IT is impossible to discuss the subject of tolerance today without referring to the thought and action of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948), known to the world as Mahatma ("great soul"). Yet the word tolerance appears only rarely in his works even though his whole life proved him to be a man of exemplary tolerance. This paradox is an indication of the difficulty of the concept.
According to Gandhi, to affirm one's tolerance is to establish a hierarchy between one's own position and that of others. "I do not like the word tolerance", he wrote in a letter to his followers in 1930 while he was imprisoned at Yeravda Mandir, "but could not think of a better one. Tolerance may imply a gratuitous assumption of the inferiority of other faiths to one's own, whereas ahimsa [non-violence] teaches us to entertain the same respect for the religious faiths of others as we accord to our own, thus admitting the imperfection of the latter. This admission will readily be made by a seeker of Truth, who follows the law of love.
"If we had attained the full vision of truth, we would no longer be mere seekers, but would have become one with God, for Truth is God. But being only seekers, we prosecute our quest, and are conscious of our imperfection."
Here we touch on one of the basic principles of …