Selected Letters of Gandhi : Part-1


Chapter-55: Jain Atheism

Purushottam Gandhi writing from Rajkot asked Gandhiji three questions : (1) What is the difference between the so-called atheism of the jains and the theism of the Gita? (2) If God is not doer, who dispenses grace? Is prayer anything more than the expression of a person’s wishes? (3) What do you mean when you say the Truth is God? To him Gandhiji replied as follows:

I do not think there is any contradiction between the Jain and the Vedic doctrine. They are only different ways of looking at a same thing. The God of Hinduism is doer as well as non-doer. God pervades the universe and is therefore a doer, but He is a non-doer inasmuch as action does not affect Him, and He has not to enjoy the fruit of action. The universe is not the result of any karma (action) of God in the sense in which you use that word. Therefore there is no discrepancy in the Gita verses quoted by you. Remember that the Gita is a poem. God neither says nor does anything. He did not say anything to Arjuna. The conversation between the Lord and Arjuna is imaginary. I do not think there was any such conversation between the Krishna and the Arjuna of history. There is nothing improper or untruthful in the setting of the Gita. There was a custom of casting religious books into such a shape, and we cannot find a fault with any cultured individual even today who employs such a vehicle for his ideas. The Jains put it logically, unpoetically and dryly and said that there is no Creator of the universe. There is nothing wrong in saying so. However, mankind cannot live by logic alone, but needs poetry. Therefore even the Jain rationalists found it necessary to have temples, images and similar aids for the spirit of man, which are ruled out by mere logic.