Prayer is the way of communication with God. In the path of Bhakti (devotion) in Hinduism, prayer is one of the essential and natural acts.
God is omnipresent and omnipotent; He is the creator, the protector and the destroyer. Hindus believe that the very sustenance of the human beings on the earth simply depends on the will of God and “nothing ever moves without His moving”.
People are bound to the world and its innumerable attractions; every one’s life runs on wants, needs, ambitions and greed. Atheists depend on their ego and their perceived self-righteousness in chasing, acquiring and enjoying their needs and wants. On the other hand, theists, with the strong belief that it is God who is the sole provider, pray to God to grant their needs and wants and at times extend their prayers to satiate their greed and unjustified ambitions too.
In the 4 Vedas, a prominent segment of the contents is devoted to rituals and prayers that are meant to invoke Gods to grace the populace with essentials as well as wealth and riches. There are plenty of prayers seeking good rains, bountiful crops, welfare of cattle, healthy offspring, punishing of enemies, elimination of diseases and so on. The following famous vedic chanting called Chamakam is of this category and is chanted popularly. This chanting is popular for its sonic beauty and the postive vibrations it produces in the ambiance (Click the picture to listen).
Many “homams” (rituals conducted in procedurally in front of fire as per norms given in Vedas) are performed even today by householders as well as religious institutions and temples praying for God’s grace to lead happy worldly life.
Prayers are done on one side for seeking boons; on the other side, prayers are made to ward off sufferings.
Hinduism preaches karma or action and Hindus believe in the dictum “what thy sow, thy shall reap”. All your actions – good or bad, will have their repercussions and the occurrence of the repercussions transcend time and births. But great masters in Hinduism strongly advocate that karma is not self-propelling and whatever fruits or punishments to your past karmas are executed only by the will of God. In other words, God has the powers to reward you, to punish you less even for heinous crimes or can condone your sins – if only he is happy with you.
That’s precisely where prayers come in handy. When you suffer, pray to God for relief and succor. When you are in trouble and feel lost and directionless in life, pray to seek God’s guidance. Prayer helps to subdue your egotism. Prayer helps you to express your helplessness and seek the help of the higher force.
However, praying God for goodies and worldly riches is always discouraged by great saints and sages in Hinduism. Worldly pleasures have pains always attached at the back. When you pray for pleasures and get them, you have to invariably suffer the pains that come attached to them.
Another point of view is that when you pray for a specific want, YOU think that it will do good to you. This way your egotism deceives you that you know what is better for you rather than the higher force that is going to grant that boon! This way, one who prays to God for a specific want, in reality, undermines the glory and greatness of God.
Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa reiterates that the only thing one ought to pray to God is pure devotion at the lotus feet of God and NOTHING else. Some sages greatly emphasize the efficacy of prayer in getting rid of your bad qualities. If at all you pray, pray for removing your pride, your greed, your envy, your lust, your anger, your hatred and so on. Pray to purify yourself.
“Saranagati” (total surrender to God) is one excellent qualification that Hinduism recommends; when your dependence on God becomes total, at that exalted state, there is no need for any prayer at all. The individual has no personal needs and preferences; he accepts the fact that it is not he who knows what is right or wrong for him, but it’s God who knows best. Whatever God wills is absolutely the right thing and he will accept everything as God’s holy prasad.
Let us end this article with a few typical prayers uttered by Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa:
- “O mother, I am just a machine; you are the operator. I am the house; you are the dweller. I am the chariot, you are the charioteer. I do as you make me do; I talk as you make me talk; I am not; I am not. It’s you; it’s you”
- “O mother, here is your virtue; here is your vice. Take both and grant me pure love for you. Here is your knowledge; here is your ignorance. Take both and give me pure love for you. Here is your purity; here is your impurity. Take both and give me pure love for you. Here is your dharma and here is your adharma. Take both and give me pure love for you”
- “Mother, I don’t want name and fame; I don’t want the eight occult powers; I don’t want a hundred occult powers. O Mother, I have no desire for creature comforts. Please mother, grant me the pure devotion that I may have pure love for thy lotus feet“.
[Source of Sri Ramakrishna’s prayers: “The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna” – by Ma]