Virchand R. Gandhi in America

Posted: 07.12.2010
Updated on: 03.01.2011

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The essay was published in Jainacharya Shri Atmanand Janma Shatabdi Smarak Grantha (Jainacharya Shri Atmanand Centenary Commemoration Volume), edited by Mohanlal Dalichand Desai, Bombay 1936, pp. 4-9. The author of the introductory section of the paper is not stated.


Virchand R. Gandhi in America

Mr. V. R. Gandhi, B. A., of the University of Bombay, India, is a brilliant lawyer of unusual attainments, and is master of fourteen languages including English. He is the Honorary Secretary of the Jain Association of India, and enjoys the distinction of being the only gentleman from India, who was elected by the people at home as Delegate to the Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in September, 1893, where he most eloquently represented the 5,000,000 of Jains of India. Mr. Gandhi has remained in this country to study our customs, politics, educational and industrial institutions. He is a man of strong personality, filled with enthusiasm, sincere and earnest in purpose, a man of unflinching moral courage and the soul of honour. All this and more impresses you as you look into his calm, piercing eyes and listen to his animated discussions on the customs and religions of India. But it is when dwelling upon the selfishness and injustice of mankind and the miseries of the ignorant poor that Mr. Gandhi grows most eloquent, and his soul shines through his eyes as he warms with his subject.

No one should fail to hear this eloquent native from India whenever opportunity occurs; one can gain more knowledge and truth in one evening than from any other source. He will be able to correct many prevalent and erroneous impressions concerning India and its people. He will answer all questions after the lecture that any one from the audience may choose to ask. There cannot be too much said in praise of this grand and noble man who daily lives up to the principles of purity which he advocates. Mr. Gandhi has already spoken in this country before clubs, lyceums, literary and church societies, theosophical branches and Spiritual associations, and has conducted large classes in Eastern Occultism. He has everywhere been accorded a warm reception and shown the highest appreciation.

The Broad and Catholic spirit of this grand Hindu may be best understood by the following extract from his lecture delivered at Cassadaga, N.Y., August 12th, 1894, where he was engaged for several lectures and classes.

When missionaries sent from this continent to our country, and to our people, shall have learned that we are children of the same family, that we inherit the same perceptions, the same rights, the same inspirations and the relations to the Infinite, and seek to fraternise with us on that plane and with this recognition - then, and then only, antagonism and injustice will cease, and the bonds of common brotherhood will unite us in a mutual recognition of reasons for a perfect fellowship.

What is that Christ in whose name you propose to conquer the world? Is there a Christ of oppression; is there a Christ of injustice; is there a Christ of misinterpretation; is there a Christ of denial of all rights; is there a Christ of destruction of all holy aims and humane immemorial institutions; is there a Christ of injustice and exorbitant taxation for the support of a government, foreign to our knowledge, our thought, our religion and our consent? who of these Christs has inscribed his name on the banner of your conquests ? If you seek to conquer us under such banners, and in the name of such Christs, we refuse to be conquered. But, if you come to us in: the name and in the spirit of the Christ of education, of brotherhood, universal love or in the name of that Christ, who, in the valley of the Ganges, and on the shores of the sea of Tiberius, taught and said: " A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another", then I say, we will welcome you, for him we know, and of him we are not afraid. But all this must be understood in the full freedom of it. We cannot recognize a creedal Christ, a limited Christ, an emasculated truth whether it is viewed from an educational or moral and spiritual point of view, but the universal idea, without limit, without fetters, free.

We come gladly, at your invitation, for another reason. You are the most tolerant and liberal nation in the western world, and tolerance is the first article in the faith of every Hindu, Buddhist or Jainist. No man can point to any instance in the history of my people where any man was ever persecuted for religious opinion's sake. Our very language does not contain an equivalent word for the English word "persecution'.' We have words in our language, in the ancient Sanskrit, that cover the whole ground of justice, of purity, of goodness, of love and of ail the sweet beatitudes of the soul's attainment, but net one word that means malice, persecution or tyranny for religious opinion's sake.

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From Rev. R. A. White, Chicago
6550, Lafayette Ave., Chicago, Ill.:

I consider Mr. Gandhi one of the best equipped of the many scholarly men who represented the various religions of India in the recent Parliament of Religions. A public lecture given by him in my church was, in my opinion, a most scholarly production, both in matter and form, and showed a thorough grasp of Oriental philosophy. Mr. Gandhi has a fine command of the English tongue, and is altogether a most interesting man in every way.

R. A. White

From Hon. E. B. Sherman, Master in Chancery of the United States Circuit Court:

The Congress of Religions drew to Chicago several of the brightest and most interesting Oriental thinkers and scholars that it has ever been my pleasure to meet; among them is Mr. V. R. Gandhi, a lawyer of Bombay, India. It has rarely, if ever, been my good fortune to meet a man whose reading and culture have been so wide and varied, and who, withal, has so sweet, sincere and teachable a spirit as Mr. Gandhi.

From Rev. Addison Parker, Pastor, Leading Baptist Church, LaPorte, Ind.
Pastor's Study, LaPorte, Ind. December 2nd, 1893:

During the meeting of the Parliament of Religions at Chicago, I had the pleasure of listening to Mr. Gandhi's address upon the "Jains" of India, and also of a brief personal conversation with him. He impressed me as one of the brainiest and most stirring of the representatives of the Far East. I know of no one from whom I would prefer to hear concerning the life and thought of the great people he represents.

Addison Parker

Buffalo Courier, August 19th, 1894:

Virchand R. Gandhi, the Jain Hindu of Bombay, has been accorded the greatest ovation ever granted to a speaker at Cassadaga. Saturday afternoon when he stepped forward in his silken robe of royal purple and golden-colored turban and sash, the auditorium fairly rang with applause, and when he finished his speech, which was announced as "Some Mistakes Corrected " he was recalled again and again.

Light of Truth Cincinnati, August 11th, 1894:

Mr. Gandhi is a thorough student of the Vedic religion of India thoroughly conversant with the Brahminical tenets and the teachings of Buddha. He illumines them all with the spiritual halo and practical philosophy of his great teacher as well as his own luminous mind.

Buffalo Express, August 14th, 1894:

Mr. Virchand Gandhi, of India, was the platform figure in this immense gathering of interested people Looking over the audience, it was easy to perceive that the men and women from the outside world, as well as spiritists and Cassadagans themselves, followed every word that the Hind.u said with the closest attention.

Light of Truth, August 18th, 1894:

Virchand R. Gandhi, the Jainist, has opened a class for instruction in the ancient religions. The lecture-room is each day crowded to its utmost with brightest minds of the camp, eager to hear this wonderful Hindu scholar expound his religious theories.

The Evangelist, New York, August 23rd, 1894:

Recently Cassadaga, the trysting place of heterogeneous creeds, has blossomed out with a new attraction, striking to the eye as well as to the mind. This new card is Mr. Virchand Gandhi of Bombay, a gentleman of noble presence, a trained scholar, a lawyer versed in Sanskrit lore and in English literature as well. He came to this country by invitation of Dr. Barrows, ss a representative of the Jain religion. Mr. Gandhi is an able exponent of all the religions of India.

The Illustrated Buffalo Express, August 12th, 1894:

On Saturday afternoon one of the most enthusiastic audience ever known to the auditorium of Cassadaga listened to"The Message of India to the People of America" by Virchand R. Gandhi, B. A., of Bombay, India, who was elected by a vote of 5,000,000 Jains to represent them at the late world's Con­gress of Religious in Chicago.

Mr. Gandhi was given a perfect ovation as he stepped forward in his Oriental costume of royal purple silk and yellow turban and sash, and said: "Brothers and sisters of America: I greet you in the name of India and her three millions of sons and daughters. I greet you as brothers and sisters and bring you a message of peace, love, universal brotherhood and fellowship from the aged and well-preserved nation of India, which is proud to clasp the hand of the youngest child of the ages. Our country in all confidence places in your lap the key to its archives of ancient philosophy and attainments, because you are in a perfect intellectual condition to appreciate its mystical treasures of religious lore. India has been studied from the outside and from a limited point of view and consequently misunderstood."

Evening Post, Cleveland, 0., September 19th, 1891:

Virchand R. Gandhi, representative of the Jain religion, the oldest of old India, lectured on the occult sciences and philosophies of that far-off country last evening, at Association Hall. His lecture was profusely illustrated by means of the stereopticon and the views presented, showing as they did scenes of interest and people of a most fascinating land, were warmly appreciated by the large number of persons in attendance.

Chicago Suburban Star, November 30th, 1893:

The Universalist Church, Sixty-fifth street and Stewart avenue, was comfortably filled Sunday evening on the occasion of the third lecture in the Union Study Club course, which was given by Virchand R. Gandhi, of Bombay, Honorary Secretary of the Jain Association of India. The lecture con­tained a geographical and historical review of India, a digest of the religions philosophies, theosophies, literatures of the Aryan races, and a very interesting description of the social customs of the Hindus. The speaker very emphatically denied the popular story about the car of Juggernaut, under whose wheels the religious devotee has been supposed to cast himself and be immolated. He characterized the tale of Juggernaut and other recitals of Hindu self-torture as the falsifications of sensational missionaries.

Buffalo Times, N. Y., August 8th, 1894:

Virchand Gandhi is the guest of honor at Cassadaga. He has already won his way to the hearts of the people by the soft persuasiveness of his reasoning, oriental in its simplicity, strength and power of conviction. His musically modulated voice and physical repose distinguish him no less than his Oriental costume at any time and any place.

The Jamestown All, New York, August 13th, 1894:

The Buffalo excursion brought six carloads of people and the Jamestown and Titusville the same. It was a "big day'' and most of the people came to hear, the learned Hindu, Virchand Gandhi His subject Sunday afternoon was his impressions of our country and various institutions. He complimented us, as a nation on our hospitality, our common schools and universal education, thought our natural resources and industries marvelous, and made comparisons between us and his own Jainist People. In his lecture Saturday he gave "India's Message to America,'' and the lecture took every one by storm. He is so full of kindness and brotherly love for the American people, and so clear in expressing his ideas to us that no one can help but feel, after listening to him, that the Jainist people did well in selecting Mr. Gandhi as their representative to this country.

Chicago Daily Sun, April 3rd, 1894:

Mr. Virchand R. Gandhi, B. A., of Bombay, lectured Monday evening at 6558 Stewart boulevard. The Subject was Jainism, the religion which Mr. Gandhi came to this country to re­present at the Parliament of Religions, and which has been listened to by larger and more enthusiastic audiences than any other Oriental religion which has been presented during or since the Parliament by the many scholarly re­presentatives from the various countries.

Chicago Herald, August 4th, 1894:

Virchand R. Gandhi, who was a prominent member at the Parliament of Religions, has just published a correct translation of the "Unknown Life of Jesus Christ'' and being a native of India, and having traveled much in that country, has been able to add to his book a fine picture of the Himis Monastery where Notovitch discovered the manuscript. Also, he has added many other illustrations, and a most scholarly and exhaustive introduction; altogether giving to his work a dignity that no other translation possesses. Everyone should possess a copy of this most scholarly translation.

Buffalo Evening Times, N. Y., August 14th, 1894:

Yesterday morning Virchand Gandhi, of Bombay B. A., delivered his lecture to women exclusively. It drew out a large crowd of the fair sex and caused something of a sensation by reason of its pointed directness.

St. Joseph Gazette, Monday, May 8th, 1894:

The Parliament of Religions, which formed one of the most interesting features of the great World's Fair, opened the eyes of eminent Christians to the fact that the issues joined by modern Christianity and the religion and philosophy of heathendom leave debatable ground upon which the heathen may stand in defence of the faith of his fathers. Mr. Virchand R. Gandhi, of Bombay, who was one of the most prominent representatives at the World's Parliament of Religions, writes a paper in the April Forum entited, " Why Christian Missions have failed in India."

Morning Star, Meadville, Penn., August 14th, 1894:

Virchand Gandhi, of Bombay, India is the picturesque figure on the grounds now, in his Oriental costume. Mr. Gandhi represented the Jainist sect at the World's Parliament of Religions at. Chicago last year, He is a very intelligent man, and after hearing his lec­ture on " The Message of India to America, " one is inclined to wonder if Indian missionaries to America are not in order.

The Rochester Herald, October 3rd, 1894.
Illustrated Lecture on India:

Mr. Virchand R. Gandhi, of Bombay, India, delivered an interesting and instructive lecture before the public school pupils in Free Academy hall last evening. The speaker gave a clear description of the customs and habits of the people of India. He presented many very interesting stereopticon views of the principal cities, the Elephanta and other caves, occupied by monks. The pictures showed the excellent work executed in ancient times. Altogether, these lectures are instructive to both old and young, and should be seen and heard all over America.


Rochester Democrat and Chronicler, September 24th, 1894:

Mr. Virchand R. Gandhi, the Hind.u philosopher and scholar, of Bombay, spoke in the First Universalist church last evening to a crowded house. He was introduced by the Rev. Dr. Saxe as one who had represented nobly one of the great religions of India. Mr. Gandhi is a man of extensive learning. He has spent his time since the close of the parliament traveling about, lecturing and studying the industrial progress of this country, and especially the public school system. He is greatly impressed with the fact that in this land the poorest child has educational facilities equal to the richest. There are many fine schools in India, but the fee is so high that the poor cannot take advantage of them.

Buffalo Evening Times, Aug. 73, 1894:

Mr. Virchand R. Gandhi, the East Indian, who represented 5,000,000 of his co-religionists at the Congress of Religions, preaches the universal brotherhood of man. He is much farther advanced in the Esoteric Philosophy than the western Theosophists, and gives far more lucid explanations of the Oriental teachings. The Hind.u is decidedly the Lion of the season.

The Universalist Messenger, Chicago, Feb. 10, 1894:

The series of lectures on Oriental Philosophy, given by Mr. Virchand R. Gandhi every Monday evening at the residence of Mr. Chas. Howard, 6558 Stewart Boulevard, are growing more and more interesting. The Subject last Monday evening was the ethical side of the Yoga philosophy. The treatment given it was eminently scholarly, such as could emanate only from the metaphysical mini of a Hindu. These lectures are listened to by an already cultivated class of people, who concede the fact that these Hindus are the custodians of knowledge pure and simple, and are ever ready and willing to give the key which will unlock the treasure box containing all the mysterious truths that mind can grasp.

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