Prashant's Weblog
Random Brain "Droppings" of yet another software engineer

Monday, January 07, 2008

Why do we pray??

Last week end was not like the usual laze around week end, thanks to my mom who was on "mission Temples". What started as a excursion trip to Mysore and Bandipur was actually a mini-pilgrimage in disguise. Starting with Ranganathaswamy temple, Nimishamba temple, Chamundi temple, Gopalswamy betta, couple of temples inside the Mysore palace, Nanjundeshwara temple, Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Ashrama and the Venkateshwara temple inside the ashram.. The weekend temple dosage was so high that I am like.. Did I ask for that shining new red Ferrari in Nanjundeshwara temple or the Venkateshwara temple? yeah I was that confused soul whose "must have materialistic pleasures" list had gone completely
haywire..shucks!! I forgot to ask for that magic wand to make my boss disappear :(

Anyways when I looked back on the trip in the comfort of my bed back home..I was left with many lingering questions... why do we pray? Whom are we praying to? and as the famous quote from Bible goes

"shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith"

does this
"he shall have whatsoever he saith"
really work or is it like
"he shall have whatsoever he saith*"
* Conditions apply

so with these questions started a conversation, a conversation with myself;

me to myself: Whats a Prayer?
myself to me: Its probably a language for you to interact with this source of energy which when we embody, becomes the one with eternally ebbing spirits, infinite body and immortal life, something we have labeled as the divine. Its a conversation that inspires you, a conversation that reveals the profundity, the gratuity, the fragility of a blessing called Life, which we often tend to ignore because of our preoccupation with "myself" and "my problems".

me to myself: "which we often tend to ignore..."....why would we do that, not appreciate the blessing?
myself to me: probably we don't know to recognize a blessing thats why the indifference or practicalities of life is such that you are forced to construct a facade and hide the real you. Probably that for some extent explains the success of "Second life"

me to myself: So is Prayer like scrubbing the pretense off yourself and looking at the true "Naked" you?
myself to me: Yes, when you strip yourself of the pretense you wear and look at yourself, thats when the real introspection happens. Probably this is the reason prayers are called for when you need to structure your life or need a honest "balance sheet" accounting of your life

me to myself: So whom do we pray to?
myself to me: As mentioned you construe that source of energy by embodying it and calling that entity as God. As you need a recipient for your prayers, the entity called God is not that bad a choice. So you pray God.

me to myself: But who is this God we are talking of anyways and why pray God only?
myself to me: There is probably no answer to that. But for understanding purpose things can be made simpler by looking at this problem in a different perspective. Consider a nuclear fission, you bombard a heavy elements with neutrons, so the question here would be is it worth the effort to find the exact atom of the radio active fuel which would be the first to split thus triggering the nuclear fission? I am sure you agree its wasted effort to find such information(if you can find it in the first place). Why the heck would I bother until I can control the energy generated. So to paraphrase in spite of our ignorance towards some details we are able to meet our objective of harnessing the nuclear power. So if we apply the same logic, we might be ignorant of the fact as to who exactly is this God we are praying to, but like in fission analogy, it might be irrelevant and we will do as good in spite of the ignorance.

me to myself: Why does God have to be this someone with eternally ebbing spirits, infinite body and immortal life, why cant that entity be someone like us, more human to say so that we can relate to him?
myself to me: As said prayer is kind of code review and you would want some one better than yourself to accompany you for this review and as humans are flawed creatures in themselves, it makes sense for us to look-up to someone who is more-than-human, someone who is inscrutable, someone before whom humans feel humbled.

me to myself: When to pray?
myself to me: Hmm..not sure...When you went to the Leh trek and when you saw that stunning beauty of Nature what did you do? You would have some said something on the lines of "thanks lord for making me be here today"..yeah a prayer. What would you do if you were to be on titanic on that fateful day when it sank.."I should have listened to mom and learnt to swim, lord my life jacket"..yeah again a it not just in adversity that we pray but other times too..So I guess whenever you are confronted with events which trigger a passion in you, you pray.

me to myself: How to pray?
myself to me: According to Christianity there are five steps to any prayer praise, thanksgiving, confession, petition and intercession which basically tell you how to pray. Even in Hinduism you will find similar patterns, for example if you take the two most famous prayers

Meaning:O God Ganesh (large bodied with a large belly), radiant as millions of Suns, Please, remove obstacles in all of my tasks all the time

As we can see there is praise(radiance compared to million suns) and petition/Intercession(remove obstacles)

Similarly when we see in

त्र्यम्बकं यजामहे सुगन्धिं पुष्टिवर्धनम्
उर्वारुकमिव बन्धनान्मृत्योर्मुक्षीय मामृतात्
Meaning: We Meditate on the Three-eyed reality. Which permeates and nourishes all like a fragrance. May we be liberated from death for the sake of immortality, Even as the cucumber is severed from bondage to the creeper

Again we can see there is praise(fragrance) and petition/Intercession(liberate us)

This way the conversation is still on with many more questions like whats the significance of silence in a prayer, What are the do's and dont's for petition section of the prayer?, Bible says its fair to ask lord for the food, so on the same lines is it fair to ask for a Ferrari?, Why do we groan/murmur while we pray and why is it that we are not aware(happens at subconscious level) of what we murmur about? why do we close our eyes but not other senses like ears and nose while praying? Whats the significance of posture in a prayer? etc..etc and an attempt to find answers is also on...

Probably my plea for a Ferrari and the Abraka dabra Boss tu hoja disappear magic wand might or might not come through, no regrets either ways, but if the prayers lead me to that critical introspection thus empowering me to appreciate Life better than I do now.. I will ask for no more..I will consider my prayers answered.

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