From The Hindu
Mahatma Gandhi’s views on religion came under focus during a symposium organised by Sarvodaya International Trust and the Centre for Gandhian Studies here on Thursday.
Inaugurating the “Gandhi and Religious Freedom and Harmony Symposium,” Governor Rameshwar Thakur said Gandhiji’s fundamental contribution to religion was to give primacy to “truth” rather than conformity to traditional practices.
“He (Gandhiji) had declared that he would reject any religious doctrine that did not appeal to reason and was in conflict with morality,” Mr. Thakur said.
Though a devout Hindu, his actual religion was, in Gandhiji’s own words, one “which transcends Hinduism, which changes one’s very nature, binds one firmly with the truth within and ever purifies.”
Mr. Thakur also recalled Gandhiji as having said that he was as much a Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain and Parsi as he was Hindu.
Though Gandhiji lauded Hinduism as the “most tolerant of all religions”, the Father of the Nation was known to be extremely critical of certain practices in it, particularly untouchability.
Recalling Gandhiji’s views on conversions, which he had opposed, Mr. Thakur said the Mahatma had great respect for Christ, whom he had described as one the “greatest teachers humanity ever had.”
About the Koran, Gandhiji had said that he had come to the conclusion that teaching of the Koran was essentially in favour of non-violence.
Mr. Thakur sought to focus on Gandhiji’s strong commitment to secularism and safeguarding the rights of the minorities by referring to his statement in London soon after the 1931 Roundtable Conference.
“There is a Hindu case put up by Hindu Mahasabha representatives, who claim to represent the Hindu mind, but who in my opinion do not do so. They wish to have a national solution to this question because it suits them. I call that destructive tactics and am pleading with them that, representing as they claim to do the great majority, they must step out and give the smaller communities the assurances they want and the atmosphere would be cleared as if by magic,” Mr. Thakur said, quoting Gandhiji.
Earlier, former Chief Justice of India and chairman of Sarvodaya International Trust M.N. Venkatachalaiah said Gandhiji abhorred all violence, but the one that repulsed him the most was that caused by religious hatred.
It was because of the violence and terrorism, which religious bigots had spread in various parts of India that the trust decided to organise a series of symposiums in various cities during 2009 to revive and promote Gandhiji’s enlightened views on religious freedom, Mr. Venkatachalaiah said in his welcome address.