How to pray is one of the first things taught to every child. In my perspective, the life of a human can be divided into 5 ‘spiritual’ parts. First, as a child; during this time, the child is unable to speak or understand our words. At this time, a child is believed to be in the purest of forms untainted by the worldly desires or possessions. It is believed that during this phase, the infant is in constant communion with God.
The second part of the life as a child when he learns to understand the world, learns to speak, develops love for his family and for a few possessions; which are mainly toys. But during this period, the child is open-hearted and pure. He is taught by his parents to pray and he does. He is scared by the thoughts of the evil creatures which his parents invent to stop him from creating nuisance. The boogeyman being a common creature which is told to dramatize kids who do not go to bed on time by parents. He believes it to be true, owing to his pure and open-heart.
The third part of his life as a teenager; when prayers become the least of his worries. It does not seem ‘Cool’ to go to a temple. The thought of his life being the most difficult and the most burdensome of worries to be on his shoulders is what keeps him busy. Most of these worries are in one way or the other related to looking good, cool and last and the most ‘important’, relationships. This is when prayers take the back seat. This is the time parents also find hard to enforce prayer on the child as they have other things that their child may be doing wrong to worry about.
The fourth part of one’s life is as an adult. This phase is quite busy for him as he just starts working and his top most goal becomes to prove himself professionally. He is totally engrossed in his work and e is unable to take out time for anything else. During this phase, however, he now realizes the importance of prayer and wishes to engage in prayer/ meditation; but complains about the lack of time.
The fifth and the last part is when he retires. He has attained the wisdom that life had to offer him professionally, intellectually and scientifically (?); he now understands that the sole purpose of his remaining days is to pray to the Lord and attain liberation from this cycle of birth and death. He then frequents temples/ churches/ mosques/ and other religious and pious locations accessible. Be it within the country or abroad.
I am presently in the 4th phase, just started working and trying to prove myself professionally. So that is what is going to be my ‘background’ theme. J
The first question that arises is why do we need to pray? Especially for those who are atheists or have not (apparently) witnessed the presence/ hand of god in their lives, ever. Taking a neutral stance, as that of a non-believer, I would say God’s presence is essential to maintain the moral fibre of society. Let me give a simple analogy here; imagine there to be no traffic police in a city for a week. What will happen? The second or third day onwards, people would not follow any traffic rules, there would be accidents, quarrels, fights, or even riots on the roads with no one to check their actions.
Similarly, to control the actions of man it is necessary to generate fear and guilt in his heart that someone, ‘All Powerful’ is watching your actions always. Just like, we know there isn’t a traffic police officer hiding behind every traffic light, but we still stop at red in however much hurry we are, fearing that if there is one here, he would give us a ticket. Similarly, the fear of an ever watchful Lord is essential to keep man on the right track, to check the ‘Evil’ man is capable and willing to do otherwise. Thus the ‘belief’ (may not be the right word) of an omnipresent and all powerful Lord is essential for survival of the human race. And thus, as a corollary came the concept of ‘Karma’.
Now to address the most important complaints of the people of my age (the 4th phase). “We do not find enough time to sit and pray. Life is just too busy and hectic.”
A small story will directly answer this complaint:
A person once told Dr. Johnson, the famous English thinker, that he could seldom get time to recite the name of God, with the hundreds of things he had to do from morning till nightfall and even far into the night. Dr. Johnson replied with another question. He asked how billions of people found space to live upon the face of the earth, which is two thirds water, and the rest is too full with mountains, deserts, forests, icy regions, river beds, marshes and similar impossible areas. The questioner said that man somehow struggled to find living space. So too, said Dr. Johnson, man must somehow find a few minutes a day for prayer to the Lord.
It is all about priorities. We do things which we feel necessary and important and the ones with less significance are postponed or not given time. It is just a matter of bringing prayer into the most important ‘list’. Once this is done, we will never complain of not having enough time.
Another common constraint found and felt while trying to pray/ meditate is the “inability to clear out minds of thoughts”. It is always said that a blank and empty mind is a prerequisite for meditation. This is something which most of us (if not all) will have a problem with. It is indeed very difficult to clear the mind of all the thoughts even for a second, there is always something to do, something to take care of, something to worry about which pops up when you sit to meditate. And no matter how hard you try one after the other things keep coming up. After a lot of trying, we deem it impossible and quit tiring. To this I have the following to say:
Sadhna is most required to control the mind and the desires after which it runs. If you fins that you are not able to succeed, do not give up the Sadhna but do it more vigorously, for it is the subject in which you did not get passing marks; that requires special study, is it not?
This is all I had in mind while writing this article. Though I might sound very spiritually advanced talking like this, I have to confess in my good mind that I am still unable to follow everything which I mentioned above. I try, but haven’t succeeded yet, and found sharing my ways to be a good idea; if anyone benefits out of what I wrote, my writing has borne fruit.
Before I close, I wish to share another paragraph which some would find very relevant:
Sadhana means inner cleanliness as well as external cleanliness. You do not feel refreshed if you wear unwashed clothes after a bath; Nor do you feel refreshed if you wear clean clothes without a bath. Both are needed, the Baahya and the Bhava (the external as well as the internal).
Will be back with more…
P.S.: I have used the male gender while writing this article which applies to both the sexes, and is not meant or limited to men in any way. Also, i know this has been a long post, but I hope you enjoyed it.