Selected Letters of Gandhi : Part-2

A collection of Mahatma Gandhi letters.

Chapter-26: Idol Worship

To Miss Mary Barr. Recorded by M.D. under November 29, 1932

Because I do not find a particular thing helpful for me, I may not be indifferent about others and not take the trouble of knowing whether it is helpful for them. I know that particular form of idolatry is helpful for millions, not because they are less developed that I am, but because they are differently constituted. What must not be forgotten about me is that not only do I not consider idol worship to be a sin, but I know that in some form or other it is a condition of our being. The difference between one form of worship and another is a difference in degree and not in kind. Mosque going or church going is a form of idol worship. Veneration of the Bible, the Koran, the Gita and the like is idol worship, and even if you do not use a book or a building, but draw a picture of it certain qualities, it is again idol worship. And I refuse to call the worship of the one who has a stone image a grosser form of worship. Learned judges have been known to have such images in their own homes. A philosopher like Pandit Malaviyaji will not eat his meal without offering worship to the household deity. It would be both arrogant and ignorant to look down upon such worship as superstition. Again in the imagination of the worshipper, God is in a consecrated stone and not in the other stones lying about him. Even so the sanctuary in a church is more sacred than any other place in it. You can multiply for yourself instances of this character. All this is a plea not for laxity in thought or worship, but it is a plea for a definite recognition of the face that all forms of honest worship are equally good and equally efficient for the respective worshippers. Time is gone for the exclusive possession of the right by an individual or group. God is no respecter of forms or words, for He is able to penetrate our actions and our speech and our understand them ourselves, and it is just our thoughts that matter to Him.