Being prayerful is being mindful!


Being prayerful means being alive to the moment. It is not about rituals, hymns and mantras. It is about being thankful for this lifetime and this experience __ as you are living it__at this precise moment!

A lot of time, resources, effort, spirit, and even money, gets invested in trying to be pious. People simply lose their way, their focus and, at times, even their sanity looking for ways to reach “a” God. The mandarins of religion only complicate matters, confounding already confused souls, by championing the concepts of sin, hell and heaven. So the whole industry of religion works on inducing fear in vulnerable minds. Nothing can be more sinful than making God seem unattainable, unwieldy and distant__that too through, and despite, prayer!

First let me share an interesting Zen story I came across that demystifies and demolishes this whole concept of hell and heaven.

Hakuin, the fiery and intensely dynamic Zen Master, was once visited by a Samurai warrior.
“I want to know about heaven and hell,” said the Samurai. “Do they really exist?” he asked Hakuin.

Hakuin looked at the soldier and asked, “Who are you?”

“I am a Samurai,” announced the proud warrior.

“Ha!,” exclaimed Hakuin. “What makes you think you can understand such insightful things ? You are merely a callous, brutish soldier ! Go away and do not waste my time with your foolish questions,” Hakuin said, waving his hand to drive away the Samurai.

The enraged Samurai couldn’t take Hakuin’s insults. He drew his sword, readied for the kill, when Hakuin calmly retorted, “This is hell.

The soldier was taken aback. His face softened. Humbled by the wisdom of Hakuin, he put away his sword and bowed before the Zen Master.
And this is heaven,” Hakuin stated, just as calmly.

Another Hakuin Zen story
I don’t think any scripture can simplify these concepts to the extent this simple story has. Being humble, humane and bowing to the God ‘within’ others makes us loving, compassionate and awakens us to the ‘God’ within us too! Being vengeful, unforgiving and refusing to respect another Life makes us miserable and causes all our suffering! So, now you know what is causing you a hellish experience and what can heave you up to ‘your’ heaven!

The question we need to ask ourselves is, of what use are all the religious rituals that we conduct monotonously and mindlessly when we are not mindful of Life’s gifts__the grace, abundance, blessings in our lives__ itself and we continue to still worry, fear and agonize over what the unknown future holds for us?

I am reminded of a conversation that I had with our family priest a few years ago. A self-confessed champion of piety, who called himself a ‘strict Brahmin’, he came to me asking for career advice for his son who was looking to join an IT services company after completing his undergraduate studies in software engineering. He explained that his son had been selected by a leading software company through campus interviews. Yet he claimed he was worried. Our conversation went somewhat like this:

Me: Why are you worried Sir?

Him: I don’t know if IT companies can offer job security the way the government can!

Me: Why would you, a faithful servant of the Lord, for years now, be insecure __ and want to seek security in a government job?

Him: Sir, how can God guarantee job insecurity?

Me: What is God there for then if HE/SHE can’t guarantee you security?

Him: Sir, velayadathengo! Don’t pull my leg, Sir! God can’t come and tell me that my son’s future is assured!

Me: If God can’t tell you that, the one who has direct access to HIM/HER, who else can reach God? Why do you pray then?

Him: Sir, praying to God is my profession. I still need something else to tell me that my Life is on track and that my family and I will be secure!

With due apologies to my family priest, I must confess that this is the problem with praying mindlessly. That ‘something else’ which my priest was looking for__and I hope he found it in his own way subsequently__is ‘mindfulness’. When you are mindful of the present moment, and are grateful for it, that would be prayer enough that would make you realize God!

You will then find God in this blessing__that you have to access facebook and are  able to read a post. You will find God when you feel the air in your lungs. You will find God in the sunrises and sunsets that happen outside your window every single day without fail. You will find God in a child’s smile, in leaves rustling in the night breeze, in a cow mooing and in a dew drop! You will find God in every form of creation that you connect with. You will find God in each moment. And then you will understand and value what being prayerful is all about. You will then realize that such true prayer, of living in the moment, alone can lead you to bliss!

Love yourself to find your God within you!


What you fear will enslave you and what you love will liberate you!

 

You often hear people referring to themselves or others as “god-fearing”. Last night I saw an electronic billboard outside a place of worship that read: “The Fear of God is the Beginning of Wisdom”! Nothing can be more untrue.

What kind of a God is it that wants you__or me__to be fearful? Religion and its self-serving propagators have turned God into a mega-brand that is propped up so that it earns them (the propagators) money and keeps them powerful. The 2012 superhit Hindi film ‘OMG – Oh My God!’, directed by Umesh Shukla and starring Paresh Rawal and Akshay Kumar, satirically and successfully, challenged the popular concept of God, as the religions and its leaders want us to believe. The movie had an unputdownable awakening feel to it. A Rediff review of the film summed up its message: “A brave and absorbing blend of satire, fable and fantasy that brings our attention to the misuse and commercialization of religion.”

This is indeed true. The most corrupt institutions in society today are the ones that engage with and thrive on religion. The people who run them have their followers in their stranglehold by playing up concepts of sin, retribution and divine punishment. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844~1900), the German philosopher, busted this whole God theory rather forcefully. He declared, ‘God is dead. Now man is free.” Understand this in a less debatable context. You see a snake at your feet. And you freeze, fearing it. You can’t think of anything else but your imminent death. Is the snake scaring you or your thought of it scaring you, crippling you? Anybody who understands snakes will tell you that they don’t harm UNLESS they are harmed. So, if you replace your fear with love and move away slowly you will be free. But no, you will stay frozen, not so much grounded by the snake, but by your fear of the snake! The same argument applies in the context of God. When every scripture (not religion) champions love, compassion and surrender__to the moment, to Life__how and why do we buy this absurd logic of fearing a God? Fear cripples. Debilitates. Love frees, liberates. How can you fear God and be free? When you fear a God__you will be dying every moment that you are alive. You will be enslaved by superstitions, rituals, dogmas and will be looking for an, unavailable, approval of each of your actions. Which is also the reason why you are plagued by anxiety, worry, grief, suffering and stress, DESPITE your being so God-fearing! The irony is that you are suffering only because you are God-fearing! If you are God-loving, your suffering will disappear. Think about it. You were born free. And in your infancy lived free. Don’t you realize that if you have stopped being free it is your fear of God that has made you so?

Swami Sathya Sai Baba explains this so beautifully: “Everyone is God. But some are unconscious of their divinity and are conscious only of the body-state, some are partly conscious of it and a few are fully God-conscious. Complete self-surrender and unquestioning love becomes possible when man achieves unswerving faith. Once God is realized there is no question of faith at all, just as there is no question of faith when a man knows himself to only be a man.” Note here that the faith that Swami refers to here is faith in Life __ that if you have been created, you will be looked after, provided for. And he talks of surrender to the Self, not to some external entity __ living or otherwise!

 

 

Drop all your fears. Recognize the value in loving the God you so desperately seek. You cannot find that God by seeking, searching, running from one place of worship to another. Or by wearing stones and rings on your fingers. Or by fasting and abstaining. You can and will find your God only when you find yourself. The word enthusiasm comes from the Greek language. ‘entheos’, in Greek, meaning enthusiasm, is a combination of two Greek words: ‘en’ (within) and ‘theos’ (God). ‘entheos’ therefore means ‘the God within’. So, be enthusiastic about Life. Love the Life source within you. That is your God. One whom you don’t need to fear at all. Through this love, and only with this love, will you awaken to freedom and bliss.