Modi’s Meditation and Why Meditation is Needed

There is a subtle difference between meditation and prayer.

4 mins read
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during the meditation session at the Vivekananda Rock Memorial in Kanyakumari. [ANI]

Ever since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently meditated in Kanyakumari at the southern tip of India for 48 hours, the concept of meditation has become a subject of debate and animated discussion not only in India but in other parts of the world as well. While the sworn critics of Mr. Modi called his meditation exercise a mere photo shoot, discerning observers do not share such a negative view. They think it is a meaningful and significant mental exercise of Mr. Modi that should not be belittled, and such belittling certainly amounts to uncharitable criticism.

For thousands of years, deep thinkers all over the world have resorted to prolonged meditation from time to time, observing silence with a detached outlook to understand the concept of human life, particularly introspecting on the origin of birth and the destination after death.

While the concept of meditation has evolved and been advocated for over several centuries in India, alongside prayer to God in equal measure, it appears that in other parts of the world, resorting to prayer to God has been stressed much more than meditation exercises.

Difference Between Meditation and Prayer

There is a subtle difference between meditation and prayer.

In the case of meditation, the uppermost thought in mind is the query about the origin and end of life, with sustained efforts to discover the TRUTH within oneself. The meditation exercise leads one to conclude how futile the life process itself is, leading to the view that chasing material benefits in life is similar to the act of chasing a shadow endlessly.

Meditation enables individuals to feel the bliss of a Superior Force, which some deep thinkers say is within. Certainly, the meditation exercise with deep introspection enables a person to develop a feeling of detachment from the happenings around them, shed the ego, and facilitate a mindset with ill will for none.

On the other hand, when prayers are offered by individuals in temples, mosques, churches, or gurudwaras, the concept is one of total surrender to the Almighty, praying for the removal of hardships and providing benefits in the life process, ultimately praying for reaching the feet of God.

The subtle difference between meditation and prayer is that during meditation, the individual undergoes a deep thought process to understand the “facts of life” and elevate the thought process to a very high level. There is no self-interest while meditating. In the case of those who offer prayer, there is generally an element of self-interest, even as religions advocate that prayers combined with a virtuous life are the way forward.

Way to Attain Mental Peace

The philosophy of Hinduism and other religions does not ask individuals to sit in meditation or offer prayers all the time. What religions advocate is to lead a life of goodwill for everyone, which will lead to mental peace and enable the individual to attain a feeling of BLISS (what is called Ananda in Hindu religious texts).

While prayer to God is one way of striving for mental peace, meditation is the other, and possibly superior and more intense, way of achieving this mental state.

Teachings of Bhagawan Sri Ramana Maharshi on Meditation

Bhagawan Sri Ramana Maharshi, one of the great Hindu philosophers who lived in the 20th century and stayed in Thiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu, India almost throughout his life, told everyone to introspect and meditate on “who am I.”

This introspection should be the single and only theme while carrying out the meditation exercise. During meditation, the mind is not closed, as the human mind cannot be closed at all. Instead of attempting to close the mind, the next possible step is to introspect on who am I, during which thought process the events in the world are not focused on, and the focus is on understanding and realizing the “ultimate truth.”

Need to Cultivate Meditation Practice

In human life, the matter of utmost importance is to attain mental peace, which is not possible if one focuses all the time on pursuing material benefits or physical pleasure. However, it is futile to expect that any normal human can lead a life without looking for such material-oriented targets.

At the same time, even with a materially oriented life process, an attempt can be made to reach a state of mental peace. For this to happen, and as one advances in age when the craving for mental peace becomes more intense and the dislike for material benefits becomes more pronounced, the elevation of the mind to a higher level becomes vital. This cannot be done suddenly in advanced age without cultivating meditation as a practice from a young age.

Obviously, it is necessary that everyone should make meditation a regular exercise in everyday life for a few minutes or more and tune the mind to think on a higher plane. In other words, the meditation exercise can commence at any time in life, even when one is young. This meditation exercise has to become a regular practice, with a clear realization about the value of meditation and its significance.

Mr. Modi’s Meditation

After addressing more than 200 public meetings, participating in nearly more than 70 road shows, and giving more than 60 interviews to media houses during the recent election campaign in India, India’s Prime Minister Modi went for meditation for 48 hours, sitting in Vivekananda Rock Memorial in Kanyakumari, where the great Indian philosopher Swami Vivekananda meditated over one hundred years ago.

Mr. Modi could not have found time in his very busy day-to-day schedule to introspect by sustained meditation and must have decided to give himself 48 hours exclusively for meditation after completing the intense election campaign.

Obviously, Mr. Modi wanted to detach himself from worldly affairs by meditating, focusing on higher aspects of the life process, with deep introspection about the ultimate purpose of life. Certainly, Mr. Modi is entitled to act as per his inner call for meditation like any other person. Questioning Mr. Modi’s meditation by others is unwarranted.

After meditating, Mr. Modi has returned to normal life, but still, this meditation exercise must have brought in his mindset a greater determination to do universal good for every man and woman and other creatures and lead a life with ill will for none.

The one criticism which seems to have impressed some people is as to why Mr. Modi permitted to be photographed while sitting in meditation.

The possible explanation would be that Mr. Modi wanted to spread the message about the importance of meditation so that others would follow and emulate him. There is nothing wrong with such an objective.

In this connection, it should be noted that when Mr. Modi launched the Clean India Campaign, he took the broom himself and started cleaning the ground to set a personal example. When Mr. Modi launched the yoga program, he himself participated in the yoga exercise. On both these occasions, Mr. Modi was photographed, which was widely publicized, obviously with the view to spread the message so that others can emulate him.


N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the "Nandini Voice for the Deprived," a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause and to promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

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