Faith and Prayer

    You worship a deity. You prostrate and submit at the feet of idol of your faith. What do you do in this case? You simply condition your consciousness, body feelings, desires and thoughts. One does not do anything to the idol by praying to it. By such an act, one only affects his consciousness.

  You worship your God. You prostrate on the ground before Him and offer your submission and subordination to Him. You do not do anything affecting anybody but your mind. It is not your mind alone that is affected by such an act on your part. Your desires, inmost urgings, body feelings, in addition to your thoughts, are affected by this process. They all are conditioned in a particular way. Thereby you bring a change in you.

  You imagine there is God and that He is not dwelling in idols. You bow before Him and offer your complete self at His feet. You do so unconditionally. What do you do by such an act on your part? You do not do anything but condition your mind, desires and body feelings. It is an act that affects nothing but you. You are completely changed by this process. Your inmost personality – subconscious and unconscious parts of the personality – becomes a totally new structure.

  You read a holy book and bear faith in its sayings. What do you do to yourself by such an act? You simply change yourself. You bestow your utmost respect to this holy book and do not allow a single thought of its desecrating on your or anybody’s part a welcome place in your mind. By such an act, one does not do anything to the holy book. He simply conditions his mind, urgings and feelings.

  You do not believe in any God or a holy book and hold that it is your conduct alone that matters in realizing the ultimate enlightenment. You give a particular direction to your conduct in life. What do you do to yourself? By this process you simply change yourself, that is, your thoughts, cravings and feelings.

  In their substance and impact on human consciousness, what is the difference between one and another of these seemingly separate modes of religious faiths? There is no difference at all. Essentially, they all bring a psychological change in one’s total personality. One may follow a path that suits his nature and the path would bring a change in his personality, which is the sole means to progress on the consciousness’ evolutionary path.

  We all know of the manipulation of semiconductors by science and technology today. What does one do in this manipulation? It is rearranging of molecular structure of the material concerned to make the movement of atoms possible in the desired fashion. Prayer is something like this manipulation of one’s consciousness whereby the flow of supreme energy is made possible in a desired fashion. This energy is not a fiction, it is a real thing. By resorting to prayer, you bring a change in yourself. You make yourself a tool, the tool of supreme energy, and then the consequences follow unfolding the mystery of Nature. You get something, you receive something – something that is as real as hard rock, that is incomparably enlightening and empowering and that was not there before. Prayer, as a matter of fact, helps the one who prays. It brings miraculous consequences. It is a technology. It is a lever in the hands of feeble human being, a being who is ordinarily ignorant, egoistic and unwilling to desire or welcome a change for his betterment.

  On the efficacy of prayer, Sri Aurobindo says:  “The efficacy of prayer is often doubted and prayer itself supposed to be a thing irrational and necessarily superfluous and ineffective.

  “Prayer is only a particular form given to that (human) will, aspiration and faith. Its forms are very often crude and not only childlike, which is in itself no defect, but childish; but still it has a real power and significance. Its power and sense is to put the will, aspiration and faith of man into touch with the divine Will as that of a conscious being with whom we can enter into conscious and living relations. .. It is not then the giving of the thing asked for that matters, but the relation itself, the contact of man’s life with God, the conscious interchange. In spiritual matters and in the seeking of spiritual gains, this conscious relation is a great power; it is much greater power than our own entirely self-reliant struggle and effort and it brings a fuller spiritual growth and experience.

  “The relations which arise out of this attitude towards the Divine are that of the divine Father and the Mother with the child and that of the divine Friend… But the highest and the greatest relation is that which starts from none of the ordinary religious motives, .. springs from the very nature of love itself; it is the passion of the Lover and the Beloved. Wherever there is the desire of the soul for its utter union with God, this form of the divine yearning makes its way even into religions which seem to do without it and give it no place in their ordinary system.

  “The earliest preoccupation of man in his awakened thoughts and, as it seems, his inevitable and ultimate preoccupation… is also the highest which his thought can envisage. It manifests itself in the divination of Godhead, the impulse towards perfection, the search after pure Truth and unmixed Bliss, the sense of a secret immortality. The ancient dawns of human knowledge have left us their witness to this constant aspiration…

  “Attempts are sometimes made to have done finally with questionings which have so often been declared insoluble by logical thought and to persuade men to limit their mental activities to the practical and immediate problems of their material existence in the universe; but such evasions are never permanent in their effect. Mankind returns from them with a more vehement impulse of inquiry or a more violent hunger for an immediate solution.”

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