Gandhi and Comparative Religion
Mahatma Gandhi was deeply interested in the comparative study of religions since the days of his youth. His interest in religious matters was due to the background of India, which was saturated with religious ideas and spirituality. Religion, to Gandhi, was not a matter of individual experience: Gandhi found God within creation. The meaning of the word 'Dharma' is 'religion' in India. This is a comprehensive term which embraces all of humanity. Gandhi referred to "God" as "Truth," which has great significance. His mission was not only to humanize religion, but also to moralize it. Gandhi's interpretation of Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity made his religion a federation of different religious faiths. His views on proselytization are also included in the paper.
The comparative study of religions has never been merely an academic concern for Mahatma Gandhi, the great Hindu spiritualist and leader. Since the days of his youth he has been existentially in the search of such studies as has been evident from his famous book "The story of my experiments with truth."
India is a country where people are predominantly religious. Religion and spirituality are firmly rooted in the minds of the Indian people. Some countries are well known for their political institutions, others for their economic prosperity while some others for their social advancement. India is well known for her philosophy and religion. According to Max Muller the study of religion is incomplete unless it is studied with reference to India. To quote him, "Take religion and where can you study its true origin, its natural growth, and its inevitable decay better than in India, the home of Brahmanism, the birth place of Buddhism and the refuge of zoroastrianism even now the matter of new superstitions - and why not, in the future the regenerate child of the purest faith, if only purified from the dust of nineteen centuries?" (1) . To others, Religion is one condition among so many other countries, but to the Indian people it is one great sustaining force, pertaining to all the spheres of their lives. Mahatma Gandhi who was born and brought up in India could not escape this strong influence of religion in all his activities.
In ancient times it was a common belief that religion is a matter of individual experience. But modern psychology has shown that there is no such thing as a merely individual experience, which is absolutely cut off from the society. There is an important element of truth in the views of Durkheim and other members of the French Sociological school, who maintain that religion, is essentially a social phenomenon. The views of Jesus: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's" did not find much favour in Gandhi. Rather his view was more in accordance with the writings of H.G. Wells, according to whom "the doctrine of the kingdom of heaven as Jesus preached it, it was no less than a bold...