25th June, 2916. Gurgaon.
As devotees when we move into a little more serious phase of our Krishna consciousness slowly but surely most of us develop a taste for to a very sweet and unique limb of bhakti – Vandanam, Prayer to Supreme Lord.
Offering worship to the Supreme Lord by praying means remembering His transcendental qualities, pastimes and activities.
(KB, chapter 87)
The Lord has unlimited transcendental qualities and opulences, and one who feels influenced by the Lord’s qualities in various activities offers prayers to the Lord. In this way he becomes successful.
Initial mood of our prayer and its futility.
People generally pray for material benefits: “O God, give us our daily bread. Give me nice position. Give me nice wife, nice following or this or victory,” so on, so on, so on, simply for material enjoyment. My Guru Mahäräja used to say that if we pray to God for all these nonsense things, it is just like a man goes to a king and the king says, “Whatever you want you can ask from me,” and if the man says, “Kindly give me a pinch of ashes.” It is like that. If we ask from God for some material benefit, it means that I am asking from a king a pinch of ashes. When king says that “You ask whatever you want,” he can say, “So give me half the kingdom.” That should be the prayer. And why a pinch of ash? Similarly, it is our foolishness. When we ask for bread, “O God, give us our daily bread,” that means I am asking. The bread is already there. Why for you? For everyone, for all living entities, the bread is already there given by God. Eko yo bahünäà vidadhäti kämän. The elephant is not going to the church for praying, “Give me food.” He is supplied in the jungle food. A tiger is supplied food. Even ant is supplied food within the hole. Who is going to supply food there? How they are eating? How they are living? How they are begetting children? The same thing is there. Ähära-nidrä-bhaya-maithuna—everything is there in the ant, in the elephant. Who is supplying their necessities? So this is not the problem, these rascals. They are simply perplexed with this problem, how to eat, how to sleep, how to defend. This is already fixed up according to your karma. You simply try—save your time—how to advance in Krishna consciousness. That is your own business. Otherwise you are spoiled. And so far these things are concerned, that how to eat, how to sleep, how to have sex life, and how to defend, this is already arranged. You cannot make betterment in this way. That is already fixed up. Prakåteù kriyamäëäni guëaiù karmäëi sarvaçaù [Bg. 3.27]. According to your lot, according to your karma, you have been fixed up that “You shall eat like this, you shall sleep like this, you’ll have sex life like this, and you will be able to defend like this, not more than that.” That is not possible. That is called destiny. So by destiny this is already fixed up. Don’t spoil your life for these things.
(Lecture, London, 20th August 1973)
What if I don’t even know How to Pray!
So here Prahläda Mahäräja says, éçvarasya mahi gåëämi: “I shall glorify the Lord.” “Oh, you are a child, sir. You are five years old. How you can glorify?” Yathä manéñam! “It doesn’t matter I am child! Whatever I have got, I shall express my feelings, ‘O God, O Lord, oh, You are so great.’ ” That’s all right. How you can describe or understand His glories? That is not possible. He’s unlimited. But whatever limitation you have got, if you express feelingly, “My God, My Lord,” that will be accepted. That will be accepted. So Caitanya Mahäprabhu therefore teaches us how to pray. This prayer is na dhanaà na janaà na sundarià kavitäà vä jagadéça kämaye [Cc. Antya 20.29, Shikshasta 4]. Everyone is praying to God with some interest. That is also good. If you go and pray to God, “Give me some money” or “Give me some relief,” “Give me a nice house, nice wife, nice foodstuff,” that is also good. But not so good as one is praying to God that “I don’t want any money I don’t want any number of followers. I don’t want any good wife, nice beautiful wife.” “Then what do you want?” “I want to serve You. That’s all.” Finish your prayer. That is the best prayer. “You are so good, You are so nice, You are so great that I want to be engaged in Your service. I am serving these rascals. They are not satisfied, I am not satisfied. Now I have come to You. Please engage me in Your service.” That is the last word of prayer.
(Lecture, Montreal, 18th August 1968)
The Lord is always seeking the opportunity to reclaim the fallen souls to His abode, the kingdom of God. We should always feel very much obliged to the Personality of Godhead, for He is always anxious to bring us into the happy condition of eternal life. There is no sufficient means to repay the Personality of Godhead for His act of benediction; therefore, we can simply feel gratitude and pray to the Lord with folded hands.
Our Prayers to Krishna produce Tangible Results!
We practically see that many sinful persons enter the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and after preliminary purification become most repentant for their previous illicit activities. They are shocked when they realize how they gave up the personal association of God to pursue the useless forms created by mäyä; therefore they wholeheartedly pray to the spiritual master and Lord Krishna to be engaged eternally in transcendental devotional service. Such a repentant, eager mentality is most auspicious for spiritual advancement. The Lord certainly answers the prayers of a repentant devotee desperate to escape the clutches of illusion.
What mood should we aspire for?
For a devotee there is no concern for this life or the next life because in any life he does not desire elevation in material prosperity or a high-grade or low-grade life. He prays to the Lord, “My dear Lord, it does not matter where I am born, but let me be born, even as an ant, in the house of a devotee.” A pure devotee does not pray to the Lord for liberation from this material bondage. Actually, the pure devotee never thinks that he is fit for liberation. Considering his past life and his mischievous activities, he thinks that he is fit to be sent to the lowest region of hell. If in this life I am trying to become a devotee, this does not mean that in my many past lives I was one-hundred-percent pious. That is not possible. A devotee, therefore, is always conscious of his real position. Only by his full surrender to the Lord, by the Lord’s grace, are his sufferings made shorter. As stated in Bhagavad-Gita, “Surrender unto Me, and I will give you protection from all kinds of sinful reaction.” That is His mercy. But this does not mean that one who has surrendered to the lotus feet of the Lord has committed no misdeeds in his past life. A devotee always prays, “For my misdeeds, may I be born again and again, but my only prayer is that I may not forget Your service.” The devotee has that much mental strength, and he prays to the Lord: “May I be born again and again, but let me be born in the home of Your pure devotee so that I may again get a chance to develop myself.”
In multiple lectures Srila Prabhupada advises us to chant this particular verse from Siksatakam as our daily prayer to Krishna.
ayi nanda-tanuja kinkaram
patitam mam vishame bhavambudhau
kripaya tava pada-pankaja-
“O son of Maharaja Nanda [Krishna], I am Your eternal servitor, yet somehow or other I have fallen into the ocean of birth and death. Please pick me up from this ocean of death and place me as one of the atoms at Your lotus feet.”
This is a very deep and advance verse but at our neophyte level it teaches us an invaluable key to pray ‘I am an eternal servant of Krishna who is seeking reinstatement in His service’.
Difficulties turn into opportunity!
We have also heard of prayers of Kunti maharani. She prays this when all the troubles of a royal princess- being made to live in jungles, continuously struggle to stay alive, endure her son’s and daughter-in-law constant humiliation, see the death of so many loved ones, seemed to be finally over. As Krishna is preparing to leave for Dwarka, she prays to Krishna:
“I wish that all those calamities would happen again and again so that we could see You again and again, for seeing You means that we will no longer see repeated births and deaths.”
Many of us will hesitate to pray like her but Srila Prabhupada offers us a very safe platform to pray when difficulties come in the life of a devotee.
A devotee does not consider a dangerous position to be dangerous, for in such a dangerous position he can fervently pray to the Lord in great ecstasy. Thus a devotee regards danger as a good opportunity. Tat te’nukampäà susamékñamäëaù. When a devotee is in great danger, he sees that danger to be the great mercy of the Lord because it is an opportunity to think of the Lord very sincerely and with undiverted attention. Tat te ‘nukampäà susamékñamäëo bhuïjäna evätma-kåtaà vipäkam (SB 10.14.8). He does not accuse the Supreme Personality of Godhead for having let His devotee fall into such a dangerous condition. Rather, he considers that dangerous condition to be due to his past misdeeds and takes it as an opportunity to pray to the Lord and offer thanks for having been given such an opportunity. When a devotee lives in this way, his salvation—his going back home, back to Godhead—is guaranteed.
Finally: I Am Yours!
(CC Madhya 22.33-34)
All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.