ॐ सह नाववतु।
सह नौ भुनक्तु।
सह वीर्यं करवावहै।
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥
In this article I shall seek to investigate both prayer and meditation; the relevance of them, the importance of each and finally we will go on to discussing whether we should pray or meditate? Which has greater importance in this day and age?
Let’s begin with PRAYER.
A prayer has many implications- serenity, tranquillity, peace, bliss; it starts a dialogue with the Godhead, it helps us in speaking to our ishta. Through prayer we learn to control the functioning of our body at a cellular level, it promotes harmony, synchronicity and a deep restfulness.
As we go through our day, we expend enormous amounts of energy on our professions, ambitions, negativity, excitement, etc, etc. These drain us and we lose massive amounts of prana due to these activities; a prayer aids in accumulation of positivity and spiritual energy.
In fact, every second of prayer purifies millions and millions of cells in our body and within one-eighty-six days which is within two blood renewal cycles, our internal metabolism transforms and then if prayer is continued, the complete vital change takes place in seven years.
Prayer can also inspire an individual to philanthropy, as good thoughts become good actions.
Discipline is the key to prayer; to acquire a peaceful mind, one must pray every day, at the same time. The Muslim world makes use of this strategy with their five times namaz and their azans which always happen at exactly the same time. Imagine the energy they create when so many people are focussed towards Mecca at specific times. It can account for the fact that Islam is the largest growing religion.
I always begin my prayers at a fixed time, and amazingly no matter how disturbed I am, my mind becomes calm and tranquil. I light the diya and the agarbattis, the air is almost immediately transformed. The smell of the ghee in the lamp triggers my mind to become still(as still as it can get), the smoke from the agarbatti wafts in the air, sometimes I see patterns and faces in them.
When I was younger, I almost always had a request for Maa Kali, my ishtadevi. But slowly as the years rolled on and with my parent’s advise, I stopped asking. I prayed with gratitude and did not ask anything of the almighty.
Desire is the root of all evil; reading up on Buddhist philosophy and the Bhagavadgita, I tried to erase desires from my mind.
Action without hope, says Lord Krishna. I tried to understand and put this to practise. Desires can never be obliterated from the mind of someone living in this consumerist hellhole.
Just to function at a very basic level, my wants and needs were quite substantial. And I mean just BASICS!
When you seek to initiate a dialogue with the divine, remember that essentially it’s a monologue; chances are heavy that it will never graduate to a dialogue at all. So here we are all buzzing away like busy bees, carrying on our individual monologue, hoping to be heard.
Everyone wants something, a new car, a five figure salary, a plush condo; I agree some want more basics like food on their plate, but still these are all wants. We want it all, the cacophony of billions of thoughts always demanding, cajoling, requesting something from a God, whether he be called Krishna or God, the father, whether she be called Kali or Tara is enough to drive him/her mad!!!
Who is GOD???
The Vedas say Avangmanasagochara, which translated means, “You are beyond the comprehension of my mind and expression.”
From a theistic point of view, ‘God’ is pure ‘Spirit’, Infinite Intelligence, Divine Principle, the originating essence of all ‘being’ and ‘consciousness’.
‘God’ is ‘One’ and ‘All’, being omnipresent, so includes both ‘personal’ and ‘non-personal’ aspects of thought, energy and matter. Of course we can say more, according to various schools and their ‘terms’, but the ‘absolute’ itself is beyond description, name and form, and from the formless, all forms arise.
But most of us request things from God with good intentions; yes, the path to hell is also paved with “GOOD INTENTIONS”.
I hope my son gets above 80% in his entrance exam, then goes on to study medicine, and then moves on to a successful practise making pots and pots of money from sick people and of course what good is this all if he does not care for me when I am old.
You see how “good intentions” which drive us are not always good.
It is an egregious illusion, a myth, a mirage!!!
In fact in trying to get kids to do better in school, we are witnessing a time of utter ruin for them, with kids as small as five committing suicide. For some kids self harm has become a way of life, and all for unrealistic expectations from their parents and teachers. This is simply self delusion on our part; who else but ourselves are we deceiving???
Let’s scrutinize child education in the world today.
Small children lug huge bags to school, like some sort of beast of burden; it’s a miracle their backs don’t give up!
Then they arrive in school, where they are treated as cattle, children view one another with a competitive spirit which fosters resentment and hatred. They are taught from the beginning the policy of no-tolerance, nil respect and hatred, suspicion and xenophobia, be it deliberately or in a subtle context.
We are knowingly and unknowingly waging a war on our children!! Accept it and let’s move on.
I have bifurcated from the topic of prayer, but the subject of children and their position in society today really “grinds my nuts”, it takes me to the point when I just want to scream out at all the perpetrators and rip my hair off. Not a pretty picture I assure you!
So I have spoken of prayer and how it inadvertently leads to us asking, demanding and wanting things from God.
Now let us turn to meditation. When we meditate we are not looking to start a dialogue which will evidently become a monologue, but we are just looking at listening to what the Universe has to say and trust me it has a lot to say.
When we meditate, in the beginning, thoughts are endless; non-stop chattering makes it almost impossible to calm our minds, so how can we hope to listen to anything the Universe has to say.
Our minds will not shut up; the sounds drown our very being.
But we must persevere. Sit down to meditate every day at the same time. Sit facing the same direction and if possible sit on a cloth which will be your asana. Just sit still, if not in padmasana or siddhasana, and then sit quietly in any position comfortable. Sit in a chair if you cannot sit on the floor.
Let the thoughts assail you, let them come, watch them come, but do not welcome them, nor must you judge them. Let them come as people in a carnival, all dressed up, ready to play out their respective roles. Watch as you would a crowded street, but watch passively, do not judge, do not fall into the trap of associating yourself or disassociating from them.
They are not your friends, nor your foes, they are what they are- just thoughts, and thoughts come and go!!! They are not here to stay; it is their impermanence you study.
How one minute a solid thought enters your brain, let it soak there, let it fester, let it ferment in there.
Slowly you will realize that it too dissipates, the thought which was soaking, dries up, it begins to lose its shape, just like clouds in the sky, which take up various shapes, sometimes a goat, sometimes a falcon, sometimes they become the staircase to heaven. Look up at the sky and observe the clouds, and similarly log into your mind during meditation and watch your thoughts. Do you get angry or upset if the cloud takes a certain shape? Then why must your thoughts arouse such feeling?
During meditation keep remembering that thoughts are clouds, they take various shapes, they also disappear, and they sometimes bring rain- but that is their job, so sit back and watch.
Notice how you breathe, watch how you exhale, how you inhale! Observe this cycle- again and again!
So in doing this for days and months and finally years, you will see the Universe has started talking to you.
The great SILENCE is finally speaking to you!
The timeless quality in meditation is highly addictive. Yes meditation is highly addictive.
Prayer is externalized, meditation is internalized.
Meditation is looking in, prayer is seeking out.
While meditating you find the Godhead within, and while praying you seek to pay obeisance to God in some external form, be it Jesus, Allah or Shiva.
In meditation do you realize SHIVOHAM, no amount of Shiv-puja can show you that; yes, it can create a fertile ground to get into meditation, but it can never help you experience SHIVOHAM.
So will you choose to talk to the Universe, or will you choose to listen??
I have been meditating now for years, yet, I am just a novice. But sometimes, even if for a brief moment, my mind stills during dhyana and for a split second the Universe talks to me.
Yes I still pray, I do my Shiv puja and mantra chanting every day, but I do not ask for anything from the Godhead, except SARVAMANGALAM!
But my number one addiction remains meditation which changes our DNA, where I truly find truth, bliss and unadulterated peace, even if for a micro second.
I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is.
~ A. W. Watts