Gandhi and Christianity according to Bede Griffiths

Bede Griffiths points out the influence of Jesus on Gandhi:

Mahatma Gandhi himself was deeply influenced by the gospel, not only directly through the New Testament but still more indirectly through Ruskin and Tolstoy. Thus the social gospel of Christianity has come to be accepted in modern India and has been incorporated, one must say, into Hinduism. But in this process this social gospel has undergone a most significant transformation.

Mahatma Gandhi leads the Salt March, March 1930. Image scanned by Yann; Wikimedia Commons.

What is that transformation?  Gandhi took Jesus’s teachings more to heart than most Christians do.  And in the process, he devised a way to make them applicable to twentieth (and twenty-first?) centuries deepest problems such as ending colonialism.

Gandhi has shown how the principles of the Sermon on the Mount can be applied to social and political life in a way which no one before him had done: he made the beatitudes a matter of practical concern in a way which few Christians have realized.

Bede Griffiths gives Gandhi credit and rightly so for applying the principles of Jesus’ teaching on the Sermon on the Mount to his work of nonviolence and his nonviolent overthrow of the British Empire. Griffiths also shows deep ecumenism at work: how to take what is useful and profound from spiritual traditions of the world and apply them.

“Desegregation.” Statue honoring the 1951 strike by 16-year-old Barbara Johns and several fellow students protesting deplorable conditions at their segregated KS school. Their strike ultimately led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision banning racially segregated school systems. Photo by Travis on Flickr

As Griffiths says, “few Christians have realized” how to apply Jesus’ teachings to real life social change like Gandhi did—and Gandhi was not a Christian! Gandhi outchristianizes Christians! 

Thanks to Howard Thurman and to Martin Luther King, Jr., these methods were applied successfully to the great challenge of ending racial segregation in the south of the US and Mandala utilized them in combating apartheid in South Africa.  They were dismantled by the “supreme court” in this century however and we are witnessing the result today.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics, p. 247.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teachiing, click HERE.

Banner Image: A former untouchable man leads a ministry employing villagers to make new clothes for schoolchildren in lowest-social rank untouchable villages, so the children can break free from the near-inescapable caste of “untouchability.” Photo by David Prasad on Flickr

Queries for Contemplation

Why do you think Gandhi outchristianizes Christians?  What does that say about the importance of Deep Ecumenism?

Recommended Reading

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6 thoughts on “Gandhi and Christianity according to Bede Griffiths”

  1. Avatar

    Thank you so much for your teachings today on sacrifice that you communicated in the video. So true, and so beautiful. I have and continue to live this daily, in my work tending to the elders in need. Doing so over the past 16 years, I have learnt deeply the things you spoke of today. Yes, there are alot of sacrifices when you enter into the solidarity of others suffering, yet it is in and through this that you actually open to the gifts given that already reside within and you offer them back to God, God in others.

    Nothing has expanded my capacity to love, in compassionate and merciful ways as much as this being loved to love, even in the midst of the sorrows and the joys, the tears and the laughter. I may be broken, but I have also been broken open into givenness.

  2. Avatar

    +++ SACRA *** FICE +++ +++ SACRA *** FICE +++ +++ SACRA *** FICE +++
    This is the first time in decades of reading and research that this translation came into the Light for me.
    It will be my revised mantra for meditation. I might even start drumming it. I hope/pray I can live up to it.
    As the mystic activists of the world have shown, it is the Key to the Kingdom.
    +++ Thank you Matthew +++

  3. Avatar

    These last two days of DMs, along with the comments by others, are particularly powerful. When I think of Mahatma Gandhi and his encounters with (and deep research of) Christianity, I always think of one of his powerful statements. The statement is quoted differently in different sources, but I like this way of putting it: “If Christians were Christian, I’d be a Christian.” — Gandhiji

  4. Avatar

    Thank you for the very meaningful message on sacrifice. It certainly has been construed very narrowly by too many churches and usually is applied to women and other marginalized people. Gandhi surely applied the Sermon on the Mount in his life and work. It is sad that many churches do not. Jim Wallis wrote a powerful expose of this sadness and a call to return to the Way of Jesus in his book, “Christ in Crisis”.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Sue, I too have enjoyed Bede and Matthew’s take on sacrifice–so often when I hear sacrifice I also here in my mind, “We all have our crosses to bear…” Or I think of television evangelists that talk a bout us making a financial sacrifice for their ministries. So, I agree Sue, todays message on sacrifice was a breath of fresh air. Two passage of scripture that use sacrifice in a different way are Hosea 6:6 where God says, “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” The other passage is Hebrews 10:5 where it says, “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for me…” Just somethings to think about…

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