WORDS TO LIVE BY: Inspirations for Every Day

WORDS TO LIVE BY: Inspirations for Every Day

Eknath Easwaran
Nilgiri Press, Petaluma, CA, 1990; paperback.

The person seeking a background for meditation will find Eknath Easwaran's Words to Live by beneficial. One page-and one page only-is devoted to a spiritual quotation for each day of the calendar year and Easwaran's brief commentary on the quotation.

Most of the readings are extracted from world religions; however, also included are passages of poetry from such diverse notables as William Shakespeare and Francis Thompson. Mahatma Gandhi, who had an immense influence on the thinking of Easwaran, an Indian by birth, is generously represented. Bible passages are numerous, and the writings of Christian mystics such as St. Teresa of Avila and St. Thomas a Kempis appear prominently.

The book is based on daily meditation and the use of the mantram or the Holy Name, areas central to Easwaran's teachings in America since his founding in 1960 of the Blue Mountain Center in Berkeley, California. Among Easwaran's previously published books are Meditation: An Eight-Point Program and Mantram HandbookThe readings emphasize selflessness and also the One Self of which we are all part.

The mantram, or the Holy Name, for most persons will be derived from their religion for its deep personal appeal. The writer recommends its frequent use-as a part of meditation, while walking, while falling asleep, while waiting. Furthermore, Easwaran recommends use of the mantram to curb habits such as smoking, drinking, or drug use.

Emphasis is placed on living in the present, thus releasing oneself from guilt over past action or anxiety about the future. Easwaran asserts that meditation lifts us “out of time into the eternal present.”

Some of the readings deal with death, which Easwaran sees as no struggle when we cease our wanting-of money, of pleasure, of all material things.

He advises that meditation may take a lifetime to learn-a lifetime “well spent.” -and warns against those who offer “instant enlightenment.” But we can aid ourselves in many ways-by exercise, which helps the body to feel light; by resisting cravings for food, smoking, drinking, drugs; by avoiding negative tendencies.

What the reader is likely to gain in working with this book is an increasing feeling of spiritual relationship with the author. In the last passage, that for December 31, the quotation (from St. Augustine) is on “eternal lie,” likening it to “hat moment of illumination  which leaves us breathless” For Easwaran, this is the point at which he is “invisible” from the whole and can use all his capacities to alleviate suffering, to live for others, and therefore “to come to lie.”


Winter 1990