Ruzbeh N. Bharucha
Praying to one’s God, Goddess, Guru, is one of the most personal interactions between an individual and the One s(h)e believes in. There is no set method or formula of how one needs to communicate with the powers beyond and within.
Of course, each religion and religious texts have prescribed certain sets of ways or methodology as to how one needs to pray. The manner in which one needs to prepare for prayer so often varies from religion to religion. Yes, each one advocates that the body needs to be cleaned. A bath would really be great. I guess God likes the fragrance of soap and powder. Then one needs to wear clean clothes.
Then you have a prescribed direction to face when praying. Like Zoroastrians usually are told to face the sun and if for whatever reason that is not possible then one is told to face the South direction, as according to me, when one faces the South direction, one’s back is never to the Sun. For Zoroastrains the North direction is an emphatic negative but in Vastu and according to various prayers said to Lord Shiva and Goddess Kali, the North direction is advocated. The Muslims are told to face the holy Kabba. Whichever direction the Kabba is, a devout Muslim is supposed to face that direction. So in India, a Muslim would face the West as then s(h)e would be facing the Kabba, but if a Muslim is in another continent, the person would face say, the north or south or east, as the Kabba would be in that direction.
Some religions prescribe the head gear too. Some make head gear mandatory, like Zoroastrians, Muslims, Sikhs, Jews and then there are various religions or ways of life where head gear is not needed, like the Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Christians.
Zoroastrians, Jews, Christians, Muslims never pray bear feet. There has to be some kind of covering. A prayer mat, a rug, a sheet of cloth, feet in socks, slippers or even shoes. That would be seen as a sign of great disrespect where Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains are concerned.
Some religions consider it a sin to enter the place of worship when a woman is menstruating. Hindus and Zoroastrians consider it blasphemy for a woman to enter their place of worship during those days. But Christians and Sikhs do not seem to have any issue with a woman in her menses.
As a Zoroastrian I know for a fact that it does not matter what food one has consumed before entering a Fire Temple. But it would be sacrilege for many Hindus to learn of somebody consuming meat and visit their Temples. First pay your respect to God, Goddess, Guru, and then stuff your face with whatever you so desire.
Thus, there are ways and ways and many contradictory to each other, but all written in the Holy Books, about how one should prepare to pray.
I am sure there are good reasons for every such prescribed religious modus operandi, custom and traditions. I would have written about all that but then like always, I am clueless.
Just as each religious tradition advocates a particular diet for one’s spiritual growth and more than often each religious custom’s dietary beliefs contradicts the other vastly, so is the case in the method of prayers. I have mentioned this before that if diet was so important for spiritual growth and if each religious custom, spoken or assumed, is writ in stone, then there would have to be various heavens based on each one’s diet.
For a Jain, even consuming an onion hinders spiritual growth, while a Muslim will abstain eating pork but gorge on beef (obviously no longer in Maharashtra), a Hindu worships the cow but many eat chicken, fish, eggs and pork, while a Zoroastrian and a Christian will consume any blasted thing leisurely walking, swimming or flying about. So, either there is one Heaven that goes beyond diet or there are various Heavens depending on what one has stuffed his or her face with while on mother earth.
Thus, there are various ways to pray and eat that pleaseth the Lord, so sayeth the religious texts or the interpretation of the religious texts or misconstruing of the religious texts.
So how does one pray? Does one cover the head or not? Wear shoes or bear feet? Loudly or softly? With bath or without and what if you want to pray when there is no water about or one can’t go and freshen up? Clean set of clothes but what if one doesn’t have a fresh set of clothes or what if a chap cleaning the sewage wants to reach out to his or her God, Goddess, Guru? Feet in shit and piss, clothes smelling to high heaven, body stinking with the sewage clinging on, head covered yes but with all the dirt floating about, and the blasted individual wants to pray. S(h)e is deep down in the sewage pit, sun not visible, direction unknown, and the person suddenly wants to pray? What then? Does his or her prayer not reach God, Goddess, Guru? Does God, Goddess, Guru suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder for cleanliness. A fetish for cologne and moisturizer? I hope not. For God’s sake, I hope not.
So the question is, if a person who is working in a sewage can pray and his or her prayer’s reach The One, then obviously there is something that the individual is doing right, apart from not concentrating on his or her work.
Despite going against everything prescribed by those who claim to interpret the words of The Prophet, yet The One, seems to be hearing the prayer of the individual.
So what does that mean? I know for certainty that you can scrub the skin of your arse with the most expensive body wash; wear clothes made out of the finest cloth, follow every rule prescribed in the Holy Book, but if your heart and soul and your love is not in the prayer, I truly have my doubts, your prayers are going to pass through the depleted ozone layer and the smog of pollution encasing our planet. There needs to be power for anything to defy gravity and our prayers if not fuelled with pure innocent love and gratitude and yearning, will not have the velocity to break through and go beyond the beyond. We hardly get connection on our mobile phone, when in a lift, so imagine, connecting to The Boss, who has a very questionable network system going about.
So it would be safe to deduce that the power of prayer is more in the heart and the spirit and in the love and in the yearning for The Elusive One, rather than the attire and sense of hygiene and modus operandi. Yes, sure, it would be great if you were to follow whatever it is you are told by your religious elders, but that is just packaging. We know by now, most often, packaging is a surreal way of bullshitting everybody, including oneself about the true contents within.
For me, the best way to pray, is when you truly send yourself to The One who you are praying to or pull The One you are praying to, to come and sit in front of you. Either your love and thoughts travel to The One, where you can see Him or Her or The Energy in your mind’s eye, or you can feel Him or Her or The Energy sitting or standing a few feet away from you, hearing you, sensing your love, feeling your yearning, maybe bored senseless with one’s drivel being dished out, but kya karay, S(H)e has no option, as your prayer is like a magnet pulling The Chap closer and closer.
Imagine you are praying with such love that you are certain that whatever your God, Goddess, Guru, is doing, S(H)e will for those seconds, moments, minutes, time frame, leave everything and hear you pray. Will feel your prayers and your love. Imagine and believe that if you pray with true love, the Old Drifter, will stop gallivanting, and halt and hear you out. S(H)e will have no option. S(H)e is our Parent. No parent will ever not hear the true pleading, communication, craving of one’s child. It is not possible that if our child reaches out to us, with true love, there is no way, we will not leave everything and just listen and be there. Why would God, Goddess, Guru, be any different. They are our Universal Parents. Mother, Father, Brother, Sister, Friend, Grand Parents, Counselor, Quacks, all rolled into one. So according to me, and I could be completely wrong, but then that’s that, I believe that if we were to pray in this manner They will halt and listen.
Or pray in such a way that The One is pulled towards you, into your room where you are praying, and is made to sit right in front of you. Hearing us pray, or communicate or speak out some heartfelt poppycock. How would we pray if Sai Baba of Shirdi or one’s God, Goddess, Guru, actually materialized in front of us and looked on, as we prayed? I am certain our entire approach to prayer would be different. We would completely be there. Present body mind heart soul. We would forget everything and everybody and all the inane stuff we stuff our beings with, and just be and pray with an intensity which one would think is not possible.
It doesn’t matter what we wear, where we are, shoes or not, head gear or not, bath or not, nothing in reality can stand a chance, to one’s love and dedication to our prayer.
Also as we pray, start interacting with The One, as S(H)e truly is, beyond form, just Energy and Spirit. And as we are from The One, and we too are just energy and spirit, in our true essence, imagine oneself to be just Energy or Spirit, without the body. As we drop the body, our God, Goddess, Guru, will drop His or Her body too and then no formality of prayers will matter, as in the world of spirit the only thing that matters is pure love and intention.
As we see our self as Energy, and the Top Boss we pray too as Pure Energy, a time will come when we from disgruntled dorks, will metamorphise into calmer beings, as pure Spirit and may be in our visualization or in reality merge with The One, who is Energy personified.
Prayer is a private dance you have with The One. You choose your set up, your attire, your rhythm, your tune, your lyrics and most importantly your pace and create your own dance. Hold The Chap close to you, making sure The Blighter holds you close too. That’s that.
Every time you chant His or Her Name, for those micro seconds forget everything but The One, believing that as you call out with complete devotion and love, S(H)e will leave all and listen to you with complete devotion and love or come and be in front of you, as God is a sucker for pure love.
God has existed much before we came into the picture and fugged things up. God will remain much after we have been sort of deleted from the main frame. But trust me, even God, will miss those private conversations, the love, the yearning, the madness. Sometimes I feel, it is those moments of love that forces The One, to let this circus of life continue.
God isn’t deaf. If we pray truly with our heart then S(H)e begins to hear our words. Otherwise, our voice doesn’t defy gravity and there is nothing more noisy than a preoccupied mind and I doubt S(H)e cares too much for cacophony mutterings of a distracted heart.
Be blessed always.
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha