Mahatma Gandhi Community Forum

Gandhi acting without need of thought: "The thoughts do not come . . . there is no thought about the mission"

Reading a fascinating article about Ramana Maharshi and his opinion of Gandhi (by J. Godman). Ramana actually quite approved of Gandhi apparently, despite the fact that Ramana tended to preach radical non-action -- "What is there to be done?" -- and Gandhi was, almost continually engaged in action in the world, and did an astounding amount during his life.

"Although [Ramana] . . . did not encourage devotees to get involved in goal-oriented political programmes, such as the campaign for Independence, he had great respect for Gandhi.

[Ramana] said on several occasions that Gandhi had surrendered to the Self, and that the Self was working through him . . . "

Godman's article, in this vein, continues with a rather fascinating passage of Gandhi's, about not bothering so much to think but simply allowing oneself to be guided by God: 


‘How mysterious are the ways of God! This journey to Rajkot is a wonder even to me. Why am I going, whither am I going? What for? I have thought nothing about these things. And if God guides me, what should I think, why should I think? Even thought may be an obstacle in the way of His guidance.

‘The fact is, it takes no effort to stop thinking. The thoughts do not come. Indeed there is no vacuum - but I mean to say that there is no thought about the mission.’     (Letter to Mahadev Desai, Feb. 27 1939, reprinted in Harijan)

Hope others find this as interesting as I did. Cheers


Views: 362

Add a Comment

You need to be a member of GandhiTopia to add comments!

Join GandhiTopia

Comment by Balamurali Balaji on April 7, 2013 at 9:12
Thanks for uploading the photo, Max.

Yes, it is true that Swami Vivekananda like gurus get a mascot-like elevation by politically linked organizations, otherwise, they go forgotten in the minds of people.

No, not necessarily you start a new thread unless you want to write on Ahimsa and peace matters. Try not to mistake me as I have already discussed too much of religious and spiritual matters in this Gandhi forum.

In the mean time, I would like you to read my earlier blog post which analyses Vivekananda and Gandhi in a single spectrum.

Comment by Max Cooper on April 7, 2013 at 8:27

It just struck me that I should have started a new thread if I was going to comment on Vivekananda and politics . . . It is certainly not the same topic as this original post. :p

Comment by Max Cooper on April 6, 2013 at 6:50

Balamurali, Thank you for the info on other schools such as Dvaita and Vishist-Advaita. I will try to look into the life of Guru Ragavendra. I am always interested in finding out more about different religious/philosophical schools.

I do have the impression that many gurus today try not to emphasize the differences between various schools. I think this is probably helpful to avoid sectarian divisions. 

In that regard, though, I have been somewhat surprised to see that here in India, figures that I see as spiritual figures are often used as figureheads for what seem to me to be political movements. For instance, I see Swami Vivekananda appears to be somehow being used as the "mascot" for ABVP, which I am told is a local wing of the BJP party. 

This surprises me as I have been told that the BJP is a radical "Hindutva" type party; whereas reading a little bit of Vivekananda I have the impression that he preaches the unity of all religions. I have heard reports of the BJP taking a soft stand on issues of communalist violence, and so on; whereas I have the impression that Vivekananda deeply abhorred religious violence . . . 

I have updated with a photo, it is a good point that it is nice to have a photo on one's profile . . . Although at least according to the Advaita school, it is perhaps not relevant to who I am -- I am not the body! ;-)

Comment by Balamurali Balaji on April 5, 2013 at 8:05

Dear Max,

Thanks for responding with your humble comments.

At DU, I believe, you might have got an wonderful exposure to Indian philosophy where as I haven't much read about it as a theoretical subject, rather practicing it every day instinctly through ancestral guidances.

I was brought up in a family adhering to Dvaita philosophy and Dualism is a way of life for us. For many years, my parents followed Dvaitic Sastras and Sampradayas (specifications and practices)

My notion on "Guru followership" is also an aspect of Dvaita. Presently living or not, taking the inspiration and inscriptions from the life and the teachings of elders and assuming them as master and worshipping them equally as 'God' is a part and parcel of Dvaita Vedantha. So, naturally I wrote Gandhi as my "political Guru" even while he is not bodily alive today.

In the similar context, I would like you to read the life of "Guru Sri Ragavendra", a Dvaita Acharya to have a slighter holy dip. But, I admit to say that  it is too religious than spiritual.

Advaita, Monoism is not in true sense these days as it was before, it is evolving and expanding to influence other theories like Vishist-Advaita, Dvaita. Present day Gurus preach the unity of these paths in order to weed out the differences which cause major impact on the public. Ramana Maharishi was one among them.

Gandhi was too careful in choosing his religious preferences. Being a Hindu, he worked beyond the boundaries of these three sub-schools of Hindu philosophy. He kept himself away from religious rituals and had a vision on a nation which is secular as a whole and religion as a private citizens' right.

In the mean time, please update your profile with a photo. I would like to have a record of with whom I am conversing.

Comment by Max Cooper on April 2, 2013 at 14:23

Thank you  Balamurali for your informative and thoughtful reply.

You mentioned Indian philosophical systems; In terms of these, my own primary reading right now is in Advaita Vedanta, which I am reading at Delhi U. It is tremendously fascinating. This is what is allowing me to spend a lot of time reading about Ramana Maharshi. I also have some knowledge of, e.g., Buddhism and Jainism. But I see Gandhi as in a sense taking elements from all these systems and many more, and in a sense blazing his own path. . . . !

That is tremendously interesting what you have said about the Guru: "As far as I know, the realm of Dharma enfolds into one's life as soon as he/she assumes some one as Guru (master)" . . . I look forward to the possibility of meeting such a master. I am also intrigued that you have taken Gandhi as your guru. I suppose I have a conception that a guru must be still living in the body but come to think of it that is probably certainly not of great importance. 

Thank you for your thoughtful, (and might I say inspirational!), elucidation of dharma. 

Comment by Balamurali Balaji on March 23, 2013 at 5:36

I am amused at you learning these scriptures as a part of your studies. I hope that, by now, you have gone through various Indian philosophical works and Hindu systems.

Your question of finding out "Dharma" oneself arises in all of us. It is the duty of everyone to know what Dharma is and how it should be followed in life. Also, it is not easy for us if we put our mind and thoughts in day-today helms and worldly matters.

As far as I know, the realm of Dharma enfolds into one's life as soon as he/she assumes some one as Guru (master) and I am experiencing this since I decided to learn and follow Gandhi decades ago. By far, Dharma of such a life cannot be vindicated easily as it needs to evolve through various actions in the path we chose.

Precisely, I see Dharma as a "merit" which we need to uphold in the path we traverse. As per Gita, if one follows Bakthi Yoga (path of devotion), we must do justice for devotion to God,  accordingly, it is the Dharma for him. If one follow Karma Yoga (path of action), it must be done accordingly so as to uphold its Dharma.

Your question is little more intriguing???!!!!! How do we choose our path in order to fulfill our Dharma of life? The answer, we know, lies in the PATH, but to choose one among the many is the trivial cause. One Acharya(Guru) says "Follow the path of your master!". And another says, "Take the path of what your father did!" And yet another says, "Find the truth about God who created you and this world" Oh man, we are free to choose any path as you believe.

Gita spells out various such paths which included the yoga of Action, wisdom (Gnana), Renunciation of Action (inaction), meditation, liberation. Each one of them has its own Dharma which needs to be adopted rightly.

Arjuna and his brothers wanted to reclaim their Kingship from Kauravas desperately but not through killings or raging war against them. On the other hand, Kauravas were war-hunger and wanted to defeat Arjuna & co. (Pandavas) once for all.  They didnot agreed to any other "terms and conditions" for handing over the regim to Pandavas.

At this juncture, Lord Krishna said to Arjuna: "Wake up from the slumber of ignorance. This body and the world are indwelt by the Imperishable Atman, Brahman or the Soul. None can cause the destruction of That the Imperishable. This Atman is not born nor does It ever die. It is unborn, eternal, changeless,  ancient and inexhaustible. It is not killed when the body is killed. It slays not, nor is It slain." (Discourse by Swami Sivananda)

At the war-front, Krishna teaches this Dharma to Arjuna about the righteousness of the action of killing and it is Dharma. It is not only that Arjuna agreed to Kshatriya Dharma but to uphold the Dharma of truth and justice.

For Gandhi, Ahimsa is Dharma. He took vow to adhere to the path of Nonviolence in the cause of freedom movement and through out his life, being a supreme example of how the human kind can live upon this earth nonviolently, as a noble soul. His Dharma can't be seen in Gita but in  Rama's life which is full of tolerance and Jesus's life which is full of love.

In this modern age, such higher levels of Dharma exist rarely among we humans. Those who claimed to be following the one are not actually doing so; also, many in the world follow Dharma with out actually aware of it as well. After all, the societal projection of what is right and what is wrong surely need not be Dharma at all if one wants to be too Dharmic.

Comment by Max Cooper on March 22, 2013 at 5:34

Thank you Balamurali for the karma yoga quotes! . . . Those look to be some excellent guidelines for practicing Karma yoga. It is certainly something of a difficult path, insofar as often it is hard to tell whether our intentions are truly good or not, or whether we are doing quite the right things. 

One question that has long concerned me in this regard is something on the lines of: how does one know one's particular dharma, or path, etc. ?

As a popularly quoted Gita verse says, "Your own duty done imperfectly is better than another man's (or woman's) done well. / It is better to die in one's own duty; another man's duty is perilous" (3.35, Stoler-Miller trans.)

Very beautiful; but the one thing I wonder about is, how do I know what is my dharma? For this was clearly much easier in the ancient world where Arjuna lived, where the Gita was composed -- one's dharma was clearly delineated by caste lines. . .  viz., as a kshatriya (warrior), Arjuna's dharma was to fight in the kurukshetre war, etc.

However, today many of us have what we might call "radical freedom" -- so many hundreds or thousands of paths are open to us -- there is really no guideline as to what my proper duty or dharma is. How then do we know our dharma? 

The best answer I have been able to come up with is something like this: that maybe we can best know our path in life primarily through some process of  introspection. . . . Or maybe by paying attention to our intuitions; through meditation; or trying to listen for some kind of "inner voice." . . . . Certainly I tend to believe that simply directing our attention outward and listening to what mainstream society tells us is probably not the best way. 

It is an interesting question for me, one that I wonder about a lot, and I imagine many people on earth do also. . . . 

Comment by Balamurali Balaji on March 15, 2013 at 10:30

This thread seems to be picking up the right speed. Thanks Max and Sheila for taking the discussion further. I would like to place a few more aspects of KARMA here:

Karma Yoga is selfless service unto humanity. The important point is to serve humanity without any attachment or egoism. A Karma Yogi should be absolutely free from greed, lust, anger and egoism. Then only he can do real useful service.

...A Karma Yogi should have an amiable, loving, social nature. He should have perfect adaptability, tolerance, sympathy, cosmic love and mercy. He should be able to adjust himself to the ways and habits of others.

...By doing selfless service you purify your heart.

...The path of Karma Yoga eventually leads to the attainment of Bliss of the Self.

from Gist of Karma Yoga Ch. I, in "Easy steps to Yoga" by Swami Sivananda

Based on the theory of Karma Yoga, one could comprehend how Gandhi led his life with the great Virtues--->dedicated to Service--->by pure and perfect Action--->leading to the realization of Self, the final attainment of the Soul.

Comment by Max Cooper on March 15, 2013 at 6:30

Hello Sheila, welcome as a "new member" to this forum! 

I think you are pretty much right. Gandhi likely was not creating more karmas through his action because he was acting with such a degree of detachment. As he put it in his autobiography (a passage which just bowled me over the first time I read it):

"What I want to achieve--what I have been striving and pining to achieve these thirty years--is self-realization, to see God face to face, to attain Moksha. I live and move and have my being in pursuit of this goal. All that I do by way of speaking and writing, and all my ventures in the political field, are directed to this same end."

All that he did -- all his ventures in the political field -- were directed to self-realization, to seeing God face to face!  As he describes it, an uncompromising application of karma-yoga...

When I first read this, a number of years ago, I had only been familiar with the idea of Gandhi as a political figure (my only exposure up until then having been principally Richard Attenborough's movie from 1984). So reading this passage in the opening pages of his autobiography was a big eye-opener for me and fired my interest in learning more about Gandhi.  

Comment by Balamurali Balaji on March 7, 2013 at 13:55
True. Rajaji ( RajaGopalachari) knew it was Gandhi, the driving force for the freedom movement. Gandhi had an inclination towards spiritual reality which he experienced during his search for truth.

Another incident in the above mentioned booklet (p.10) reveals how truthfully he took over the issue of the rights of Harijans:

"Gandhi said that he would be happy to come if Prof. Swaminathan could arrange for him to take the first batch of harijans (outcastes) into the Arunachaleswara Temple in Tiruvannamalai. In those days harijans were not allowed into the temple.

....Prof. Swaminathan spoke to a trustee of the temple and said that Gandhi would be willing to come for a visit if he could accompany the first batch of harijans into the temple.

...The man Prof. Swaminathan spoke to said, ‘We will not allow outcastes into the temple one day before we are legally compelled to do so’. The proposed visit was cancelled and Gandhi never had another opportunity to visit."

GandhiTopia is a free service by GandhiServe Foundation. You can support GandhiTopia by a donation or by buying our GandhiTopia products.

Thank you!

GandhiTopia Store



© 2020   Created by GandhiServe Foundation.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Privacy Policy  |  Terms of Service