Bamboo branches and palm leaves swaying gently in the tropical breeze outside... the sounds of the dancing branches naturally mingling with the chirping sounds of some birds, an occasional hiss from some insect in the garden, and the soothing sound from a very special wind-chime near the window…
Can this spot near my bedroom window be my temple today?
On the occasion of Ram-Navami, the birth of Sri Rama, I re-read today some of the words of the Mother on prayer and aspiration.
Am I praying today? Am I aspiring? What is the difference?
Prayer: Self-giving is true prayer.
(Botanical name: Zephyranthes; Common names: Zephyr flower, Fairy lily, Rain lily)
Growing up with devout and religious-minded parents, I used to often wonder whether I should be praying to the God asking for something specific, or whether I should call for guidance, help, light, direction, or whether that moment should simply be a state of wordless, quiet feeling. As far back as I can recall my childhood and growing up years, every time I was standing in front of a deity in a temple or even at the small altar in our home, my prayer (if that can be called a prayer) took the form of something like – “Oh god, do what you feel is best. Give me what is best for me. Give me peace.” I can’t remember asking for something specific – like fulfilling whatever wish I may be holding on to in my heart at that time. I have found it particularly difficult to ask for a specific thing when I have always felt that the Divine knows everything I am thinking or wishing, knows what is needful for me, and will give me what is most necessary for me. [I can’t say with absolute certainty that I have never prayed for anything specific, as I write this I can indeed remember a few specific occasions when I did that. But generally speaking, that was not the case.] Sometimes my prayers would become less egoistic and more about asking for the best for all, asking for a wider peace. Did I ever reflect upon who all are included in my definition of ‘all’? Can’t remember.
But I do remember some conversations with my parents during childhood about this topic – should one ask God for something specific or should one pray more generally? One view would be that if God is same as your parent, and we ask for specific things from our parents all the time, then why not ask God for specific requests. Another view would be that if God knows all and everything (and can not only see the innermost beings of all but is in fact is That Innermost Being), then surely God also knows what we want, so there is no need to ask for anything specific. Of course, we may want one thing, but God also knows what it is that we need. So it may be better to not ask for whatever it is that we think we want, but let God decide for us what it is that we should be given. Aah…the philosophizing minds of children, and the parents’ indulgence with these innocent queries!!
(Botanical name: Nyctanthes arbor-tristis; Common names: Night jasmine, Parijat, Harsingar, Coral Jasmine, Tree of sadness) Photo: From my garden
The Mother’s words about the difference between prayer and aspiration make one thing very clear. Prayer requires a faith in the Divine Being, while an aspiration does not necessarily require that. One can aspire for a state of being, for progress, for a state of consciousness even without having a belief or faith in a personal deity or a Personal God. At the same time though, I feel aspiration also requires a faith in the ideal that a different state of being, a different level of consciousness is possible, reachable. It is towards that that one aspires. Faith is in both cases fundamental. One can’t aspire towards something if one does not feel inwardly that That is indeed something which exists.
So back to the question – Am I praying today? Am I aspiring? Do I have the Faith that is the need of the hour?
Perhaps a bit more of quiet time near the window will help…
Faith: You flame up and triumph.
(Botanical name: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis; Common names: Chinese hibiscus, Hawaiian hibiscus, Rose-of-China)
We can, simply by a sincere aspiration, open a sealed door in us and find...that Something which will change the whole significance of life, reply to all our questions, solve all our problems and lead us to the perfection we aspire for without knowing it, to that reality which alone can satisfy us and give us lasting joy, equilibrium, strength, life. (The Mother)
Faith is certainly a gift given to us by the Divine Grace. It is like a door that suddenly opens upon an eternal truth, a door through which we can see it, almost touch it....In the ignorance and darkness of the beginning, faith is the most direct expression of the Divine Power which comes to fight and conquer. (The Mother)
Flowers are the prayers of the vegetal kingdom. (The Mother)
Prayer is only a particular form given to ... will, aspiration and faith. ... Its power and sense is to put the will, aspiration and faith of man into touch with the divine Will as that of a conscious Being with whom we can enter into conscious and living relations. ... In spiritual matters and in the seeking of spiritual gains, this conscious relation is a great power; it is a much greater power than our own entirely self-reliant struggle and effort and it brings a fuller spiritual growth and experience. (Sri Aurobindo)