When Mohandas K. Gandhi was killed in 1948, among his spare worldly possessions were about a dozen books, including the "Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ"
Gandhi's interest in Jesus began early in his life. In England, sent to learn law in l888, the young Hindu was persuaded to read the Bible even before he had studied the Bhagavad Gita and other Indian classics. The Sermon on the Mount, he said, "went straight to my heart": "When I read in the Sermon on the Mount such passages as...'whoever smiteth thee on thy cheek turn to him the other also' I was simply overjoyed."
Later, during his struggles in South Africa, Gandhi called on the Indians of the Transvaal to "stagger humanity without shedding a drop of blood," by following the example of "Gentle Jesus, the greatest passive resister the world has seen." Though Jesus died, Gandhi said, "He lives in the memory of all true sons of God."
In the early 20th century, a favorite debate topic in at least one New England school was: Who is more important, Socrates or Jesus? Part of the question's appeal to lively Christian students may have been the danger of possible sacrilege. Similarly, it may seem sacrilege to some Christians to put Jesus and Gandhi on the same playing field. But would-be saints have always tried to imitate Christ, and Gandhi's aim "to live the Sermon on the Mount" puts him in that tradition, even to the point of martyrdom.