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Arun Shourie's Column, Part 1/2

Observer February 4, 1994

   On January 2, 1937 a Professor of Philosophy from Poland, Krzenski came to
see Gandhiji. Krzanski told Gandhiji that Catholicism was the only true

"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 religion.

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 theory.

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

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. In incor-
porate all that is good in other religions.

Krzenski: That is your goodwill.

Gandhiji: That is not enough.

Krzenski: But I have great respect for you.

Gandhiji: Not enough. If I were to join the Catholic chruch you would have
greater respect for me.

Krzenski: Oh yes, if you became a Catholic, you would be as great as St.

Gandhiji: But not otherwise? A Hindu cannot be a St. Francis? Poor Hindu!

Krzenski: But may Take your photograph?

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.203-4)

   Gandhiji's acuity and wit! On the other side, the trap the dogma of certain-
ties 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 Messanger 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 Party.

....to be continued....

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