Prayer, in its truest sense, is an attempt to invoke the mightier potential that is already in us, through mental integration. – Chinmaya
Usually, our prayer (if at all we pray!) is nothing but a mechanical muttering of some meaningless mystical mantras, chanted uninterestingly, and often wrongly, by our careless mind with all its impatience to finish off this futile monotonous routine. And for the vast majority, prayer is but a short cut to fulfil their illegitimate demands through divine intervention, taken to as a last resort once all other worldly fair and foul means have failed!
The intention and purpose of prayer in its truest sense is brought out in the above quote.
The scriptures declare that, like the waves in the ocean, we all are a part of the Infinite and hence all the glories of the Supreme Lord are already ours. To realize this oneness, we are only asked to drop the illusory egoistic self and identify with our real Self. This attempt to tune ourselves to our Creator through humble submission is called prayer.
To the one thus tuned to the Divine, everything that happens – good or bad – is but the sweet leela of the Lord. Such a devotee develops an intuitive eye capable of perceiving the hidden hand of the Almighty everywhere and in everything.
Rabia, one of the greatest woman mystics of Islam was born in the year 717 A.D. The fourth child of her parents, she was born in a poor family. Her mother passed away in her childhood and soon a famine struck their country, and the family members got separated from each other. There seemed to be no end to the tragic tale of this little girl. She was kidnapped and sold as a slave for a paltry sum of six dirhams. To make the matter still worse, her master was cruel beyond words who constantly kept ill-treating her. The girl was made to toil and labour the whole day long. Often she went without food to cope up with the work given to her. But even in those days, she kept awake at night and spent several hours in prayer and meditation.
One night, when her master returned home at a late hour and passed by the little room in which Rabia lived, he heard a murmur, a whispered voice coming from within.
Instantly, he became suspicious. “To whom could my slave be talking to at this late hour of the night?”
He peeped through the window of the room and was amazed by the sight that met his eyes! Rabia was at prayer enveloped in an unearthly light. Like a little angel, she was kneeling down, her eyes closed, her hands folded and out of her lips issued forth the words, “Lord! Please bless my master…”
This master who treated her mercilessly, this master who beat her again and again, this master who was inhumanly cruel – Rabia was actually offering prayer for him!
She was heard saying, “O Lord, please forgive all his faults. Let him prosper, and above all, O Lord, so bless him that he may be drawn closer to Thy Holy Feet, and to Thy Heart which is the heart of love…”
Hearing this prayer, the master was taken aback! He returned to his room but could not sleep. The memory of all his evil deeds haunted him the whole night.
The next day early morning, he came to Rabia’s room and fell down at her feet pleading, “Forgive me. I knew you not, O saint of Allah! I have grievously sinned against you and against Him! I entreat you to continue to stay in my house, not as a slave but as my honoured guest. Permit me the privilege of serving you!”
To err is human; to forgive is divine. The strength to forgive comes only when we are tuned to the Divine.
A true devotee becomes a perfect instrument in the hands of the Lord to express His might and glory. Nothing then becomes impossible for such a man of God.
Guru Arjan Dev is the fifth of the ten Sikh Gurus and the first Sikh martyr. The greatest contribution he made to the Sikh faith was the compilation of the past Gurus’ teachings along with the selected writings of other saints from different backgrounds into one book, known as the holy Guru Granth Sahib.
When Jahangir, the Mughal emperor, demanded Guru Arjan to revise the Holy Granth, removing all references to Islam and Hinduism, the Guru politely refused to do so. Jahangir, who was on his way to Kashmir, asked Murtaza Khan to deal with the Guru. Murtaza Khan immediately jailed the Guru and ordered to torture him to death until he succumbed to pressure.
He was allowed no food, water, or sleep. The next day they immersed him in a large vessel of water with fire underneath and brought it to boil causing his flesh to blister. On the third day, inflicting further torture, they poured burning sand over him, charring his skin. On the fourth day, they forced him to sit on a red hot iron sheet kept over burning charcoal. The Guru bore all those brutalities for five long days with calm serenity. The torturers found the Guru unresponsive and unyielding to their demands. They did not know what to do.
On 1606 May 30th, thinking to torment the Guru’s blistered and burnt body with icy cold water, his captors led him into the nearby river, Ravi. Thousands of followers, dumbstruck, with tears in their eyes, watched the Guru, who could barely walk, make his way to the river, blissfully repeating over and again, “Sweet is Thy Will O Lord. The gift of Thy Name alone I seek…”
Bidding farewell to his followers, the Guru dipped below the surface, disappearing forever from sight. His persecutors could never recover his body.
‘Prayer can work wonders’ is the unanimous declaration of all the great ones of all religions.
Why not give it a try? Why die as a beggar when we are the rightful inheritors of the Infinite Kingdom of the Self?
Abidance in the Self is the highest expression of devotion;
And that itself is the greatest prayer.
Let this sincere heart-felt prayer be our bridge – a bridge to cross over from our present state of finitude to the eternal state of freedom and joy.
O M T A T S A T