Hara Hara Shankara, Jaya Jaya Shankara

Hara Hara Shankara, Jaya Jaya Shankara

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Why Pray?


Prayer is an activity which most of us do in our our daily life. It could be a dialogue between you and the lord or a series of chant praising HIS glory or even a big list of complaints against him.

Generally, prayers are for a specific purpose. A student prays for a distinction in his exams, parents prays for the well being of their children, an employee prays for a good appraisal, old people pray for good health and so on.

What we realize is that our needs keep changing. A teenage boy would never pray for a toy car. Neither would he be sad that his parents refused to buy him his favorite toy when he was 5 years. This is all forgotten. His needs as a teenager are different. So, our prayers keep changing as our needs change.

Change is something that is constant in our life. What a paradox!!!..When success due these changes comes in our lives, happiness sets in. But when our prayers are not answered , we feel dejected and the happiness is gone. So, the happiness that we think is permanent is never so. True happiness always stays. And this true happiness is within us. It is up to us to decide whether we want to be happy or not. Like The BUDDHA said, desires are the root cause of misery, we are happier when we reduce our desires. Having said this, why do we need to pray. We pray for our desires to get fulfilled. When we have to give up desires, then why pray to GOD?

This is where most of us have misunderstood as to what prayers are. A prayer is not for asking favors. It is not a wishlist which GOD has to fulfill. A prayer is a way of thanksgiving to HIM, for keeping us in a state which is far better than millions of fellow human beings. It is asking GOD for knowledge of the self, an earnest appeal to give us unconditional devotion towards HIM and an application to guide us to a GURU who will in turn take us to moksha or salvation.

When we were small, our mothers took care of us, fed us with food when we needed it. We never asked her to give food or clothes. Yet , it was her unconditional love that gave us these comforts. None of us asked our fathers to put us in school so that we got the best education. Fathers did what is best for us. We only had 100% belief that what our parents did was the best for us and no one else could do better than this. There would have been times when parents refused our wishes. We would have got angry and frustrated too. But as parents, they knew that it was not good for us. They had better plans. And all this, we would realise at a latter stage when we are mature enough.

In the same way, GOD is a permanent father and mother, He is the eternal friend of ours. HE knows what is good for us. He gives the best to us. All he wants from us is the 100% belief that HE will take care of us.
This belief is expressed as prayers. This thanksgiving is poured out in our Hindu texts as divine chants. And chanting must be done from the heart not necessarily "by heart". The result of prayers is the mental strength we get when we are faced with problems or success in life. Just because we pray, we will not be devoid of problems. The experience of our success and failures, the joy and sorrow is because of the karma that we have accrued in this birth and many of our previous births. This is inevitable  and we have to face it. No amount of tantra and mantra will help us. But through prayers, we can face them boldly. It is a kind of mental reaffirmation that, what happens to us is for our own good and be it rain or sunshine, we will face it.

If we were to make our own text and thank god everyday, I am sure we will be bored of reading out the same text everyday. But reading our slokas or mantras or other divine texts will give us an elated feeling and an inner confidence. This is because, the chants that we chant are laid out by our great Acharyas who have poured their vibrations into them which still transgresses through various gurus.

But there arises an interesting question. Our vedic texts prescribe various ways to achieve success in life. It prescribed many homams, poojas, vratams for wealth, prosperity, education, and other material pursuits. Starting with Lord ganesha, Shiva, Krishna, Rama, Devi, hanuman - there are innumerable GODs. Each planet is regarded as a deity. Each star is something to be worshipped. Even for a newly purchased vehicle , we have poojas to invoke safety to the driver and the vehicle.

When we say that prayer should be done without an expectation of any return, aren't these done for  a material benefit and above all these are prescribed by the Vedas themselves. Which is right then? and Why are these prescribed?

Well, when a child doesn't want to do his studies, his mother tells him that she would reward him if he did his work like a good boy. The child is drawn towards the reward and does his work. This is likely to become a habit for the child. But if the child sees success out of this in the form of good performance in school, he would definitely give up the reward his mom gave and aim for the higher reward i.e. his academic success.

In the same way, the rituals prescribed by the vedas are to draw man to the spiritual track. It lures man of material accomplishments.Once we are into this fold, we do several poojas and follow other customs which in turn cleans our mind. The poojas we do at home are indeed for material benefit but the ultimate aim of the vedas is not to detain us in this state. It is to elevate man from merely following vedic rituals to a vedantic plane where we introspect and look towards higher ideals in life. The rituals done is a vacuum cleaner that washes the dirt and the dust collected in our mind through several births. Once we are cleaned of these impurities, our prayers will no more be materialistic. We will realise that the higher knowledge is more tastier than mere materialistic success. A prayer will then be for the sake of praying alone and not anything else.


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