Gandhi was familiar with the tenets and writings of Christianity at an early stage in his personal and spiritual development. He took up its study with an open heart to grasp the teachings of Christ and to understand another religion. And while many of those who were sharing those teachings with him were hoping to convert him, he would go on to add a “reverential study of all religions” to the curriculum of his educational system, called Nai Talim.
While he never converted, it is clear that the message of Christ had an enormous impact on his thinking about nonviolence. As he developed his approach to nonviolence in South Africa, viewing it not as passivity but as a force that draws upon the power of love and not hatred, he describes it by quoting the above verse from Second Corinthians. Reading such lines must have thrilled him to the core: what would such words look like put into mass action? What is the fulfillment of such words if lived out to their full extent?
According to historian J.P. Kripalani, at his Sevagram ashram, the only image in Gandhi’s room was one of Christ. He admired, Kripalani said, the spirit of self-sacrifice that Jesus embodied. And later, the American missionary in India, E. Stanley Jones, said of him, “there is only one Christian in the world today; and he’s a Hindu.”
Think of one reason why Gandhi might draw from the Judeo-Christian wisdom tradition while it is not his personal religion.
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org