During his stay in South Africa, Gandhiji used to get invited by Christians to embrace Christianity. As a true seeker of truth, Gandhiji used to engage with them without any inhibition or ill-will. At their request, he used to participate in Christian conventions and prayer meetings. However, these visits did not produce any favourable impression on him.
Not only Christians, his Muslim friends also tried to convert him to Islam. “Abdulla Sheth had kept on inducing me to study Islam, and of course he had always something to say regarding its beauty,” Gandhiji writes in his autobiography.
When Gandhiji told his Christian friends that he saw no reason to renounce his faith, they were shocked. “It is impossible for me to believe that I could go to heaven or attain salvation only by becoming a Christian. When I frankly said so to some of the good Christian friends, they were shocked. But there was no help for it.”
On Jesus, he writes, “I could accept Jesus as martyr, an embodiment of sacrifice, and a divine teacher, but not as the most perfect man ever born. His death on the cross was a great example to the world but that there was anything like a mysterious or miraculous virtue in it my heart could not accept. The pious lives of Christians did not give me anything that the lives of men of other faiths had failed to give. I had seen in other lives just the same reformation that I had heard of among Christians. Philosophically there was nothing extraordinary in Christian principles. From the point of view of sacrifice, it seemed to me that the Hindus greatly surpassed the Christians. It was impossible for me to regard Christianity as a perfect religion or the greatest of all religions.”
On one occasion, he was warned by a Christian friend to no more visit her house. His hostess was “nice lady” but a “narrow-minded” at the same time. “Once we began to compare the life of Jesus with that of Buddha. ‘Look at Gautama’s compassion’! said I. ‘It was not confined to mankind, it was extended to all living beings. Does not one’s heart overflow with love to think of the lamb joyously perched on his shoulders? One fails to notice this love for all living beings in the life of Jesus.’ The comparison pained the lady.”
Another matter that upset the lady was his views on vegetarian food. “I am happiest when the in the midst of children, and this youngster and I had long been friends. I spoke derisively of the piece of meat on his plate and in high praise of the apple on mine. The innocent boy was carried away and joined in my praise of fruit.”
Annoyed by Gandhiji’s conduct, she told him to stay away from his child as he stopped taking meat which she feared would affect his health. Gandhiji told her not worry and stopped going to her house.