To live in the world exhausted, beaten and sceptical is to live in a world without wonder and blessing.
In Sanskrit, Ashirvaadah, words of Aashih are words of blessings, grace, benediction and auspiciousness.
Blessing evokes a cocoon of protection, a comforter that envelopes the tired bones, a quenching of thirst after a long dry spell.
Blessing evokes the fabric of connection and the flow of abundance enriching the banks of the river of one’s life.
Across the land of Bharat on a daily basis,
Devotees seek blessings through prayers from Bhagavan or their Ishta Devata.
children seek blessings from parents and elders, sometimesby touching their feet,
Students of Vedanta and other disciplines seek blessings from their Acharyas and Gurus,
These teachers, elders, parents say –
Ayushyaman bhava. May you be the one who has a long life.
Vijayi bhava – May you be victorious.
Svastihbhavatu – May there be well-being for you.
Shantihbhavatu – May there be peace for you.
Mangalam bhavatu – May there be auspiciousness for you
Different words for different occasions. Different languages and dialects too.
Different wishes but all coming from a place of abundance spilling over into what or who needs it.
And thus the flow of blessing, the flow of abundance continue, generation after generation.
Yet, the flow of emotions present in the heart springs forth and forms an invisible web of care, courage and protection.
A blessing whether it is sought or given, indicates and reaffirms the closeness.
The heart and the mind are open when you give and receive. In the light of blessing, a person or situation becomes illuminated in a different sort of way.
A space for reverence is created.
Some of the abundance flows and the receiver feels energized and fortified.
Is there a need for children and students to perform this act everyday? Did n’t the parents, teachers and elders bless them just yesterday? C’mon now what can change in a day?
A lot as we have experienced ourselves.
Every person is both the agent of an action, karta, as well as the one who experiences the result of an action, bhokta. The result may be of an action done either recently or in the past, or even in previous lives. The karta and the bhokta are the same person. As a doer I choose to perform an action for a result, and as an experiencer, I experience the result. Therefore, one is a doer in order to be an experiencer.
So far so good.
But the problem here is, the doer does not control the outcome. If you don’t believe me, try to control the crying of a baby. Perhaps the baby may stop crying. And if you are in a flight where the cabin pressure has dropped, the baby will continue to cry. You cannot control the environment. Despite our best attempts, in our different actions we experience a certain helplessness. One plans to achieve one thing, but what one achieves may be quite different and sometimes even be the opposite.
In many a slip between the cup and the lip a lot happens. There are so many hidden variables over which we have no control. Between one momentand another action, anything can happen—a heart attack, an accident, or a natural disaster. Only with reference to known variables, we can plan and do. But how are we going to control the unknown variables? We cannot, because we do not know what they are. That is why they are called hidden variables.
Knowing that we don’t have much control can lead to stress, insecurity and anxiety.
Or it can lead us to create a space for blessings, a space for prayer.
In all cultures there is something called prayer, prarthana. If anybody says that he or she does not require prayer, it means that one is not pragmatic, even though one assumes that one is. In every culture, which is connected to religion, there is certain form of prayer. The African tribes have a dance ritual for rains. It is a kayikam karma, a ritualistic prayer. While prayer is in all religions, what does it do is taught in our shaastra.
Born of uninhibited free will, any form of prayer produces adrsta in different degrees, besides drsta-phala, an immediately seen result, like freedom from frustration or feeling peaceful. This is so because one has acted upon the desire to control the hidden variables, avoiding helplessness. The satisfaction that comes from praying is a visible result, drsta-phala. There are other means to get satisfaction—one does not need prayer. Explaining away prayer, psychologically, is not at all correct.
The shaastrareveals the adrashtaphala, in the form of punya that adds up in one’s karma account.
Dharma or karma is not an ordinary topic; it is very complex. “…the course of karma cannot be fathomed—gahanakarmanogatih.” It is enough for me to understand that I am responsible for my actions, and that these actions produce two kinds of results drsta and adrsta, which can be punya or papa. We have no words in English for punya and papa. When a mosquito bites you, we can say that you exhaust some papa and gain a little bit of punya. A little bit of papa going in the bite is understandable. Where is punya? Every biting mosquito is a pregnant mosquito, and by giving blood to a pregnant woman who needs a bloodmeal, you are gaining punya! When unpleasant situations, unavoidable, come, the wisemen, panditas, do not worry because some papa is exhausted. When you kill the mosquito you gain a little papa, and that can be neutralised by reaching out karmas or performing a ritual or a prayer.
We have to control many hidden variables caused by papa. So it is better that we pile up the punya, grace, to neutralise or minimise the hidden variables that cause unpleasant situations. That is why we pray all the time-–while cooking, before eating, while entering the newly-built house, while starting the car first time in the day, before starting any construction and so on.
It is not out of fear but out of the freedom to pray.
Prayer is not a substitute for action.
But, prayers are actions and therefore they have results.
Prayer is karma, an action. It is three-fold: kayika, vacika, and maanasa, and is based upon the means that we employ.
Kayikam karma is a ritualistic act in which the limbs are employedsuch as a puja or a yajna, a fire ritual offering,
Vaacikam karma is oral prayer such as recitation, chanting, and singing. Speech, vak, is also used in kayikam and vacikam karma.
The third type of karma, which is purely mental, maanasam karma.
Often during a yajna, the pandit will ask you to repeat –
Shraddham – Trust in the Vedas
Medhaam – Memory and Intelligence
Yashah – Fame
Prajnaam – Wisdom
Vidyaam – Knowledge
Buddhim – Intelligence
Shriyam – Wealth
Balam – Strength
Ayushyam – Well being
Tejah – Brilliance
Arogyam – Health
Dehi me Havyavaahanah
Addressing Agni, Please give the above unto me.
What I find amazing about these words are that these are universally sought by everyone. The prayer is not for changing anyone but to have the requisite qualities to navigate any and every situation.
Let us not shy away from receiving blessings or wishing well for others.
What are now known as affirmations are really disguised prayers, statements of possibilities that could well transform into reality.
May all be happy. May all be free of disease. May all hear whatever is auspicious. May there be no sorrow for anyone. (sarvebhavantu..)
It is strange that we would want to live with a beggarly sense of lack and lament and not invoke the grace and blessings that are there for the asking.
Some people feel smug in saying that they don’t need to pray for themselves. How about praying for others, then? Wise people do this all the time.
Praying does not make us helpless. In fact, it makes us more objective and more competent to handle all the hidden variables.
Praying makes us realisethe power of choice we have and can be the wind beneath our wings.
We are not afraid to ask. We are not hesitant to express what we wish for ourselves.
We don’t worry about whether we are doing correctly or not.
We pray. We connect. We are altered when we surrender to the altar.