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92 

Jones <p. 

Mahatma Gandhi- 



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MAHATMA GANDHI 

An Interpretation 



E. STANLEY " JONES 




AN INTERPRETATION 




ABINGDON-COKESBURY PRESS 

NEW YORK NASHVILLE 



--.AN INTERPRETATION 



MCMXLVin 
& PIERCE 



A$* fci^ntjs in this book are reserved.^ No part of the 
text magr"e reproduced in any form without written per- 
misSiofi of the publishers, except brief quotations used 
in connection with reviews in magazines or newspapers. 



SEX UP, PRINTED, AND BOUND BY THE 
PARTHENON PRESS, AT NASHVIULE, 
TENNESSEE, UNITED STATES OF AMJEJUCA 



i 



HIS book was not an easy book to write not for me. 
When the cable came from the publishers in America asking me to write 
the book, I put it aside as impossible. I never write a book by request. 
It must come as a result of an inner urge which I cannot put aside. I 
felt no such inner urge about this. 

I have believed in and have loved Mahatma Gandhi through the years 
in spite of differences. I have stood in sympathy with the Mahatma 
and have expressed that sympathy during the years when to do so was 
to open one to the charge of being the queer defending the queer, the 
off-center defending the eccentric. But to try to interpret such a complex 
character as he was well, it was beyond me and wasn t my task. He was 
simple and yet very complex amid that simplicity. You thought you 
knew him, and then you didn t. It was intriguing. There was always 
something there that eluded your grasp, something that baffled you. 
And yet out of that many-sidedness which amounted to complexity, 
there arose simplicity, a unified character, simple and compelling. Could 
I interpret that? It was like trying to interpret Mount Everest. It is 
many-sided. It rises in simple grandeur, and yet there are subsidiary peaks, 
crevices, depths, plateaus, all contributing to the sum total of the 
grandeur that is Everest. Would I get caught in the secondary things in 
the Mahatma s character and magnify them and not see the sum total of 
the grandeur that is Gandhi? Many have done so. There is a book out en 
titled What Does Gandhi Want?, picking out the inconsistencies in his 
statements during the years. It is a microscopic examination, thoroughly 
done, but in the end the real man is lost. After you have looked at him 
through a miscroscope, you have to look at him through a telescope to 
get the total man. For he stands against a background of the ages and 
must be interpreted with that background to get the full stature and 
meaning of the man. 

Many get caught in subsidiary statements and miss the sum total of the 
meaning of his teaching. A prominent man from the West has fastened 
on two statements made by Gandhi in Young India: "Its [Hinduism s] 
worship of the cow is, in my opinion, its unique contribution to the evo 
lution of humanitarianism. Finally the discovery of the law of varnashrama 
[caste system] is a magnificent result of the ceaseless search for truth." 
"There," says this critic, "Mahatma Gandhi has picked out cow worship 
and caste as the unique contributions of Hinduism. What shall we 
think of a man like that?" And yet when you look at the Mahatma 
through the years, you see that it is not %ca^QE&hiQ^oi the cow but 

6108262 



GA NDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

<r , 

tkb wo|sbi> of C^ ^iz^ gft^ited him > molded him, and made him. 
He says that "tibys pojy is a poem of pity," and "to protect her stands for 
the protection if; cb^ whole dumb creation." Thus interpreted it turns 
out to be differedtrfrom cow worship. He says so: "The present ideas of 
cow worship and varnashrama are a caricature of what in my opinion 
the originals are." As for caste he so explains it that he explains it away; 
and in his life he breaks all the rules of caste, transcends them, adopts 
an outcaste as his daughter, and in the end does more to break down the 
system of caste than any other man, living or dead. In the Mahatma caste 
just didn t operate, no matter what he said about it. He was a man out 
growing constantly the literal interpretation of his words. He reconciled 
and transcended inconsistencies in himself. Would I get caught in the 
marginal and miss the central? That made me hesitate. 

I hesitated for another reason. I have been intimately associated dur 
ing forty years with the dual struggle taking place in India. There has 
been a struggle with the West in two phases: political and religious. 
India wanted political freedom the right to make her own mistakes and 
to shape her own destiny. And then she wanted her soul to be her own, 
not dominated and molded by a seemingly foreign faith. There were 
many things in Hinduism which were unsatisfactory to modem Hindu 
minds, but at least it belonged to India, and they would defend it as 
such. They have defended it the good and bad. Mahatma Gandhi was 
the spearhead of that political-religious battle. He was the voice. 

I found myself very early taking sides with him in the political strug 
gle. For years I was discreet discreet enough to be able to stay in India 
during the years of struggle for independence. I went to Sir James Crcrar, 
the Home Member, the head of the police of India, at the height of the 
struggle and told him my position: "I believe in the moral right of 
India to independence and am sympathetic toward the national leaders 
and their aims, but I give you my word of honor that I am not taking 
part in politics as such." I was allowed to stay. But later when the war 
came on, I felt I should throw aside a cramping discretion and expose 
my heart. I did so in many addresses in the West. For this I was refused 
a visa when I wanted to return to India in 1944. When I applied for a 
visa, I said: "I give my word of honor that I will not take part in politics, 
but I want the right, when asked, to say that I believe in the moral right 
of India to self-government. Would I be allowed that freedom?" It was 
a privilege to be kept out of India on that issue. I believed fundamentally 
in the method and motive of the struggle for political independence. 

But the religious struggle with the West came home even closer to me. 
I was an evangelist in the midst of an India fighting with all her resources 
for freedom. What I presented seemed to be bound up with Western 
domination the religious side of imperialism. I tried to present a dis 
entangled Christ standing in his own right, apart from any mediation 



FOREWORD 7 

through the West. I tried to say that we of East and West stood in the 
same deep need of him. My present plan of dividing my time equally 
between India and America six months in each is a practical appli 
cation of my belief in our common need. I look on them both as mission 
fields. But no matter how much we tried to clarify our position and present 
a disentangled Christ, the clash was there. And Mahatma Gandhi voiced 
the protest. The pages of Young India were the debating ground. Other 
papers echoed the Mahatma and re-enforced his arguments and protests 
with their own. In my public meetings at question time these things 
would come to the surface, sometimes in bitter form. The center of that 
clash was this: since there was communal representation in India repre 
sentation in government according to the numbers in the religious com 
munity religious conversion could be used to build up one s own com 
munal power and incidentally to undermine the political power of the 
other community, which meant that the political power of the Hindus was 
jeopardized by conversions, especially mass conversions. For thirty years I 
lived at the nerve center of that clash. It has left scars on me. Again and 
again I found myself disagreeing with the Mahatma in his positions. For 
ten days he and I opened our hearts to each other in the early morning 
hours at the Sabarmati Ashram. There were deep disagreements. And yet 
something held me to him amid those disagreements. I felt that he had a 
way of coming out on the right side of things, even when the intellectual 
processes by which he arrived at that end could not be followed by me. He 
had a way of being right even when I thought he was wrong. His spirit 
transcended the mental processes and came out on the right side of 
things. 

Acharya Kripalani, then president of the Indian National Congress, put 
it this way to me one day: "The Mahatma is more right when he is wrong 
than we are when we are right." That was a deep insight and is the key 
to the understanding of his character. His spirit and magnificent inten 
tion carried him past mental detours and brought him almost unerringly 
to his goal. His spirit was so great that it could absorb mental limitations 
and make something great even out of them. Many of us are correct in 
our little correctnesses and are small in the process. But the MaTiatma was 
incorrect in many things and yet correct in the sum total and big in 
the very inconsistencies. In the end he seldom or never came out at the 
wrong place. The words of Browning: 

I <ihall arrive! what time, what circuit first, 
I ask not: . . . 

In some time, [God s] good time, I shall arrive. 

could be applied to Mahatma Gandhi in full measure. 
And .yet the above must be corrected, for it may leave the impression 



8 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

that he had a large capacity for blunders in thinking. That would be 
wrong. For he had an amazingly clear mind and an amazingly clear style 
and vocabulary. They were the expression of his inner spirit. He thought 
clearly because his intentions were simple and clear. He was not intellec 
tually brilliant, but he was so fundamentally straight that his moral in 
tentions carried him almost by intuition to right conclusions. 

As I thought on all these things, I found myself coming to the con 
clusion that I could lay an honest tribute at the feet of the great little 
man. And could do it with my whole heart. To have won an evangelist 
to a whole-hearted affection amid the clash of thirty years is no small 
conquest. But in the end he had conquered me. This book is a sign of 
that conquest. Mahatma Gandhi wrote in the Hari/an in 1938: 

Intellectually, of course, even many people of the West have come to recognize 
the futility of violence, and have begun to ask if nonviolence may not after all be 
worth a trial. Dr. Stanley Jones has sent me a copy of his recent article, Gandhian 
Solution of the Chinese Trouble, and he has seriously discussed various forms of 
non-co-operation that may be successfully adopted. There was a time when Dr. 
Jones had not much belief in non-co-operation, but lie now seriously suggests it 
as a nonviolent solution and has pressed me to go to Europe to preach peace. 

"Had not much belief" that expresses the distance I had to travel to 
where I am today. In the beginning I had none. But gradually the facts 
conquered me. If there are scars on my spirit, they are now radiant scars, 
for in the end I see something bigger than hurt from clashes. I see a man 
with whom I have often disagreed, but whom I have intensely believed in 
and loved, and I would like my readers to see the man I see. For Mahatma 
Gandhi has significance very great significance, world significance in 
fact. 

I am still an evangelist. I bow to Mahatma Gandhi, but I kneel at the 
feet of Christ and give him my full and final allegiance. And yet a little 
man, who fought a system in the framework of which I stand, has taught 
rne more of the spirit of Christ than perhaps any other man in East or 
West. This book is a symbol of my gratitude. 

And yet none of the things mentioned above could have overcome my 
hesitancy in writing this book had not the inner urge, which to me is an 
Inner Voice, said, "You must." Perhaps the years have prepared me to 
write this book. 

E. STANLEY JONES 



Contents 

I. THK END OF THE ROAD 11 

II. ANTITHESES STRONGLY MARKED 17 

III. THE MEANING OF His DEATH 35 

IV. THE COMING INTO BEING OF PAKISTAN 42 

V. GANDHI AND THE CHRISTIAN FAITH 51 

VI. "My EXPERIMENTS WITH TRUTH" 78 

VII. THE CENTER OF GANDHI S CONTRIBUTION SATYAGRAHA . 82 

VIII. THE FASTINGS OF THE MAHATMA 108 

IX. SEVAGRAM VERSUS DELHI 122 

X. GANDHI S INDIA THE OUTLOOK 129 

XL "BAPU Is FINISHED" Is HE? 149 



CHAPTER I 



The End of the Road 



N the day that Mahatma Gandhi was killed, I arrived 
in Delhi just an hour and a quarter before the tragedy. I had requested 
a friend to get me an appointment with Mahatma Gandhi for that 
afternoon. But my train was five hours late symbol of India s internal 
upset and when I arrived I was told that the appointment could not 
be arranged as he was taking a minimum of interviews since his fast. 
It was then suggested that we go to the prayer meeting which he held 
daily and which would possibly give an opportunity for a word at the 
close. I had often seen him in the postprayer periods. 

We had just time to make it and get back to a supper meeting at 
which I was to speak, along with the wife of Acharya Kripalani, the 
president of the Indian National Congress. We had time to make it, 
provided we took a taxi. That decided me against it, for the taxi 
would have to wait and that would be expensive. I allowed the ex 
pense item to decide the matter. I said to my friend that I could see 
Gandhi later on my return to Delhi for a series of lectures, but the 
real reason was the expense. I am ashamed to confess that a matter of 
rupees kept me from being at the greatest tragedy since the Son of 
God died on a cross. In a way I am grateful I was spared the sight, but 
one would like to have been near him in his last moments. 

I was walking up and down near the Y.M.C.A. building thinking 
of what I was going to say in the coming supper meeting, when the 
playing in the field alongside stopped as if by a silent, but imperious 
command. An awful hush settled on everything. This was a symbol 
of what had taken place all over Delhi and India. What had hap 
pened? One of the players ran over to me and broke the news the 
Mahatma had been shot and killed on his way to the prayer meet 
ing! It was unbelievable. People stood in little clumps and discussed 
the tragedy. "Now," said a prominent man, "India is in for chaos. 
With the restraining influence of Mahatma Gandhi gone, India will 
sink into chaos/ I quietly disagreed. I said that I thought Mahatma 
Gandhi would be greater in death than he had been in life, that 

11 



12 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

through this tragedy good would come to India. I didn t see just how, 
but I felt it would. I could not help thinking of the Cross and what 
happened through that tragedy. That tragedy-triumph held me in 
wardly steady. 

We went over to the Congress House, where Acharya Kripalani 
lived, to get some firsthand word. He had gone to the side of the 
fallen leader. When we arrived, a big Sikh guard saluted and said, 
"Jai Hind" (Victory to India). Was that a prophecy? Would victory 
come out of this to India? We went back and sat around the radio to 
hear Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhai Patel break the news to 
the nation. These strong men, veterans of many battles for independ 
ence men who had gone to jail time after time without a quiver 
now shook with emotion. They could scarcely go on, and their words 
were often unintelligible. Strong men in uniform sat by the radio and 
sobbed unashamedly. My tears mingled with theirs. Ours was a com 
mon sorrow. They asked me to read a passage and pray. I wondered if 
I could do it. An Englishman handed me the Apocrypha, and I read: 

But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God. 

In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died; 

And their departure was accounted to be their hurt, 

And their journeying away from us to be their ruin: 

But they are in peace. 

For even if in the sight of men they be punished, 

Their hope is full of immortality; 

And having borne a little chastening, they shall receive great good; 

Because God made trial of them, and found them worthy of himself* 

As gold in the furnace he proved them, 

And as a whole burnt offering he accepted them. 

And in the time of their visitation they shall shine forth, 

And as sparks among stubble they shall run to and fro. 

They shall judge nations, and have dominion over peoples, 

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-8 

Every word seemed to apply to the Mahatma. I felt that in his 
martyrdom he would "judge nations" and would "have dominion 
over peoples." That has happened in a way of which I never dreamed. 
I prayed for a stricken nation a broken prayer. An Indian commented 
as we ceased praying: "And this is Friday, too." 
We called up Dr. John Matthai, the minister for transport, and 



THE END OF THE ROAD 13 

suggested that we as Christians should pay our respects. He replied 
that he had tried to get to the Birla House, where the Mahatma lay, 
but could not get near because of the crowd. Three of us British, In 
dian, American walked the three miles to get a sight of him. We 
managed to get inside the gate; strangely enough, our white faces 
helped. We were told by a secretary that they were sorry but no one 
could see him till morning. We departed about midnight, not to 
sleep, but to meditate on the meaning of the tragedy of the day. 
For we knew that something of world significance had happened 
something that men will talk about ten thousand years from now. 

I wanted to see him that day to renew my plea for a national 
pageant which would be a befitting celebration, I thought, of the 
meaning of the nonviolent struggle for independence. Mahatma 
Gandhi had left the Ashram at Sabarmati on March 12, 1930, to go 
on "the Salt March/ He proposed to march to the sea, 150 miles 
distant, to Dandi, and there make salt, which was a government 
monopoly, and thus civilly break the Salt Law and precipitate a crisis 
and go to jail, to be followed by tens of thousands of others. It was a 
dramatic launching of a Nonviolent Civil Disobedience Movement. 
It was made more dramatic by the announcement as he left that he 
would not return to the Ashram until he had gained independence for 
India. It seemed completely absurd. Here was a man in a loincloth and 
with a lathee (bamboo walking stick) going out to do battle with 
the greatest empire that ever existed and promising not to return un 
til independence had been gained. Never were two sides more un 
equally matched. But here was something more than a little man and 
a stick. Here was the embodiment of an idea: he would match his 
capacity to suffer against the others capacity to inflict the suffering, 
his soul force against physical force; he would not hate, but he would 
not obey, and he would wear down all resistance by an infinite ca 
pacity to take it. Here was a technique that had been applied here 
and there in history, but never applied to a problem on the scale of 
nothing less than the freedom of one fifth of the human race. The 
stakes were immense, and the cards seemed all stacked against him. 
How could he win? But we soon began to see the immense power of 
an embodied idea. The British were bafHed. This was illustrated 
when a burly Irish military officer said to me: "If they d only fight with 
weapons we understaad, we would show them something. But 
this . . ." And he shook his head helplessly. Gandhi was getting be 
hind the military armor and striking at the heart and conscience, and 



14 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

a great nation was striking back, but wincing under the blows falling 
upon its inner spirit. 

After a struggle of seventeen years from the time he left the Ashram 
the battle was over. The little man had won. Independence was con 
ceded. Never in human history had such a battle been fought with 
such weapons and with such a victory. My suggestion was that, now 
that independence had been won, Mahatmaji should come back to 
the Ashram, reversing the Salt March. Let him begin, say five or ten 
miles out, and march back over the same road with the same stick 
(die stick is in the Ashram Museum at Sabarmati), and that humble 
but triumphal march back would be a national pageant which would 
concentrate the attention of India and the world on the method 
by which independence was gained the method of nonviolence. 
It would be a landmark in the history of the world. A new type of 
power had been revealed and demonstrated the power of soul. Mil 
lions would line that road, I suggested, and I would like to be among 
them. I further suggested, not too seriously, that Mr. Attlee might 
march back with him, symbol of mutual consent to the victory. 

I shared this suggestion for a national pageant celebrating inde 
pendence with Sardar Vallabhai Patel, outstanding cabinet minister 
and deputy prime minister. He is "the iron man," and is not 
supposed to get excited. But he became most enthusiastic and 
said: "It would be wonderful. Yd like to be there, for I was the first 
one arrested on the Salt March. If you can get the Mahatma to agree, 
111 arrange it." I wrote to the Mahatma and said that I knew that he 
did not like pageantry, but this was different; it would sum up the 
meaning of a movement. Would he come back to Sabarmati, say on 
March 12, 1948, eighteen years after he set out? He replied that the 
withdrawal of the British troops from India would be the greatest 
pageant conceivable," and moreover, "I don t know when I will be 
able to leave my present haunts." He was then in Behar, where the 
anti-Moslem riots had taken place, and was preaching to the people 
to restore the burned houses and the loot, and those who had taken 
part in the rioting should come forward and confess it and take the 
consequences go to jail. He was preaching a corporate and in 
dividual repentance to his people. In his letter he had not turned 
down the suggestion for a pageant, nor had he accepted it. It gave me 
hope that he might accept it at a future date. I shared this idea with 
other national leaders, like Premier Kher of Bombay, who was 
enthusiastic and said he would make all the arrangements since it 



THE END OF THE ROAD 15 

was in his province. This was nearly a year ago when I first raised the 
question of the pageant, and the day he was killed I wanted to renew 
my suggestion to him. I had written beforehand to Rajkumari Amrit 
Kaur, minister of health in the Central Government, a Christian who 
was his private secretary for a long time before being appointed minis 
ter. I knew she was the best one to present it to him. After his death 
she wrote me his response: "When I presented the suggestion to him, 
he smiled and said, I must do or die here in Delhi. Nothing else 
matters now/ " It was just before he undertook his fast. He had the 
feeling, doubtless, that the crisis had come and the battle of the new 
India had to be fought out in Delhi; for this capital city was drenched 
in bitterness and hate after the blood bath of riots. Delhi was filled 
with refugees, and each refugee had his tale of death and loss. So 
Delhi was the nerve center of anti-Moslem hate. The battle for the 
new India must be lost or won there. And Mahatma Gandhi un 
erringly tackled the problem at the very center. As we look back, we 
marvel that he put his finger on the center of the problem Delhi. 
That was a rare insight indeed. His last battle was the greatest and 
the most important. So he gently pushed aside the suggestion of a 
pageant and tackled the grim business of changing the heart and at 
mosphere of a nation. He pushed it aside, and rightly, for the thing 
he was entering had the feel of a real battle upon it the battle for a 
new India with a new spirit. 

My suggestion for a pageant was surpassed and supplanted by a 
pageant that only God could have produced. Alongside of what has 
happened my suggestion was poor, pale, and colorless. For the pageant 
that ensued after the assassination of the Mahatma was perhaps the 
greatest pageant that mankind has ever witnessed. The assassin fired 
three shots into the breast of Mahatma Gandhi as he walked to 
ward the platform to begin the prayer meeting. This meeting was 
called a prayer meeting, but in addition to prayer it was really the 
daily message of the Mahatma to the nation. Here he commented on 
intimate affairs of the nation and gave his advice on current hap 
penings. The people of India and the world listened. During the 
French Revolution a leader said to the crowd as a saintly priest was 
about to address them: "Listen, men, for forty years of pure living 
are about to address you." India knew when the Mahatma spoke that 
forty years of pure living and sacrificial struggle were about to address 
them. They hung upon every word as upon an oracle. That fateful day 
they waited breathlessly as usual for him to come to the prayer meet- 



16 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

ing. He was coming, leaning on the shoulders of two of his relatives, 
granddaughters. A man stepped forward and folded his hands in salu 
tation and said, "You are late today, Mahatmaji." And then whipping 
out a pistol he fired three shots point-blank into the breast of the 
Mahatma. He sought to stop the Mahatma and his ideas. Stop him? 

He only succeeded in freeing the ideas and spirit of the Mahatma 
from his frail body and making them the possession of the human 
race. For an astonishing thing took place. I had suggested that he 
march into Sabarmati in a humble, but triumphal procession. Instead 
he marched into the soul of humanity in the most triumphal march 
that any man ever made since the death and resurrection of the Son 
of God. The Roman triumphal processions were tawdry compared to 
this. It was world-wide; it was all-embracing. Never before had such a 
flood of love and sympathy been poured out as was poured out on the 
death of this strange little man. People from every land people 
whom we never suspected as being interested in the Mahatma and 
his ideas and methods poured out their affection. Even Winston 
Churchill, who some years ago had protested against the sight of 
"a half-naked fakir" coming up the steps of the Viceregal Lodge "to 
confer on equal terms with the representatives of His Majesty s Gov 
ernment," sent his tribute. And Jinnah haltingly spoke of "the 
loss to the Hindu nation" not to the Pakistan nation, but only "to 
the Hindu nation." He thus revealed himself in the process of paying 
a grudging tribute. The Mahatma judged men, even in death, by their 
attitudes toward him. Incidentally, let me say that a Moslem officer 
from Pakistan assured me that a great many in Pakistan expressed dis 
appointment and disapproval of this grudging tribute of Jinnah. 
The prime minister of Pakistan referred to Mahatma Gandhi as "the 
father of us both." All Pakistan was plunged in mourning. 

What was the secret of this little man? How can we interpret him 
and the world s interest in him? Why did he draw men even when 
they disagreed with him? Men came to see him with blood on their 
horns and came away subdued and captivated. Why? Why did his 
death shake the heart and conscience of the world? What is this pow 
er wrapped up in such a strange wrapping? Did humanity see in him 
something they have been looking for? He began life as a timid boy 
who used to run home from school lest the boys tease him or poke 
fun at him. This timid boy becomes one of the world s bravest men ? 
defying social custom and confronting empires with unbreakable 
courage. How do we interpret him? 



CHAPTER II 



Antitheses Strongly Marked 



A 



FRENCH philosopher once said that "no man is 
strong unless he bears within his character antitheses strongly 
marked." One of the secrets of Mahatma Gandhi s strength was 
just this holding in a living blend and balance strongly marked an 
titheses. He was a combination, a meeting place of currents. And yet 
he was no mere patchwork of qualities gathered from here and there. 
The ensemble was unique. In the end an entirely new thing emerged 
the character of Mahatrna Gandhi. 

He was a combination of East and West. The soul of Mahatma 
Candhi was intensely Eastern. Born in a native state, Porbandar, 
where his father was the prime minister, he early imbibed ideas of in 
dependence. He was Indian to the core, and yet he was deeply in 
fluenced by the West. Had Mahatma Gandhi not been educated in 
large measure in the West, he would never have had the world-wide 
influence he has had. He stepped out of India and exposed himself 
to the West, studied law in Britain. He even tried to absorb the 
civilization of the West dinner clothes, spats, meat-eating, and all. 
But he soon saw that this wasn t for him. It was like Saul s armor on 
David. It didn t fit. A friend who is one of God s troubadours once 
said: "People give me their clothes, but they soon begin to look 
like me." The clothes and the person became a unit. But Gandhi 
never really inwardly surrendered to Western civilization. He had his 
inner reservation, so the clothes never really fitted him. They were 
discarded. 

Just as David, when they put Saul s armor on liim, laid it aside and 
took the pebbles from his own brook, so the Mahatma laid aside the 
social armor of the West and took the simple pebbles out of his own 
national brook. To change the figure, he would plant his receiving 
posts deep in the soil of his own culture, and then he could lift his 
antennae to receive from the rest of the world then and then 
only. It was a wise decision. In Gandhi you see a truly Indian soul 
flowering, and yet he absorbed much from the West and was at home 

17 



18 MAHATMA GANDHIAN INTERPRETATION 

in its language and literature. His use of English was remarkable 
for its clarity and correctness. I have never seen him make a mistake 
in English. It was not ornate, for that would not have fitted the soul 
of Gandhi. His language was simple and direct as his soul was simple 
and direct 

It was a providence of God that he was educated in large measure 
outside India, and also a providence of God that he had his training in 
Satyagraha (soul force) outside India. Had he begun in India, he 
would have got tangled up in the very complex problems which India 
presents. His apprenticeship in trying out the possibilities of soul 
force was gained in a simpler situation. South Africa furnished the re 
hearsal for the real drama of India. There he clarified his ideas 
and perfected his technique on a small scale. He might have floundered 
had he tried India straight off. But with the experience of South 
Africa behind, and the victories won through the method of non 
violent civil resistance, when he stepped on the stage of India he 
had confidence of direction and assurance of power to move along 
that path. 

The twenty-six years he spent outside India can be likened to the 
years Moses spent in the mountainous country of Midian, until the 
day when the voice came out of the burning bush telling him to go 
down and deliver the people from the land of bondage. Mahatma 
Gandhi heard a voice come out of the fire of the struggle for the 
rights of Indians in South Africa saying that he must go and deliver 
the people of India from their bondage. He obeyed, tremblingly, as 
did Moses. But the man and the hour were matched. India was ripe 
and ready for a man who could voice her incoherent cry, could 
embody all her aspirations, and could lead her out of her Bondage. 
A man was being trained in the West who would break the strangle 
hold of the West over the East. He was further trained in technique 
in South Africa, the nerve center of the world s clash of color; and 
from that training he would come out and deliver the man of color 
from the dominance of the white man. South Africa produced, by her 
very attitudes, the embodied influence which would eventually smash 
those attitudes, first in India and then in the rest of the world, 
including South Africa. The paradox is that South Africa, bent on 
maintaining white supremacy, produced by that very fact a man who 
became the greatest force in modern history in breaking that suprem 
acy. 

But if God was preparing Gandhi, he was also preparing Britain for 



ANTITHESES STRONGLY MARKED 19 

this hour. There carne into power in Britain at the right moment a 
group of men who believed essentially in what Gandhi was fighting 
for, namely, freedom, and believed in it for all men everywhere. They 
saw that you could have democracy or empire, but not both. They 
were inherently incompatible. So these men proceeded to turn 
empire into commonwealth. 

But wasn t Britain compelled to give freedom to India? Yes, in 
a way the hour of destiny had struck. The movement for freedom 
under Gandhi had become so overwhelming that nothing could stop 
it or stay it. Britain had reached the end of her capacity to help India. 
The Labor Party saw this and, further, found this historic situation 
fitting in with their own principles, so they determined to meet 
the situation with decisiveness and straightforwardness. 

The situation in India in 1946 was ripe for revolution. It was as 
bitter as gall. You could squeeze the gall out of the atmosphere. And 
then came the speech of Attlee. They say he is no speaker, but he 
made a speech that will go down in history as one of the great 
speeches of all time. He said the four things India was waiting to hear: 
(1) India would have independence (the word used for the first 
time); (2) independence would be within or without the common 
wealth, and India would decide; (3) if India decided to go out of 
the commonwealth, Britain would try to make the transition as 
smooth as possible; (4) no minority would hold back the progress of 
the majority. This was so clear, without weasel words, and so honest 
that it changed the emotional climate of a subcontinent overnight. 
It is seldom in the annals of human history that a speech of one man 
is able to change the attitude of a subcontinent, but Attlee s speech 
did just that. The reaction of an Indian judge the next day was in 
teresting. 

"That speech of Attlee made me sad/ he said. 

"Made you sad?" I asked. "Why, that was a great speech." 

"Yes/ 7 he said, "it was. But when a man talks like that, I don t 
want him to go." 

A few nights later I was at a dinner given by a Brahman to meet 
leading men of the city. I remarked at the close: "For the first time 
in forty years I find myself in a mixed gathering of this kind, made 
up of men of the East and West, without any sense of tension. 
Something has happened. This reminds me more of what we 
Christians call a sacrament, a sacramental meal, rather than just a 



20 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

dinner." East and West were drawing together. Some strange force 
was binding us. 

While the British Cabinet Mission was in India, I spoke in the 
Free Church in Delhi. One of the cabinet ministers read the lesson. 
They sang a hymn I had never heard sung in India before; in fact 
it could not have been sung before, not by a mixed audience such 
as this was, consisting of Indian civilians and British soldiers: 

These things shall be: a loftier race 
Than e er the world hath known shall rise 

With flame of freedom in their souls 
And light of knowledge in their eyes. 

And both sides sang it, and sang it from the heart, and both had now 
the "flame of freedom in their souls." I was moved to my depths, 
for I saw that Britain in conceding freedom to India was gaining free 
dom for herself. The inner conflicts and debates and apologies and 
defenses were over, and Britain was again with the flame of freedom 
in her own soul. She was becoming free in India s freedom. She was 
losing empire, but finding herself. The authentic voice of British de 
mocracy was speaking through the Labor leaders. Gandhi was giving 
a new freedom to Britain in gaining freedom for India. That is the 
uniqueness of his method and spirit. 

Sri Prakasa, now High Commissioner to Pakistan, was at a tea 
party with a group of us in Benares during the struggle for freedom. 
He laughingly said: "I must eat as many of these sandwiches as pos 
sible, for I shall soon be on His Majesty s Government jail fare." He 
knew he would soon be in jail. And was. But he added this: "We 
can thank our lucky stars that we are fighting a people like the 
British, who have something in them to which we can appeal." A 
strange kind of warfare where you see the good in your opponent 
and appeal to it and succeed! And then he added: "We. will send 
out the British as masters; but before the boat has gone out of the 
harbor, we will call them back as friends." They have. The British 
are now popular in India, On the train a few weeks ago a group of 
Indians were talking in their corner; and as they were going out, one 
of them turned to me and said, "We ve been praising you to the 
skies." They thought I was British! H the Indians were allowed, 
without political complications, to elect a governor general, they 
might elect Lord Mountbattenl He was at the bedside of die fallen 



ANTITHESES STRONGLY MARKED 21 

leader, sat beside the funeral pyre, went with his ashes to Allahabad, 
where they were to be strewn in the waters at the junction of the 
Ganges and Jumna rivers. He has won the heart of India in an amaz 
ing way. In the independence celebrations he got almost as many 
cries of "Ki jail" (Hail!) as the national leaders. Two nations were 
separating, and separating as friends. This seldom happens in human 
history. It is a miracle. But it has happened in India. Britain and 
India are being cemented together. And the hand of Gandhi laid 
the cement. He is the architect of the new India and is also the 
architect of new relations with Britain. To win your freedom from 
a nation and win that nation in the process is an achievement, and 
a great one. Apart from the method and spirit of Gandhi it could not 
have been done. It is true that some officials and businessmen have 
left India sullen and disgruntled, and they are spreading disaffection 
toward India in the West. But on the whole these two nations have 
parted as friends. I repeat, it is a miracle. 

When the cabinet ministers were about to leave India after com 
pleting their work of marking out the steps to independence, I wrote 
them a letter thanking them for what they had done. I said that as 
an American I admired their spirit and patience, which I felt was 
a Christian patience; that their work would go down in history as 
one of the great achievements of all time. The secretary of the 
Cabinet Mission wrote back and said: "You will not misunderstand 
me when I say that if anything has been done, it has been by the 
grace of God, and by such help as you and others have so generously 
given, for which Thank you 7 and Thank you/ " Here were several 
new notes which revealed a new spirit in political affairs. One was 
that I, who had been kept out of India by the British government dur 
ing the war because I believed in India s independence, was now being 
thanked by a secretary of that same government for helping in how 
ever small a measure, for I was only working behind the scenes trying 
to reconcile in attaining that independence. That was new. And 
second, the secretary recognized that their achievements were "by 
the grace of God/ and he meant it. And they were. For as God had 
been preparing India through Gandhi, so he had been preparing 
Britain through the Labor Party to make it possible for East and 
West to meet on equal terms, be friends, and to work out their 
destinies together. 

In the person of Mahatma Gandhi, East and West met; and 
through his methods and spirit they were in large measure reconciled. 



22 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

Another set of contradictions was reconciled in Gandhi. He was an 
urban man who became identified with the peasant. His whole up 
bringing and training was to be a man of the city. As he was the son 
of a prime minister of a native state, his sympathies would thus tend 
to be with the ruling classes. But by deliberate intention he identified 
himself with the masses of the people, 75 per cent of whom are 
peasants. He put aside all superior clothes and wore only what the 
peasant wears, namely, a loincloth or dhoti. The upper portion of 
his body was bare in life; and when he was carried out to the funeral 
pyre, it was befittingly bare in death. And yet he always seemed 
completely clothed. In an elevator in America was this sign: "No one 
is fully clothed unless he wears a smile." Mahatma Gandhi was 
fully clothed, for he always wore a smile which drew attention to his 
face rather than to his bare body. His son Devadas Gandhi said of 
his father: "Gandhi was one of the most refined persons in the world, 
refined in his scanty dress, in his speech, and in his manners." Any 
one who came into contact with Gandhi would verify that. He 
always went third-class while traveling, and third-class is hard 
wooden benches. In later years those who loved him saw that he must 
be protected from the crowds in third-class, so they sent him by 
special railway carriage or train, but it was third-class still 

An urban man becomes the idol and voice of the masses. The 
millions of India live in the rural sections of India, and it was 
Gandhi who aroused them, made them shed their fear, and made 
them conscious of destiny. Before the advent of Gandhi the national 
ist movement was among the intellectuals. He carried it to the masses, 
Nobody else in history was acclaimed by such multitudes of humanity 
who everywhere thronged to get a sight of the Mahatma. They saw 
in him their best selves and their own possibilities. He was the voice 
of the dumb millions. 

When he went to Delhi, he stayed at the Bhangi or Outcaste 
Colony of all places! British cabinet ministers and viceroys would 
come to see Mahatma Gandhi at the Outcaste Colony. The multi 
tudes Brahmans and all thronged to this Scavenger Settlement, a 
place unclean in itself, to get a glimpse of him and to hear him at the 
prayer meetings. For them he purified everything. 

I was on the train one day, and the latrine of the compartment was 
very dirty, so I got a broom and cleaned it. The Indians in the com 
partment were amazed that I should do this, and one said, Ton 
must have been with Mahatma Gandhi." When I said I had been 



ANTITHESES STRONGLY MARKED 23 

and had learned this from him, they remarked, "That explains it." 

When a delegation of Indians headed by an American missionary, 
representing a Graduates Association, called on Mahatma Gandhi 
and asked him what they could do to help the city, he answered in 
two words: "Become scavengers/ 7 He meant they should help 
clean up the city, physically, mentally, and morally. 

But while Mahatma Gandhi usually lived in the Bhangi Colony at 
Delhi, when he was killed he was the guest of Birla, one of the 
richest industrialists of India. (The house was turned over to 
the nation, so the report ran. But this has since been contradicted, and 
Birla says he is keeping it as his personal possession. This is a mis 
take. It belongs to the nation as a national shrine; if not legally, 
then morally.) The Mahatma was equally at home with a Bhangi 
or a Birla. He fulfilled that verse where Paul says: "I have been 
initiated into the secret for all sorts and conditions of life, for plenty 
and for hunger, for prosperity and for privations" (Phil. 4:12 
Moffatt). A man is weak if he can stand poverty only, or prosperity 
only. He is strong if he can take either one that comes and use it 
for the purposes for which he lives. Gandhi had been initiated into 
this secret. 

In Mahatmaji the urban and the rural came together, not in an 
artificial amalgam, but in a living blend. He never patronized the 
poor; he was one of them, lived and spoke for them, was bone of their 
bone and pain of their pain. He was a man among men. The rich 
urban man and the poor peasant were both just men. 

Again, we find in Mahatma Gandhi a coming together of the pas 
sive and the militant. The man who is only passive is weak, and the 
man who is only militant is weak; the strong man is both. He is 
passively militant and militantiy passive. The Mahatma was both. 
He was always resisting something, and yet he did it passively; hence 
he called it passive resistance. But only if we understand the word 
"passive" in its original root form, "to suffer quietly, patiently." 
It was resisting, not by inflicting suffering, but by taking suffering on 
himself. It was really not a passive resistance; it was an active resistance 
from a higher level. The opponent strikes you on your cheek, and you 
strike him on the heart by your amazing spiritual audacity in turning 
the other cheek. You wrest the offensive from him by refusing to 
take his weapons, by keeping your own, and by striking him in his 
conscience from a higher level. He hits you physically, and you hit 
him spiritually. 



24 MAHATMA GANDHIAN INTERPRETATION 

The Mahatma was always resisting something; he fought on many 
fronts simultaneously the political, the economic, the social, the 
religious. Analyze his fasts; they were against individuals, groups, 
communities, nations. He even fasted against himself for self-purifica 
tion. Never did a man fight so long and continuously on so many 
issues. Nothing vital to India was alien to him. Wherever there was 
hurt, he inflicted on himself an answering hurt. His wounds 
answered their wounds. And yet he was no dour-faced tilter at every 
windmill he passed. He carefully chose his issues; and once convinced 
that a wrong was being done, he would inflict on himself pain until 
that wrong was righted. But amid it all he was cheerful. He was 
the Happy Warrior. He held together in a living blend the opposite 
qualities of passive and militant. 

Again, he was an ascetic and a servant. The combination is a new 
phenomenon in India. The ascetic in general does not serve. His idea 
of the Ultimate precludes serving. For in the Vedantic philosophy, 
which is the central philosophy of India, the Ultimate Reality, 
Brahma, is nonserving. He, or It, is lifted above all action; for where 
there is action, there is the fruit of action; and where there is fruit 
of action, there is rebirth; and where there is rebirth, there is suffer 
ing. So Brahma is the actionless, passionless IT. In order to realize 
your unity with Brahma, it is necessary to reduce your contacts with 
the world of sense, sit and meditate and keep affirming your unity 
with Brahma Aham Brahmasmi, I am Brahma. It is better then to 
do nothing, good or bad. The aim is not to do, but to realize. 
The whole attention of the ascetic is to get out of the wheel of 
existence. This whole weary round is maya, or illusion. The moral 
and material drain on a country, with hundreds of thousands of 
ascetics turning their attention away from the solution of problems to 
an escape from those problems, is enormous. It is true that bodies like 
Ramakrishna Mission are bodies of modern ascetics who serve and 
make a great contribution to the country s uplift. But the impulse to 
do this does not come out of the philosophic idea of Nirguna Brahma. 

It was with a sigh of relief that India saw in her greatest son the 
combination of two things that gripped her deeply. India has always 
respected the man who could renounce, who could sit lightly to the 
things of this world. Buddha and his renunciation of a princely in 
heritance grip the soul of India. And here was Mahatma Gandhi, the 
leader of the new India, an ascetic. It gripped the soul of ancient 
India. But he also gripped the soul of modern India. For modern 



ANTITHESES STRONGLY MARKED 25 

India feels that to renounce and not to relate that renunciation to 
the needs around one is worse than useless; it is a drain. In the 
Mahatma the two came together the old idea and the new and 
were found to be in a living blend. Gandhiji was the ascetic who 
served. That drew both groups to him, for each saw its idea fulfilled 
in him. So the Mahatma was not merely a person; he was the meeting 
place of two streams, the old and the new. 

Akin to this, the Mahatma combined the mystical and the practical. 
He was the mystic who arose at 4 A.M. for his morning devotions and 
who heard the Inner Voice in all the great crises of his life giving him 
direction. And yet that mysticism was intensely practical. The symbol 
of this was the fact that he would carry on religious exercises and dis 
cussions while spinning with his spinning wheel. That spinning 
wheel was the symbol of his identification with the poor of India. 
Their cottage industries had been ruined by the introduction of power 
machinery. Too many people were thrown back upon the land. For 
six months of the year the peasant had little or nothing to occupy 
his time. The Mahatma fastened on the charkha, the spinning wheel, 
as the thing which could fill in that blank space and provide a sub 
sidiary occupation, give independence, and would stand for India s 
protest against the breaking up of India s cottage economy. From the 
Ashram at Sabarmati, where the Mahatma sat, talked, and spun with 
his wheel, one could see on the opposite bank of the river the smoke 
stacks of forty huge cotton mills now over one hundred rise against 
the sky line. Compared to that mighty power, symbolized in the 
smokestacks, the Mahatma with his charkha seemed a pathetic figure, 
trying to sweep back the oncoming ocean with a broom. Would in 
dustrialization overwhelm him? Again the Mahatma, though wrong, 
was profoundly right. The future lies with industrialization. When I 
ask any group of Indians what are the five needs of this new India, 
and in what order of importance, they always include industrializa 
tion in the list, some of them at the top. India must take people off 
the land where they have small, uneconomic holdings and put them 
into industry. Instead of being the producer of raw materials which 
are sent to the West and then sent back to India as manufactured 
products, India must manufacture her own goods to supply her own 
needs. I repeat, the future lies with industrialization. And yet the 
experience of the West shows that industrialization can produce 
misery in crowded slum areas and be the festering place for most of 
our problems. This is growingly true of India, where the housing of 



26 MAHATMA GANDHIAN INTERPRETATION 

the workers is the worst of the world. The crowded chawls where as 
many as ten or a dozen live in one room, sometimes in two shifts, are 
the by-product of a ruthless, selfish industrialization. The orgy of 
strikes and riots is a natural corollary. In the West where industrializa 
tion has taken place decentralization is seen as a necessity: take the 
factories into the countryside and set up smaller units under better 
living conditions. Mahatma Gandhi with his spinning wheel is 
a pull in that direction. It is a protest and a pull. The Mahatma sitting 
athwart the road to rapid and ruthless industrialization says to the 
oncoming greedy-for-profit hordes: "Thou shalt not create million 
aires and misery, palaces and hovels, mass production and mass 
poverty. Decentralize and put much of this back into the home/ 
There is something magnificent in this protest. The Mahatma and his 
spinning wheel will be the conscience of the industrial movement. 
His sad eyes will look upon the large profits, and money-mad men 
will know that these profits are made out of the blood of the poor. 
Those eyes tell them that. India is bound to be industrialized. The 
future lies with Jawaharlal Nehru, the socialist, in this matter and not 
with the Mahatma, for Nehru believes in the utilization of power 
machinery for social and economic ends. But the Mahatma and his 
charkha are going to be the conscience and corrective of that move 
ment. It may be that he will help India to avoid the mistakes and 
consequent misery which came from the rapid industrialization of 
the West. But beyond that the movement of the Mahatma will rein 
state and create cottage industries which can exist side by side with 
industrialization. Cottage industries stand in their own right, and 
Mahatma Gandhi was right in standing for them. 

I was in the Tata Steel Works on a day when Hindus, from an 
ancient custom, worshiped the tools of their trade, out of gratitude 
perhaps for what the tools had brought them, namely, their liveli 
hood. But now the garlands were placed, not on the hand tools which 
they had formerly owned, but upon the huge machines owned by 
the owner of the factory. They bowed and worshiped the garlanded 
machines. It was pathetic. I said to myself: "Poor fellows, you worship 
these machines which have little or no social purpose. They are in 
operation for profit. If and when more efficient laborsaving machines 
are necessary to gain more profits, then out you will go as useless 
to tramp the streets as unemployed. And you worship that!" I see no 
hope except that this gigantic power be harnessed to the collective 
good. Profit sharing in which the worker feels he is a part of the busi- 



ANTITHESES STRONGLY MARKED 27 

ness would be a first step. The ultimate placing of this power in 
the hands of all for the good of all in other words, the socialization 
of industry seems to be the way out. And capitalism can save itself 
if it will begin with profit sharing, and then work out with labor 
an equitable plan of socialization. 

Mahatma Gandhi with his overemphasis on the charkha as the 
answer to the economic needs of India was wrong, and yet he was 
profoundly right, for at the heart of his contention is a right the 
centrality and independence of the worker. He was a mystic, and yet 
he was a practical mystic and very often most practical when he 
seemed impractical. The little devotee of the spinning wheel may 
help to turn the wheels of industry, not toward mere profits, but 
toward the profit of all. 

These opposites also came into a blend in the Mahatma: the simple 
and the shrewd. They were so blended in him that many people not 
understanding him called him a political charlatan, especially in the 
early days. They thought that this simplicity that embodied such 
uncanny shrewdness was an unreal cloak how could one be so simple 
and yet have a way of coming out on top? But he was both; his 
simplicity of outlook gave him an uncanny insight into the heart of 
problems and situations. 

This was illustrated in a delicate situation when the Sikhs got 
out of hand in Delhi and perpetrated unbelievable brutalities. Jawa- 
harlal Nehru went to one of their camps; and when a huge Sikh arose 
and wildly said that it was the duty of every Sikh to kill four Moslems 
in revenge for what had happened in Pakistan, Jawaharlal Nehru lost 
his temper and had to be restrained from attacking him singlehanded- 
ly. He told his Gurkha guards to leave. They refused: "We have our 
orders from our general; we cannot obey you." Neliru had to leave 
with the situation no better. Then Gandhi came, and the big Sikh 
repeated the same threat. The Mahatma quietly said in reply: "I am 
sorry I cannot restrain you from this killing. If you are determined to 
carry it on, then you must go back to Pakistan, where you left your 
wives and children, and carry it on there. So I will go to Dr. John 
Matthai, minister for transport, and will ask him for special trains 
to carry you back to Pakistan, so you can carry on your killing there." 
And he started to walk away. The would-be killers, they who prided 
themselves on being "lions," were stung to the quick by his thrust 
at some of them who had left their wives and children in Pakistan, and 
were dismayed at the prospect of going back there. They fell at his 



28 MAH3YTMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

feet and begged him not to send them back. He drew up a list of 
undertakings which they signed then and there. This quick-acting 
insight which the Mahatma displayed in this crisis gives in epitome 
the combination of his simplicity and shrewdness. The combination 
of saint and politician was the expression of his simplicity and shrewd 
ness. 

There was another pair of opposites that came to a living blend in 
the Mahatma: he was a Hindu who was deeply Christian. He was fun 
damentally a Hindu. The roots of his spiritual life were not in Christ; 
they were in the Bhagavad-Gita. And yet in spite of himself, and in 
spite of his constant protests against the Christian faith as represented 
in the missionary movement in India, he was more Christianized than 
most Christians. I shall take up later this whole question at length, 
but just now note that the Hindu sees in him the flowering of Hindu 
ism, and the Christian sees in him an illustration of the spirit of Christ 
that inspires and shames him. This combination draws together peo 
ple of varying viewpoints and makes them feel they have a common 
center. The Hindus pay their tribute to a Hindu who was deeply 
Christianized, and the Christians pay their tribute to a man, Christian 
in spirit, who was a Hindu. It is a strange combination, but a fact and 
a significant fact. 

When I asked Devadas Gandhi what he considered his father s 
outstanding characteristic and contribution, he replied; "His candor 
and his courtesy." This is a combination rarely seen; the candid are 
not courteous, and the courteous are not candid. But Mahatma 
Gandhi was both, and he was both at one and the same time. lie 
spoke exactly what he thought, and yet did it so gently and courteous 
ly that you loved it even when it was cutting across your own views. He 
was a most amazing blend of the candid and the courteous. 

Note another combination: the serious and the playful. Seldom 
has a man been driven by more serious purposes. They weighed upon 
him night and day, for he was seldom or never without a crowd 
around him. They dumped into his lap everything their complaints, 
their hopes, their troubles, their longings, their struggles, and their 
sins. The Indian often says to you when he comes with a request: 
"You are my Ma-Bap my Mother-Father." Gandhiji was the mother- 
father to a whole subcontinent. It was a serious business to be looked 
upon to solve the troubles of one fifth of the human race. And yet 
amid it all he was cheerful and at times playful. Lord Curzon said of 
Bishop Lefroy: "He had the zeal of a crusader, the spirit of a boy, 



ANTITHESES STRONGLY MARKED 29 

and the heart of a woman." Mahatma Gandhi had all three, especial 
ly the spirit of a boy. Each evening at Sabarmati he would take an 
evening walk toward the jail a mile away with a troop of children 
around him and some of us older ones trooping behind. He played a 
game with the children of seeing who could touch the jail gate first. 
And yet those of us who knew how events were shaping knew that he 
would soon be in that jail, or a similar one, as a prisoner. He made a 
joke of it! At evening prayers the little children would crawl all over 
him and hang about his neck while he was talking. It didn t seem to 
embarrass him the slightest, nor did it embarrass the rest of us, for 
he too seemed to be as simple as a child, and a child about his neck 
was as befitting as a beautiful ornament around the neck of a beauti 
ful woman. They coincided. And yet he was a very wise child, for he 
was talking very profound things. 

When I wrote to him that I had been at Sabarmati after an absence 
of twenty-five years and raised the question of his coming back to the 
Ashram in a national pageant, he wrote and reminded me that the 
thing I had missed most at the Ashram was a mirror (something I 
had forgotten!), and then went on and talked about the suggestion of 
the pageant and what he was doing in Behar, namely, calling a na 
tion to repentance. Laughing over the absence of a mirror in the 
midst of that! But that mirror held a mirror to his spirit: he was 
serious, and he was playful. But that playfulness was the expression of 
the rhythm of his spirit; he was so adjusted and harmonious that 
everything was a play-spell to him. That is real mastery. 

Another pair of opposites came to a combination and blend in the 
Mahatrna: he was a combination of stubbornness and yieldingness. 
He was a man underneath whose gentle ways was as iron will. When 
once he had made up his mind, nothing could deflect him from the 
course mapped out. Again and again he would say on reaching a de 
cision: "Please do not try to dissuade me. It is settled." He wanted to 
save his followers and himself from futile discussions. When he 
started fasts, there would be a flood of telegrams and letters asking 
him to desist and using every possible plea. But it was all a breaking 
of waves against a Gibraltar. He would never desist until he felt the 
purpose was accomplished. Jails could not bend or break him; he 
went straight as an arrow to his goal, the most stubborn of men. 

And yet he was disconcertingly yielding when he saw reason to 
yield. He took the breath out of his followers when he called off the 
Non-co-operation Movement when twenty-one policemen were killed 



30 MAHATMA GANDHIAN INTERPRETATION 

by a mob at Chauri Chaura, saying that his was "a Himalayan blun 
der." They felt he had let them and the movement down, for they 
had forsaken all to follow him and go to jail. But again the Mahatma 
was right. He called off the movement for the time being to discipline 
his forces and get them ready for a more purified advance that would 
send them forward. Had he not called off the movement temporarily., 
it would have degenerated into physical violence; and the moment 
that was done, that moment its appeal and power were gone. He 
knew when to yield and when to compromise. He was a very rare 
combination of stubbornness and yieldingness. 

This leads me to give another combination in the Mahatma: he 
was a combination of poise and power. This is a rare combination. 
Those who seek poise usually do it by reducing contacts with the 
world. They keep the world out to keep poise within. And then there 
are those who exert power to change outer environment, and they rare 
ly have poise. The Mahatma had both poise and power. He could be 
very, very stern. It was disconcerting the way he would rebuke those 
who seemed to him to be in the wrong. He was no man-pleaser. He 
did not try to win people by being pleasant to them for the sake of 
winning them. He could be as cutting as a surgeon s knife and as 
healing. For he never cut for the sake of cutting, for the sake of get 
ting the better of an argument. He cut only out of what he considered 
necessity. And yet he did it so gently that one did not realize till 
afterward how deeply he had cut. He spoke the truth, but always in 
love. And the love was a kind of general anesthetic that made the 
cutting painless. 

In addition to this quality of speaking the truth in love, he had 
learned to be inwardly quiet amid a multitude. A cyclone has a center 
of calm amid a fierce whirl around that center. The Mahatma was 
that center of calm amid the cyclone of happenings in Indk during 
the last thirty years. But the power of the cyclone resides in that cen 
ter of calm. Gandhiji was the center of calm and the center of power. 
He was seldom or never ruffled, never hurried, never stormy, and yet 
he generated movements that shook empires and that shook the whole 
social system amid which he lived. He was the terrible meek. And his 
calm was a terrible calm terrible yet tender. He moved from con 
ference to conference conferences which had the destiny of mil 
lions bound up in them but he was always calm and unruffled. His 
life was like a goldfish in a bowl no privacy from the multitudes 



ANTITHESES STRONGLY MARKED 31 

and yet lie learned to live an inner life amid these turbulent sur 
roundings. 

There was another pair of opposites meeting in the Mahatma: hu 
mility and self-assertiveness. He took himself very seriously, so much 
so that a great many thought him pontifical. He was. For he had a 
detached sense of mission. He looked on himself as an instrument of 
God. One of Gandhiji s companions in jail, a revered teacher, begged 
of him to eat more food and be careful about his health, and the 
Mahatrna replied: "I am taking good care of my body. I feel as re 
sponsible as a pregnant woman. God in his infinite mercy has chosen, 
it seems to me, that I be instrumental in bringing forth India s free 
dom. I, therefore, cannot afford to die as yet." A Congressman told 
me that, when the crowds were pressing him, he said to those around 
him: "You are coming and going. If something happens to this body 
of mine, it will be the country s loss, not mine. So if you want to help 
the country, give me fifteen minutes rest." His self-assertiveness came 
out of the fact that he felt he was an instrument of God to bring about 
the deliverance of his people. But his humility came out of the same 
fact of having a sense of mission. Personal considerations were rele 
gated to the rear; nothing mattered except the chosen mission. So he 
could talk about himself as though he were talking about another 
person. His humility was born of a sense of consciousness of greatness 
of mission. There was a dignity in his humility. He spoke humbly and 
yet with an amazing sense of self-assurance. 

But none of the above contrasts meeting in Gandhiji explain his 
greatness without this pair of opposites: he was the meeting place of 
a person and a cause. The person had the significance of the cause 
which he embodied. That cause was the cause of India s freedom. 
It came to embodiment in Mahatma Gandhi. As a person, taken 
just as a person, he was not particularly significant. Of him it could 
be said as it was" said of Paul: "His bodily presence is weak, and his 
speech contemptible." He had no commanding presence such as we 
associate with greatness. Close-cropped hair, large ears, teeth gone in 
front, nothing but a short loincloth, a pair of rough sandals, some 
times a shawl around his shoulders in colder weather, and a very 
plain face surmounted by large horn-rimmed spectacles. Gandhiji s 
bodily presence was weak, and his speech was contemptible. He was 
no orator, never lifted his voice above the conversational when talk 
ing to a multitude, and there was no attempt at producing an effect. 
Then why did the multitudes hang on every word as upon an oracle? 



32 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

It was because they knew that when he spoke the cause of India s 
freedom spoke. That cause looked out of his eyes, stretched forth its 
hands as he stretched forth his hands, and suffered as he suffered. 
He had the significance of the cause with which he was identified. 
People in the West and East often through the years would say 
to me: "Isn t Gandhi a spent force; hasn t he played out?" My in 
variable reply was: "How can he be played out? He represents a death 
less cause the cause of India s freedom. As long as he is identified 
with that cause and is the embodiment of that cause, he is deathless/ 
The reason we as Americans look on Lincoln as the greatest American 
is we see in Lincoln the cause of democracy come to embodiment. De 
mocracy looks out of his sad eyes, touches us with his rugged hands, 
and speaks in his voice. Lincoln has the significance of the cause 
with which he was identified the cause of democracy. The word of 
democracy became flesh in him. In Gandhi the word of freedom be 
came flesh. When he spoke, freedom spoke. Gandhi was India. 

When Lord Halifax, then Lord Irwin, was viceroy of India, he 
asked me if I thought he ought to try to get Gandhi to go to the 
Round Table Conference, about to be held in London to determine 
the next steps toward India s freedom. My reply was: "If you don t 
get Gandhi, you haven t got India, for Gandhi is India." 

"I agree," he replied, "but I can t go down to the jail and ask him 
what his terms are." 

"No," I replied, "you can t. But you can say the thing that will get 
Gandhi, namely, that you and your government will stand for im 
mediate dominion status at the coming Round Table Conference. 
That will get Gandhi." 

"That would be very difficult," he replied, "for that would precip 
itate a crisis in Britain which might send this Labor government out 
of power and bring in the Conservatives, and, though the Conserva 
tive Party is my party, India will find it more difficult to deal with 
them than with the present Labor government." 

I saw no hope of a settlement at the coming Round Table Con 
ference this side of an out-and-out offer of dominion status. I sug 
gested to Lord Halifax, "A wise radicalism now will be true conserva 
tism then/ and, "He who gives quickly gives ten times." Had that 
been acted on then, much suffering and misunderstanding would have 
been saved. But Empire was still in the saddle and was unwilling to 
dismount and come down off its high horse. 

But note when Lord Halifax said, "I can t go down to the jail and 



ANTITHESES STRONGLY MARKED 33 

ask him what his terms are/ he said a significant thing: Gandhi in 
jail was dictating terms! Here was a ruler asking for terms, or hesitat 
ing to ask for terms, from his prisoner. It made you wonder who was 
ruler and who was prisonerl For the prisoner dictated terms. The 
Mahatma once remarked: "I get the best bargains from behind prison 
bars." The viceroy sensed that Gandhi in jail was India in jail and 
that the jailed was jailing the jailor. Here was a new power that was 
emerging the power of an embodied cause and a willingness to suffer 
for that cause. Britain unceasingly knew that in dealing with Gandhi 
they were not dealing with a person only, but with a cause embodied 
in that person. They had to handle him gingerly and with caution, 
for they knew that 400,000,000 restless people looked out of his eyes 
and spoke as he spoke. 

I have said that Gandhi was India, but that has to be corrected: 
Gandhi is India. It was no mere chance that his ashes were scattered 
in the 114 rivers of India. For he belonged to all India was bone of 
its bone, blood of its blood, and is now ashes of its ashes. In Gandhi 
an ancient civilization, bound and clamped by cramping custom and 
mental and physical chains, came to renaissance, a new birth, and 
was free. When men saluted Gandhi, they saluted the new India. 

Gandhiji seemed very simple, and yet he was very complex. He was 
a meeting place of East and West, and yet represented the soul of 
the East; he was an urban man who became the voice of the peasant 
masses; he was passive and militant, and both at one and the same 
time; he was the ascetic and the servant, aloof from and yet with the 
multitudes, and with them as their servant; he was the mystical and 
the practical come to embodiment, the man of prayer and the man 
of the spinning wheel and ten thousand other practical things con 
nected with economic redemption; he combined the Hindu and the 
Christian in himself, a Hindu at the center of his allegiance and yet 
deeply Christianized; he was the simple and the shrewd, the candid 
and the courteous; he combined the serious and the playful, a man 
who could shake empires and could tickle a child beneath the chin and 
gain a laugh and a friend; he had poise, but not the poise of retreat 
and aloofness; he had power to change situations by a deep identifica 
tion; he was strangely humble and strangely self-assertive; and last of 
all, and perhaps the most important of all, he was a person who em 
bodied a cause the cause of India s freedom. 

This combination of qualities made the Mahatma strong. Without 
those opposite virtues, held in a living blend, with his great drive he 



34 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

would have been a fanatic. But lie was not a fanatic. No fanatic plays 
with children, and children do not love a fanatic. He was a man in 
whom opposing virtues and interests were held in a living tension and 
reconciliation. In the South Sea Islands there is a flower, perhaps the 
largest flower in the world, but its odor taken by itself is putrid, and yet 
mingled with the scents of the jungle its odor is rather pleasant. 
Had these virtues and interests in Gandhi not been balanced by op 
posite virtues and interests, they would have tended to stink in the 
nostrils of the world, but blended they give a sense of fragrance. You 
cannot think of him without a sense of inner pleasure and gratitude. 
The incense that rises from the memory of his life is "a sweet savour." 
But while the savor is sweet, the preponderating impression he leaves 
is not sweetness, but strength. 



CHAPTER III 



The Meaning of His Death 



HEN the news of the Mahatma s assassination reached 
our unbelieving ears, a flood of rumors came with it: "It was a Mos 
lem who did it;" "No, it was a Hindu refugee from Bannu embit 
tered by his experiences/ And thus the rumors raced with the news. 

It was a mercy that no Moslem did it; for if one had, there would 
probably have been a terrible retaliation upon the forty million Mos 
lems left in India who did not migrate to Pakistan. They would have 
been at the mercy of the overwhelming Hindu majority. 

If the death had to come, it could not have been over a better issue. 
At first we thought it was the act of a madman; it was a mad act, and 
the man who did it could only have beqn a madman. But the fact is 
that it was a deliberately planned act by a group who had a deliberate 
ly planned purpose, for a planned end. They resented the attitudes 
and acts of Mahatma Gandhi, for he was bent on an India for all, 
including Moslems. He, with Jawaharlal Nehru and the rest of the 
Congress leaders, wanted an India for all, under a secular democratic 
state. 

Jawaharlal Nehru had, a few weeks before, made an address in 
Aligarh Moslem University which was a very historic address an ad 
dress that pointed to the direction of events in the future. This uni 
versity had been the nerve center of the Pakistan agitation. They had 
disbanded the university classes for three months to give the students 
and professors opportunity to spread Pakistan propaganda. It was at 
Aligarh that the slogan "Pakistan or perish" was coined. Pakistan was 
created with all its attendant bloodshed and upset and mass emigra 
tions and dismemberment of India. The Indian leaders had a right 
to be bitter against Aligarh, for it must take a major share of the 
blame for what happened. Jawaharlal Nehru might have been bitter in 
his denunciation, for he has a temper, and here was an occasion. In 
stead of being small and retaliating, he was large-minded and forgiv 
ing. He outlined the kind of India that they intended to produce % 
secular state with equal opportunities for all. The Hindus, being in a 

35 



36 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

majority, would naturally have large influence, but there would be 
no special privileges for any and no disabilities to any. Would the 
Moslems become a part of that state with no divided allegiance? If 
so, they would be welcomed in spite of all that had happened. It 
was great-hearted and statesmanlike. It reminded one of Lincoln with 
his "malice toward none, with charity for all" as he spoke to the de 
feated South. Jawaharlal Nehru was never greater than in this hour. 
Would the Moslems accept the proffered hand of friendship and 
throw themselves in with this new India? It was a breathless moment 
in the history of India. The flowers that rained upon Jawaharlal Nehru 
from the balcony and the sustained ovation he received gave the 
answer. Large-heartedness was met with large response. The Moslems 
saw that their intolerable position had a way out; they could yet be 
come a part of the India they had dismembered. The position of the 
forty million Moslems left in India after partition was an impOvSsible 
position. They were leaderless, looked on as alien since they had ad 
vocated Pakistan, and were now without influence. But the address of 
Jawaharlal Nehru opened a door. That address will go down in his 
tory as one of the great addresses of the world. A man who is an agnos 
tic took a truly Christian attitude the forgiveness of enemies. 

This address coincided with the fast of Mahatma Gandhi at Delhi. 
In this fast the Mahatma raised two issues: disunity and dishonesty. 
Before he began the fast, he read a letter exposing the dishonesty and 
corruption among some of the Congress leaders. It was a very cou 
rageous thing to do to expose to the public the dishonesty of some of 
the Congress leaders, people he had trained through the years. The 
second issue was this augmented bitterness and hate between the 
Moslems and the Hindus augmented by the mass killings in which 
both sides were guilty. The Mahatma in his fast said in effect: "I 
cannot live unless you become honest and unless you become united." 

1 happened to be at Government House at Lucknow when Her Ex 
cellency Sarojini Naidti, now governor of the United Provinces, was 
sending a telegram to the Mahatma during his fast. I asked if I could 
send one too. In it I congratulated the Mahatma on the two issues 
chosen disunity and dishonesty. They were great issues, and I 
thanked God for him and his insight in raising these two issues in 
his own frail body and fasting because of them. This would be a 
great purifying force in India and the world. I told Mrs. Naidti that 
I was "sad and glad over the fast sad that he was suffering, but glad 
that he had the courage and goodness to undertake it." She replied: 



THE MEANING OF HIS DEATH 37 

"Drop out the sad and tell the students at the university to whom 
you are now going to speak that you are glad that we have a man 
great enough to do this act of purification for us." 

It was a great fast with great objectives. But all the objectives were 
seemingly in favor of the Moslems. He laid down, eight conditions, 
one of which was the restoration of the 117 mosques in Delhi which 
the Hindus and Sikhs had turned into dwellings or temples after the 
mass slayings. All these conditions were in favor of the Moslems. 
Some Hindus laid bare their feelings to me about the matter: "Why 
didn t he fast against Pakistan, for Pakistan is the guilty party? Ours 
was retaliation. They began it all and are therefore responsible for 
what happened/ 

My reply was simple: "The Mahatma s strategy is correct. Sup 
pose he had fasted against Pakistan. They would possibly have 
shrugged their shoulders and said: Let him die. What is that to us? 
The Mahatma had to fast against his friends, against those who loved 
him and who would change their attitudes before they would see him 
die. If the Hindus and Sikhs change, then that in turn may change 
the Mohammedans. His strategy is sound." 

After he had fasted for six days and he had come to a very weakened 
condition, so much so that the doctors said they could not be re 
sponsible for the results if the fast was continued, with Dr. Rajendra 
Parshad, "The Gandhi of Behar," as mediator, both sides signed an 
agreement to meet the conditions laid down by Mahatma Gandhi. 
When he was assured that the agreement would be implemented, the 
fast was called off. It was a great moment, for a great agreement had 
been arrived at in the nick of time just in time to save the Mahatma s 
life. And to have arrived at that agreement was a great accomplish 
ment, for the atmosphere of Delhi was as bitter as gall. I had come to 
Delhi a few days before the fast, and it was a city of gloom and 
grudges. The huge railway station was piled high with the boxes and 
bags and bedding of the refugees, camping night and day right there 
with no other place to go, for everything else was filled to overflowing 
with these sad-eyed and hollow-cheeked refugees from Pakistan, each 
with his tale of bitter grief. Nothing but a great moral force could 
cleanse this festering pool of hate. The fast wrought a miracle. People 
began to parade the streets crying: "Save the Mahatma;" "Down with 
communal strife;" "Hindus and Moslems are brothers." These same 
mobs had been crying the opposite a few weeks before, and the streets 
were running red with blood. To change all that was a miracle of the 



38 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

first order, and Mahatma Gandhi did it. The Moslems saw in a flash 
that he was their friend. This fast proved it. Their doubts were over; 
he was willing to die to get certain things restored to them. It was a 
high moral moment in the history of humanity. A little man reached 
out and took into his heart two sins of his country, dishonesty and dis 
unity, and bore them in his own body on a bed of fasting. And the 
country responded and in a deeply penitent mood promised, through 
its representatives, that it would change according to the Mahatma s 
behests. This was signed around his bed. A passage was read from the 
Gita and the Koran; the hymn "When I Survey the Wondrous 
Cross" was sung; and a glass of orange juice was handed him by 
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, a Moslem Congressman. It was a great 
moral moment. The spirit of the Mahatma had triumphed over the 
hate and revenge in the hearts of people. The country received the 
news with a sigh of relief and gratitude. 

But not all. A group of people represented by the assassin resented 
all this. They resented the objects of the fast, all in favor of the Mos 
lems; they resented the fact that the Moslems were being reinstated in 
India on terms of equality of opportunity. They should be suppressed 
or wiped out. There should be a Hindustan for the Hindus. The 
mutterings of this group had come to an angry roar in the falling of a 
bomb at the Mahatma s prayer meeting some days previously. Ma 
hatma Gandhi himself had a premonition that he might be shot. On 
the twenty-eighth of January, two clays before he was killed, Rajkumari 
Amrit Kaur, who gave me this firsthand account, asked this question: 
u Were there any noises in your prayer meeting today, Bapu?" 

"No. But does that question mean that you are worrying about me? 
If I am to die by the bullet of a madman, I must do so smiling. There 
must be no anger within me. God must be in my heart and on my 
lips. And you promise me one thing. Should such a thing happen, you 
are not to shed one tear/ 7 

Here was supreme poise awaiting calmly anything that might hap 
pen. He was never nobler than in this utterance. 

The assassin is from Poona, the section of India from which Shivaji, 
the Hindu hero who conquered the Mohammedans, hailed. Shivaji 
makes the Maratha s blood flow faster as he thinks of Hindu ascend 
ancy over the Moslem invaders. And it was Shivaji who in self- 
defense, it is now claimed extended his hand to the Moslem 
ruler and ripped open his bowels with "a tiger claw 7 concealed in his 
palm. The assassin of the Mahatma was the inheritor of the idea of a 



THE MEANING OF HIS DEATH 39 

Hindu ascendancy without any scruples as to how that ascendancy 
was to be maintained. A "tiger claw" could be used if it got you your 
end. His "tiger claw" was modernized into a pistol, and his ex 
tended hand was a salutation to the Mahatma with folded hands. 
So Mahatma Gandhi and his ideas must be got out of the way. He 
was a danger and a threat. When the three bullets of the assassin were 
fired, two ideas met. The assassin s bullets said, "Some." Mahatma 
Gandhi said, "All." It was some versus all. It was the age-long struggle 
that takes place in every land a struggle for the privileges of some 
versus equal opportunity for all. Every land struggles with that issue. 
In America we have had eight great crises over that word "all." Each 
nation struggles with it in some form. The thing that happened in 
Delhi was the echo of the scene of long ago: 

So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council, and said: 
"What are we to do? ... If we let him go on thus, every one will be 
lieve in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy 
place and our nation." But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest 
that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all; you do not understand 
that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and 
not that the whole nation should perish/ (John 11:47-50 Revised Stand 
ard Version.) 

Thus the privileged, nationalistic leaders reasoned then, and thus the 
same group, in an Indian setting, must have reasoned now. The death 
of one man would save the nation. So the assassin must have dressed 
himself up in the invisible robes of a Hindu deliverer. 

If Mahatma Gandhi had been privileged to choose the issue for 
which he would have died, he could not have chosen a better issue. 
It exactly sums up his life. It makes his life and his death all of a 
piece. He lived for an India for all, and he died for an India for all. 
It was a fitting climax. He died on the altar of "all." We have no ex 
cuse for the mad act; but since Gandhiji was an instrument of God 
in his life, so he continued to be an instrument of God in his death. 
God has used the tragedy to further the very things for which he 
lived. Jesus sensed this possibility before his death: "The Prince of 
this world is coming. He has no hold on me; his coming will only 
serve . . ." (John 14:30, 31 Moffatt). Here was evil unwittingly serv 
ing the good. Evil put Jesus on a cross and through that cross helps 
redeem the world. This also happened to Mahatma Gandhi. The as 
sassin s bullets were meant to stop Mahatma Gandhi and his ideas. 



40 MAHATMA GANDHI -AN INTERPRETATION 

They succeeded only in freeing those ideas and in making them the 
possession of the human race. The assassin shot Mahatma Gandhi into 
immortality. He is stronger in death than he was in life. Millions 
around the world are now interested in the Mahatnia and his ideas 
millions who would have given him only a passing glance had he 
not died for his ideas, a martyr for the things for which he lived. No 
other human being ever summed up better in his death the things for 
which he lived. 

And no other human being ever did anything more effectual in de 
stroying the cause he was trying to preserve than did Godse, the as 
sassin. For the communalisrn for which he stood has received a blow 
as a reaction which will probably destroy it. Nothing could have hit 
communalism harder than did the death of Mahatma Gandhi. Now 
to be a communalist is treason to the dead Mahatma. The communal- 
ist organizations are voluntarily disbanding or are being liquidated by 
government order. The Rashtriya Swayamseva Sangh National Serv 
ice Organization, a militant body to make a Hindu India has been 
declared unlawful; and the Mahasabha, to which the R.S.S. was allied, 
has declared the severance of political activities from its program, con 
fining itself henceforth to the social and economic and religious. I 
can conceive of nothing that would have effected this change in so 
short a time except the death of Mahatma Gandhi. The greatest hin 
drance to a new India s coming into being communalism has re 
ceived a mortal blow by this one act. To be a communalist now is out 
of step with the times, to be a back number, to be no patriot, and 
to be untrue to the father of the country. 

There were really two reasons back of the killing of the Mahatma: 
his wanting an India for all, Moslems included; and his nonviolence. 
The group which Godse represents feel that in advocating nonvio 
lence the Mahatma was emasculating the Hindus. So Godse would 
stop by violence the nonviolent. Result? The opposite of what he 
hoped. He succeeded in loosing the power of nonviolence and mak 
ing it a world issue. Gandhi today has proved the power of non 
violence and has proved it at the time when violence seemed most 
triumphant, namely, at the time of killing him. Violence was exe 
crated most when it was executed most. 

On one of the times I saw the Mahatma recently he said in reply to 
my remarking he was looking fit, "Don t you know? I am going to 
live 125 years/ and he said it with a gay laugh, so characteristic of 
him. But it was a higher plan of God that he should not live that 



THE MEANING OF HIS DEATH 41 

long. Had he done so, the country would have lovingly put him on 
the shelf in his decaying years, and would have honored him, but 
would not have followed him. Now he dies at the height of his 
powers, and at the pinnacle of his influence, for he never stood higher 
and more triumphant than after his last two fasts, one v in Calcutta 
and the other in Delhi. He wrought miracles through them, and his 
influence was at its peak, and that means a very high peak indeed 
probably higher than any other man attained in his lifetime, for never 
in history did men revere another man as did the millions of India 
revere the Mahatma. But note: almost as many were won to an al 
legiance to him by his death as by his life. His death won millions of 
unconverted, confirmed the halfhearted, and set on fire the convinced, 
A very noble type of Sikh pulled me aside one day and said in awed 
tones, "I went to that prayer meeting in which the Mahatma was 
killed, interested in him and his teaching. I came away a disciple." 
The New Testament word for martyr is "witness"; then Mahatmajfs 
martyrdom was a witness, a mighty witness to what he lived for, and 
that witness won millions in India and elsewhere. 

If martyrdom can be defined as a willing sacrifice, then Gandhi s 
death was a martyrdom. He refused to -allow the people attending 
the prayer meeting to be searched, although a bomb had been thrown 
previously. He felt it would not be fitting for a prayer meeting. He 
was a martyr. Now his ideas and spirit and influence are fixed by 
a martyrdom. They cannot be explained away or questioned, as he 
died for what he lived for. Never did a death more fittingly crown 
a life, save only one that of the Son of God. On the human level 
this was the greatest and most befitting climax: a man on the way 
to a prayer meeting where he would pray for himself and his people, 
and where he would give his daily counsel, dies a martyr for an India 
for all. That is a stage that could be set only by the overruling hand of 
God. Gandhi ]Ts life and death were all of a piece; he lived a martyr, 
and he died a martyr. He died on the altar of "all/ 7 and will be 
remembered by all as long as there is an India and a humanity. 
Jawaharlal Nehru said in his broadcast to the nation the night of 
Gandhijf s death : "A thousand years from now men will be thinking 
and talking about this hour." They will be, and will be better for the 
thinking and talking about one who was undoubtedly the world s 
greatest man. For in life and in death he was the same the servant 
of a cause, and that cause was an India for all. 



CHAPTER TV 



The Coming into Being of Pakistan 



i 



WOULD gladly have eliminated this chapter, but the 
Mahatina asked me to publish the correspondence and the conversa 
tion which took place between Jinnah and myself just before the 
decision to divide the country into Pakistan and India. I refrained 
from doing it while he was alive, for reasons which will become plain 
as the story is told; but while I could disregard the advice of the 
living Mahatma, I cannot so easily brush aside him now that he is a 
martyr. He commands even more obedience in death than in life. But 
I must not saddle the Mahatma with the responsibility. I take it on 
myself. 

Pakistan means "pak," holy, and "stan," place a holy place, the 
holy place of Islam. I first heard the word and idea about twelve or 
fifteen years ago at the home of Sir Mohamad Iqbal, the famous 
Moslem poet and philospher of Lahore. A very influential group of 
Moslems was present, including the Prince of Morocco. As they 
unfolded Pakistan, I could scarcely believe my ears, so I asked them 
incredulously: "But you don t mean it, do you?" They assured me 
they did, and the years have confirmed it* It seemed so fantastic and 
fanatical to divide India on the basis of religion to set up a Moslem 
state where the Moslems were in the majority. India was one; and 
Indians, in spite of surface differences, were down underneath one 
people. The country was geographically and economically one. It 
seemed to outrage everything within me to think of dividing the 
country in this way. And what about the forty million Moslems left 
in India after partition? What would they get out of Pakistan except 
disillusionment? They would be strangers in a foreign land and 
hostages. In the words of Sir Mirza Ismail, a leading Moslem: 
"Pakistan has hurt the forty million Moslems in India more than it has 
hurt India." But to express one s doubts did little good. The idea and 
movement grew, led by the single-track purpose of M. A. Jinnah. 

The Moslems said they were unwilling to be a minority in a land 
with a Hindu majority. They remembered that they were rulers of a 

42 



THE COMING INTO BEING OF PAKISTAN 43 

large part of India when the British took over. They were the proud 
inheritors of Islamic destiny and ascendancy, and would not be ruled 
over by Hindus. Moreover, they were afraid that the Hindus would 
not found a democracy with equal opportunities for all. They had 
some basis for this fear in the beginning. For with the coming of 
provincial self-government in 1937 a good many of the lower ranks 
of the Congressmen represented by the Arya Sama; and the Ma- 
Iiasabha, did act as though the country was going to be organized for 
the Hindus. But this could not be laid at the door of the Congress 
leaders. It grew out of a misconception in the lower ranks and often 
out of inexperience. Mistakes were made, without the realization that 
they were going to have serious consequences. For instance, I think 
it was a mistake for Mahatma Gandhi to talk of the coming of 
Rama Raj, the kingdom of Rama. Rama was an ancient Hindu prince 
who was deified. His wife Sita has become the ideal for Indian 
womanhood. It was a mistake, with consequences which the Mahatma 
did not realize, to talk of the coming of a new order based on Rama 
Raj. I think he saw the necessity of having a social order as the goal 
of a renovated Hinduism, for Hinduism had no such conception as 
the Kingdom of God on earth. To a group of his followers, when 
asked what he meant by Rama Raj, he replied: "I do not mean the 
Rama Raj of Valmiki or Tulsi Das. I mean Gandhi Raj the kind of 
order I am working for/ To a Christian inquirer he said emphatically: 
"I mean by it exactly what you mean by the Kingdom of God." But 
that explanation never got as far as the name. The Mahatma is out 
to restore an ancient Hindu state, was the way it sounded to the Mos 
lems; at least they interpreted it that way. It was a mistake to use it. 
It has brought controversy and has done more harm than good. 

There was another mistake in using "Bande Mataram" as the 
national hymn during the struggle for independence. "Bande Ma- 
taram" means "Hail to the Motherland" and would have been 
not particularly unsuitable, though certain lines point to idolatry, 
had it not been taken from Bankim Chandra Chatterjf s novel in 
which the members of a Hindu monastery used "Bande Mataram" 
as a slogan and battle cry in fighting off the Mohammedan con 
querors. Not many Hindus knew its origin, and so used it innocently. 
But it didn t go well with the Moslems. To use Rama Raj and "Bande 
Mataram" was a mistake, but it was a mistake of inexperience. They 
did not see the consequences in the midst of a national struggle. 
Both will drop out now. Rama Raj has never caught fire in the minds 



44 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

of the people. It had no content. India is looking for a new order 
based on equalitarian principles. In the Draft Constitution of India 
the opening lines are these: 

We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India 
into a Sovereign Democratic Republic and to secure to all its citizens: 
Justice, social, economic, political; Liberty of thought, expression, belief, 
faith, and worship; Equality of status and of opportunity; and to promote 
among them all Fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the 
unity of the nation . . . 

That is clear and full of content. India is now looking for a suitable 
national anthem which will express the aspirations of all, of whatever 
creed. None has, as yet, been chosen. 

The tide of demand for Pakistan rose into almost a frenzy. It was 
pictured as a Promised Land to the Moslems where Islamic culture 
and religion would be safe and where the Shariat (Moslem law) would 
be the basis of the state. Those who opposed Pakistan were opposing 
Islam. 

While the British Cabinet Mission was in India in 1946, 1 took a 
copy of a letter which I had written to Jinnah to Mahatma 
Gandhi for his reactions. In this letter I suggested that: (1) the Con 
gress should concede Pakistan and proceed to implement it, by (a) 
having the India Constituent Assembly and Pakistan Constituent 
Assembly meet simultaneously to work out their respective constitu 
tions, (b) by having them meet together to work out a federal union; 
(2) Pakistan and India would form a federal union under which 
Pakistan would work as a unit, a state. 

Mahatma Gandhi read the letter carefully and dismissed it by 
saying, "The Congress will not accept this. Pakistan is sin/ I agreed 
that I would rather see the country united, that it was unfortunate 
and wrong to have Pakistan, but you had to take what you had and 
make the best out of it you could, that God can even use "sin" as 
he did at the cross. The Mahatma replied, "I m surprised that you, 
a man of God, would approve a thing which is sin. 77 I tried to say 
that I didn t approve of it, but I would use it and rescue out of it 
a federal union, if I could. But the Mahatma was adamant, and I 
left with a sense of defeat. As we went away, my Indian colleague 
commented, "He succeeded in putting you in the wrong. 7 As we were 
going out of the enclosure, the young men at the gate said as we 
passed through, "Sir, please quit India." It was the first and only 



THE COMING INTO BEING OF PAKISTAN 45 

time I ever had that said to me, and I remember what a shiver it 
sent to my toes as I heard it. It was a leftover from the "Quit India 
Movement." 

Mahatma Gandhi was trying desperately to hold India together 
undivided., and his reaction to my proposal was a symptom of that. 
At that stage he was not ready to concede Pakistan. The reaction of 
C. Rajagopalachari to my suggestion outlined above was interesting: 
"We, the Congress, begin the other way: union and then Pakistan 
under the union. You are an evangelist, and you are used to gradual 
conversion, so you begin at Pakistan and go to ultimate union/ 

Then a year rolled by, and Pakistan agitation had caused such 
riots and great tensions that the Congress leaders began to feel hope 
less of a settlement. I saw Jinnah in April, 1947, just before 
partition was decided on. He did not rise when I came into the 
room, but sat still and motioned me to a chair. The world must come 
to his feet was the attitude. I begged him to hold the country to 
gether. I said that though I was from the South in the United 
States, it would have been a tragedy if we had won the Civil War 
and the country had been divided. We are all glad now that we are 
one people. I suggested that just as Utah, with its different religious 
faith, was a unit under a federal union, so. Pakistan could be a state 
under a federal union, keeping its own^ religion and culture intact. 
And just as Utah is influential in the federal government, so Pakistan 
could be influential in the federal union of India and help shape its 
policies. His reply: "How large is Utah? We are a hundred 
million." And then I made this suggestion: "If the Congress would 
concede Pakistan, would you say that you would be willing to enter 
a union with the rest of India?" He went off on a tirade against the 
Hindus and the Congress, and iny heart sank; I felt we were getting 
nowhere. I had suggested that the division of the future would be 
between conservative and radical on an economic basis, and not be 
tween Hindus and Moslems on a religious basis; that the conservative 
Hindu, Moslem, Sikh, and Christian would be on one side, and the 
radical Hindu, Moslem, Sikh, and Christian on the other side; that 
this would be a good division, for some want to conserve values, and 
some want to apply them to larger areas; that between the pull 
back of the conservative and the pull ahead of the radical, we make 
progress in a middle direction. He then told me why the Hindu 
and Moslem could not co-operate economically. 

"Do you know," he said, "that Mahatma Gandhi and I are living 



46 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

under a different set of laws he under Hindu law and I under 
Islamic law? We cannot co-operate. For instance, if a Moslem dies, 
his property is divided according to Islamic law; he cannot make a 
will. The Hindu can make a will. If a Moslem businessman dies 
and some member of the family wants a settlement, the business is 
put up at auction, and a Hindu bids it in. So we are constantly losing 
out to the Hindus. We cannot co-operate/ 

Then he suddenly stopped, reached for a cigarette, and his manner 
changed. Fie softened and said, "If I may say so, your suggestion is 
childish. [He had to put me in my place before he would accept any 
thing I said!] But if the Congress will concede Pakistan, then I will 
say that I will enter a union with the rest of India." 

"And mean it?" I said, grasping his arm. 

"Yes, and mean it," he replied. 

Well, this was the news that India was waiting to hear! It took my 
breath away. I replied as I left: "I don t know what Congress 
reaction will be to this, but I feel sure they will do it." We parted on 
this cordial note. 

I sent a letter with this account of Jinnah s statement to the 
viceroy by a special messenger, saying I gave it for what it was worth. 
I took it to Acharya Kripalani, the president of the Congress, and his 
reaction was: "There is no trouble about the Congress conceding 
Pakistan. We are fed up. We will concede Pakistan either within the 
union or without the union. Will you please get Mr. Jinnah to give 
us this in writing." 

I took it also to Vallabhai Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru. They were 
skeptical. "There is a catch in it somewhere," said Nehru, "but it 
may prove a basis of agreement." 

Vallabhai Patel was more skeptical still: "What does he mean by 
entering a union with the rest of India? Does he mean a treaty be 
tween sovereign nations?" 

I replied, "I don t know, but we talked federal union." 

So I wrote Jinnah as follows: "One point I would like to 
clarify about our talk. When you said that, if the Congress would 
concede Pakistan, then you would be willing to enter a union with 
the rest of India, I take it that you meant federal union. Is that 
correct?" He wrote in reply completely reversing himself, saying that 
I had entirely misunderstood- him. 

I had to send this account of what had happened to the people 
in whose breasts I had raised hopes of a possible settlement without 



THE COMING INTO BEING OF PAKISTAN 47 

dividing India, I ended my letter: 4f You will have to come to your 
conclusions. I have come to mine/* The reply of one national leader 
was direct: "I am not surprised at your letter. You will remember 
I predicted as much/ Another national leader replied: "I am not 
surprised at your second letter. It but confirms our own experience." 

What had happened? C. Rajagopalachari, now governor general of 
India, thought that I had misunderstood Jinnah, that "it is yet 
another case of hearing what you want to hear." My reply was: "It is 
easy to misunderstand another in a conversation and to hear what you 
want to hear, but you don t talce hold of a man s arm and say, And 
mean it? and he replies: "And mean if that is too specific to be 
misunderstood." Then what had really happened? My interpretation 
is this: When Jinnah said this to me, he was in a high moment 
a luminous moment and he meant it when he said it to me. He 
really saw that holding Pakistan under a federal union was the way out 
for everybody. But when I asked him to write this, then it had to 
go through the hands of a secretary and thus out to the outside world. 
That would take him out of the role of the uncompromising advocate 
of Pakistan and put him into the role of one who was ready to come 
to an agreement with India. He felt he couldn t suddenly reverse 
roles, so he had to cancel out the whole episode by writing this 
letter, reversing everything. I didn t acknowledge at all that I had 
misunderstood him, but wrote in reply that I believed that the 
moment when he said that to me was a high, luminous moment and 
that I hoped he would be true to the Jinnah of that hour, that he 
could go down in history as the uniter of India and not the divider. 
To this last letter I received no reply. I have come to the conclusion 
that there are two Jinnahs one the hard, unbending, legalistic, 
proud Jinnah and the other a man who is amenable, friendly, and 
wants to do the right thing. This second Jinnah came out at the 
very end of the conversation. But he soon pushed him back and 
smothered him. 

Just before I saw Jinnah, I had seen Liaqat AH Khan, now the 
premier of Pakistan, then finance minister of the interim govern 
ment, and had made the same plea to him about the unity of India 
based on our experience in America. I said that life in the individual 
goes through three stages: dependence, the childhood stage; independ 
ence, the adolescent stage; interdependence, the adult or mature 
stage. So nations go through the same three stages: dependence, the 
stage of imperialism; independence, the stage of national freedom; in- 



48 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

terdependence, the stage when we come to world government the 
mature stage. He replied that he believed "in a federal union of the 
world." To which I replied: Then you and I are not far apart, for I 
also believe in a world federal union. If you believe in a world federal 
union, why not begin in India and have a federal union here?" 
"Yes/ he replied, "but we must pass through the stage of independ 
ence first." He thanked me for what he called "my noble efforts" and 
"my noble sentiments." I came away with a feeling that he was far 
more reasonable and open-minded than Jinnah. 

I can see only two tiny points of light in the darkness of those inter 
views, and even they may turn out to be illusions. But both 
Jinnah and Liaqat AH Khan expressed the possibility of an ulti 
mate union with India. Jinnah expressed it and then reversed it. 
But it was there, and in that moment I got a glimpse of something 
that may hold possibilities for the future. Liaqat Ali Khan ex 
pressed the possibility of a federal union, but they would have to go 
through the stage of independence first. These are very tiny rays of 
hope, and they may turn out to be wishful thinking and therefore 
an illusion. But then again they may be based on solid necessity. 
For these two peoples are not two nations but one nation; they 
belong together. For traditionally, culturally, ethnically, economically, 
and geographically they are one people. 

I do not see how Pakistan can work unless it is under a federal 
union with India. Here are one unit on the extreme northwest and 
another unit in the extreme east and no corridor between them. They 
are separated by twelve hundred miles and a foreign nation. Custom 
barriers are going up along the boundary lines, and trade will be 
choked by them. Inside a federal union trade would be free and 
natural, and each would have a wide market for its products. 
Financially Pakistan is a problem rather than a possibility. She is 
now living on the 550,000,000 rupees which the fast of Mahatma 
Gandhi sent into her coffers. There will be economic pressure brought 
upon Pakistan from within to become one with India in a federal 
union. 

Then there will be another pressure and a big one from the 
forty million Moslems living in India. This is a large unit, almost as 
large as the sixty million of Pakistan. They will stay within India, 
for their roots are here; and besides, they are not very welcome when 
they go to Pakistan. Many are returning to India from Pakistan dis 
illusioned. In the trains leaving Hyderabad, Sind, for India, one third 



THE COMING INTO BEING OF PAKISTAN 49 

of the passengers will be Hindu refugees from Pakistan, and two 
thirds will be Moslems returning to India in disillusionment. 
Even Sir Mohamad Iqbal, from whom I first heard of Pakistan, 
told Edward Thompson later that "he had advocated Pakistan 
because of his position as president of the Moslem League session, 
but he felt sure that it would be injurious to India as a whole 
and to Moslems specially/ * These Moslems within India are left in 
a deplorable plight by the establishment of Pakistan. Nearly all the 
Hindus and Sikhs of West Pakistan have come to India since the 
partition, but forty million Moslems are left in India. They are hos 
tages, without a leader, and they have been alienated by their advocacy 
of Pakistan. On the trains in North India there is often a sign over a 
compartment, "Compartment reserved for minorities/ 7 with a mili 
tary guard. The "minorities" mean no one but Moslems. That will 
probably soon fade out, and these reserved compartments will be 
abolished, but it is symbolic of what has happened. In establishing a 
national home for sixty million Pakistan Moslems they have rendered 
forty million other Moslems homeless. That is in itself a poor bargain. 
Of course it is not quite true that these forty million are homeless. 
They can have a national home by becoming one with India. They 
will do so. They will have to in order to survive. But as they do so, 
they will bring more and more pressure upon Pakistan to unite with 
India in a federal union. For if Pakistan united with India in a 
federal union, then these Moslems living in India would no longer be 
leaderless and without influence. They would have everything to 
gain by a federal union. Moreover, Pakistan itself would have every 
thing to gain by a federal union, for then there would be no foreign 
country lying athwart her separated portions of Eastern and Western 
Pakistan; she would have a free market, and the larger natural re 
sources of India would be open to her; moreover she would be a 
very influential part of an India which would represent one fifth of the 
human race and a progressive and powerful India too. 

Pakistan is attempting to found a state upon Moslem law, the 
ShariaL To try to found a twentieth-century state on a sixth-century 
set of theocratic laws means one of two things: either the people in 
growing will break the laws, or the tews will break the people. 
Islamic law is founded, not on principles, but on rules. You don t 
outgrow principles, but you do outgrow rules. "Islam either finds a 

1 Jawaharlal Nehru, The Discovery of India, p. 354. 



50 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

desert, or makes one/ And I fear it will make one out of Pakistan 
if it founds it on the Shariat, a sixth-century conception. Jawaharlal 
Nehru said in his Aligarh University convocation address: "To at 
tempt a theocracy on a sixth-century conception is a throwback, a 
going against the stream of history/ 

Pakistan must abandon its attempt to set up a theocracy based on 
the Shariat and instead have a secular state with equal opportunities 
for all and no special privileges for any. And she must abandon a 
separatist mentality and come back into a federal union with India, 
both for her own salvation and the salvation of the forty million 
Moslems in India. Again, Mahatnia Gandhi was right when he said 
that Pakistan is sin. For it has turned out to be sin sin against the 
millions who have perished as a result of partition, sin against those 
who have been uprooted from their native soil and made to seek 
a new beginning in a strange land, sin against the unity of a land 
that belongs fundamentally together, sin against tiie forty million 
Moslems who followed the will-o -the-wisp of Pakistan and have 
floundered in the mire of disillusionment over the results. Moreover, 
there is this moral wrong which is at the center of Pakistan. The 
Moslems, represented by the Moslem League, did little or nothing 
to gain freedom for India. It was the Indian National Congress, which 
included many nationalist Moslems, that won it after years of 
struggle. Then the league stepped in at the close of that struggle and 
demanded a large share an unearned share and called it Pakistan. 
I was shocked when Gandhiji first used the word "sin," but I see that 
he had a way of hitting on the right word to express a situation. 

But that does not mean that Mahatrna Gandhi did not care for 
Moslems. The proof of his affection for them is to be found in the 
Delhi fast, and in the fact that he died on the altar of their inclusion 
in India on the basis of equality. He saw that Pakistan was sin, 
conceived in distrust, born in fear, and nurtured in hate. Yet 
he had a deep compassion for the sinner. Just as he called the 
British system of imperialism "satanic," and yet he had nothing 
but affection for individual Englishmen, so he felt that Pakistan 
was a wrong, and yet loved Moslems, even when they were doing 
the wrong, and was willing to fast unto death for them. 

Some day when the bitterness has died down, I believe that 
Moslems will agree that the Mahatma was right and will make atone 
ment for the wrong of severing India by coming back into a federal 
union. Then the Mahatma will not have protested and died in vain. 



CHAPTER V 



Gandhi and die Christian Faith 



MY 



first contact with Mahatma Gandhi was the one 
which brought me the most unalloyed joy of all the contacts through 
the years. It was soon after his return from South Africa when he was 
just beginning to take up the threads of his work in India. There was 
no area of conflict such as developed between him and the mission 
aries in later years over mass conversions and the right and the pro 
priety of conversion in general. Our relations had not been clouded by 
that controversy in my first meeting with the Mahatma. He was not 
on the defensive, and I was not on the offensive. It was simple and 
natural and unstrained. 

I was giving addresses in St. Stephen s College, Delhi, and Princi 
pal Rudra said rather casually: "Mr. Gandhi [that was before he 
became Mahatma, "The Great-souled"] is upstairs. Would you 
like to see him?" This was all in great contrast with later years; for 
in later years the house would have been surrounded night and day 
with a curious crowd, and to get an interview with him would not 
have been easy, for people from all over the world would have been 
pressing him for interviews. But here I was being asked if I would 
like to see him! He was seated on a bed surrounded by papeis, and 
he greeted me with an engaging and contagious smile. Without 
preliminaries I went straight to my question: "How can we make 
Christianity naturalized in India, not a foreign tiling, identified Fith 
a foreign government and a foreign people, but a part of the national 
life of India and contributing its power to India s uplift? What would 
you, as one of the Hindu leaders of India, tell me, a Christian, to 
do in order to make this possible?" 

He responded with great clarity and directness: "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 

51 



52 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

is within them, in order to have a more sympathetic approach to 
the people." 

A few days later I quoted these four things to a British High 
Court judge, and he remarked: "That s genius. To pick out foui 
things like that is genius." It was. For he put his finger unerringly 
on the four weak spots in our individual and collective lives. First 
of all, we were worshiping Christ more than following him. Jesus 
said, "If any man serve me, let him follow me." It is possible to serve 
Christ and not follow him not follow him in Christlike living. 
The Mahatma need not have said anything more. The first item 
was quite enough! But he said a more remarkable thing in the second: 
"Practice your religion without adulterating it or toning it down." 
We don t reject it; we reduce it reduce it to a creed to be believed, 
or an emotion to be felt, or an institution to which we are to belong, 
or to a ceremony or rite to be undergone anything but a life to 
be lived! "We have inoculated the world with a mild form of Chris 
tianity so that it is now proof against the real thing." 

There is this further to note: the greatest Hindu leader says, Your 
faith doesn t need to be changed; it doesn t need to be added to or 
subtracted from; it needs to be lived as it is. If the first part of the 
suggestion about practicing sends us to our knees in penitence, the 
second part will keep us there in gratitude that we have a faith which 
doesn t need to be changed, but only needs to be lived. Mahatma 
Gandhi s saying this doesn t make it so, but it is reassurance of the 
highest kind when he does say it, for he did not hesitate to put his 
finger on a wrong or a weakness. Here he deliberately says there is 
no wrong or weakness in the thing itself; the weakness or wrong is in 
our practice. Suppose he had been able to say the opposite: "You 
practice something which is inherently wrong." That would have 
been fatal "Smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered." 
Smite Jesus with a legitimate criticism, and we, the sheep, will 
be scattered and will perish. But the center holds. There is no demand 
to change Jesus; the demand is to change ourselves to make us more 
like Jesus. When I go to India, I have to apologize for many things: 
for Western civilization, for it is only partly Christianized; for the 
Christian Church, for it too is only partly Christianized; for myself, 
for I am only a Christian-in-the-making. But when it comes to 
Jesus, there are no apologies on my lips, for there are none in my 
heart. He is our one perfect possession. All else needs to be modified. 
He alone needs no change. He needs to be followed implicitly. 



GANDHI AND THE CHRISTIAN FAITH 53 

Then Gandhi put his finger on a third necessity: "Emphasize love 
and make it your working force, for love is central in Christianity." 
Here he doesn t mean love as a sentiment, but as an organized work 
ing force. For he was thinking of the content of Satyagraha, his 
working principle of "truth force/ the taking on yourself of suffering 
and never giving it. This is love as a way of life when it meets 
obstacles. It was a technique of working on the love basis in a world 
of this kind. So when he asked the Christians to make love their 
"working force/ he meant they should adopt it as a total way of life 
to make the Cross operative in the political and economic as well 
as in the religious. This is the deepest challenge that has ever come to 
the Christian world, for it means nothing less than abandoning 
the whole war system and adopting Satyagraha instead. That this 
was no mere whimsical appeal of an eccentric man is seen by the fact 
that the Mahatma himself adopted it as a way of life and led the 
greatest mass movement in history on that basis and won independ 
ence for 400,000,000 people. It worked, and worked marvelously, and 
he deliberately asked the Christians to adopt it. We shall see later 
the possibilities bound up in it. Note here that Gandhi asked us to 
organize love instead of organizing force, for he said that love force 
is stronger than physical force. And he demonstrated that it is. 

Fourth, "Study the non-Christian religions more sympathetically 
to find the good that is within them in order to have a more sympa 
thetic approach to the people." This hits home. For undoubtedly we 
Christians have approached the non-Christian religions not always 
with sympathetic insight to see the good, but with critical attitudes 
to find the bad. The mentality behind that was, if we found some 
thing good, then that was one reason why we should not come with 
the gospel. But that older mentality was in large measure replaced 
with one of appreciation, for we saw that Jesus "came not to destroy 
but to fulfill/ so that every truth found anywhere was a truth that 
pointed to him who is the Truth. We could therefore rejoice in 
finding truth anywhere, knowing that it was God-implanted and 
would be God-fulfilled in Christ. We knew that Jesus was not the 
enemy of any truth, found anywhere, but would lovingly gather it up 
in himself and fulfill it. But the end would not be a patchwork of 
truths; it would be a new product. This would not be eclecticism or 
syncretism. "Eclecticisms pick and choose; syncretisms combine; but 
only life assimilates." The gospel is life, so like a plant it reaches down 
into the soil of every culture and takes out things which have an af- 



54 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

finity to its own life and takes them up into its purposes and makes a 
new product out of them according to the Mws of its own being. The 
end is neither eclecticism nor syncretism, but life assimilating. We can 
be sympathetic to truth found anywhere and be true to our own gos 
pel. We would be untrue if we took unsympathetic attitudes. Again 
the Mahatrna was calling us back to be true to our own gospel. 

I wish we could leave the whole, of the relationships of the Mahatrna 
with Christianity at this point. It is so wholesome, so sincere, and 
so deeply needed by us. I am sorry to have to leave this period of 
simple, unstrained relationships and take up a period when we, the 
missionaries, who seemed to have a natural affinity with the 
Mahatma often found ourselves at cross purposes with him through 
many years. Yet I for one clung to him through these clouded years 
and loved and defended him even when I couldn t always follow 
his reasoning. Something held my heart even when my mind couldn t 
follow. As I look back, I see that much of the blame must fall on 
us as missionaries, and we could do well to take his criticisms to heart 
and mend our ways and attitudes. In fairness, however, I must say 
that many of these ways and attitudes have been mended and many of 
the issues have been washed out by events. But some of his criticisms 
are still valid. 

The decision of the Mahatma not to be a Christian was arrived at 
in South Africa. A great deal of pressure from within and without 
was*brought to bear on the Mahatma to become a Christian some 
of it legitimate and natural, and some otherwise. He decided against 
it. He said: "For me salvation lay within Hinduism/ It was not 
easy for him to decide to be a Christian in the race-heavy atmosphere 
of South Africa. How could he really see Christ through all this 
racialism? He did see Christ in C. F. Andrews, and rightly, for the 
Indians themselves called him "C. F. A." Christ s Faithful Apostle. 
But when C. F. A. was to speak in a church in South Africa, Gandhi 
was not allowed to enter the church because, forsooth, the color of 
his skin was not white. Andrews tells of being on board ship and 
going over to the deck passengers and picking up and fondling an 
Indian baby. When he came back to the South African white pas 
sengers, there were clouds on their faces, and one of them said: "You 
know, that just isn t done," A South African Negro professor said to 
me bitterly: "The only hope I can see is that the white nations are 
arming, and they will blow themselves and their civilization to pieces, 
and then maybe our chance will come." That was the atmosphere in 



GANDHI AND THE CHRISTIAN FAITH 55 

which the Mahatma was called on to make his decision. And mind you, 
all this racialism was often very deeply religious and held to in the 
name of religion. It was not enough to say Christ was different, was 
lifted above race, and loved man as man. True, but his followers 
made him the sponsor of white rule and white ascendancy. How 
could Gandhi see Christ through that? Racialism has many sins to 
bear, but perhaps its worst sin was the obscuring of Christ in an hour 
when one of the greatest souls born of woman was making his de 
cision. 

And then again, Mahatma Gandhi tells of his contact with a 
Christian family in South Africa who gave him a standing invitation 
to dinner every Sunday, and afterwards they all attended the Wesleyan 
Church. He describes it: 

The service did not make a favorable impression on me. The sermons 
seemed to be uninspiring. The congregation did not strike me as being par 
ticularly religious. They were not an assembly of devout souls; they ap 
peared rather to be worldly-minded people going to church for recreation 
and in conformity to custom. Here, at times, I would involuntarily doze. 
I was ashamed, but some of my neighbors, who were in no better case, 
lightened the shame. I could not go on long like this, and soon gave up 
attending the service. 

Shades of John Wesley! A Wesleyan church drowsy and dull at a 
moment when one of the world s greatest men sat in the pews and 
was slowly making up his mind. The judgment on the church may 
not be fair, and yet the impression was made. 
He tried going directly to the Bible. He said: 

I read the book of Genesis, and the chapters that followed invariably 
sent me to sleep. ... I disliked reading the book of Numbers. But the 
New Testament produced a different impression, especially the Sermon 
on the Mount, which went straight to my heart. . . . That renunciation 
was the highest form of religion appealed to me greatly. Tolstoy s The 
Kingdom of God Is Within You overwhelmed me. It left an abiding 
impression on me. Before the independent thinking, profound morality, 
and the truthfulness of this book, all the other books given me by Mr. 
Coates seemed to pale into insignificance. 

Though Mahatma Gandhi never became a Christian, yet there has 
been a deep strain of Christian thought and attitude running through 
him and his life. He says: 



56 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

Though I took a path my Christian friends had not intended for me, I 
have remained ever indebted to them for the religious quest they awakened 
in me. I shall always cherish the memory of their contact. The years 
that followed had more, not less of sweet contacts in store for me. 1 

He tells of a later contact in India with Kali Charan Banerjee, a 
great Indian Christian: 

I found there was much in common between Mr. Banerjee and myself. 
His simplicity, his humility, his courage, his truthfulness, all these things 
I have all along admired. . . . Well, I am not going to engage you in giv 
ing a description of the little discussion we had between us. It was very 
good, very noble. I came away not sorry, not dejected, not disappointed, 
but I felt sad that even Mr. Banerjee could not convince me. This was my 
final deliberate striving to realize Christianity as it was presented to me. 
Today my position is that, though I admire much in Christianity, I am un 
able to identify myself with orthodox Christianity. My life has been full 
of external tragedies, and, if they have not left any visible and indelible 
effect on me, I owe it to the teaching of the Bhagavad-Gita. 

The Gita would henceforth be the center of his loyalty and his de 
votion. But this sentence is a curious one and may explain a good 
deal: "I came away not sorry, not dejected, not disappointed, but I 
felt sad that even Mr. Banerjee could not convince me." "Not 
sorry, . . . but I felt sad." This apparent contradiction may be the little 
chink in the fence that lets us see into an apparent contradiction in 
his life: He was a Hindu by allegiance and a Christian by affinity. 
He was a Hindu who was deeply Christianized more Christianized 
than most Christians. One Christian editor described him as "a 
natural Christian," quoting the statement of Tertullian, "Aiu ma 
naturaliter Christiana" the soul is naturally Christian. But we must 
not try to claim him when he himself would probably repudiate that 
claim. He was a Hindu and belonged to Hinduism; but nevertheless, 
when we strip away all controversies between East and West, and re 
ligion and religion, we cannot help recognizing affinities he had with 
the faith in Christ. 

He often reminds me of the parable of the man with two sons 
whom he told to go to work in his vineyard. The first one said, "I go, 
sir," and did not go. The second said, "I go not, sir," and afterwards 
he changed his mind and went. "Which of these," asked the Master, 

*My Experiments with Truth, Vol." II, chap. 15. 



GANDHI AND THE CHRISTIAN FAITH 57 

"did his father s will?" And the answer was the latter. We as Chris 
tians are very like the son who said, "I go, sir I will be a Christian/ 
but in fact we don t go, not fully. Gandhiji is very like the son who 
said, "I go not, sir," and afterward he went went by manifesting a 
Christian spirit far beyond most of the rest of us. 

Hinduism must claim him, and rightly so. It has been suggested, 
perhaps not too seriously, that Hinduism should be renamed 
Gandhism, this as a memorial to the Mahatma. But if Hinduism 
claims him, it will not be an inexpensive claim. Many things that 
pass by the name of Hinduism will have to go if Gandhi stays. For 
while he has been the occasion of a tremendous revival of Hinduism, 
nevertheless he has been a disruptive force within Hinduism. He has 
been and is cracking the system. Many of the orthodox see this and 
have been afraid of him in their heart of hearts, even while paying 
him lip service. Some of this disgruntled orthodoxy even came to the 
surface and dared distribute sweets at his death. For instance, no one 
has been a greater force in the breaking of caste than Mahatma 
Gandhi. Caste as a system is crumbling, and the Mahatma by his in- 
sistance on getting rid of untouchability was the greatest influence 
in causing it to crumble. For when untouchability goes, caste goes. 
It is not possible to get rid of one and hold the other. And yet for a 
while the Mahatma tried it. 

I went to see him when he was in the Yeravda jail. Dr. Ambedkar 
was seated with him as he sat on a bed in the jail courtyard. It was at 
the time of Dr. Ambedkar s announcement that he was leaving 
Hinduism and woijild take the depressed classes with him. It was an 
important conference the Mahatma was having with the leader of 
the outcastes, but he suspended the conference, and Dr. Ambedkar 
listened in to our conversation. I suggested that there were two 
views of society: one a horizontal view (and here I held my fingers in 
a horizontal way) and the other a vertical (and here I held my fingers 
in a vertical way) . The horizontal view of life views man equal before 
God and therefore equal before man. The vertical view puts men in 
different strata, one on top of the other. Caste does that. These are 
the four castes: Brahman, the priestly class; Kshatriya, the warrior 
class; Vaisya, the trading class; and Sudra, the serving class. Be 
low these are the untouchables, the seventy million who have no 
standing within caste; they are the outcastes. Now you propose to 
wipe out the untouchables by moving them up one step and amalga 
mating them within caste. But the caste system is still intact; life is 



58 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

still vertically conceived. Dr. Ambedkar laughed outright; for I had 
evidently touched on the very thing at issue, only I had put it in a 
little different way. 

The Mahatma replied, "I would also say that we must conceive of 
life as horizontal all equal before God and man." 

Then/ I said, "caste has gone along with untouchability." 

"Yes," he slowly replied, "it has. But there are certain qualities 
which are carried over from a previous birth which make differences 
in function in this one." Fie defended a modified form of caste, and 
this is what is meant when, in an article entitled "Why I Am a 
Hindu," he said, "Finally, the discovery of the law of varnashrama 
[the caste system] is a magnificent result of the ceaseless search for 
truth." But in his interpretation to me it was reduced to a coming 
over of differences in quality of being from a previous birth. This 
cannot be identified with the present caste system, which is based on 
birth in a particular home. One is inherent, and the other is artificial. 
Gandhiji s explanation of caste is to explain it away. And that is 
exactly what he has done. His defense turns out to be offense. There 
is no doubt whatever that Mahatma Gandhi was and is the greatest 
single force in breaking down caste. In his presence caste simply does 
not operate. For he transcends all differences in his all-embracing 
love. If he defends it with his lips, his heart smashes it at that very 
moment. But he did not defend caste; he defended something quite 
different. 

It was difficult to fit Mahatma Gandhi into a system, philosophical 
or religious. He broke the molds. For instance, the three great philo 
sophical doctrines of Hinduism are karma, transmigration, and identi 
fication with the impersonal Brahma. And yet as I listened to the ra 
dio for two days after his death, as eulogy after eulogy was heaped upon 
him, I suddenly woke up to the fact that he was not fitting any one 
of these three basic concepts. Not once was it suggested that the 
law of karma was operative in Mahatmaji, that in his death he was 
reaping what he sowed. An orthodox Hindu once said to me, "Jesus 
must have been a terrible sinner in a previous birth, for he was such 
a terrible sufferer in this one " That, according to the strict law of 
karma, would be correct. But this was never suggested in the case of 
Mahatmaji. His suffering was not punitive, but vicarious. He died for 
tihte nation and its sins. But that points to the Cross rather than to 
karma. 

Again, not once was it suggested that the Mahatma would now 



GANDHI AND THE CHRISTIAN FAITH 5$ 

come back in a rebirth and grow up as a child and be another person 
ality. They didn t want him to come back in transmigration; they 
wanted him to come back now in spirit and guide them. I have not 
heard it suggested once that we must now look for a child as the 
reincarnated Mahatma. The idea just doesn t fit. 

Nor have ! heard it suggested that the Mahatma has now been 
merged into the impersonal Brahma. The fact is they do not want 
him to be lost in the ocean of impersonal Being. They want him to 
survive as a personal being, as Mahatma Gandhi; and they want him 
to come back in spirit and lead them. This cry was voiced in the elo 
quent tribute to the Mahatma by Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, the poetess 
and patriot and now governor of the United Provinces, wben she 
said in a nationwide broadcast: 

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for 
his friends/ But there is one thing greater, and that is that he should 
rise again after laying down his life. This is the third day. He must rise 
again. O Bapuji, come back from the dead and lead us. We do not want 
you to rest. We need you too much. 

This was the broken cry of a broken heart, and it exactly expressed 
India s mood. The idea of the Mahatma merging into an impersonal 
Essence and being lost as Mahatma Gandhi just didn t fit. So it was 
never expressed. 

Not one of the central philosophical ideas karnia, transmigration, 
or merging into the impersonal Brahma did seem to fit the Mahatma 
or be operative. Perhaps it would not be fair to say that all the ideas 
that were operative were Christian ideas. But it would be fair to say 
that they were more Christian than Hindu. Orthodox Hinduism took 
over his body and burned it according to Hindu orthodoxy, but the 
ideas and concepts he represented seemed strangely Christian. And 
yet again it would not be orthodox Christianity. The Mahatma wa 
a natural Christian rather than an orthodox, one. And yet how shall 
I defend that distinction? I don t. I leave it undefended. But it is the 
nearest statement of the facts I know. 

But I must be honest with myself and my readers, for I cannot leave 
it at that, as though that were all there is to be said. There were areas 
of uncertainty in Mahatma Gandhi s life which are not found in the 
ordinary sincere out-and-out Christian, just as there are areas of ap 
plication of the Christian way in Mahatma Gandhi not found or of- 



60 MAHATMA GANDHIAN INTERPRETATION 

ten found in the Christian. If the Mahatma had something of active 
application of the Christian way to give to the Christian, I think the 
Christian has something to give in the way of an experience of God 
which the Mahatma seemed to lack. "I have not seen Him, neither do 
I know Him, but I have made the world s faith in God my own," said 
the Mahatma. That is dim and unsatisfactory. And the reason is ob 
vious. The Mahatma was influenced and molded by Christian prin 
ciples, particularly the Sermon on the Mount. But he never seemed 
to get to Christ as a person. I once wrote him a letter and poured 
out my heart in it about this very question. 

You know my love for you and how I ve tried to interpret you and your 
nonviolent movement to the West. But I am rather disappointed in one 
matter. I thought you had grasped the center of the Christian faith, but 
I m afraid I must change my mind. I think you have grasped certain prin 
ciples of the Christian faith which have molded you and have helped 
make you great you have grasped the principles, but you have missed 
the Person. You said in Calcutta to the missionaries that you did not turn 
to the Sermon on the Mount for consolation, but to the Bhagavad-Gita. 
Nor do I turn to the Sermon on the Mount for consolation, but to this 
Person who embodies and illustrates the Sermon on the Mount, but he is 
much more. Here is where I think you arc weakest in your grasp. May 
I suggest that you penetrate through the principles to the Person and 
then come back and tell us what you have found. I don t say this as a 
mere Christian propagandist. I say this because we need you and need 
the illustration you could give us if you really grasped the center, the 
Person. 

He wrote back an immediate reply: 

I appreciate the love underlying the letter and kind thought for my wel 
fare, but my difficulty is of long standing. Other friends have pointed it 
out to me before now. I cannot grasp the position by the intellect; the 
heart must be touched. Saul became Paul, not by an intellectual effort, 
but by something touching his heart. All I can say is that my heart is 
absolutely open; I have no axes to grind; I want to find truth, to see God 
face to face. But there I stop. Do please come to the Ashram when you 
have the time. 

This is a revealing letter. He saw that there was something more 
than he had realized. He was missing something, but that something 
eould not be realized by an intellectual effort, but by a heart revelation. 



GANDHI AND THE CHRISTIAN FAITH 61 

He was missing that heart revelation because he had not come into 
vital contact with the Person, Christ. He had only touched the Person 
at second hand through the principles. It was at this place that the 
ordinary sincere devotee of Christ goes beyond the Mahatma. By the 
Christian s self-surrender and faith and obedience a living contact 
with Christ brings certainty and joy and release from past and present 
sin which make him bubble with gratitude, and which make him 
want to share Christ with everybody. It was this the Mahatma never 
quite grasped, and this was the place of a great deal of the misunder 
standing with Christians, particularly regarding evangelizing. He 
could not understand why they should want to share their faith. 

A great many people came to India and asked the Mahatma fool 
ish questions. Among the most foolish questions ever asked him was 
this one: "What do you think of Stanley Jones?" The Mahatma re 
plied: "He is a very earnest man, and a very sincere man, but he is 
too certain about religion and therefore lacks humility." From the 
Mahatma s standpoint he- was right, for he looked on salvatioji as an 
attainment through disciplined effort. While I was at the Ashram at 
Sabarmati, we used to go aside at the end of the prayer period which 
began at 4 A.M., and he would tell me what religion meant to him 
in experience, and I would tell him what it meant to me. For ten days 
we looked into each other s hearts. One day he said, "If one is to find 
salvation, he must have as much patience as a man who sits by the 
seaside and with a straw picks up a single drop of water, transfers it, 
and thus empties the ocean." Salvation comes through one s strict, 
disciplined efforts, a rigid self-mastery. If one believes that salvation 
comes through one s own disciplined efforts, then of course he dares 
not speak of it. To speak of it would be indelicate and would lack 
humility, for it is his own. 

But I looked on salvation, not as an attainment through one s ef 
forts, but as an obtainment through grace. I came to Christ morally 
and spiritually bankrupt with nothing to offer except my bankruptcy. 
To my astonishment he took me, forgave me, and sent my happy 
soul singing its way down the years. By grace was I saved through 
faith and that not of myself; it was the gift of God. I could talk about 
that, for in doing so I was laying the tribute of my love and gratitude 
at the feet of Another. Not to talk about it would be indelicate and 
would lack humility, for it would thus seem to be my own. So from 
the Mahatma s standpoint he was right, and from my standpoint I 
was right. It was at this place that the Christians and the Mahatma 



62 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

never got together. They were talking two different languages and 
never understood each other. He was talking the language of attain 
ment, of works; and they were talking the language of obtaininent, of 
grace. It seemed to him presumption to talk about a conscious re 
demption now through the conscious power and presence of the Re 
deemer. For salvation through effort struggles and sighs, but salvation 
by grace surrenders and sings. You are never sure you have attained, 
but you are sure that you have obtained. I know that salvation by 
grace seems too cheap and easy, but it is not cheap; for when you take 
the gift, you belong forever to the Giver. He has you to your depths 
and forever. And the moment you take the gift, you feel that you 
want to put your arms around the world and share this with every 
body. This the Mahatma could never understand. 

He constantly said to the Indian Christians and the missionaries: 
"Don t talk about it. The rose doesn t have to propagate its perfume. 
It just gives it forth, and people are drawn to it. Don t talk about it. 
Live it. And people will come to see the source of your power." There 
is something in the criticism of the Mahatma, and it must be listened 
to. For very, very often our evangelism has been verbal instead of vital 
an evangelism of the lips instead of an evangelism of the life. The 
whole life has not spoken the message. Because we could say certain 
phrases, we thought we were preaching the gospel but deep hasn t 
spoken to deep. It hasn t been self-verifying with the witness of the 
life corroborating the witness of the words. In penance for this we 
might very well impose silence upon our lips until our lives have 
caught up with their testimony. We must take very seriously the 
rose perfume emphasis as a corrective. But only as a corrective. For 
to swing the other way and say that we will have an evangelism of 
the life, but not of the lips, is just as one-sided and unnatural. Sup 
pose Jesus had done that. Suppose he had taken the stand that he 
would live the gospel, but he would not preach it. How much poorer 
the world would have been. We would have commemorated a beau 
tiful life, but we would have had no gospel to communicate. But 
there was no hiatus between Jesus words and his deeds; you can t 
tell where his words end and his deeds begin, for his deeds were 
words, and his words were deeds and, coming together with what he 
was, became the Word made flesh. It was all of a piece. To impose 
an unnatural silence on him would have been to bisect life, for our 
words are a part of our lives. "Out of the abundance of the heart the 



GANDHI AND THE CHRISTIAN FAITH 63 

mouth speaketh ." Besides, the perfume of the rose is the voice of 
the rose the only voice it has calling the bees to the nectar. 

But the objection of the Mahatma to evangelism was more fun 
damental. He held that all religions are equal, and therefore to try to 
convert from one to another is wrong. An article written from the 
Yeravda jail was entitled Tolerance, i.e., Equality of Religions. 7 His 
tolerance was based on his conception of the equality of religions. He 
modified this in the article to "the equality of the principal faiths of 
the world." In other places he said, "All the great religions are equal." 
He put in "principal" and "great" to get over the difficulty of having 
to include animism and the lower forms of religion. But the moment 
he did that, he gave away his case, for he introduced a distinction. 
Some are equal, and some are not equal. Only the "principal" and 
"great" religions are equal. If this distinction holds at one level, why 
shouldn t it hold all the way through some may be bad; some may 
be good and bad; some may be good; some may be better; and some 
may be best? Are we mentally to abdicate when it comes to the deep 
est choices of life? To take that attitude would stop all progress in 
every realm. Suppose at the time of the Ptolemaic and Copernican con 
flict the attitude had been taken: all great scientific theories are 
equal. That would have saved a controversy, but it would have killed 
progress, for one theory fitted the facts better and survived. The 
same with religions; some fit the facts better and will survive. The 
rest will be quietly laid aside as outworn. 

But as I write this, I find myself with a deep hesitancy. I dislike ex 
ceedingly to feel that one must enter what may turn out to be an 
unholy rivalry. For I do not conceive of the gospel of Christ as a 
religion at all. Jesus never used the word. It was foreign to his con 
ception. He was not coming to set one religion over against another. 
He came to set the gospel over against human need, whether that 
need be in the Jewish faith, the Gentile religions, or among Jesus own 
followers. "There are many religions; there is but one gospel." For 
religions are man s search for God; the gospel is God s search for man. 
One is from man up to God, and the other is from God down to man. 

I know, when I say that, it sounds presumptuous, for a religion was 
built up around Jesus, man-made and fallible. True, but the gospel 
confronts that man-made and fallible system with the same demand 
and offer as it does the other religions. We do not preach this system 
built up around Jesus; we preach to it just as we would preach to any 
other human need. Our message is not the system, but the Saviour, 



64 MAHATMA GANDHIAN INTERPRETATION 

He is the gospel. The gospel lies in his Person. He himself is the good 
news. He didn t come to bring the good news. He is the good news. 
We therefore bring him to East and West and say: The issue is simple. 
Christ and his kingdom is the issue. Take him direct. You don t have 
to take our interpretation of Christ, except as you find it helpful in 
forming your own. Go straight to the Gospels to discover Jesus anew; 
and if you show us a better interpretation, we shall sit at your feet. 
The system which we have built up around Christ in the West may 
be useful and helpful as embodying a collective experience, but it is 
no integral part of the gospel. Create out of your own experience the 
corporate expression of that experience. Christ is universal, but he 
uses local forms to express that universality. We expect you in India, 
out of your rich cultural and religious past, to bring to the interpre 
tation of the universal Christ something which will greatly enrich the 
total expression. Especially now that Mahatma Gandhi has lived 
and died, we think you can interpret Christ in terms in which we 
are lacking in the West. It will take the sons of men to interpret the 
Son of Man. 

I know that there is still left in the minds of some of my readers a 
feeling that there is a presumption at the very basis of this presenta 
tion the presumption that there are many religions; there is but 
one gospel." That is a presumption. But there we stand; God helping 
us we can do no other. We have seen and still see in Jesus the gospel 
the good news that men everywhere need, and especially ourselves. 
For this is an evangelism that evangelizes the evangelists. It sends us 
to our knees even when we proclaim it with most certainty to others. 
So that at the heart of the proclamation there is a deep humility. 
The certainty is not founded on the certainty of attainment, but upon 
the certainty of obtainment. 1 hat certainty is rooted in grateful hu 
mility, not spiritual pride. This the Mahatma never understood, hence 
the long controversy. 

But there was another factor at the basis of the controversy with 
the Christians. It was over the mass conversion of the depressed classes. 
While the Mahatma was opposed to mass conversions, he now and 
then let drop little things that led us to believe that he thought con 
version might be allowable in certain specified cases. He talked as 
though he were totally opposed, and yet there were exceptions in 
his mind, I believe. How could he hold otherwise, for he himself was 
a mighty converter "the greatest converter of us all," I laughingly 



GANDHI AND THE CHRISTIAN FAITH 65 

told him one day for he was trying to convert the British empire to 
his views. He says so specifically: 

Conversion of a nation that has consciously or unconsciously preyed 
upon another far more numerous, far more ancient, and no less cultured 
than itself is worth any amount of risk. I have deliberately used the word 
conversion, for my ambition is no less than to convert the British people 
through nonviolence and thus make them see the wrong they have done 
to India. 1 

Obviously, the Mahatma was literally the greatest converter of us 
all and converted the British to a willing consent to India s independ 
ence no mean accomplishment. But Mahatma Gandhi was totally 
and unequivocally opposed to the conversion of the depressed classes 
to any faith other than the one they were brought up in. 

This position is understandable. Mahatma Gandhi saw the possi 
bility, and the actuality, of mass conversions being used for political 
ends through communal representation. When this controversy was 
going on, communal representation, reservation of seats in legislatures, 
was assigned according to the numbers of the different religious com 
munities Hindus, Moslems, Sikhs, Christians. Numbers counted, 
and political power could be gained through mass conversions. The 
balance of power in the country could be swung through mass con 
versions of the seventy million untouchables. These mass conversions 
to Islam or Christianity would come from the Hindu fold. Their 
balance of power in the country was threatened by it. No wonder the 
Hindus were alarmed and up in arms. Mahatma Gandhi became the 
spokesman of that protest and that endeavor to save the untouchables 
from leaving the Hindu fold. His remedy was to wipe out untouch- 
ability and amalgamate the untouchables among the regularly ac 
cepted Hindus. He led a mighty movement that swept the country 
and was responsible for many endeavors for their uplift. Everybody 
wanted the outcastes. Dr, Ambedkar, leader of the depressed classes, 
told me, "The Moslems have not only offered us earth, but heaven as 
well, if we come over to them." The Sikhs built a college in Bombay to 
receive outcastes, a big bid for them. It was an unseemly scramble for 
power under the guise of religious conversion. 

The Christian Church and the missionaries came under the same 
suspicion of a mass conversion movement for communal ends. Much 

1 Letter to Lord Irwin, March, 1930. 



66 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

of this was unfounded. Both Indian Christians and missionaries put 
out statements saying that they had no desire to use a movement of 
conversion for communal ends. It was purely religious. But during 
the struggle of independence it was not at all clear where the Chris 
tians stood. Some Indian Christians joined the Non-co-operation 
Movement; many stood aloof. Some missionaries openly declared 
their sympathy; the larger part leaned toward the retention of the 
British occupancy, afraid of what would happen to the Christian 
movement if independence came. The national leaders knew this; 
and some of them openly expressed themselves, saying that Chris 
tian missions, as now carried on, would not be allowed under swaraj, 
or independence. Gandhiji put it: "Christian missionaries come to 
India under the shadow or if you like, under the protection of a 
temporal power, and it creates an impassible bar." They seemed, in 
the minds of many nationalists, to be allied to imperialism. This, in 
many cases, was not true, for many thought the pledge of neutrality in 
coming to India meant they would have to be silent. The silence was 
taken for consent to things as they were. Under the shadow of mis 
understanding the controversy over conversion was carried on for 
many years. An entire book of three hundred pages, entitled Christian 
Missions, Their Place in India, by M. K. Ganclhi, is excerpts from 
Young India and the Hari/an, his papers. In these articles Mahatmaji 
says that one should "not even inwardly pray for the conversion of 
another." In reply to a Polish professor as to how materialism may be 
fought, he said: "Well, it is no use trying to fight these forces without 
giving up the idea of conversion, which I assure you is the deadliest 
poison that ever sapped the fountain of truth." He also complained 
that medical work among the sick and suffering was offered as a bait 
for conversions, and education was offered with the same purpose in 
view. 

During this period of controversy I went with two friends, Rev. S. 
Aldis and Principal David Moses of Hislop College, Nagpur, to in 
terview the Mahatma at Wardha regarding conversion. I said some 
thing like this: 

"Suppose a man should be inwardly convinced that Christ is the 
one to whom he should give his allegiance. He needn t change his 
dress, or his name; he could stand in the stream of India s culture 
and life and interpret Christ in a framework of India s heritage. If 
you will allow such a man to stay in his home without disability as an 
open, baptized member of the Christian Church, then as far as some 



GANDHI AND THE CHRISTIAN FAITH 67 

of us are concerned and I think I represent the leading Indian 
Christians in this we are willing to see the Christian community as 
a separate political entity fade out, leaving a moral and spiritual and 
social entity, the Christian Church, to contribute its power to India s 
uplift and redemption." 

The Mahatma thoughtfully replied: "If my son should become a 
Christian under the conditions you have mentioned, then I would 
keep him as a member of my home without penalty or disability." 

"That is personal/ I replied. "Would you recommend it to India?" 

He replied: "I would. And if you take the position you. now take, 
then most of the objections to Christianity would fade out of the 
mind of India." 

As we went away in the car, the three of us went over the whole 
interview together to see if we had it straight, for we saw it was very 
important. For the first time he had come out with a clear-cut ap 
proval of conversion under certain conditions. We agreed that the 
above was what had passed between us. The interview was published, 
and six months later a secretary of the Mahatma published in a daily 
paper that the interview had been misunderstood and misrepresented. 
The three of us signed a statement in reply saying: "If Stanley Jones 
misunderstood, then we all three misunderstood and equally, for we 
are all agreed that this is exactly what was said on both sides." What 
had happened? Obviously the statement of the Mahatma to us was 
very important, and leading Hindus must have recognized it as such. 
Conversion was allowable, according to the Mahatma. They must 
have brought pressure on the secretary, so that, with or without the 
Mahatma s knowledge and consent, a retraction was issued Gandhiji 
did not approve of conversion. 

But I am persuaded that this did represent the Mahatma s mind, 
for it was sincerely and straightforwardly said without hesitation. And 
the conditions I laid down for the conversion cleared the objections 
in the Mahatma s rnind. He disliked converts losing the Indian cul 
ture and becoming denationalized, and he feared the loss of political 
power to Hindus through conversions. Here I was saying that the 
Indian Christian convert need not be denationalized, and that the 
Christian community as a separate political entity might fade out. 
In that case there need be no fear of political use of conversions to 
gain political power. These were his basic objections to conversions; 
and when they were met, he unhesitatingly approved of conversion. 

This whole controversy has been very painful and very purifying. 



68 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

It has made us as missionaries search our hearts and our methods and 
motives. And if we are honest, we find ourselves not without blame. 
Our converts were too often denationalized, identifying Christianity 
with Westernisrn; we did lay too much stress on quantity rather than 
quality in accepting mass conversions; and it was often clone without 
adequate preparation; and we have used medical aid and education as 
a bait for conversion not often, but too often to be guiltless. The 
Mahatma s criticisms across the years, some of them as biting as 
acid, should make us better and our movement a more Christian 
movement. They were uttered in love, and we should take them in 
love. For a strange thing happened: Through all these years of con 
troversy and acid criticism there has been an absence of estrange 
ment between the Mahatnia and the missionaries. They clung to 
each other when they couldn t understand each other. It is true that 
one missionary called the Mahatina "Enemy No. 1 of the Depressed 
Classes/ and another missionary tried to get the authorities of 
Canada to keep me out of Canada because I was "a friend of Gandhi/ 
but this was rare. On the whole they knew they belonged together, 
for they had so much in common, and there was an affinity between 
them. The way the missionaries and the Indian Christians would keep 
coming back to the Mahatma and would ask the same questions over 
and over showed that there was something that hadn t come out; the 
matter wasn t final, and they belonged together. They did. 

When I returned to India a year ago, I found the missionaries and 
some Indian Christians troubled as to their position in independent 
India. Would the missionaries be allowed in the new India, and 
would the Indian Christians be allowed to evangelize? At one stage 
the Mahatma said that the work of conversion would not be allowed 
in a free India. I wrote in the little paper which I edit, The Fellow 
ship: 

We note that you say that evangelism will probably not be allowed in 
a free India. You have taught us a method which, in that case, we would 
be compelled to use, though reluctantly, namely, the method of non 
violent civil disobedience. Christians have gone to jail before over this 
issue, and they could gladly do it again. 

The only cutting word I ever received from the Mahatma was in 
answer to this statement. I told him later that I did not show his 
reply to my colleagues at the Ashram, "for I didn t want them to see 



GANDHI AND THE CHRISTIAN FAITH 69 

this Mahatrna Gandhi but the real one." At which we both laughed, 
and the incident was dismissed and almost forgotten. 

There was general uncertainty over the relationships of the Chris 
tian movement and the national movement. So I went to the nation 
al leaders for clarification. I told them I was going to speak to large 
missionary gatherings in the South and in the North at the hill sta 
tions, and I wanted a clarification to take to them. Would the mis 
sionaries be allowed to function in the new India? If so, would they 
be tolerated or welcomed as partners in the remaking of India? 

The reply of Vallabhai Patel, the Home Member of the govern 
ment, in charge of the police and having the say as to who should or 
should not come into India, was very important, so I waited with 
breathless interest. The future of a whole movement in India rested 
in a way upon it. He replied: 

Let the missionaries go on as they have been going on serving the 
suffering through their hospitals and dispensaries, the poor through their 
schools. Let them serve the people in a selfless way. They can even carry 
on their propaganda in a peaceful manner. But don t let them use a re 
ligious movement to build up communal power through mass conversions. 

I explained to him that, in common with most of the Indian Christian 
leaders, I was opposed to communal representation, and we would be 
the first to repudiate it if the country was organized on some basis 
other than communal representation, so we had no desire to build 
up communal power through conversion. It was degrading to the 
country, and it was degrading to religion. "Then," he said, "let the 
missionaries throw in their lot with India and make India their 
home/ This was so straightforward, so sincere, and so reassuring that, 
as one missionary doctor put it, "it lifted a great load off my heart." 
I then went to C. Rajagopalachari, then minister of industry 
and now governor general of India. His reply was: 

You have a legal right to convert; but since conversion is such a divisive 
thing in India, I would suggest as a matter of strategy that you dim it 
and serve the people until conditions turn to normal. In that case you 
will not only be welcome; you will be welcomed with gratitude. 

The next important man visited was Abul Kalam Azad, the Moslem 
minister for education, an important man, since we have so many 
educational institutions in India. His reply was warm and friendly: 



70 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

Don t use the word "tolerate." There is no question of tolerating the 
missionaries. We have no point at issue with the missionaries except the 
one question of mass conversions being used for political ends. When 
there is a moral and spiritual change, then there is no question of the 
right to outer change; but where there is no moral and spiritual change 
involved, then it raises questions as to motives. 

When I gave my views on this, he said: 

We know what the missionaries have done for India and the rest of 
the world, especially for the Near East through your colleges, so we wel 
come you to the new India. 

Then the most important man in the government, the prime minis 
ter,. JawaharM Nehru: 

I don t quite know what is involved in being "welcomed as partners" 
in the making of the new India, but we will welcome anyone who throws 
himself in with India and makes India his home. 

These statements could not have been finer and more reassuring. So 
I took them to the missionary conventions at Kodaikanal and Lan- 
dour, both of them hill stations with about five hundred persons in 
each convention. They unanimously put out declarations of their 
attitudes, one of which was as follows: 

This group of missionaries, numbering about five hundred, represent 
ing many denominations and nationalities, assembled in the Landour, 
Mussoorie, Convention, wishes to express its gratitude that India s in 
dependence is at hand. 

We are grateful that this independence is coming into being with the 
consent and co-operation of Britain. We believe that this amicable sepa 
ration will mean that these two nations will be bound together by closer 
ties in the future. 

We are aware of the difficulties ahead, but we are more aware of the 
possibilities. We pledge ourselves to help in every legitimate way in the 
solution of those difficulties and in the realization of those possibilities. 

We believe that this new freedom will mean a new freedom to develop 
the latent possibilities of this land and that an era of progress and pros 
perity will begin. We further believe that a free India will be a great 
asset in furthering world freedom and peace. For in spite of the present 
upset, we know that the genius of India is peace. We believe that this 



GANDHI AND THE CHRISTIAN FAITH 71 

genius will reassert itself and that the collective will of this nation will 
eventually bring peace and unity into being. 

We would be servants of Christ and of India and would identify our 
selves with the people of this land their sorrows our sorrows, their joys 
our joys, and their successes our successes. 

We regret that the political life of the country is organized on a com 
munal basis. If the Christian community has been compelled to accept 
communal representation, it does so with no inner belief in its validity, 
and, we are convinced, it will be the first to repudiate it if another and 
better basis is found. 

We believe in the inherent right of individuals and groups to outer 
conversion where there is an inner conversion, but we have no desire now, 
nor have we had any desire in the past, to build up communal power for 
political ends through religious conversion. We think it debasing to re 
ligion and to politics to use a moral and spiritual movement for political 
ends. 

We pledge ourselves to support in every legitimate way the lawfully 
established government set up to serve the interests of the people. We 
will give it the best we have. We hope that the government will feel free 
to call on us to help make India the land of our common hopes and 
prayers. 

These declarations were sent to the leading Congressmen and to 
the newspapers and drew a great deal of attention and apparent grati 
tude. What had happened? These two movements the Nationalist 
movement and the Christian movement, especially the missionary 
phase of it were drawing together. The period of estrangement was 
over. They would now work together for the making of a new India. 
That was one of the most important events that have happened in 
the missionary world in this century. It meant a new identification 
with India and her needs. 

I think the Christian movement could subscribe to something 
like this: (1) We have no ulterior motives in our work. When we 
do medical or educational work, we do it because we believe in it 
as such. If no one were ever converted through healing the sick and 
educating youth, we would still do both, as things that stand in their 
own right and not a means to something else. Jesus didn t heal peo 
ple on condition that they follow him. He healed them because they 
needed to be healed. If along with it they chose to follow him, he 
would welcome them. If along with the coming of healing and edu 
cation there are those who feel disposed to follow Christ, we will 
welcome them, but we do not use these services as baits. That would 



72 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

be degrading to the service and to us and to the people who took 
it. (2) We pledge ourselves and the country that we will take in 
dividuals and groups into the Christian Church only when they 
manifest an inner moral and spiritual change that justifies the outer 
change. On the whole this has been our policy and practice, and we 
reaffirm it with renewed dedication. 

We are grateful that the main bone of contention, namely, building 
up communal power through mass conversions, has been removed 
through the removal of communal representation itself. Here 
after men and women will not be chosen for public office on a com 
munal basis by a communal electorate according to communal num 
bers. That is the position the Christian leaders have taken all along; 
at least they expressed their willingness to accept it. In doing so they 
showed a high patriotism, and this was recognized by the country at 
the time. Now that this is done, the tensions about conversions should 
let down. 

The fact is that in the Draft Constitution for an independent In 
dia there is this sentence: "Subject to public order, morality, and 
health ... all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience 
and the right freely to profess, practice, and propagate religion." Noth 
ing could be clearer. The right to convert is conceded, for there is no 
point in being able to propagate one s faith if there can be no ac 
ceptance of it by conversion to it. There is one fly in this ointment, 
for the Central Provinces government has made an act that no 
one can change his faith unless he appears before a magistrate and 
declares his intention. After police investigation the magistrate de 
cides whether he can change his faith. This obviously cuts across 
the constitution; for while it does not forbid conversion, it makes it 
so difficult as to be well-nigh impossible. Over against this can be 
placed the fact that the enactment has been interpreted by Dr. 
Rajendra Parshad, president of the Constituent Assembly, as not 
applying to ordinary conversions, but only to forced conversions; 
that it was promulgated to cover forced conversions to Islam; and 
that the law was only temporary. On the whole this issue of conversion 
has been clarified, and a new day of understanding has begun, I was 
introduced recently to a non-Christian audience by a chairman who 
said: 

Two things have hitherto hindered us from listening with any degree 
of openness to a man like Stanley Jones. (1) We were afraid that mass 



GANDHI AND THE CHRISTIAN FAITH 73 

conversions would be used for communal ends. (2) We didn t know 
whether the missionaries were the agents of imperialism or not. Both of 
these issues have been clarified. Communal representation has been wiped 
out, so conversions cannot now be used for communal ends. And we now 
see that the missionaries are with this new independent India. So we 
listen gladly to what Stanley Jones has to say. 

I felt in this last year that the period of tension with the Mahatma 
had passed; that the issues were clarified; that while we did not 
agree in many things, we were working for the same purpose, the 
making of a new India. 

Many things remain unresolved. On the part of some of us we are 
still puzzled why a man of such moral and spiritual sincerity as Ma 
hatma Gandhi could fasten on Rama, a deified prince of the past, and 
make him the center of his worship, for the Mahatma surpassed 
Rama in every possible way intellectually, morally, spiritually. It 
is true that he said he used the word "Rama" for "God." Perhaps it 
becomes more easy to understand when we remember that in child 
hood he had a fear of ghosts and spirits, and Rambha, a nursemaid, 
suggested as a remedy for this fear the repetition of Ramanama, the 
name of Rama. So he says: "At a tender age I began repeating Rama 
nama to cure my fear of ghosts and spirits. This of course was short 
lived, but the good seed sown in childhood was not sown in vain. 
I think it is due to the seed sown by that good woman, Rambha, that 
today Ramanama is an infallible remedy for me." This seed sown in 
childhood became a part of his subconscious life. He never dissected 
the idea; he distilled out of it a victory. It became "an infallible 
remedy" for him over the real fears of later life. He transcended the 
means. His spirit was so great that he could take a mistaken idea and 
make it contribute. There was no unreality or hypocrisy; he saw it 
worked, and for him it did. But it was his spirit that made it work, 
and not the thing itself. There was no potency in Ramanama, but 
there was potency in the man who uttered it. "He was more right 
when he was wrong than we are when we are right." Mahatma Gan 
dhi was more right in uttering the wrong idea of Ramanama because 
of his spirit than we often are in uttering the name of Christ because 
of our spirit. He distilled nectar out of inadequate ideas because of 
the spirit that did the distilling. 

Take another puzzling fact: The Mahatma, believing in and prac 
ticing nonviolence, made the center of his affection and loyalty a 



74 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

book based on a philosophical justification of the use of force, namely, 
the Bhagavad-Gita. The Mahatma interprets the battle between the 
Pandavas and the Kauravas as a spiritual battle and not a battle 
between two clans as stated. He says: "The fight is there, but 
the fight as it is going on within. The Pandavas and Kauravas are 
the forces of good and evil within. The war is the war between Jekyll 
and Hyde, God and Satan, going on in the human breast/ 7 The dif 
ficulty with that explanation is that there is no moral distinction that 
can be made between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. They were 
morally indistinguishable six in one and half a dozen in the other. 
Dr. Kagawa says: "But Arjuna s views [in hesitating to fight] seem 
to be superior to Krishna s [in urging him to fight] ." The Mahatma 
replies: "Then according to you the disciple was greater than the 
master/ 7 And he leaves it at that. "Spiritualization is the first refuge 
of the skeptical mind." But the Mahatrna s mind was not a skeptical 
mind. It believed mightily in nonviolence believed in it so much 
that he could get nonviolence out of a book based on the philosophical 
defense of violence. Again he was right when he was wrong. He not 
only made violent people nonviolent; he made violent discourses non 
violent and did it by his amazing spirit. And here I am not merely 
playing with words. This is a sober fact: we find an amazing spirit 
transforming everything he touched into his own likeness. The Gita 
became Gandhian. "There is no violence here/* pointing to his breast; 
" how can there be violence thcre? ? pointing to the book. So you do 
not argue; you admire and love the soul that can find nonviolence 
even in the Gita, even as we have loved and admired Christians who 
see more in the Old Testament characters than the account would 
warrant. They read back into the account their own Christian ideas 
and attitudes. So the Mahatma has read back into the Gita his own 
nonviolence, 

As Mahatma Gandhi was recuperating after an operation for ap 
pendicitis performed by a British surgeon in a Poona hospital, having 
been temporarily released from jail for the operation, I asked if I 
could see him at 6 A.M. in order to get back to Bombay for my en 
gagements. He was gracious enough to wire: "Yes, please do come/ 7 
As I paced the station platform before daybreak thinking of what I 
should say to him, as he would be taking up the threads of his work 
again upon his release, I saw the parallel between him and the apostles 
as they said, "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom 
to Israel?" They wanted the restoration of the kingdom to Israel, just 



GANDHI AND THE CHRISTIAN FAITH 75 

as the Mahatma was desiring the restoration of the kingdom to India. 
But Jesus offered the apostles a bigger kingdom than they had 
dreamed a world kingdom if they would be his witness: "It is 
not for you to know times or seasons, which the Father hath set 
within his own authority. But ye shall receive power, when the Holy 
Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Je 
rusalem, and in all Judaea, and Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts 
of the earth" (Acts 1:7-8 American Standard Version). They asked 
for a restoration of a national kingdom, and Jesus offered them a 
world kingdom if they would witness to him. I saw the parallels. So 
I said to the Mahatma: 

"I am going to the West tomorrow. Could you give me a message 
to the Western world as to how we should live this Christian life?" 

He thought a moment and said: "Such a message cannot be given 
by word of mouth; it can only be lived. All I can do is to live it 
that will be my message." 

I was deeply moved by this realistic attitude and saw how very right 
he was. Then I added: "If you have no message for me, I think I 
got one for you as I walked the railway station platform this morning." 
I called attention to the parallels. "The apostles and you want a 
restoration of a kingdom and rightly. The restoration of the kingdom 
will come to India. It is bound to come, and I want to see it come. 
But there is a greater kingdom awaiting you. We of the West are 
sick of the methods of militarism. We need a leader one who could 
lead us on a new road away from militarism and war. You are an apos 
tle of nonviolence. You could be that leader. We need you. In or 
der to be that leader it would be necessary, I think, to appeal to us 
through the faith we hold. We will need a spiritual center for the 
movement. Jesus, I believe, can be that center inherently so, and 
through the fact that we of the West hold to him at least a nominal 
allegiance. If you will give a clear-cut witness to Jesus, then a world 
kingdom is awaiting you. By a clear-cut witness to Jesus I do not mean 
coming out and being a baptized Christian. I leave that to your 
guidance. I mean a clear-cut emphasis upon Jesus as the center of 
your nonviolent movement among us of the West. This world king- 
dom awaits you. Will you take it?" 

I really meant it, for it was the period between the first and second 
world wars, and we were drifting toward war. I felt that the Mahatma 
could lead us and was really our hope to avert war. He never really 
answered the question. But he sat there with tears in his eyes. Those 



76 MAIIATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

tears seemed to say: "I wish I could do it. But the time isn t ripe for 
me to try it. I must demonstrate the power of nonviolence here in 
India. Then maybe the world will take it." He quietly said: "I can 
only demonstrate it here/ 7 And that was all. All? Here again he was 
profoundly right. For if he had gone to Europe, as I hoped he would, 
and tried to lead us out of war, it would have been premature. He 
hadn t demonstrated the effectiveness of Satyagraha; independence 
had not been won. And Europe hadn t reached the bottom of despair 
with militarism. She still thought there was power in military might 
to decide things. Complete disillusionment had not come. It is now 
about to come. For Europe and the West are seized with despair and 
fear as to what will happen if militarism takes the saddle again and 
atomic bombs are used. It will be the ride to collective death. 

Mahatma Gandhi and I bowed in prayer and commended the 
whole proposal to God. And God may yet answer the request I made 
for the Mahatma to lead us out of war through a witness to Jesus as 
the center of that movement away from war. Now that the Mahatma 
has died a martyr to his cause and the ideas wrapped up in his frail 
body have been loosed and have become the possession of humanity, 
it may be that his entering into a world kingdom is at hand. That 
possibility we shall study in the next chapter. 

At any rate the other half of the proposition has come true in 
very large measure. I asked him to give his witness to Christ, and he 
never promised that he would. But he has! In ways some of us never 
dreamed he would. He spent years criticizing the system of missions 
and the methods of the Christians, but in the end he furthered the 
cause of Christ. The man who was most critical turned out to be most 
constructive constructive at the place where it counted most: at 
the place of Christ. The system can change, but the Saviour cannot. 
He must stand unchanged. He has. And a flood of fresh light has 
been thrown on him in the death of the Mahatma. A flood of state 
ments from non-Christians poured forth from the soul of India liken 
ing the Mahatma to Christ in life and death. We don t always agree 
with those statements, and yet they reveal the soul of a nation and 
the soul of Gandhi, line editor of 7"Iie Hindu in an editorial the day 
after his death refers to Mahatma Gandhi as "the second Saviour/ 
A newspaper item from Nagpur after his death said: How Christlike 
was his end, was the universal comment." M. Syed Hussain, India s 
ambassador-delegate to Egypt, said: The savior of India has been 
crucified. He is gone; it means that India will walk eternally in the 



GANDHI AND THE CHRISTIAN FAITH 77 

shadow of his cross/ The Burmese ambassador to India, U Win, said; 
"The world has suffered an irreparable loss today. Just as Jesus Christ 
suffered to save erring humanity, so has Mahatmaji suffered now." Mr. 
Gopinath Bardoloi, prime minister, Assam: "Posterity will recognize 
Mahatmaji as one of the greatest teachers of humanity in the. same 
way as people look on Jesus Christ." Sir A. Ramaswami Mudaliar, 
prime minister of Mysore: "Mahatmaji has indeed been a new mes- 
siah to this world." Maulana Mohammed Tayebulla, president of 
Assam Congress Committee: "Mahatmaji, the apostle of nonviolence, 
has fallen like Christ, a martyr to the sacred cause of truth and 
peace." Sir Muthiah Chettiar in the Madras Assembly: "He has been 
aptly described as ,Christ returned to earth/ Dr. M. R. Jayakar, for 
mer judge, Federal Court of India: "This foul assassination of the Ma- 
hatma marks the climax of similarity which he valued so dearly be 
tween his mission and that of Jesus Christ. They are brothers in 
martyrdom." T. Krishnaswami Aiyer, retired chief justice, Travancore 
state: "From out of the sacrifice of the great leader emerged the in 
dependence of India. Christ was nailed to the cross. The whole 
world was permeated with the ideals of one of which Christ was the 
symbol. Even so, Mahatma Gandhi will outlive his death as the sym 
bol of peace and tolerance." 

And so one of the most Christlike men in history was not called a 
Christian at all. And the man who fought Christian civilization, so- 
called, furthered the real tiling. God uses many instruments, and he 
has used Mahatma Gandhi to help Christianize unchristian Christian 
ity. 



CHAPTFR VI 



My Experiments "with Trutk 



MAI 



VHATMA GANDHI wrote the story of his life; but 
instead of calling it an autobiography, he called it My Experiments 
with Truth. For many years I never caught the significance of that 
title. It is really the key to his whole life. It is the clue to his power. 

A governor of one of the provinces said to me, "Gandhi was a 
gambler; he gambled his life on truth." He was an astonishing gam 
bler. He would throw his very life upon the table in any issue he felt 
called upon to face. He was a reckless gambler. And yet he was a man 
who gambled only when he was sure of winning! Before he gambled, 
he had experimented to see what would work and what would not 
work. So he followed the wave of probability, which became to him 
the wave of certainty. Here was a man who apparently rejected the 
whole of the accomplishments of Western science, and yet who 
adopted die very center of that science, namely, experimentation, 
He applied experimentation to moral and spiritual laws, while West 
ern science occupies itself largely with experimentation with physical 
laws. 

Gandhi was an experimenter in many realms, but he was primarily 
an experimenter of the spirit and its laws. But he demanded experi 
mentation even regarding sacred texts. When he was experimenting 
with foods, he said: 

Two or three have sent me the identical text [from the Ayur-Vedic 
writings] against taking honey mixed with hot water and pronouncing 
dire results. When I have asked them whether they had verified the text 
from their own experience, they were silent. My own experience of taking 
honey mixed with hot water extends to more than four years. I have ex 
perienced no ill effects whatever. 1 

Here was an important statement and attitude: everything, including 
sacred scriptures, must be subject to experimentation and verification. 

1 Young India, Aug. 15, 1929. 

78 



"MY EXPERIMENTS WITH TRUTH" 79 

To take anything on blind faith was wrong. This is revolutionary. 
It is like the seed of a peepul tree, which, when dropped into the 
cracks of a temple, will leave it in ruins around the foot of the grow 
ing tree. This idea of Gandhi, if applied, will leave mere dogmatisms 
not based on reality a ruin around the base of growing truth. 

Gandhi was a gambler, but a cautious gambler. Like the elephant, 
which, when about to pass over a questionable bridge, tries it with 
his forefeet before venturing his full weight, so Gandhi cautiously 
tried out certain principles; and, when convinced they were truth, 
he would fling himself upon them with aban.don. And he would not 
recommend them to others until he had tried them: "It has been 
a rule of my life never to ask anyone to do anything which I had not 
tried out in practice myself." 

He tells of reading Ruskin s Unto This Last and how he summed 
up its teachings. 

This is how I understand Ruskin s teaching: (1) The good of the 
individual is contained in the good of all. (2) A lawyer s labor has the 
same value as the barber s, inasmuch as all have the same right to earn 
their livelihood from their labor. ( 3 ) A life of labor, i.e., of the tiller of 
the soil and handicraftsman, is the life worth living. The first I knew. The 
second I had dimly realized. The third had never occurred to me. Ruskin 
made it as clear as possible for me that the second and the third were 
contained in the first. I awoke with the dawn, ready to reduce these prin 
ciples to practice. 

Then followed a lifelong devotion to simplicity of life and hand la 
bor. But note that last sentence: "I awoke with the dawn, ready to 
reduce these principles to practice/ Many of us would have talked 
and debated and consulted interminably. Gandhi decided at dawn 
to reduce the principles to practice. That is the essential difference in 
Gandhi; he acted on what he saw to be truth. He didn t see all 
truth, but he acted on what he saw, and that made the difference. 

Take the Cross. Mahatma Gandhi did not see in the Cross what 
the convinced Christian sees, namely, that God was in Christ recon 
ciling the world unto himself and that he was bearing our sins in his 
body on a tree. Gandhi did not see that. But he did see that you can 
take on yourself suffering, and not give it, and thus conquer the 
heart of another. That he did see in the Cross, and that he put into 
practice, and put it into practice on a national scale. The difference 
then is this: we as Christians saw more in the Cross than Gandhi and 



80 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

put it into operation less; Gandhi saw less in the Cross than we 
and put it into practice more. We left the Cross a doctrine; Gandhi 
left it a deed. Therefore Gandt^ ^ifh his half-light and fuller prac 
tice, goes in power beyond fuller light and half-practice. 
God therefore accepts his opea&^lfebd and entrusts him with pow 
er, while God can use in only a limited way our faith which is minus 
the operative deed. God apparently has to pass by the orthodoxy and 
use the orthopraxy. Do not misunderstand me. I do not minimize 
right belief; it is necessary. But "not every one that saith unto me, 
Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that 
doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." 

A nominally Christian world expounds truth, and Gandhi experi 
ments with it. That makes the difference. 

Take another fact. Mahatma Gandhi did not see the person of 
Christ as the real Christian does. He was dim at that place. But cer 
tain principles of the Sermon on the Mount did grip him, and he 
forthwith put them into practice overcoming evil with good, hate 
by love. In the practice of those principles he discovered and lived by 
the person of Christ, however dimly and unconsciously. "Lord, when 
saw we thee an hungred and fed thee? . . . Inasmuch as ye have 
done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it 
unto me." Gandhi was one of those who in doing it to "the least of 
these" was doing it unto Christ, however unconsciously. He discovered 
a dim Christ through the deed, and we discover a dim Christ through 
the doctrine. We can only discover the real Christ through the doc 
trine and the deed. 

The Gandhi who experimented with what he saw to be truth be 
came the Gandhi of experience. He experienced what he acted on. 
He did not see everything, but what he did see became vital through 
a willingness to experiment with it. He refused to preach anything 
he had not tried. When I urged him to go to Europe before the war, 
hoping that his very presence there would be a call to peace instead 
of war, his reply was simple: "I have not demonstrated peace in my 
country; how can I preach it to Europe?" Somebody has said that "all 
great literature is autobiography." Then all great preaching is the 
sharing of an operative fact. Gandhi s words had weight, for they had 
the content of experimentation in them. When people came to him 
with educational theories, he would say: "Here is the money. Go and 
experiment and see how your ideas work; and if they work well, we 
will adopt them." Thus he came to the ideas underlying basic educa- 



"MY EXPERIMENTS WITH TRUTH" 81 

tion which were worked out under his inspiration. The basis of basic 
education is that you practice what you leam. It is education for life, 
and life here in India. In basic education the pupils are to be self- 
sustaining in food, clothing, cooking, sanitation, and community 
service. While they study, they are to be self-sustaining. 
One of his important statements is this: 

The world rests upon the bedrock of Satya or Truth. Asatya meaning 
Untruth, also means "non-existent"; and Satya, or Truth, means "that 
which is/ 7 If untruth does not so much as exist, its victory is out of the 
question. And Truth being "that which is" can never be destroyed. This 
is the doctrine of Satyagraha in a nutshell. 2 

If truth is that which is, then the business of life is to identify your 
self with it; then the sum total of reality will be behind you. But you 
do not identify yourself with truth when you accept it only as idea; 
you identify yourself with it as a life identification, a putting of truth 
into your life attitudes and your life acts. Then you are invincible. 
But if you are identified with any untruth, then you are vulnerable 
and weak. The universe won t sustain you. Gandhi had only a very 
few basic life principles, but he made them walk and what a walk! 

*C. F. Andrews, ed., Mahatma Gandhi His Own Stoiy, p. 225. 



CHAPTER VII 



The Center of Gandkfs 
Contribution^Satyagralia 



1 HE word "Satyagraha" seems as foreign to us as the 
idea underlying it. It literally means "truth force/ or "truth power," 
This idea and practice was at the center of Gandhi s life and is the 
center of his contribution to the world. All else is marginal compared 
to this. The quintessence of Gandhism is Satyagraha. If we don t 
get this, we have missed the meaning of his life and death. 

I would sum up the five great contributions which Mahatma Gandhi 
gave to the world as follows: (1) a new spirit and technique 
Satyagraha; (2) the emphasis that the moral universe is one and 
that the morals of individual, group, and nation must be the same; 

(3) his insistence that the means and the ends must be consistent; 

(4) the fact that he held no ideals he did not embody or was not in 
the process of embodying; ( 5 ) a willingness to suffer and die for his 
principles. These are the five great things he gave, but the greatest of 
these is Satyagraha. 

The idea of Satyagraha slowly evolved and then took possession of 
him. The germ of the idea was given to him in a Gujarati hymn. He 
says of it: "Its precepts return good for evil became my guiding 
principle. It became such a passion with me that I began numerous 
experiments in it." The hymn: 

For a bowl of water give a goodly meal; 
For a kindly greeting bow thou down with zeal; 
For a simple penny pay thou back with gold; 
If thy life be rescued, life do not withhold. 
Thus the words and actions of the wise regard; 
Every little service tenfold they reward. 
But the truly noble know all men as one, 
And return with gladness good for evil done. 

The germ of the idea came from this hymn. "But it was the New 
Testament that fixed it in my heart/ 7 says Gandhi, 

82 



THE CENTER OF GANDHI S CONTRIBUTION SATYAGRAHA 83 

The Sermon on the Mount went straight to my heart. The verses^ "But 
I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on 
thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man . . . take away 
thy coat, let him have thy cloke also," delighted me beyond measure. . . . 
That renunciation was the highest form of religion appealed to me 
greatly. 

Wlien a missionary, Dr. S. W. Clemes, asked the Mahatma years 
ago what book or person had influenced him most, he replied: "The 
Bible, Ruskin, and Tolstoy ." In later years he would have undoubted 
ly added the Gita. Tolstoy, with his insistence that the Sermon on 
the Mount be taken literally and acted on, helped to confirm the 
idea of the Gujarati hymn and to expound it. It was Ruskin s Unto 
This Last that made him decide on a life of simplicity. This is note 
worthy: a book out of the war-ridden West the New Testament 
turned him against war, and a book out of the materialistic, compli 
cated civilization of Europe Ruskin s turned him toward simplicity. 
He reduced life to its bare necessities. Unto This Last put together 
religion and service: "As you did it to one of the least of these my 
brethren, you did it to me" (Revised Standard Version). His 
religion would be a serving of God through a serving of men* 
He would be nonviolent; he would be simple; and he would serve 
God through humanity. Thus was his working faith formed. 

But it was an incident that precipitated all these gathering ele 
ments into a fixed life attitude. 

I recall particularly one experience that changed the course of my life. 
That experience fell to my lot seven days after I arrived in South Africa. 
On the train I had a first-class ticket, but not a bed ticket. At Maritzburg, 
where the beddings were issued, the guard came and turned me out and 
asked me to go to the van compartment. I would not go? and the train 
steamed away leaving me in the shivering cold. Now the creative ex 
perience comes there. I was afraid for my very life. I entered the dark 
waiting room. There was a white man in the room. I was afraid of him. 
What is my duty? I asked myself. Should I go back to India, or should I 
go forward, with God as my helper, and face whatever was in store for 
rne? I decided to stay and suffer. My active nonviolence began from that 
date. And God put me through the test during that journey. I was severely 
assaulted by the coach attendant for my moving from the seat he had 
given me. That was one of the richest experiences of my life. 1 

1 Hari;an 7 Dec. 10, 1938. 



84 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

There were two other influences that helped shape Mahatma 
Gandhi s ideas and attitudes. Thoreau s essay "Civil Disobedience/* 
expounding the fact that a man must obey his own conscience even 
against the will of his fellow citizens and be ready to undergo im 
prisonment in consequence, for after all it was only his body, but 
not his spirit, which was in custody, arrived at a critical moment in 
South Africa and greatly appealed to him. Concerning this Gandhi ji 
says: 

The statement that I derived my idea of civil disobedience from the 
writings of Thoreau is wrong. The resistance to authority in South Africa 
was well advanced before I got the essay of Thoreau on civil disobedience. 
But the movement was then known as passive resistance. As it was in 
complete, I had coined the word Satyagraha for the Gujarati readers. 
When I saw the title of Thoreau s great essay, I began the use of the 
phrase to explain our struggle to the English readers. But I found that 
even civil disobedience failed to convey the full meaning of the struggle. 
I therefore adopted the phrase "civil resistance." Nonviolence was al 
ways an integral part of our struggle. 

Another influence was his observation in 1909 of the British suf 
fragettes and their methods involving imprisonment for the gaining 
of their goals. 

Here was a confluence of influence which God used to mold a 
mighty instrument of his purposes for this age: a Gujarati hymn from 
India, a New Testament from Palestine, a book from Russia, a pam 
phlet from America, a book and the suffragette influence from Britain, 
and then two men in South Africa, a coach attendant and a white 
occupant of a waiting room. All these combine to push Gandhi as by 
a hand of destiny into the arena of the twentieth century to fight 
one of the noblest fights that have been fought by man for the 
liberation of man. They combined to make Gandhi the greatest 
revolutionary of the age and the most gentle and humane. Cle- 
menceau, the Tiger, once said: "When the Christian decides to be a 
Christian, then the real revolution begins/ Gandhi, although not a 
Christian, decided to take a Christian attitude the overcoming of 
evil with good and there the real revolution began. When Gandhiji 
began to apply a New Testament principle to public affairs, then 
that was revolutionary. During the struggle for independence I was 
giving a series of lectures to non-Christians. Two police plain- 
clothes men were down in front taking shorthand notes of what I 



THE CENTER OF GANDHI S CONTRIBUTION SATYAGRAHA 85 

was saying to see if there was anything seditious. There was, for I 
was speaking on the Sermon on the Mount! The Sermon on the 
Mount is revolutionary when in the hands of Gandhi he applies it as 
a technique and an attitude to public affairs. I was applying it 
verbally, and therefore it was nonseditious; but Gandhi was ap 
plying it vitally, and therefore it was seditious. In the hands of 
Gandhi the New Testament = T.N.T. In our hands very often it 
becomes a soporific. The little girl was nearer to the meaning when 
she said: "Barbara, I tell you the New Testament does not end with 
Timothy; it ends with Revolutions." But with us it often ends 
where one described a certain conference as ending: "It was a very 
resolutionary conference." Gandhi turned our resolutions into revolu 
tions, by the simple method of applying them. 

But there was another strain that went into the making of Gandhi 
and his revolution. It was his conception of truth. Perhaps in the end 
it may be seen to be the most important element. For a long time 
the meaning of it seemed to elude me. Now it is clearer. He identified 
truth and God. He said: 

I do not regard God as a Person. Truth for me is God, and God s Law 
and God are not different things or facts, in the sense that an earthly 
king and his law are different. Because God is an Idea, Law Himself. 
He and His Law abide everywhere and govern everything. 2 

Again and again he said: "I do not say God is Truth; I say, Truth is 
God." Here he seems to rule out a personal God and make him 
identical with an impersonal Law. And yet that isn t quite accurate., 
for he called God "Law Himself." If he meant that God was 
impersonal, why should he say "Law Himself" instead of "Itself"? 
Besides, he tells about what happened just before going on a twenty- 
one-day fast: 

About 12 o clock in the night something wakes me up suddenly, and 
some voice within or without, I cannot say whispers, "Thou must go 
on fast." "How many days?" I ask. The voice again says: "Twenty-one 
days." "When does it begin?" I ask. It says, "You begin tomorrow." . . * 
That kind of experience has never happened before or after that date. . . 
If ever there was a spiritual fast, it was this. ... It is not possible to see 
God face to face unless you crucify the flesh. 

IbicL, March 2 3, 1940. 



86 MAHATMA GANDHIAN INTERPRETATION 

Obviously an impersonal law doesn t speak to you in this personal 
manner, and you don t want to see a law "face to face/ So this law 
is more than impersonal law; it partakes of the qualities of the per 
sonal. Truth to him seems to be identical with this law and also 
identical with God. To identify himself with truth was to be 
identified with God, and it would have the surety of a law. The 
Mahatma believed that if you always did the true thing, you would 
have the backing of the moral universe. He believed that the stars 
in their course would work for you. And they would likewise work 
against all evil. He further held that we and the universe are made for 
truth: "Truth is the law of our being/ If truth is the law of our 
being, then to act according to it is to fulfill ourselves, and to act or 
think according to untruth is to disrupt ourselves. The thing to do 
then is to identify ourselves with truth, do the true thing always, 
and a true result will follow. Don t bother about results. They take 
care of themselves. The moral universe guarantees them. All we have 
to do is to see that we are on the right side of things, and the moral 
universe takes care of the rest. It reminds one of the statement made 
to Lincoln during the Civil War, "I hope God is on our side." The 
reply was: "My concern is whether we are on God s side." Gandhi 
had one problem in life: In this matter am I on the side of truth? 
When he decided to adopt two things, truth and nonviolence one 
the fact and the other the method of applying the fact he went 
forth believing that he had cosmic backing for what he was doing. 
It gave him an inner steadiness of purpose and a terrific drive 
quiet but terrific. For Gandhi felt himself the agent of cosmic forces 
working through him. "I will not sacrifice Truth and ahimsa [non 
violence] even for the deliverance of my country and my religion," he 
said. 

This is worth noting, for the means of achieving his ends became 
the all-important thing to him. He could not use a wrong means to 
get to a right end, for he knew that the means pre-exist in and de 
termine the ends. Hence he was prepared to call off a movement even 
when it was apparently successful, for he knew that success would 
turn to ashes if the means did not coincide with truth and non 
violence. Y. G. Krishnamurti says: 

He has accepted the law of nonviolence as rigid and as certain as the 
law that governs the fall of Newton s apple. The uniqueness of the Ma- 
tatma is that he has created and kept alive the faith of the people in 



THE CENTER OF GANDHI S CONTRIBUTION SATYAGRAH A 87 

nonviolence and truth. If President Hoover promises two cars in every 
garage, Gandhi promises two virtues in every heart. 3 

Gandhi s strategy is truth, and his method is nonviolence, 

By restoring truth and love to the status of ultimate realities Gandhi 
has brought about a revolution in contemporary thought. . . . The saint 
Gandhi has not wavered in his passionate belief that truth and love are 
invincible. 4 

When I asked Jawaharlal Nehru what lie considered the greatest 
contribution of Mahatma Gandhi, he replied: "TMeans and ends must 
be consistent." Acharya Kripalani named two: "That means must be 
consistent with the ends in view and that the same moral laws which 
hold good for the individual hold good for the group and the nation." 

In this the Mahatma cuts across a great deal that goes under the 
form of Christian civilization, and he goes point-blank against the 
methods of war and die methods of communism. Both of the latter 
say that the end justifies the means. War and communism both will 
use any means that gets them to their respective goals. That is right 
which gets you to your goal, and that is wrong which hinders or 
obstructs your getting to your goal Deceit, treachery, trickery, lies, 
butchery, will be used if they can be used for the supposed right ends. 
Gandhi knew better. He knew that if you, as a surgeon, used infected 
instruments, you would leave the patient worse than ever. Every 
wrong means will return to haunt the user. Like the sorcerer s 
apprentice who came to his master and said, "Sir, I have called up 
a spirit, and now I cannot rid myself of it," so every wrong means 
called in to get to right ends will stay to plague the user. 

Take an illustration from the contemporary scene in India. The 
tribesmen of the frontier have been a thorn in India s side. They 
live by plunder. The British kept them quiet by force and subsidy, 
in other words, bribery. The plan of the Congress was to convert 
these tribesmen through Abdul Ghaffar Khan, "The Frontier Gan 
dhi," and his JKhudai Khidmatgars, Servants of God. They were well 
on their way to harnessing their destruction to construction, for these 
Khudai JChidmatgars, or Red Shirts, were amazingly disciplined and 
constructive. Then came the partition, and the Northwest Frontier 

3 Gandlii Era, p. 42. 
* Ibid, pp. 79-80. 



88 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

came into Pakistan and with it the problem of the tribesmen living 
just beyond the frontier. Pakistan has obviously invited, or at least 
encouraged, them to go into Kashmir to keep Kashmir from going into 
the Indian union. They have to go through Pakistan to get into 
Kashmir. Once in Pakistan they are going to be difficult to get out. 
I m told that the tribesmen, well-armed and rough, saunter up to 
a Moslem shop in a Pakistan city, pick out what they want, and walk 
away without paying, saying as they leave: "Ham ap fca maliman ham" 
We are your guests. My prediction is that Pakistan is going to rue 
the day they were invited in to stir up trouble in Kashmir; for once in, 
they are going to stay in as unwelcome guests. Use the wrong means, 
and sooner or later they will plague you. 

The greatness of Gandhi consisted in the fact that he would not 
look at the end results; he would use the right means, and the right 
result would follow. The universe guaranteed it. He could subscribe 
wholeheartedly to these familiar lines: 

Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne, 

Yet that scaffold sways the Future, and, behind the dim unknown, 

Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch upon his own. 

Panoplied with these convictions, Gandhi steps into the arena of 
India to apply his principles on the widest scale and for the biggest 
stakes ever attempted by any man. He would win freedom for India 
by truth and nonviolence. It is true that the historic situation helped 
in the adoption of nonviolence, for India was a disarmed nation. 
Arms were licensed only to those who were known supporters of 
the government. So nonviolence was accepted out of necessity. And 
yet out of choice. And further: undoubtedly an overruling Providence 
was using India as a proving ground for a new type of power the 
power of soul. But the Mahatma repudiated with all his might the 
idea that the method of truth and nonviolence was used because you 
are weak and cowardly. He insisted that it was the method of the 
strong, and only the method of the strong. He further insisted that 
it was better to fight than to take up nonviolence through fear or 
cowardice. 

The weapons Gandhi chose were simple: We will match our 
capacity to suffer against your capacity to inflict the suffering, our 
soul force against your physical force. We will not hate you, but we 
will not obey you. Do what you like, and we will wear you down by 



THE CENTER OF GANDHI S CONTRIBUTION SATYAGRAHA 89 

our capacity to suffer. And in the winning of the freedom we will 
so appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you. So ours 
will be a double victory; we will win our freedom and our captors 
in the process. 

I said the method of the Mahatma was simple, and more, it must 
be kept simple. You cannot complicate it by mixing in other 
methods to help it out. For instance, a leading communist of Ceylon 
said to me: "We communists are prepared to use any method that 
gets us to our goal the ballot, passive resistance, or force." Here he 
revealed a muddled moral mentality. If you submit the issues to the 
ballot box, you have to abide by the decision of that ballot box. 
You cannot abandon it if it goes against you and appeal to force. 
That is not democracy. Nor can you begin using nonviolent passive 
resistance and, if you find it isn t working, then appeal to force. These 
methods cancel out each other. You cannot alternately use the 
moral appeal and, if it doesn t work, then use force; for the one 
against whom you appeal must know that you are depending on 
the moral alone and will not abandon it halfway. It must be kept 
pure. And the Mahatma wisely kept it pure. South Africa taught 
him to keep his eye single; then his whole body would be full of 
light. But if his eye became evil (complicated), then the whole body 
would be full of darkness. 

Gandhiji sums up the issues in a statement given to the press on 
December 4, 1932, after his famous fast unto death: 

Those who have to bring about radical changes in human conditions 
and surroundings cannot do it except by raising a ferment in society. 
There are only two methods of doing this, violent and nonviolent. Vio 
lent pressure is felt on the physical being, and it degrades him who uses 
it as it depresses the victim, but nonviolent pressure exerted through self- 
suffering, as by fasting, works in an entirely different way. It touches not 
the physical body, but it touches and strengthens the moral fiber of those 
against whom it is directed. 

When the Mahatma stepped on the scene, the movement for 
independence was underground. It manifested itself in bombs and 
assassinations and a sullen hate. In those early days I sat with a man 
who came to talk to me about spiritual things. As he was about to 
go, he remarked: "I ve served a life sentence [fourteen years] in the 
Andamans for throwing a bomb at a British official. But, 7 he added, 
"we don t know how to make these things as well as you British 



90 MAHATMA GANDHIAN INTERPRETATION 

and Americans, so it didn t go off, and I was caught/ I remarked that 
I supposed he was glad that it didn t go off. 

"Yes," he said, "for it turned out to be the wrong man." And he 
said it as casually as if he had been talking about the weather. The 
cult of the bomb was respectable. 

Mahatma Gandhi brought all this festering hate and intrigue to 
the surface. He would make the movement for independence open 
and frank and nonviolent. At the close of one of my "after meetings" 
I walked home with a seeker, a Hindu. I asked him what he was 
doing, and he laughed and said he belonged to the C.LD,, the 
secret police. He came to watch me and stayed to prayl And then 
he said this revealing thing: 

Before Mahatma Gandhi came, everything was underground. He 
brought the whole thing to the surface. Now we simply go to the Con 
gress headquarters and ask: "What are you going to do next?" And they 
outline their next moves in the fight with Government. And it always 
turns out that way. They never deceive us. It is all very easy now. 

Easy? He really didn t see what was happening. He didn t see 
that here was a new and efficient weapon that was always striking 
at the heart. You didn t quite know how to counter it. 

To see the power and directness and simplicity of the method of 
nonviolent non-co-operation let us look at Mahatma Gandhi s first 
trial and imprisonment before a British judge. Here was one of 
the most dramatic and destiny-filled scenes in history. C. F. Andrews 
says: "The trial itself was noteworthy, both for the dignity of the 
prisoner at the bar and also for the noble utterance of the judge who 
delivered the sentence. Much of the bitterness at the time was 
taken away from men s minds owing to the judge s speech." 5 Here 
the two systems were at their best and spoke their best in these 
pregnant moments. I quote the whole statement of each, for they 
give an insight into the struggle better than long descriptions could. 

The Mahatma s statement: 

Before I read this statement, I would like to state that I entirely en 
dorse the learned advocate-general s remarks in connection with my hum 
ble self. It is the most painful duty with nie, but I have to discharge 
that duty knowing the responsibility that rests upon my shoulders, and 

* Mahatma. Gandhi s Ideas, p. 290. 



THE CENTER OF GANDHI S CONTRIBUTIONSATYAGRAHA 91 

I wish to endorse all the blame that the learned advocate-general has 
thrown on my shoulders in connection with the Bombay, Madras, and 
Chauri Chaura occurrences. Thinking over these deeply and sleeping over 
them, night after night, it is impossible for me to dissociate myself from 
the diabolical crimes of Chauri Chaura, or the mad outrages of Bombay. 
He is quite right when he says that, as a man of responsibility, a man hav 
ing received a fair share of education, having had a fair share of experience 
of this world, I should have known the consequences of every one of my 
acts. I know that I was playing with fire. I ran the risk, and if I was set 
free, I would still do the same. I have felt it this morning, that I would 
have failed in my duty if I did not say what I said here just now. 

I wanted to avoid violence; I want to avoid violence. Nonviolence is 
the first article of my faith. It is also the last article of my creed. But I 
had to make my choice. I had either to submit to a system which I con 
sidered had done an irreparable harm to rny country, or incur the risk of 
the mad fury of my people bursting forth when they understood the truth 
from my lips. I know that my people have sometimes gone mad. I am 
deeply sorry for it, and I am therefore here to submit, not to a light 
penalty, but to the highest penalty. I do not ask for mercy. I do not plead 
any extenuating act. I am here, therefore, to invite and cheerfully submit 
to the highest penalty that can be inflicted upon me for what in law is a 
deliberate crime, and what appears to me to be the highest duty of a 
citizen. The only course open to you, the judge, is, as I am just going to 
say in my statement, either to resign your post or inflict on me the severest 
penalty, if you believe that the system and law you are assisting to ad 
minister are good for the people. I do not expect that kind of conversion, 
but by the time I have finished with my statement, you will perhaps have 
a glimpse of what is raging within my breast to run this maddest risk 
which a sane man can run. 

I owe it, perhaps, to the Indian public and to the public in England 
that I should explain why from a staunch loyalist and co-operator I have 
become an uncompromising disaffectionist and non-co-operator. To the 
court, too, I should say why I plead guilty to the charge of promoting dis 
affection towards the government established by law in India. 

My public life began in 1893 in South Africa in troubled weather. 
My first contact with British authority in that country was not of a happy 
character. I discovered that as a man and an Indian I had no rights. 
More correctly, I discovered that I had no rights as a man because I was 
an Indian. 

But I was not baffled. I thought that this treatment of Indians was an 
excrescence upon a system that was intrinsically and mainly good. I gave 
the government my voluntary and hearty co-operation, criticizing it freely 
where I felt it was faulty, but never wishing its destruction. 

Consequently, when the existence of the. Empire was threatened in 1899 



92 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

by the Boer challenge, I offered my services to it, raised a volunteer am 
bulance corps, and served at several actions that took place for the relief 
of Ladysmith. Similarly in 1906, at the time of the Zulu revolt, I raised a 
* stretcher-bearing party and served till the end of the rebellion. On both 
these occasions I received medals, and was even mentioned in dispatches. 
For my work in South Africa, I was given by Lord Hardinge a Kaiser-i- 
Hind Gold Medal. When the war broken out in 1914 between England 
and Germany, I raised a volunteer ambulance corps in London, chiefly 
students. Its work was acknowledged by the authorities to be valuable. 
Lastly, in India, when a special appeal was made at the War Conference 
in Delhi in 1918 by Lord Chelmsford for recruits, I struggled at the cost 
of my health to raise a corps in Khaira, and the response was being made 
when the hostilities ceased and orders were received that no more recruits 
were wanted. In all these efforts at service I was actuated by the belief that 
it was possible by such service to gain a status of full equality in the Em 
pire for my countrymen. 

The first shock came in the shape of the Rowlatt Act, a law designed 
to rob the people of all real freedom. I felt called upon to lead an inten 
sive agitation against it. Then followed the Punjab horrors, beginning 
with the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh and culminating in crawling orders, 
public floggings, and other indescribable humiliations. I discovered too 
that the plighted word of the Prime Minister to the Moslems of India 
regarding the integrity of Turkey and the holy places of Islam was not 
likely to be fulfilled. But in spite of forebodings and the grave warnings 
of friends, at the Amritsar Congress in 1919 I fought for co-operation 
and for working the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, hoping that the 
Prime Minister would redeem his promise to the Indian Moslems, that 
the Punjab wound would be healed, and that the reforms, inadequate and 
unsatisfactory though they were, marked a new era of hope in the life 
of India. 

But all that hope was shattered. The Khilafat promise was not to be 
redeemed. The Punjab crime was whitewashed; and most of the culprits 
went not only unpunished but remained in service, continued to draw 
pensions from the Indian revenues, and in some cases were even rewarded; 
I saw too that not only did the reforms not mark a change of heart, but 
they were only a method of further draining India of her wealth and of 
prolonging her servitude. 

I came reluctantly to the conclusion that the British connection has 
made India more helpless than she ever was before, politically and eco 
nomically. A disarmed India has no power of resistance against any ag 
gressor if she wants to engage in an armed conflict with him. So much 
is this the case that some of our best men consider that India must take 
generations before she can achieve dominion status. She has become so 
poor that she has little power of resisting famines. 



THE CENTER OF GANDHI S CONTRIBUTION -SATYAGRAHA 93 

Before the British advent, India spun and wove in her millions of cot- 
tages just the supplement she needed for adding to her meager agri 
cultural resources. This cottage industry, so vital for India s existence, has 
been ruined by incredibly heartless and inhuman processes, as described by 
English witnesses. 

Little do town dwellers know how the semi-starved masses of India are 
slowly sinking to lifelessness. Little do they know that their miserable 
comfort represents the brokerage they get for the work they do for the 
foreign exploiter, that the profits and the brokerage are sucked from the 
masses. Little do they realize that the government established by law in 
British India is carried on for this exploitation of the masses. No sophis 
try, no jugglery in figures, can explain away the evidence that the skele 
tons in many villages present to the naked eye. I have no doubt what 
soever that both England and the town dwellers of India will have to 
answer if there is a God above for this crime against humanity, which 
is perhaps unequaled in history. 

The law itself in this country has been used to serve the foreign ex 
ploiter. My unbiased examination of the Punjab martial law cases has 
led me to believe that at least 95 per cent of convictions were wholly bad. 
My experience of political cases in India leads me to the conclusion that 
in nine out of every ten the condemned men were totally innocent. 
Their crime consisted in their love of their country. In ninety-nine cases 
out of a hundred, justice has been denied to Indians as against Euro 
peans in the courts of India. 

This is not an exaggerated picture. It is the experience of almost every 
Indian who has had anything to do with such cases. In my opinion, the 
administration of the law is thus prostituted, consciously or uncon 
sciously, for the benefit of the exploiter. 

The greater misfortune is that the Englishmen and their Indian asso 
ciates in the administration of the country do not know that they are en 
gaged in the crime I have attempted to describe. I am satisfied that many 
Englishmen and Indian officials honestly believe that they are administer 
ing one of the best systems devised in the world, and that India is mak 
ing steady though slow progress. They do not know that a subtle but 
effective system of terrorism, together with an organized display of force 
on the one hand and the deprivation of all powers of retaliation or self- 
defense on the other, have emasculated the people and induced in them 
the habit of simulation. This awful habit has added to the ignorance and 
the self-deception of the administrators. 

Section 124, A, under which I am happily charged, is perhaps the 
prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to 
suppress the liberty of the citizen. Affection cannot be manufactured or 
regulated by law. If one has no affection for a person or system, one 
should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection, so long as 



94 MAHATMA GANDHIAN INTERPRETATION 

he does not contemplate, promote, or incite to violence. But the section 
tinder which Mr. Banker and I are charged is one under which mere pro 
motion of dissaffection is a crime. I have studied some of the cases 
tried under it, and I know that some of the most loved of India s pa 
triots have been convicted under it. I consider it a privilege, therefore, 
to be charged under that section. 

I have endeavored to give in their briefest outline the reasons for my 
disaffection. I have no personal ill will against any single administrator, 
much less can I have any disaffection towards the King s person. But I 
hold it to be a virtue to be disaffected towards a government which in its 
totality has done more harm to India than any previous sj stem. India 
is less manly under the British rule than she ever was before. Holding 
such a belief, I consider it to be a sin to have affection for the system. 
And it has been a precious privilege for me to be able to write what I 
have in various articles tendered in evidence against me. 

In fact, I believe that I have rendered a service to India and England 
by showing in non-co-operation the way out of the unnatural state in 
which both are living. In my humble opinion, non-co-operation with 
evil is as much a duty as is co-operation with good. But in the past, non- 
co-operation has been deliberately expressed in violence to the evildoer. I 
am endeavoring to show to my countrymen that violent non-co-operation 
only multiplies evil and that, as evil can only be sustained by violence, 
withdrawal of support of evil requires complete abstention from violence. 

Nonviolence implies voluntary submission to the penalty for non-co 
operation with evil. I am here, therefore, to invite and submit cheerfully 
to the highest penalty that can be inflicted upon me for what in law is 
a deliberate crime, and what appears to me to be the highest duty of a 
citizen. The only course open to you, the judge, is either to resign your 
post and thus dissociate yourself from evil, if you feel that the law you 
are called upon to administer is an evil and that in reality I am innocent, 
or to inflict on me the severest penalty, if you believe that the system and 
the law you are assisting to administer are good for the people of this 
country and that my activity is therefore injurious to the commonweal. 

Mr. Broomfield, the judge, then gave his full judgment as follows: 

Mr. Gandhi, you have made my task easy in one way by pleading 
guilty to the charge. Nevertheless, what remains, namely, the determi 
nation of a just sentence, is perhaps as difficult a proposition as a judge 
in this country could have to face. The law is no respecter of persons. 
Nevertheless, it will be impossible to ignore the fact that you are in a 
different category from any person I have ever tried or am likely to have 
to try. It would be impossible to ignore the fact that, in the eyes of 
millons of your countrymen, you are a great patriot and a great leader. 



THE CENTER OF GANDHI S CONTRIBUTION SATYAGRAHA 95 

Even those wlio differ from you in politics look upon you as a man of 
high ideals and of noble and of even saintly life. 

I have to deal with you in one character only. It is not my duty and I 
do not presume to judge or criticize you in any other character. It is my 
duty to judge you as a man subject to the law, who by his own admission 
has broken the law and committed what to an ordinary man must be a 
grave offense against the state. I do not forget that you have constantly 
preached against violence and that you have on many occasions, as I 
am willing to believe, done much to prevent violence. But having re 
gard to the nature of your political teaching and the nature of many of 
those to whom it was addressed, how you could have continued to be 
lieve that violence would not be the inevitable consequence it passes my 
capacity to understand. 

There are probably few people in India who do not sincerely regret that 
you should have made it impossible for any government to leave you at 
liberty. But it is so. I am trying to balance what is due to you against 
what appears to me to be necessary to the interest of the public, and I 
propose in passing sentence to follow the precedent of a case, in many 
respects similar to this case, that was decided some twelve years ago; 
I mean the case against Bal Gangadhar Tilak under the same section. 
The sentence that was passed upon him as it finally stood was a sentence 
of simple imprisonment for six years. You will not consider it unreason 
able, I think, that you should be classed with Mr. Tilak, i.e., a sentence 
of two years simple imprisonment on each count of the charge, six 
years in all, which I feel it my duty to pass upon you. And I should like 
to say in doing so that if the course of events in India should make it 
possible for the government to reduce the period and release you, no one 
will be better pleased than L 

Gandhi said in reply: 

I would say one word. Since you have done me the honor of recalling 
the trial of the late Lokamanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, I just want to say 
that I consider it to be the proudest privilege and honor to be associated 
with his name. So far as the sentence itself is concerned, I certainly con 
sider that it is as light as any judge would inflict on me; and so far as the 
whole proceedings are concerned, I must say that I could not have ex 
pected greater courtesy. 

Since the trial of Jesus of Nazareth this was obviously the most 
important trial of history. And it makes you wonder who was on 
trial, for obviously the prisoner was judging the judge and the system 
he represented. And the judge felt it too. That was one of the saving 
things about it, for it held great promise for the future. 



96 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

This going to jail on the part of the Mahatnaa loosed a flood of 
pent-up sacrifice. Tens of thousands followed him to jail in the suc 
ceeding years. The total number is estimated at 200",000. And these 
were the cream of the national leaders. The policy of the government 
was to pick off only the top leaders and send them to jail. The rank 
and file were not sent. You had to be in a certain position to have 
the privilege of going to jail. The Congress had lists of people who 
would take over the movement the moment the man above was sent 
to jaiL Then he in turn would go, and so on down the line. These 
men who were going to jail were men who in doing so were often 
sacrificing their earthly all. They gave up professions and prospects 
and flung them all upon the altar of the freedom of their country. A 
man like Motilal Nehru, the father of Jawaharlal Nehru and one of 
the most successful lawyers in India, a man of whom it was said 
that he was so modernly fashionable that he sent his shirts to Paris 
to be laundered, threw aside practice and fashion, began to dress in 
homespun and to spend much of his time in jail. The mantle of the 
father fell upon his son, and he went even beyond his illustrious 
father in sacrifice and service. This was illustrated by a very poignant 
scene I witnessed at the height of the movement. Jawaharlal Nehru s 
wife, Kamala Nehru, was ill with tuberculosis at Bhowali in the 
Himalayas. It was decided that she should be sent to Germany for 
an operation upon the lungs. I asked her if her husband, who was 
then in the Almora jail, would accompany her to Europe. Her reply: 
"I would not have him go unless he should go as a free man/ The 
government had offered him conditional freedom. He refused and 
said it would be unconditional or not at all. He was given forty- 
eight hours to be with her before she left. Her car took her down 
the mountain to the train and thence to the boat to Europe. His 
car took him back to the jail in the mountains. Neither would 
bend, let alone break, in that critical moment. Later the government 
relented and let him go unconditionally. But it was out of that 
stern stuff the new India was made. When Jawaharlal Nehru would 
be released from jail he was sent to jail fourteen times he would 
say exactly the same things which had put him there before. I 
would hold my breath to watch him come out of jail, say the same 
things, and go back again, and do it without a quiver and without a 
whimper. It was a training of a new kind of army, an army of non 
violent resisters. India was shedding her fears her fears of jails, of 
lathee charges, of her rulers. A timid people were being forged into a 



THE CENTER OF GANDHI S CONTRIBUTION SATYAGRAHA 97 

very courageous and unconquerable host. When charges of the police 
with their long bamboo poles, called lathees, took place to break up 
the forbidden assemblies of the people, the resisters would stand up 
under the blows; and when they fell, they fell without resistance and 
often without hate. It was the greatest training in spirit that any 
nation has ever undergone. 

Webb Miller, special correspondent of the New York World- 
Telegram, describes the scenes in Dharasana Camp, Surat, Bombay 
Presidency, during the Non-co-operation Movement of 1930: 

During the morning I saw and heard hundreds of blows inflicted by 
the police, but not a single blow returned by the volunteers. ... In no 
case did I see a volunteer even raise an arm to deflect the blows from 
lathees. There were no outcries from the beaten Swarajists, only groans 
after they had submitted to their beating. ... In eighteen years of re 
porting in twenty-two countries, during which I have witnessed innumer 
able civil disturbances, riots, street fights, and rebellions, I have never 
witnessed such harrowing scenes as at Dharasana. The Western mind 
can grasp violence returned by violence, can understand a fight, but is, 
I found, perplexed and baffled by the sight of men advancing coldly and 
deliberately and submitting to beating without attempting defense. 
Sometimes the scenes were so painful that I had to turn away momentar- 
ily. 

One surprising feature was the discipline of the volunteers. It seemed 
they were thoroughly imbued with the Gandhi s nonviolence Creed, and 
the leaders constantly stood in front of the ranks imploring them to re 
member that Gandhi s soul was with them. 6 

There were breakdowns, of course. Mobs forgetting the training 
in nonviolence would revert to violence and bloodshed. When they 
did so, Gandhiji would fast against those who had strayed from 
the narrow way of nonviolence. And if they didn t respond, he would 
call off the movement. He had to fight a fight on two fronts against 
the imperial power and against his own followers, who, with 
"Mahatma Gandhi fa" jai" (Hail to Mahatma Gandhi) on their lips, 
would do violence. That he finally won out on both fronts is a 
tribute to the indomitable spirit of the man. When the suppression 
of the movement would get strongest and most apparently trium 
phant, then the spirit of the Mahatma arose to exultation. For he 

Richard B. Gregg, The Power of Non-Violence, pp. 35-36. Used by per 
mission The Fellowship of Reconciliation. 



98 MAHATMA GANDHI AN- INTERPRETATION 

had a philosophy of suffering: "They must not expect the struggle 
to close quickly. Time runs always in favor of the sufferer, for the 
simple reason that tyranny becomes more and more exposed as it 
is continued. In reality struggle appears to have a longer lease of 
life when the result is a certainty." The darkest hours would seem 
to be in moments when the Mahatma would call off the movement 
because of a departure from its spirit. Even then the Mahatma knew 
that he was the stronger for acknowledging his mistakes and the 
sins of his followers: 

I am painfully conscious of my imperfections, and therein lies all the 
strength I possess. . . . Let the opponent glory in our humiliations and 
so-called defeat. It is better to be charged with cowardice than to be 
guilty of denial of an oath and sin against God. It is a million times 
better that I should be the laughingstock of the world than that I should 
act with insincerity towards myself. ... I know that the drastic reversal 
of practically the whole of the program may be politically unsound and 
unwise, but there is no doubt it is religiously sound. The country will 
have gained by my humiliation and confession of error. I lay claim to no 
superhuman powers. I wear the same corruptible flesh as the weakest of 
my fellow beings wear, and am, therefore, as liable to err as any. 

The sheer courage of acknowledging your blunders and errors while 
carrying on a war for freedom is breath-taking. And yet here he was 
profoundly right again. For he was never so tall and straight as 
when bent under the agony of his own mistakes. Even when he 
stumbled, he stumbled forward. Everything furthered him, for he 
was essentially honest. He was disconcertingly honest. He said every 
thing he thought Dr. John R. Mott once remarked, "The greatest 
thing you have ever done is the observance of your day of silence." 
Yet Gandhiji said to Louis Fischer about it: 

I used to travel morning, noon, and night in hot trains, and on open 
bullock carts throughout hot India; and thousands of people would come 
to ask me questions, make pleas, and beg that I pray with them, and I 
used to get tired; so I introduced the weekly day of silence. Since then 
I have dothed this weekly day of silence in all kinds of moral virtues and 
given it philosophic content, but actually it was because I wanted a day 
off. 

It is disconcerting to bare your inmost self when in quiet conversa 
tion with your friends and to strip your motives bare, but to do it 



THE CENTER OF GANDHI S CONTRIBUTION SATYAGRAHA 99 

while in the face of the "enemy" shows a startling bravery. To say to 
your "enemy," "I am weak here and there/ is to court disaster by 
the ordinary canons. But Gandhi could say with Paul: "I ... glory 
in my infirmities, ... for when I am weak, then am I strong/ and 
strangely enough, he was. 

But Gandhiji demanded not only outward nonviolence in the 
face of provocation; he demanded nonviolence even in thought: 

The votary must refuse to be cowed down by his superior, without be 
ing angry. He must, however, be ready to sacrifice his post, however re 
munerative it may be. Whilst sacrificing his all, if the votary has no sense 
of irritation against his employer, he has the "ahimsa" of the brave in 
him. I assume that a fellow passenger threatens my son with assault, and 
I reason with the would-be assailant who then turns upon me. If then 
I take his blows with grace and dignity, without harboring any ill will 
against him, I exhibit the "ahimsa" of the brave. ... If I succeed in 
curbing my temper every time, and, though able to give blow for blow, 
I refrain from doing so, I shall develop the "ahimsa" of the brave which 
will never fail me and which will compel recognition from the most con 
firmed adversaries. . . . Satyagraha is always superior to armed resistance. 
This can only be effectively proved by demonstration, not by argument. 
It is the weapon that adorns the strong. It can never adorn the weak. By 
weak is meant the weak in mind and spirit, not in body. . . , The sword 
of the Satyagrahi is love and the unshakable firmness that comes from 
it. ... A Satyagrahi must always be ready to die with a smile on his face, 
without retaliation and without rancor in his heart. Some people had come 
to have a wrong idea that Satyagraha meant jail-going only; perhaps fac 
ing lathee blows and nothing more. Such Satyagraha could not bring in 
dependence. To win independence they had to learn the art of dying 
without killing. 

He goes on and lays down rules for the behavior of the Satya- 
grahis: 

Anyone summoned to appear before a court should * do so. No de 
fense should be offered and no pleaders engaged in the matter. If a 
.fine is imposed, with the alternative of imprisonment, imprisonment 
should be accepted. If only a fine is imposed, it ought not to be paid. . . . 
There should be no demonstrations of grief or otherwise made by the 
remaining Satyagrahis by reason of the arrest and imprisonment of 
their comrade. It cannot be too often repeated that we court imprison 
ment and may not complain of it when we actually receive it. When once 
we are imprisoned, it is our duty*to conform to all prison regulations. . . . 



100 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

A Satyagrahi may not resort to surreptitious practices. All that the 
Satyagrahis do can only and must be done openly. To evade no punish 
ment, to accept all suffering joyfully, and to regard it as a possibility for 
further strengthening his soul force, is the duty of every single one of 
my followers. 

He gathers up his ideas into fifteen commandments: 

As an individual: 

1. A Satyagrahi, i.e., a civil resister, will harbor no anger. 

2. He will suffer the anger of the opponent. 

3. In doing so he will put up with assaults from the opponent, never 
retaliate; but he will not submit, out of fear of punishment or the 
like, to any order given in anger. 

4. When any person in authority seeks to arrest a civil resister, he will 
voluntarily submit to the arrest, and he will not resist the attach 
ment or removal of his own property, if any, when it is sought to be 
confiscated by the authorities. 

5. If a civil resister has any property in his possession as a trustee, he 
will refuse to surrender it, even though in defending it he might 
lose his life. He will, however, never retaliate. 

6. Nonretaliation excludes swearing and cursing. 

7. Therefore a civil resister will never insult his opponent, and there 
fore also, he may not take part in many of the newly coined cries 
which are contrary to the spirit of ahimsa. 

8. A civil resister will not salute the Union Jack, nor will he insult it or 
officials, English or Indian. 

9. In course of the struggle if one insults an official or commits an as 
sault upon him, a civil resister will protect such official or officials 
from the insult or attack even at the risk of his life. 

As a prisoner: 

10. As a prisoner, a civil resister will behave courteously toward prison 
officials and will observe all such discipline of the prison as is not 
contrary to self-respect; as for instance, while he will salaam the of 
ficials in the usual manner, he will not perform any humiliating 
gyrations and will refuse to shout "Victory to SarJcar [government]/ 
or the like. He will take cleanly cooked and cleanly served food, 
which is not contrary to his religion, and will refuse to take food in 
sultingly served or served in unclean vessels. 

1 1 . A civil resister will make no distinction between an ordinary prisoner 
and himself, will in no way regard himself as superior to the rest; 
nor will he ask for any conveniences that may not be necessary for 
keeping his body in good health and condition. He is entitled to ask 



THE CENTER OF GANDHI S CONTRIBUTION SATYAGRAHA 101 

for such conveniences as may be required for his physical and spirit 
ual well-being. 

12. A civil resister may not fast for want of conveniences whose depri 
vation does not involve any injury to one s self-respect. 

As a unit: 

13. A civil resister will joyfully obey all the orders issued by the leader of 
the corps, whether they please him or not. 

14. He will carry out orders in the first instance even though they appear 
to him to be insulting, inimical, or foolish, and then appeal to high 
er authority. He is free to determine the fitness of the corps to 
satisfy him before joining it; but after he has joined it, it becomes his 
duty to submit to its discipline, irksome or otherwise. If the sum total 
of the energy for the corps appears to a member to be improper or 
immoral, he has a right to sever his connection; but, being within it, 
he has no right to commit a breach of its discipline. 

15. No civil resister is to expect maintenance for his dependents. It 
would be an accident if any such provision was made. A civil resister 
entrusts his dependents to the care of God. Even in ordinary warfare 
wherein hundreds of thousands give themselves up to it, they are 
able to make no previous provision. How much more, then, should 
such be the case in Satyagraha? It is the universal experience that in 
such times hardly anybody is left to starve. 

When one takes the attitude of the real Satyagrahi, it throws 
around him something that disarms his enemies. The Moslems of 
Noakhali slaughtered the Hindus in mass slaughter. The Mahatma 
deliberately went into these scenes of desolation and hate, and went 
unarmed. India held its breath. Would he too be slaughtered? He 
trudged from village to village, calling on the people to restore the 
burned houses. He himself stayed in the houses of Moslems wherever 
possible. The amazing courage of it! It so moved India that Mrs. 
Sarojini Naidu, a Hindu, exclaimed: "Like Christ of old he trudges 
the muddy paths of Noakhali and brings peace." A hitherto un 
published account of an incident in Noakhali was given by a highly 
placed newspaperman who was not allowed at the time to publish 
it for obvious reasons. But he now gives me permission to publish 
it. 

When the Mahatma would trudge from village to village on his peace 
mission, the goondas [bad characters] would flee before him, afraid to 
face him. TTiose who did come and face him almost always were con- 



102 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

verted by the Mahatma and promised to hold themselves responsible 
for keeping the peace. He arranged with the government that no one 
should be arrested in his prayer meetings. One Moslem came and was un 
affected by the Mahatma. He grabbed the Mahatma by the throat and 
choked him till he was blue in the face. In the midst of it the Mahatma 
kept on smiling and even laughing. The absence of resistance and even 
of resentment so unnerved the attacker that he desisted. Later he came 
and fell at the Mahatma s feet and begged forgiveness for what he had 
done. The Mahatma carried on as though nothing had happened. 

One of India s greatest philosophers, Sir S. Radhakrishnan, sums 
lip Gandhiji and his nonviolence movement: 

Gandhiji embodies the wounded pride of India, and in his Satyagraha 
is reflected the eternal patience of her wisdom. Gandhiji admits that 
submission to injustice is worse than suffering it. He tells us that we can 
resist through an act of nonviolence, which is an active force. If blood 
be shed, let it be our blood. Cultivate the quiet courage of dying without 
killing; for man lives freely only by his readiness to die, if need be, at 
the hands of his brother, never by killing him. . . . When faced by crisis 
they would prefer the four walls of a cell to a seat in the Cabinet or a 
tent on the battlefield. They would be prepared to stand against a wall 
to be spat upon, to be stoned, to be shot. Gandhiji today is not a free 
man. You may crucify the body of such a man; but the light in him, 
which is from the divine flame of truth and love, cannot be put out. 

This was written when he was in jail: "Gandhiji today is not a free 
man." But as we look back, we see that he was one of the freest of 
men even in jail. 

All of this seems idealistic and impossible. But not when you 
see it applied on a mass scale to a political situation. Then you see 
the sheer power of it, a strange new power that shakes you to your 
depths, and shakes a nation to its depths the nation that adopts 
it and the nation against whom it is adopted. At first you are 
disposed to incredulity or mockery, and then something gets past 
your armor and gets you. I remember how I recoiled against it 
when it was first suggested. I wrote Mahatma Gandhi begging him 
not to begin nonviolent civil disobedience. I thought it too danger 
ous. And then came his reply: 

May I assure you I shall not embark on civil disobedience without just 
cause, not without proper precautions and more, not without copious 



THE CENTER OF GANDHI S CONTRIBUTION SATYAGRAHA 103 

praying. You have, perhaps, no notion of the wrong that this government 
has done and is still doing to the vital part of our being. But I must not 
argue. I invite you to pray with and for n*e. 

Behind the gentle words there was a determination of steel. And 
there was always a sense of being an instrument of something bigger 
than the occasion. He felt he was an instrument of God for a world 
situation and some day his method would be needed in world affairs. 
He reminds the representatives of the old political methods, who 
call his plans impracticable and fantastic, that 

the steam engineer was laughed at by the horse dealer till he saw that 
even horses could be transported by the steam engine. The electrical 
engineer was no doubt called a faddist and a madman in steam-engine 
circles till work was actually done over the wires. It may be long before 
the law of love will be recognized in international affairs. Yet if only 
we watched the latest developments in Europe and Eastern Asia with an 
eye to essentials, we could see how the world is moving steadily to realize 
that between nation and nation, as between man and man, force has 
failed to solve problems. 

Since that was written, we have seen the world situation go from 
bad to worse under the reign of force. It is solving nothing. It is 
getting us deeper and deeper into the mire. Force begets force; 
hate begets hate; and toughness begets a greater toughness. It is 
all a descending spiral, and the end is destruction for everybody. 

Gandhi has taken this method out of the realm of idealism, has 
applied it on a vast scale, and has demonstrated its practicability, 
India has won her independence, and she won it by nonviolent 
means. It took thirty years to win it, but the time would have been 
greatly shortened had not violence crept into the movement. To 
the degree that it has remained nonviolent it has been power pure, 
unadulterated power.; Its only weakness was in the departure from 
its own principles and practice. Had India been true to the principles 
and practice of the Mahatma s nonviolent movement, she would 
have assumed the moral leadership of the world. The violence that 
crept into the movement when it was on and the violence that has 
attended the adjustments between Pakistan and India have tended 
to dim that moral leadership, and yet through it all the amazing 
power of Mahatma Gandhi and his method shines. Nothing can 
dim that. Just as the spirit of Jesus shines all the more against the 



104 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

background of the treachery of Judas, so the spirit of Mahatma 
Gandhi shines all the more against the background of the betrayal 
of his spirit, often by those who named his name. 

The method of nonviolent non-co-operation would make any 
nation safe, if really applied. For you cannot rule over a nation 
unless that nation allows you. You cannot rule over a people that 
simply withdraws from you and leaves you high and dry. And when 
you react by violence and throw people in jail, then your weapons are 
struck out of your hands. All you succeed in doing is not to punish 
the persons but to honor them. They become national heroes. That 
happened in India: the more people were sent to jail, the more 
they were esteemed. You were nobody in India if you had not been 
to jail! And the length of time spent in jail determined the degree 
of affection produced. And not only were your weapons struck out of 
your hands, but you were weakened the more you struck. The more 
physically oppressive you became, the weaker you became. And vice 
versa. The more the nonviolent resister for truth resists with 
patience, the stronger he becomes. Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal 
Nehru were made by jail. These periods of lull between storms gave 
them time to reflect, to gather direction, and to write. Jawaharlal 
Nehru wrote his great books in jail, and they are in increasing de 
mand today as the world gradually sees the meaning and power of 
this nonviolent movement. What can you do with a movement like 
that? The more you attempt to crush it by physical violence, the 
weaker you become, and the stronger they become! Another thing 
must be noted: "Almost every man who went to jail became spiritual 
ized in the process. . . . Almost all of us turned to the study of 
religion and prayer. We came out better men than when we went^ 
in." These are the words of a disciple of the Mahatma who had" 
spent years in jail. You shut up people in jails only to deepen their 
spiritual life and broaden their mental outlook and prepare them for 
moral and political leadership. Government jails became training 
schools for leadership in the new India. 

Gandhiji sums up the meaning of the movement in these words: 

Passive resistance is an all-sided sword; it can be used any how; it 
blesses him who uses it and also against whom it is used, without drawing 
a drop of blood. It produces far-reaching results. It never rusts, and it 
cannot be stolen. The sword of passive resistance does not require a 
scabbard, and one cannot be forcibly dispossessed of it. ... It is quite 



THE CENTER OF GANDHI S CONTRIBUTION SATYAGRAHA 105 

plain that passive resistance thus understood is infinitely superior to 
physical force, and that it requires greater courage than the latter. 

This method and this spirit have been deeply implanted into the 
soul of India. In many ways they are God s most precious deposit in 
a world about to ruin itself by physical force. This method has been 
demonstrated on a vast scale, and the results have been amazing, 
almost beyond belief. People who were cooped up in jails for years 
now ruling the destines of 300,000,000 people! Last year in Travan- 
core state force was riding high, and tyranny supreme, and the state 
Congress leaders expelled from the state or in jail. This year those 
same men are running the state, and the center of that tyranny, Sir 
C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar, the prime minister, has left in disgrace. 
His regime of tyranny went down like a house of cards, defeated 
by its own methods. 

There are perhaps many Western Christians who cannot get at 
the truth in the Mahatma because it is wrapped in strange Eastern 
and Hindu forms. But those forms are not of the essence of things. 
It is the thing itself that matters. Here was a man who applied 
on a national scale the truth that we Christians see in the Cross. 
There is much more in the Cross than Mahatma Gandhi applied 
God seeking us redemptively, bearing in his own body our sins, 
and stretching out his arms from a cross welcoming a penitent 
humanity. We see this and more at the Cross. But never in human 
history has so much light been shed on the Cross as has been 
through this one man, and that man not even called a Christian. 
Had not our Christianity been so vitiated and overlain by our 
identification with unchristian attitudes and policies in public and 
private life, we would have seen at once the kinship between Gandhi s 
method and the Cross. Non-Christians saw it instinctively. 

Vallabhai Patel, the home minister, said to me in the early 
days of the Gandhian movement, "It is you Christians who can 
understand our movement better than anyone else/ for he saw it 
had a kinship with the Cross. A Hindu non-co-operator who had 
been in jail said to me years ago, "We know now what you Chris 
tians are talking about when you talk about the Cross, for we are 
taking it." That had in it an unconscious barb you talk about the 
cross; we take it! A Christian judge said to me in the days when 
men were going to jail in droves: "They are more Christian than I 
am, though they are nearly all Hindus. They can take only a very 



106 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

limited number of tilings into fail with them, and, as I have to 
approve what they take, I find that nearly all ask to take the 
New Testament with them." Many of them in being sentenced by 
a Christian judge would say as they left the courtroom: "Father, 
forgive them; for they know not what they do." In one place, Patna, 
it was Easter, and the Hindu leader of the movement sent a note to 
the British superintendent of police saying: "Today is Easter, 
and you will probably want to go to church, so we are not sending the 
usual batch of volunteers to be arrested." A gentle hint! In another 
place where the volunteers were arrested as soon as they crossed a 
certain fixed point, word was sent to the magistrate who gave the 
order for arrest: "It is hot, and we do not want to give you un 
necessary trouble during the heat of the day, so we will not send 
the volunteers until evening time. Please be ready to arrest fifty at 
five o clock." So permeated with the Christian spirit did the move 
ment become that the Bishop of Madras, an Englishman, said in a 
public address: "I frankly confess, although it deeply grieves me to 
say it, that I see in Mr. Gandhi, the patient sufferer for the cause of 
righteousness and mercy, a truer representative of the crucified 
Saviour than the men who have thrown him into prison and yet call 
themselves by the name of Christ." Lionel Fielden wrote: "How 
strange it seems that Christians, and in particular Christian ministers, 
serving in their churches and repeating the words Blessed are the 
peace-makers: for they shall be called the children of God/ can view 
with indifference and even approval the incarceration of Gandhi 
by the Pilates of today." Rufus Jones said: "I also discovered that 
Gandhi knew very little about another man whom he very much 
resembled in spirit, John Woolman, the most remarkable and the 
most saintly of all the Quakers of the eighteenth century and a 
striking example of soul force/ " Always in dealing with Gandhi 
and his movement the mind would instinctively turn to the Christian 
spirit of it. A Hindu follower .of Gandhiji said to me one day in 
reference to a Moslem: "Fm afraid I didn t feel very Christian 
toward him." A Hindu talks about not feeling Christian toward a 
Mohammedan! Mixed, but illuminating! A Hindu premier of one 
of the provinces of India, one of the finest followers of the Mahatma, 
said to a Hindu doctor after going through a leper asylum: "I con 
gratulate you. You are doing a real bit of Christian service here." 
This same premier said to me: "We will need all tiie help we 
can get from the West in the making of the New India, provided 



THE CENTER OF GANDHI S CONTRIBUTION -SATYAGRAHA 107 

they come in the spirit of Christ. If they come. in the spirit of 
Christ, they can come by the boat load." It was the Gandhi move 
ment that made them see and appreciate the spirit of Christ. A move 
ment that was fighting the West was showing to the West its own 
Saviour in a new way. 

A Hindu summed it up to me in these words: "We Hindus and 
you Christians should change sacred books. The Bhagavad-Gita 
gives philosophic reasons for war, while the New Testament teaches 
peace, and yet we are more peace-minded and you are more war- 
minded. If we changed sacred books, it would suit us both better." 
It was said only half-seriously, but it had a sting in it. 

So East and West are drawn to Gandhi. The Hindu strains in 
Gandhi appeal to the Hindu, and the Christian strains appeal to 
the Christian. Has God been preparing a man who by his back 
ground and training and spirit would appeal to both East and West? 
And has God let him go through the tragic death, summing up in 
his death what he lived for in life, and has God dramatically called 
through that death to the nations arming and getting ready for 
another conflict called them to a way out of war? Is Gandhi God s 
eleventh-hour call to the nations drifting to their doom? 



CHAPTER Yin 



TLe Fastings of the Mahatma 



o. 



NE of the most difficult things for the Western 
mind to understand about the Mahatma was his philosophy of 
fasting. Lord Linlithgow wrote to the Mahatma: "I regard the use of 
a fast for political purposes as a form of political blackmail [himsa] 
for which there can be no moral justification." Many others felt it 
was a form of coercion. But to the Mahatma it was part and parcel 
of his philosophy of truth and nonviolence. For a long time even 
some of his colleagues thought it an eccentric and whimsical notion 
of the Mahatma. It is only now that the amazing moral power 
wrapped up in it is beginning to dawn upon our minds. It is a 
dangerous weapon, as the Mahatma recognized, for its blade is 
sharp, and he warned against its indiscriminate use. But when 
rightly used, it has an amazing power, as the Mahatma proved. For 
through his fasts the Mahatma accomplished almost as much as 
through his nonviolent passive resistance. 

Mahatma Gandhi was an activist a moral and spiritual activist. 
And fasting was one of his strategies of activism, in many ways his 
most powerful. To go to jail on a mass scale was a part of that 
activism. It brought to bear a moral force upon the heart and con 
science of the authorities who jailed them. The sight of vast 
numbers of obviously decent citizens going to jail for a principle 
and for a cause is a very moving and morally searching thing. What 
makes them do it? What is the matter with things when men and 
women are willing to go to jail en masse in this quiet but dramatic 
fashion? What s it all about? It is a moral judgment day on the 
persons and the system against which it is used. But fasting goes 
deeper still and is used by one person to call attention to and to appeal 
against certain things considered morally wrong and intolerable. This 
focuses the moral issue, centers it in the suffering of one person, and 
makes one act and act quickly lest the sufferer die. 

To get at the core of the matter let us be reminded that fasting 
can be of four types: 

108 



THE FASTINGS OF THE MAHATMA 109 

1. An occasional fast to relieve an overworked digestive system. 
This is physically cleansing. Someone has said, "We live off half 
we eat, and the doctors live off the other half/ There is only one 
sure way to reduce, and that is to reduce the amount we eat. Fasting 
is an obvious and simple way of getting to that end. It is physically 
beneficial. 

2. Fasting as a means of personal spiritual discipline. Mahatma 
Gandhi used this again and again for his own sake, for self-purifica 
tion. When he felt that he was not an adequate instrument of the 
Divine, he undertook a fast to bring himself back to a more complete 
alignment. For instance, he fasted for twenty-one days because of the 
Hindu-Moslem tensions and riots. He did not fast against those riots, 
but against himself because he was not strong enough to stop those 
riots and tensions. He said: 

I launched non-co-operation. Today I find that people are non-co 
operating against one another, without any regard for nonviolence. 
What is the reason? Only this, that I myself am not completely non 
violent. If I were practicing nonviolence to perfection, I should not have 
seen the violence I see around me today. My fast is therefore a penance, 
I blame no one. I blame only myself. I have lost the power wherewith to 
appeal to people. Defeated and helpless, I must submit my petition to 
His Court. Only He will listen, no one else. 

This is fasting for self-purification, to become a better instrument 
of the Divine. 

3. Fasting where one is absorbed in a moral and spiritual issue. 
For the time being hunger is in abeyance as the soul fights its way 
through to conclusions. This was the fast of Jesus for forty days in 
the wilderness. The great issue of how the Kingdom of God was 
to come had to be fought out, and for forty days he weighed this 
issue, weighed that, and came to his conclusions. "And he ate 
nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry" 
(Luke 4:2 Revised Standard Version). Hunger asserted itself when 
the moral issue was decided. That is fasting by moral and -spiritual 
preoccupation. 

4. Fasting to change the moral and spiritual attitudes of the 
one or ones against whom you are fasting. But that is not a fair 
statement of this kind of fasting, for it sounds belligerent and harsh. 
Rather it is taking on yourself suffering, hoping that the appeal 



110 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

of this suffering will be used to change the moral attitudes of the 
one you love in spite of what he is doing. Says Jag Parvesh Chader: 

But what should a nonviolent person do when he finds his friends, 
relations, or countrymen refuse to give up an immoral way of life, and 
all arguments prove futile to evoke any response? An Ahimsa-ite must not 
use a semblance of force to convert the wrongdoer. He even eschews 
the use of any harsh language. The first step is gentle and affectionate 
persuasion. When it fails to produce any salutary effect, voluntarily he 
invites suffering in his own body to open the eyes of the person who is 
determined to see no light. 

It is an intense moral appeal, re-enforced by his own willingness to 
suffer. 

When Mahatma Gandhi was in the Yeravda jail, I raised this 
question with him as he sat on a cot in the open courtyard: "Isn t 
your fasting a species of coercion?" 

"Yes," he said very slowly, "the same kind of coercion which 
Jesus exercises upon you from the cross." 

I was silent. It was so obviously true that I am silent again every 
time I think of it. He was profoundly right. The years have clarified 
it. And I now see it for what it is: a very morally potent and re 
demptive power if used rightly. But it has to be used rightly. It is 
not for indiscriminate use. 

When the Mahatma would advise against others using the fast, my 
first reaction was: "Oh, he s pre-empting the field, so he alone can 
stand out as morally unique and superior." It was an unkind thought, 
I know. I was wrong. He warned against the indiscriminate use of 
fasting, for he knew that to have any appeal one must have earned 
the right to fast by proving one s moral soundness and affection by 
the life he has lived and the service he has rendered. The Mahatma 
couldn t say that, so his pre-emptory advice against others fasting 
seemed that he wanted the field. It was not so. Then again he 
warned that "in the very nature of things fasting for any selfish 
gain puts itself out of court. The Satyagrahi must not fast to get 
himself released from jail, or have other benefits conferred upon him 
while in jail." There seems one exception to this when the Mahatma 
fasted while he was in prison to get certain rights restored to him 
which he had in a previous imprisonment, namely, the right to 
edit the Hari/arz and to carry on his work while in jail in behalf of 
the depressed classes. But this wasn t a personal privilege he was 



THE FASTINGS OF THE MAHATMA 111 

fasting for. It was a privilege of service to the underprivileged. 
When we analyze his fasts, they were disinterested and re 
demptive. He says, "At a very early age I began fasting for self- 
purification, and then I took a prolonged fast for an erring daughter 
of a very dear friend/ The first public fast undertaken by the 
Mahatma was in South Africa in connection with the indentured 
laborers who had joined the Satyagraha struggle. His first fast in 
India was undertaken in 1918 in connection with the Ahmadabad 
millworkers strike. After Gandhiji had fasted, for three days, the 
mill owners and workers came to a settlement. (Incidentally, the 
relationships between the mill owners and workers at Ahmadabad 
are the best in India, and the reason is that both sides have been 
deeply influenced by the spirit of the Mahatma, whose Ashram was 
situated on the opposite bank of the river.) The next fast was a 
fast undertaken by the Mahatma as a penance for the Chauri Chaura 
tragedy of 1922 when twenty-one policemen were killed by a mob. 
In September, 1924, after the Kohat riots, the Mahatma undertook 
a fast for twenty-one days at the house of Maulana Mohammed Ali 
"as an effective prayer both to Hindus and Moslems not to commit 
suicide." Then followed in 1932 a fast unto death as a protest against 
the Communal Award. ^This Communal Award was given by the 
Ramsay MacDonald government to the untouchables in the form 
of a separate electorate. This would mean, said the Mahatma, that 
the untouchables would forever remain untouchables, for their 
status is fixed by a separate electorate. He wanted to wipe out un* 
touchability. He also protested against this bisection of the Hindus 
by setting the untouchables off into a separate electorate. He was 
profoundly right subsequent events have proved it. The fast was 
broken cm the twenty-sixth day with the signing of the Poona Pact, 
in which the Hindus themselves gave the untouchables a high 
proportion of seats in the legislatures without a separate electorate, 
In the same year the Mahatma undertook a sympathetic fast with 
Apa Patwardhan, whose request to do scavenger s work in jail had 
been refused by the authorities. Hindus fasting for the privilege of 
doing scavenger s work, the cleaning of the latrines! After they 
had fasted two days, the authorities granted the necessary permission. 
In May, 1933, he undertook a fast of twenty-one days for the puri 
fication of himself and his associates. This was followed by a short 
fast in 19.34 as a penance for an assault on a Sanatanist (orthodox 
Hindu) by a social reformer. In 1939 the Mahatma commenced a 



112 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

fast unto death in connection with the happenings in the native 
state of Rajkot, his own state. The viceroy s intervention led to a 
settlement and the termination of the fast. On February 10, 1943, 
Gandhiji, while a prisoner in the palace of the Aga Khan, the spirit 
ual head of the Moslem Khoja community, undertook a fast of three 
weeks as the government fastened on him and his associates the 
responsibility for the August, 1942, riots and general destruction 
and disorder. The viceroy said Gandhi was responsible, and Gandhi 
charged that the wholesale arrests of the national leaders and the 
refusal of the viceroy to see him and try to come to a settlement 
were responsible. When he began the fast, the government offered to 
release him lest he die on their hands. 

Three fasts I mention separately. One was the fast in the 
Sabarmati Ashram in December, 1925. Two boys were guilty of 
immorality in the Ashram. He fasted for seven days. At the close 
of the fast he said to the boys: 

Why did I take that step? There were three ways open to me: (1) 
Punishment. I could follow the easy road of corporal punishment. As a 
teacher I had no option but to reject this accepted method, for I know 
by experience that it is futile and even harmful. (2) Indifference. I could 
have left you to your fate. This indifference did not appeal to me. ( 3 ) 
The third was the method of Love. Your character is to me a sacred 
trust. I must therefore try to enter into your lives, your innermost 
thoughts, your desires, and your impulses, and help you to eradicate 
impurities, if any. I discovered irregularities among you. What was I to 
do? Punishing you was out of the question. Being the chief among the 
teachers, I had to take the punishment on myself in the form of fasting 
which breaks today. I have learned a lot during these days of quiet 
thinking. What have you? Could you assure me that you w>U never 
repeat your mistake? 

To those brokenhearted boys he offered forgiveness and a restoration 
of fellowship. But it was not a cheap forgiveness, based upon his 
authority as the head of the institution. It was a forgiveness that had 
the stain of his own blood upon it. Since he had taken their sins 
into his own heart and had suffered, he could now offer a forgive 
ness that was an expiation and an appeal. On this he comments: 

If I am to identify myself with the grief of the least in India, aye, if 
I have the power, the least in the world, let me identify myself with the 



THE FASTINGS OF THE MAHATMA 113 

sins of the little ones who are under my care. And so doing in aH hu 
mility I hope some day to see God Truth face to face. 

He was never more Christlike than in those seven days of identify 
ing himself with the sins of the little ones under his care. Identifying 
himself with the sins of the little ones under his care that is the 
meaning of the Cross. That is what God did: "God was in Christ, 
reconciling the world unto himself/ To reconcile he had to bear 
our own sins in his own body on a tree. That is the supreme identi 
fication identification at the place of our sin. And we cannot be 
too grateful to the Mahatma for illuminating the Cross for us. No 
wonder the Hindu editor of the Indian Social Reformer exclaimed: 
"The Mahatma in jail has achieved in a short while what Christian 
missions with all their resources of men and money have not done 
in one hundred years. He has turned India s face to Christ and the 
Cross." l That leaves a sting, but a healing sting, for we are grateful 
that the face of a people was turned toward Christ and the Cross, 
even though we were not the agents. Perhaps "when the mists have 
rolled away/ and understanding is not clouded by outgrown clashes, 
we shall see that after all the patient work of humble missionaries 
has laid the foundations some of them, at least for this turning 
of the face of the people to the Cross. 

There is another fast that needs to be looked at, for to me it is 
one of the most astonishing of all the fast over the Rajkot situa 
tion. The Mahatma fasted that democratic reforms might be put 
in the state. In the middle of the fast he appealed to the viceroy, 
who intervened, and the chief justice gave an award which conceded 
what the Mahatma wanted in the way of democratic reforms. The fast 
seemed a success. The London News Chronicle described the 
settlement as "not merely a personal triumph, but a remarkable 
victory for the method of passive resistance/ It was a success to 
everybody except the Mahatma. His very sensitive moral nature 
began to see that he had mixed up his methods. He had fasted that 
was a moral appeal to the Riiler. And he had appealed to the viceroy, 
who gave a settlement that was a legal way out He had mixed 
his methods. This, the prime minister of Rajkot said, constituted a 
threat: "You are still hanging the award over my head." So the 
Mahatma renounced the award, apologizing to the viceroy and the 

1 May, 1922. 



114 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

chief justice for the needless trouble he had given them. He appealed 
to the prime minister to come to terms with the people as if the award 
were not in existence. 

I recognize my error. At the end of my fast I had permitted myself 
to say that it had succeeded as no previous fast had done. I now see it 
was tainted with himsa, or coercion. My fast to be pure should have been 
addressed only to the Talcore Sahib [the Ruler], and I should have been 
content to die if I could not have melted his heart. 

Concerning the effect of this rightabout-face on his co-workers 
he says: 

Many of them are filled with misgivings. My exposition of ahimsa is 
new to them. They see no cause for my repentance. They think that I 
am giving up a great chance created by the award. ... I have told them 
that their fears are unjustified, and that every act of purification, every 
accession of courage, adds to the strength of the cause of the people. 

Gandhijf $ aged sister was perturbed when she heard that he had 
been defeated. "Tell sister/ said Gandhiji, "there is no defeat in the 
confession of one s error. The confession itself is a victory," He says 
in conclusion: 

Only trust can beget trust. I lacked it myself. But at last I have re 
gained my lost courage. My faith in the sovereign efficiency of ahimsa 
burns brighter for my confessions and repentances. 2 

What are we to think of a man who, at the end of a great period 
of suffering and triumph through that suffering, renounces his 
victory because the means of attaining it were tainted? An English 
paper said: "His passive methods are an interesting contrast to 
power politics." In power politics you gain your ends of power with 
any means at your disposal. But the uniqueness of Gandhi was in 
this: he was more concerned with means than with ends. He knew 
that if you kept to right means, you would come out to right 
ends. A big business executive in America is going about speaking 
to service clubs: "Do the right thing, and right results will follow. 
The moral universe guarantees it." But the Mahatma not only 
preached it; he practiced it, and practiced it at the moment of seem- 

"Harijan, May 17, 1939. 



THE FASTINGS OF THE MAHATMA 115 

ing victory. This is so morally refreshing that it makes you feel as 
though youVe had a soul bath. 

I sit here by the window in this Indian city, and in front of me 
rise the high, forbidding walls of a jail. Police guards parade night 
and day. Inside is an attempt to make men good by coercion. It is 
a failure an expensive failure for 75 per cent of the prisoners who 
go out come back again. It is not redemptive. They try to make 
people good by giving suffering. The Mahatma made people good 
by taking suffering. And yet we who are practicing coercion in every 
phase of our civilization pretend to be shocked at the Mahatma s 
practice of coercion through fasting. It is a coercion, just as God 
coerces us by setting us in a world of moral law where we get hurt 
if we disobey, but it is a redemptive coercion. So Gandhi s fasts 
were redemptive. Not one of the fasts was to gain a personal or 
selfish end. They were always harnessed to the good of others. They 
were morally creative. 

The one place where there is a question is the fast which Lord 
Linlithgow, the viceroy, called "political blackmail" and himsa the 
fast over who was responsible for the August, 1942, riots. Concern 
ing this the Mahatma says: 

Despite your description of it as "a form of political blackmail," it is on 
my part meant to be an appeal to the Highest Tribunal for justice which 
I have failed to secure from you. If I do not survive the ordeal, I shall go 
to the Judgment Seat with the fullest faith in my innocence. Posterity 
will judge between you as the representative of an all-powerful govern 
ment and me as a humble man who has tried to serve "his country and 
humanity through it. 8 

If one looks on the Indian struggle for independence as a purely 
political struggle, then to use fasting to gain a political advantage 
is questionable, and worse, it is wrong. But if one looks on the 
struggle as a great moral and spiritual struggle, as the Mahatma did, 
then to use such means was not only proper, but highly commend 
able and cleansing. For the first time in human history a nation in 
the attainment of its national ends has repudiated force and has sub 
stituted the power of its own suffering. That is unique. 

And the one who takes the method wins even if he loses. If there 
is no effect on the other, then it comes back to you. You are en- 

8 Letter, Feb. 7, 1943. 



116 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

nobled by the very nobility of your means. Jesus said, "Whatever 
house you enter, first say, Teace be to this house! 7 And if a son of 
peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall 
return to you" (Luke 10:5-6 Revised Standard Version). If the 
other man receives your peace, well and good; but if he doesn t, then 
your peace returns to you. You are more peaceful for having given 
it. So Mahatma Gandhi jokingly said as he went through one of his 
fasts, "Heads I win, and tails I also win." There was a profound 
philosophy in that joke. Since we are born of the qualities which 
we habitually give out, then if we give out love, we become a loving 
person; if we give out hate, we become a hateful person. The Ma 
hatma through his fasts was giving out redemptive good will and in 
the process became just what he was: a man of good will a Mahat 
ma, a great-souled man. 

But the two fasts which were the last and crowning acts of his 
life were the most telling in their effects and the most conclusive 
as to the method. In both places, Calcutta and Delhi, he wrought 
miracles. I was in both places just before the fasts. From my room 
in Calcutta I could look down on streets that had been strewn with 
the dead. The city was festering with hate, left over from the riots. 
Periodically the riots were renewed. So the Mahatma knew that Cal 
cutta was a decisive battleground. The future of the new India was 
bound up in this, its largest city. 

Gandhiji stayed at a Moslem home in the very center of the riot 
district. Suhrawardy, the Moslem ex-premier, called by the Hindus 
"The Butcher", because of his supposed encouraging of the riots, 
now changed, came to stay with the Mahatma. The crowds stoned 
the place, partly because of the presence of Suhrawardy and partly 
because the Mahatma did not go where the Hindus had been sinned 
against. In the midst of the stoning the Mahatma walked out and 
said to the crowd, "Carry out my dead body, but I will not leave." 
A stone aimed at the Mahatma wa,s caught by a police officer who 
cried out, "Kill me, not him." It was arranged that deputations 
should come and lay their grievances before the Mahatma. One 
deputation of hotheaded youths came, sure they could worst the 
Mahatma in argument. They came away subdued and converted. 
"The Mahatma is right," was all they could say. When asked about 
the arguments he used, they could only repeat, "The Mahatma is 
right." Thus a number of deputations of young men came with the 
same result. They were converted. They brought in a bandaged Hin- 



THE FASTINGS OF THE MAHATMA 117 

du to convince the Mahatma of the brutalities they had suffered. 
The Mahatma took off the bandages and found the man was whole. 
He had been bandaged for the occasion! The Mahatma s uncanny 
insight and goodness were stripping off their veneer of argument and 
literally exposing their hypocrisy. But this was getting nowhere. So 
the Mahatma decided to fast to death unless they changed. It was 
a real gamble with his life. At the end of seventy-two hours both 
sides came and agreed to guarantee with their lives the lives of the 
opposite community this from the governor down. More astonish 
ing still was the fact that the people brought weapons used in the 
riots from knives to Sten guns and laid them at the Mahatma s 
feet. The atmosphere changed overnight. Peace crept into the hearts 
of the embittered people. Lord Mountbatten, a military man him 
self, said in relation to the miracle that had happened: "What 50,000 
well-equipped soldiers could not do, the Mahatma has done. He has 
brought peace. He is a one-man boundary force." And it has lasted. 
Nearly two years have gone by, and Calcutta has been at peace, 
conquered by the spiritual power of the Mahatma. 

The battle of Calcutta was great; the battle of Delhi was greater. 
When I landed in Delhi in January, 1948, the first words spoken to 
me were: "You re in the midst of a civil war/ There were no signs 
of fighting, but the tensions were great. The city was the nerve cen 
ter of the communal problems of India. It was a depression-laden 
and a hate-laden atmosphere. Gandhiji knew that he would have 
to clean this cesspool of hate, or it would poison the entire body of 
India. Just as he had advised the Graduates Association, "Be scaven 
gers/ so he was now to be a scavenger to clean up the capital of 
India. He must "do or die* 7 at Delhi. It turned out to be both. He 
drew up eight points on which Hindus and Moslems must come to 
agreement or he would fast unto death. All the eight points were in 
favor of the Moslems. They were as follows: 

1. The annual fair at the mausoleum of Khwaja Bakhtiyar, which 
falls due shortly, may be held, and Moslems may be able to join 
it without any fear. 

2. The 117 mosques which after recent riots in Delhi were con 
verted into temples or residential places may be turned into mosques 
again by non-Moslems of particular areas. 

3. Moslems should be able to move about freely and without any 
danger in Karolbagh, Subzi Mandi, and Paharganj, which formerly 
were predominantly Moslem areas. 



118 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

4. Hindus should not object to the return to Delhi of those Mos 
lems who have perforce gone to Pakistan, if and when they choose 
to return. 

5. Moslems should be able to travel in railway trains without any 
risk. 

6. There should be no economic boycott of Moslems. 

7. Accommodation of non-Moslems in Moslem zones in Delhi 
must be left entirely at the discretion of residents of those areas. 

8. The fifty-five crores (550,000,000) of rupees due to Pakistan 
should be paid. 

The sheer courage of fasting on eight points, all in favor of the 
Moslems and all laying on Hindus definite obligations, is breath 
taking. And remember: he staked his life on their fulfillment. If 
there was ever a gamble for peace, here was one! What if the Hin 
dus should refuse or hesitate? He never considered that. He con 
sidered one thing: Are my method and my aim right? If so, then 
the consequences are in the hands of God. His method and his 
aim were right, and he went as straight as an arrow to the heart 
of a nation. He shook that nation to its depths shook it morally. 
j When the representatives of the various communities gathered on 
v the sixth day and signed the Pact of Peace, this was no cheap sign 
ing of an ordinary peace pact. There was a moral quality here that 
made it different. His blood and their tears cemented the pact. And 
it has been kept, not merely in the letter of the law, but in the 
spirit. A new spirit has gripped India. Now there is peace. You feel 
it; you know it this is not a mere truce. There is the feel of the real 
upon it. 

And what armed forces, exerting all the physical pressure they 
could; and what conferences, exerting all the pressure of sensible 
agreement; and what all the speeches, exerting the pressure of 
persuasive words what all these could not do, Mahatma Gandhi did 
by his two fasts: he brought peace. And he brought peace, not at the 
margins, but at the centers Calcutta and Delhi. The battle for the 
New India had to be fought out at those two places one near the 
border of East Pakistan and the other near the border of West Pakis 
tan. They were the centers of fie problems of the new India. The 
Grand Old Warrior for peace fought his two greatest battles at the 
very end of his career at the age of seventy-nine. He could say with an 
other Grand Old Warrior: "I have fought a good fight, I have 
finished my course." These were the two crowning acts of his life. 



THE FASTINGS OF THE MAHATMA 119 

There was nothing left now for him to do, except to die as a martyr 
for the things for which he lived. His martyrdom crowned and sealed 
the whole struggle of his life. Evil, which he had fought throughout 
his long life, never did him a better turn than when it made him a 
martyr for the very things for which he lived. In the end he made 
evil his servant. That is mastery; that is power. 

From the window where I sit writing in Bellary, India, I can see 
a prison and a hill fort. This hill fort crowns the summit of a rocky 
slope. It depicts the history of the long years of struggle for suprem 
acy in India. A Hindu raja held it first, and, as he was being besieged 
by another Hindu raja, he appealed to Hyder Ali, the Moslem con 
queror, to come and help him. He came by forced marches, raised 
the siege, and went in and took possession for himself. French 
engineers helped him strengthen the fort. Then the British came 
and, at the defeat of Hyder Ali and Tippoo Sultan, took possession 
of the fort. During the world war a huge "V" was painted on the 
fort wall so all the city below could see it, symbol of their faith in 
the might of the Allies. And now the "V" has been painted out, and 
the tri-colored flag with the Asoka wheel at the center, the flag of 
the new India, Gandhi s India, is painted there instead. Military 
powers have come and gone, each canceling the other out, and being 
canceled out in turn. And at the end the flag of independence gained 
by nonviolent means is painted on dead forts. Is this a prophecy? 
Is the strongest power, and the power that will ultimately survive, 
the power of truth and nonviolence and capacity to suffer for a 
cause? 

Strangely enough, the two questions of truth and nonviolence 
were raised at the cross. When Peter took the sword to defend 
him, Jesus said, "Put your sword back into its place, for all who take 
the sword will perish by the sword 7 (Revised Standard Version). 
Note the "all" no exception. Has history been one long painful cor- 
roboration of that? It has, and without exception. Here was the issue 
of nonviolence. 

Then the question of truth came up when Jesus said, "I have 
come into the world to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is 
of the truth hears my voice" (Revised Standard Version). Pilate 
sneeringly said, "What is truth?" He was interested only in pow 
er, military power, not in truth. So he dismissed the idea of truth 
and crucified the Man who witnessed to it witnessed to it in every 
thing he thought and said and did and was. The nonviolent Wit- 



120 MAHATMA GANDHI- AN INTERPRETATION 

nesser to truth was buried. Buried? Alive he walks the earth amid 
the ruins of kingdoms founded on blood and fear, including Pilate s 
kingdom, and again he weeps over them, for they are marked for 
doom self-doomed. The old ways have broken down and are break 
ing down. Have we learned our lesson yet? God has two hands, the 
hand of grace and the hand of judgment. If we won t take from the 
hand of grace, we have to take from the hand of judgment. Must we 
again take from the hand of judgment, the hard way? Is Gandhi 
eur last warning and our last call? 

Gandhi is calling the world back to the Cross. It was no mere 
whim that made a daily paper edited and owned by non-Christians, 
The Pioneer, put out a cartoon after the Delhi fast depicting 
Gandhiji with a Hindu and a Moslem on each knee and at the back 
a cross towering over all and a rainbow behind that. They saw he 
was applying the Cross to modern problems. In the Moslem city of 
Hyderabad the death of Mahatma Gandhi was celebrated by a pro 
cession carrying his garlanded picture with a cross above it, put 
there by Hindus and Moslems. They saw some connection. And 
they saw the power of that cross. 

This power works wherever it is tried, whether in a Mahatma or 
in a mediocre. An Indian girl, brilliant and talented, went to the 
West and in getting her education got something more, the habit 
of drink. Everything was tried to reform her. No avail. Then her 
father, a doctor, a disciple of the Mahatma, began to fast until she 
changed. She did. And she has remained free. She said to a friend 
of mine: "Someone had to suffer to redeem me/ Here is a method 
which, when used by those who by their lives have earned the right 
to use it, is a potent power for redeeming loved ones. It can be used 
universally, if used wisely. 

In one of my meetings during the heydey of the dictators someone 
arose and quoted these lines which brought a laugh: 

De Valera with his green shirts, 

His back to the wall; 
Hitler with his brown shirts, 

Riding for a fall; 
Mussolini with his black shirts, 

Lording it over all; 
Three cheers for Mahatma Gandhi, 

With no shirt at all. 



THE FASTINGS OF THE MAHATMA 121 

It did bring a laugh, for they were the days when Mahatma Gandhi 
was a semijoke with the people of the West. Again and again I 
would have to say to my audiences: "Don t laugh at Gandhi. He 
will be the father of his country, just as Washington is the father 
of our country." I thought I was paying high tribute in saying that. 
Little did I know that Gandhi would be the father of his country 
and very much more. He will probably be the father of a new era in 
humanity. For note what has happened in these short years. When 
those lines were quoted, the men of might were in the saddle and 
riding human events, firmly fixed. But in a few swift years they are 
all three gone Mussolini and Hitler to ignominious death amid the 
rubble of the empires they built up. De Valera lasted longest, for 
he was the mildest, but he too is gone from power. Only Gandhi 
remains. He has won the freedom of his country, and it is firmly 
established, and he is firmly established as the father of his country. 
And more, he has become a world issue. In a recent public meeting 
the presiding officer, a British judge, said /"Nothing has shaken the 
world like the death of Mahatma Gandhi. I haven t been the same 
man since." I had to arise and say: "And I haven t been the same 
man since." Something has happened. What is it? Why should 
the death of a little man shake us and the world like this shake us 
who have gone through world-shaking events for years without a 
quiver? What has happened? Before we try to answer that, we must 
look at India again; then we can draw the final lesson of Gandhi s 
life and death. 



CHAPTER IX 



Sevagram Versus Delhi 



Nc 



OW that the battle of independence has been won, 
and the battle of communal unity is on its way to being won, and 
the battle of unity between the native states and India is also largely 
won, a new battle looms as perhaps the biggest struggle of all Seva 
gram versus Delhi 

This new India has inherited its soul from Mahatma Gandhi 
and its symbol is Sevagram; and it has inherited its body from British 
imperialism, and its symbol is Delhi. The conflict between the two 
hgs begun to show itself and will probably occupy the future. 

J Mahatma Gandhi fought two great battles the battle of inde 
pendence and the battle of India s inner unity^ Leaving the Sabar- 
mati Ashram, he fought the battle of the independence of India for 
eighteen years; and then leaving Sevagram Ashram, he fought the 
battle of the inner unity of India for eighteen months. He never 
came back to Sabarmati during those eighteen years, and he never 
came back to Sevagram during those eighteen months. They were 
the centers of quiet where he gathered strength to go forth to win 
two of the greatest battles of history to win them in a new way with 
new weapons. These two places are shrines of quiet and centers of 
power. 

Sevagram is a village Mahatma Gandhi created five miles beyond 
Wardha, which at first was his headquarters. But Wardha was too 
much of an urban center; too many people disturbed him there, and 
he was not at one with his village people. So he moved out five miles 
with no road between; all visitors had to walk out to see him. But the 
P.WJX (Permament Works Department of the government) pro 
jected a road out to his village. That began the invasion of the 
modem world into Sevagram. Sevagram represents the body of Ma 
hatma Gandhi; it is the outer expression of his inner life. Geographi 
cally it is about the center of India; spiritually it was and is the center 
of the new India. I say "is," but that remains to be seen. For the 
issue is yet to be decided. In a bamboo thatched hut which was 

122 



SEVAGRAM VERSUS DELHI 123 

plastered with mud sat the Mahatma, and from there he ruled India. 
He ruled India., though he didn t hold an office. He ruled it by 
spiritual power. The room has been left just as he left it. He sat 
upon a mattress which was also his bed, covered by the white home 
spun khaddar. Not a thing around him was superfluous. It met a need, 
or it did not stay. Anything given to him was retained if it met a 
need; if not, it was given to the needs of others. And the test was 
very severe. Two stalls were on each side of him, where two secre 
taries silently worked. There were no doors within the house, save 
one leading to the bathroom, no chairs. When visitors came, they 
too sat on the floor. On the wall behind where he sat, wrought in 
mud is the mystic word Om, which stands for God, put there by a 
Western disciple, Miss Slade, daughter of a British admiral. On an 
other wall was a card with these lines from Ruskin: "The essence 
of lying is in deception, not in words; a lie may be told by silence, 
by equivocation, by the accent on a syllable, by a glance of the eyes 
attaching a peculiar significance to a sentence; and all these kinds of 
lies are worse and baser by many degrees than a lie plainly worded." 
The placing of that statement on the wall is significant. He trans 
ferred that to politics, put it at the center of the life of the country. 
I saw a banner hanging from the ceiling of the great pandal in which 
the Indian National Congress was being held at Cawnpore: " Be 
Honest, 7 Gandhi." To drop that into the center of a nation s political 
life is a great achievement. It was at the center of Sevagram, and 
he put it at the center of a nation s consciousness. To put truth and 
honesty into a nation s consciousness meant self-suffering. So be 
side this statement on truth there was a picture of Christ kneeling 
in Gethsemane. In a little vestibule corner were some wooden pack 
ing boxes, the only wardrobe of an Indian princess, Rajkumari Am- 
rit Kaur, a Christian secretary. The septic tank and the toilet were 
installed by a Christian missionary, Fred Williams. On the mattress 
on which the Mahatma sat now lie a rosary of tulsi beads, symbol of 
his prayer life, and beside it a twist of yam, symbol of his love for 
the poor and his endeavors for their economic uplift Religion and 
economics lie side by side upon his bed. Never did a soul and a 
body fit each other so well as this room fitted the Mahatma every 
thing simple, nothing superfluous, everything efficient For the Ma 
hatma was the soul of efficiency. He answered letters immediately; 
everything was done on time. Nothing sloppy or dirty or at loose 
ends. When a visitor s time was up, the watch was courteously shown. 



124 MAHATMA GANDHIAN INTERPRETATION 

An amazing amount of work was quietly done. Here momentous de 
cisions were made. The Christian head of the Training Center for 
Basic Education, Aryanaikam, turned to me and in a gentle voice 
said, "This was tike throne of India." We sat in silent meditation for 
about ten minutes. As we arose, we knew that this is still the throne 
of India a disputed throne, but still the throne. 

The living spirit of the new India is here. That spirit, embodied 
in Mahatma Gandhi, stands for four things: sincerity, simplicity, 
self-suffering, soul force. The first is sincerity identification with 
truth; the second, simplicity identification with the poor; the third, 
self-suffering identification with the sins of others and taking on 
oneself suffering to change them; fourth, soul force identification 
with the sum total of Reality and having invincible soul force as 
a consequence. That is what Sevagram symbolizes and more, em 
bodied. 

Delhi, the body which the new India inherited when the British 
left, stands for a capital which is probably the most ornate of the 
world. Here the modern world and its ways are embodied. There are 
four things embodied here: diplomacy, bureaucracy, law and order, 
physical force. Instead of Sevagram s sincerity we have diplomacy; in 
stead of simplicity we have bureaucracy; instead of self-suffering when 
others go wrong we have an infliction of penalty on the wrongdoer 
through law and order; and instead of soul force we have the physical 
force of a modern nation with its reliance on military power. The an 
tithesis seems complete. But not quite. There is often sincerity in 
diplomacy, and here and there in Delhi are patches of simplicity 
amid bureaucracy. Otherwise the antithesis is complete. The ques 
tion is: Which will rule the future, Sevagram or Delhi? A follower 
of Gandhi remarked at Sevagram, "We must choose. It is Mammon 
or God/ and to him Delhi was Mammon, and Sevagram was God. 
That needs modification, of course, for God can invade Delhi, and 
Mammon can invade Sevagram. We can have the spirit of either in 
either place. But there is a real conflict. 

This conflict came to tragic epitome when Jawaharlal Nehru 
visited a few weeks ago that little room at Sevagram and shook with 
unashamed emotion as he stood beside the place where the Mahatma 
had lived and worked and ruled. He was a terribly lonely man 
without his guru. But loneliness was not the only thing that shook 
him. Conflict upset him more. For which way were he and his India 
to go the way of Sevagram or Delhi? Delhi was invading Sevagram 



SEVAGRAM VERSUS DELHI 125 

at that moment, for by order of the military department, which 
feared an attack on the national leaders, armed guards followed 
Nehru everywhere and even stood around the hut when he went 
into the sanctuary of the apostle of nonviolence. No wonder he 
opened his heart in the assembly of the followers of the Mahatma, 
then meeting in Sevagram, and said, "I m confused. I don t know 
which way to go. The conflict is deep within me." Delhi and Seva- 
gram fought within the soul of a highly sensitive and sincere man. 

We left Sevagram and went back to Wardha. In a long interview 
with Dr. Rajendra Parshad, the president of the Congress, and the 
man who is spiritually the successor of Mahatma Gandhi, we raised 
this question: "Are Delhi and Sevagram incompatibles?" 

He slowly replied: "You see, I m in the same conflict. Fm com 
mitted to nonviolence, and yet there stand the armed guards at my 
door." The country insisted that these national leaders should not 
be exposed to assassination like the Mahatma, for they were not sure 
they had combed out all those implicated in his death, and some of 
these other leaders had been marked out for assassination too. He 
also was in deep conflict about the whole matter. 

He further replied: "I think there is a via media. We must take 
the spirit of Sevagram into Delhi and leaven it. It is a pity that Bapu 
died before he could teach us how to live in Delhi with our principles 
intact." 

There will be many attempts to resolve this dilemma. (1) The 
suggestion has been made that the capital of India be moved to 
Wardha and a body built that would express the soul of the 
Gandhian movement. Jawaharlal Nehru said in the Assembly, in re 
ply to a question about this, that the suggested removal to Wardha 
was not being considered. (2) An attempt will be made to explain 
away the nonviolence of the Mahatma. This was done by a leading 
follower of Gandhi at Wardha itself when he said to me: "The Ma 
hatma didn t rule out war. He said: It is better to fight than be a 
coward/ " But this statement of the Mahatma does not sanction war 
or violence; it only says it is better to fight than be a coward. If your 
nonviolence is only through cowardice or fear, then it is better to 
fight. Gandhism will be explained so that his nonviolence will be 
explained away, a la the Gita. (3) The Mahatma will be honored, 
but not followed. One of the followers of Mahatma Gandhi said as 
we stood in his room: 



126 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

People will do to this room what the Christians have done to the 
cross. They will bedeck it with bejewelled spinning wheels and hang 
gold and silver about as a tribute to the man of simplicity. Just as you 
wear gold crosses instead of embodying the cross and making it your 
working force, we will do the same. We will honor the Mahatma and 
leave it at that. 

(4) There will be enough people who will sincerely follow the Ma- 
hatrna s spirit and ideas and will thus leaven India and perhaps 
the world. 

Delhi is inevitable. It cannot be wiped out. For good or ill India 
is apparently going to be Delhized. The hope seems to be that the 
spirit of Sevagram will be brought into Delhi to give it a soul. If 
Sevagram is sufficiently vital, it can create men and women who can 
feed into Delhi and keep its soul alive. Like Ezekiel s vision, there can 
be "a spirit ... in the wheels/ The function of Sevagram is not 
merely to criticize Delhi, but to renew it. A saving remnant must be 
produced. 

This saving remnant is being provided for, and is being provided 
for on a world scale. There met in Wardha some weeks after the 
Mahatma s death those who were dedicated to the continuance of 
his ideas and spirit. They formed two associations. One is to gather 
into one unit the various organizations which Mahatma Gandhi 
began. The other is a movement to be called Sarvodaya, literally, 
"total uplift/ This movement will have no organization. It will be 
the projection of a spirit. Those who will inwardly accept the central 
principles of Mahatma Gandhi truth and nonviolence will be con 
sidered to belong. It will be a spiritual fraternity. Once a year as many 
as possible will meet in a mela, or semireligious fair, and discuss 
what they can do to further the spirit of the Mahatma in India and 
in the world. Membership will be open to anyone, anywhere through 
out the world. One can send a card to the secretary, Sarvodaya Move 
ment, Wardha, C. P., India, stating that he considers himself a mem 
ber, but this is not necessary. Simple acceptance of the Gandhian 
principles of truth and nonviolence will automatically make him a 
member. 

Rabindranath Tagore, India s great poet, after a trip to the West 
said a startling thing: "The West will accept Gandhi before the 
East. For the West has gone through the cycle of dependence on 
force and outer things for life and has become disillusioned. They 



SEVAGRAM VERSUS DELHI 127 

want a return to the spirit. The East hasn t yet gone through material 
ization and hence hasn t become so disillusioned as yet" He may be 
right, or he may not be. Perhaps we have gone beyond Tagore s 
categories of thinking and see that the East and West categories are 
now outgrown; it is now just one human category. We are all in need 
of just what Mahatma Gandhi emphasized. It is a human need. 

Are his disciples advocating another religious cult around Ma 
hatma Gandhi? I think not Of course, some will deify him. Mahat 
ma Gandhi discouraged this in life. He decried any attempt to 
fasten the miraculous on him. For instance some villagers came to him 
in procession with a band, and their spokesman said: 

"Our village well was without water for these many years. Your sanctify 
ing footprints touched our soil yesterday, and lo, today the well is full of 
water. We pray to thee " 

"You are fools!" was Gandhi s caustic interruption. "Beyond a doubt, 
it was a coincidence. I have no more influence with God than yon 
have. . . . Suppose a crow sits on a palm tree at the moment when the 
tree falls to the ground! Would you think that the weight of the bird 
caused the tree s uprooting? Go back; . . . and instead of thinking about 
such silly accidents, utilize your time in spinning and weaving cloth to 
clothe Mother India." 1 

He discouraged any idolatry of himself. The national leaders Ja- 
waharlal Nehru and Vallabhai Patel have both issued statements de 
ploring any tendency to set up "idolatrous memorials" to Mahatmafi. 
Nor must there be any spiritual idolatry of him. As a Christian 1 
know where my allegiance lies. I cannot give myself to any fallible 
man, even though he be as great and good a man as Mahatma 
Gandhi. My allegiance is reserved for the Divine. While I give 
myself to Christ and to him alone, nevertheless I can be grateful 
for and can take the emphases which the Mahatma gave us. A Chris 
tianity interpreted with these emphases will be a richer Christianity. 
Therefore I can say that I accept the Gandhian principles of truth 
and nonviolence and am therefore a member of Sarvodaya. I think 
millions will join it, for we are sick to death of war and its vast 
futilities, and turn with relief and gratitude and confidence to a way 
that opens the door to a new future. In the words of the historian 
Toynbee: "Violence annihilates itself and leaves Gentleness alone 

1 K. Sliridharani, War Without Violence, p. 246. 



128 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

in the field." Gandhi was the embodiment of gentleness. He will be 
on the field when militarism has blown itself to pieces. For he is moral 
activism in political life. "He has deliberately and masterfully ap 
plied an absolute ethic to a political end with more evident purpose 
and larger success than any man in recorded history/ "The wave of 
the future is Gandhism." 

India must be true to Sevagrarn and all it stands for, and must 
leaven Delhi with it. I say Delhi, but one must include the provincial 
capitals as well. For they seem to be in greater danger of departing 
from the spirit of Sevagram. In Delhi there is the tried "remnant" 
the national leaders who have come to the top through sacrifice and 
ability. The sag is at the edges down among the lower officials. 

Sevagram means "the village of service." If "the village of service" 
can be planted in Delhi, in every provincial capital, in every heart, 
then the future is secure. Gandhism wins over greedism. 

But it may be that, as Acharya Kripalani said, "Sevagram will be 
a martyrdom." It will exist in India as a continual crucifixion. If so, 
then it will exist as a continual resurrection. It will have the seeds of 
the future in it. 



CHAPTER X 



Gandhi s IndiaThe Outlook 



S I took the plane to come back to India in January, 
1948, I said to an Indian, a fellow traveler, "In spite of what has 
happened in India since the coming of independence, August 15 > 
1947 riots, tensions, transfer of populations, mass slaughter, upset 
I look on India as the brightest spot in the postwar world among 
the problem areas/ 7 

He looked at me incredulously and said, "You must have been 
bitten by the India bug." 

I assured him I had solid reasons for saying this. 

India s independence came with delirious joy. Hindus and Mos 
lems embraced each other in the streets. The battle of independence 
had been fought and won and how! Never had a nation fought the 
battle with cleaner weapons. As I sat in the gallery of the opening 
session of the Constituent Assembly, meeting to draw up a consti 
tution for the new India, I said to a friend, "Below us there sits a 
thousand years of jail." Added up, the jail sentences of the members 
of that body would have amounted to a thousand years. That tells 
nothing of the tens of thousands of lesser workers who had cheer 
fully gone to jail, but who had not reached this pinnacle of the Con 
stituent Assembly. The Congress Movement had fought with newer, 
cleaner weapons, and they had earned the victory. But the dawn in 
the East came up blood red. There followed an indescribable period 
of mass killings on both sides. The delirious joy turned to gloom. 
How could this have happened to us? After such a warfare? I found 
the leaders stunned by events. They were so close to things that they 
could not see what really had happened. They could not see the 
woods for the trees. They often failed to see the whole in proper 
perspective. What had really happened transcended the events that 
followed the coming of independence. Those events tarnished the 
coming of independence. We must not minimize their horror, nor 
can they be excused. They tarnished the coming of independence, 
but they could not cancel the significance of it and the methods used 

129 



130 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

in gaming it. Moreover, these events proved the essential soundness 
of the Indian people when they seemed to be doing the opposite. 
The Indian people survived this concurrence of events which would 
have broken a weaker, less resilient people. 

Seldom has a nation begun its career as a nation attended with 
a more serious concurrence of events. In a few months the nation was 
called on to undergo simultaneously six converging catastrophes: a 
revolutionary war; a civil war; two major operations when West Pun 
jab and East Bengal were severed from the body of India; mass mi 
grations numbering ten millions, accompanied by mass slaughter on 
both sides; and then, to cap it all, the tragic loss of the father of the 
country. Add to this the fact that the leaders of the nation were 
caught off balance. They did not expect to get their independence 
so soon. Vallabhai Patel told me that they expected to have to fight 
on for four or five years longer before gaining independence. Then 
suddenly they had to assume responsibility for the governing of the 
country. They had to change their mental gears overnight. Men who 
had been accustomed to a fighting mentality, though nonviolent, had 
suddenly to reverse their gears and to gear their mentality and out 
look to constructive statesmanship and responsibility. The fact th$t 
they have been able to do it and to hold the country steady is a 
remarkable achievement. Seldom in human history has a nation, in 
its infancy, gone through a more difficult heartbreaking concurrence 
of events than India was called on to go through. In America we had 
a breathing space between our Revolutionary War and our Civil 
War. India had no such breathing space. She had to meet six con 
verging currents that would have swept a weaker nation off its feet. 
The fact that India has been able to survive this assures one that she 
will survive anything. Having survived that, what need she fear? 
Someone has said that, when you raise a question, raise it in its 
most difficult form. Solve it there, and then you solve it all down 
the line. India has raised the problem of self-government in its most 
difficult form imaginable, has held steady amid it all, and has come 
out practically intact. Now she can stand anything. There is a Tamil 
proverb which says, "He who is born in the fire will not fade in the 
sun/ The new India was bom in the fire of six burning problems. 
Will she fade in the sun of the ordinary happenings? Any one of 
these six happenings might have broken a weaker nation, but India 
has survived them all. That gives me faith for the future. Having 
met these, she can stand anything, I feel. 



GANDHI S INDIA THE OUTLOOK 131 

Moreover, the men who were in power at the beginning of these 
happenings are still in power. These events would have shaken from 
power a weaker group. But these men in power have been tried in the 
fires of a great struggle for freedom. The weaker ones have been 
sifted out and eliminated. The survivors represent the survival of the 
fittest. These men at the top in the central government could be 
matched with any other group of officials in the world in integrity 
and ability and self-sacrifice. In the last named, self-sacrifice, they 
would go far beyond any other group. 

I wish I could say the same of some of the lesser officials. Corrup 
tion and bribery have invaded the lower ranks. A man expatiated 
eloquently on the self-sacrifice of the Congress leaders and then, as 
he was about to leave the railway compartment, reached up, un 
screwed an electric-light bulb, put it in his pocket, and said, "I need 
it," and walked out. "The average length of life of an electric-light 
bulb in a railway train," said the Railway Commissioner, "is twenty- 
four hours/ 7 Then it would disappear stolen. I sat in the train a 
few days ago reading a book on Gandhiji and his amazing honesty of 
character. As the train stopped at a small station, at least one hundred 
men and women got out of the wrong side of the tram, and began to 
run for the fields ticketless travelers! The movement of Gandhiji 
reached them, but not his morals, I am told that land in East Pun 
jab has been reassigned to refugees as many as five times, a reassign 
ment being made each time a bigger bribe was offered. And this to 
refugees! 

This leads me to say, though it seems a digression, that the one 
place where my doubts arise as to the future of this new India is at 
the place of character character sufficient to sustain these outer 
changes. For the whole of life rests upon the imponderable thing 
called character. If the character breaks, the confidence breaks; and 
if the confidence breaks, the country breaks. The Gandhian move 
ment was a mighty force for the producing of character. It was and 
is a cleansing, character-making movement. I wish I could say the 
same of the orthodox faiths of India. They seem to have little or no 
power for regeneration. They are protecting themselves instead of 
purifying the country. I asked a group of Indian professors what they 
would name as the five great needs of India and in what order of 
importance. They finally fastened on this list: (1) a character-pro 
ducing and hope-bringing faith; (2) an economy of equal opportunity 
for all economically, socially, politically, religiously; (3) communal 



132 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

harmony; (4) economic reconstruction Industrialization and agri 
cultural improvement; (5) mass education in literacy, health, cor 
porate responsibility, character. Note that they put character first, 
and they put it last. They were right. For character is fundamental 
everywhere in East and West. And it takes a living faith to produce 
that character. When I talked to President Roosevelt in behalf of a 
group, I said to him: "You are trying to change the outer life of the 
country, and we are trying to change the inner, and we think that the 
outer rests on the inner. Therefore we think our work is not less im 
portant than yours." He nodded approval. I therefore feel that, in the 
making of a new India, a character-producing faith is essential. I have 
no hesitancy in presenting Christ as that character-producing faith. A 
Hindu Congressman, head of the Congress in a certain province, said 
as chairman of one of my meetings: "Our problem is now different. 
Hitherto our problem was to obtain independence. Now it is to 
retain it. To retain independence we need character. And there is 
no doubt that the impact of Christ upon human nature creates 
miracles of changed character. As such we welcome it in the making 
of the new India/ Another Hindu chairman said at the close of one 
of my addresses: "In the future when history sums up the forces 
that have helped to remake this land, a very large part of the credit 
will go to the missionaries." Why? Because in spite of their limitations 
they are presenting a character-producing and hope-bringing faith. 
And wherever that faith is sincerely followed, character is produced. 
When someone asked a prominent Congressman why he seemed 
antichristian in his attitudes, his reply was, "Fm not antichristian. 
Why, the Christians are the J>est citizens of India." Whether that is 
true or not, it is interesting to note that the Christians were not mo 
lested during the rioting. The wearing of the cross gave them exemp 
tion from both sides. 

Let it be said that the national leaders see this need of character, 
are trying strenuously to root out corruption by Anti-Corruption 
Departments and drives, and most of all they are illustrating in their 
own lives the kind of character needed. The moral sag since the war 
has been very great. But over against that stand these leaders at the 
top incorruptible and able and strong. They will pull the country 
through. 

Moreover, amid these terribly trying days they have been able 
to put through legislation to help the underprivileged in this land 
of underprivileged. In the Madras province they have put through 



GANDHI S INDIA THE OUTLOOK 133 

legislation making it a penal offense, punishable by fine and impris 
onment, to discriminate against any person in any restaurant, hotel, 
public conveyance, place of public entertainment, barbershop, 
burial ground, burning ghat, or temple, because of his caste status. 
At one stroke caste has been hit ia mortal blow. And Madras is the 
home of caste! It is breath-taking. 

In the new constitution of India are these words: 

The state shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only 
of religion, race, caste, sex, or any one of them. In particular, no citizen 
shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, or any one of them, 
be subject to any disability, liability, restriction, or condition in regard to 
(a) access to shops, public restaurants, hotels, and places of public en 
tertainment, or (b) the use of wells, tanks, roads, and places of public 
resort. 

There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters of 
employment under the state. No citizen shall, on grounds only of re 
ligion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, or any of them, be ineligible 
for any office under the state. "Untouchability" is abolished and its prac 
tice in any form forbidden. The enforcement of any disability arising out 
of "untouchability" shall be an offense punishable by law. 

And people are being fined for violation. In caste-ridden Malabar 
a teashop keeper was fined a hundred rupees for refusing to serve an 
untouchable. It is a far cry from that scene of a man of high caste 
being fined, because he refused to serve a man in a teashop, to an 
other scene in that same section where the untouchables stood before 
the barrier on a road leading to a temple a road forbidden to the 
untouchables stood there, day in and day out, through sun and 
rain, sometimes with the water up to their waists, for a whole year 
in silent protest against this discrimination. They would be sent to 
jail, would serve their sentences, and come back and stand before 
the barrier. Brahmans, touched by this amazing capacity for silent 
suffering, joined them and also stood in protest. This moral pres 
sure was so great that the road was thrown open. Thus the battle of 
Vaikom was fought and won. And now in the space of twenty years 
not only the roads to the temples, but the seats in restaurants the last 
stronghold have been thrown open by law. Everything is open. And 
the passing of the legislation created scarcely a ripple on the surface of 
events. A thoughtful Hindu said to me, "I didn t believe that a 



134 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

system, such as caste, built up through so many centuries could go 
down so rapidly/ 7 

Yesterday I picked up the daily paper and there were these items: 
(1) Dr. Ambedkar, a man from the untouchables, marries a Brahman 
lady. Incidentally, Dr. Ambedkar, even though he opposed the Con 
gress Movement, was made minister for law in the new Congress 
government and has been the chairman of the Draft Committee to 
draw up the new constitution for India. An untouchable is the most 
important member to draw up a new constitution for India, the 
home of castel (2) The Orissa provincial government, as a part of 
"Grow more food campaign/ is offering three rupees bounty for a 
monkey skin. That would have been unthinkable a few years ago, 
for the monkey is a sacred animal and to kill one a mortal offense. 
But not a ripple now. It was Mahatma Gandhi who must be credited 
with the courage to suggest in 1928 that monkeys, if destructive 
of crops, should be killed. "I do not hesitate to instigate and direct 
an attack on monkeys in order to save the crops." This simple sug 
gestion will, if carried out on an India-wide scale, result in saving mil 
lions annually for the peasants. (3) A man is fined in Bombay for 
asking an untouchable to bring his own cup for tea. (4) Ten mil 
lion rupees are being spent for untouchable uplift. 

And thus it goes. India is on the march. Old barriers are being 
swept away, and swept away overnight. 

This collapse of caste was in large measure the result of the Ma- 
hatma s effort his titanic efforts to get rid of untouchability. At one 
period he seemed to want to get rid of untouchability but to hold 
caste. But both have given way, and the most astonishing system ever 
built up with divine sanctions to separate man from man has fallen. 
It is true that pockets of resistance will remain and will have to be 
mopped up, but the center has given way. Caste is doomed and 
doomed in its very home, India. It is now illegal, at least the discrim 
inations based on it are illegal, and with discriminations gone the 
thing itself, without the bolstering of those discriminations, will die. 
This means that one of the greatest battles ever fought for human 
freedom has been fought and won, and the Mahatma led the battle. I 
say he led the battle, but he didn t begin it. The credit for the be 
ginning of the battle must be given to the missionaries. As in other 
fields education; medical relief; orphan, leper, and blind asylums 
so in untouchable uplift they were the pioneers. They helped lift the 
outcastes to astonishing transformations. It was an eye opener to the 



GANDHI S INDIA THE OUTLOOK 135 

nation. Then Gandhiji took up the task. He won the political freedom 
of 400,000,000, and he won the social freedom of 300,000,000 Hindus. 

In an interview with Jinnah he began to say that tiiere can be 
no co-operation with a society based on caste. I refrained from saying 
that there could be no co-operation with a society of theocratic fanat 
icism, such as is being proposed in Pakistan, based on the Sharia. I 
reminded him that caste is on the way out. It is doomed. It is in all 
stages of disintegration; but it is going down, and going down be 
fore our very eyes. I said to Jinnah: "Why base the future on 
the fear of something that is on its way out?" Yet he stills harps on 
caste, even after partition, as the excuse for not being able to co 
operate with Hindus. Everything is combining to oust caste, but 
most of all the inner determination of the Hindus themselves. 

It looks as though South Africa and parts of the United States of 
America, where it is still legal to discriminate against people because 
of the color of their skins, are to be the last remaining strongholds of 
caste; and both of them are democracies, and both are professedly 
Christian. A Hindu, professing a belief in the modified form of 
caste, does away with caste. Christians, professing a belief in a caste- 
less society, still cling to caste. 

There is another battle for freedom which can be traced directly 
or indirectly to the Mahatma s influence. He identified himself with 
the poor, especially the poor peasant. He dressed and lived in identi 
fication with them. He became their living embodiment. Their hun 
ger looked through his eyes and appealed for satisfaction. If Gandhi 
is India, then specifically Gandhi is the poor of India. So when inde 
pendence came, one of the first things the national leaders did was 
lay plans to lift the weight of the zamindari system from the backs of 
the poor. The zamindars are the landlords who have lived at the ex 
pense of the poor tenants, squeezing out of them the last drop of 
blood possible. I watched the monkeys on the banks of the river at 
Muttra. They were clever. When the worshipers threw grain on the 
bank, the monkeys would quickly gather it up and stuff it in their 
jaws. When they had finished their portion, they jumped over and 
stood on the backs of the turtles which had come to the edges to 
get the grain thrown into the river for them. The monkeys, standing 
on the backs of the turtles, reached down in the water and took the 
share of the turtles too. The zamindars, with some fine exceptions, 
have cleaned up their legitimate share, and then they have stood on 
the backs of the peasants and have taken their share too, leaving just 



136 MAHATMA GANDHIAN INTERPRETATION 

enough to keep them alive so they could spawn their useful kind. 
The peasants of India were ground between the millstones of govern 
ment taxes and zamindar exactions the most exploited peasantry of 
the world. If revolution came, they had nothing to lose except their 
debts. They were tinder for communist propaganda. 

But the Congress government wisely headed off that revolution by 
instituting legislation abolishing the zamindari system, giving a cer 
tain amount of compensation, and returning the land to the culti 
vators. This was a bloodless revolution. No foreign government 
could have done this with such smoothness and lack of upset. It is 
true that the zamindars held meetings on such topics as "The Za 
mindari System Needs Reform, Not Abolition," but it was too late 
to reform. "The Devil was sick the Devil a monk would be." It 
was a deathbed repentance and too late. Some zamindars took it 
well. One of them said to me, "I am glad the system is gone. We 
zamindars will be better men poorer, but better. We had to do 
things under this system that were degrading to us and to the ten 
ants." The emancipation of the tenants, and incidentally of the land 
owners, was one of the great liberations of our day, and it was done 
in an amazingly smooth manner. This has been accomplished in some 
form almost all over India. The United Provinces, where the system 
was most cruel, was the center, and it has given way. The rest will 
follow. The Congress knew there was only one way to beat the com 
munists, and that was to beat them to it, so they did. They headed 
off a wild revolution by a wise revolution, which will be true con 
servatism. Communism is not making much headway in India. Rus 
sian influence is small. l India wants to work out her own destiny in 
her own way without outside interference. 

It was Mahatma Gandhi who turned the nationalist movement 
from a movement of the classes to a movement of the masses. Until 
he came, the movement was a movement of the intelligentsia, and 
he made it a movement of the peasantry an uprising of the people. 

" So when independence came, the first thoughts were for the uplift 
of two classes, the untouchables and the exploited peasantry. That 

made the movement go according to Gandhian form. To have ac 
complished these two revolutions in so short a time and to have done 
it so smoothly was a great accomplishment, and the real credit must 
be laid at the Mahatma s feet. 

*See below, p. 138. 



GANDHI S INDIA THE OUTLOOK 137 

There has come into being another amazing change with inde 
pendence. Admittedly the native states, comprising twofifths of 
India, and ruled over by Indian princes, were one of the biggest prob 
lems facing an independent India. For the most part these 562 states 
were feudalistic and irresponsible. The princes lived in reckless lux 
ury at the expense of their subjects- There were some states where 
there was good government, but they were few. For the rest, they 
were a seething mass of irresponsible corruption. The British, as the 
paramount power, kept the princes on their thrones as long as they 
remained loyal and did not overstep certain loosely held bounds of 
propriety. Their irresponsibility can be seen in this: When the crisis 
came and it had to be decided whether the delegates from a certain 
state to the Constituent Assembly and to the Central Legislature 
should be appointed by the prince or be elected by the people, one 
prince said to his prime minister, "Oh, you know more about these 
things than I do. You settle it" And he went off to look after his 
race horses! The prime minister did settle it. All three representatives 
were to be elected by the people! With the backing of the paramount 
power gone and the people of the state electing their own represen 
tatives to the Central Legislature, where did that leave the prince? 
It left him high and dry! But he was so irresponsible that in a crisis 
he stepped out of it into an innocuous position. The judgment hour 
of the princely system has come. Two years ago I was seated at a 
garden party in one of the largest states, given to celebrate the vie- 
tory of the Allies. I remarked to a friend, "I feel that I am not in a 
victory celebration, but at a funeral feast. This is the end of the 
road. This state is resting on the bleeding backs of the poor. It can t 
continue. This is a funeral feast." Little did I know how quickly my 
remarks would come true. Like a thunder clap judgment has de 
scended. To save themselves a semblance of position the princes have 
had to do two things or else abdicate: give responsible government 
to the people and accede to the Indian union the union would be 
supreme. I am told that the proposals were put to the princes as fol 
lows: (1) there is no coercion; (2) if you sign, it will be for your 
good; (3) if you don t sign, you ll have to take the consequences. 
They signed! I did not dream that such an autocratic regime would 
tumble overnight. But it went down like a house of cards. The firm 
handling by the central government not only made the princes give 
responsible government to the people, but also compelled them to 
unite and form blocks of states to be more efficiently managed. This 



138 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

means that the very name and existence of most of these states are 
gone and their princes pensioned off. Those that remain as separate 
entities have been compelled to transfer power to the people. This 
means that the power of the princes is practically gone. At this writ 
ing I ain in the last stronghold of hesitancy Hyderabad, where a 
Moslem ruler, the nizam, rules over sixteen million people, of whom 
88 per cent are Hindus. The state is seething. There is a pressure up 
from the people and a pressure down from the Indian union. The 
state is caught between these two millstones, and its position is 
hopeless, unless it does two things: gives responsible government and 
accedes to the Indian union and does both quickly. Last night I 
sat eating with a group of splendid Christian young people in a gar 
den, not twenty feet from which a bomb was thrown at the nizam 
as he passed by in a car. I came to this place over a railway where 
carriages were strewn alongside of the track, as a result of exploding 
bombs. And railway stations we passed through showed the marks 
of bombing, largely the work of communists. In India communism 
has been largely scotched by giving the land to the peasants. But 
in a native state like Hyderabad, where reaction is in the saddle, com 
munism is spreading. The communists say they have "liberated" two 
thousand villages, the Hyderabad government no longer functioning 
there. To the highest officials I said yesterday: 

May I quote a passage of Scripture? "Agree with thine adversary 
quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the ad 
versary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer 
and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no 
means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing." 

If Hyderabad state agrees with the adversary quickly, then the dynasty 
of the richest man in the world might be saved saved as a figurehead. 
Otherwise? 

This state and Kashmir are the only unsettled areas. The rest are 
in the process of liquidation as irresponsible entities. Some of the 
princes have done it through patriotism to the Indian union. But the 
most of them have done it through the logic of events. Their day 
was over. The hour of judgment had come. If you had told me a 
year ago that within the space of eight months after independence 
the problem of the princely states would be practically settled by 
their acceding to the union, by their unification into larger units, or 



GANDHI S INDIA THE OUTLOOK 139 

by their being liquidated and the princes pensioned off, I would not 
have believed it. Nobody would have believed it. I don t believe the 
Congress leaders themselves would have believed it A miracle has 
happened. It has been partly the logic of events, partly the strong 
handling of Vallabhai Patel, partly the statesmanship of Jawaharlal 
Nehru, partly the pressure of the State People s Conferences, 
partly the patriotism of the princes, and most of all the spirit 
of Mahatma Gandhi. His unifying spirit was thrown into the scale of 
events and tipped it toward unity. A united India is emerging has 
emerged. That is one of the great achievements of human history. 
The partition of India into India and Pakistan has, strangely enough, 
helped toward that unity. Two vast sections of India were taken 
away from India and formed into Pakistan. It was a catastrophe. But 
God has a way of turning catastrophe into contribution. This was ex 
pressed to me by Premier Kher after partition was decided upon: 
"I m relieved. Now we can do what we want to do. Hitherto, 
we were hindered at every step by Moslem opposition. Now we are 
smaller, but we are free to develop." India is smaller, but stronger 
because more unified. And the center around which India is unified 
is Mahatma Gandhi. His spirit pervades this union. And that spirit 
is healing and unifying. Just as I wrote the above, an Indian friend 
put into my hands a map of India with a picture of the dead face of 
Gandhiji at the center. The idea was that around the death of 
Gandhiji India is uniting. But the center of that unity is not the 
dead Gandhi. It is the living spirit of him that pervades it and holds 
it together. There are other bonds that hold it together economic, 
social, cultural, political but the spirit of the Mahatma is the living 
spirit of the unity. 

There is another element in the making of the new India which has 
vast potentialities for the future, namely, the women. No greater in 
fluence has recently been poured into the public life of India than 
the power of womanhood. Hitherto they have been the conservative 
element. They have made the wheels of progress .drag. One Hindu 
said to me, "I go into my home, and I m in the sixteenth century. 
I come out, and I m in the twentieth. I don t know to which I really 
belong." India has been trying to fly with one wing the man. And 
she has been going around in circles. Now the Mahatma has un 
fastened the other wing the woman and India is beginning to go 
ahead. As in almost every department of India s life, here too the 
missionaries were the pioneers. They were the first to open the 



140 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

gates to women to enter all phases of life. Indian social reformers 
took up the reform. But it was the Mahatma who gave them a 
national task. He tapped the amazing resources of womanhood 
and made women a constructive force in national reconstruction. 

First of all, he bravely challenged the Laws of Manu relating to 
women. He quotes some of these laws in his paper Young India: 

The wife should ever treat the husband as God, though he be character 
less, sensual, and devoid of good qualities. (Manu 5:154.) 

The woman has no separate sacrifice, ritual, or fasting. She gains a 
high place in heaven by serving the husband. (Yajnavalkya 1:18.) 

There is no higher world for the woman than that of her husband. 
She who displeases the husband cannot go to his world after death. So 
.she should never displease her husband. (Vasishtha 21:14.) 

That woman who prides in the father s family and disobeys her hits- 
band should be made by the king a prey to the dogs in the presence of a 
big assembly of people. (Manu 8:371.) 

T&e Mahatma comments: "It is sad to think that the Smritis 
contain texts which can commend no respect from men who 
cherish the liberty of woman as their own, and who regard her as 
the mother of the race." And then he goes on and makes a bold 
suggestion: "There should, therefore, be some authoritative body 
that would revise all that passes under the name of Scriptures, ex 
purgate all the texts that have no moral value, or are contrary to 
the fundamentals of religion and morality, and present such an 
edition for the guidance of Hindus." He again says: "I have de^ 
fended Vamashrama Dharma, but Brahmanism that can tolerate 
untouchability, virgin-widowhood, spoliation of virgins, stinks in 
my nostrils." 

Here is an outspoken, courageous reformer. But he was more. He 
threw open the gates of opportunity to women for national service 
and made them an integral part of the movement for national free 
dom. He said to a group of women in Italy: "The beauty of non 
violent war is that women can play the same part in it as men." 
Then again he said something still more important: "If non* 
violence is the law of our being, the future is with women." Here 
his statement agrees with that of Benjamin Kidd, the sociologist, 
when he says: "Women are to be the psychic center of power in 
the future." Woman, when true to her function, embodies the co 
operative spirit The future belongs to co-operation; therefore woman 



GANDHI S INDIATHE OUTLOOK 14I 

Is to be the psychic center of power in that co-operative future It is 
interesting that a sociologist from the West and the Mahatma should 
come put at the same conclusion, and that conclusion concerns one 
half of the human race. 

As usual he acted on his conclusion. Many have paid lip service to 
such ideas, but Gandhi set them to work. He put the women in 
service to picket the liquor shops and foreign cloth shops, to be 
stretcher-bearers to pick up the nonviolent wounded in the police 
lathee charges. And more, he gave them the same privilege of going 
to jail along with the men. And they went bravely and without a 
whimper. It is estimated that forty thousand women went to jail 
Gandhi said: "The Salt campaign brought out tens of thousands 
from their seclusion and showed that they could serve the country on 
equal terms with men. It gave the village woman a dignity she had 
never known before/ 

This training in national service and in capacity to suffer has done 
for the women exactly what it has done for the men. The jails became 
the schoolrooms for the training of national leaders at government 
expense! When these women came out of jail, they had to go to 
their inevitable place of leadership. To the credit of Mahatma Gandhi 
and the Congress leaders they put them in places of authority with 
out hesitation. For instance, the deputy president of the Madras 
Legislative Council was a woman. And the president was an outcaste! 
The minister for health in the Central Government, Rajkumari 
Ainrit Kaur, a Christian, is a gracious lady whose training was re 
ceived at the feet of the Mahatma. 

Mrs. Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, sister of Jawaharlal Nehru, spent a 
large amount of time in jail, thus being prepared to become a minis 
ter of the United Provinces government and now ambassador to 
Russia, a gracious and able product of the Gandhian movement. The 
governor of the United Provinces, perhaps the most important of 
India, is a lady, Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, who spent years in jail. A 
nawab, a Moslem ex-ruler, during the course of a visit to Her Ex 
cellency fell at her feet, clasped his hands, and said: "Madam, please 
restore to me my kingdom!" This is a sight for the gods! A Moslem 
nawab at the feet of a woman asking for the restoration of his king 
dom! And this took place in the city where the last Moslem ruler 
had two hundred wives, and this man was his descendant. Times 
change! 

And now these changes are being embodied into laws. A few weeks 



142 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

ago Dr. Ambedkar (an untouchable!), the minister for law, moved 
this bill to amend and codify certain branches of the Hindu law: 
First, abolition of birthright and abolition of the right to property by 
survivorship. Second, giving a half share to the daughter. Third, con 
version of the woman s limited estate into an absolute estate. Fourth, 
abolition of caste in the matter of marriage and adoption. Fifth, 
the principle of monogamy. Sixth, the principle of divorce. He said: 
"Under the old Hindu law, polygamy was permissible. Under the 
new law, monogamy is prescribed." It went through without a ripple! 
For it expressed the changes taking place. A couple of years ago an 
Indian prince made a law making polygamy illegal. He married again, 
leaving the princess and her eight children on the side. (Incidentally, 
I spoke in that palace to a royal school with Her Highness and the 
Crown Prince in attendance. One could see the marks of sadness in 
her beautiful face.) When die second wife was taken, it raised a 
storm of protest. The prince calmly replied: "I make laws. I do not 
obey them." A few years have rolled by, and now the prince does not 
make the laws. The people do, and the prince has to obey them. The 
people are sovereign. Times change! 

All these dynamic changes are in contrast to what is happening in 
Pakistan, where the attempt is being made to found a state upon 
Islamic law (the Shariat). One of the first things proposed was that, 
since Islamic law is being enforced, all the women should go back 
into purdah (seclusion, behind the veil). The women raised such a 
storm of protest that it was quietly dropped. "The people in growing 
break the law, or the law breaks the people/ One of the fundamental 
differences between Pakistan and India is this: one is attempting to 
base a civilization on a sixth-century, static law, and the other is 
attempting to base its civilization on dynamic principles. It will be 
interesting to see the outcome. And note that Mahatma Gandhi was 
at the center of this dynamic attitude. He held to the best in the past, 
but was not bound by the past. He was conservative, but more 
dynamic than conservative. Two of the greatest paralyses on the soul 
of India were karma and kismet in both cases, fate. When any 
change was proposed, either karma or kismet stepped in and either 
slowed it down or blocked it. Mahatma Gandhi showed that any 
thing can be changed that ought to be changed. He stands for moral 
dynamism, moral activism. He freed India from a foreign yoke, but 
he did more. He freed India from its real ruler: dastur, custom. He 
broke the tyranny of karma and kismet, a real deliverance. 



GANDHI S INDIA THE OUTLOOK 143 

A new attitude toward womanhood in India is embodied in 
Mahatma Gandhi. He broke down the idea of being pure by 
seclusion. An ascetic said to me, "I haven t seen a woman in thirty 
years/ and he thought himself thereby pure. Mahatma Gandhi 
reversed all that. He was the most natural man with women I have 
ever seen no prudishness, no unnatural attitudes, but complete 
restraint, and apparently with complete inner release and purity. 
Though married, he took a vow of complete continence forty years 
ago and kept it. At the same time he drew around him more followers 
among women than any other man of his age. That women are 
drawn only, or mainly, by the sex appeal is thereby proved untrue. 

I would like to pay my tribute to the womanhood of India. Across 
these forty years I have been impressed with their gentleness, their 
devotion, their modesty, their capacity to sacrifice, their purity. The 
Indian woman s dress, the sari, is the most beautiful dress of the 
world. I hope the Indian woman never changes it for the changing 
fashions of Paris. If I were to pick out the one people in all the world 
where the relationships are the best between men and women, I 
would unhesitatingly pick out the Syrian Christians of Travancore, 
a church probably founded by the apostle Thomas. The women are 
equally educated with the men and move freely, but divorce 
is unknown, and unfaithfulness practically unknown. My salutation to 
the womanhood of India! 

And my salutation to the Mahatma, who more than any other has 
brought the relations between men and women to a high, noble 
plane. I do not say there are no breakdowns. There are lots of them, 
but only as they depart from the spirit and example of the Mahatma. 
The father of his country has taken a fatherly attitude toward all, 
including women. During the Noakhali pilgrimage going from village 
to village after the Moslems had killed numbers of Hindus, the 
Mahatma came to a place where a Moslem had killed twelve Hindus. 
The Mahatma heard that a woman was ill in that Moslem s home. 
Day by day he went to see her and without a word of blame won the 
man over. But the astonishing thing was that the Moslem let him 
into his home to see his womenfolk, and the more astonishing thing 
was that the Mahatma should go. But it showed the Moslem s com 
plete trust in the Mahatma concerning his attitudes toward women. 

There is a sign over a women s club in Bombay: "The world was 
made for women too." That sign, put up years ago, can now be 



144 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

changed to: "The world is being made by women too." And it will 
be the better for their making. India is. 

In the endeavors of Mahatma Gandhi to lift the people of India 
he saw that the incubus of drink must be lifted from the backs of 
the poor. So he made total abolition of liquor an integral part of his 
movement. This is now being put into operation in greater or less 
degree in all parts of the country. It is on the program for all. But 
they soon found that to wean the people away from drink they had to 
make provision for organizing the village life so that something would 
take the place of the liquor shops. So as a government project the 
villagers are being taught to play and have recreation together. They 
had never done so before. Life was organized caste-wise. Now they 
are teaching them to play and have recreation village-wise, across the 
boundaries of caste. This brings a sense of solidarity to the whole 
village. As there are 750,000 villages in India, or were before partition, 
this is important. It is costing the government to give up millions in 
revenue from liquor, but revenue coined out of the weaknesses of the 
poor is not revenue, but ruin. 

The tide of opinion is thereby being turned against liquor as a 
social fashion. It is not now good form to drink in India not since 
the coming of independence. When Raja Sir Maharaj Singh, the 
Christian governor of Bombay, came into the governorship, he 
announced that no liquor personally or socially would be served at 
Government House. The newspapers carried it on the front page, 
blocked off. The flood of Western influence had nearly swept India 
off its feet and had nearly made drinking fashionable. Now that tide 
has receded. It is not now fashionable to drink in India, except on 
the edges, in pockets of the old influence. At the center is a new 
determination to have a people free from this incubus. The Mahatma 
must be credited with this deliverance. Among his many battles for 
freedom this battle for freedom from tyranny of liquor was an im 
portant battle. He is winning it. Liquor is on its way out. Many a 
household will therefore rise up and call the Mahatma blessed. 

There is another factor which must be counted among the legacies 
of Mahatma Gandhi: the men whom he infected with his spirit. An 
editorial on the death of Mahatma Gandhi in the Manchester 
Guardian said that one of the differences between Jesus and Mahatma 
Gandhi was that Jesus trained a group around him the twelve to 
carry on his work, but the Mahatma did not train such a group. He 
was unique and alone and without descendants. I disagree. Mahatma 



GANDHI S INDIA THE OUTLOOK 145 

Gandhi did not choose a specific number and train them, but he did 
succeed in imparting his spirit to a great number of strong men and 
women who are his spiritual descendants. Some of them have caught 
his spirit more deeply than others, but seldom has a man imparted 
himself to so many people on so wide a scale. And wherever you 
find a man who is a true disciple of Gandhi, he is a man of simplicity, 
of honesty, of self-sacrifice, of devotion to his country. In any move 
ment there will be hangers-on, following for the loaves and fishes, 
men who dress in homespun and Gandhi cap, but their spirit is 
anti-Gandhi. They are using the Congress popularity for their own 
purposes. This is particularly true of some in provincial governments. 
But at the center where the leaders were in intimate contact with the 
Mahatma there has been created a group of people who in simplicity 
of life, integrity of character, self-sacrifice, and ability are the equal 
of any other group of men and women in public life in any country 
of the world. Equal? I would be inclined to put them in a class by 
themselves, for they have been exposed to the spirit of Mahatma 
Gandhi for twenty-five years and have been made different very dif 
ferent. One of the first things they did when they came to power was 
voluntarily to reduce their own salaries to about one half of what they 
were entitled to. When other officials in other parts of the world do 
this, please let me know! 

If I were to pick out two men from among the group who have been 
most deeply influenced by Mahatma Gandhi, I would select Dr. 
Rajendra Parshad, "the Gandhi of Behar," and Jawaharlal Nehru. 
The former was more naturally a Gandhi-ite. His spirit didn t have 
so far to go. He is a man of whom it could be said: "Behold, a 
Gandhi-ite indeed, in whom there is no guile/ Jawaharlal Nehru had 
almost nothing naturally in common with Gandhi, nothing except a 
common desire for the freedom of India. They began poles apart. To 
Gandhiji religion was the breath of life; and while he wanted to 
modify Hinduism, he, on the whole, defended it. Jawaharlal on the 
other hand expresses himself as follows in his autobiography Toward 
Freedom: 

India is supposed to be a religious country above everything else. . . . 
The spectacle of what is called religion, or at any rate organized religion, 
in India and elsewhere has filled me with horror, and I have frequently 
condemned it and wished to make a clean sweep of it. Almost always 
it seems to stand for blind belief and reaction, dogma and bigotry, su 
perstition and exploitation, and the preservation of vested interests. 



146 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

In one of the Round Table Conferences years ago Nehru said this 
when it came his turn to speak: 

I am not a religious man. So many things are done in the name of 
God and religion with which I cannot agree, so I have dismissed them 
both from my life. I am trying to serve my country. If service to my coun 
try is religious, then I m religious. If it is not, then I m not. 

And yet that doesn t tell the whole story, for there is a wistf ulness 
running through Jawaharlal Nehru that makes him religious as an 
undertone. I said to him recently as he carried heavy burdens, too 
heavy for any one man to carry, "I know you are not a religious man, 
but I m praying for you." 

He thoughtfully replied: "Any approach that is along the moral and 
spiritual is a higher approach. The prayer approach is along the line 
of the moral and spiritual, and as such I welcome it." His wife told 
a friend of mine that, when Jawaharlal Nehru was despondent in 
jail, "he often turned to the New Testament for consolation." What 
he did at the ceremony of the immersion of Gandhiji s ashes at the 
junction of the Ganges and the Jumna is symbolic of his attitudes. 
The rest of the party went out in the boat to bathe ceremonially in 
the sacred waters while "Jawaharlal Nehru dipped his feet in the 
edges." That is symbolic of his wistful spirit. "I wish I could believe 
in God; life without him is inwardly lonely," his attitudes say. 

And yet Jawaharlal Nehru was deeply attached to the Mahatma, 
more so, perhaps than anyone else. He bent over and kissed his feet 
before the flames reduced the body to ashes. That act was the homage 
of a devoted follower. To do that Jawaharlal Nehru had come a long 
way. He was not naturally nonviolent. He is a man with a temper. I 
feared for that temper when independence came and he had to assume 
the responsibilities of guiding the destiny of India as prime minister. 
But Nehru, the fiery fighter for independence, is now fast growing 
into the poised, constructive statesman. If I were to pick out the 
one man in East or West I would rather see go to a peace con 
ference a man in whose hands we could trust the liberties of 
the world I would unhesitatingly pick out Jawaharlal Nehru. He 
would be just, and he would be courageous, and he would not bow 
the knee to insolent might, and he would be able. He is a man who 
is an intense nationalist, and yet who sees the necessity of world 
government a really great man. Now that Gandhi has gone, I 



GANDHI S INDIA THE OUTLOOK 147 

would choose him as the greatest man in the world today. That is 
no small achievement on the part of the Mahatma: to become the 
world s greatest man and then to produce as your nearest disciple 
another who, after you, becomes the world s greatest man. That is an 
achievement! But it is not a personal achievement. It is the direct 
result of the principles underlying the movement truth and non 
violence. Both of them embodied those principles, and both of them 
became great. Then the credit must go to the inherent principles. 
That Jawaharlal Nehru did not take those principles as mere ex 
pediency, because no other weapons were available, can be seen when 
he said recently in reference to India s defense: "We can always fall 
back on the methods by which we, gained independence." That is 
one of the most important statements made in modern India. It 
lifts a light for the future. The method of nonviolent non-co-operation 
could be used by India against any invader from anywhere and, if 
really practiced by the leaders and the masses, would make India in 
vulnerable. India would be safe. 

Mahatma Gandhi has wrought a miracle in the soul of this people. 
Forty years ago when I landed in India and came up through the 
country and saw the people and the countryside, I thought of one 
word: paralysis. I had never seen such a paralyzed people. They 
were paralyzed by fear, by custom, by poverty, by exploitation from 
within and from without, by overhanging fate kismet for the Mos 
lems and karma for the Hindus and paralyzed by general hopeless 
ness. Then thirty-three years ago Mahatma Gandhi arrived on the 
scene arrived with nothing but a character and a method, both tem 
pered in the fires of a South African struggle, a struggle which he won. 
When Mahatma Gandhi arrived in South Africa, every Indian, 
educated and noneducated, was called a "coolie" "coolie teacher" 
or "coolie barrister." When he left South Africa twenty-three years 
later, that name was wiped out as a prefix. South Africa had been 
raised raised by a man and a method. Then he stepped into the 
paralysis called India. He quietly galvanized the soul of India into 
action. India began shedding her fears; timid men, and more timid 
women, went to jails with light on their faces. They came out and 
set to work renovating the country. Hope began to spring up; the 
light of freedom began to come into dull eyes; chains wrought 
through the centuries began to fall off; a new upstanding people 
began to emerge; a total renovation of life began to be undertaken; 



148 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

a five-year plan for lifting the economic life was launched; schemes 
such as the Kosi Valley scheme would produce a dam longer than 
the Hoover Dam, the largest of the world; a tingling sense of expect 
ancy and faith began to possess India the renaissance of a great 
people was on! And freedom was won! And the architect of all this 
was this strange little man. He found India a fear and left it a faith; 
he found India a giant, bound hand and foot by Lilliputian bands, 
and left it a free nation; he found it divided and left it united, or on 
the way to unity. And he sealed it all with his own blood. In this 
century of great achievements Mahatma Gandhi s achievement stands 
head and shoulders above all others. The Russian achievement is 
great, but it is poisoned by its reliance on force; the American achieve 
ment is great, but it too is poisoned by turning its creative power into 
the production of the atomic bomb. Only Gandhi s achievement is 
unpoisoned. I do not mean to say that Gandhi has left a finished 
achievement. Far from it. There is fear in India; there is corruption in 
India; there is paralysis in India; but these are outside the area of 
the Gandhian movement, or where the movement has been cor 
rupted by a departure from the Gandhi spirit. Where the leaders 
and the movement have caught the real spirit and method of Ma 
hatma Gandhi, there is light light for India and the world. Gandhi s 
India is full of promise and hope. 



CHAPTER XI 



"Bapu Is Finished" ~ Is He? 

I V IANY o my readers will probably lay this book down 
with the feeling that they have been looking at a strange comet racing 
through the sky of our modern world startling, but aloof and un 
related to the course of human events in which we live and work out 
our destiny. They will gasp at Gandhi and then grasp at the old dis 
credited outworn tools. They will sigh when they do it, for they 
inwardly wish that Gandhi and his spirit could be made to work in 
our modern world. This is to miss the point. For Gandhi as a person, 
apart from the embodiment of certain principles, is comparatively 
irrelevant. He can be dismissed. But Gandhi brought to focus in 
himself universal principles, inherent in our moral universe. Those 
principles are as inescapable as the law of gravitation., Gandhi in fall 
ing was like Newton s apple falling, illustrating something universal. 
What is it that Gandhi illustrates? It is this: No individual, group, 
or nation need submit to any wrong, nor need they go to war to 
right that wrong. There is a third way: nonviolent resistance. If non 
violent resistance is organized in a thorough, disciplined way in the 
individual, group, or nation, then that individual, group, or nation 
will be invulnerable and invincible. By taking the way of truth and 
nonviolence nine tenths of the possibilities of being invaded and 
conquered would be warded off by that very spirit. But suppose on 
the one tenth it should break down, and in spite of that spirit that 
nation should be invaded and conquered. Is all lost? Not at all. If 
that nation would organize its men, women, and children into non 
violent resistance, it would make permanent occupancy impossible. 
Let them simply withdraw all co-operation with the conqueror and 
take the consequences. Some would be butchered, but you cannot 
go on butchering nonviolent people forever. It turns your stomach. 
They would be the martyrs in the movement. More would be put 
in jail. The jails would overflow and become ridiculous. For those 
jailed would be the heroes of the new nation emerging. The jails 
would be the training ground, the schoolroom, for the new leader- 

149 



150 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

ship. And all the time the oppressor would become more oppressive, 
he would become weaker; and all the time the oppressed would re 
sist the oppressor with this spirit, he would become stronger. It 
would be a losing battle for the oppressor, and he would have to 
succumb, converted or collapsed. 

Suppose, for instance, that Russia, to take the extreme case, should 
invade and conquer the United States. Would we be lost? No! We 
could organize every man, woman, and child in America in a non 
violent resistance. We could withdraw all co-operation with the 
conqueror. You cannot rule over a people if they won t let you. We 
could break the will of the conqueror in five years. He would throw 
up the sponge defeated. And in the process our nation would be 
strengthened in its moral and spiritual fiber, and the conquering 
nation would be progressively weakened. For all the time we would 
be hitting at the morale of the conqueror. There is something in 
the human heart that recoils at continuously butchering the non 
violent .resisters. We would be hitting him within all the time. 

If the objection is raised that this has not happened in the lands 
where Russia has overrun the country, the answer is that this method 
of nonviolent resistance has not been applied. They have sullenly sub 
mitted, or intermittently flared up in rebellion. Both methods are 
hopeless. But the method of nonviolent resistance would make the 
nation invincible. There is a way out. 

What then does this mean? It means that the tensions can now be 
let down between nations. The hysteria can cease. We can now 
calmly set about removing the causes of war. We can set about 
building a world government under which all will be secure, includ 
ing Russia. We can do it with calmness of heart, knowing that if it 
should fail, we can always fall back on the method of nonviolent 
resistance as the way out. Gandhi has lifted that light amid the 
encircling gloom. 

When Mahatma Gandhi fell under the assassin s bullets and was 
carried into Birla House, a half hour later a secretary came out and 
brokenly announced to the stricken crowd, "Bapu is finished." The 
father of this country was finished. It was strangely like that cry from 
the cross: "It is finished/ In both cases they seemed "finished." But 
in both cases it was just the beginning. The dramatist makes the 
Roman centurion say to Mary as they were taking Jesus down from 
the cross: 



"BAPU IS FINISHED" IS HE? 151 

I tell you, woman, that this dead Son of yours, disfigured, shamed, 
spat upon, has built this day a kingdom that can never die. . . . Some 
thing has happened on this hill today 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. 1 

The Cross was the new power that was to shake the world and 
redeem it! 

But the Cross in Christendom became official and artificial. It 
became only a sign a sign on our churches, a charm around our 
necks or dangling from our watch chains, an ornament. We were no 
longer, save in exceptional cases, using it as a working way of life. 
Christendom was astray astray at the very center of its faith, the 
Cross. We had turned from the Cross to material power, to imperial 
power, to balances of power, to atomic power. There we have come to 
a dead halt, frozen in our tracks, knowing that if we pursue the way 
of atomic power we are finished finished as a race. We wanted 
power and have depended on power, and now God has had to say: 
"You want power. I ll have to give it to you. Look into the heart of 
an atom and choose/ The end of our quest for power is 
this: if we use it again, both sides are done for irretrievably. 

When Christendom was astray, losing the Cross in the crosses that 
hid its meaning, then God raised up a Hindu, protesting all the time 
he didn t beiieve in the Cross, but all the time applying it applying 
it to a local difficulty in the Ashram, and applying it on a continental 
scale for the freedom of a nation, and revealing its power before our 
astonished gaze. Gandhi is our lost chord. He awakens within us a 
certain homesickness, a nostalgia for a kingdom which we bartered 
for a mess of physical power the Kingdom of God. Gandhi the 
Hindu, whatever he says, calls us to the Cross. 

"Bapu is finished." No, he is not finished. He is a living power 
more powerful in death than in life. He will haunt our councils where 
we plan for power without the Cross. He will stand in the shadows 
of the secret chambers where military men plan for the destruction of 
their enemies and themselves and their own children. He will 
stand quietly by as church councils join the mad cry for war. And he 
will silently say, "You have. forgotten something the Cros s s." And, 

1 Charles R. Kennedy, The Terrible Meek. Used by permission of the author. 



152 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

perhaps, we will listen this time, for the call of God comes from 
strange, unaccustomed lips. 

And to India too he will come back again to haunt the councils of 
those who so quickly forget "the rock whence ye are hewn, and . . . 
the pit whence ye are digged," and turn to obvious modern gods of 
military power, to be like the other nations around about. India 
demonstrating the Gandhian way would be invulnerable, but India 
taking the slippery road down to militarism would be the prey of 
the stronger. Her strength is in the way she won her freedom the 
way of truth and nonviolence. Gandhiji will be, and is, the conscience 
of this new India. 

When I was about to go back to America just before the coming 
of the independence, I said to Mahatma Gandhi: "I am taking a 
plane tomorrow morning to America. Can you give me a message 
from this new India to the American people? 7 

"This new India?" he replied. "I am like that disciple who said: 
"Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, . . . and place my 
hand in his side, I will not believe. I cannot talk about this new 
India until I see it actually in being, until I can touch it." 

I replied: "You re right. You dare not talk about it until it is here." 
He seemed a great idealist, but in fact he was very much of a realist. 
Then I added: "Apart from this new India, can you give me a 
message to the American people?" 

He then said: "I have not seen the American people, but give them 
my love." Through this book I give to the American people the love 
of the Mahatma. But mind you, it is not a sentimental love. It is a 
very stern love that would organize itself into collective action to right 
a wrong by taking on itself suffering. It is love facing evil, facing 
military might, facing injustice with an infinite capacity to take it 
without flinching, to return love for hate, to overcome evil with 
good, to overcome the world by the Cross. That is the love he sends. 

But Mahatma Gandhi would send his love to Britons, too, the 
people with whom he fought his nonviolent warfare his special 
love to them, grateful that they had something in them to which he 
could appeal. But he would send his love to everybody, everywhere, 
Russia especially, for now in his death he belongs to us all. But if 
we take that love, we must take its meaning, and the meaning is: 
"Don t give suffering. Take it." And if we do that, there need be 
no more war ever. For in Gandhi we have found "the moral 
equivalent of war." 



"BAPU IS FINISHED" IS HE? 153 

Suppose we should take up that simple statement of Mahatma 
Gandhi, "Give my love to America/ and broaden it, as he would 
have done, into "Give my love to everybody/ and suppose we 
should literally do it. Suppose we should, as a people American, 
British, all send out our love to the world in terms something like 
these: 

We send you our love. And we mean it. We have no quarrel with your 
people. We know that you hate and fear war as we hate and fear war. 
We do not want to march out our young men against your young men in 
needless, senseless mass slaughter. We have no desire to conquer your 
country or any other country. We believe you have the same right to 
work out your destiny as we to work out ours. We hope and believe that 
you will reciprocate our love. If so, then war will be impossible between 
us, no matter what our political leaders say or do. But if a senseless mad 
ness would seize us and we should again go into war, out of which both 
would emerge ruined, but one a little stronger so that he would be called 
the conqueror, we would still not be hopeless. If you would be the con 
queror, we should return to our senses and apply nonviolent resistance. 
Our spirit would not allow you to conquer us for long. We should 
conquer you with new weapons weapons which would strengthen us 
and weaken you as they were applied. But if we should conquer you in 
a senseless military war, then we hope that you in turn would apply to us 
this same nonviolent resistance. In that case you would save your free 
dom and us. For in conquering you we should put ourselves in bondage 
to hold you down. We do not want to hold anybody down. We want 
everybody to be free everywhere. We send you our love and mean it. 

Suppose they wouldn t take it? Then that scripture can be applied: 
"As you enter the house, salute it. And if the house is worthy let 
your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return 
to you" (Revised Standard Version). Give peace; and if the other 
receives it, then well and good; it not, then it returns to you. You 
are more peaceful for having given it. Give love; and ^ou are more 
loving for having given it; and, even if the other doesn t receive it, 
you are better prepared for that final battle of spirit after military 
might has proved nothing, except who was physically the stronger. 
"Heads I win; tails I also win." 

Does sending this kind of love to everybody sound sentimental? 
Not if we mean it. If we meant it, then it would be stark realism. I 
said to ten thousand young people in Cleveland a few months ago: 



154 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

I know you have no quarrel with the rest of the young people of the 
world. You hate war as they hate war. If I could get your love past the 
iron curtain to the young people of Russia, would you have me say to 
them: "We send you our love. We do not want to be thrown at your 
throats any more, we believe, than you want to be thrown at ours. We 
have no quarrel with you. We send you our love." If I could get that 
word to them, would you send it? 

Ten thousand young people roared their applause. And they meant it. 
If that could be duplicated on a wide scale on both sides of the 
curtain, then war would be impossible. Before this vast imponderable, 
military men would be powerless. For you cannot fight it; you cannot 
stab it; you can only succumb to it. It is the invincible. We see this 
more clearly now since everything I have said above has been em 
bodied, illustrated, and demonstrated in the life and death and 
accomplishments of Mahatma Gandhi. 

When Lincoln was shot for the same reason that Gandhi was 
shot, namely, for the crime of wanting to heal the wounds of a divided 
nation, Secretary Stanton said as he stood beside the dead leader, 
"Now he belongs to the ages/ Of Mahatma Gandhi it can also be 
said, and said with deeper meaning, "Now he belongs to the ages;" 
for if there are to be any ages to come for man on this earth, we will 
have to apply his way of truth and nonviolence. 

But Mahatma Gandhi doesn t belong vaguely to the ages. He 
belongs to this age and to the central problem of this age this 
impending war. 

Gandhi, therefore, is a world issue because he has lifted up a 
universal possibility through a universal principle, which to me is a 
Christian principle. Years ago Tolstoy wrote to Mahatma Gandhi in 
South Africa a very prophetic sentence: "Therefore your activity in 
the Transvaal, as it seems to us at this end of the world, is the most 
essential work, the most important of all the work now being done 
in the world, wherein. not only the nations of Christendom, but of 
all the world, Vill unavoidably take part." "Will unavoidably take 
part!" To be able to see, in that little cloud as big as a man s hand on 
the horizon of South Africa, a cloud that would cover the earth and 
become heavy with the destinies of the race was a rare insight. But 
it has happened. 

In this decade- two forces have come to grips in a very acute form. 
These forces have been struggling from time immemorial, but the 
struggle never became so acute as now, and never before were such 



"BAPU IS FINISHED" IS HE? 155 

large stakes involved. The struggle between the material and the 
spiritual has now come to a head. The struggle is not really between 
the material and the spiritual, but between the material-minded and 
the spiritual-minded over the control of material forces. To what ends 
shall we use these material forces? The discovery of atomic energy 
has precipitated a crisis in human affairs greater than any other 
which has faced man in his long history. 

One of the makers of the atomic bomb said that in thre years all 
nations will have the knowledge of the bomb and in seven years all 
nations will have a sufficient backlog to destroy any other nation. He 
estimated that five hundred bombs could destroy America as a going 
unit. We have two hundred cities with populations above fifty 
thousand. To destroy American civilization all you would have to do 
would be to destroy those two hundred cities. Five hundred bombs 
would do it, and they need not be sent by planes, but by rocket 
propulsion from any part of the world, marked unerringly for their 
destination. And he added, there is no defense. England is even more 
vulnerable. That was said three years ago. Since then the atomic 
bombs dropped on Japan have been rendered crude in comparison to 
the ones now perfected. Those first bombs destroyed four square 
miles; those now perfected could destroy a hundred square miles, so 
that two hundred bombs could destroy America. Less than that 
number could destroy England. Another atomic energy expert says 
that if war starts again, both sides will be ruined in four hours. For 
obviously it won t start unless both sides are prepared to use atomic 
bombs. Add to this the fact that other forms of destruction gas, 
bacteriological infection may be used also. The outlook stuns us. It 
stuns us so much that it sends us into the jitters, or makes us 
develop an escape mentality "Let s forget it" or sends us to 
renewed efforts for a way out, a solution. 

This last was the reaction of a group of scientists, makers of the 
atomic bombs, who called together in Chicago some of the leading 
Christian ministers for a two-day conference. They said in substance: 

Frankly, we re frightened. We ve discovered energy which we do not 
know how to use. We can produce the means, but we can t produce the 
ends for which these means are to be used. If you ministers can t produce 
the ends for which this atomic energy is to be used, then we re sunk. We 
have discovered physical power which we can t handle; it is now up to 
you to show moral and spiritual power which will control this energy for 
great human ends. 



156 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

For the first time science has turned to religion and has said, "Save 
us: we perish." I think they were right and they were wrong in 
turning to the Christian ministers and dumping the problem in 
their lap. It is theirs, but not theirs exclusively it s everybody s. 
For we are all involved in the moral responsibility, and in the 
physical consequences if that moral responsibility breaks down or 
is too feeble to guide our destiny. 

It looks as though God were saying to humanity: "You are 
enamored of physical power; you turn to it for refuge; you make it 
your god; you pile up its power to defend you. Since you want it, 
I m going to give it to you." And he uncovered the heart of an atom. 
^There is power. Now choose. What will you do with it? From now 
on it is co-operate or perish. You can co-operate and use this energy 
for making a new world for everybody, my world. Or you can use it 
to destroy yourselves. Now choose." And God felt the Cross press 
anew upon his heart as he said it. 

The climax of this last war came in the dropping of the atomic 
bombs upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The dropping of these bombs 
was the trump card which militarism played. When they threw down 
this trump card on the table of events, then the game was won. 
Militarism won the trick and the game. The war was over. Over? Men 
knew instinctively that nothing was over; something had just begun. 
A newspaper columnist, describing the effect the dropping of the 
atomic bombs had on the people in Washington, said: "For three 
days after the dropping of the first bomb I walked the streets of 
Washington, and I never saw a smile on a single face. And a wise 
crack would have been as much out of place as at a funeral." The 
bomb had not fallen on Japan alone; it had fallen on the conscience 
of humanity. "The Bomb That Fell on America" describes in 
graphic, quivering verse the dilemma in which we find ourselves. 
The bomb fell on us on our consciences and on our futurel 

The situation following the war has steadily deteriorated. A 
titanic struggle is on. At the close of this war stand out two great 
nations, each embodying an idea America embodying individualism 
and Russia embodying collectivism. Britain in the last election 
moved halfway between those positions. Do we fight it out to see 
which idea is to be top dog in the world? I hope not. For each is a 
half-truth. Individualism forgets that life is social, and collectivism 
forgets that life is individual and personal. The thesis is individualism, 
and the antithesis is collectivism, and now out of that clash of 



"BAPU IS FINISHED" IS HE? 157 

opposites a third something is struggling to be born, a synthesis, 
gathering up the truth in thesis and the truth in antithesis into a 
third something, a "new man out of both parties/ That "new man 
out of both parties/ the synthesis, will be a society where you love 
your neighbor the truth in collectivism as yourself the truth 
in individualism. It will be a Kingdom of God society. That society 
is struggling to be born. Something beyond individualism and beyond 
collectivism is struggling to come into being God s society, the 
Kingdom of God on earth. That is the meaning of this crisis. The 
crisis may be the death pangs of our race, or it may be the birth 
pangs of a new world for everybody. 

It is a dark hour never darker. But a star has come out in the 
sky. The world was dark when Mahatma Gandhi fell, and it became 
darker after he fell. Gloom encircled us. Bernard Shaw summed it 
all up in a biting comment on Gandhi s death: "It s dangerous to 
be good/ And then we saw he was wrong. It is dangerous not to be 
good. It is fatal. A star came out! Goodness is power! Gandhi dead 
was Gandhi s ideas and spirit alive alive as never before. Immediately 
he became a world issue. 

Gandhi stands for the power of spirit, the atma. He demonstrates 
the naked power of the spirit. No armies, no propaganda, no institu 
tion, no pomp, no ceremony, no outer impressiveness just the sheer 
power of spirit or atma. No other human being had less of the 
outer and more of the inner. And because of that, no other man in 
his lifetime was followed by so many millions and in his death 
honored by so many millions more everywhere around the world. 
Gandhi then raises an issue. And what is that issue? It is the issue 
between the atom and the atma. Will the power resident in the 
atom control and smash the spirit in man and all that the spirit has 
built up? Or will the power resident in the atma control the power 
resident in the atom control it for the purpose of making a new 
world for everybody? We have seen the power of both have seen 
the power of the atom in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where it left piles 
of rubble; have seen the power of the atma in Mahatma Gandhi, 
where it freed one fifth of the human race and after freedom healed: 
their divisions and gave a new hope to a confused and baffled 
humanity. We have seen both. The issue, then, is atom versus 
atma. 

No other man since the world began had more physical power,, 
including the atom bomb, under his authority than President 



158 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

Roosevelt. He wielded unprecedented physical power. When the 
news of his death reached me, my first reaction was: "So we are 
having Mr. Truman!" When the news of Mahatma Gandhi s death 
reached me, my first reaction was: "So we are having a new era!" For 
Mahatma Gandhi opens to us a vista and a hope. He revives something 
in our bosoms. That something is the power we have seen in Jesus 
Christ. We have seen a Man without armies, without any of the ac- 
couterments of power, without pomp and without show, with noth 
ing but goodness and that goodness willing to be tortured on the 
cross for men rising out of that death and resurrection to rule the 
hearts of men in East and West. No power on earth or heaven is any 
thing like this. For Jesus power survives the rise and decay of power 
based on force, which has its brief, bloody day and perishes. He lives 
on! And Gandhi, the Hindu, points us to him! I don t care what he 
says about it; by his life and death he points us to him! And in doing 
so precipitates a fresh crisis in humanity. 

We have had demonstrated before us in this age, as clearly as if 
in a laboratory, scientific demonstration that there are three levels 
of life and that those three levels give certain results. The lowest level 
is where we return evil for good the demonic level. The next level 
is where we return good for good and evil for evil the legalistic 
level. The highest level is where we return good for evil the Christian 
level. What are the results of living on those levels? Return evil for 
good, and you become evil, and then nothing in the universe backs 
you. The sum total of reality is against you. You quickly or slowly 
perish, but perish you will. Return good for good, and evil for evil, 
and then you become an eye-for-an-eye and a tooth-for-a-tooth person. 
The other man s conduct determines yours; you get your code of 
conduct from the actions of the other person; you have no moral 
standards of your own; you are an echo. When applied to nations 
this system leads straight to war, for you allow the conduct of 
another nation to determine yours. The lower-acting nation inevitably 
pulls down the higher-acting nation to its own level. There is war. 
Return good for evil, and it leads to your ennobling and to the 
possible redemption of the wrongdoer. In case he is not redeemed, 
nevertheless you are stronger. 

The first level is pure weakness. The second level is semipower 
and pure weakness. The third level is pure power. Any individual, 
group, or nation that adopts it will be invincible. We believed that 
before; now it has been demonstrated. We have seen it before our 



"BAPU IS FINISHED" IS HE? 159 

very eyes. When we saw it demonstrated in Jesus, we were able to 
avoid its implications and challenge by saying, "Yes, but he was 
divine; we re not/ forgetting that he .demonstrated this power as a 
man. But now the challenge comes anew in a man who was very 
much a man fallible, limited, originally timid, and with no 
special talents, except the will to act upon this level of life. And it 
turns out to be sheer power. He applied it on a small scale, South 
Africa, and won! He applied it on a colossal scale, the largest human 
unit but one India and won! He applied it to the inner unity of 
that colossal human unit and won! Every place and every time he 
applied it in its pure form, it turned out to be pure power. Alongside 
of the power manifested in Mahatma Gandhi the power of military 
might seems tinseled and irrelevant and weak. 

For we applied the greatest mass might that military forces ever 
applied applied it to Europe during this last war. Result? Peace? 
A mess! We haven t even written a treaty of peace. And worse, we 
are preparing for another war as a direct result of this last war. Any 
thing that would land us in the mess that is Europe, and that now, 
in the midst of that mess, compels us to prepare to do it over again, 
is sheer weakness and colossal stupidity. 

Hitherto we might have pleaded ignorance of the power of the 
spirit or atma, though we could have seen it, if we would, in Jesus. 
But now we have seen it in Mahatma Gandhi demonstrated before 
our very eyes on a colossal scale. It is no longer idealism; it is stark 
realism. It has been demonstrated as clearly as a problem in geometry. 
It is pure science. 

Necessity makes strange bedfellows, so we find Napoleon and Ma 
hatma Gandhi driven by necessity to the same conclusion. No con 
queror ever gained more by wars than did Napoleon, emperor of the 
French, who, beginning as a poor Corsican lieutenant, for a while 
dominated Europe, altering boundaries, upsetting thrones. Yet Na 
poleon knew it was folly to rely on force. Listen to what he said, 
not after he had been defeated and exiled, but at the height of his 
success: "There are only two powers in the world the power of the 
sword and the power of the spirit. In the long run the sword will 
always be conquered by the spirit." Napoleon dimly saw what Ma 
hatma Gandhi demonstrated saw that the spirit was sttonger than 
the sword, in other words that the atma is stronger than the atom. 

So Mahatma Gandhi is God s appeal to this age an age drifting 
again to its doom. If the atomic bomb was militarism s trump card 



160 MAHATMA GANDHI AN INTERPRETATION 

thrown down on the table of human events, then Mahatma Gandhi 
is God s trump card which he throws down on the table of events 
now a table trembling with destiny. God has to play his hand 
skillfully, for man is free, so God cannot coerce. But God has never 
played more skillfully than now. He is appealing mightily to this age 
through the strange little man, as he has been appealing agelessly 
through the Man and here the strange little man and the Man are 
saying the same thing: "Would that even today you knew the things 
that make for peace." The things that make peace do not lie in the 
atom and its control for military ends; they lie in the atma and its 
power to control the atom for the ends of a new humanity for every 
body. 



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