values of Hinduism and set up a critical dialogue between them and those derived from elsewhere. Thus he took over the Hindu concept of ahimsa, in his view one of the greatest values derived from the profound doctrine of the unity of life. He found it negative and passive and reinterpreted it in the light of the Christian concept of caritas. He thought the latter was too emotive and led to worldly attachments, and so redefined it in the light of the Hindu concept of anasakti. His double conversion, his Christianisation of a Hindu category after suitably Hinduising its Christian components, yielded the novel concept of an active and positive but detached and non-emotive love.[31]

Mahatma GandhiClearly, Gandhi’s manner of being ‘influenced’ by Christ was no facile imitation, nor indiscriminate borrowing, nor blind acceptance. It was a complex hermeneutical process that was strongly linked to his personal and social identity and to the values he lived by. Gandhi’s way of being influenced by Jesus tells us more about Gandhi and his perception of Jesus than it does about the ‘Jesus’ of history or Christian theology.

Who was Jesus for Gandhi?

People generally gauge the intelligibility of whatever is strange or foreign on the basis of their habitual frames of reference. The act of co-opting anything new within one’s cognitional framework is therefore a demanding process, because it involves creative risk-taking through selection (or elimination) and interpretation. The truth that Gandhi was influenced by Jesus therefore depends on a further question: what did Gandhi accept, reject or reinterpret to arrive at a perception of Jesus that was truly his own – and different from the ‘Jesus’ in whom Christians believe?

Through numerous interviews with Christian missionaries, Gandhi patiently and forthrightly explained his position. Understandably, his answers were not always what they expected or wanted to hear. Firstly, he disagreed with the fundamental tenet of Christianity that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God.

  • To me it [‘begotten’] implies a spiritual birth. My interpretation, in other words, is that in Jesus’ own life is the key of His nearness to God; that He expressed as no other could, the spirit and will of God. It is in this sense that I see Him and recognize Him as the Son of God.][32

But this did not mean he accepted Jesus as the only begotten Son of God, or as divinely begotten in the way Christians do. He explains:

  • If God could have sons, all of us were his sons. If Jesus was like God, or God Himself, then all men were like God and could be God Himself. My reason was not ready to believe literally that Jesus by his death and by his blood redeemed the sins of the world. Metaphorically there might be some truth in it. […] I could accept Jesus as a martyr, an embodiment of sacrifice, and a divine teacher, but not as the most perfect man ever born. His death on the cross was a great example to the world, but that there was anything like a mysterious or miraculous virtue in it my heart could not accept.[33]

On being informed by a missionary that Christ’s crucifixion on the cross was more than martyrdom or sacrifice and that it was a ‘redemptive offering’ ordained by God to cleanse this world from the consequences of sin, Gandhi replied: “I do not seek redemption from the consequences of my sin, I seek to be redeemed from sin itself, or rather from the very thought of sin. Until I have attained that end, I shall be content to be restless.”[34]

Furthermore, the claim that Jesus was divine implied attributing perfectibility to Jesus. According to Gandhi this would mean denying God’s superiority over man. God alone is absolutely perfect.[35] When He decides to intervene in the world as a human being, “He of His own accord limits Himself.”[36] A proof of Jesus’ limitation is his death on the cross. “Jesus died on the Cross because he was limited by the flesh.”[37]

Presuming that, in Gandhi’s reckoning, Jesus was one of the many avatars of God, would he accept Jesus as one of the highest among the manifestations, one closest to divinity, or one more divine than others? Gandhi replies:

  • No, for the simple reason that we have no data. Historically we have more data about Mahomed than anyone else because he was more recent in time. For Jesus there is less data and still less for Buddha, Rama and Krishna; and when we know so little about them, is it not preposterous to say that one of them was more divine than another? In fact even if there were a great deal of data available, no judge should shoulder the burden of sifting all the evidence, if only for this reason that it requires a highly spiritual person to gauge the degree of divinity of the subjects he examines. To say that Jesus was 99 percent divine, and Mahomed 50 per cent, and Krishna 10 per cent, is to arrogate to oneself a function which really does not belong to man.[38]

As for the miracles and prophecies of Jesus, Gandhi declared that he had no need of them to prove Jesus’ greatness as a teacher: “Nothing can be more miraculous than the three years of his ministry.”[39] Regarding the miracle of feeding the multitude, he believed that “a magician can create that illusion.”[40]

And on Jesus’ power to raise the dead to life he said: “I doubt if the men he raised were really dead.”[41] He substantiates this with a personal experience in which a child who was thought to be dead and was about to be cremated was restored to life after he gave her an enema.[42] Gandhi goes on to confirm his belief in the unchangeable laws of Nature, rather than in miracles.

  • I do not deny that Jesus had certain psychic powers and he was undoubtedly filled with the love of humanity. But he brought to life not people who were dead but who were believed to be dead. The laws of Nature are changeless, unchangeable, and there are no miracles in the sense of infringement or interruption of Nature’s laws. But we limited beings fancy all kinds of things and impute our limitations to God. We may copy God, but not He us.[43]

Thus, while politely respecting the Christian choice and defending the Christian’s right to believe in the divinity of Jesus, he also claimed his personal right to be inspired by Jesus without adhering to any Christian denomination and without rejecting the equal dignity of all scriptures.

  • I cannot ascribe exclusive divinity to Jesus. He is as divine as Krishna or Rama or Mahomed or Zoroaster. Similarly, I do not regard every word of the Bible as the inspired word of God, even as I do not regard every word of the Vedas or the Koran as inspired. The sum total of each of these books is certainly inspired, but I miss that inspiration in many of the things taken individually. The Bible is as much a book of religion with me as the Gita and the Koran.[44]

Who, then, was Gandhi’s ‘Jesus’?

  • To me, He was one of the greatest teachers humanity has ever had. To His believers, He was God’s only begotten Son. Could the fact that I do or do not accept this belief make Jesus have any more or less influence in my life? Is all the grandeur of His teaching and of His doctrine to be forbidden to me? I cannot believe so.
  • To me, it implies a spiritual birth. My interpretation, in other words, is that in Jesus’ own life is the key of His nearness to God; that He expressed, as no other could, the spirit and will of God. It is in this sense that I see Him and recognize Him as the Son of God.
  • But I do believe that something of this spirit, that Jesus exemplified in the highest measure in its most profound human sense, does exist. I must believe this; if I do not believe it I should be a sceptic […]
  • [M]an has within his breast an impulse for good and a compassion that is the spark of Divinity, and which some day, I believe, will burst forth into the full flower that is the hope of all mankind.
  • An example of this flowering may be found in the figure and in the life of Jesus. […] The lives of all have, in some greater or lesser degree, been changed by his presence, his actions, and the words spoken by his divine voice. […]
  • And because the life of Jesus has the significance and the transcendency to which I have alluded, I believe that He belongs not solely to Christianity, but to the entire world, to all races and people – it matters little under what flag, name or doctrine they may work, profess a faith, or worship a God inherited from their ancestors.[45]

Gandhi welcomed Jesus’ influence and believed that “the imitation of Christ or moral identification with him”[46] was the universal and timeless imperative to give people hope. He rejected ‘Christianity’ for its dependence on imperial power, lax culture, and ostentatious claims to exclusive salvation that tarnished its original identity. He “rejected Christianity for the sake of Jesus.”[47] Two anecdotes may help to demonstrate the impact Gandhi’s own ‘imitation of Christ’ had on his followers. The first is Gandhi’s advice to a Christian who used uncharitable language in his zeal to defend Gandhi against a “particularly vicious attack.”[48]

  • I did not like your writing in the Chronicle. It is not ahimsa. […] Why should you spoil a good case by bad adjectives? And when you have a good cause never descend to personalities. […] ‘Resist not evil with evil.’ You have neutralized the evil writing [of your opponent] by a writing of the same kind. […] If you have realized the fundamental truth of what I have said, you will even partially mend the evil by […] writing a private note somewhat after this style: “Although I hold your charges and innuendoes to be wrong, I feel that I ought not to have adopted towards you the language I did. I want to follow Christ. I own that my conduct was not Christian. I have no right to judge you. I would feel somewhat relieved if I could have a line from you to say that you have accepted my apology.”[49]

The second anecdote reveals how Gandhi’s radical manner of following Jesus was so infectious that it affected the behaviour of Hindu and Muslim participants in his campaign for civil-disobedience. E. Stanley Jones (1884-1973), a Methodist missionary in India, recalls:

  • 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 today? 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.”[50]

If Gandhi who was against proselytism was open to the moral influence of Jesus on his life, if he believed that Christ’s message had much to contribute to enriching the Indian ethos, what would his advice to Christian missionaries be? Jones, who was concerned about Gandhi’s criticism of the foreignness of Indian Christianity, once put a similar question to him and received this reply:

  • First, I would suggest that all of you Christians, missionaries and all, must begin to live more like Jesus Christ. Second, Practice your religion without adulterating it or toning it down. Third, emphasize love and make it your working force, for love is central in Christianity. Fourth, Study the non-Christian religions more sympathetically to find the good that is within them, in order to have a more sympathetic approach to the people.[51]

Gandhi embraced Christ but rejected Christianity. He welcomed a Christianity that sought to purify itself from all that was unlike Christ. The only picture on the wall of his mud hut at Sevagram in 1940, was a black and white image of Jesus kneeling at Gethsemane with the caption: ‘He is our Peace’. [52]


[1] Paul VI, “Letter of Paul VI to His Excellency Varahigiri Venkah Giri, President of India, August 22, 1969”, in Vatican.va, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/letters/1969/documents/hf_p-vi_let_19690822_varahagiri-venkah-giri_en.html (08-11-2012). See also: L’OR, 3.10.1969, 1.

[2] John Paul II, “Address on the Occasion of the Visit to the Funerary Monument of Raj Ghat Dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi, Delhi, Saturday, 1st February 1986”, in Vatican.va, no. 4, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/speeches/1986/february/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_19860201_raj-ghat_en.htmln (03-01-2012).

[3] Benedict XVI, “Meeting with the Parish Priests and the Clergy of the Diocese of Rome, 7 February 2008”, in Vatican.va, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2008/february/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20080207_clergy-rome_en.html (08-02-2013).

[4] Some books that focus exclusively on Gandhi and Jesus are: Robert Ellsberg (Ed.), Gandhi on Christianity New York,  Orbis Books, 1991; Terrence J. Rynne, Gandhi and Jesus: The Saving Power of Nonviolence New York, Orbis Books, 2008. See also a selection of early writings in chronological order that deal partially with Gandhi and Christianity: Joseph J. Doke, M. K. Gandhi: An Indian Patriot in South Africa New Delhi, Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, 1919, 1967; Romain Rolland, Mahatma Gandhi, The Man Who Became One with the Universal Being, London, The Warthmore Press Ltd., 1924; Francis Watson, The Trial of Mr Gandhi, London, Macmillan and Co., 1969; Haridas T. Muzumdar (Ed.) The Enduring Greatness of Gandhi: An American Estimate, being the Sermons of Dr. John Haynes Holmes and Dr. Donald S. Harrington, Ahmedabad, Navajivan Publishing House, 1982; Charles Chatfield (Ed.), The Americanization of Gandhi: Images of the Mahatma, New York: Garland Publishing, 1976; Margaret Chatterjee, Gandhi’s Religious Thought, London: Macmillan, 1983; Ignatius Jesudasan, A Gandhian Theology of Liberation, New York, Orbis Books, 1984.

[5] For a compilation of Gandhi’s words on Christianity see: Anand Hingorani (Ed.), The Message of Jesus Christ, Ahmedabad, Navajivan, 1964. See also R. K. Prabhu, What Jesus Means To Me, Ahmedabad, Navajivan, 1959.

[6] Autobiography, 63.

[7] Ibid.

[8] CWMG, vol. 48 (1931) 437-438.

[9] CWMG, vol. 48 (1931) 438.

[10] Autobiography, 64.

[11] CWMG, vol. 48 (1931) 438.

[12] The book, The Kingdom of God is Within You, was written in 1894 as Leo Tolstoy’s plea for a return to a Christian ethic based on the Sermon on the Mount. This was contrary to the Russian Orthodox Church that merged with the Russian state and fully supported state policy. It was contrary also to the conflicting international relations of European powers at the end of the nineteenth century.

[13] Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God is within You, trans. Constance Garnett, Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, 1984, 380, quoted in Rynne, Gandhi and Jesus, 30.

[14] “There is one thing which occurs to me, which came to me early in my studies of the Bible. It seized me immediately when I read the passage: ‘Make this world the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and everything will be added to you.’” M. K. Gandhi, The Message of Jesus Christ, Bombay, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1986, 18.

[15] “If I could persuade myself that I should find Him in a Himalayan cave, I would proceed there immediately. But I know that I cannot find Him apart from humanity.” CWMG, vol. 63 (1936) 240.  “I am endeavouring to see God through service of humanity, for I know that God is neither in heaven, nor down below, but in everyone.” Young India, 4-8-1927, 247-8.   See also K. L. Seshagiri Rao, Mahatma Gandhi and C. F. Andrews, Patiala, Punjabi University Press, 1969, 35.

[16] Gandhi, Autobiography, 127.

[17] Gandhi, Autobiography, 273.

[18] The book, Unto This Last was written in 1860. Rather than discuss the religious meaning of the parable, Ruskin looks at its social and economic implications. He discusses issues, such as, who should receive a living wage and how that wage should be distributed equitably even to those who are underprivileged.

[19] Gandhi, Autobiography, 275.

[20] Anthony J. Parel, “Gandhian Freedoms and Self-Rule”, Richard L. Johnson (Ed.), Gandhi’s Experiments with Truth: Essential Writings by and about Mahatma Gandhi, Oxford, Lexington Books, 2006, 189.

[21] In the passages quoted above Gandhi describes the ‘effect’ of Jesus’ teaching and example on his life through emotion-laden vocabulary which I repeat here in italics: The New Testament made a ‘different impression’;  Christ beatitudes ‘went straight to his heart’ and ‘endeared’ Jesus to him. The turning of the cheek ‘delighted him beyond measure’ and ‘echoed’ what seemed to be ‘a part of his being’.  Tolstoy’s book ‘overwhelmed’ him and Ruskin’s brought him under its ‘magic spell’.

[22] See Bhikhu Parekh, Colonialism, Tradition and Reform, New Delhi, Sage, 1999, 26.

[23] CWMG, vol. 48 (1931) 338.

[24] To understand the semiotic foundations of the East-West encounter of religions in colonial India see the publications of Robert Yelle: Semiotics of Religion: Signs of the Sacred in History, Bloomsbury, 2013; and, Modernity and Disenchantment: Christianity and the Secularization of Colonial India, Oxford University Press, 2012.

[25] The ambiguity of Gandhi’s hermeneutical approach to scriptural texts can be seen in his use of the word ‘gospel’ as detached from its historical significance, and his preference for the term ‘varna’ (instead of ‘caste’) precisely because of its historical significance. To him and his close collaborators – most of whom were not Christian – the word ‘gospel’ meant ‘doctrine of prime importance’ rather than the etymologically derived 13th century word ‘godspel’: god+spel or ‘good+story’ which refers to “the Good News of Jesus Christ the long-awaited Anointed One.” Contrarily, in interpreting a Sanskrit term like varna, Gandhi was extremely respectful of its historical significance that dates back to the Vedas since it supported his argument in favour of a non-hierarchical division of society based on labour instead of the vertically stratified notion of ‘caste’ that was coined in the 1600s.

[26] CWMG, vol. 30 (1926) 557.

[27] M. K. Gandhi, Christian Missions: Their Place in India, Ahmedabad, Navajivan Press, 1941, 187.  Elsewhere Gandhi goes on to tell Christian missionaries: “Hinduism as I know it entirely satisfies my soul, fills my whole being and I find solace in the Bhagavad Gita which I miss even in the Sermon on the mount.” B. R. Nanda, Gandhi and his Critics, New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 1977, 5.

[28] CWMG, vol. 70 (1939) 334.

[29] Take the case in which Gandhi interpreted Islam according to his cherished principle of ahimsa by stating that the Koran eschewed violence altogether. A Muslim correspondent wrote to remind him that Islam does allow the use of force on certain occasions by pointing to the Prophet’s participation in the battle of  Badr. He plainly adds: “I dare not cite any authority because you have refused to accept any interpretation except your own.” In reply, Gandhi admitted that he was aware of the prophet’s use of violence, but believed that “it is possible that the teaching of a book or a man’s life may be different from isolated texts in a book or incidents in a life, however many the latter may be.” CWMG, vol. 70 (1939) 332-334.

[30] CWMG, vol. 68 (1939) 278. (italics mine)

[31] Parekh, Colonialism,Tradition and Reform, 26.

[32] Prabhu – Rao (Eds.), MMG, 99.

[33] Autobiography,126. (italics mine)

[34] Autobiography, 115. (italics mine)

[35] CWMG, vol. 65 (1937) 82.

[36] CWMG, vol. 65 (1937) 82. Hinduism believes in avatars or ‘manifestations’ as God’s deliberate descent to earth in material forms.

[37] Ibid.

[38] See Harijan, 6-3-1937 in M. K. Gandhi, What Jesus Means to Me, (Compiler: R. K. Prabhu), Ahmedabad, Navajivan Publishing House, 1959, 7.

[39] CWMG, vol. 65 (1937) 82.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Ibid.

[42] “As for Jesus raising the dead to life, well I doubt if the men he raised were really dead. I raised a relative’s child from supposed death to life, but that was because the child was not dead, and but for my presence there she might have been cremated. But I saw that life was not extinct. I gave her an enema and she was restored to life. There was no miracle about it.” CWMG, vol. 65 (1937), 82.

[43] Ibid.

[44] CWMG, vol. 64 (1937) 397.

[45] CWMG, vol. 75 (1941) 69-70. This text is Gandhi reply to the claims made by Christians that because he was not a Christian and did not accept Christ, it was impossible for him to understand the full meaning of Christ’s teachings.

[46] Ignatius Jesudasan, “Gandhi’s Way of the Cross”, Robert Ellsberg (Ed.), Gandhi on Christianity, New York, Orbis Books, 1991, 92.

[47] James W. Douglass, “From Gandhi to Christ: God as Suffering Love”, in Robert Ellsberg, Gandhi on Christianity, New York, Orbis Books, 1991, 102. See also his refutation of the charge that he was influenced by C. F. Andrews and Christianity on the issue of untouchability: CWMG, vol. 19 (1921) 289.

[48] CWMG, vol. 43 (1930) 159-160.

[49] CWMG, vol. 43 (1930) 159-160. Replying to a ‘particularly vicious attack on Gandhiji’, the addressee Reginald Reynolds, decided to defend Gandhi by writing to The Indian Daily Mail ‘in a sudden explosion of anger’. The above excerpt is Gandhi’s reply to Reynolds after having read the defence.

[50] Earl Stanley Jones, The Christ of the Indian Road, New York, Abingdon Press, 1926, 75-76.

[51] As quoted by E. Stanley Jones, Mahatma Gandhi: An Interpretation, London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1950, 69-70.

[52] Jan Peter Schouten, Jesus as Guru: The Image of Christ among Hindus and Christians in India, Amsterdam, Rodopi B.V., 2008,  137. The caption, “He is our Peace” is from Ephesians 2:14.


© Peter Gonsalves