Meditation/Prayer: A Heart Without Word

July 06, 2015

Every week, we feature excerpts by Gandhi that lend insight into his values and personal practices.

Eknath Easwaran was a disciple of Gandhiji. In one of his talks, he described his first encounter with him at Sevagram -- the Village of Service. "I wanted to know, the secret of his [Gandhi's] power." "Why didn't he get burned out? How was he able to maintain this freshness? What was the source of this apparently endless vitality and good humor?" In the prayer meeting that evening at the ashram, Easwaran got his answer. Together with the rest of the ashram, he returned from the brisk after-dinner walk with Gandhi in the relative cool of the evening and settled down around the neem tree where Gandhi sat. Mahadev Desai, Gandhi's secretary, began to read out the verses from the Bhagavad Gita. As Easwaran watched, the small brown body seated in front of him grew motionless, absorbed in meditation on those verses. It was from Gandhi, whose life was an open book, that Easwaran learned how to translate the capacities that meditation releases into everyday living.

The following is an excerpt from a speech Gandhi gave at the Sabarmati ashram in 1930 around the importance of prayer/meditation:

January 17, 1930

Prayer is the key of the morning and the bolt of the evening…. As food is necessary for the body, prayer is necessary for the soul…. No act of mine is done without prayer…. I am not a man of learning, but I humbly claim to be a man of prayer. I am indifferent to the form. Every man is a law unto himself in that respect… (1)

She or he therefore who hungers for the awakening of the divine in her or him must fall back on prayer. But prayer is no mere exercise of words or of the ears, it is no mere repetition of empty formula. Any amount of repetition of Ramanama is futile if it fails to stir the soul. It is better in prayer to have a heart without word than words without a heart. It must be in clear response to the spirit which hungers for it. And even as a hungry person relishes a hearty meal, a hungry soul will relish a heartfelt prayer. And I am giving you a bit of my experience and that of my companions when I say that se or he who has experienced the magic of prayer may do without food for days together but not a single moment without prayer. For without prayer there is no inward peace. (2)

“When the heart is pure, from moment to moment one’s duty becomes apparent effortlessly." (3)

1) The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi, p. 94-96
(2) Speech at a Prayer Meeting at Sabarmati Ashram". Young India, CWMG, Vol 48, p. 242-244 ‚Äč
(3) Gandhi, “A letter”, Mahadevbhaini Diary, Vol. I (14 Aug 1932). CWMG, 56, p. 334.


Be The Change

This week try to start and end your day with an hour of meditation or prayer or comtemplation.