On January 2nd, 1937 a Professor of Philosophy from
Poland, Krzenski came to see Gandhiji. Krzanski told Gandhiji that
Catholicism was the only true religion.
"Do you therefore say that other religions are
untrue?" Gandhiji asked.
Krzenski: "If others are
convinced that their religions are true they are saved."
Gandhiji: "Therefore, you will
say that everyone would be saved even through untruth. For you say
that if a man really and sincerely believes in what is as a matter
of fact untruth, he is saved. Would you not also hold, therefore,
that your own way may be untrue but that you are convinced that it
is true and therefore you will be saved?"
Krzenski: "But I have studied
all religions and have found that mine is the only true
Gandhiji: "But so have others
studied other religions. What about them? Well, I go further and
tell you that religion is one and it has several branches which
are all equal."
Krzenski: "I accept that no
religion lacks divine inspiration but all have not the same truth,
because all have not the same light."
Gandhiji: "It is an essentially
untrue position to take, for a seeker after truth, that he alone
is in absolute possession of truth. What is happening to the poor
astronomers today? They are changing their position every day, and
there are scientists who impeach even Einstein's latest
Krzenski: "No. But I have
examined the arguments in favour of other religions."
Gandhiji: "But it is an
intellectual examination. You require different scales to weigh
spiritual truth. Either we are all untrue -- quite a logical
position to take -- but, since truth does not come out of untruth,
it is better to say that we all have truth but not the complete
truth. For God reveals His truth to instruments that are
imperfect. Raindrops of purest distilled water become diluted or
polluted as soon as they come in contact with mother earth. My
submission is that your position is arrogant. But I suggest to you
a better position. Accept all religions as equal, for all have the
same root and the same laws of growth."
Krzenski: "It is necessary to
examine every religion philosophically and find out which is more
harmonious, more perfect."
Gandhiji: "That presupposes that
all religions are in watertight compartments. That is wrong. They
are always growing. Let us not limit God's function. He may reveal
Himself in a thousand ways and a thousand times."
Now the Professor switched on to the next question
viz., that of fighting materialism.
Gandhiji: "It is no use trying
to fight these forces without giving up the idea of conversion,
which I assure you is the deadliest poison that ever sapped the
fountain of truth."
Krzenski: "But I have a great
respect for your religion."
Gandhiji: "Not enough. I had
that feeling myself one day, but I found that it was not enough.
Unless I accept the position that all religions are equal, and I
have as much regard for other religions as I have for my own, I
would not be able to live in the boiling war around me. Any
make-believe combination of spiritual forces is doomed to failure
if this fundamental position is not accepted. I read and get all
my inspiration from the Gita. But I also read the Bible and the
Koran to enrich my own religion. I incorporate all that is good in
Krzenski: "That is your
Gandhiji: "That is not
Krzenski: "But I have great
respect for you."
Gandhiji: "Not enough. If I were
to join the Catholic church you would have greater respect for
Krzenski: "Oh yes, if you became
a Catholic, you would be as great as St. Francis."
Gandhiji: "But not otherwise? A
Hindu cannot be a St. Francis? Poor Hindu!"
Krzenski: "But may Take your
Gandhiji: "No, surely you don't
care for materialism! And it is all materialism, isn't it?" (The
Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol 64, pp.
Gandhiji's acuity and wit! On the other side, the
trap the dogma of certainties lays for its adherents.
For the position that Krzenski was articulating is
the standard position, it is the ineluctable position that every
adherent of a revealatory, milleniar- ist religion must take.
The premises of such religions -- of Christianity,
of Islam, of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism -- are that there is one Truth;
that it has been revealed to One Man -- the Son of God Jesus, the
Messenger of God Mohammed, the Culmination of Philosophers Marx;
that it has been enshrined by him or on his behalf in One Book --
the Bible, the Quran, Das Kapital; that this text is very difficult
to grasp and, therefore, one must submit to and be guided by One
(external, overarching) agency -- the Church, the Maulvi, the
Now, as the millennium shall come only when, but
immediately when all accept the Revelation, it is the duty of the
agency - of the Church, of the Islamic rulers and maulvis, of the
Party - to see that everyone sees the Light. If even after The Light
has been shown to a person, he refuses to subscribe to it, he must
be put out of harm's way.
For, in that circumstance, the man is not merely
harming himself, he is coming in the way of the mandate of God, of
Allah's Will, or as in Marxism a Utopia.
The presumption Gandhiji was nailing in that
representative conversation follow necessarily from these premises:
there is no salvation outside the Church or the Faith or Party --
the poor Buddha, with all his compassion, just cannot be a St
What must be done also follows inevitably from
those premises: the Church must convert, Lenin and Mao must export
the revolution, Khomeni must export the revelation. These are
Conversions have, therefore, been going on for 2000
years. They have been proclaimed to be an essential of Christianity,
a duty of every Christian. They have become one of the principal
preoccupations -- in some cases, as with the evangelists, the
principal business of the Church.
An incredibly vast organisation has been built up,
and incredibly huge resources are expended to save souls.
It costs "145 billion dollars to operate global
Christianity," records a book on evangelisation. The Church commands
four million full-time Christian workers, it runs 13,000 major
libraries, it publishes 22,000 periodicals, it publishes four
billion tracts a year, it operates 1,800 Christian radio and TV
stations. It runs 1,500 universities, and 930 research centers. It
has a quarter of a million foreign missionaries; and over 400
institutions to train them. And those are figures from a book
published in 1989 -- since then these has been the surge in Eastern
Europe and Russia.
And the numbers are indeed impressive. Europe and
North America are almost wholly Christian. 97% of the population of
Latin America, 92% of Phillipines, 36% of Africa, 32% of South Korea
Are they -- either the continents or the converts
-- closer to the spiritual? Is their conduct better?
Such were the questions that Gandhiji asked the
missionaries about the ones they had converted in India. The
questions are as telling in regard to converts the world over...
Also, the sudden jumps in the number of adherents
during famines and other privations testify to the use to which such
times were put.
Swami Vivekananda admonished the missionaries in
the harshest language for the means they adopted, for the use to
which they put the people's despair: his Collected Works are full of
his extreme fury on these counts...
A polish student brought a photograph to Gandhiji
and asked him to autograph it. There is a school run by Catholic
fathers, the student explained, "I shall help the school from the
proceeds of the sale of this photographs."
Returning the photograph, Mahadev Desai records in
his Diary, Gandhiji said, "Ah, that is a different story. You do not
expect me to support the fathers in their mission of conversion? You
know what they do?" "And with this he told him...", records Mahadev
Desai, "the story of the so-called conversions in the vicinity of
Tiruchengodu, the desecration and demolition of the Hindu temple,
how he (Gandhiji) had been requested by the International Fellowship
of Faiths to forbear writing anything about the episode as they were
trying to intervene, how ultimately even the intervention of that
body, composed mainly of Christians, had failed, and how he was
permitted to write about it in Harijan."
"He, however, had deliberately refrained from
writing, in order not to exacebrate feeling on the matter." If the
Harijans had awakened to matters of the spirit and had acquired the
ability to assess these things, he told the student, "I would bless
them for voluntarily embracing Christianity."
But that is not what is happening. He went on to
recall how the weakness of his own son had been used by persons to
convert him to Islam. "The young man could see the deep pain with
which Gandhiji was speaking", Mahadev Desai records. "He did not
press him to give the autograph and took his leave." (Collected
Works, Vol 63, pp