Mohandas Gandi

“Great Soul” of India (1869–1948)
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Mohandas Gandhi 1931 Black and White Photo from Getty Images

Mohandas Gandhi subtitled his autobiography, “The Story of My Experiments with Truth.” Whether in his nonviolent campaign against British colonialism, or in efforts toward interreligious understanding, or his struggle to promote “the welfare of all,” his chief aim was always spiritual: to conform his life to the Truth, and to work for the Kingdom of God.  

Though he remained a devout Hindu throughout his life, Gandhi always posed a special challenge for Christians. His experience of Christian missionaries in India and their general alliance with colonialism made him doubtful that their religion had any unique claim to superiority. And yet, even as he politely rejected the dogmatic claims of Christianity he nevertheless embraced the ethical claims of Christ. In the Sermon on the Mount and the “law of love” he found what he called the “true message of Jesus.” In Jesus’ practice of redemptive suffering he found an exemplar of nonviolence, worthy of reverence and devotion.  

He lived to see the independence from England, but mourned the partition that followed, and the massive toll of communal violence. He was assassinated on January 30, 1948, by Hindu nationalists who opposed his efforts to overcome conflict between Hindus and Muslims. He is particularly remembered for having demonstrated the practical power of nonviolent action, not simply as a moral code for the individual, but as a practical instrument of social change.  

“If I have read the Bible correctly, I know many men who have never heard the name of Jesus Christ or have rejected the official interpretation of Christianity, who will, probably, if Jesus came in our midst today in the flesh, be owned by him more than many of us.” —Mohandas Gandhi 

© Liturgical Press.

Robert Ellsberg

Robert Ellsberg is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Orbis Books and the author of several award-winning books, including All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time; Blessed Among All Women; and The Saints' Guide to Happiness.

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