5 necessary disciplines for spiritual inquiry

Mahatma Gandhi

‘What is Truth?’ A difficult question, but I have solved it for myself by saying that it is what the voice within tells you. How, then, you ask, different people think of different and contrary truths?

Well, seeing that the human mind works through innumerable media and that the evolution of the human mind is not the same for all, it follows that what may be truth for one may be untruth for another, and hence those who have made experiment have come to the conclusion that there are certain conditions to be observed in making those experiments.

Just as for conducting scientific experiments there is an indispensable scientific course of instruction, in the same way strict preliminary discipline is necessary to qualify a person to make experiments in the spiritual realm. Everyone should realize his limitations before he speaks of his inner voice. Therefore, we have the belief based upon experience that those who would make individual search after truth as God, must go through several vows.

For instance, the vow of truth, the vow of Brahmacharya (purity) – for you cannot possibly divide your love for Truth and God with anything else – the vow of nonviolence, of poverty and non-possession. Unless you impose on yourselves the five vows, you may not embark on the experiment at all.

There are several other conditions prescribed, but I must not take you through all of them. Suffice it to say that those who have made these experiments know that it is not proper for everyone to claim to hear the voice of conscience and it is because we have, at the present moment, everyone claiming the right of conscience without going through any discipline whatsoever, that there is so much untruth being delivered to a bewildered world.

All that I can in true humility present to you is that truth is not to be found by anybody who has not got an abundant sense of humility. If you would swim on the bosom of the ocean of Truth you must reduce yourselves to a zero. Further then this I cannot go along this fascinating path.

God as Truth and the Law

I do not regard God as a person. Truth for me is God, and God’s Law and God are not different things or facts, in the sense that an earthly king and his law are different. Because God is an Idea, Law Himself. Therefore, it is impossible to conceive God as breaking the Law; He therefore, does not rule our actions and withdraw Himself.

When we say He rules our actions, we are simply using human language and we try to limit Him. Otherwise, He and His Law abide everywhere and govern everything. Therefore, I do not think that He answers in every detail every request of ours, but there is no doubt that He rules our action.

“Do you feel a sense of freedom in your communion with God?”

I do. I do not feel cramped as I would on a boat full of passengers. Although I know that my freedom is less than that of a passenger, I appreciate that freedom as I have imbibed through and through the central teaching of the Gita that man is the maker of his own destiny in the sense that he has freedom of choice as to the manner in which he uses that freedom. But he is no controller of results. The moment he thinks he is, he comes to grief.

Excerpted from ‘Young India’ and Harijan’. The 72nd death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi is being observed on January 30