Truth Is God

Gleanings from the writings of Mahatma Gandhi bearing on God, God-Realization and the Godly Way

Chapter 24: God and Gods

"If Hinduism become monotheistic” suggested the Father, "Christianity and Hinduism can serve India in co-operation."
"I would love to see the co-operation happen," said Gandhiji, "but it cannot if the present day Christian Missions persist in holding up Hinduism to ridicule and saying that no one can go to heaven unless he renounces and denounces Hinduism. But I can conceive a good Christian, silently working away, and shedding the sweet aroma of his life on Hindu communities, like the rose which does not need any speech to spread its fragrance but spreads it because it must. Even so a truly spiritual life. Then surely there would be peace on earth and goodwill among men. But not so long as there is militant or 'muscular' Christianity. This is not to be found in the Bible. But you find it in Germany and other countries."
"But if Indians begin to believe in one God and give up idolatry, don't you think the whole difficulty will be solved?"
"Will the Christians be satisfied with it? Are they all united?"
"Of course all the Christian sects are not united," said the Catholic Father.
"Then you are asking only a theoretical question. And may I ask you, is there any amalgamation between Islam and Christianity, though both are said to believe in one God? If these two have not amalgamated, there is less hope of amalgamation of Christians and Hindus along the lines you suggest. I have my own solution; but in the first instance, I dispute the description that Hindus believe in many gods and are idolaters. They do say there are many gods, but they also declare unmistakably that there is ONE GOD, the GOD of Gods. It is, therefore, not proper to suggest that Hindus believe in many Gods. They certainly believe in many worlds. Just as there is a world inhabited by men, and another by beasts, so also is there one inhabited by superior beings called gods whom we do not see but who nevertheless exist. The whole mischief is created by the English rendering of the word (Deva or Devata) for which you have not found a better term than 'god'. But God is Ishwara, Devadhideva, God of gods. So you see it is the word 'god' used to describe different divine beings that has given rise to such confusion. I believe that I am a thorough Hindu but I never believe in many gods. Never even in my childhood did I hold that belief, and no one ever taught me to do so.

"As for idol-worship, you cannot do without it in some form or other. Why does a Musalman give his life for defending a mosque which he calls a house of God? And why does a Christian go to a church, and when he is required to take an oath he swears by the Bible? Not that I see any objection to it. And what is it if not idolatry to give untold riches for building mosques and tombs? And what do the Roman Catholics do when they kneel before Virgin Mary and before saints—quite imaginary figures in stone or painted on canvas or glass?"'
"But," objected the Catholic Father, "I keep my mother's photo and kiss it in veneration of her. But I do not worship it, nor do I worship saints. When I worship God, I acknowledge Him as Creator and greater than any human being."
"Even so, it is not the stone we worship, but it is God we worship in images of stone or metal however rude they may be."
"But villagers worship stones as God."
"No, I tell you they do not worship anything that is less than God. When you kneel before Virgin Mary and ask for her intercession, what do you do? You ask to establish contact with God through her. Even so a Hindu seeks to establish contact with God through a stone image. I can understand your asking for the Virgin's intercession. Why are Mussalmans filled with awe and exultation when they enter a mosque? Why, is not the whole universe a mosque? And what about the magnificent canopy of heaven that spreads over you? Is it any less than a mosque? But I understand and sympathize with the Muslims. It is their way of approach to God. The Hindus have their own way of approach to the same Eternal Being. Our media of approach are different, but that does not make Him different."
"But the Catholics believe that God revealed to them the true way."
"But why do you say that the will of God is expressed only in one book called the Bible and not in others? Why i do you circumscribe the power of God?"
"But Jesus proved that he had received the word of God through miracles."
"But that is Mohammed's claim too. If you accept Christian testimony you must accept Muslim testimony and Hindu testimony too."
"But Mohammed said he could not do miracles."
"No. He did not want to prove the existence of God by miracles. But he claimed to receive messages from God.'

Harijan, 13-3-'37

God is not a person. To affirm that He descends to -earth every now and again in the form of a human being is a partial truth which merely signifies that such a person lives near to God. Inasmuch as God is omnipresent, He dwells within every human being and all may, therefore, be said to be incarnations of Him. But this leads us nowhere. Rama, Krishna, etc. are called incarnations of God because we attribute divine qualities to them. In truth they are creations of man's imagination. Whether they actually lived or not does not affect the picture of them in men's minds. The Rama and Krishna of history often present difficulties which have to be overcome by all manner of arguments.
The truth is that God is the force. He is the essence of life. He is pure and undefied consciousness. He is eternal. And yet, strangely enough, all are not able to derive either benefit from or shelter in the all-pervading living presence.
Electricity is a powerful force. Not all can benefit from it. It can only be produced by following certain laws. It is a lifeless force. Man can utilize it if he labours hard enough to acquire the knowledge of its laws.
The living force which we call God can similarly be found if we know and follow His law leading to the discovery of Him in us.

Harijan, 22-6-'47

Hindu Dharma is like a boundless ocean teeming with priceless gems. The deeper you dive, the more treasures you find. In Hindu religion, God is known by various names. Thousands of people look doubtless upon Rama and Krishna as historical figures and literally believe that God came down in person on earth in the form of Rama, the son of Dasharatha, and by worshipping him one can attain salvation. The same thing holds good about Krishna. History, imagination and truth have got so inextricably mixed up. It is next to impossible to disentangle them. I have accepted all the names and forms attributed to God as symbols connoting one formless omnipresent Rama. To me, therefore, Rama described as the lord of Sita, son of Dasharatha, is the all-powerful essence whose name inscribed in the heart, removes all suffering—mental, moral and physical.

Harijan, 2-6-'46