You are here:
Karma and Vikarma1
There is no spiritual power in the outward observance of natural duties without the inward attentiveness of the mind. Mind and action must be at one. An act of service in which the mind is not involved merely generates self-regarding pride. It becomes genuine service only when hand and heart are involved together, and for that a cleansing of the mind is needed. The Gita uses the word vikarma (specific action on a higher plane) to denote acts which are undertaken to purify the mind, by which selfish desires are gradually overcome and spiritual power is increased. As the Gita-Pravachan says, where duties are carried out with vikarma, there at once is power released.
There is a place in the life of the spiritual aspirant for the disinterested performance of duty, as there is also a place for reflection and for study. But the most important place must be given to worship. The more we devote ourselves to the practice of worship, the more deeply we shall enter, step by step, into the secret of linking our every action with God.

It was only after I entered Gandhiji’s Satyagraha Ashram that I had any experience of community prayer. Before that I had never joined with others in prayer, nor had I had any fixed time for individual prayer. It came naturally to me to recite or sing when I was in a devotional mood, but to sit with others, or even to set apart a regular time for private prayer, was not my nature. In my childhood I was taught the sandhya2 but I did not perform it. I refused to repeat words whose meaning I did not understand. This is not to say that I lacked the spirit of devotion, even then. But with Gandhiji there was regular daily prayer. The experience of sitting together with so many worthy people gradually had its effect on me. This effect, I think, was not so much due to the prayers themselves as to the fellowship of devotion which we shared.
People used to ask Bapu what they should do if they found it difficult to concentrate, or felt sleepy during the prayer. In that case, Bapu suggested, they should stand for prayer instead of sitting. These questioners were honest people, and every day three or four of them would stand during the prayers. But of course concentration cannot be achieved merely by standing ! Bapu began to teach us how to pray, just as one might teach children how to read, using illustrations from his own life. This was a new experience for me, such as I had never had before.
In Bapu’s time a number of passages were included in the prayer, many of which I knew. I would never myself have chosen some of these verses, or considered them suitable, but still I joined reverently in the recital, un- attractive though I found them. Later there was a proposal that these verses should be omitted, but after discussion with Bapu they were kept, on the ground that we should not change what was already in use.
When I was imprisoned, I ceased to use these verses in my morning prayer, and recited instead my own prose translation of the Ishavasya Upanishad, which was much in my thoughts at the time; a number of other people used to join me. But I kept unchanged the verses of the Gita which had been chosen for the evening prayer, as I was very fond of them. This change in the morning prayer was made while Bapu was still alive, and after I was released from jail I went on using the Ishavasya in the Paunar Ashram.
I do not like the queer notion that unity can be brought had by accepting a single form of prayer. Unity is some- thing which must spring from within. I do not want to make any particular verses obligatory in the prayer . So when I was working among the Meos we recited verses from the Koran, and used an Urdu translation of the Gita and Urdu hymns. It seems to me to be best to use whatever the people around me can understand most easily.
In Bapu’s time we also used prayers drawn from all religious traditions. That is all right when people of different religions and languages are meeting together, but all the same it is a kind of khichadi, a mixed grill. The main idea therein is not so much to please God as to please our fellows. Still, if we think that a human being is also a mani- festation of God, the practice cannot be called wrong.
Thinking this over I came to the conclusion that for community prayer silent prayer is the best form. It can satisfy all kinds of people, and deeper and deeper meaning may be found in it, as I can testify from my own experience.
During the early days of my bhoodan pilgrimage we included in the evening public prayer the Gita’s verses about ‘the man of steadfast wisdom’. But in Andhra I began to use silent prayer instead. This silent community prayer is of very great value. The idea has been with me for a long time that all should come together to pray in the quietness of mind; this thought is maturing slowly and as my experience increases, so does my confidence and courage.

Silence, Conquest of Sleep and Dreams
The fact is that I have been practising silence for a very long time. At first I did so as a spiritual discipline, in order to keep my mind entirely free for meditation. So far as I remember, I took a vow of silence in 1927, for personal reasons; I decided to keep silence after the evening prayer for two months. When the time expired I continued it, and made it a permanent rule—but only for the days when I was in the Ashram; I did not observe it when I went outside. Then when I was in Dhulia jail I thought about the matter a great deal, and resolved to observe silence every day, whether I was in the Ashram or not.
There was no outward material reason behind this decision. My reasons for keeping silence were not ‘practical’ ones. The chief reason for it is in the eighth chapter of the Gita, which speaks of the importance of turning one’s mind to God in the last hours of life. That is only possible if we have done so throughout life, it is the fruit of lifelong practice. I felt therefore that the last scene of the drama, the last hours of life, should be rehearsed daily. One cannot foresee when or how the end will come, but the life of each day ends in sleep, and this daily experience is a little foretaste of death. So if we play out the final scene at the end of each day, before we sleep, we shall have victory in our hands in the last hours of life when they come. So, I thought, let me come to each day’s sleep, each day’s little death, in holy contemplation of God.
When I took this decision I had to consider a number of points, about service and about meetings. In Wardha public meetings started at nine in the evening and went on till midnight. I had to attend them, but I stuck to my decision and made it known that after the evening prayers I should keep silence.
From the very first day the silence brought a remarkable experience of peace. I stopped talking, and began reading, reading the spiritual classics and then reflecting and meditating on them. The peace of mind this gave me was a new experience, a truly amazing experience. It gave me a grasp of the science of ideas, how they grow and develop. They are like seeds sown in a field and buried in the soil, growing unseen below the surface until three or four days later the shoots appear above the ground. So, when the thoughts of one who practises prayer, meditation and reflection are buried in the soil of sleep, it may happen that they bring forth solutions to problems which have eluded the thinker during waking hours. Thought may also develop in this way during deep samadhi, but sleep may be even more fruitful. I have found in experience that when one falls asleep after prayer with no other thought in mind, the qualities of silence, meditation and spiritual reflection are nourished in that sleep. ‘Sleep is a state of samadhi’, says Shankaracharya. In this way my experience of silence was gradually firmly established.
I am specially interested in the power to control sleep and dreams. The things we do during the day should be so done that they do not affect our sleep or lead to dreams. The things we dream about are the things we like or dislike; the loves and hates of our waking hours are mirrored in our dreams.
When I was a boy my father had a friend who was good at chess; he used to invite me to play a game with him, and I often went. I enjoy a game of chess, because there is no element of chance in it and the two sides start equal. Besides, as Saint Tulsidas pointed out, the wooden chess- men stand for all human society, though in fact they are nothing but wood. The game has this element of illusion, it also requires complete concentration, and the outcome depends not on luck but on intelligence—so off I went to play. Then one night I dreamed about playing chess, so when I got up next morning I resolved to give it up for a time. If something so affects the mind that we dream about it, we ought to cut it out.

People meditate in various ways. Some see God as Mother, some as Father, some as Guru, divine teacher. It has been my habit to think of God as Mother; friendship too has had a special place in my life, and so has reverence for the Guru, so that the thought of God as Guru is also natural to me. In 1964, however, I began to realize that all these modes of thought impose limitations, and I gave them up. I was down with typhoid at the time and was meditating a lot during my illness—for the first few days I was completely absorbed, and it was then that I left behind these three limiting forms of mental imagery. But old habits die hard, and when I read of God the Mother or God the Guru, tears still fill my eyes. Yet, however pure my emotion may be, these tears themselves are a sign of limitation.
These limitations themselves may nevertheless be helpful for meditation. We gain nothing by abandoning them merely because we recognize their limits; they are in some measure necessary for the human mind. Visible images and statues are also of help in meditating on the attributes of God and inspiring us to shape our lives by them. I have used such images in this way in my own meditation.
In my youth, I used to meditate on the statue of the Lord Buddha at Baroda. Even as a child, I was familiar with the hymns of the saints of Maharashtra, and so became devoted to Vithoba. I meditated on the image of Vithoba, and as I did so it came to me that Vithoba represents the fourth stage in social evolution. In the first stage everyone has his own stick and beats whomsoever he pleases. In the second stage they all give up their sticks and agree to abide by the verdict of a Judge and entrust the sticks—the power to punish—to the government. A third stage will be reached when even the government relinquishes its weapons, surrenders them all to the Lord, and leaves Him to use His divine weapons to protect the righteous and punish the wicked. The fourth stage will come when God Himself forsakes His weapons and no longer punishes but forgives. The Lord Vishnu, seen in human form as Vithoba, bears no weapons in his hands. In short, even when we use an image for our meditation we do so in order to reflect on and imbibe the good qualities it represents.
There is an image of the goddess Ganga opposite my room here in the Brahmavidya Mandir, and I used it for meditation morning and evening. Then it occurred to me that there was compassion in her eyes, joy in her face, kindness in her bosom, strength in her trunk. There stood before me, in that image of stone, a picture of all those virtues in one. I used the statue of Bharata-Rama for meditation in the same way.
However, I do not wish to have pictures in my room, and I prefer mental images to material ones, for mental imagery sets up no barriers. Meditation on Jesus, for example, is meditation on the supreme revelation of love. Jesus offered himself in sacrifice for his people, and through him I meditate on the love of God and the Supreme Sacrifice.
I also regard sanitation work as a means of meditation. Cleanliness for me has a spiritual aspect, so I use it in this way. When I settled in Brahmavidya Mandir in 1970 I began regular cleaning work and found that as I worked I was inwardly close to the experience of meditation and even of samadhi. That is why I regard my sanitation work as a work of meditation. Meditation is often thought of as a with- drawal of the mind from external objects. Why withdraw? I ask. Only, be aware of what is happening. If the mind roams here and there, follow it, and just notice, like a mere onlooker, where it goes.

Transcending Mind
When I was about thirty years old I had a marvellous experience which I can never put into words, but from then on my mind has been, as it were, ‘out of mind’. When I sit down to meditate it seems that my mind disappears, naturally and without effort, and I alone am there. To put it more accurately, the ‘I’ denotes particularity; that particularity has gone, nothing remains but the infinite sky.
For me concentration needs no effort, it comes of itself. What does demand an effort is to attend to several matters at the same time. My surface mind is as it were closed down, and I only open it when I need to talk; and even while I am talking I am really standing outside the conversation. I am like a swimmer who remains on the surface of the water; he does not sink in—if he did, he would drown ! In the same way I walk and talk, laugh and work, on the surface. I don’t sink in.
Through a little opening in the wall of my room I can see the labourers working on the well. Sometimes I watch them, or watch other things, just for fun—but none of this makes any real impact on my mind.

Honouring the Good
When I was a boy, we were keen observers of other people’s good and bad points; we would discuss this man’s failings and that man’s failings. We had no difficulty in discovering faults, of course, for everyone has some fault or other. But we did not see our own defects; we were so endlessly occupied with other people that we paid no attention to ourselves ! Then I read what the saints had written. Saint Tukaram says: ‘Why should I look for faults in other people? Am I lacking in faults myself?’ That was a new idea for me to think about.
Then Bapu used to say that we should use a magni- fying glass to inspect other people’s good qualities and our own defects. I asked him once how far that was consistent with truth. ‘It is a matter of scale,’ he replied. ‘When you read a map you accept two inches as being really fifty miles, not just two inches. It is the same here. A person’s good points may appear very small, but by magnifying them you get the right scale.’ People usually tend to rate other people’s virtues low, and measure their own defects in the same way. By suggesting the scale, Bapu gave me an intelligent answer to an intelligent question. So I adopted his suggestion and have kept up the practice.
Later another thought occurred to me—that what appear to be my defects are not really mine, they belong not to me but to my body. That being so, why talk about them? And it follows that other people’s faults are not really theirs, they will perish with the ashes of their bodies.
A long time ago, in 1918, I was wandering about Maharashtra on foot, and fell in with a traveller from north India who accompanied me for four days and then went away towards the south. He was a great soul, and we talked over many things. I asked him a question: ‘Why did God put virtues and defects in all the human beings?’ He replied: ‘It’s this way. God, you see, is selfish. If He were to make men perfect and faultless, they would feel no need ever to call God to mind. So God plays this game deliberately to get Himself remembered !’ This idea appealed to me very much. The gist of it is that a human being who was without faults would also be without humility.
We should therefore give our attention only to what is good, for good is God. This is something new that I have discovered, crazy creature that I am ! My idea is that we should pay no attention either to others’ faults or to our own. Innumerable faults there undoubtedly are, but along with them there are bound to be at least one or two good points. God has not created a single person without them; everyone partakes in some measure of His goodness. On the other hand, however great a man may be, he is never totally free from faults. God has given us all our share of evil and of good. The good is a window, the evil is a wall. The poorest man has a door in his house by which one may enter. The good is that door, which gives us entrance to the human heart. If we try to enter through the wall, the only result is a crack on the head !
Ever since I realized this I have been drawing attention to the good, including the good in myself ! People criticize me, say that I am proud and always singing my own praises. What is to be done? How can I not praise the soul, the spirit within? We should look for the good always, in others and in ourselves, and ‘sing the goodness of the Lord’, like Mirabai. Goodness alone is real. We should not waste our breath on the things that will perish with the body. I have therefore added a twelfth item to (Gandhiji’s) eleven vows—not to speak ill of others. That is included of course in the vow of non-violence, but I felt the need to emphasize it by giving it an independent place.

The Nurture of Affection
I have put this in the form of a maxim: Snehena sahajivanam—human beings should live together in mutual affection. This is my chief rule of life. It means that when I get hold of people I don’t let them go, and they on their part don’t leave me, don’t go away. (But it is possible to feel proud even of this, and so some people have left me.)
After I left home, my two younger brothers did the same; within two or three years they too left home and joined me, and they too remained celibate. That was the fruit of our mutual affection. A number of my Baroda friends, such as Gopalrao Kale, Raghunath Dhotre, Babaji Moghe and Bagaram also left home and joined me, and stayed with me all their lives. Later when I went to Sabarmati some students there were attracted to me. One of them was Vallabhaswami; he came to me when he was thirteen years old, and when he died at the age of fifty-eight he had been with me for forty-five years without a break. Could any father or son do more? After that I came to Wardha, Valunjkar joined me there in 1924 and has been with me ever since. Then came Bhau, Dattoba and others, to be followed in 1946 by Ranjit, Rambhau, Giridhar; some of them are still with me, others stayed to the end of their lives.
When I came to Paramdhan in 1938 I started the slogan: Learn to spin ! Some boys came to me from Paunar village. They had been earning six pice an hour as labourers. I wanted them to earn more than that by spinning, so I sat with them the whole day, seven or eight hours at a stretch, to help them to persevere. Ever since then those boys have been working here with faith and devotion. Later, when the Brahmavidya Mandir was started, girls from every part of the country came to join it.
The result is that I count among my friends some whom I have known, like Balkoba and Shivaji, for over seventy years, and others who came to me only twelve or thirteen years ago. And I owe all these friends to my maxim: Live affectionately together.
So what do I aim at now?
The Pandava brothers set out for Heaven but one by one they fell down and died in the way until Yudhishthira was left alone with a dog. When the dog was not allowed to enter, Yudhishthira refused to go into Heaven without him. That is my position exactly. I am not prepared to enter Vaikunth, and take my seat in the court of the Lord, if it means leaving my comrades behind. I want their company. Whatever comes, good or bad, I must share it with them. When I was in Bengal, visiting the place where Shri Ramakrishna had his first experience of samadhi, my message then was that the days of individual samadhi were over, and that our need now is for ‘collective samadhi.’ That phrase ‘collective samadhi’ was new then, it came to me on that day. This is what I am after—an experience of spiritual striving in community, samadhi in community, liberation in community.
Nowadays I remember my friends daily, naming each of them. This is my Vishnusahasranama.3 I think first of those in all parts of India who are now in old age; the aged come first because without their blessing there can be no human welfare. This is something which needs to be more fully understood. It was the aged who once gave us younger people their service, and for that reason we need specially to seek their blessing. After the aged I call to mind my present fellow-workers, State by State, and name them one by one. All this adds up to a thousand names. And why should I undertake all this business? What do I gain by it? I do it because of my maxim that we should live affectionately together.

The Mastery of Diet
I have always been engaged in some experiment or other in matters of diet. This is bound to happen with people who are curious about spiritual growth, since the body is an image of the soul and should be treated as such. Just as the Sun is an embodiment of light, so the physical body is a manifestation of the divine spirit. When one looks at the image, one should think of the god is represents.
When I was a child I was very careless about food. I had no regular meal-times; when I felt hungry I would ask my mother for something, and eat whatever she gave me. As a boy I roamed about till late at night and then had a very late supper. That was how it was until I came to Bapu. In his Ashram meal-times were fixed and regular, and I began to realize the benefits of regular meals. I felt ready to eat when the time came, and I found that this regularity was good for both body and mind.
Although I was so careless about food as a boy, I did not like karela (bitter gourd) and I never ate it. Mother used to say: ‘Vinya, you talk a lot about control of the palate, but you won’t eat karela !’ I used to answer that control did not mean overcoming all my dislikes. But after I entered Bapu’s Ashram I resolved from the first that I would overcome my dislikes. In those days Bapu himself used to serve at meals. One day the vegetable was karela. When Bapu himself was serving, how could I refuse it? So I took it, and as I did not like it, I ate it first to get rid of it. Bapu noticed that I had no vegetable left, and served me some more. I still said nothing, and ate that too. Bapu then thought that I must be fond of it, and gave me a third helping ! It was clear that I should have to give up my dislike of karela.
As a child born in Konkan I was very fond of curd-rice, which we used to get every day. When I came to Bapu I found that people were expected to give up alcoholic drinks, and other things to which they were addicted. It seemed to me that we had no right to ask other people to give up these habits unless we first gave up something ourselves. So I gave up my curd-rice, because that was what I liked best.
I gave up taking sugar in 1908 when I was thirteen or fourteen years old. I resolved not to eat foreign sugar until India got her independence, and I made it a vow. But a little later I began to suspect that the sugar served to me as Indian sugar was not always really so, as was claimed. So I gave up sugar altogether and did not eat it again until independence came in 1947.
A similar thing happened about salt. That too is an old story, going back to 1917-18 when I was touring Maharashtra on foot. Ten or twelve of us went to visit Torangarh fort. We had expected to be able to buy food-stuffs there, but nothing except rice could had. We cooked it, and were ready to eat. ‘At least let us have salt,’ we thought, but even salt was not available, and we had to eat the rice without it, so we did not really satisfy our hunger. This brought to mind the rishis and munis who used to try giving up one or other of the usual ingredients of food so as to be able to do without them. We too, I thought, should be able to bridle our palate; we should not allow it to run away with us like a bolting horse ! I realized that giving up salt was a valuable discipline and I resolved to take it only once a day. After some time I found that it was not difficult to do without it altogether, and I gave it up permanently.
In these experiments with diet, I always keep four aspects in mind: first, the spiritual benefit; second, bodily health; third, the principle of swadeshi—is the food available locally?; fourth, the economic aspect, the cost. A thing might rank high in one way and low in another; if there has to be a choice between these four aspects I should choose in the order I have given above. But I do not like any division. When they are all integrated we have a true and complete spiritual perspective and at the same time a true and complete swadeshi perspective and a true and complete economic perspective.
It is my experience that someone who lives under the open sky needs fewer calories in food. During my bhoodan pilgrimage my diet contained only 1200 or 1300 calories; the doctors were astonished that I could do so much on so few calories. I used to tell them that I lived chiefly on the open sky; that is my number one article of food. Number two is fresh air, number three is sunshine. Number four is water, plenty of water, a little at a time but frequently. Water gives one great vitality. Solid food comes last, it is the least important. The most important is to live under the open sky.
The first thing is to be content with the food; contentment is the key to health. My plan is twofold: first, let the food be tasty; second, let it be eaten with no thought of its taste. Everybody would approve of the first half of that, but not of the second. But I also notice that some people who like the second do not approve of the first ! Real contentment comes from keeping both the parts together.

Conquest of Fear
When the Gita describes the divine virtues it gives the first place to fearlessness, since no virtue can develop without it. Other virtues have no value without truth, but truth itself depends on fearlessness. Truth and non-violence cannot be practised without it.
For human beings the greatest fear is the fear of death—the mere word makes them tremble. If that fear can be conquered all is conquered. But there are many kinds of little fears which also have to be overcome.
The cure for all fears is to take the name of God, before which nothing can stand. But we ourselves must also make some effort to overcome our fears. At Baroda I used to go for walks, and once I came to a railway bridge that had to be crossed. I felt very frightened, for the bridge was thirty or forty feet high and the only way to cross was to step from one sleeper to the next. But at last, step by step, I got across. After that, I made crossing the bridge a part of my daily routine, and after a month or so the fear was gone. Later, after I had joined the Ashram, Kakasaheb Kalelkar and I went to Abu. We were returning across a railway bridge when a train began to overtake us. Kakasaheb had already got across, but I was some distance behind. My eyes were weak, but I had no glasses. It was evening, growing dark, and I could not see the sleepers, but I knew that they were laid at regular intervals. So I measured my steps accordingly and ran on with the name of God on my lips. The engine, I knew, was getting very near. I could not see Kakasaheb, but I heard him shout: ‘Jump to the left !’ I jumped. The next moment the train reached the spot where I had stood.3 My practice in crossing the bridge at Baroda stood me in good stead then. If I had panicked, it would have been the end of me. Fears of this kind can be got rid of by physical means, but what counts for most is the remembrance of God.
I had another similar experience when I was in jail. I had been put in solitary confinement in a small cell about eight feet by nine, where I observed silence at night. One night I was getting ready for bed when I saw a snake under my cot. I could not get out, as the room was locked from outside, and as I was under a vow of silence I could not call anyone. I wondered what to do. It did not seem right to break my vow in order to call for help, and it also occurred to me that this snake was after all my guest. How could I drive out a guest? I decided that we should both stay, and went to bed. The only change I made was not to put out the lantern, as I usually did, so that if I got up in the night I should not step on my guest. Usually I was asleep within two minutes of lying down; that night I took a little longer, perhaps two and a half or three minutes. I had a sound sleep, untroubled by dreams, and when I woke in the morning the snake had disappeared.
To sum up: There is no better cure for fear than the name of God, but fearlessness can also be developed by practice.

Bread Labour
I am fully convinced that the vow of bodily labour alone can be the basis of the religious, political, economic and social ideas and life in the coming age. I do not say ‘bodily labour’, what I say is the ‘vow of bodily labour’. The difference is not difficult to grasp. Even today the common man does bodily labour, but he does not do it voluntarily and out of conviction; he does it because of helplessness. The vow of bodily labour is something altogether different.
The Gita says: No sin is committed when the action is performed by the body alone. I understand that it implies detached action. But even then—in fact, because I realize that implication—I hold that the saying can be taken as one enjoining bodily labour. Needs of the body should be taken care of by the body. Intellect will then be free to look inwards and detached actions could be done collectively.
Faith in action means bodily labour, and through bodily labour the worship of God. Bodily labour should be undertaken as a way of worship, and the labour and the worship should be one. If we don’t believe in physical labour we stand to lose, first materially and then spiritually. If we have no feeling of worship in our labour we also lose, first spiritually and then materially. For an action to be complete, both aspects need to be kept in mind.
On this basis I have thought out a plan to cover all the twenty four hours of the day. Eight of them will be spent in sleep or rest, which everyone needs. I carried out many experiments on sleep. For some days I slept only two hours out of the twenty-four, then I slept for four hours, and so on up to ten hours a day. I also tried sleeping out in the rain with a blanket over me. After many such experiments I came to the conclusion that a normally healthy person needs eight hours’ rest, not more. So eight hours will go in sleep.
Of the remaining sixteen hours, five will go for bathing, eating and other physical needs. Two hours will be given to spiritual activities like prayer, reading spiritual writings, worshipful spinning or other forms of worshipful work. One hour will be kept free to complete anything left undone.4 These activities together make a total of eight hours.
The remaining eight hours will be given to public work, or to use humble language, to earning one’s living. It makes no difference which terms we use. God has given us all stomachs for a very great purpose. To fill our stomachs by honest work, and keep our bodies in health, is a spiritual activity, a spiritual calling. The work we do for a living provides our daily bread and at the same time is of service to others. An activity which deprives others of their bread is not work but thievery. But any peasant who farms, and any teacher who teaches, with sincerity and honesty, and without exploiting anyone, is doing a public service.
People often asked me during my bhoodan travels why I was so keen to go on foot. ‘I have a number of reasons,’ I would say, ‘but one of them is this: I want to do a bit of physical labour to earn my bread. People give me my meals, and I on my part walk five or ten miles to earn them.’ That was all I could do while on pilgrimage, but before that I had been following this principle of bread labour for thirty years. I worked normally for eight hours, and sometimes more. Of course I worked as a teacher, but spent hours working in the fields, irrigating the crops, grinding grain, scavenging, spinning, weaving and so on. As I said, this had gone on for thirty years at a stretch.
In 1950, on the day of Gandhiji’s birth according to the Hindu calendar, I spoke with reference to our experiment in Kanchan-mukti (living without money). ‘Up to now I have lived on alms, like a monk, and I expect to continue to do so. But from now on I shall accept no alms except gifts of physical labour, and I plan to spend as much time as possible in physical labour myself.’ I marked the occasion by a three-day fast. I had decided on this while I was in jail in 1945; I had been thinking about it for a long time before that, but it was only during that jail sentence that I took a definite decision. I did not however act on it immediately I was released; there is a time for everything, and one must wait for the right moment. In 1950 I felt the time had come, and I chose this auspicious day, Gandhiji’s birthday, to put it into practice.
This continuous physical labour has increased my intellectual powers, it has not lessened them. I do not mean to suggest that excessive labour, day and night, would sharpen anyone’s wits. There is a limit to everything, and when the limit is passed there can be no development. I simply wish to say that the intellect develops well when a good deal of physical labour is carried on side by side with intellectual activity.
This has been my own experience. My memory was fairly good when I was a boy, that is to say it was somewhat above the average, but at the age of sixty or sixty-two it is far better than it was then. I do not forget anything that is worth remembering.5 If I find something in a book that appeals to me, I remember the exact words. There may be several reasons why this is so, but there is no doubt that one reason is the part that bodily labour has played in my life. Nai Talim is built on the acceptance of a great principle: that of earning one’s living by bodily labour.6

Individual and Community
Community life helps in the right ordering of individual life. After I came to Bapu, I got up as soon as the bell rang, and I never missed the prayer. If there had been no community prayer, I should not have succeeded in ordering my personal life as I did.
In fact we should not divide life into community and individual sections. Until we bring them together there will always be tension. Our individual actions should be social, our social actions individual. There should be no wall to divide us from society.
As for me, I regard even eating and sleeping as a duty I owe to society. I don’t distinguish between private and social action, I look upon all my actions as part of my service to society. To go to bed at a regular time, to sleep soundly, to get up at the right time, all these things are part of my social duty. I do not calculate that so much time has been given to society and so much to my personal affairs. All my actions, during the whole twenty-four hours, are my contribution to society—that is my experience.
There can be no doubt that one who has had little contact with ordinary people has lost a great opportunity for direct knowledge of God. For God reveals Himself in three ways—in common humanity, in the vastness of nature, in the spirit within the heart. These three together form the complete revelation of the Supreme.