Gandhi and Mahayana Buddhism

Journal of Oriental Studies 35:2
(1996), pp. 84-105.

At Gandhi’s call all India blossomed forth to new greatness, just as once before, in earlier times, when [the] Buddha proclaimed the truth of fellow feeling and compassion among all living creatures.

–Rabindranath Tagore

[Gandhi is] the greatest Indian since Gautama Buddha and the greatest man since Jesus Christ.

–J. H. Holmes

I felt I was in the presence of a noble soul . . . a true disciple of Lord Buddha and a true believer in peace and harmony among all men.

The Dalai Lama

Gandhi once said that the Buddha was the greatest teacher of ahimsa (non-violence) and that he “taught us to defy appearances and trust in the final triumph of Truth and Love.”1 Albert Schweitzer once said that “Gandhi continues what the Buddha began.  In the Buddha the spirit of love sets itself the task of creating different spiritual conditions in the world; in Gandhi it undertakes to transform all worldly conditions.”2 Raghavan Iyer concurs: “Gandhi was, in fact, following in the footsteps of the Buddha in showing the connection between the service of suffering humanity and the process of self-purification”; and even more emphatically he speaks of “Gandhi’s profound reinterpretation of Hindu values in the light of the message of the Buddha,”3
Observing that Gandhi establishes a middle path between Jain individualism and the Vedantist dissolution of the individual, Margaret Chatterjee maintains that Gandhi’s position most closely resembles Mahayana Buddhism.  Chatterjee claims that one of Gandhi’s prayers has Buddhist overtones: “The goal of the devotee is seen as the relief of suffering humanity, not as personal release from bondage. The mood expressed is much closer to the Bodhisattva than to the arhat ideal.”4

This essay covers several topics related to Gandhi and Buddhism.  The first section discusses nonviolence in Buddhism and how it differs from Jainism and how it is compatible with Gandhi’s view.  The second section addresses the problems regarding Gandhi’s misconceptions about Buddhism.  The third section explores the issue of self-suffering in the Buddha and in Gandhi.  The fourth section discusses the issue of the Bodhisattva ideal and Gandhi’s status as the Mahatma. The fifth section offers a positive view of the Buddhist self in order to counteract the pervasive negative view that one generally encounters. Focusing on the thoroughly empirical method of Gandhi’s experiments in truth, the sixth section will suggest a constructive comparison with the Buddha’s famous claim that “those who know causation know the Dharma.”  The seventh section will discuss the relationship between morality and beauty and show how this relates to a Buddhist-Gandhian virtue ethics.  In the last section I argue that commentators who interpret Gandhi as a follower of Advaita Vedanta cannot do justice to his firm commitment to the individual and cannot make sense out of his political activism.  With this preservation of individuality, it is possible to propose a convergence of Gandhian and Buddhist humanism–a humanism of nonviolence and compassion.


As in Jainism, ahimsa is preeminent in Buddhist ethics.  Not killing is the first of the Five Precepts, and this prohibition includes all sentient beings from insects to humans.  Buddhists (except some Tantric sects) firmly reject the ritual sacrifice of animals, although many allow the eating of meat as long as Buddhists are not the butchers.  (Jains criticize Buddhists for being complicit in this violence against animals.)  Both Buddhist and Jain farmers can eliminate pests who are destroying crops, but Buddhists perform atoning rites afterwards.  While pacifism is the ideal, Buddhists and lay Jains may kill in self-defense.  Unlike Jain ascetics, Buddhist monks have not only served as soldiers, but have raised and led armies, especially in Japan, Korea, and Tibet.  Finally, in some Mahayana schools Bodhisattvas may kill persons who will, if not stopped, murder others in the future.  Appealing to consequentialist arguments, Buddhists defend such “preemptive strikes”: Bodhisattvas accrue merit that they then can bequeath to others, and the would-be murderers are saved from the horrors of Hell.5  Needless to say, Jains are scandalized by what they see as a crass rationalization of violence.

Many scholars have observed that the word ahimsa occurs only rarely in
Buddhist scripture and commentary.  Compared to the Jains, the Buddhists
conceive of  ahimsa as a positive virtue or, more precisely, an enabling
virtue for higher virtues.  Therefore, Buddhists usually speak of these other
virtues rather than ahimsa itself.  In S. Tachibana’s The Ethics of Buddhism the word is used only once, and then only as one of seven Sanskrit words meaning benevolence or compassion.  Nonviolence, however, comes out very
clearly in Tachibana’s formulation of the Buddhist categorical imperative: “We
ought not to hurt mentally and physically our fellow creatures as well as our
fellow men, but to love and protect them.”6 The Jain formulation of ahimsa is almost always negative, while the Buddhist expression is almost exclusively positive.

One Jain scholar sums up the contributions of the two religions by suggesting that Jainism gave us ahimsa but Buddhism offered us maitri (friendliness) and karuna (compassion).7 One sutra describes a monk as “pervading one direction of universe. . . with his mind accompanied by maitri, with vast, great, undivided, unlimited and universal freedom from hatred, rivalry, narrow-mindedness and harmfulness.”8  In another story the Buddha tamed serpents by rays of maitri emanating directly from his body.  (While Gandhi conceded that it might be necessary to kill poisonous snakes that threaten human life, the Buddha, in response to a monk’s being killed by a snake, commanded maitri towards all snakes.)9 While maitri is sometimes interpreted as compassion, it was Mahayana Buddhism that made compassion the highest virtue, along with generosity, good conduct, patience, courage, concentration, and wisdom.

While they were contemporaries in India, Buddhists criticized Jain monks for their extreme self-mortification, claiming that this constituted a form of
self-violence.  Jains and Buddhists also disagreed on the issue of suicide, the
latter holding it to be the ultimate violence to self.  Jains believe that it can be, as a fast unto death (sallekhana), the highest form of spiritual sacrifice, whereas Buddhists usually condemn any form of suicide.  (Buddhist monks immolating themselves to protest the Vietnam war was a dramatic exception.)  It appears that extreme austerities and autonomous selfhood are
conceptually linked.  Spiritual suicide would constitute the ultimate release and isolation of the Jain jiva from the corrupting influences of matter. On the other hand, a Buddhist, because of a nonsubstantial view of the self, would recognize that a spiritual self free from matter is an illusion; and she would be more concerned about the karmic effects of suicide as the ultimate violence to the self.

actually allowed many exceptions to ahimsa, based on very realistic and
pragmatic considerations, exceptions that scandalized many Hindus and Jains.
His view is summed up in the surprising qualification that “all killing is not
himsa,”10 and his equally provocative imperative that it is better to fight an aggressor than to be a coward.  In contrast to the Jain position, Gandhi’s ahimsa is reactive and flexible, not passive and absolute.  Throughout October 1928, Gandhi carried on a lively debate with various respondents in Young India. Gandhi defended his decision to euthanize an incurable calf, and even went on to list the conditions for human euthanasia that do not violate ahimsa.  He also thought that tigers, snakes, and rabid dogs might have to be killed if they threaten human life.  In a letter to man who is trying to occupy land “haunted by wild beasts,” he advises him to kill them, because “ahimsa is not a mechanical matter, it is personal to everyone.”11  (Only a perfect yogi could pacify dangerous animals.) This comment is strong evidence that the ethics of nonviolence cannot be rule based; rather, it must be based on the development of virtues that are formed within the context of the person, his spiritual stature, his vocation, and the various situations in which he finds himself.  Human life is a constant “experiment in truth” in which we all act out of distinctively personal behavorial styles that do not lend themselves to the mechanical application of rules.

Some of Gandhi’s exceptions to ahimsa would appear extreme and unacceptable even to contemporary proponents of euthanasia. Gandhi proposed that a dying man must euthanize his handicapped child if he thought that no one would care for her.  If his own son were suffering from rabies and there was no cure, then he should be euthanized.12 In both cases it is more important to relieve pain and preserve personal dignity than to follow lock-step the rule of nonviolence.  This means that in many cases
passive ahimsa is actually himsa.  If a man who runs amuck and threatens to kill others, Gandhi insists that he must killed; furthermore, the killer should “be regarded a benevolent man.”13 Gandhi once told a Jain friend that ahimsa was not absolute and that one should always be “capable of sacrificing nonviolence for the sake of truth.”14 If one cannot be true to himself without defending himself and others, then violence may be necessary.


It was not until he reached England that Gandhi discovered the great religious classics of his own Indian tradition.  He first read the Bhagavad-gita in Sir
Edwin Arnold’s translation, and he read with “even greater interest” Arnold’s
verse rendition of the Buddha’s life and thought.15  Writing to a Burmese friend in 1919, Gandhi said that “when in 1890 or 1891, I became acquainted with the teaching of the Buddha, my eyes were opened to the limitless possibilities of nonviolence.”16  Gandhi declared that he was proud of the accusation (lodged by his own son) that he was a closet Buddhist, and he claimed that Buddhism was to Hinduism as Protestantism was to Roman Catholicism “only in a much stronger light, in a much greater degree.”17
This comment represents a slight against Roman Catholicism, which currently has the most compassionate and most understanding Christian mission in Asia. It also reveals Gandhi’s mistaken belief that Buddhism, along with Jainism, are simply reform movements within Hinduism.

During November, 1927, Gandhi was on tour in Sri Lanka, and he naturally had occasion to present his views on Buddhism.18 Gandhi maintained that the Buddha’s extreme austerities during the time before his enlightenment were done as penance for the sins of corrupt brahmin priests. Using the time-honored practice of tapasya, the Buddha, according to Gandhi, had only one principal goal: to convince Hindus to give up animal sacrifice. With remarkable candor Gandhi told his Buddhist audience that he was shocked that they could justify eating the flesh of animals that they themselves had not killed.  He claimed that vegetarian Hindus were more consistent in their
adherence to ahimsa and were thereby the true heirs of the Buddha’s gospel of nonviolence. Reminding them of the Buddha’s principle of dependent
origination, Gandhi told his audience that any meat eater is causally linked to
the violence of the one who butchers the animal.  His judgment against Burmese Buddhists in 1929 was equally harsh, and there he speculated that their meat eating was the reason why Burma had a higher crime rate than India.

In his first speech in Sri Lanka Gandhi said that the Buddha only meant to reform Hinduism and not start a new religion of his own.  It was his disciples, not the Buddha, who established a religion separate from Hinduism.  According to Gandhi, the Buddha never rejected Hinduism; rather, he “broadened its base.  He gave it new life and a new interpretation.”  And, most incredibly, Gandhi claims that any element of Buddhism not assimilated by Hinduism “was not an essential part of the Buddha’s life and teaching.”19
Unfortunately, Gandhi’s effusive praise for Buddhism is rather back-handed,
because he unwittingly eliminates the separate identity that it rightly deserves: “It can be said that, in India at any rate, Hinduism and Buddhism were but one, and that even today the fundamental principles of both are identical.”20

Gandhi was not always a very good scholar, and his passionate belief in the basic unity of all religions made him distort what we know to be the Buddha’s intentions. There is no question that Siddhartha Gautama envisioned a clean break with the Hindu tradition.  The Buddha preserved the time-honored techniques of yogic meditation, but his Middle Way contained  a strong critique of India’s ascetic traditions.  He also broke with orthodox Hindus on other major issues, such as the nature of reality and the self and its relationship to the gods.  In addition, the Buddha totally rejected the caste system, which Gandhi wanted to preserve in a revised form.  My view is that Gandhi should have broken with his Hindu tradition on all of these points except perhaps for his views on the deity.  Most importantly, we will find that Gandhi often speaks of both the self, God, and reality in dynamic and relational ways that are Buddhist in their implication.  A process theologian, for example, would be thrilled to read that for Gandhi God “is ceaseless activity. . . . God is continuously in action without resting for a single moment.”21

Gandhi’s persistence in believing that the Buddha was a theist is yet another
instance in which his own religious views clouded his understanding.  Gandhi’s argument that “the Law (dharma) was God Himself”22 is true only in Mahayana Buddhism, where the cosmic Buddha is called the dharmakya, literally, the Body of the Law. (Surendra Verma’s suggestion that Gandhi’s idea that God is Law, as it is not a Hindu or Jain idea, must have come
from Buddhism is certainly worth serious consideration.)23 The Buddha himself, however, did not claim any transcendental or cosmic nature, and the deification of the Buddha came after his death.  Furthermore, Gandhi’s
insistence on the Buddha’s theism is ironic given the fact that he constantly
wavered between personal theism and an impersonal pantheism, or even an
impersonal “truthism.”  After all, Gandhi is most famous for his proposition that “Truth [not a supreme person] is God,” a strategy partially designed to
attract atheists to his cause.  In any case, the Buddha adopted the Jain-Sankhya-Yoga view of the relationship between humans and gods.  This view
is neither theistic nor atheistic: the gods do indeed exist, but they, like all other nonhuman beings, have to have human incarnations in order to reach
Nirvana. Finally, although I personally embrace Gandhi’s theism, if the ethics
of nonviolence is to have the most comprehensive acceptance, a nontheistic form would obviously be more preferable.

To his credit Gandhi did have the correct view of Nirvana, and he is to be commended for his clear understanding of it.  He said that “Nirvana is utter extinction of all that is base in us, all that is vicious in us, all that is corrupt and corruptible in us.  Nirvana is not like the black, dead peace of the grave, but the living peace, the living happiness of [the] soul. . . .”24 This is a perfect response to perennial charges of Buddhist nihilism.  Nirvana is, in a word, freedom–freedom not only from hate and greed, but freedom from craving, the unquenchable desire for those things that we can never attain.  One
significant assumption of the Buddha’s position is that ordinary desires, even
for the Enlightened One, are acceptable.  This is the clearest mode of
understanding the Buddha’s Middle Way between extreme asceticism on the one hand and sensualism on the other.  It is also a good way to see Buddhism as a religious humanism accessible to all people.

A Hungarian convert to Buddhism once asked Gandhi whether God could change because of human prayer.  Sensing that his questioner was not sympathetic to the idea of petitionary prayer, Gandhi answered that God was of course immutable, so “I beg it of myself, of my Higher Self, the Real Self with which I have not yet achieved complete identification.”25 This answer may well have satisfied the Buddhist interlocutor if he were a Mahayanist, but not so if she were Theravadin.  The latter has a belief closer to the Buddha’s own: that there is no higher self at all.  It is clear that Gandhi is much more in line with the Mahayanists with regard to his concept of self. (There is good reason to believe that the Mahayanist higher self is a philosophical import from Hinduism, although Mahayanist doctrines of shunyata total interrelatedness mean that this self is very different from the Hindu atman.)  This issue aside, it was never reported that the Buddha petitioned either a god (except in legends) or a higher self for any favor.  So Gandhi was wrong when he insisted that the Buddha “found illumination through prayer and could not [have] possibly live[d] without it.”26

Gandhi and Buddhists definitely find common ground if Gandhi really means that prayer is chanting or meditation, which is, in fact, what he suggests in his
conversation with the Hungarian. “You may, therefore, describe it as a continual longing to lose oneself in the Divinity which comprises all.”27 In this regard it is instructive to note Gandhi’s observation that a Japanese monk chanting at his Sevagram ashram was engaged in Buddhist prayer.28 Mahadev Dasei, Gandhi’s faithful secretary, gives us more information about this person, who was obviously a follower of Nichiren Daishonin:

There is among us a Japanese monk who works like a horse and lives like a hermit, doing all the hard chores of the ashram and going about merrily beating his drum early every morning and evening, filling the air with
his chanting of Om Namyo Hom Renge Kyom. . . . I do not believe there is
one iota of truth in the charge some people have leveled at him of being a . . .
spy.  If he is a spy, spies must be the most amiable specimens of humanity and I should like to be one.  To my mind he lives up to the gospel of ahimsa
better than any one of us not excluding Gandhiji.29

Unfortunately, the Japanese monk’s practice of ahimsa did not stop the Indian police from arresting him and removing him from the ashram.


A typical Gandhian response to the misdeeds of others was to shame them completely by doing their penance for them.  This proved to be very effective not only against the British but with his own family and followers as well. It is most intriguing to see how Gandhi has imposed his own principle of self-suffering on the life of the Buddha.  Although not used by the Buddha or his immediate disciples, civil protest through acts of self-immolation has been common in ancient as well as modern Asia. (Buddhist monks burning themselves to death during the Vietnam War and Falun Gong suicides in China are the most recent examples.)  Gandhi was of course aware of this tradition of self-immolation,30 but he still believed that his own particular adaptation of yogic tapas was new with him and that his practice of it had not yet been perfected.31 Presumably he would have seen protests through self-immolation as still too passive as compared to the engaged and dynamic nature of his own satyagrahas. (The Vietnamese monks, as far as I can remember, were not actively engaged in dialogue with the American officials.) Some commentators contend that there are instructive parallels between Gandhi’s self-suffering and the suffering of the Bodhisattva, and we shall assess this claim in the next section.

If Gandhi does conceive of self-suffering as doing penance for others, then he has gone far beyond the traditional view of tapas.  Indeed, it may even be at
odds with the law of karma, which holds that karma is always individual not
collective.  (This means that only the individual person can work off her klarmic debt.)  Gandhi, however, appears to believe in collective guilt: “If we are all sons of the same God and partake of the same divine essence, we must partake of the sin of every person.”32 He once observed that the “impurity of my associates is but the manifestation of the hidden wrong in me,”33 so this does appear to focus on individual karma, but his position is still
equivocal and problematic.  Margaret Chatterjee finds Gandhi’s position very
implausible, for, in the two cases she mentions, it is very difficult to see any
“strict causal line[s]” between the actions of others and any implication of
guilt on Gandhi’s part.34

seeing tapasya as a process of self-purification rather than doing
penance for other people, one can make better sense of Gandhi’s actions.  In
this light Gandhi would have said that he could not demand perfection in others
as long as he found imperfection in himself. During his fast against the
violence at Chauri Chaura in 1922, Gandhi announced that “I must undergo
personal cleansing.  I must become a fitter instrument able to register the
slightest variation in the moral atmosphere about me.”35
(Gandhi�s explains Buddhist mindfulness in this statement just as well as any
Buddhist.) This interpretation is most consistent with his expanded concept of
brahmacharya as self-control in all actions and his commitment to
spiritual purity for himself and his followers.



critic might say that the most significant difference between the Buddha and
Gandhi was that the Buddha was a world-denying ascetic and that Gandhi was not.
The following passage sums up this view very nicely:

Outwardly it would be hard to conceive of two individuals more
different.  On the one hand is the tranquil Buddha who walks serenely and calmly
across the pages of history, or traditionally sits peacefully on a lotus with a
gentle smile of infinitive compassion. . . . On the other hand is the Mahatma,
speed and energy in every movement, laughing and sorrowing in his ceaseless
endeavour to help mankind with the problems of human life. . . .36

Gandhi must have
heard similar comments, because he formulated this own firm response: “The
Buddha fearlessly carried the war into the adversary’s camp and brought down on
its knees an arrogant priesthood.  [He was] for intensely direct action.”37
Who is correct?  The truth as usual lies somewhere in between.  Although he did
frequently confront brahmin priests (the scriptures report that they were almost
always converted), it can hardly be said that the Buddha destroyed the Vedic
priesthood.  (It continues to have great power even today.)  Furthermore,
although Buddhism and Jainism can take much credit for the reduction of animal
sacrifice, it still continues today as an integral part of Goddess worship in
Northeast India and Nepal.  And even Gandhi admits that because of India’s own
weaknesses, the Buddha’s, as well as the Jains’, message of universal tolerance
and nonviolence failed miserably.  (Much blame, according to Gandhi, must be
laid at the feet of Shankara for his “unspeakable cruelty in banishing Buddhism
[from] India.”)38
Finally, Gandhi is making the Buddha more of a political activist than he ever
was.  Gandhi should take sole credit for his own brilliant synthesis of religion
and political action. As one commentator has said: �One cannot picture the
Buddha training his disciples to face lathi charges as did the Mahatma.�39

growing scholarly consensus now recognizes that the Buddha was less ascetic and
less world-denying than his disciples and the early schools that followed him.
For example, as opposed to most Indian philosophy, the Buddha recognized the
body as a necessary constituent of human identity, rather than something to be
negated in the spiritual life.40
(Gandhi appears to join other traditions–Cartesian and as well as Jain and
Vedantist�which maintain that the body has nothing to do with true personal
identity.) It was his disciples who kept asking for more behavioral
restrictions, and this difference is summed aptly in the Buddha’s observation
that sometimes he ate a full bowl of food while his monks only ate only a half
Despite Buddhism’s somatic selfhood and a later doctrine of universal
Buddha-essence, its strong ascetic traditions did not allow Buddhist practice to
be as body or world affirming as it could have been.   The influence of Chinese
naturalism (especially on Zen Buddhism) and the Buddhist-Christian dialogue have
turned contemporary Buddhism much more in this direction.

spiritual transformation of the entire world is the goal of most schools of
Mahayana Buddhism.  As opposed to the ascetic ideal of early Buddhism, where the
emphasis was on personal liberation, the focus in Mahayana schools is on
universal salvation.  The vow of the Bodhisattva should be well known to those
who know Buddhism: the Bodhisattva,  even though she is free of karmic debt,
vows not to enter Nirvana until all sentient beings enter before her. (The
Bodhisattva’s extra sacrifice caused some perceptive Buddhists to ask whether
that made Bodhisattvas superior to the Buddha himself, who of course did not
wait for the others.) The Bodhisattva ideal and the comprehensive range of
universal salvation makes it relevant to contemporary debates about animal
rights and the protection of the environment.

constantly emphasized that his focus was universal this-worldly salvation and
not individual spiritual liberation: “I have no use for them [love and
nonviolence] as a means of individual liberation.”42
As with Latin American liberation theology, Gandhi’s soteriology maintained that
God assumes a preferred option for the poor and the oppressed; indeed, Gandhi
sometimes speaks of God existing in suffering humanity and not in heaven: “God
is found more often in the lowliest of His creatures than in the high and
Does this, then, make Gandhi “the Bodhisattva of the twentieth century,” as
Ramjee Singh has so boldly suggested?44
The answer must be negative if we insist on early formulations of the
Bodhisattva concept.  Using the innovative idea of Nichiren Buddhism that all of
us become Bodhisattvas by virtue of our service to humanity, then Singh’s claim
is closer to the mark.

On the
face of it Gandhi’s self-suffering does appear to be similar to Shantideva’s
view of the Passion of the Bodhisattva:

By my own self all the mass of others’ pain has been assumed: . .
. I have the courage in all misfortunes belonging to all worlds to experience
every abode of pain . . . . I resolve to abide in each single state of
misfortune through numberless future ages. . . . for the salvation of all
creatures. . . . I for the good of all creatures would experience all the mass
of pain and unhappiness in. . . my own body. . . .45

Gandhi does claim
to have suffered–his fasts were long and many–for the good of all (sarvodaya);
and he did declare that in his next life he wanted to be reborn an untouchable;46
but this still does not constitute anything like the soteriology that we find in
Buddhism and Christianity.  Gandhi obviously did not claim to have taken away
the sins of the world as Buddhist and Christians claim their saviors do.

Following the idea of penance as self-purification, Gandhi may be more like the
Bodhisattva, who, although sinless, nonetheless “think[s] of [him]self as a
sinner [and] of others as oceans of virtue”?47
But just as we cannot believe Gandhi guilty of the crises for which he fasted,
we certainly cannot believe, nor of course could he, that he was sinless.  Not
even his most ardent followers have claimed that Gandhi had the redemptive
powers of a savior.  Revealing his strong Vaishnava background, Gandhi once
declared that he wanted to tear open his heart for the poor just as the monkey
god Hanuman did to show his devotion to Rama, but he said that he did not have
the power to perfect such absolute loyalty.48
Finally, it must be observed that Gandhi practiced self-suffering in order to
change other people’s behavior, whereas the Passion of Christ and the
Bodhisattva is conceived of as totally unconditional, expecting nothing in
return for their grace and compassion.  Gandhi realized the danger in making his
self-suffering conditional on the actions of others: it might very well violate
the principle that he had learned so well from the Bhagavadgita,
namely, we must not act with regard to the fruit of our actions.49

must again place all aspects of Gandhian religion in its proper political
context. (The more appropriate comparison would be Gandhi and Emperor Ashoka,
who through political means attempted to establish a nonviolent society in 3rd
Century BCE India.)  Gandhi called his fasting a “fiery weapon” and that we must
fight the “fire” of violence with the “fire” of our own self-sacrifice.50
“It was,” as Madan Gandhi says, “a potent weapon to convert the evil doer, i.e.,
to make him conscious of the spiritual kinship with the victim.”51
It was, as I said above, an effective means to shame Gandhi’s opponents into
mending their ways.  Joan Bondurant describes it as the “willingness to suffer
in oneself to win the respect of an opponent.”52
For Gandhi himself it had the effect of establishing his absolute seriousness,
sincerity, and fearlessness.   For those close to him–especially his wife and
his sons–it was a test of love–“tough love” as it is now called.  “The only
way love punishes,” as Gandhi once said, “is by [self]-suffering.”53
(The coercive effect of Gandhi’s fasts has been widely discussed and accepted by
many scholars.)54  We
are now quite distant from the Suffering Servants of Christianity and Mahayana


Siddhartha Gautama’s response to the axial discovery of the self was strikingly
unique: he proposed the doctrine of no-self (anatman).  This conceptual
innovation was so provocative that it was bound to invite misinterpretation, and
unfounded charges of Buddhist “nihilism” continue even to this day.  Gautama
anticipated Hume’s view that the self is the ensemble of feelings, perceptions,
dispositions, and awareness that is the center for agency and moral
The Buddha’s view, however, is superior to Hume’s, primarily because Gautama
supported real causal efficacy among internally related phenomena.  While Hume
deconstructed any theory of causality, the Buddha reconstructed causal relations
with his theory of interdependent coorigination.

Gautama rejected the soul-as-spiritual-substance view of the Upanishads,
Jainism, and Sankhya-Yoga, and he deconstructed the “spectator” self of these
philosophies 2,500 years before recent thinkers dismantled the Cartesian self.
As opposed to strict deconstruction, for example, Buddhists hold that selves,
though neither the same nor different throughout their lives, are nevertheless
responsible for their actions.  These selves are also real in the sense that
they are constituted by relations with their bodies, other selves, and all other
entities.   This is why the Buddhist self should be viewed in relational or
process terms rather than the negative implications of the no-self doctrine.
The Buddhist self is relational primarily in the sense of its dependence on the
five skandhas and the internal relations this dependence entails.

this analysis we can clearly see that the Buddhist self is a robust personal
agent full capable of maintaining its personal integrity and taking full
responsibility for its actions.  This view of the self is also fully somatic,
giving full value to the body and the emotions. At the same time it is embedded
in a social and organic nexus of cosmic relations. Surendra Verma is unduly
puzzled when he asked how it was possible for the Buddha to be filled with
thoughts and emotions and �at the same time preaching annattavada, the
theory of the nonexistence of the soul.�56
Like many other commentators, Verma simply does not understand the meaning of
the Buddha�s Middle Way, in this case the mean between annihiliationism (no self
at all�substantial or otherwise) on the one hand and eternalism (substantial
self) on the other.  What appears not only puzzling but impossible is for the
Vedantist atman to have any relation at all with the finite world, let
alone the emotions and the body.

Turning now to Gandhi, he explicitly connects “the capacity of nonviolence” with
a rejection of “the theory of the permanent inelasticity of human nature.”57
If this statement is interpreted metaphysically, Gandhi seems to have joined the
Buddha in his critique of the atman of the Upanishads and all other
Indian views of an eternal, immutable self.  Although Mahayana Buddhists
reinstate an eternal soul, in most schools this self, like early Buddhist views,
still enters into relations and is responsive to change.  When Gandhi states
that �to endure suffering in one�s own person is the nature of atman,�58
the logical implication is that the self actually undergoes change.

Mahayana  Buddhists tend to be more supportive of real diversity within unity,
and especially helpful is the Mahayanists� suggestion that nonduality be
expressed as “two but not two” so as to avoid the implication of the total
nondifferentiation that we find in Advaita Vedanta.59
Thich Nhat Hanh has his own playful way of phrasing this profound point:
“Non-duality means ‘not two,’ but ‘not two’ also means ‘not one.’ That is why we
say ‘non-dual’ instead of ‘one.'”60
Zen Buddhists as well as many other Mahayanist also reject the mind-body dualism
that even infects some of Gandhi’s writings.  These observations allow us to see
the possibility of both a Buddhist naturalism as well as a Buddhist humanism,
i.e., a view that affirms both the reality of nature and individual personal



Buddha’s famous statement “a person who sees causation, sees the Dharma”62
implies that people know how to act, not because of abstract rules or absolutes,
but because of their past and immediate circumstances.  Those who are mindful of
who they are and how they relate to themselves and others will know what to do.
The “mirror of Dharma” should not be seen as a common one that we all look into
together, as some Mahyana schools believe, but it is actually a myriad of
mirrors reflecting individual histories.  Maintaining the essential link between
fact and value, just as Greek virtue ethics did, the Buddha holds that the truth
about our causal relations dictates the good that we ought to do.  As David J.
Kalupahana states: “Thus, for the Buddha, truth values are not distinguishable
from moral values or ethical values; both are values that participate in
I believe that we can find this same ethical naturalism in Gandhi’s experiments
in truth, which, because their purpose was always directed to how we should
live, were essentially experiments in Dharma.

Buddha’s MiddleWay is a distinctively personal mean between extremes, much like
Aristotle’s relative mean. Aristotle defined a moral virtue as “a state of
character concerned with choice, lying in a mean, i.e. the mean relative to us,
this being determined by [practical reason]. . . .64
For example, Aristotle thought it was always wrong to eat too much, but each
person will find his/her own relative mean between eating too much and eating
too little.  A virtue ethics of moderation is still normative, because the
principal determinants in finding a workable mean for eating are objective not
subjective.  If people ignore these objective factors–e.g., body size,
metabolism, and other physiological factors–then their bodies, sooner or later,
will tell them that they are out of their respective means.

this analysis is correct, then the traditional translation of the moral
imperatives of the Buddha’s eight-fold path may be misleading. Translating the
Sanskrit stem samyag- that appears in each of the words as the “right”
thing to do makes them sound like eight commands of duty ethics.  Instead of
eight universal rules for living, they should be seen as virtues, i.e.,
dispositions to act in certain ways under certain conditions and personal
circumstances.  (Samyagajiva, right livelihood, is particularly
unintelligible on the absolutist reading.)  The translation of samyag
more appropriate to Buddhist pragmatism would be “suitable” or “fitting,” but
“right” could remain as long as we understand it to be “right for you.” It is
only fitting, for example, that a warrior eat more and more often than a monk,
or it is only appropriate that the warrior express courage in a different way
than the nonwarrior does.  Both are equally virtuous, because they have
personally chosen the virtues as means, means relative to them.

Gandhi’s controversial experiments with brahmacharya is an instructive
example of how Gandhi put aside traditional rules and found his own way,
dictated solely by his own ideas, his own dispositions, and his very unique way
of purifying himself of sexual desire.  He made it perfectly clear to his
followers that no one should imitate the quasi-Tantric methods he used.  He
found his own personal mean between the excess of sexual indulgence and the
deficient of complete withdrawal from women. (He thought yogis who did so were
cowards.) Sleeping with his grandniece was right for him, and Manu Gandhi
claimed that it was as innocent as sleeping with her mother, whom Gandhi had
replaced.  Gandhi found his own truth in direct experience; there is no evidence
that he appealed to any transcendent principle or rule.  In fact, he affirmed
quite the opposite: “There are some things which are known only to oneself  and
one’s Maker.  These are clearly incommunicable.  The experiments I am about to
relate are not such.”65
He goes on to stress the scientific nature of these experiments and how their
results open for all to verify.  Gandhi�s sleeping area was open for anyone to
see, and those who did found Manu and him sleeping peacefully and innocently.


Euro-American philosophy has unfortunately severed the time-honored connections
between truth, goodness, and beauty.  Agreeing with his Greek contemporaries,
the Buddha established an essential link between goodness and truth on the one
hand and evil and untruth on the other.66
Of all the contemporary forms of Mahayana Buddhism it is the Soka Gakkai that is
most aware of the aesthetic dimension of being moral.  Even though its founder
Tsunesaburo Makiguchi substituted benefit for truth in his trinity of benefit,
goodness, and beauty, he still agreed with the Greeks that beautiful deeds are
performed by beautiful souls.67

makes the same connections between truth and goodness and untruth and evil.  The
identity of reality and truth is also clear in his adoption of the intimately
related ideas of sat and satya.  Gandhi is following Hindu
philosophy very closely in his identification of God, Truth, and Goodness.
Realizing the aesthetic dimension, Gandhi states that “all truths, not merely
true ideas, but truthful faces, truthful pictures or songs are highly
beautiful.  People generally fail to see beauty in truth. . . .”68
He also observes that although they say that Socrates was not a handsome man,
“to my mind he was beautiful because all his life was a striving after Truth. .
. .”69
Some would say that Gandhi was not a handsome man either, but one commentator
observed that “there was a rare spiritual beauty that shone in his face.”70

Drawing on the tradition of Greek virtue ethics, one could define
ethics as the art of making the soul great and noble.  (Here the meaning of art
would be the idea of creating a unique individual piece rather than making
copies from a mould as in craft art.) It was Confucius who conceived of moral
development as similar to the manufacture of a precious stone.  At birth we are
like uncut gems, and we have an obligation to carve and polish our potential in
the most unique and beautiful ways possible.  Gandhi appears to agree with this
view: “Purity of life is the highest and truest  art”;71
and “Life must immensely excel all the parts put together. To me the greatest
artist is surely he who lives the finest life.”72

If are
to speak of a Gandhian or a Buddhist virtue ethics, at least two major
differences must be noted vis-�-vis the Greek tradition.  First, for both Gandhi
and the Buddha pride is a vice, so the humble soul is to be preferred over
Aristotle’s “great soul” (megalopsychia).  (Aristotle’s megalopsychia
may even be too close to megalomania for the comfort of most contemporary
persons.)  Second, neither Gandhi nor the Buddha would have accepted Aristotle’s
elitism.  For Aristotle only a certain class of people (free-born Greek males,
to be exact) could establish the virtues and attain the good life.  In stark
contrast, the Dharmakaya and Gandhi’s village republic contain all people,
including the poor, the outcast, people of color, and women.


It is
common to interpret Gandhi in terms of Vedanta philosophy, especially Advaita
Vedanta, the most dominant school.  Gandhi’s several references to a qualityless
absolute and two equivocal affirmations of the principle of advaita offer
some support for this view.73
The Advaitin interpretation offers a solution to the basic puzzle about Gandhi’s
self-suffering, which I have mentioned above.  The principle of nondualism
allows Gandhi to see the sin of the other as his own sin, because in reality
there is no distinction between him and others, between the “I” and the “Thou.”

best evidence for the Advaitin solution is the following passage:

I believe in [the] absolute oneness of God and therefore also of
humanity.  What though we have many bodies?  We have but one soul.  The rays of
the sun are many through refraction.  But they have the same source.  I cannot
detach myself from the wickedest soul (nor may I be denied identity with the
most virtuous). . . . I must involve in my experience the whole of my kind.74

I maintain that we
must qualify the implications of this passage both in terms of its moral
implications and in terms of a coherent interpretation of Gandhi’s philosophy.
The Advaitin solution completely undermines the basic moral implications of the
law of karma.  Instead of the Advaitin model of total undifferentiated unity, I
suggest that this passage be interpreted in terms of  an organic holism, which
has the distinct advantage over absolute monism in that it maintains the reality
of the individual (on the analogue of the integral living cell) while at the
some time making collective responsibility intelligible as well.  In a previous
article I have reformulated Gandhi’s refraction analogy so that it gives the
equal weight to the unity and individuality that we find in Gandhi’s writings.75
problems of consistently maintaining an Advaitin Gandhi manifest themselves most
clearly in Bhikhu Parekh’s otherwise excellent book on Gandhi’s political
After summarizing basic Indian philosophy he claims that Gandhi, just like
Shankara, envisioned a two-tiered religion of a personal theism focusing on
Shiva, Vishnu, Devi and an impersonal monism of Atman-Brahman.  People in the
second tier would recognize the illusion of individual self and consciousness,
would eventually put the phenomenal world behind them, and would move from the
worship of individual deities to experience the total unity of Atman-Brahman.
Gandhi must object already at this point, because he wavered between personal
theism and impersonal monism and never claimed that one was superior to the

problems arise with Parekh’s interpretation, especially with regard to Gandhi’s
political activism and the dynamic and engaged individualism that such a view
requires.  There is indeed a tension in Gandhi between the ascetic and mystic
Gandhi, who, as Parekh shows, has difficulty justifying, from an Advaitin
standpoint, the feeling of, let alone need for love; and the activist Gandhi,
who is committed to moral autonomy, love, compassion, and justice.  But nowhere
in Gandhi’s voluminous works does he indicate that the individual self is an
illusion. (Chatterjee puts the point bluntly: “Gandhi had no truck with the
Gandhi’s thoughts range from the self’s complete autonomy, where he has come
under the powerful influences he admits the Euro-American tradition had on him,
to a relational, social self that has an organic relation with society and the
cosmos as a whole.  Parekh cannot support both an Advaitin Gandhi and the Gandhi
who exhorts individuals to conform to their own historical-cultural truths.78
For the Advaitin there can be no ultimate value in such truths.

is sufficient evidence to call Gandhi a pantheist, but many commentators are not
careful enough to distinguish between pantheism, where the cosmos and its parts
are both real and divine, and the Advaitin position where only Atman-Brahman is
real.  John White has suggested,79
echoing medieval Jain arguments, that there is a basic inconsistency in Advaita
Vedanta, because from the standpoint of the unliberated souls both Atman-Brahman
and the phenomenal world exists, albeit the latter only in a derivative and
temporal mode, whereas from that standpoint of the liberated souls the world
does not exist.  The Advaitin is not even consistently nondualistic, because,
until all humans are liberated, the Advaitin position is, as White calls it, a
“transcendental dualism,”a dualism of divine reality and derivative phenomena
roughly equivalent to Christian theology.  The principal difference is that God
creates the world in Christianity whereas it is the creation of ignorance in
Advaita Vedanta.

Daisaku Ikeda, the philosophical leader of the Soka Gakkei, paraphrases the
medieval monk Nichiren Daishonin as saying: “The Buddha is an ordinary human
being; ordinary human beings are the Buddha.80
There are two interpretations of the second phrase depending upon whether one
follows early Buddhist texts or embraces later Mahayanist views.  From the
standpoint of early Buddhism to say that we are all Buddhas simply means that
all of us have the potential to understand the Four Noble Truths and to overcome
craving in our lives.  The Mahayanist interpretation would be that we all
possess a Buddha-nature metaphysically equivalent to the Dharmakaya, the cosmic
“body” of the Buddha.  Given his commitment to a general Vedantist concept of
soul, Gandhi would have felt very comfortable with the Mahayanist position,
particularly since it respects diversity within unity and supports a dynamic and
engaged concept of self.  I therefore conclude that Buddhist humanism–a
humanism of nonviolence and compassion–may be the very best way to take
Gandhi’s philosophy into the 21st Century.



1. Gandhi, Collected Works, vol. 40,
p. 160; speech at a Buddha Jayanti meeting in Bombay on May 18, 1924 in The
Collected Works
, vol. 24, p. 86.

Albert Schweitzer, Indian Thought and Its Development, trans. Mrs.
Charles E. B. Russell (Bombay: Wilco Publishing House, 1960), p. 231.

3. Raghavan Iyer, The Moral and Political
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), p. 49.

Margaret Chatterjee,
Gandhi’s Religious Thought
(Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University, 1983),
pp. 43, 105, 27.

5. Paul Williams, Mahayana Buddhism:
Doctrinal Foundations
(London: Routledge, 1989), p. 145.

6. S. Tachibana, The Ethics of Buddhism
(London: Cruzon Press, 1926), p. 184.

7. N. H. Samtani, �Non-Violence vis-a-vis
: Buddhist and Jain Approaches� in The Contributions of Jainism to
Indian Culture,
ed. R. C. Divivedi ( New Delhi: Motilal Barnisidass,
p. 135.

8. Arthavinishcaya-sutra, quoted in
ibid., p. 139.

9.  Luis O. Gomez
reminds us that this might very well be a instance of ritualistic nonviolence
rather than a command not to kill snakes.  Gomez finds many examples of vows of
nonviolence among other promises, including not wearing garlands, playing
musical instruments, and watching theater, made on particular holy days.  In the
case of the snakes it is most likely a ritualistic charm for protection rather
than a universal ethics of nonviolence.  Even so, Gomez admits that the monk is
still required to form a nonviolent intention towards the snakes in order for
the charm to work. See Gomez, �Nonviolence and the Self in Early Buddhism� in
Inner Peace, World Peace
, ed. Kenneth Kraft (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1992),
pp. 36-37.

Gandhi, Collected Works, vol. 13, p. 232.

11. Gandhi, Collected Works, vol. 28,
p. 3.

12. Gandhi, Young India 8 (November
18, 1926), p. 395.

13.  Gandhi, Young India 8 (November
4, 1926), p. 385.

14.  Gandhi, Harijan 4 (March 28,
1936), p. 49.

15. Gandhi, An Autobiography, chap.

16. Quoted Iyer, The Moral the Political
, p. 226.  In 1929 Gandhi told an audience in Mandalay that they
should use Buddhism to “explore the limitless possibilities of non�violence” (The
Collected Works
, vol. 40, p. 159).

Gandhi, Speech at a Public Meeting in Rangoon (March 8, 1929); The Collected
, vol. 40, p. 104.  The comment about his son is in a speech that he
gave in Sri Lanka.  See Young India 9 (November 24, 1927), p. 392.

18. Gandhi, Speech at a Public Meeting in
Toungo (Sri Lanka); Collected Works, vol. 40, p. 161.

Gandhi, Young India 9 (November 24, 1927), p. 392.

Gandhi, Hindu Dharma, p. 34.

21.  Gandhi, Selected Works, vol. 4,
p. 247.

Gandhi, Young India 9 (November 24, 1927), p. 392.

23. Surendra Verma, The Metaphysical
Foundations of Gandhi�s Thought
(New Delhi: Orient Longmans, 1970), p. 107.

Gandhi, Young India 9 (November 24, 1927), p. 393.

Gandhi, Harijan 7 (August 19, 1939), p. 237.  I have supplied a capital
“S” on each of the original “selves.”  Raghavan Iyer describes Gandhian prayer
quite accurately: �The noblest and purest petition is that one should become
outwardly what one is inwardly�that one�s thoughts, words and deeds should ever
more fully express the soul�s core of Truth and nonviolence. . . . Prayer is
truly an intense supplication towards one�s inmost ineffable nature, the source
of one�s being and strength, the touchstone of one�s active life� (�Civilization
and Religion,� p. 132).  Many people would call this meditation rather than

Gandhi, The Essence of Hinduism (Ahmedabad: Navajivan, 1987),  p. 176.

Gandhi, Harijan 7 (August 19, 1939), p. 237; Harijan 12 (February
15, 1948), p. 34.

Gandhi, Harijan 11 (August 17, 1947), p. 281.

Madadev Desai, “At Sevagram” in D. G. Tendulkar, et al., eds. Gandhiji: His
Life and Work
(Bombay: Karnatak, 1944), pp. 204-5.  Contemporary followers
of Nichiren use the mantra Nam myoho renge kyo instead of what stands in
this text.

See Harijan 8 (September 8, 1940), p. 277, where there is a long
discussion of tapasya.

See Chatterjee, Gandhi�s Religious Thought, p. 83.

Gandhi, Young India 13 (October 29, 1931), p. 32534.

33. Gandhi, The Bombay Chronicle
(April 8, 1929); quoted in Manmohan Choudhuri, Exploring Gandhi (New
Delhi: Gandhi Peace Foundation, 1989), p. 23.

Chatterjee, Gandhi�s Religious Thought., p. 25.

Gandhi, Young India 4 (February 16, 1922), p. 103. Also see S. K. Saxena,
“The Fabric of Self-Suffering: A Study in Gandhi” in Suffering: Indian
, ed. Kapil N. Tiwari (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1986), p.

Quoted in K. P. Karunakaran, Gandhi Interpretations (New Delhi: Gitanjali
Publishing House, 1985), p. 17.

Gandhi, Young India 2 (December 5, 1920); Selections from Gandhi,
p. 159.

Gandhi, Collected Works, vol. 14, p. 475.

Marie B. Bayles, �The Buddha and the Mahatma,� Gandhi Marg 6: 2 (April,
1962), p. 126.

40. The leading scholars here are David J.
Kalupahana.  See his Buddhist Philosophy: A Historical Analysis
(Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1976); and A History of Buddhist
Philosophy: Continuities and Discontinuities
(Honolulu: University of Hawaii
Press, 1992); Peter Harvey, “The Mind-Body Relationship in Pali Buddhism: A
Philosophical Investigation,” Asian Philosophy 3:1 (1993); and Daisaku
Ikeda, Unlocking the Mysteries of Birth and Death: Buddhism in the
Contemporary World
(London: MacDonald, 1988), pp. 141-42.  A contemporary
follower of Nichiren Daishonin, Ikeda has one of the most positive views of the
body in Mah~y~na

II, 6; The Middle Length Sayings, trans. I. B. Horner (London: Luzac &
Co., 1970), vol. 2, p. 207.

Gandhi, Amrita Bazar Patrika, June 30, 1944.

Quoted  in Pyarelal, The Last Phase, vol. 2, p. 143. See also Gandhi,
Young India
9 (November 24, 1927), pp. 90, 93; and Harijan 4 (August
29, 1936), p. 226.

Ramjee Singh, “Gandhi and the Bodhisattva Ideal” in New Dimensions and
Perspectives in Gandhism
, ed. V. T. Patil (New Delhi: Inter-India
Publications, 1988), vol. 4, p. 186.

Shantideva, Shik�a Samuccaya,
trans. Cecil Bendall and W. H. D. Rouse (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1971), pp.

Gandhi, Young India 3 (May 4, 1921), p. 144.

Shantideva, Bodhicaryavatara, excerpted in The Teachings of the
Compassionate Buddha
, ed. E. A. Burtt (New York: Mentor Books, 1966), p.

Gandhi, Young India 9 (March 24, 1927), p. 93.

See Gandhi, Harijan 8 (October 13, 1940), p. 322.

Ibid.; Harijan 8 (September 8, 1940), p. 277.

51. Madan Gandhi, “[The] Metaphysical Basis
of Gandhism” in New Dimensions and Perspectives in Gandhism, ed. P. T.
Patil (New Delhi: Inter-India Publications, 1989), p. 211.

Joan Bondurant, The Conquest of Violence (Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press, new revised ed., 1988),  p. 114.

Gandhi, Young India 4 (February 16, 1922), p. 103.

See  E. Stanley Jones,  Mahatma Gandhi: An Interpretation (London: Hodder
& Stoughton, 1948), p. 143.

55.  For the best comparative studies of the
Buddha and Hume, see L. Stafford Betty, “The Buddhist-Humean Parallels:
Postmortem,” Philosophy East and West 21:3 (July, 1971), pp. 237-254; and
James Giles, “The No-Self Theory: Hume, Buddhism, and Personal Identity,”
Philosophy East and West
43:2 (April, 1993), pp. 175-200.

56. Verma, The Metaphysical Foundations
of Gandhi�s Thought
, p. 7.

Gandhi, Harijan  9 (June 7, 1942), p. 177.  Gandhi is not consistent on
this idea of a mutable self, as he refers to an immutable self and an immutable
God several times (Harijan 7 [August 19, 1939], p. 237; excerpted in
Truth is God
, p. 43).  Gandhi’s continual references to becoming as well as
being show a basic process orientation in his thought.

58. Gandhi, letter to Purushottam Gandhi,
May 12, 1932 in Iyer, Moral and Political Writings, vol. 2, p. 235.

See Daisaku Ikeda, Buddhism: The First Millennium (Tokyo: Kodansha
International, 1978), p. 140.

Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace (Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press, 1987), p. 39.

For more on Buddhism and humanism see Gier, Spiritual Titanism, pp.
158-161; and Gier, �The Virtues of Asian Humanism,� The Journal of Oriental
12 (October, 2002), pp. 14-28.

I.190-1, quoted in Kalupahana, Buddhist Philosophy, p. 64.

Kalupahana, Buddhist Philosophy, p. 63.

64. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
1106b36 (W. D. Ross, trans.).

65. Gandhi, Young India 12 (September
11, 1930), p. 1.

66.  See Kalupahana, Buddhist Philosophy,
p. 63.

67. Dayle M. Bethel, ed., Education for
Creative Living: Ideas and Proposals of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi
, trans. Alfred
Birnbaum (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1989), pp. 75, 82.

68. Gandhi, Young India 6 (November
20, 1924), p. 377.

69. Ibid.

70. M. Kirti Singh, [The] Philosophical
Import of Gandhism
(New Delhi: South Asian Publishers, 1994), p. 136 note 3.

71. Gandhi, Harijan 6 (February 19,
1938), p. 10.

72. Quoted in Singh, op. cit., p. 135.

73. �God, ourselves and all objects in the
universe are in essence one reality. Even God vanishes and we have only neti,
” (Collected Works, vol. 32, p. 218).  By also affirming
(i.e., dualism), Gandhi is being more than equivocal.  See his speech
at Tanjore on September 16, 1927 in Collected Works, vol. 35, p. 1.  Also
feeling “one with God” is “the principle of advaita” is not its technical
meaning in Shankara.  See  letter to Chi. Maganlal (May 18, 1918) in Iyer,
The Moral and Political Writings
(London: Oxford University Press, 1986),
vol. 2, p. 290.  Gandhi’s statement that “the sum total of life is God” (Harijan
12 [February 15, 1948], p. 33) is definitely not the Advaitin position.

74. Gandhi, Young India 6 (September
25, 1924), p. 313; cf. his comments on the unity of life in Young India 4
(February 16, 1922), p. 104.

75. See my “Gandhi, Ahimsa, and the
Self,” p. 30-31.  For a fuller discussion see my Spiritual Titanism: Indian,
Chinese, and Western Perspectives
(Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2000), pp. 51-52.

76. Bhikhu Parekh, Gandhi’s Political
(London: Macmillan, 1989), pp. 92-100.

77. Chatterjee, op. cit., p. 134.   In
Gandhi “we are not called to a higher state of consciousness where the mesh of
maya will disappear” (p. 104).

78. Parekh, op. cit., p. 94.

79. John D. White, “God and the World from
the Viewpoint of Advaita Vedanta: A Critical Assessment,” International
Philosoph�ical Quarterly
30:2 (June, 1981), pp. 185-193.

80. The Soka Gakkai’s World Tribune
(June 6, 1994), p. 3.

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