There are many beautiful passages for meditation curated by Eknath Easwaran from the Christian tradition. Some of the best-loved among passage meditators are those attributed to Thomas à Kempis from The Imitation of Christ. If you’re unfamiliar with these passages, you can find some of them here. This week we’re pleased to share an hour-long audio talk of Easwaran’s commentary on The Imitation of Christ.
Many modern readers struggle reading The Imitation of Christ. With its 15th century Christian language it can sometimes be difficult to see how to apply its wisdom to our daily lives. In the Introduction to Seeing with the Eyes of Love, Easwaran’s written commentary on The Imitation of Christ, he explains the power of this text:
It’s difficult to say when I first came across the Imitation, but I remember the thrill of certitude that its composer was a man of deep spiritual awareness. I found it to be a practical guide to developing spiritual awareness. I could see right away why Swami Vivekananda, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna and founder of the Vedanta Society, had traveled to the West with the Bhagavad Gita in one pocket and The Imitation of Christ in the other. It is the special strength of a few books, and this is one of them, that down through the ages they have helped bridge the gap between cloister and household. Though the Imitation was composed in a monastic setting, its teachings are universally applicable, and they have been treasured by Protestants as well as Catholics, laypersons as well as monastics.
To explain its appeal is not simple. The autobiographical elements that make Augustine or Teresa of Avila so accessible are absent. Though the language is very apt and dignified, there are no poetic or visionary flights like those we find in John of the Cross or William Blake. For theological brilliance you would have to look elsewhere. Much of The Imitation of Christ is no more dazzling than a manual for woodworkers. But then, if you really want to know about carpentry, you don’t want a manual that will dazzle; you want one that will tell you how to make a miter joint, how to use a skill saw, and what the best finish is for a tabletop. The Imitation of Christ is just that kind of book – an entirely practical manual for sincere spiritual aspirants.
Between 1970 and 1972, Easwaran gave regular talks on The Imitation of Christ, and these were published as audio tapes in the 1990s. This week we share the first hour-long talk in the series. Easwaran places both the text and the author in context, and shows how we can apply the teachings from this 15th century masterpiece in our spiritual practice today. Using examples from many of the world’s religions, Easwaran also highlights the universal nature of spiritual truth.
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