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    Mammotropism, conceptual art by Ken Alexander

    Gandhi on Jesus and Money

    Drink deep of the fountains given to you in the Sermon on the Mount, Gandhi says, but then you will have change your attitude toward wealth.

    By Mahatma Gandhi

    October 23, 2022
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    During his tour of Ceylon, Gandhi gave the following message to the Christian and Buddhist youth that had gathered to hear him at the Colombo YMCA.

    To you, young Ceylonese friends, I say: Do not be dazzled by the splendor that comes to you from the West. Do not be thrown off your feet by this passing show. The Enlightened One has told you in never-to-be-forgotten words that this little span of life is but a passing shadow, a fleeting thing, and if you realize the nothingness of all that appears before your eyes, the nothingness of this material case that we see before us ever changing, then indeed there are treasures for you up above, and there is peace for you down here, peace which passeth all understanding, and happiness to which we are utter strangers. It requires an amazing faith, a divine faith and surrender of all that we see before us. What did Buddha do, and Christ do, and also Muhammad? Theirs were lives of self-sacrifice and renunciation. Buddha renounced every worldly happiness, because he wanted to share with the whole world his happiness which was to be had by men who sacrificed and suffered in search for truth. …

    So be not lifted off your feet, do not be drawn away from the simplicity of your ancestors. A time is coming when those who are in the mad rush today of multiplying their wants, vainly thinking that they add to the real substance, real knowledge of the world, will retrace their steps and say, “What have we done?” Civilizations have come and gone, and in spite of all our vaunted progress I am tempted to ask again and again, “To what purpose?” Wallace, a contemporary of Darwin, has said the same thing. Fifty years of brilliant inventions and discoveries, he has said, has not added one inch to the moral height of mankind. So said a dreamer and visionary if you will – Tolstoy. So said Jesus, and Buddha, and Muhammad, whose religion is being denied and falsified in my own country today.

    By all means drink deep of the fountains that are given to you in the Sermon on the Mount, but then you will have to take sackcloth and ashes. The teaching of the Sermon was meant for each and every one of us. You cannot serve both God and mammon. God the Compassionate and the Merciful, tolerance incarnate, allows mammon to have his nine days’ wonder. But I say to you, youth of Ceylon, fly from that self-destroying but destructive show of mammon.

    Published in Young India, December 8, 1927.

    Mammotropism, conceptual art by Ken Alexander

    Ken Alexander, Mammotropism, 2007


    From a lecture delivered by Gandhi at a meeting of the Muir Central College Economic Society, held at Allahabad on Friday, December 22, 1916:

    “Take no thought for the morrow” is an injunction which finds an echo in almost all the religious scriptures of the world. In a well-ordered society the securing of one's livelihood should be and is found to be the easiest thing in the world. Indeed, the test of orderliness in a country is not the number of millionaires it owns, but the absence of starvation among its masses.

    The only statement that has to be examined is, whether it can be laid down as a law of universal application that material advancement means moral progress. Now let us take a few illustrations. Rome suffered a moral fall when it attained high material affluence. So did Egypt and perhaps most countries of which we have any historical record. The descendants and kinsmen of the royal and divine Krishna too fell when they were rolling in riches. We do not deny to the Rockefellers and Carnegies possession of an ordinary measure of morality but we gladly judge them indulgently. I mean that we do not even expect them to satisfy the highest standard of morality. With them material gain has not necessarily meant moral gain. In South Africa, where I had the privilege of associating with thousands of our countrymen on most intimate terms, I observed almost invariably that the greater the possession of riches, the greater was their moral turpitude. Our rich men, to say the least, did not advance the moral struggle of passive resistance as did the poor. The rich men's sense of self-respect was not so much injured as that of the poorest. If I were not afraid of treading on dangerous ground, I would even come nearer home and show how that possession of riches has been a hindrance to real growth. I venture to think that the scriptures of the world are far safer and sounder treatises on the laws of economics than many of the modern textbooks.

    The question we are asking ourselves is not a new one. It was addressed of Jesus two thousand years ago. Saint Mark has vividly described the scene. Jesus is in his solemn mood. He is earnest. He talks of eternity. He knows the world about him. He is himself the greatest economist of his time. He succeeded in economizing time and space – he transcends them. It is to him at his best that one comes running, kneels down, and asks:

    “Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said unto him: “Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is God. Thou knowest the Commandments. Do not commit adultery. Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness. Defraud not, Honour thy Father and Mother.” And he answered and said unto him: “Master, all these have I observed from my youth.” The Jesus beholding him loved him and said unto him: “One thing thou lackest. Go thy way, sell whatever thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven-come, take up the cross and follow me.” And he was sad at that saying and went away grieved – for he had great possession. And Jesus looked roundabout and said unto the disciples: “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God.” And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again and said unto them: “Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God!”

    Here you have an eternal rule of life stated in the noblest words the English language is capable of producing. But the disciples nodded in unbelief as we do to this day. To him they said as we say today: “But look how the law fails in practice. If we sell and have nothing, we shall have nothing to eat. We must have money or we cannot even be reasonably moral.” So they state their case thus:

    And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves: “Who then can be saved?” And Jesus looking upon them said: “With men it is impossible, but not with God, for with God, all things are possible.” Then Peter began to say unto him: “Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.” And Jesus answered and said: “Verily I say unto you, there is no man that has left house or brethren or sisters, or father or mother, or wife or children or lands for my sake and Gospels but he shall receive one hundredfold, now in this time houses and brethren and sisters and mothers and children and land, and in the world to come, eternal life. But many that are first shall be last and the last, first.”

    You have here the result or reward, if you prefer the term, of following the law.

    Published in Speeches and Writings of Mahatma Gandhi (Madras: Natesan & Co., 1933), 350–53.

    Contributed By Mahatma Gandhi Mahatma Gandhi

    Indian lawyer and cultural leader, Mohondas Karamchand “Mahatma” Gandhi (1869–1948) implemented nonviolence and civil disobedience in order to lead India from British rule. Gandhi worked, wrote, and spoke across the world for peace through nonviolence.

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