Gandhi and Professor Peters
When Gandhi was studying law at the University College of London, a white professor, whose last name was Peters, disliked him intensely and always displayed prejudice and animosity towards him. Also, because Gandhi never lowered his head when addressing him, as he expected…. there were always “arguments” and confrontations.
One day, Mr Peters was having lunch at the dining room of the University, and Gandhi came along with his tray and sat next to the professor. The professor said, “Mr Gandhi, you do not understand. A pig and a bird do not sit together to eat.”
Gandhi looked at him as a parent would a rude child and calmly replied, “You do not worry professor. I’ll fly away,” and he went and sat at another table.
Mr Peters, reddened with rage, decided to take revenge on the next test paper, but Gandhi responded brilliantly to all questions. Mr Peters, unhappy and frustrated, asked him the following question. “Mr Gandhi, if you were walking down the street and found a package, and within was a bag of wisdom and another bag with a lot of money, which one would you take?”
Without hesitating, Gandhi responded, “The one with the money, of course.”
Mr Peters, smiling sarcastically said, “I, in your place, would have taken the wisdom, don’t you think?”
Gandhi shrugged indifferently and responded, “Each one takes what he doesn’t have.”
Mr Peters, by this time, was fit to be tied. So great was his anger that he wrote on Gandhi’s exam sheet the word “idiot” and gave it to Gandhi. Gandhi took the exam sheet and sat down at his desk trying very hard to remain calm while he contemplated his next move.
A few minutes later, Gandhi got up, went to the professor and said to him in a dignified but sarcastically polite tone, “Mr Peters, you signed the sheet, but you did not give me the grade.”
…Through that person, Providence is showing politicians and the statesmen of the world, even Christian ones, that there are other methods in politics than skill, wiliness and violence. Gandhi’s political method is very simple and obvious: he does not require anything except the man who cries out and the God Who hearkens. Against weapons, ammunition and army, Gandhi places fasting; against skill, wiliness and violence, prayer; and against political quarrel, silence. How puny and pathetic that looks in the eyes of modern men, right? In modern political textbooks, these three methods are not even mentioned in footnotes. Fasting, prayer and silence! There is hardly a statesman in Europe or America who would not ironically see these three secrets of the Indian statesmen as three dry twigs pointed on the battlefield against a heap of steel, lead, fire and poison. However, Gandhi succeeds with these three “spells” of his; he succeeds to the astonishment of the whole world. And whether they want to or not, political lawmakers in England and other countries will have to add a chapter into their textbooks: “Fasting, Prayer and Silence as Powerful Weapons in Politics.” Imagine, would it not be to the fortune of all mankind if these methods of the unbaptized Gandhi replaced the methods of the baptized Machiavelli in political science?…
Fasting is a sacrifice, silence is inward examination of oneself, prayer is crying out to God. Those are the three sources of great spiritual power which make man victorious in battle and excellent in life.
Source: Missionary Letters of Saint Nikolai Velimirovich: Letters 1-100, trans. Hierodeacon Serafim (Baltic), Vol. VI in A Treasury of Serbian Orthodox Spirituality (Grayslake, IL: New Gracanica Monastery, 2008), pp. 171-173. I have made certain small emendations to the translation—B.A.