[This transcript is an excerpt from Pandit Usharbudh Arya’s talk on the Bhagavad Gita given at The Meditation Center in 1985. Pandit Arya became Swami Veda Bharati when he took sanyas. It was previously published in the October 2017 edition of the AHYMSIN Newsletter.]
You taught us to meditate, but you've not taught us to pray. You're not supposed to ask for anything.
A devotee can ask anything. A meditator asks for nothing. But a devotee is a child: he can ask for a morsel out of the mouth of his mother. It depends on where you are. A meditator asks for nothing, but a child asks for anything. When prayer becomes wordless it becomes meditation.
I have not taught much on prayer. I don't want to say more about it, and it’s not because I'm not interested in prayer. All life should be prayer. There should be nothing in life that is not prayer. There should be nothing in life that is not worship. There's nothing in life that is not devotion. There is nothing outside prayer, no human activity. For prayer, you have to be a devotee, not a dependent. Understand this.
For prayer you have to be a devotee, not a dependent. In a crowd where many people are dependents, devotion is very difficult to teach, because devotion becomes an excuse for showing dependence and it’s not devotion. There are few who can truly pray. Others only give vent to their insecurities.
I'd like you to know the difference between the two. Prayer is a gushing fountain. It cannot be constructed, it cannot follow a text, and it cannot follow words or a method. Who can teach you to pray? You have it in you, it flows from you as a fountain.
It never exhausts itself. If you want to lead the life of prayer, your tears will purify you. They'll cleanse you, they'll wash all the transgressions and failures and fears. One who prays is afraid of nothing because he knows that by his prayer he can call upon the Protector of all Protectors.
How can I write down words of prayer and teach? That is not prayer. Prayer is something you either have in you or you don't have in you. Who taught the first man to pray? In which school of literature did the writers of the psalms of David learn to compose poetry? Who critiqued their poems? Who edited them and said they were ready to publish? Who taught them? They had less of the world literature to draw upon historically at that time. Yet what came out of their hearts and their mouths became immortal literature because there was prayer in them. Indeed, prayers that have flowed out of them have been read by others to follow a model.
So we read prayers and we recite verses. In every religion of the world, even in Buddhism, which does not believe in a Creator God, there are prayers.
Worship is divine. If you have the worshipfulness, you'll find the right object of worship. What is worshipfulness? The spirit within you, calling you, I'm here. Recognize me? I have met you many times before. “O Arjuna. Many incarnations have past, yours and mine. I remember them all, but you do not remember them."
So we have met that God, many, many times before but have forgotten His face and His touch. Suddenly you meet Him again, or expect to meet Him, hope to meet Him, or He just simply, barely calls from inside, from within.
A desire arises to place flowers somewhere. So if they don't go to the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow, they place flowers on the Lenin stone. The urge to place the flowers is the urge to pray. If you did not believe in a God, you would still find a place where you want to put your flowers. And you cannot be without it.
For me that prayer is something spontaneous. Today's prayer is often like a Hallmark card you send to your beloved ones. Somebody else has to write and sell you the love message. It’s one thing I don't understand. Somebody else has to write and send you the love message that you are to send. I know my statement is not good for the greeting card industry!
Can you not pray without a book? Without somebody else dictating? Have you no feelings left of your own? How can one teach you feelings? If you have love, you write your own love letter and don't borrow someone else's printed word. The best prayer, as you know, is the silent prayer. That silent prayer becomes meditation. Then it becomes meditation in action or it becomes prayer in action. When the feelings awaken, then you will pray. You need no one to teach you.
To read "How to Pray for Someone" by Swami Veda Bharati: https://ahymsin.org/main/Swami-Veda-Bharati/how-to-pray-for-someone.html