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Do Prayers work?

Q : So many peo­ple have this ques­tion, whether our prayers are actu­al­ly being answered. So we go to the tem­ple, pray for some­thing, but some­times what we pray for hap­pens but some­times it does­n’t hap­pen, so is there some­thing that is going on in the back­ground?

Okay, this becomes a very impor­tant ques­tion, because espe­cial­ly since now our mod­ern edu­ca­tion­al process has taught us that every­thing is like clock­work, mechan­i­cal pre­ci­sion. For exam­ple, this body is made up of atoms, now where is the “I”. It is quite miss­ing, you know. There is no con­nec­tion, there is a dis­con­nect, but our expe­ri­ence of our­selves is not that way, it is not just atoms. Like that if we look at this uni­verse as some­thing that is like clock­work, then tick, tick, tick, tick…it just goes on mechan­i­cal­ly, what is the use of intel­li­gence? Is it a par­tic­i­pa­to­ry uni­verse, that is our key under­stand­ing that we need, it is a par­tic­i­pa­to­ry uni­verse, that means, the effort that we put in actu­al­ly has com­men­su­rate result. With­out that there is no moti­va­tion to put in effort, because any­how it is clock­work.

So it does not work that way. So to illus­trate this there is a beau­ti­ful episode in the Mahab­hara­ta, so there is this brah­mana who is extreme­ly poor, because brah­manas gen­er­al­ly at that time, you know var­nashra­ma dhar­ma, if you look at the clas­si­fi­ca­tion, brah­manas were devot­ed to knowl­edge, so they would not care for mate­r­i­al wealth so much, just the basic exis­tence and that the com­mu­ni­ty, the soci­ety would take care of that. So they would not be focussed on that at all. So he was like that and then… because of extreme pover­ty, and because of social cir­cum­stances he could not get even basic sub­sis­tence, he could not make ends meet, and hence he decid­ed that he need­ed wealth. So towards gain­ing wealth, he decid­ed he would pray. Through appro­pri­ate prayers he would sat­is­fy. He went to appro­pri­ate tem­ples then he found a deity who was not much sought after and that was a deity , a megha, a cloud, Kun­dod­hara. So he start­ed pray­ing and the prayer got real­ly intense and it was rec­og­nized by Kun­dod­hara. Kun­dod­hara sup­pli­cat­ed to the devas, that let wealth be giv­en to this brah­mana, the devo­tee of his.

So on this sup­pli­ca­tion, the devas said,”Okay, let’s give him so much wealth.” But Kun­dod­hara again kept on ask­ing, “Let prop­er wealth, that which is real­ly ben­e­fi­cial for my devo­tee be giv­en to him.” This took a long peri­od of time, while the brah­mana kept on pray­ing, kept on with his prayer, with­out any vis­i­ble result, as per his under­stand­ing, he is not get­ting any vis­i­ble feed­back. But at the sub­tler lev­el, Kun­dod­hara is sup­pli­cat­ing again and again sup­pli­cat­ing and final­ly the devas decide,”Okay, the great­est wealth that a per­son can pos­sess is mok­sha, being free of all desires and all wealth and you know being free of all of this. And then Kun­dod­hara is hap­py, that his devo­tee has attained to a good end. So when the devas actu­al­ly mention,”Thathastu. So be it, may this brah­mana get this wealth.” At that instant, in the inner expe­ri­ence of the brah­mana, he gets vairagya, he feels,”What is the use of my pur­su­ing just mate­r­i­al wealth. It is any­how going to be.…it is almost friv­o­lous pur­suit. It is going to be noth­ing at all.” And hence, when the devas grant this boon, the brah­mana expe­ri­ences an inner free­dom. And he goes towards pur­suit of.…he becomes free, of this pur­suit of mate­r­i­al wealth. And that is illus­trat­ed through this sto­ry. Then Kun­dod­hara actu­al­ly gives dar­shan to the brah­mana and the brah­mana actu­al­ly asks,”I have been pray­ing to you but you have not giv­en me any­thing.” While Kun­dod­hara actu­al­ly explains what hap­pened in the back­ground. Then it real­ly opens the eyes of the brah­mana! And this is how it works for us as well, we pray, we don’t see a vis­i­ble result, vis­i­ble impact, but there are things hap­pen­ing in the back­ground.

This is illus­trat­ed by anoth­er beau­ti­ful sto­ry. There is this great Sav­it­ri that you would have heard of. So Sav­it­ri’s father prays for 18 years, to Gay­a­tri devi and she final­ly she bless­es him with a daugh­ter. But he is “Okay, I have been pray­ing for 18 years, what took you so long.” Then she explains that to actu­al­ly sat­is­fy is prayer, she has to vis­it Brah­ma­ji in his loka, get his appro­pri­ate per­mis­sion, and then come back and then deliv­er the result. That times time you know! All this is not vis­i­ble to us and hence we give up very eas­i­ly, but when this is vis­i­ble, then we see our effort, even in terms of prayers, that also cleans­es us, it leads to antahkarana shud­dhi, because we pur­sue it and that over a peri­od of time, actu­al­ly makes us, just takes away all unnec­es­sary, unwar­rant­ed desires, it makes us free, and focussed and that then, we actu­al­ly pur­sue it and when the result comes, it is also sat­is­fy­ing, we also get only what is appro­pri­ate, if it is not appro­pri­ate for us…the brah­mana, as in the sto­ry, the brah­mana want­ed mate­r­i­al wealth, while actu­al­ly Kun­dod­hara, the deity that he prayed to felt that what is appro­pri­ate, real­ly appro­pri­ate for him is not just mate­r­i­al wealth, because mate­r­i­al wealth, you will again get entan­gled, but actu­al­ly what is appro­pri­ate for him is the ulti­mate wealth of free­dom, of lib­er­a­tion. So like­wise, in the background.…even chil­dren you would have seen, chil­dren pray for let’s say choco­lates, but par­ents look at the appro­pri­ate­ness of the prayer and grant what is good for them, not just what they seek. So this is how prayers work and that’s…to rein­force this, this peo­ple say is faith. It is not just faith, it is under­stand­ing through sci­ence, how the inner para­me­ters work. That under­stand­ing is very very crit­i­cal. So, prayers do work.

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