Gandhi and Christ: What Did Jesus Mean to Gandhi?



Article Title: Gandhi and Christ: What Did Jesus Mean to Gandhi?
Submitted by: Craig Lock
Category (key words): Gandhi, Jesus, Christianity, faith, peace, pursuit of peace, beliefs, spiritual, spiritual unity, religion, unity of religion/s, spiritual growth
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and his various other blogs are at Obsessive or WHAT!

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(Personal growth, self help, writing, internet marketing, spiritual, ‘spiritual writings’ (how ‘airey-fairey’), words of inspiration and money management, how boring now, craig

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“We share what we know, so that we all may grow.”



Submitter’s Note:

Craig is studying the teachings of different religions and faiths (to attempt to find ‘common ground’/principles) and as he learns from his research, is sharing these notes in the spirit of ‘enlightening’ (himself and perhaps others) regarding ‘eternal and universal truths.’ Hope this piece may be of interest to you too (as well as perhaps promoting more understanding of other faiths…as in sharing, I learn too!


What did Jesus mean to Gandhi? Did he have any influence on Gandhi’s life and teaching? What according to Gandhi was the essence of Christ’s message? Was Gandhi a ‘secret Christian’? What is the challenge that Gandhi presents to Christians and Christianity today?

Answers to these questions may be found in a recent book, ‘Gandhi and Christianity’ edited by Robert Ellsberg and published by Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York 10545. This book is an anthology of the speeches and writings of Gandhi on the subject as well as responses to Gandhi’s challenge by various Christian scholars. It should be a valuable reference book on the ongoing dialogue between Christians and representatives of other religions.

Early in his life, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had been reading the Bible to keep a promise he had made to a friend. He found the Old Testament extremely difficult going. He disliked the Book of Numbers. But the New Testament produced a different impression, especially the Sermon on the Mount which went straight to his heart. The passion of Jesus Christ moved Gandhi greatly. The verses about not resisting evil but offering the other cheek and giving the cloak to one who asked for one’s coat delighted him beyond measure. They reminded him about something he had learned in his childhood about returning with gladness good for evil done.

“I did once seriously think of embracing the Christian faith“, Gandhi told Millie Polak, the wife of one of his earliest disciples. “The gentle figure of Christ, so patient, so kind, so loving, so full of forgiveness that he taught his followers not to retaliate when abused or struck, but to turn the other cheek, I thought it was a beautiful example of the perfect man…”

However, on another occasion, he said he could accept Jesus “as a martyr, an embodiment of sacrifice, and a divine teacher, but not as the most perfect man ever born. His death on the Cross was a great example to the world, but that there was anything like a mysterious or miraculous virtue in it, my heart could not accept”.

“The message of Jesus as I understand it”, said Gandhi, “is contained in the Sermon on the Mount unadulterated and taken as a whole… If then I had to face only the Sermon on the Mount and my own interpretation of it, I should not hesitate to say, ‘Oh, yes, I am a Christian.’ But negatively I can tell you that in my humble opinion, what passes as Christianity is a negation of the Sermon on the Mount… I am speaking of the Christian belief, of Christianity as it is understood in the west.”

Gandhi could speak beautifully about the message and personality of Jesus. Talking about the Gospel passage of the rich young man, he said, “St. Mark has vividly described the scene. Jesus is in his solemn mood. He is earnest. He talks about eternity. He knows the world about him. He is himself the greatest economist of his time. He succeeded in sermonising time and space – He transcends them. It is to him at the best that one comes running, kneels down and asks, “Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said unto him, “One thing thou lackest. Go thy way, sell what thou hast and give it to the poor, and thou shall have treasure in heaven – come, take up the cross and follow me.” Here you have an eternal rule of life stated in the noblest words the English language is capable of producing.” Gandhi went on to say that he could quote even stronger passages from the Hindu scriptures and the lesson he wanted to draw was that if we could clean our houses, palaces an

Poverty, suffering, the Cross, non-violence, morality – all these were part of the Kingdom of God. But for Gandhi what struck him most in the Sermon on the Mount was Christ’s teaching on non-retaliation, or non-resistance to evil. “Of all the things I have read what remained with me forever was that Jesus came almost to give a new law – not an eye for an eye, but to receive two blows when only one was given, and to go two miles when they were asked to go one. I came to see that the Sermon on the Mount was the whole of Christianity for him who wanted to live a Christian life. It is that sermon that has endeared Jesus to me.”

“Jesus occupies in my heart,” said Gandhi, “the place of one of the greatest teachers who have had a considerable influence on my life. I shall say to the Hindus that your life will be incomplete, unless you reverentially study the teachings of Jesus… Make this world the kingdom of God and his righteousness and everything will be added unto you. I tell you that if you will understand, appreciate, and act up to the spirit of this passage, you won’t need to know what place Jesus or any other teacher occupies in your heart.”

For Gandhi, Jesus was the prince of ‘Satyagrahists’.* “The example of Jesus suffering is a factor in the composition of my undying faith in non-violence. What then does Jesus mean to me? To me, He was one of the greatest teachers humanity has ever had.” For Gandhi, to say that Jesus was the only begotten son of God was to say that “in Jesus’ own life was the key of his nearness to God, that he expressed as no other could, the spirit and will of God… I do believe that something of the spirit that Jesus exemplified in the highest measure, in its most profound human sense exist… If I did not believe it, I should be a sceptic, and to be a sceptic is to live a life that is empty and lacking moral content. Or, what is the same thing, to condemn the human race to a negative end.”

* I think the word literally means ‘soul-force’

Gandhi believed that in every man there was an impulse for good and a compassion that is the spark of divinity, that will one day burst into the full flower that is the hope of all mankind. An example of this flowering, he said, may be found in the figure and in the life of Jesus. “I refuse to believe that there not exists or has ever existed a person that has not made use of his example to lessen his sins, even though he may have done so without realising it. The lives of all have, in some greater or lesser degree, been changed by His presence, His actions and the words spoken by His divine voice… I believe that he belongs not solely to Christianity, but to the entire world; to all races and people, it matters little under what flag, name or doctrine they may work, profess a faith or worship a God inherited from their ancestors.”

For Gandhi Jesus was the true ‘satyagrahist’, who passed the test of non-violence, even if he seemed to be otherwise a failure. “The virtues of mercy, non-violence, love and truth in any man can be truly tested when they are pitted against ruthlessness, violence, hate and untruth… This is the true test of Ahimsa… He who when being killed bears no anger against his murderer and even asks God to forgive him is truly non-violent. History relates this of Jesus Christ. With his dying breath on the Cross, he is reported to have said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what to do.”

According to the theory of ‘Satyagraha’, said Gandhi, an adequate appeal to the heart never fails. “Seeming failure is not of the law of ‘Satyagraha’, but of incompetence of the ‘Satyagrahist’ by whatever cause induced. The name of Jesus at once comes to the lips. It is an instance of brilliant failure. And he has been acclaimed in the west as the prince of passive resisters. I showed years ago in South Africa that the adjective ‘passive’ was a misnomer, at least as applied to Jesus. He was the most active resister known perhaps to history. His was non-violence par excellence.”

This article was directly sourced from +

(and I’m sharing these thoughts and ideas in a spirit of in some small way, promoting better understanding and dialogue between faiths…or at least trying (thanks!).

Also see an excellent article/link at

“My life is my message.” – Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi

“Ï love Christ, but am not so keen on his followers.” and/or “I would have been a follower of Christ, if it weren’t for the Christians!”

(Apparently, Gandhi was kicked out of a church during his time in South Africa)

Gandhi greatly admired Christ; God is not a religion. God is love. Religious tradition is the enemy of true spirituality. Seek God and shun religion. It is the only path to true peace with God.

Religion divides; whereas truth unites.”

So after all that…


“There is neither east nor west, tribe nor ethnicity, male or female, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist. Christian nor Jew. There is only a God-filled humanity.”

Find, then walk your OWN path to Highest Truth and be happy

Shared by craig

“I would like the British (military) to leave India as friends.”

PS: Former Archbishop in South Africa Desmond Tutu said these inspirational words: “We have come to a time in the history of the world, where we need to rediscover the path to peace, and the path to peace can never be war. This pathway is lined with the concept of co-existence and co-inhabitance of the world.”

“A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends and when the soul of a nation, long supressed, finds utterance.”

– Jahrulal Nehru, first Prime Minister of India

“It is time for people of good will from every faith, culture and nation to recognise that a terrible danger threatens humanity. We must set aside the partisan bickering between nations and join together to confront the danger that lies before us. Let us seek common ground between peoples around the globe… because what unites us is far more important than what divides us.

In our own little ways in our individual lives we can touch so many others and share our common humanity. And in so doing we can illuminate the hearts and minds of humanity. We must offer a compelling alternate vision for the world: a bright future of justice, tolerance, respect for other traditions and values and especially a vision of goodness and hope fuelled by the flame of love – one that banishes the fanatical ideology of intolerance and hatred to the darkness from which it emerged.”

– craig (as inspired by and adapted from the words of Abdurahman Wahid, former President of Indonesia)

About the submitter:

Craig likes (no loves) to share information and insights to encourage others to be all they are capable of being. He’d love to try to ‘build bridges’ (not metal or wooden ones, thank goodness!) between people, firmly believing that what we share is way more important than what divides us. In his life mission Craig hopes to encourage, motivate and inspire people to be their best through realising their full potentials and live their very best lives. He believes in the great potential of every human being in the journey of life and loves to encourage people to share their individual (and guiding) spirits, so that they become all that they are CAPABLE of being

The various books that Craig “felt inspired to write” are available at and

The submitter’s blogs (with extracts from his various writings: articles, books and new manuscripts) are at

and his various other blogs are at Obsessive or WHAT!

“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”

~ Franz Kafka

Craig’s new manuscript, ‘A New Dawn’ is set in the Middle East: In it he attempts to find ‘common ground’/principles between different religions and cultures and to try to make some difference in building bridges in an ever more dangerous, turbulent and uncertain world. A passionate story of inspiration: hope, faith, peace and especially love.

“A good book should take you from your everyday life to another place entirely.”

These thoughts may be published, electronically or in print (with acknowledgment to the source web sites, thanks)

“What we learn in the darkness, we are to share in the eternal light.”

“Live simply, so that others may simply live.” – Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi once said to a group of missionaries: “You Christians look after a document containing enough dynamite to blow all civilisation to pieces, turn the world upside down and bring peace to a battle-torn planet. BUT you treat it as nothing more than a piece of literature.”

When the missionary E. Stanley Jones met with Gandhi he asked him, “Mr. Gandhi, though you quote the words of Christ often, why is that you appear to so adamantly reject becoming his follower?”

Gandhi replied, “Oh, I don’t reject Christ. I love Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ.”

“If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today,” he added.


For more reading on Mahatma Gandhi and Christianity

See and

Gandhi’s message to Christians

Click on

“Let us look in the mirror of history*, heeding its lessons, then hold hands will all peoples in facing and heralding in a better future, a brighter tomorrow for all peoples around the globe.”


* that’s a metaphor, btw

“Whilst we can (and should) celebrate our uniquenesses, let not our different beliefs set us apart as human beings, but rather let the Spirit of our shared humanity be what defines and unites us as common citizens of our planet.”


Help lift our eyes a little higher.”


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