Sunday, 13 October 2013

Prayer, On My Mind, In My Heart

Navratri spirit continues...

...With a Prayer for Vijayadashmi 

A few years ago I had read an essay titled “How to Call and Pray”, in which the author Jugal Kishore Mukherjee speaks of the seven elements of a sincere prayer:  Goal, Insight, Adhesion, Presence, Faith, Supplication and Resignation. I remember jotting this down in my journal at that time, and next to it, I wrote an old couplet in Hindi/Urdu that I have sort of always remembered since childhood. It is a rather simple verse and goes like this –

Dua manzoor hoti hai agar woh dil se hoti hai
Magar mushkil bus itni hai ki woh mushkil se hoti hai

This may be translated as follows:

A prayer is answered if it is from the Heart
The only difficulty is that it happens with difficulty

I don’t remember where or when I first read this couplet or who wrote it, but it has stayed with me ever since. As I continued to dwell on Mukherjee's words and this couplet next to it, it occurred to me that in a way this couplet actually brings together and integrates the different elements of a prayer that Mukherjee speaks of, almost in a process of re-constructing the 'parts' into a ‘whole’.

To pray with utmost sincerity and devotion and faith, that is to pray really from the Heart is the only difficulty, the poet says. If one can do that, one’s prayer is granted. Of course, there can be philosophical, intellectual debates on whether all prayers are granted. But from a spiritual point of view it is not in the limited human capability to know whether a prayer should be granted or not. Only the Divine knows what is needed for the aspirant, and that the Divine gives. There is certainly an important role for personal effort, the aspiration of the seeker. That is what the anonymous poet (anonymous to me, at least) of this couplet is perhaps referring to when he or she says that for the prayer to be granted it has to be from the deepest and most sincerest part of our heart, the heart that is purified and is above the limited, egoistic consciousness. And to get to that part of the heart is the challenge in front of the aspirant.  

This heart as described in the couplet above, which is the source of most sincere prayer, has a clear sight of its purpose or goal, that is, to seek only the Divine and only for the sake of the Divine. This heart has a deep, uncompromising faith and trust in the Divine and remembers to reject all the little temptations that come along the way in the form of desires and attachments. This heart knows what is not in its interest as it continues to proceed on its path of purification, and therefore, firmly rejects and withdraws from all that is a potential hindrance. This heart firmly knows that the most sincere act of rejection is possible only with the Grace and Presence of the Force, the Shakti. This heart is fully open and receptive to the Power of the Force, which is the most essential aid in its journey of purification. This heart grows further purified in the Presence of the Mother’s Force. 

When all of this is present, the heart can call to the Divine in a truest, simplest and most sincere way and offer all that it has and all that is – even its limitations and weaknesses – to the Divine Mother in the form of a purest prayer that it can draw from its deepest core. 

This prayer, this calling is the most gentle and delicate form of offering, and without any concern for whether it is granted or answered. There is no pulling of any kind, no mental or intellectual pressure applied to this call. There is no eagerness or impatience to this heart’s prayer. There is no bargaining that if the prayer is granted, the heart’s faith will grow stronger. There is none of that. This is purest form of call, a most sincere prayer with only one motive – to unite personal will to the Divine Will, and leave all else to the Divine Mother. Such a prayer, the poet says, is granted. 

Sri Lakshmi at Gangaikonda Cholapuram, photo by Suhas Mehra

While flipping through the pages of the same old journal I was reminded of some beautiful lines from Sri Aurobindo, which I think are so helpful to remember always, especially because in his most unique way Sri Aurobindo through these words helps us get closer to a really deep truth about the prayer. The perfection and beauty of his words also makes me think of the need to laugh often...perhaps only a heart that knows how to truly laugh and smile can experience a sincere and perfect simplicity, the source of a sincere prayer.
"As for prayer, no hard and fast rule can be laid down. Some prayers are answered, all are not. You may ask, why should not then all prayers be answered? But why should they be? it is not a machinery: put a prayer in the slot and get your asking. Besides, considering all the contradictory things mankind is praying for at the same moment, God would be in a rather awkward hole if he had to grant all of them; it wouldn't do." 

~ Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga

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