All of us work hard. And almost all of us pray. But if you make your work your prayer, you will neither need to work nor pray!!!
Yesterday I was in conversation with renowned theatre actor and voice-over artist, P.C.Ramakrishna in The Artist’s Soul Series that we curate at Wandering Artist. Ram said that theatre has always had a very therapeutic effect on him in helping him to deal with the pulls and pressures of everyday living: “I survived 26 years in a corporate job that I loathed, only because I had theatre rehearsals every day.” Ram eventually took early retirement from his job in 1993 and immersed himself in theatre and voice-over work. He’s been on his own, and happy, for over 24 years now.
I believe the secret of Ram’s happiness is how he looks at his work. He loves what he does and he offers himself to it. Simple!
Think about it. Life can be blissful for off us too. Let’s demystify two myths that the world has been conditioned to. 1. The first myth is that work is drudgery. That it is something you to do to earn a living. Rubbish. Work is everything you do. Whatever you are immersed in, whatever you are working on now. You are working at your computer now. You are working on your Facebook Page now. If you get up and go for a bath, you are working on cleaning yourself up. When you eat, you are working on your appetite and so on. Work therefore is everything we do living and not only what we do to earn a living. So commonsense demands that you choose to work only on what you love doing! 2. The second myth is that prayer is asking something from God. That it is a method. That it is a practice. That it is a dialogue. Every religion has made prayer a ritual with their prescriptions and standard operating procedures. The reality is that prayer is about being immersed, being alive, and, in fact, just being. So, being in the present moment, engaged with Life, living, and totally immersing yourself, mindfully, in thought, body and soul with whatever you are doing, is prayer.
Offering whatever you do to Life, in gratitude, is prayer. If you are cooking, cleaning, sweeping, making a presentation, making love, preparing a report, tending your garden, drinking, eating, whatever, make it an offering to Life. That’s when work becomes prayer. And living becomes praying. Then you don’t need to ask anything from Life. All the answers are there in front of you, within you. When you reach this state of awakening, you stop treating work as drudgery. Every day then is fun. Each moment comes alive. And Life becomes meaningful. Blissful.
In prayer, be grateful and offer yourself to the Universe.
I know someone who is never available for any conversation or meetings. Every time we try to connect with him he’s either at work (which is for about 5 hours a day) or he is performing poojas, worshipping. He runs a small business and by his own admission, performs 8 prayer rituals a day, in three spells, over 12 hours. “Are you happy,” I asked him one day. “Hardly. Business is tough. A lot of money is stuck with debtors. I am continuously in prayer trying to seek a way out,” he said.
This man’s confession substantiates the case I am making – merely being ritualistic is never going to solve any problem for you. Yet, to each, his or her own way. Especially in matters concerning faith and prayer. But Zen offers a beautiful perspective on prayer. And it is worth thinking about and understanding.
Zen Buddhism says that true prayer is when no petition, no wish, is made, when no assistance is sought, but when mindfulness is practiced. Through such practice, you offer whatever you have, a flower, an incense stick, or maybe even yourself, to something higher than yourself. What can be and is greater than you? Creation. Creation is the Higher Energy. So, offering yourself to Creation, makes you be one with the Universe. When you offer yourself you are expressing your gratitude for your creation and everything that you have. You are saying – “You created me. Thanks. I am offering everything I have, mindfully, consciously, with all my being, to you.” That’s when you truly unite with the Universal energy and are soaked in its brilliance and abundance.
The popular notion that prayer is an appeal to an “external, invisible” God is a by-product of how religion has come to be practiced over many centuries. Maharishi Patanjali had demystified this in one of his works, perhaps at the beginning of the Common Era, where he equated God to be a mere clothes peg. Just as you would hang a coat on a clothes peg on the wall, we have been taught to pray looking to a “non-existent” God. He says, God is an invention, because, if God isn’t there, who will you pray to? But just as you would have learnt to hang your coat elsewhere if there were no clothes peg, you must learn the value of prayer, and develop the ability to pray, in the purest, truest sense. When you pray, as a means of complete surrender to Creation, then you don’t need a God, you are the prayer and you are one with who you pray to. God, he says, is for beginners. Like when you are learning cycling, you need the small wheels on either side of the bicycle’s rear wheel to help you balance. But once you have mastered cycling, you don’t need those two small wheels jutting out – you discard them and that helps you ride freely. So, it is with prayer. The more you learn to pray, unconditionally, humbly, as a thanksgiving, the more peaceful you become.
True prayer is totally non-ritualistic and non-demanding. It imposes no conditions. It asks for nothing from you – not your time, not your offerings. You don’t need to fast nor do you need to give up or abstain from anything! It is not what you do out of fear (that God will punish you if you don’t pray) or out of greed (I want this or that – grant me my wish!). It is always about being in the moment. The moment that you choose to offer your gratitude to Creation for all that you have and are endowed with – that moment itself is your prayer. You can be anywhere in that moment – you could even be seated on the potty! Also, there is no price to be paid in prayer and there are no rewards to be claimed. When you pray, you pray. And that prayerful moment, when gone through with all humility and gratitude, is itself the reward, the treasure, the fortune!
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