of the Talk “Gandhi and the Question of the Worship of Images”
worship of images or "idols" is a practice that has been
censured by some non-Indian religious traditions and even by some
Hindu reform movements. Mahatma Gandhi defended image-worship because
of his commitment to religious pluralism. If "all religions
are true," then there is no ground to vilify the practice of
any one of them. As a religious pluralist he felt obliged to defend
the liberty of others to pursue religion as they see fit. Gandhi
believed in the potency and efficacy of the imaginal. He saw images,
symbols, and holy places as powerful human motivators, the life-blood
of all religions - even those which claim to be image-less or iconoclastic.
Gandhi regarded the sometimes crude and naive forms of popular piety
as preferable to the cold, intolerant certainty of the iconoclast.
For Gandhi, believing that one is idol-free is the most insidious
(and dangerous) form of idolatry. He bridled at image-worship only
when he was himself treated as an icon or divinity.
Noel Salmond, B.F.A. (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design), M.A.
(Concordia), Ph.D. (McGill), is Associate Professor of Humanities
and Religion at Carleton University. He has been a Faculty Research
Fellow with the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute in India, and is
a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society. He is the author of Hindu
Iconoclasts: Rammmohun Roy, Dayananda Sarasvati, and Nineteenth
Century Polemics Against Idolatry ( 2004) and numerous articles
on the relation between visual art and religion. His current research
interests lie in modernist forms of Asian religion (Hindu and Buddhist
reform and revival movements) and also in religious views of nature
and religious responses to environmental crisis. His interests outside
the academy include wilderness canoeing and flight from the world
to the forests of the Gatineau hills.