Celebrating the Holiness of Mahatma Gandhi

Remembering the courage and willingness to sacrifice displayed by Daniel Ellsberg in yesterday’s DM, other issues around holiness arise.  For example, how it was the courage and sacrifice of young draft resisters and their willingness to go to jail rather than fight in a war they found immoral, that inspired then middle-aged Daniel Ellsberg to release the Pentagon Papers at great personal risk. 

In 1967, after conferring with Martin Luther King, boxing champion Muhammad Ali refused induction into the armed forces, was stripped of his titles, and empowered Black soldiers in Vietnam. Excerpt from Ken Burns’ PBS documentary on Ali.

That same spirit is alive with many today resisting environmental degradation and taking on governments and fossil fuel conglomerates in doing so.  It was also very alive in the civil rights movement when so many teenagers and adults braved marching in the streets amidst fire hoses, police on horses beating people, attack dogs, being arrested and sent to jail–all in nonviolent protest.

The same holds for those resisting dictatorships such as the nonviolent protesters in the Philippines who brought down Marco’s dictatorship.

The holiness of such actions is evident in the courage and willingness to sacrifice that accompany them.

How central Mahatma Gandhi was to the entire history of nonviolent protest!  And how central Jesus was to the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi.

“Mohandas Gandhi, the Power of Nonviolence.” Mini-documentary on the life and nonviolent teaching of Mahatma Gandhi. NBC News Learn

Catholic monk Bede Griffiths, who lived in a Christian ashram in India for over 50 years and wrote many important books on Hinduism and Christianity, tells us that Gandhi was the first one to translate Jesus’ teachings into truly real practical and political application.  His practice of nonviolence and nonviolent civil disobedience does exactly that and of course it has influenced Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, the Filipino overthrow of Marcos and so much more current history.

This is how Bede puts it: 

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 been incorporated one must say into Hinduism [and] has undergone a most significant transformation….

Fr. Gerard Rodricks SJ (Bombay Province) outlines Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings on Christianity and the Sermon on the Mount.

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.

Gandhi, who was not a Christian but a Hindu, was a deep ecumenist way ahead of his time.  Applying Jesus’ teachings to his essentially Hindu culture, he overthrew a quasi “Christian” empire nonviolently. 


Adapted from Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations, p. 248.

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

Banner Image: Mahatma Gandhi, as part of the Indian independence movement, encouraged people to wear clothes made of homespun cotton yarn rather than turning over India’s cotton crops to the British. Wikimedia Commons.

Queries for Contemplation

What other examples of nonviolent resistance can you name besides those mentioned here?  How does that and Gandhi’s example and teachings  fill you with hope and deepen your own courage?


Recommended Reading

Christian Mystics: 365 Readings & Meditations

As Matthew Fox notes, when an aging Albert Einstein was asked if he had any regrets, he replied, “I wish I had read more of the mystics earlier in my life.” The 365 writings in Christian Mystics represent a wide-ranging sampling of these readings for modern-day seekers of all faiths — or no faith. The visionaries quoted range from Julian of Norwich to Martin Luther King, Jr., from Thomas Merton to Dorothee Soelle and Thomas Berry.
“Our world is in crisis, and we need road maps that can ground us in wisdom, inspire us to action, and help us gather our talents in service of compassion and justice.  This revolutionary book does just that.  Matthew Fox takes some of the most profound spiritual teachings of the West and translates them into practical daily mediations.  Study and practice these teachings.  Take what’s in this book and teach it to the youth because the new generation cannot afford to suffer the spirit and ethical illiteracy of the past.” — Adam Bucko, spiritual activist and co-founder of the Reciprocity Foundation for Homeless Youth.

Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox lays out a whole new direction for Christianity—a direction that is in fact very ancient and very grounded in Jewish thinking (the fact that Jesus was a Jew is often neglected by Christian theology): the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality, the Vias Positiva, Negativa, Creativa and Transformativa in an extended and deeply developed way.
Original Blessing makes available to the Christian world and to the human community a radical cure for all dark and derogatory views of the natural world wherever these may have originated.” –Thomas Berry, author, The Dream of the Earth; The Great Work; co-author, The Universe Story


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15 thoughts on “Celebrating the Holiness of Mahatma Gandhi”

  1. Avatar

    Mandela Gandhi and King
    © Tony Bardon, Ronan McAuley and Valerie Bowe

    Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi,
    Martin Luther King
    They all made a difference in their time.
    What did they bring?
    To a world crying out
    For a new song to sing
    Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi,
    Martin Luther King
    They showed us a vision
    They filled it with love
    Mandela Gandhi and King

    They showed us a way to live our lives
    Different than before.
    They showed us a way to live our lives
    That did not ignore
    The needs of others for love and kindness
    And what makes life worth living
    They showed us a way to live our lives
    In a spirit of forgiving

    They brought us something special
    From deep within their being
    They showed us the power of love
    And a new way of seeing
    At the deepest level of our hearts
    There is no division
    And they stood naked before us
    With their love and their vision

    So, put away the bomb put away the gun
    There must be a better way
    Defeating violence with yet more violence
    Will not make it go away
    And if we kill each other
    As we seek a bright new day
    The love that once was in our hearts
    Will all have drained away

    The lyrics of my song Mandela, Gandhi and King seem to me to resonate strongly with the theme of today’s meditation.
    Link to recording on my website https://www.tonybardon.com/mandela-gandhi-and-king.html

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      Great Song, Tony.
      I listened to the catchy tune with the powerful message of Non-Violence.

      Thanks

  2. Avatar

    “nonviolent resistance = peaceful retraint”

    We must peacefully restrain ourselves from the needless, harmful and divisive chatter that social media looks to draw us into.

    The truly wise and conscious know that they ‘don’t know’. The ignorant are fully confident in ‘knowing’ all about what they ‘don’t know’. Engaging in other than thoughtful and considerate debate is nothing but harmful to those moving towards soul consciousness.

    It is wise to keep one’s mouth shut and hearts pure, except for the preservation of peace and justice. — BB.

  3. Avatar
    Gwen McGrenere

    Thank you so much for reminding me about Gandhi’s deep appreciation of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It reminds me of the closing section of my long poem

    ‘African Queen.’

    blacks baptized into fear
    baptized into tears by
    whites brandishing crosses that
    slash heaven from earth having
    themselves nursed at the breast of
    an unearthly mother

    Such pale men were these
    nurtured so long on thin air
    They came with crosses raised
    high in the name of white Christ and
    faraway kings/faceless queens
    hungry to devour whole
    lands whole peoples in the
    name of Their Own Christ.
    !Some christ!
    locked up like a beast in
    their vaulted cathedrals or
    dragged through the streets in
    a heavy gilt monstrance
    a heavy guilt monster raised
    high over the people by
    clean priestly hands swathed
    in pure silk shot through with
    gold thread strip-mined seven
    times seven times from the
    deepest warm seams of the
    scarred heart of this woman,
    Black Mother of All,

  4. Avatar

    The Cosmic mystics in our universal human spiritual traditions have always inspired me with their faith and living experience/actions of God’s Loving~Wisdom~Creative Spirit Present within Us and in Our Compassion~Oneness with All Creation and Living Beings on sacred earth and in our sacred multidimensional-multiverse Cosmos….

  5. Avatar

    My dad marched with progressives in the 1930’s for workers’ rights. He also risked his career signing a petition against Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950’s. That petition was placed under legal seal. McCarthy tried to sue to get access to that petition, to target those who signed. Fortunately, he lost. But before that, he created a system of threat to every employee in the government/universities workforce: anyone suspected of any hint of “commie” ideas (such as progressive leanings) could be, and were, brought before tribunals of inquiry, to be subjected to intense questioning. My dad was ordered to report to an inquiry board in Chicago. A guy who’d been in college with my dad gave them his name. (My dad went to college on the G. I. bill after serving in WWII). The accused had no lawyers: they had to prove their own innocence. My dad was cleared — not, I suspect, through brilliance, but instead with so much convoluted thinking that they probably (correctly) concluded that neither they nor he had any idea what he was talking about and was harmless, if rather odd.

    But the fact remains that McCarthy created a powerful authoritarian government with “proofs” created from rumors, paranoia, and intentional hatred that destroyed many peoples’ lives. And our country went along with it.

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      Thank you for sharing from experience:
      So close to home.
      So personal.
      So terrifying.
      So incredible.

      How is it, I often wonder, that HISTORY, being the magnificent teacher she is (as you have shared here),
      has not yet found a humanity, fertile and forgiving – with sway and power enough – for lasting non-violent reform.
      Faithfully, so many continue, leading and following, the best we know to do; with Courageous Hearts and Deep Joy, bringing our one precious life to bear on all that truly matters.

      This week, I reread Paulo Coelho’s, THE ALCHEMIST – a couple of times. It is chocked full of pause moments, one liners, invitations to ponder and dream deep thoughts, reminders that awaken what our souls have forgotten.
      We are ONE. Whatever is done to one impacts ALL. Whether intended to harm or to bless. To Bless: non-violence, deep joy, courageous hearts. As we clear grudges and fears away – like so many cobwebs prepared to snare a prey. The inviting challenge is to genuinely share, warming smiles and random acts of gentle kindness. For me, there is nothing more profound than to receive a ‘blessing,’ especially from someone I least expect it.

      Thank you, Melinda… and thank you, Dad.

  6. Avatar

    For courage let us not forget the young civil rights activists and martyrs James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner murdered in Mississippi in 1964. Few things are as holy as human and civil rights.

  7. Avatar

    As a regular responder to Amnesty International’s Urgent Action appeals, I see countless examples of selfless courage in those who exercise their rights to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly. It is especially inspiring to see these brave people in the most brutal regimes still risk their lives, knowing the consequences. Today, teenagers in Thailand who protested peacefully are being imprisoned and fined. Iran is executing masses of people for their part in peaceful protests, many in secret, and others are imprisoned for decades. It can be discouraging, but to me these brave souls are a model of how to act to bring forth a dream of respecting human rights, no matter the cost. And who knows what seeds are being planted to encourage others. The human spirit can never be destroyed because it is holy, and it continues to move in positive ways, even in the most dire circumstances. Maybe one of these Thai teenagers or a woman in Iran will become future leaders, or their children, or their grandchildren will.

  8. Avatar

    I want to thank all Commenters here to this Gandhi meditation–from the song (which I really enjoyed) to the stories of a father who took on Senator McCarthy and the reminders of the sacrifices of Chaney, Goodman, Schwerner, and the current bravery of those in jail in Iran and Thailand and more. Together this sharing and story telling creates a community of remembrance and strength around things that matter. I am so pleased that the dm is inviting this kind of sharing–thank you one and all. I am often moved by Comments but don’t have the time to respond individually. So I offer this modest and generic response of gratitude.

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