“Gandhi had a mother”–Daily Metta

May 10

gandhi-21“The outstanding impression that my mother has left on my memory is saintliness.”

–Gandhi (Autobiography, p. 4)

(See photo below of Gandhi with his mother.) 


While Gandhi had many influences in his life, none was greater in his spiritual development than his mother, Putilbai. A very earnest spiritual aspirant, Putilbai upheld in her own life that the greatest form of love meant the willing sacrifice of self for another. In his words, “she was deeply religious”.  Gandhi recalls, how, as a child, his mother’s devotion and very strong will would be manifest in various strict vows and religious fasts such as the 4-month period of Chaturmas (a Lent or Karem-like fasting period). He remembers how he and his siblings would watch for the sun so that their mother would have a meal with them, as her fasts would sometimes mean not eating until the sun shone its face on her. Quickly they would run to bring her out to see the sun if it poked through the clouds, and if it went back before she made it out, she would take it as a sign that she must continue her fast; and she did so with gladness in her heart.

3958103Religion was not a separate compartment in her life, nor was it for Gandhi. He recalls that she had a strong vein of common sense in all things political and was sought after in her community for it. Before Gandhi left for his law studies in England, she would ask him to take three vows to express his commitment and love to her, which he did in earnest: no meat, no women and no alcohol or tobacco. When friends in England tried to convince him to remove the necklace that she gave him to remind him of his vows to her, he was not willing, nor would he let them call her superstitious. So close was Gandhi to his mother that when she died while he was away, his family could not bear to give him the news, in fear that it would disrupt his studies, so he only learned of her death at the moment of his return to India. Yet the imprint of her maternal love was there. The seeds of his strength through gentleness had been planted in the young man later to become the “great soul.”


Experiment in Nonviolence:

Hold the thought of your mother today as a blessing.



Daily Metta 250x250Daily Metta 2015, a service of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, is a daily reflection on the strategic and spiritual insights of Mahatma Gandhi in thought, word and deed. As Gandhi called his life an “experiment in truth,” we have included an experiment in nonviolence to accompany each Daily Metta. Check in every day for new inspiration. Each year will be dedicated to another wisdom teacher.



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    By: Stephanie Van Hook

    Before joining the Metta Center Team as Executive Director, Stephanie received an M.A. in Conflict Resolution from Portland State University; was trained and certified in mediation in the state of Oregon; worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Benin, West Africa, where she created a program for girls’ empowerment and education; has taught French and English for the Alliance Francaise; and was trained in Montessori Early Childhood Education with seven years of classroom experience with 3-6 year olds. 

    She is the author of Gandhi Searches for Truth: A Practical Biography for Children (Person Power Press, 2016) and Nonviolence Daily: 365 Days of Wisdom from Gandhi (Person Power Press, 2019, co-authored with Michael Nagler).  Her articles have been published at Transformation at Open Democracy, Yes! Magazine, Common Dreams, and Waging Nonviolence. Additionally, she’s host of Nonviolence Radio, an FM and Pacifica syndicated radio program out of Point Reyes Station, California, (KWMR) and co-creator of a cooperative board game, Cosmic Peaceforce: Mission Harmony Three.

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  • author's avatar

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