Reflections on Prayer
Soami Ji Maharaj says in Sar Bachan Poetry:
I know, dear soul, that you have been in distress – …
ever since you forgot Shabd
and made friends with the mind.
This fool, the mind, tied you down to the body
and charmed you with sensual pleasures.
Acting under the influence of the mind and senses, our soul has been imprisoned in the cycle of transmigration to deal with the consequences of these actions. Whatever the mind does, the soul also has to suffer the consequences, because the soul and the mind are knotted together. And because of this we have been treading the eternal wheel of births and deaths. Depending on the fruits of our actions, we have been cycling through the 8.4 million species in the vast prison house of the world. Our soul has been imprisoned for so long that she has forgotten her true identity, her true home, her true purpose in coming to this creation.
Saints explain that the purpose of human life is to awaken to our true identity and reclaim it, and in so doing return to our spiritual home. On the RSSB website homepage we find:
There is a spiritual purpose to human life – to experience the divinity of God who resides in all of us. It is through this experience that we will realize the truth of the concept that there is only one God and we are all expressions of his love.
Yet when we are so completely tangled up in our false attachments and love for the world, how can we experience this divinity? Perhaps we do what comes naturally to us when we need help: we pray.
There are many ideas about what prayer is. The saints tell us that prayer is used as a means of communication and that prayer and spirituality are inextricably linked. Mystics explain that real prayer occurs within the wordless relationship between us and the Lord, benefactor of all. Prayer is the essence of spirituality – through it we begin to realize God. We might wonder if there a set phrase, thought, or language that makes up the right prayer. Maharaj Charan Singh says in Die to Live:
No language is required, no words are required in prayer. Prayer is a language of love from the heart to the Father, and nobody exists then between you and the Father.… He exists and you exist. That is real prayer.
By communicating with the Father through prayer, we recognize him as omnipresent. Through prayer, we realize how merciful and loving he really is. As Kabir Sahib says in Tales of the Mystic East, “Dawn breaks, day comes, the whole world awakens; He fills the needs of all, from the ant to the elephant.” The Lord fills the needs of all. So what is left to ask for? What do the saints say we should ask from the Lord?
Maulvi Rum, a Muslim saint, is quoted in Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. III:
From God nothing but God should be asked;
All else but him is perishable.
From God ask not for things which are going to perish;
From God ask for nothing but himself.
Prayer is asking for God from God. Prayer is a way for us, as human beings, to unite our souls with the Lord, so we may finally and completely escape from the cycle of birth and death. Maharaj Charan Singh says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II:
Prayer is real love and devotion within us – the desire to go and merge back into the Father. That is a prayer – yearning of the heart to go back to its own source, yearning of the soul to merge back into its own source.
If we want to unite with the Lord and end our soul’s separation from its true source and finally resolve our age-old dilemma, we need to pray to the Lord within. Hazur says in Spiritual Discourses, Vol. II:
God Almighty, who has given life to the whole world and is the benefactor and emperor of all, who takes care of everyone and guides everything, lives within our body, within our very being.
The question arises: how do we pray to the Lord within? At the time of initiation, when the Master connects the disciple’s soul to this inner power of the Word, we learn the practice of meditation, which is the true prayer that will reunite us with him. Hazur continues in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II:
Real prayer is only to pray to the Lord to have mercy on us, to give us his grace and guidance to live in his will, to give us such circumstances that we can meditate on his name. That is real prayer.
We have to do our part – we have to pray for forgiveness of all that keeps us separated from the Lord. We do this through meditation. Hazur says: “The Father forgives us by putting us on the path. He attaches us to the spirit within, and with the help of that spirit, by worshipping the spirit, all our karmic accounts are cleared.” He also tells us:
The real prayer is knocking at the Lord’s door for forgiveness for the actions which we have been collecting from birth to birth, from body to body, from house to house.… We are able to repent for all those karmas – only by meditation. So meditation is the best prayer.
Meditation is the best prayer because, as Hazur emphasizes:
It gives us moral strength and also strong willpower to face our present karmas. It gives us strength to go through our destiny without losing our balance. It gives us strength not to sow any new seeds that would force us to come back to the creation. And it invokes his forgiveness for what we have been collecting in the past.
As long as we keep continuing to fuel our karmas, we will keep returning to the creation, because karma determines our cyclic existence. That is why meditation is called the best prayer – the practice of meditation eliminates karmas, purifies our soul by the divine connection we cultivate, and leads us to our spiritual nature.
Maharaj Sawan Singh says in the Dawn of Light: “There is no task in the world so difficult as spiritual practice is in the beginning, but its end is the most joyful.… Do not be anxious.… The Master is taking care of you every instant.”
We must strive to silence the worldly wants and desires that drive the many barriers between us and the Father. We have to make ourselves receptive to his grace. This is the purpose of meditation. The objective is that no worldly desire should exist between us and the Father. We exist and he exists. Hazur explains that real prayer is whatever time we give in in his devotion – that is, in meditation.
Every time we sit in meditation, we are working to achieve the most important task a human being is capable of – realizing our deathless self, achieving God-realization. Let us keep trying, even if our efforts in meditation at first seem insincere and imperfect. This is how we finally free ourselves from our eons-old dilemma: our imprisonment in the cycle of transmigration and our long separation from our true home. The Master has faith in us; can we not demonstrate some level of faith in him? Can we not take our failures to him if we cannot bring him our successes? We must remember that our efforts at meditation invoke his forgiveness, and that effort goes hand in hand with his grace.
If we keep trying, then one day we will invoke the Lord’s grace so that the door may be opened and we may be absorbed in the Master within and immersed in the sound current. It is that real prayer, our meditation, that what will bring us back to our spiritual home, our true identity as one with the loving divinity of the Shabd.