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NOTE: This is one of the most thought provoking, inspiring and illuminating talks of  Prof. Anil Kumar.

Prof. Anil Kumar’s Talk on ‘PRAYERS’ during Deepavali festivals - 2001


Sai Ram.

With Pranams at the Lotus Feet of our Bhagawan,

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

We often look to God in different ways. If we just ask anybody, why do you need God? Do you need God at all? Why? Why do we need Him? How do we approach Him? What is the loss if I do not know anything about God? What is the profit by knowing God? What is the benefit by going to Him? What is the point of contact? What is the contract between us? These are all certain thoughts that come to our mind. In the light of Bhagawan's message, let us discuss this topic this morning.

The point of contact between a devotee and God, the process of contact, is PRAYER. A devotee is in contact with God through the medium of prayer. Prayer is the only means of communication between a devotee and God.

Is it necessary to pray? Why do we pray? Why should we pray? Most often when we pray - let us be very frank - we pray when we are in dire need of Him. A family problem makes me pray to Him. A political ambition makes me pray to Him. Social status, financial gain, success in life, these are all the different things that make me want to pray. We understand prayer to be a submission of requests, a memorandum of appeals, a sort of help towards success.

My friends this, in quintessence, is the real meaning of prayer for most of the people. If you ask the followers of different religions, why do you pray? My father is sick, so I pray to Him. Why do you pray? I want my son to get married. Oh I see. (Even without your prayer, he can get married himself!) But still I want to pray so that he may not make a wrong choice. In other words, the marriage problem is the situation that prompts me to pray. I applied for a job and I appeared for interviews. But still I prayed to Him that I might get a good job. 'O God, Thou art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. We want you to help me. This is my problem, O God. Please help me!' This is the sort of prayer made by the followers of all religions. But, spiritually speaking, that is a prayer made out of utter and total selfishness, utter social selfishness. 'I am selfish. I want to win the election. So I pray to Him.'

We have one god (Lord Venkateshwara in Tirupati) here in our country and we pray to Him, 'O God, I will offer You my hair if my son gets a seat in the engineering college!' God, who is responsible for your hair, need not wait for a return of the same hair! We have brought down God to the level of the hair! (It is also a nice bargain because you don't lose anything: just wait for 15 days to have the hair grow back again!) In other words, prayer has become a sort of business. 'I offer You ten coconuts in the temple if I get a promotion.' Or, ' I offer You twenty-five coconuts, if I get couple of Lakhs of my hundreds of thousands of profit in my business.' Twenty-five coconuts may not cost you 100 rupees in exchange for hundreds of thousands of rupees of profit! Ah-ha, that's wholesale business! We want to bribe God. We want to please Him with our hair or coconut or types of flowers in exchange for promotions, marriages, positions, or mansions.

But you see God is not that poor of a businessman! He knows calculations! He's also Manager of the Universe. We know only business management, MBA. But He knows the management of the whole Universe! He's the Manager of the Cosmos. He knows the value that you attach in these sorts of prayers.  In other words, today prayer has become a business transaction. Prayer is business today as we do it. We have reduced prayer to the level of need-oriented - an emergency situation: 'My relative is in the hospital!  I pray to You, God, please rush immediately from Heaven. See to it that he will be healthy. You may be busy, but I'm not worried. My relation's in the hospital!  Rush immediately!  Shall I make You an ISD (international) call now?' (God is so secure that He has no phone contacts. Good! Or else, had He had a phone number, He should have had to have a receiver all over His body in order to receive all such calls!) 

So the point is, our prayer is only need-oriented. Prayer has become just a call of necessity. Prayer has become a matter of business today, utterly and totally selfish. Can I call it 'prayer'? Can I call myself 'religious'? Can I claim to be 'spiritual'? Selfishness and spirituality are opposite poles. Actually speaking, selfishness and religion can never go together. Selfishness and spirituality are opposite poles, one positive and the other negative. Such prayers are completely selfish.

So what is prayer?  What does Bhagawan say about it? Why should we pray? What are the wider implications, the deeper significance of prayer? Let us try to investigate this topic of prayer this morning to the extent to which Baba prompts me from within to share with you. Prayer to begin with is humility. Prayer is humility. Yes, I very well remember what had happened in my school days. I was in the 12th class. I was asked to offer prayer on the college school anniversary day, School Day. On that School Day function, I was asked to pray. I learned by heart Rabindranath Tagore prayer, "Where the mind is without fear, where the knowledge is free." That's what I read at that time. "Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit." I learned it by heart.  An hour before the function, my class teacher called me. "Are you ready?" "Yes, Sir!" "Come on, repeat now." "Where the mind is without fear, where the knowledge is free...” That's what I said. He heard me patiently and then he said, "This is not prayer." "What, Sir! This is prayer! What more could be prayer?" He said, " You are praying as if you have caught hold of the collar of God, 'Where the mind without fear, where the knowledge is free...'. This is violent prayer. This is prayer out of pressure. It cannot be called a prayer by any sense at all." Then he told me, "As you pray, there should be humility. As you pray, there should be reverence. As you pray, it carries with it a note of adoration, a worshipfulness, respect. But when you pray, 'Where the mind without fear...', your voice is not in anyway prayerful." That is the first lesson I have learned from him. Since then I have understood that I cannot be loud in my prayers, that I cannot be rough and tough or harsh while in prayer.  So, my friends, what is prayer?

Prayer is humility. The one who is not humble is not prayerful. He may offer prayer, but he is not prayerful. Prayer is not reading and shouting loudly. Most often we want to pray loudly so that everybody will know that we are a devotee because 'devotee' has become a status symbol now. So, 'Oh, let me say it loudly so that people will consider me a religious man, a good man, a reliable man,' (though not true!). So we often do that. A man of humility only can offer a true prayer.  Ego and arrogance have no place in this beautiful, wonderful act of prayer. Prayer is humility. 

Prayer is submission: 'O Lord, Swami, I pray that I'll be an instrument in Thy Hands. I am only an instrument in Your hands, Bhagawan. I do not take credit for anything.' If I am successful as a surgeon, yes! Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! If I am successful as a teacher, Hallelujah! Hail the Lord! Praise the Lord! So, everything goes as praises to the Lord. I don't have any claim because I am only an instrument. The mike cannot claim the quality of the speech. It is only an instrument to magnify or amplify the sound. That's all. Similarly, prayer is submission, meaning, 'O God! I submit myself in Your Hands as an instrument.' But we should be worthy instruments. A doctor cannot work with instruments that are full of dust and rust. The instruments must be sterilized. The instruments must be clean enough so as to be used in the Operation Theater. Prayer is submission where we make ourselves worthy of the Divine Mission.

Once somebody said, "O God! I dedicate my life. I offer my life to Your Hands!" One gentleman spoke along those lines when Bhagawan was there in Kodaikanal. He went on saying, "I dedicate my life. I give my life." Swami heard patiently because Patience is Swami. Swami is Patience. He's patient enough to bear with us. He is patient enough to bear with all our lapses and misgivings and mistakes. So now at the end of the talk of that gentleman, Bhagawan said, "You dedicate your life to Me? Do you know what is meant by dedication?" That man said, "Swami, I offer myself unto You!" "I see. First own your life first. Do you think that this body belongs to you? No! Are you the owner of this body? No! Why? You see that which you should not. You hear that which you should never hear. You think of that which you are not supposed to. You visit those places, which should not be visited. So, the senses are not under your control. The body is not under your control. And yet you say, 'I dedicate my body to You, God!' How can you offer another man's property as a gift to someone else? If I take your watch and say, 'I offer it to you as my gift,' something is wrong with me. You should have authority. You should have every claim on that. You should be an 'owner' to dedicate. You should be an 'owner' to commit. You should be an 'owner' to donate.  Without any ownership, without any claim on that, 'I offer myself...’. No, no, no! First, assess yourself whether you are an owner or not. When can you be an owner? When you can control your sight, when you can control your audition. So prayer is submission, meaning, claim the ownership first. Be the owner, be the master of your body, of your life. Prayer: 'I submit this life unto Thy Hands, my Lord. O Lord, I submit my life unto Your Hands as an instrument for the fulfillment of Your Mission, O God! Make use of me.' That should be the prayer. Prayer is submission. Third point is prayer is surrender.

Prayer is surrender. But do we really surrender as we pray? No. Our prayers are conditional. 'If I don't get through the examination, I will not go to the church for a year to come! I will not see the face of God in the temple. Let Him start missing me at least. Let Him miss me for some time! I am not going to live with this, my Lord, if You fail me in the examination!' If everything is OK, we are prayerful. Or else our attitude is 'Thank you and goodbye!'. This is not prayer. Prayer is surrender. What do you mean by surrender? In Lord's Prayer we say, "Thy Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven." Not your will or my will. After all my friends, if we submit ourselves into the Hands of God with the total spirit of surrender, unconditionally, do whatever You want. certainly we'll be on the positive side! No doubt you are going to be beneficiary out of this spirit of render. Prayer is surrender. The result may be positive or negative. You may pass in the examination or fail. You may be profited in the business or you may be put to total loss. But prayer is prayer. Preparedness, readiness for anything that might happen in life, preparedness for anything, be it failure or success, defeat or victory, whatever that might happen, is real prayer in the strict sense. 

'So why should I pray, if whatever is meant to happen is going to happen?' That may be your question. 'Why should I pray after all? Whatever is bound to happen will happen! Why waste our time? Why? If whatever is going to happen is certain, why should I pray?' We pray only to give us the spirit to bear any suffering, the courage to bear all situations or eventualities, and the spirit of preparedness, to accept success and all positive things in life in all humility. Yes, that is preparing psychologically or mentally to meet all situations, both positive and negative. That is prayer.

A prayerful man is never frustrated in life. A prayerful man is never egoistic in life because he knows, 'Thy Will be done on Earth as it is God has got His own Master Plan. Things happen according to His Master Divine Plan. It will happen. What He wills, will happen, not what we choose or what we prefer. So prayer is a preparation to meet any situation, not a choice or a preference. 'I pray to You, God, in anticipation of my success in the examination.' No, no, that's not prayer! 'I pray to You, God, in expectation of cure, or at least payment if the small medical bills, if not the heavy medical bills.' That's not prayer! Prayer is only a preparation to meet any challenges in life, that way or this way. There's one character from Bhagavata. He is a little boy by the name of Prahlada. Unfortunately in his family, he's a devotee and his father is a real non-devotee! Opposition parties in the same family. It happens in every family! When the father is a devotee, the mother is not. When the mother is a devotee, the father is dead against it. When both of them are devotees, the children are on the street! This has been a problem not only now. This has been there then also. We are very much confused thinking that it is only our problem. No, no, no. It is the problem of everyone everywhere since ages.

Now the point is that this little boy unfortunately had his father as the opposition leader, questioning him all the time. The son says that there is God. Father says that there is no God. The son wants to pray to God. But the father wants him to pray to him only, not to anybody else. "Better you pray to me. That's enough. Why God?" This has been a constant conflict, inciting disturbances and much agitation. The father is driven to a situation so as to take it as a challenge. "After all, a nursery school fellow! When the whole world is at my beck and call, when all the stars and the planets and the sun and moon, the seasons, the five elements, are all under my control, the dirty tiny tot, an urchin, a nursery school fellow, how dare he says 'No!' to me!?! When everybody prays to me out of fear, this boy says, 'Nothing doing. I pray to God'! What's wrong with him???" The father took it as a challenge. He sent Prahlada to schooling under able senior, experienced professors. Prahlada converted those teachers also into devotees! "See, education is useless!" Now the father resorted to violent methods. He has thrown Prahlada from the mountaintops. He has allowed elephants to trample him with their feet. The boy was bitten by snakes, but yet he survived all tests and challenges! Bhagawan often recites one poem about this story. What does that poem say? This young boy, Prahlada, never shouted, "Help me! Help me! Help!" No, no, no, no. He did not ask for an ambulance to be brought there. He did not shout for cab or police people to come to his rescue. No, no, no. Or first aid to be brought. Nothing. He was only singing the Glory of God, "Narayana, Narayana, Narayana!" He went on singing the Glory of God. He never cried for help. He never cried due to any suffering. He never said, "This is my state. O God, are You blind? Why don't You see me? Are You blind? Don't You see me being thrown from the mountain top? Don't You see me being thrown into the fire? What happened to You???" He didn't say that. He only went on saying, "Narayana, Narayana, Narayana" prayer. What happened? This prayer made Narayana to be at Prahlada's beck and call, just as when an officer rings the calling bell, the peons will come running saying, "Yes Sir, what can I do for you?" God has become this boy's servant because the boy went on repeating His Name. He's ready to help Prahlada at any time. Before the father threw Prahlada from the mountaintop, God was already there to catch him. Something like a cricket ball caught by the players there! God was ready to catch him so that he'll not be injured. If the boy is injured, it is a matter of insult to God, not to the boy. When the boy is thrown into the ocean, God was already there with His outstretched Hands, just to keep him afloat so that he would not sink and drown. When Prahlada was thrown into the fire, His Hands already were there, lifting the boy above the fire, so that he was not burnt. Therefore my friends, this prayer of simply the repetition of His Name unconditionally will save us at any and every point of time. We don't have to ask Him. This is the efficacy and greatness of prayer.  Bhagawan tells repeatedly in most of His Discourses about this beautiful example of Prahlada, who simply chanted His Name, never mentioning his sufferings, never mentioning the scorching heat. He never mentioned the burning sensation. He never mentioned the body pain, though he was put to all these kinds of suffering. He was only chanting His Name. That is what we call 'prayer is surrender'. "I'm ready, God! If You want to test me, OK, I'm ready!"  Yes! Prayer is surrender. Prayer is humility. Prayer is submission. And then prayer gives bliss.

Prayer is bliss. What is bliss? Bliss is not a worldly matter. Bliss is not a worldly feeling. Bliss is not a physical object. Bliss is not a psychological state of mind. Bliss is a non-dual, spiritual state where one is above success or failure. He's above pain or pleasure. He's above profit or loss. That is, the non-dual state is bliss. We often confuse bliss for happiness. No. Happiness is worldly, while bliss is spiritual. So, that spiritual height, bliss, is prayer and prayer is bliss. Prayer is for bliss and prayer is bliss. Prayer is to take you to bliss. Prayer is to be blissful. Prayer is to enjoy bliss because bliss is prayer and prayer is bliss. That's what should be. And then what else is prayer?

Prayer is a total dependence or reliance in God. My friends, we depend on people. We depend on electronic gadgets. We depend on electricity. Therefore, we often get power failure! We depend on people. Therefore people become traitors. They betray us. We depend on money. But that would not come to our rescue when we are in danger or any trouble. Many things cannot be purchased. Many things cannot be acquired by money. Please understand this. We depend on many, many, many undependable people and undependable objects.  Prayer wants you to depend on God. Prayer wants you to repose faith in God. Prayer wants you to rely on God, not on people, nor objects, nor on the world. When once we depend on God through prayer, it is His responsibility to take care of us. It doesn't matter even if we falter. It doesn't matter even if we just overstep. It doesn't matter even if we overdo certain things. A simple example as Baba has given: A child was walking along with the mother. The mother caught hold of the hand of the child and she was taking the child around the garden for an evening walk. While they were walking like that, a strong, grown-up boy came and said, looking at the child, "Hey! I'll beat you! Take care!" He said it just in fun. The child also said, "Come on! I will also kick you!" How can a child fight with a grown-up boy? The child said, "I am ready to fight with you!" Why? How? "My mother is here. I am safe. Come on. I'll beat you, you useless fellow!" Because he caught hold of the hand of the mother, he is ready to challenge any grown-up boy! Similarly, prayer is what we call absolute dependence on God, total dependence on God. Let whatever things happen! He will take care of me! That kind of assurance should be there.

A simple example comes from John Hislop, whose name is quite familiar among Sai devotees. He came to Puttaparthy long back. (Of course he made repeated visits here. I am just narrating one experience out of many he had.) He wanted to attend Sivarathri. He started his journey in his car. While the car was going ahead towards Puttaparthy, it broke down in the middle of the thick forest. Some problem was there. He got down out of the car. 'I should be there by tomorrow morning for Darshan time. What an awful situation it is! This car broke down in the middle of the way! What am I to do?' He got ready. He owns a car there in his place. He wanted to repair it himself. He got his clothes spoiled, but he could not repair the car. He wanted to put all the screws and nuts and bolts and check up everything. He could not fix it. He called for the help of some other people. They too helped by pushing it, thinking that it could then pick up some speed. It did not move an inch! Well, he was fed up! ONLY THEN, he started praying to Bhagawan, "Sai Ram, Sai Ram!" (In case of emergency, dial number 100, the Control Room! It's the Control Room, don't you know that!?!) So he started saying, "Sai Ram, Sai Ram!" (Number 100!) "Emergency!" Immediately at that time a lorry was speeding that way. A lorry was coming. The lorry driver got down from the truck and said, "May I help you?" "Yes! This is my problem." He got down and repaired it. Hislop said, "Thank you" and that truck driver left that place. When Hislop was about to pay some money, he did not find the truck nor the driver there. They vanished! He reached here on time and he sat there for Darshan. Swami was passing by. He said, "Thank you, Bhagawan! Somebody came, a driver came, and helped me so I could be here in time." Swami said, "Driver? I am your driver. I am the driver! Why do you say 'driver'? I am the driver!" (Hislop:) "Oh, Swami!" Then Bhagawan went and stopped and looked behind and said, "Had you called for the driver earlier, you would have been here one hour before! You would have been here one hour before! You called for Me in the end, one hour or two hours later! What can I do?! I was waiting there. You never called for Me. You wanted to repair it all by yourself. All right. Manage, manage. I have other people to look to." So my friends, prayer is total dependence on God. Like the child, our business is to clasp and to hug Him so that He would land you to a safer place because in His Hands you are quite safe and secure. That's the reason we say, 'O Father! O Father! O Divine Father!' meaning it is the duty of the father to take care of His children. Their security and the protection, they are His duties towards His children. Therefore, prayer is total dependence.

Prayer is a process. Prayer is timeless. Some people say before taking food, "Now let us pray. Let us pray. Shall we say a prayer?" Oh I see. The rest of the day what are you doing? Some people say, "My prayer time is six to seven." Oh-ho, and the rest of the time? "My prayer time is three to four." No, no. Prayer is timeless. We can continue to pray. 'Everywhere all the time think of Me!' Thinking of God all the time, everywhere, is prayer. So my friends, prayer cannot be brought within the framework of time. Prayer is timeless. Timelessness is prayer. But we condition prayer to a day: "Sunday is the day of my prayer." What are the rest of the days? What happens to the rest of the days? "Friday is my prayer" or "Thursday is my prayer." Horrible! No, no. Prayer is continuous. Prayer is one of continuity to Eternity! Prayer is not for the moment. Prayer is not at the moment. Prayer is not a particular place at a given point of time. Prayer is a continuous process. Prayer is timeless. Prayer is beyond time and space. There's no particular place for prayer to be offered. "Sir, I have got a puja room.:" Oh, I see. There you pray? Outside? Play cards? Rest of the rooms, drink alcohol? What do you mean? Every inch is a place, an altar. Every inch, every step is altar, a holy shrine for God to reside in and receive your prayers. So yes, prayer is timeless.

Prayer is beyond space, which has to go on while the breath continues. That's what Bhagawan says. "Faith in God is your Swaasa, your breath." So when should you pray? Until breath stops! How long should you pray? Until you stop breathing. Where should you pray? Until you continue to breathe. So prayer is timeless, spaceless, a continuous, eternal process not limited by time or space.

Prayer is personal. That's the reason why in the Holy Bible it is clearly said, "When you pray there at the crossroads loudly, God is not going to hear. God is not going to hear your prayers where you shout at the crossroads because you want the public to know that you are a spiritual man. You want the recognition of society that you are a spiritual, religious man. Prayer is not exhibition. Prayer is not pomp. Prayer is not show. Prayer is simplicity. Prayer is personal. In a discourse Swami narrated how he had saved the life of Sri Rajendran (Kodai Care taker), who was very much present at the moment in life? Please understand this. God is so intimate. God is so near. God is so dear. He will take you into His confidence. We can just share whatever happens. Prayer is personal. Bhajan is collective. Singing Bhajans is collective, meaning in a community. But prayer is personal, where you alone open your heart to Him, "O God, this is the thing." And you talk to Him openly. A simple example: Some of the people who are privileged to have interviews tell, "Swami, I have committed a mistake. It's my mistake, I admit, Bhagawan. Please excuse me." (Swami), "Eh! Past is past. Forget about it. Past is past. Why you go into it? Finished! Don't bother about it!" Why? God forgives. But man never forgives. Man remembers into the next life also! He'll follow you, if possible! Man never forgives! If there is anyone who forgives unconditionally, He is God. 'There are certain things I have done which I don't want others to know.' God will protect your dignity. He will uphold your respect. 'There are certain things which I can't tell everybody because I'll be put to shame.' No man is prepared to be put to shame. No man is prepared to be humiliated. No one is prepared to be insulted. 'But there are certain things which I have done that would put me to shame, insult and humiliation. With whom else can I confide other than God? Prayer is personal, which you can tell to Him. And God will take care of you.

A simple example: (These are all from Swami's Discourses.) There was one scholar who was very much appreciated by the king. He was very much appreciated and patronized. He was always in the forefront. The king used to praise this scholar, "You're a great man." Scholarship is competition. Scholarship is ego. Scholarship is pride. So among scholars, there will be no unity. Among scholars, you don't find any understanding. Scholars will not agree. They agree to disagree because scholarship makes them so egoistic that it will not allow them to agree with anybody. Even if you say, "There is broad daylight", another scholar will say, "It could be much better." If you say, "It is cloudy" he will say, "Yesterday it was much more." The scholarship will not allow him to agree with you. So, many scholars started hating him because this scholar was patronized, especially preferred and praised by the king, which is natural. Other scholars went to his house. "Do you think that you are a great man? Do you think that you are unique? Come on, we challenge you! Let us argue now on this issue. Come forward with your knowledge. Come forward with your scholarship. Let us see who will win in this debate." Who is a scholar? A true scholar is one who has equal-mindedness, the spirit of equality, the balanced state of mind, with no feeling of superiority, with no complex whatsoever. He is a scholar in the true sense of the term. This man got up and said, "Sir, I accept defeat in your hands. Let me not argue with you. You think that I am a scholar. I do not know whether I am a scholar or not. The king likes me. I don't know why. I know you are greater than me. Why I was patronized, I do not know! Please leave me. I accept my defeat in your hands." Further, the scholar went to the extent of saying, "I will give you in writing, in black and white, OK? And then put it in a sealed envelope. You can show it to the king so that he will not look at my face next time; so that he will encourage you; so that he will patronize you; so that you will get into his sight; so that you would be near him. The scholars were very happy. This man wrote on paper, "O Lord, I lost in the hands of the rest of the scholars. I am nothing in front of them." He gave that letter signed, and put it in a sealed envelope. "Show to the king," he said. That evening everybody assembled, including this man. "O King, you think this scholar is a great man? No! He surrendered. Do you know that? He is, after all, nothing in front of us. He gave it in writing." The king said, "All right, read that letter." They opened the cover, took out the letter, and read that letter. What was written there? "O King, all these pundits are defeated by me! I won this morning. This is for your information." In fact he had given that letter, accepting his defeat, in the beginning. The whole letter is rewritten by God Himself! The letter is rewritten by God Himself because the prestige of the devotee is the prestige of God. The dignity of a devotee is the dignity of God. The respect of a devotee is the respect of God because there is no difference between you and Him. Therefore God will certainly uphold your dignity, your prestige. He'll never allow you to be humiliated. He will never allow anyone to be put to shame at any point of time. Prayer is personal. I can take Him into my confidence and tell Him all that has been happening in the screen of my life, in the vistas of my life, along the firmament of my life, across the horizon of my life. I pray with all the diffidence, with all the regret and repentance, because prayer will make God to forgive me. Forgiveness is Divine. Revenge is human. Vengeance is bestial. So when once you consider prayer as personal, God is ready to forgive. Then from all these steps we have to go further.

Bhagawan said, "Prayer is togetherness." Prayer is not isolation. Prayer is not aloneness. Prayer is not solitude. Prayer is togetherness. What is togetherness? You must be seeing and listening to the prayer given before the Divine Discourses on all occasions there in Prashanthi Nilayam. A few boys come and recite a few slokas. (Anil Kumar recites a Sanskrit prayer frequently chanted.) What does it mean? They are not meaningless mantras. They are not mantras simply learnt by heart and repeated verbatim. They have got depth. They are pregnant with depth. They have got profound meaning. What does it say? The opening stanzas, the opening prayer before the commencement of the Divine Discourse conveys this message:

Let us move together. Let us grow together, one another. Let us move together and grow in intellect. Let us grow together along the path of wisdom, in intelligence. As we grow together, let us move together without misunderstanding, without conflict, without fighting. Let us grow in strength. Let us grow in affluence, in plenty and prosperity. Let us grow in strength and friendship.

That is the opening prayer. Prayer is togetherness. Prayer is living together, growing together, being considerate towards one another, and showing concern for others. That is prayer. A man of prayer has always concern for others. My friends, most of you must be familiar with Bhagawan’s beautiful definition of 'culture'. It was Eliot who said, "Way of life is culture." Eliot's definition, a famous writer of English literature, he said, "Culture is a way of life." But Bhagawan Baba has said - He has gone a step further - He said, "Concern for others is culture." When I sit there in Darshan line, if I go on pushing everybody, I'm uncultured. If I don't allow you to see, I'm uncultured. If I am a block in front of you, I'm uncultured. If I'm not decent enough, if I am not disciplined, I am uncultured. Therefore, concern for others is culture. Prayer is growing together, growing together in harmony, in unity, in perfect understanding. We are all fellow pilgrims along the same pilgrim path, in the same process of pilgrimage. We are all on pilgrimage towards God at the pilgrim center of Prashanthi Nilayam. We are all fellow travelers. That is a prayer.

Prayer is universal. What do I mean? Towards the end of Bhajans, what do we say? "Loka Samastha Sukino Bhavantu." Our prayer is not absolutely individual. Our prayer is not absolutely limited to personal gain. But yet it is universal: Loka Samastha Sukino Bhavantu. I don't pray for the prosperity of India, for the prosperity of Andhra Pradesh, for the prosperity of Puttaparthy, for the prosperity of me alone. It is not prayer! No, no, no, no.  God has got 'filter paper' to filter out nonsensical, whimsical prayers! (Anil Kumar jokes:) That's why He adjusts His hair quite often! His crown of hair serves as a filter not to permit in such prayers. He permits that which should be permitted, not all the nonsense. So nicely He adjusts His hair! "Start the prayer..." So beautiful to look at that scene. When the wind god is anxious to touch Him, this God adjusts the hair as it begins to toss either way like the sunflower or the daffodils moving along with the music of the wind, exactly to the beat of the wind. Right? Music is there in the wind. Why not? There is music in the sound. So, as the flowers are tossed, His hair also tosses, He adjusts this 'filter paper' so as not to hear false prayers, selfish prayers, brutal prayers, or violent prayers.

What do you mean by violent prayer? Most of you must have been seeing newspapers recently. A famous film actor has been abducted or kidnapped by a gangster named Veerappan. Newspapers say he prays every day. 'Oh-ho, you pray so that you can successfully kidnap some more? You pray so that you can successfully kill as many as you want?' That is violent prayer, harmful prayer.  So in a universal prayer like Loka Samastha Sukino Bhavantu, Loka means the entire universe. This means it is not only for humanity, but also for the animal world, for the plant world, for the mineral world, for the whole universe. 'O God, You have manifested in the form of matter, in the form of a plant, in the form of an animal, in the form of a human being. Yes! Let the entire creation, let the whole of the Universe, be happy, and be comfortable.' That prayer is universal. 

My friends, prayer has got a multi-dimensional approach, a multi-dimensional purpose, a multi-dimensional benefit. Prayer has to be viewed from that standpoint or point-of-view. It is not a telegram sent in a state of emergency! Nor is it merely shouting.  Somebody was once praying to God, "God, you should help me!" A modern man with the latest computer education, a man of science and technology, who is abreast of all laser sciences, he came and said, "You are praying to God. I hear your voice. But do you think God will hear your voice? Where is God? I hear your prayer. But do you think God will hear your prayer? Where is He? How long is He? How distant is He?"  Then this first man said, "God is at that distance as to hear my voice. To the extent that my voice reaches Him, He is there. If my voice could reach that distance, He'll be there. So the distance between God and me is the same as the sound that could travel to that distance. The sound that could be heard, to that extent God locates Himself!" 

So my friends, these are all the different aspects of prayer which should elevate us from level to level. As we pray and pray and pray, what is the end of prayer? What is the end of prayer? To become prayer yourself! Then you do not exist. Only prayer remains. 'I pray to God.' There are three: I am here. God is there. Prayer is in between. Pray and pray until 'I' does not exist. I am no more. Only prayer remains. That state of loss of entity, that state of loss of identity, that state of disappearance of my name and form, where God only exists in the prayer, when I am no more, that is the end of prayer. The end of prayer is prayer. There's one character in Holy Bible: Eleisha. He prayed and prayed and became prayer himself. Like that, we must pray and pray such that prayer remains and we disappear.

May Bhagawan bless you. Before I take leave of you, let me convey my Deepavali Greetings to all our friends here. Deepavali is a holy festival where the lighting of the lamps take place all over. The lamps are lit everywhere. Deepavali is a day of darkness. You don't find any moon that night. It is pitch dark in the night. Then we light the candles. It only means we are in the darkness of attachment. We are in the darkness of delusion. We are in the darkness of ignorance. We are in the darkness of bondage. We are in the darkness of the world. We are in the darkness of lust and greed. We are in the darkness of anger. So, we are in this darkness of suffering. We are in the darkness of considering ourselves only matter, only physical. On Deepavali, the festival of the lighting of the lamp, we travel from darkness towards the light. That light is knowledge. That light is spirituality. That light is wisdom. That light is effulgence, Self-luminous, Self-radiant. The Self-luminous, the Self-radiant light is your own spirit. Your own spirit is the light and the delight to the entire world.  Deepavali is the day of travel from darkness towards light. That's the reason why every shrine of every religion will have lights. There in a church, we light the candle. The candles are kept there at the altar. 'O God, allow me to travel along the path of light.'  So Deepavali is the day, a celebration of light, the light of knowledge, the light of discrimination, the light of the spirit, the light of consciousness, the light of wisdom, the light that takes you towards the goal or objective of life, cut off from the darkness of the mundane, ephemeral, momentary life of selfishness, cut off from the life of darkness. The lighting of the lamp represents the purification and the identification of the mind with light, so that the Self-effulgent, brilliant Self-light would shine forth and spread everywhere.

May Bhagavan bless you on this Holy Day of Deepavali.

Sai Ram!




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