Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart,” said Mahatma Gandhi, whose anniversary of martyrdom we observed on Friday.
It has been a week of extreme emotional highs and lows for Indians, from the joy and pride we felt when watching our women soldiers march down Rajpath on Republic Day to the tears we shed when brave Alka Rai, all of 11, called out the Gurkha war cry at her slain father’s funeral. As we wait for the remaining 11 months of 2015 to unfold, other inspiring words by Gandhi come to mind.
“Prayer is the key of the morning and the bolt of the evening,” he said about the inspirational and introspective role it can play in helping us “cross the river” as we traditionally describe the personal journey of getting through life with health and honour.
Physical health is a big component of emotional well-being and Gandhi, despite the fun we make of his personal food choices, upheld it as a general principle: “It is health that is the real wealth, not pieces of gold and silver.” If this seems a cliché, we might remember how many of us forget this simple truth — and actually make the switch now to paushtik ahar and regular exercise.
However, not everyone excels in strength or has a vast reserve of stamina. When our frail barque is seized by storms and rough currents, it’s hard to keep going. But “Strength does not come from physical capacity, it comes from an indomitable will,” said Gandhi and it feels doable because we know that it was true in his case.
What if we are overcome by the crimes and stupidities of others that we did not share but are affected by? “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean. If a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty,” said Gandhi and that “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Where we find it impossible to forgive, we can nevertheless move on, leave it behind and not turn brooding and bitter.
How do we get past the hurdles and handicaps in our everyday life? A positive, ‘can-do’ attitude is the only way through this said Gandhi, to “live as if we were to die tomorrow, learn as if we were to live forever” because, as other Teachers said, “Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment, full effort is full victory.”
That’s all very well, we say, but what, really, is the aim of our existence? The questioning mind is not satisfied with talk of heaven and hell when this earth is what we see, what we actually know.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,” said the man we call ‘Mahatma’ and I particularly like his view that “Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony”.