Sunday, October 8, 2017

Gandhi on Christianity

Nowadays, Mahatma Gandhi's views on religion are considered to be responsible for Partition, responsible for many of India's ills, and so on.  In particular, Gandhi is considered by the modern mind as impossibly naive about Christianity and Islam.

I came across this in V.B. Kher's compilation of Gandhiana:

(From "Weekly Letter" — by M. D.)

Sir Chandrashekharan Venkata Raman came up the hill one afternoon with Professor Rahm from Switzerland, a reputed biologist.

"He has discovered," said Chandrashekharan introducing him, "an insect that can live without food and water for 12 years, and has come to India for further researches in Biology."

"When you discover the secret at the back of it," said Gandhiji, "please pass it on to me."
"But," said the biologist, "I am a scientist and a monk also, and when I decided to come to pay my respect to you, I thought of asking you a question or two. May I do so?"

"With pleasure," said Gandhiji.

Dr. Rahm was perplexed by the many warring creeds in the world and wondered if there was no way of ending the conflict.

"It depends on Christians," said Gandhiji, "if only they would make up their minds to unite with the others! But they will not do so. Their solution is universal acceptance of Christianity as they believe it. An English friend has been at me for the past thirty years trying to persuade me that there is nothing but damnation in Hinduism and that I must accept Christianity. When I was in jail I got, from separate sources, no less than three copies of the Life of Sister Therese, in the hope that I should follow her example and accept Jesus as the only begotten son of God and my Saviour. I read the book prayerfully but I could not accept even St. Therese's testimony for myself. I must say I have an open mind, if indeed at this stage and age of my life I can be said to have an open mind on this question. Anyway I claim to have an open mind in this sense that if things were to happen to me as they did to Saul before he became Paul, I should not hesitate to be converted"

"But today I rebel against orthodox Christianity, as I am convinced that it has distorted the message of Jesus. He was an Asiatic whose message was delivered through many media and when it had the backing of a Roman Emperor it became an imperialist faith as it remains to this day. Of course there are noble but rare exceptions like Andrews and Elwin. But the general trend is as I have indicated."

"There was held the other day in Bombay a parliament of religions. Now a positive bar to a real parliament of religions is the refusal to accept an equal basis and a mutual regard for one another's faith. We must not forget that it is a parliament of religions, and not of a few religious- minded men. Did Christianity enter the parliament on a par with the others? When they do not do so openly, they secretly criticize us for our having many gods, forgetting that they have also many gods'."

Dr. Rahm was not perhaps prepared for this reply. He made no answer. He put another question in reply. "If we cannot unite, can't we fight atheism which seems to be so much on the increase?"

Sir C. V. Raman who was sitting all this while as a passive listener now put in: "I shall answer your question. If there is a God we must look for Him in the universe. If He is not there, He is not worth looking for. I am being looked upon in various quarters as an atheist, but I am not. The growing discoveries in the science of astronomy and physics seem to me to be further and further revelations of God. Mahatmaji, religions cannot unite. Science offers the best opportunity for a complete fellowship. All men of science are brothers."

"What about the converse?" said Gandhiji. "All who are not men of science are not brothers?"

The distinguished physicist saw the joke and said: 'But all can become men of science."

Then said Gandhiji, "You will have to present a Kalma of science as Islam presents one."

"Science," said Sir C. V. Raman, "is nothing but a search for truth—truth not only in the physical world, but in the world of logic, psychology, behaviour and so on. The virtue of a truly scientific frame of mind is the readiness to reject what is false and untrue. It proclaims from the house-tops that there is no virtue in sticking to untruth. I think the latest biological discovery is that there is no fundamental cleavage between the life of man and the life of the lower creation and that salvation lies in the perfection of the biological instinct for the perpetuation of race—the instinct to sacrifice the individual for the sake of the species."

Several years ago a great religious-minded scientist, Dr. Henry Drummond, an F.R.S. like Sir C. V. Raman, had said the same thing in his book, The Natural Law in the Spiritual World. And does not the Gita teach the same thing? Does it not proclaim that with sacrifice God created man, and enjoined upon him sacrifice as the only means whereby to seek to grow?

Harijan,30-5-'36, p. 121 at p. 122

My comment: in the very end, 'sacrifice' is mangled, conjoining two very different senses of the word, that too, translating 'yajna' as sacrifice. 


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