Yesterday’s The Hindu carried a story of an atheist teacher in Nashik, Maharashtra, who refused to fold his hands in prayer in the school assembly and so invited the wrath of the government-aided school’s management. He has been denied promotions and increments over the years. He is currently fighting his school management’s actions on a constitutional plane through a case in the Bombay High Court.
I have nothing to opine on constitution rights or on religion. But I do want to share what I think and feel about this word/action called “prayer”.
Prayer is often referred to as a religious expression of a wish, or even as a thanksgiving, to a higher energy – “a” God who ostensibly, as many will have us believe, resides outside of us. I too started my Life on such a premise. But over the years, I have come to realize that Life is the highest energy we can all relate to. Because Life is what keeps us alive. If we didn’t have Life we would be dead, won’t we? So, isn’t being alive, living, that too in human form, the greatest of blessings? Why, you or I, or both of us, could have been created as the swine that gives the flu and not as the human who gets the flu? The fact that we have been created human, that we have been ordained with a set of faculties, that work normally in a large mass of us, is a gift. Further, Life is the biggest teacher. Each moment a test is being placed before us. Every test has a lesson that we discover, infer, after we are through with that test. And each lesson is humbling, making us grow and evolve better, through the experience of living and learning. So, in effect, isn’t Life theAlmighty? And so, shouldn’t we bow, even if we find the concept of a ‘third party God’ hard to digest, to Life – in reverence, in gratitude?
In Sanskrit, and in Indian tradition, we are encouraged to greet each other with the word “Namaste”. It is commonly understood, and even used, as “Welcome” or “Good Bye”. But Namaste really means this: “Namah” = Bow in obeisance and “Te” = To you. The scriptures explain the significance and meaning of “Namaste” thus: “The God within me bows to the God within you!”
My understanding is that Life is the God that is resident in each of us. And any prayer must rightfully be to Life. In reverence for the might and beauty of creation and in gratitude for the opportunity to be human – for this lifetime and this experience!