The theme for this edition of ऋतश्री is – Prayer.
Prayer is one of the most common practices we have to connect with the Divine, to establish a relation with the Divine. Whether it is for a small personal, material object or some larger and less self-centered one, most of us have often called and prayed to some higher Power or higher Being — someone who we feel has the power to grant our wish. In our wiser moments, we also know that when our prayer is not granted, it is the compassion and grace of that same higher Wisdom which is behind this denial. But the very act of praying becomes a moment to consciously connect with the Divine.
As our prayers become less and less egoistic and more and more an expression of our gratitude and love for the Divine, our relation with the Divine deepens and becomes more intimate. As our relation with the Divine becomes manifold — relation of a servant with the Lord, of a child with the Mother, of a lover with the Beloved, of a friend, seeker, aspirant or bhakta — our prayers too take on different hues and fragrances, each filling our being with its special delight and joy.
“Prayer helps to prepare this relation for us at first on the lower plane even while it is there consistent with much that is mere egoism and self-delusion; but afterwards we can draw towards the spiritual truth which is behind it. It is not then the giving of the thing asked for that matters, but the relation itself, the contact of man’s life with God, the conscious interchange. 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. Necessarily in the end prayer either ceases in the greater thing for which it prepared us,—in fact the form we call prayer is not itself essential so long as the faith, the will, the aspiration are there,—or remains only for the joy of the relation. Also its objects, the artha or interest it seeks to realise, become higher and higher until we reach the highest motiveless devotion, which is that of divine love pure and simple without any other demand or longing.”~ Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, 24: 567-8
Come, let us meditate a bit more on Prayer – in its various hues.
“I am not a Bhakta, I am not a Jnani, I am not a worker for the Lord. What am I then? A tool in the hands of my Master, a flute blown upon by the divine Herd-Boy, a leaf driven by the breath of the Lord.”~ Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, 12: 481
“Prayer and aspiration are a part of the spiritual life and do not conflict with surrender, provided one is not disturbed in either way by the fulfilment or unfulfilment of the prayer and keeps one’s faith and quietude all the same. In the ordinary life prayer is one of the chief elements of human relation with the Divine and is often but not always answered; when it is not answered the religious man keeps his faith in the Divine and either understands that to answer was not the Divine Will or else he prays more fervently till his prayer is heard—that depends on the man and the circumstances. A sadhak can intercede internally for others in their affairs, provided he remains unattached and equal-minded, but he is not bound to intervene.”~ Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, 29: 365-366
“After I knew that God was a woman, I learned something from far-off about love; but it was only when I became a woman and served my Master and Paramour that I knew love utterly.”~ Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, 12: 481
“It is the Divine Grace that must be prayed for―if justice were to manifest, very few would be those who could stand in front of it.”~ The Mother, CWM, 14: 83
“…people who claim to meditate for hours every day and spend their whole day praying, to me it seems that three-fourths of the time it must be absolutely mechanical; that is to say, it loses all its sincerity. For human nature is not made for that and the human mind is not built that way.
“In order to concentrate and meditate one must do an exercise which I could call the “mental muscle-building” of concentration. One must really make an effort―as one makes a muscular effort, for instance, to lift a weight―if you want the concentration to be sincere and not artificial.
“The same thing for the urge of prayer: suddenly a flame is lit, you feel an enthusiastic élan, a great fervour, and express it in words which, to be true, must be spontaneous. This must come from the heart, directly, with ardour, without sing through the head. That is a prayer. If there are just words jostling in your head, it is no longer a prayer. Well, if you don’t throw more fuel into the flame, after a time it dies out. If you do not give your muscles time to relax, if you don’t slacken the movement, your muscles lose the capacity of taking strains. So it is quite natural, and even indispensable, for the intensity of the movement to cease after a certain time. Naturally, someone who is accustomed to lifting weights can do it much longer than one who has never done it before. It is the same thing; someone who is accustomed to concentration can concentrate much longer than one who is not in the habit. But for everybody there comes a time when one must let go, relax, in order to begin again.”~ The Mother, CWM, 8: 227-228
“One may have an aspiration and transcribe it as a prayer, but aspiration goes beyond prayer in every way. It is much closer and much more as it were self-forgetful, living only in the thing one wants to be or do, and the offering of all that one wants to do to the Divine. You may pray in order to ask for something, you may also pray to thank the Divine for what He has given you, and that prayer is much greater: it may be called an act of thanksgiving. You may pray in gratitude for the aspect of kindness the Divine has shown to you, for what He has done for you, for what you see in Him, and the praise you want to offer Him. And all this may take the form of a prayer. It is decidedly the highest prayer, for it is not exclusively preoccupied with oneself, it is not an egoistic prayer. […]~ The Mother, CWM, 5: 141-142
“There is a kind of prayer at once spontaneous and unselfish which is like a great call, usually not for one’s own self personally, but like something that may be called an intercession with the Divine. It is extremely powerful. I have had countless instances of things which have been realised almost instantaneously due to prayers of this kind. It implies a great faith, a great ardour, a great sincerity, and a great simplicity of heart also, something that does not calculate, does not plan, does not bargain, does not give with the idea of receiving in exchange. For, the majority of men give with one hand and hold out the other to get something in exchange; the largest number of prayers are of that sort. But there are others of the kind I have described, acts of thanksgiving, a kind of canticle, and these are very good.”
“So the more intellectual people admit aspiration and say that prayer is something inferior. The mystics tell you that aspiration is all very well but if you want to be really heard and want the Divine to listen to you, you must pray, and pray with the simplicity of a child, a perfect candour, that is, a perfect trust: “I need this or that (whether it be a moral need or a physical or material need), well, I ask You for it, give it to me.” Or else: “You have given me what I asked of You, You have made me realise concretely those experiences which were unknown to me and are now marvels I can attain at will; yes, I am infinitely grateful to You and I offer a prayer of thanksgiving to sing Your praise and thank You for Your intervention.” It is like that. To aspire it is not necessary to direct the aspiration to someone, towards someone. One has an aspiration for a certain state of being, for knowledge, for a realisation, a state of consciousness; one aspires for something, but it is not necessarily a prayer; prayer is something additional.~ The Mother, CWM, 5: 143
“Prayer is a personal thing, addressed to a personal being, that is, to something—a force or a being—who can hear you and answer you. Otherwise you can’t ask for anything. Do you understand?”
“It goes without saying that all bargaining spirit is an insincerity that takes away all value from the prayer.”~ The Mother, CWM, 15: 209
“You see, it is difficult to pray if one doesn’t have faith, but if one can make prayer a means of increasing one’s faith, or aspiring, having an aspiration, having an aspiration to have faith… Most of these qualities require an effort. If one does not have a thing and wants to have it, well, it needs great, great, great sustained efforts, a constant aspiration, an unflagging will, a sincerity at each moment; then one is sure, it will come one day—it can come in a second. There are people who have it, and then they have contrary movements which come and attack. These people, if their will is sincere, can shield their faith, repel the attacks. There are others who cultivate doubt because it is a kind of dilettantism—that, there’s nothing more dangerous than that. It is as though one were letting the worm into the fruit: it eventually eats it up completely. This means that when a movement of this sort comes—it usually comes first into the mind—the first thing to do is to be very plucky and refuse it. Surely one must not enjoy looking on just to see what is going to happen; that kind of curiosity is terribly dangerous.~ The Mother, CWM, 6: 121
“It is perhaps more difficult for intellectuals to have faith than for those who have a simple, sincere and upright heart, and no intellectual complications. But I think that if an intellectual person has faith, then that becomes very powerful, a very powerful thing which can truly work miracles.“
“…collective meditations have been practised in all ages for different reasons, in different ways and with different motives. What may be called a collective meditation is a group of people who gather together for a definite purpose; for example, in all ages it has been a practice to gather for prayers…These prayers are of two different kinds.~ The Mother, CWM, 9:37
From the beginning of human history, it is known that certain groups of people would meet to express a certain common state of soul: some to sing together the praise of God, hymns, thanksgiving, to express adoration, thankfulness, gratitude, and to praise God; others—and there are historical examples of this—a certain number of people gathered together for a common invocation, for instance, to ask God for something, and this was done all together, united, in the hope that this invocation, this prayer, this asking would carry more weight.”
“Let us pray with all our heart that the divine work may be accomplished.”~ The Mother, CWM, 15: 207
“Of course all prayer is not heard—the world would be a still more disastrous affair than it is, if everybody’s prayers were heard, however sincere. Even the Godward prayer is not always heard—at once, even as faith is not always justified at once. Both prayer and faith are powers towards realisation which have been given to man to aid him in his struggle—without them, without aspiration and will and faith (for aspiration is a prayer) it would be difficult for him to get anywhere. But all these things are merely means for setting the Divine Force in action—and it sometimes takes long, very long even, before the forces come into action or at least before they are seen to be in action or bear their result. The ecstasist is not altogether wrong even when he overstates his case. Even the overstatements sometimes help to convince the Cosmic Power, so that it says “Oh well, if it is like that all right—”.~ Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, 29: 366
“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, CWSA, 29: 366
“We pray to the Divine to accept the ardent flame of our gratitude and of our joyous and fully confident adherence.”~ The Mother, CWM, 15: 208
“As for the prayers, the fact of praying and the attitude it brings, especially unselfish prayer for others, itself opens you to the higher Power, even if there is no corresponding result in the person prayed for. Nothing can be positively said about that, for the result must necessarily depend on the persons, whether they are open or receptive or something in them can respond to any Force the prayer brings down.”~ Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, 29: 367
“But whatever you do, whatever the process you use, and even if you happen to have acquired in it a great skill and power, you must leave the result in the hands of the Divine. Always you may try, but it is for the Divine to give you the fruit of your effort or not to give it. There your personal power stops; if the result comes, it is the Divine Power and not yours that brings it. You question if it is right to ask the Divine for these things. But there is no more harm in turning to the Divine for the removal of a physical imperfection than in praying for the removal of a moral defect. But whatever you ask for or whatever your effort, you must feel, even while trying your best, using knowledge or putting forth power, that the result depends upon the Divine Grace. Once you have taken up the Yoga, whatever you do must be done in a spirit of complete surrender. This must be your attitude,—“I aspire, I try to cure my imperfections, I do my best, but for the result I put myself entirely into the hands of the Divine.””~ The Mother, CWM, 3: 97
A prayer, a master act, a king idea
Can link man’s strength to a transcendent Force.
Then miracle is made the common rule,
One mighty deed can change the course of things;
A lonely thought becomes omnipotent.~ Sri Aurobindo, Savitri, Book I, Canto II, p. 20
“We pray that the Divine should teach us ever more, enlighten us more and more, dispel our ignorance, illumine our minds.”~ The Mother, CWM, 15: 208
“Prayers should be full of confidence and without sorrow or lamenting.”~ Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, 29: 367