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Lessons from Gandhi

By The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

My wife, being a prolific reader of novels, is always going with me to return books to the local library.  At the very front of libraries is a section for recommended new books.  While there, I was pleased to find a brand new book Gandhi Before India.  It was news to me that Gandhi was excommunicated by his own Bania caste from daring to go to England to become a lawyer: “For his transgression, the boy would be treated as an outcaste; anyone who spoke to him or went to see him off would be fined.”[1]  Gandhi’s family sacrificed greatly to send him to England, even pawning the family jewels.    While in England, Gandhi for the first time read the Bible, finding the New Testament compelling, especially the Sermon on the Mount. [2]  As Gandhi commented,  it ‘went straight to my heart’.   The lines about offering one’s cloak to the man who had taken away one’s coat touched him greatly.[3]  Gandhi demonstrated that the  Sermon  on the Mount will radically change one’s life and one’s society if put into practice.

After completing his law degree in England, Gandhi returned to India for a short while before moving to South Africa.  While there are numerous books on Gandhi, many skip over Gandhi’s foundational twenty-one years in South Africa.  Even the excellent Gandhi movie by Richard Attenborough doesn’t do justice to the prolonged complexity to Gandhi’s time in South Africa.  Dr. E Stanley Jones commented that South Africa provided the rehearsal for the real drama of India: “He might have floundered had he tried India straight off.”[4]  Sadly in South Africa when Gandhi was most interested in the Gospel, he encountered the greatest restrictions: “To allow Gandhi to sit along white worshippers was impossible.  The vicar’s wife, out of solidarity and sympathy, offered to sit with him in the vestibule, from where they heard the service.”[5]  One of the people who had the greatest impact on Gandhi was Leo Tolstoy, especially his book The Kingdom of God is within You: “he was ‘overwhelmed by the independent thinking, profound morality, and the truthfulness of this book.”[6]  Gandhi purchased and gave out even to his jailers countless copies of Tolstoy’s ground-breaking book on peacemaking in the Sermon on the Mount.[7]

Upon returning to India, Gandhi was initially rejected by other Indians who feared that they might become ritually polluted by even offering a cup of water to someone of the wrong caste.[8]  When Gandhi successfully stood up for their rights, he became hailed as a hero and liberator.  Gandhi campaigned nonviolently for the independence of India for numerous decades, spending 2,089 days in Indian jails (almost six years).[9]

Dr. E Stanley Jones described Gandhi as the architect of the new India.[10] In many ways, Gandhi was like an Abraham Lincoln bringing freedom to hundreds of millions of his fellow citizens.  Louis Fischer compared Gandhi to David standing up to the Goliath of racial discrimination.[11]  Gandhi went from being an initial supporter of caste discrimination to being a campaigner against its divisiveness. Jones commented:

…in his life, (Gandhi) breaks all the rules of caste, transcends them, adopts an outcaste as his daughter, and in the end does more to break down the system of caste than any other man, living or dead.”[12]

Jones held that “in Gandhi the word of freedom became flesh. When he spoke, freedom spoke. Gandhi was India.”[13]  Most people believe in democratic freedom.  Not many are willing to sacrifice over many decades to obtain such goals.  Before Gandhi, it was mostly the Indian intelligentsia campaigning for democracy.  Because Gandhi humbled himself and unselfishly served the poor and untouchables, both rich and poor awoke to the vision of an independent India.[14]  Gandhi made room for all regardless of race, religion and wealth.  Albert Einstein said regarding Gandhi: “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.”[15]  In reading Jones’ book Gandhi: Portrayal of a Friend, Martin Luther King Jr. was inspired to launch the nonviolent Civil Rights Movement.[16]

Jones described the complexity of Gandhi’s personality as like Mount Everest:

Gandhi was simple and yet very complex amid that simplicity. You thought that you knew him and then you didn’t.  It was intriguing. There was always something there that eluded your grasp, that baffled you. And yet out of that many-sidedness which amounted to complexity, there arose simplicity, a unified character, simple and compelling.[17]

In an India full of racial, religious and economic division, Gandhi brought people together, giving them a vision for an independent democratic India.  Gandhi , whose favorite hymn was ‘When I survey the Wondrous Cross’, chose the costly way of the cross, of sacrificial love even for his enemies.[18]  On the wall of his mud hut was a black and white picture of Jesus Christ under which was written ‘He is our peace’.[19]  Gandhi was a peace-maker who chose to forgive those who despised him and rejected him.   Every day he would read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, motivating Gandhi to peacefully love his adversaries.   Jones, who had been a friend of Gandhi in India for many years, said once to him: ‘You understand the principles. Do you know the person?’  Gandhi was very drawn to the person of Jesus Christ.  My prayer for those reading this article is that we may embrace both the principles and person of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

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-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 

[1] Ramachanadra Guha, Gandhi Before India (Random House Canada, Toronto, 2014), p. 34-35.

[2] Guha, p. 45.

[3] Guha, p. 45.

[4] E Stanley Jones, Gandhi: Portrait of a Friend (Abingdon, Nashville, 1948), p. 18.

[5] Guha, p. 83.

[6] Guha, p. 85.

[7] Guha, p.308: “Before he left Volksrust Prison (in 1908), he presented a kindly warder with an inscribed copy of Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God is within You.”

[8] Guha, p. 225 “Raj Kumar Shukla took Gandhi to Champaran and Patna the capital of Bihar. …since no one knew their caste, even the servants shunned them. The maids refused to draw from the garden well when Gandhi used it, for fear that even a drop of water from Gandhi’s bucket might pollute them.”

[9] Guha, p. P.160.

[10] E Stanley Jones, Gandhi: Portrait of a Friend (Abingdon, Nashville, 1948), p. 1.

[11] Louis Fischer, Gandhi: his life & message for the world (Signet Classics, New York, NY, 1954, 1982), p. 20.

[12] Jones, p. 6; Arthur Herman, Gandhi and Churchill (Bantam Dell, New York, NY, 2008), p. 120-121 The early Gandhi in 1921 supported caste discrimination: “Prohibition against intermarriage and interdining (between Hindu castes) is essential for the rapid evolution of the soul.” By 1932, he rejected such prohibitions. By 1946, he only permitted inter caste weddings on his premise.

[13] Jones, p. 32.

[14] Jones, p. 22 “…it was Gandhi who aroused (the rural people), made them shed their fears, and made them conscious of their destiny. Before the advent of Gandhi, the nationalist movement was among the intellectuals.”

[15] The Words of Gandhi, selected by Richard Attenborough (Newmarket Press, New York, NY, 1982), p.9.

[16] http://www.estanleyjonesfoundation.com/about-esj/esj-biography  King: “…it was his (Jones’) book that triggered my use of Gandi’s method of nonviolence as a weapon for my own people’s freedom in the United States.” (accessed May 4th 2015)

[17] Jones, p. 5.

[18] Guha, p. 582 “(At the end of his final fast) the girls sang his favorite hymn When I survey the Wondrous Cross.”; Jones, p. 39, p. 141.

[19] Fischer, p. 141.

1 Comment

A Response to Anton Drake from Reverend Ed Hird



A Response to Anton Drake from Reverend Ed Hird

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 23:50

(Before It’s News)

Hollywood, CA — Last week I wrote a press release to promote the new book Atheist Yoga by Anton Drake. As part of that press release, which can be foundhere, I conducted an interview with Mr. Drake, and one of the topics of discussion was a recent article by Reverend Ed Hird that centered on the idea that the practice of yoga is something unsuitable for Christians. Anton had read that particular article, and had several comments about it; Reverend Hird subsequently contacted me and requested a chance to offer a rebuttal, feeling that some of what he had said had been misconstrued.


Here is Reverend Hird’s response to the Atheist Yoga press release:

[ Having read Anton Drake’s new book ‘Atheist Yoga’, I am fascinated by the extent to which so many atheists are focused on a God that they ostensibly don’t even believe in; many of them seem to think more about God than most Christians do, and I can’t help thinking that it’s almost as if they are obsessed with this allegedly non-existent God. When I think of God, I see the face of Jesus.  Anton is correct when he said “if someone is an atheist, they lack a belief in God.” This is undebatable. Many people don’t realize that Buddha, as a reformed Hindu, was an atheist who continued to do Hindu yoga; one of the most famous pictures of the Buddha shows him in the yogic lotus position. Buddhist usually call their yoga ‘meditation’, but a rose by any other name is still a rose. Buddhism was founded as an atheistic religion. In this sense Anton Drake is clearly right—there is no incompatibility between Anton being an atheist and doing yoga. Anton, like his fellow atheist Buddha, is clearly involved in a spiritual/religious practice.


In an interview released May 9th 2013, Mr. Drake made some comments about my article “Culture Wars: Yoga, More than Meets the Eye” that clearly demonstrate the extent to which he has completely misunderstood the meaning and intent of the article. In the interview, Anton stated that “although I am what you might call a dogmatic atheist, I find the reverend Hird’s ideas on this matter to be quite prejudicial, and even somewhat racial and xenophobic” While I enjoyed reading the interview, I find it unfortunate that Anton will dismiss someone as racist and xenophobic simply because they have reservations about syncretistically mixing two different religions. My hero E. Stanley Jones, who lived for 50 years as a Methodist missionary in India and wrote a book about Gandhi called ‘Portrait of a Friend,’ actually started the United Christian Ashram movement, of which I have served on the international board. My main point here is that I have always had great respect for the East Indian people, just as my friend Stanley Jones did.


In the same interview, which was titled “Ed Hird, Encinitas, and the Fear of Yoga, An Interview with Anton Drake Part 2,” Anton mentioned that “Many of the Hindu friends I’ve had through the years have actually kept a picture or a statue of Jesus on their altar or puja, right next to the other pictures of gurus and deities they revered. That always impressed me.” It is a good thing to show respect to other religious traditions; however, because Hinduism allegedly has 330 million gods, adding Jesus to the Hindu pantheon does not really respect the integrity of the Judeo-Christian heritage. To serve two masters, as Jesus cautioned against, is not showing true respect for other religious traditions. I do not question the prerogative of new-agers, atheists, or Hindus to practise yoga. I am asking for some transparency about what yoga really is about, particularly when they package it for Christians. Yoga is the very heart of Hinduism. Nine out of ten Hindus agree that yoga is Hinduism. Without yoga, there is no Hinduism. Without Hinduism, there is no yoga. Many Hindu gurus claim with no evidence that Jesus went to India and became a yoga teacher. They also hold that Jesus as a yogi was teaching reincarnation because he wanted us to be born again. Once again, this does not show respect or understanding for other important religious faiths.


Mr. Drake also seemed particularly offended by my comment that yoga ‘kills the mind’. This is merely quoting key yogis who see that as one of the key benefits of yoga. Christian meditation is about focusing on God’s Word thoughtfully rather than the elimination of thought. Sensory deprivation and sensory overload, both key aspects of advanced yoga, are proven techniques for the ‘killing of the mind’. Yoga does not require belief to alter the mind. It just requires intensive yogic practice. It is the technique that produces the effect. Yoga asanas appear to the uninitiated as if they are just stretching exercises. The more fully initiated realize that asanas are worship postures to Hindu deities. The Warrior asana, for example, is identified with the worship of Lord Virabhadra who has a thousand arms, three burning eyes, and a garland of skulls. The Cobra asana is about identification with and worship of the Kundalini snake, yogically awakened in the chakras. The yoga insiders all know the real scoop. They also know that North Americans are not quite ready yet for the full truth about the religious identity of yoga.


Further into the interview, Anton stated that “Although his [Rev. Hird’s ] article is fairly well written and seems to make some good points on the surface, if one looks a bit closer it reveals itself as absurdly, almost comically xenophobic; simply consider how easy it would be to apply the same arguments he uses to sushi, origami, or Asian forms of dance.” Among other things, I am particularly curious about Anton’s teaser comment “Good points on the surface.” I am hoping that in the future, Anton could perhaps elaborate on this. As for the xenophobic comment, this was clearly not one of Anton’s strongest arguments. To suggest that people who have reservations about yoga must also be against sushi, chai tea, and curry is comical. Anton, who has never met me, keeps saying that I am xenophobic simply because I dare to question yoga. I find Mr. Drake’s comments along this line to be unfortunate and even intolerant. I ask, is there still room within our Western democratic cultures to raise questions without being stereotyped or villified?


Anton Drake then goes on to say that schoolchildren should obviously be taught yoga: “Schoolchildren should obviously be allowed to learn yoga; restricting western children from learning yoga on the basis of religion is barbaric, and not just from an atheistic point of view.” The terms ‘should’ and ‘allowed’ go in two different directions. Public schools do not ‘allow’ religious practices, whether Hindu, Christian, Muslim, or New Age, to be mandated for the children. If yoga is in fact inherently religious, this would be violating the Encinita School Board’s own legal parameters. Is it really respectful to mandate yogic Hinduism for children attending the Public School system? What if this violates the faith perspective of the children’s parents? Should they be dismissed as barbaric, to use Mr. Drake’s words? At the core of democracy is the freedom of religion, and the freedom to question. No one will win if yoga ever becomes so culturally entrenched that our schools begin imposing it as part of their everyday curriculum, and thereby elevate it to the status of an unquestioned academic truth or authority.


Drake also says, and I quote, that “He [Rev. Hird] of course takes it completely for granted that any spiritual tradition outside of Christianity or western culture is intrinsically evil and antithetical to every form of goodness.” However, where he is wrong is that I am in no way a defender of Western culture as somehow superior to Eastern culture. I find much wisdom and value in all cultures, and in all religions. We need to be respectful to other religious traditions, especially when we do not understand them. I simply ask that Christians be not asked to compromise their religious identity in the midst of a well-packaged yoga marketing strategy. Yoga is a ten-billion dollar industry these days in North America, and we simply cannot overlook our core cultural principles in rushing to spread the indoctrination of yoga into our schools. While Anton Drake “the atheist” spoke a lot about demons and evil, you will notice that I did not, and this was not at all the focus of my article. I simply wish to affirm the Lordship of Jesus Christ in one’s life. And my contention is that if Jesus is my Lord, then yoga is not. I can live without yoga, while still respecting the right of others who wish to practice it. ]


I am scheduled to do another interview with Anton soon, and I will be sure to bring this topic up to him again and ask him some additional questions as well.


Media Contact
Karen Anderson
Marketing Director
Puragreen Productions LLC
717 Hollywood Blvd
Hollywood, CA, 90024
Email: Karen@puragreen.com
Web: http://puragreen.com


for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.