Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Gandhi,Jesus and Christianity

He remains a conscience in the hearts of men

October 2nd 2008 is the 139th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi and this year marks the 60th anniversary of his death. Gandhi is one of the greatest personalities of recent times and he can be considered the saint of non-violence. He did what he preached and preached only what he did.

Although a devout Hindu, Gandhi was a follower of Jesus in many ways. His actions proved that one does not need be a formal Christian to be a follower of Christ. One can be a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or for that matter any religion but can still be a devout follower of Christ. All one needs is to love God and love fellow men to be a disciple of Christ.

This is what he had to say about Jesus:

“Jesus was the most active resister known perhaps to history. His was nonviolence par excellence.”

As Christians, who claim to be the followers of Jesus, we very often do not emulate Christ in actual life. It may be timely for us to reflect on our lives to see how Christ-like we are in daily living.

This is what Gandhi had to say about Christians:

“It is a first class human tragedy that people of the earth who claim to believe in the message of Jesus, whom they describe as the Prince of Peace, show little of that belief in actual practice.”

Though his views were influenced by his experience with the racist policies and hegemony of the powerful Christian British Empire at that time, his observations are nevertheless true to this day. He continued,

“Do not flatter yourselves with the belief that a mere recital of that celebrated verse in St. John makes a man a Christian. If I had to face only the Sermon on the Mount and my own interpretation of it, I should not hesitate to say, ‘O yes, I am a Christian.”

Today many of us have the misguided notion that to be a good Christians we must have a thorough knowledge of the bible. We spend a lot of time and energy to muster the bible. What about those who cannot read and write? What about those who are physically or mentally handicapped? They cannot read and comprehend the bible but can’t they be good followers of Christ?

Gandhi,a devout Hindu, appeared to have understood Jesus much more than many of us. Lord Mountbatten, the last British Viceroy of India said “Gandhi would go down in history as 'on par with Buddha and Jesus Christ', I cannot agree less with that statement and I even go a step further to say that the Mahatma was a modern version of the man,Jesus.

Gandhi believed in the universality of God, “The Allah of Islam is the same as the God of Christians and the Ishwar of Hindus.”

This concept of the universality of God is something, which is badly needed in today’s world where violence in His name is so rampant. It is also something we as Christians can learn from him; despite belonging to different faiths we are in fact all children of one God.

We are so intent in fighting one another to claim superiority over our adversaries, man against man, race against race, religion against religion and nation against nation. We resort to all the resources at our disposal; powerful arms, violence and war, to achieve victory over our enemies. We justify the use of violence to protect our perceived rights.

But to the great man of non-violence “Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.”

That philosophy he proved right when he single-handedly defeated the all-powerful British colonialist, not by power and might but peace and love. Doesn’t his action resemble those of Jesus whose love, humility, non-retaliation and forgiveness, brought him victory over the powerful Roman Empire?

Many of us today find it difficult to believe how a small, timid and frail looking man like Gandhi could dare to challenge the mighty British Empire. Just after sixty years we are finding it difficult to believe how Gandhi could have brought down the British Empire. As Albert Einstein, another great man and genius said 'Generations to come will scarcely believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.

Mahatma Gandhi may have left this world but his memories remain very much with us, alive and relevant. Like Jesus he did not possess power, position or wealth. His simplicity, integrity and a heart for fellow men had touched many and he will remain a conscience in the hearts of men for generations to come.

Dr.Chris Anthony