By: Mahant Jay Jaggessur Saheb, December 2nd, 2017
As a child we are taught to do prayers by our Guru, our elders. At that stage, we often just do as instructed, without questioning or understanding the significance of prayers. Even if we ask for explanations, those explanations may not really make sense. As we grow up, we tend to be more inquisitive, and research, and ask questions. If we obtain explanations which make sense, we continue to do what we have been doing. Otherwise, we may just stop doing what we have been doing. So, is it correct to do prayers without knowing its significance? What use do prayers have in our life?
Prayers may mean different things to different people. To start with, the simplest definition of a prayer would be a set of words arranged in a particular order, and with a flow. Generally, they can be in the form of mantras. Therefore those mantras or verses become like a guiding principle for the devotee to follow. Now, the deeper meaning of prayer would be not only the verses or mantras, but the practice of what are stipulated in those verses. Satguru Kabir Saheb stressed on the importance of “thoughts, words and actions”. In other words, our actions should reflect the words we utter and those words should be a translation of our thoughts. Therefore, pure thoughts translate into nice words, which transform into good actions. If we limit ourselves to chanting prayers only, thinking that by so doing we are fulfilling our duty as a spiritual human being, then we are not actually doing prayers. The power of prayers lie in the execution of the verses which are chanted. Simply put, living each and every word that form the verses. Those who understand this concept and implement it, are being faithful to their duty.
Others, who may understand it, but not put it into practice, fail in that duty. A very wealthy merchant, who did not lack any material possession in his life once told his secretary that he was worried his son may not obtain the excellent school results he was expecting of him. The secretary told him that he should not worry, as he sent his son to the best, most expensive school, provided him with all he needed, and also that the son was studious. To this the merchant replied : “ It is true that I have all the means to send my son the best school, buy him the best education, and provide him with everything he needs to achieve good results. However, there is one thing that I have never pushed him to do, and that is prayer, paying respects to the Guru. Other students who have the grace of their Guru can do better than him. This is why I am worried”. The secretary silently thought that if he knew that being graced by the Guru is important, then why did he not pursue that? Satguru Kabir Saheb taught us that:
“Raam Naaam Karuwaa Lage, Meethaa Laage Daam; Duvidhaa Men Dou Gaye, Maayaa Milee Na Raam”
In the face of worldly accomplishments, people prefer to pursue their senses and satisfy their desires. They find that chanting the name of the Lord does not make them as happy – too cumbersome to pray. Being blinded by such confusion, those people ultimately can neither enjoy their worldly accomplishments (because they are temporary), nor are they able to attain God realisation. It is fine to fulfill our worldly responsibilities, but only to the extent that we need to. Our true goal is to realise God and be liberated. The grace of the Guru is not perceptible, but is bound to befall us if we perform our duty. Similarly, the power of prayers is not perceptible, but it is certain to bring its benefits to us. We do not see them because they do not have physical outcomes; rather they transform us spiritually, inside out.
There once was an eight-year old child who asked his grandfather why he was praying every morning, reading the scriptures. The child could not see what the benefit of his grandfather doing daily prayers was. And even he has been following his grandfather doing prayers, reading from the books. He said: “I do not understand the prayers; and if I understand them, very quickly I forget them”. The grandfather, who was putting coal in the fire to heat the house on a wintery day, gave his grandson the empty coal basket, and asked him to go fetch water from a nearby river. The grandson obeyed and went out. On his return, all the water has spilled, because it could not be held by the basket. So, the grandfather told him to try again. Again, the same thing happened. So, the grandson said he would rather use a bucket, to which the grandfather said: “No. You are not trying hard enough. You must be quicker”. And saying this, he came to the door to watch the grandson try harder. Obviously, the grandson could still not bring any water, as the basket would always leak. The grandson said: “You see. This is useless”. The grandfather replied: “It is not useless. Take a look at the basket”. The basket was clean, inside, out. All very clean. The grandson understood that in the same way, by being exposed to prayers every day, people get cleansed inside and out. Just like the basket was.
We may not see the effect or the power of prayer on us because we are looking to see a physical change. But the actual change is a spiritual transformation, which brings us closer and closer to our goal as we are consistent with our prayers.