“Pray in any way, for the Lord hears even the footfall of an ant” – Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa
What should I pray for? This is actually a tricky question. I can pray for anything I want. Totally. No holds barred. And I will get what I pray for. May be immediately. If not immediately, definitely in the course of time. But I will not be satisfied when I get what I asked for. I will want more. And pray some more. I will get that also. Again I will not be satisfied. This game goes on for a life-time or many a life-time, seemingly endlessly. At some point I tire of the game and wonder what to pray for. Then I start listening to the advice of the prayer-granter.
The problem with prayer is not the praying part. The problem is it gets fulfilled !
A mother takes care of the needs of her children whether the child asks or not. Divinity is our mother. It takes care of all my needs whether I ask or not. On top of that, after giving what I need and want, It is always asking the question, “What do you want?”, ever ready to fulfill my request, and waiting to see if I will ask what It wants me to ask.
“I give you what you want so one day you will want what I have come to give”, says Sri Sathya Sai Baba. You can replace the name “Sri Sathya Sai Baba” with any name or form that you worship but the efficacy of this teaching and the validity of this assurance remain the same.
“What do you want ?” I hear this question posed to me in my mind incomparably lovingly every waking moment. I know I’ve not been answering this question correctly. Because my desires have increased, selfishness has strengthened and I take more than I give in life. Life is a rat-race, a colleague said the other day. If indeed it’s a rat-race I’m in, what does it make me, I wonder. A rat?
So what is the correct answer to this question “what do you want”?
I look at how others who came before me answered this question and passed the test. May be I can copy their answers !😐
Srimad Bhagavatam, the compendium of devotion, devotees and aspects of divinity compiled by Sage Vyasa, narrates the experiences of several devotees who answered this exact same question, “What do you want?”
- Prahlada said, “Grant me the boon so no wants rise up in my mind” (7.10.7)
- Kunti said, “ As the Ganga flows towards the ocean, may my mind flow in love and attachment to you” (1.8.42)
- Dhruva said, “May I always be in the company of your devotees and strengthen my love for you” (4.9.11)
- Gopis prayed, “Play the sweet music of love in our heart and purify our thoughts. With a pure mind, we can always live with you”
In Mahabharatam, the history book narrated by Sage Vyasa and written by Ganesha,
- Draupadi, facing a most excruciating challenge, prayed, “ Let your will prevail. I surrender to you”
- Arjuna prayed, “Take me as your student. Teach me what is beneficial to me. I surrender to you”
In the Ramayana,
- Sage Vasishta prayed, “Keep me forever in the Love you are”
- Sabari prayed, “ I do not crave for anything else other than to please you”
The vedas offer several prayers, all for the peace and welfare of all beings in all the worlds. They also offer a culminating fundamental prayer “Lead me from the unreal to the Truth, from the darkness of ignorance to the light of knowledge, from mortality to immortality” [asato maa sat gamaya, tamaso maa jyotir gamaya, mrutyor maa amrutam gamaya]
In recent history, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa prayed, “Not I, Not I, O Lord! Only You! I am your servant”
Today, the Dalai Lama prays, “May I dispel the miseries of the world” (Shantideva prayer)
The Divine Mother hears all our prayers, whatever they are. She does not miss even a lonely sigh, a silent thought or the footfall of an ant. This Divinity is nothing but the Selfless Love in me. My selfishness and self-aggrandizement are hiding Its effulgence and robbing me of the peace and bliss that are my due.
This Selfless Love, when It appeared as Sri Krishna, said that all our prayers actually fall into three groups – removal of illnesses, suffering and misery; acquisition of material wealth; acquisition of spiritual knowledge and wisdom. It further said that all prayers, even though they are rooted in selfishness, are good only regardless of the group they fall into. The prayers lead the praying people to It.
Then It said, there is another group of people who do not pray at all…they keep My company and revel in the Beauty, Bliss and Peace that My company confers…these people, the jnaanis, are My dearest of the lot and I am dearest to them.
Those who worship me and do good deeds are of four types. Those with sufferings and illnesses, those seeking spiritual knowledge, those seeking material wealth and those having Me in their vision always, the jnaanis…
Among them, the jnaani, simply excels…I am his most beloved. He is Mine too…
chaturvidaa bhajante maam janaah sukrutinah Arjuna | aarto jingnaasuh arthaarthee jnaani cha bharatarshabha || jnaani visishyate…priyo hi jnaaninah atyartham aham sa cha mama priyah ||[Bhagavad Gita 7.16, 7.17]
So what should I pray for? I must listen to the advice of the prayer-granter. I must seek what the prayer-granter wants to grant me.
I turn to Sri Krishna’s advice again.
Love me in your mind, be devoted to me, sacrifice yourself to me, worship me. Then you can easily be forever in my company.
If you can’t do this, then just surrender to me. I’ll take care of you. Totally.
man manaa bhava mat bhakto mat yaaji maam namaskuru | maam eva ishyasi.. [18.65] maam ekam saranam vraja.. aham tvaa sarva paapebyoho moksham ishyaami… [18.66]
But I demur. Surrender seems like such a big deal, something very difficult to do ! Then this Selfless Love teaches even a simpler thing. It says, God is Love. Live in Love.
This is something I can hang my hat on.
I pray with the selfish motive of fulfilling my wants and desires always. I guess you do the same thing too. But God, whom I pray to, also has a desire. He wants me to fulfill that. He desires a true devotee. He showers so much unconditional love on me… He wants me to love Him.
When I love God, I become more loving, less selfish and more peaceful.
Do I love God? As much as I love wealth, fame, power, popularity, family?
Deiyva preeti. Love God. This is my prayer.