Prayer covers the whole of man’s life. Prayer is a preface to the book of living; the text of the life’s sermon; the girding on the armour for life’s battle; the pilgrim’s preparation for his journey. Man’s prayer and God’s grace are like two buckets in a well, while the one ascends, the other descends. Prayer is the wing by which the soul flies to Heaven and meditation is the eye by which it sees God. Prayer is meditation through speech, meditation is prayer through silence. Mysticism denotes a system of relations between man and God. Man aspires that there should be direct relations between the created and the creator and in these relations he shall find a solution to the perplexities of life. Prayer-yoga confirms the mystic doctrine by saying that the kingdom of God is within you. In the following article, H.H.Shri Kumarswamiji tells us how Prayer-yoga shows the path to realize the Heaven not as a place but as a state, as an attitude of mind, as a disposition of the heart, as transformation of life.
History bears witness to the fact that in all ages and in all countries there have been people who have lived their lives in immediate contact with God. We call them mystics. Their one prayer is :- “O Lord, we beseach Thee to help us escape from the life which is divided into the life which is united.” They need not debate the existence of God nor do they forsake the world; but they live their lives with such wonderful poise that they can say, “There is a spirit that delights to do no evil nor to revenge any wrong; but delights to endure all things in life to enjoy its own in the end.
In the Veda, the highest prayer is for getting man’s intelligence inspired. May HE inspire our intellect. ‘Our Father, who art in the Heaven, hallowed be Thy name’ is the common prayer of the Christians. In all religions prayer occupies a prominent place; in one sense man’s whole life is a prayer for fulfilling his aims and objects. Man is not a machine but a being, a complex being indeed. His activities are manifold, some of which are insignificant while others are purposeful. His activities ramify into the search for truth in science and philosophy, the appreciation and creation of beauty in art and literature, the strength for the good life in morality – all these activities appear to presuppose an essential condition. Throughout man feels or intuits as if he were in the presence of Other, an Other who is not wholly Other, a Beyond that is within. This subject-object relation is present in every kind of experience. But in our spiritual experience, there is the added feeling or intution that the Other is in some way responsive to us. Prayer-yoga aims at the complete development of this intuition of responsiveness which is implicit in all our spiritual activities. Man finds in the Other the response to his needs, not some of his needs only but to the whole body of his permanent aspirations. This would account for the fact of the development of the prayer from a childlike and restricted state to the highest levels of the spiritual life. As man himself evolves, he becoms conscious of his own true nature and of the needs which before had been hidden from him. The savage asks from his gods long life, children and prosperity while the enlightened man finds in God the source of righteousness and the ground of truth. Thus prayer from the earliest to the highest forms a search for the satisfaction of human needs in the Other.
Prayer is not eloquence of speech but earnestness of the heart. The heart is common to all and God seated in the heart is one in all. God looks not at the oratory of your prayer or how elegant it may be, nor at the geometry of your prayer or how long it may be, nor at the arithmetic of your prayer or how much it may be, nor at the logic of your prayer or how methodical it may be, but God looks at the sincerity of your prayer. God speaks not to a proud head but to a pure heart. Man has been able extend the power of his hands with incredible machines, of his eyes with telescopes and microscopes, of his ears with telephones, radio waves and sonars, of his brain with computers and automation. He must now learn to extend his heart, his sentients, his love to the dimension of the entire human family; otherwise modern civilization will be crushed under the weight of soulless organization.
In Prayer-yoga, God is felt to be not the final abstraction but the one actuality. He is the omnipresent Reality, the all pervading within whom the worlds are being held like beads. In His personal aspect, He is the beloved friend teaching and companioning each soul. The need felt by the mystic for both ways of describing Reality is a proof of richness and balance of his spiritual experiences which neither cosmic nor anthropomorphic symbols, taken alone, could express; more absolute than the absolute, more human than the human mind, God therefore exceeds whilst he includes all the concepts of philosophy, all the passionate intuitions of the heart. He is the great affirmation, the fountain of energy, the source of life and love, the unique satisfaction of desire. His creative word is AUM, the everlasting yea perpetually uttered within the depths of Divine nature.
Mysticism denotes a system of relations between man and God. Man aspires that there should be direct relations between the created and the creator and in these relations he shall find a solution to the perplexities of life. The meditation on the attributes of God helps man to tide over the difficulties and invests him with faith, hope and courage. For example, we say that God is holy, just, merciful, Omnipotent, Omniscient and unalterable. These are no mere idle terms, they are pregnant with meaning. Since God is holy, He can will nothing but good; being Omnipotent, He can secure its triumph, being Omniscient, He can see us in all events; being just, He can punish us for our wrong doings; being merciful, He can pardon us too; being unalterable, we can rely upon HIM securely. The terms addressed to God as Father, Mother, Lord, King and Creator help our imagination to soar high and to secure an affinity with HIM.
So far as the mystic is concerned, he has the basic relation to God in love, and for his meditational purposes, he has the free choice to go in for any of these terms mentioned above. Aquinas says, “In divine love the whole spiritual life of man consists.” Dante closes his vision thus, “The divine love that moves the sun and the stars.” It is by this divine love that the mystic is given ineffable visions of the Reality. This divine love demands surrender from the mystic, whether it be Krishna who asks for the surrender of the fruits of actions or Buddha, who by his meditation, symbolizes the serene attitude of the soul or Christ, who by his act of crucification, suffers for mankind, the whole cosmic drama enacted by God is impulsed by love. It is the impulse of love that necessitates God to incarnate and indwell in the hearts of all beings. Those who are acquainted with Hegelian philosophy can recall to their minds his doctrine of the principle of difference in the absolute; this differential principle unfolds into actuality, the manifestd worlds of mind and matter.