Prayer

GANDHIJI'S CONVERSATION WITH A BUDDHIST

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Did Not Buddha Pray?

Dr. Fabri: I know very highly developed men to whom belief in God gives incredible comfort and help in the building of character. But there are some great spirits that can do without it. That is what Buddhism has taught me. 

Gandhiji: But Buddhism is one long prayer. 

Dr. Fabri: Buddha asked everyone to find salvation for himself. He never prayed, he meditated.

Gandhiji: Call it by whatever name you like, it is the same thing. Look at his statues. 

Dr. Fabri: But they are not true to life. They are 400 years later than his death.

Gandhiji: Well, give me your own history of Buddha, as you may have discovered it. I will prove that he was a praying Buddha. The intellectual conception does not satisfy me. I have not given you a perfect and full definition, as you cannot describe your own thought. The very effort to describe is a limitation.* It defies analysis and you have nothing but skepticism as the residue.

*"The very attempt to clothe thought in word or action limits it. No man in this world can express a thought in word or action fully." --From a Prayer Speech: May 26, 1946.

'Be Humble'

Dr. Fabri: What about the people who cannot pray?

Gandhiji: 'Be humble!' I would say to them and do not limit even the real Buddha by your own conception of Buddha. He could not have ruled the lives of millions of men the the did, and does to-day, if he was not humble enough to pray. There is something infinitely higher than intellect that rules us and even the skeptics. Their skepticism and philosophy do not help them in critical periods of their lives. They need something better, something outside them that can sustain them. And so, if someone puts a conundrum before me, I say to him: 'You are not going to know the meaning of God or prayer, unless you reduce yourself to a cipher. You must be humble enough to see that in spite of your greatness and gigantic intellect, you are but a speck in the universe. A merely intellectual conception of the things of life is not enough. It is the spiritual conception which eludes the intellect, and which alone can give one satisfaction. Even monied men have critical periods in their lives; though they are surrounded by everything that money can buy and affection can give, they find at certain moments in their lives utterly distracted. It is in these moments that we have a glimpse of God, a Vision of Him who is guiding everyone of our steps in life. It is prayer.

Dr. Fabri: You mean what we might call a true religious experience, which is stronger than intellectual conception. Twice in life I had that experience, but I have since lost it. But I now find great comfort in one or two saying of Buddha: 'Selfishness is the cause of sorrow', 'Remember, monks, everything is fleeting.' To think of these takes almost the place of belief.

Gandhiji: That is prayer.

--Harijan: Aug. 19, 1939 (Food for the Soul, M. K. Gandhi, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1970)