Vedantic Wednesday: The Purpose of Prayer

For many of us even writing on a piece of paper would start with an auspicious mark on the top of the blank page. Few of us get up in the morning taking the name of god. For some of us the most used syllable in our daily life is the name of our ‘personal favorite’ god. This habit is something that is present across all religion.  It is present in our routine and on all special occasions and endeavors.

An invocation or auspicious observance is known as ‘Mangalacarana’. It is not surprising to see that the works, which have withstood the test of time (for over 1000 years) have all started and ended with a verse of prayer and submission. The great sage Patanjali says that the work that will stand the test of time will only be that of a noble person who invokes the Lord at the beginning, the middle and the end of any work. So true are his words. Look at any of the long-standing works such as Vivekachoodamani, Atma-bodha or any other work and it starts with an invocation and ends with one. Since the wise and realized sages of ancient India have done it, there must be a purpose to it.  But a purpose, that is beyond wanting a favorable outcome and putting the onus for that on almighty.

The purpose of invocation as seen by the wise is twofold:

  • To surrender to the Lord or the Guru before the beginning of any work. It is a another chance to express our gratitude to the Lord or the Guru through whom we have been blessed with all the strength to even begin the work at hand. It is only through their grace that we have been able to even think about beginning such a work and we request their benevolence to make the effort successful without obstacles.
  •  By thanking and surrendering to the Lord and / or Guru, we are allowing them to work through our gross instruments (Body, Mind and Intellect) and complete the work. Any matured person will acknowledge the fact that all that is happening is the grace of the Lord. We are but instruments. If we remove our ‘ego’ and allow ourselves to be used for the Lord’s work, we would have served our roles well. Once you are just an instrument you naturally have no hold whatsoever on ownership of results. This means you can perform nishkama karma – desireless action. Hence the second reason for invocation is to remove the ego from ourselves.

If we could remember the true purpose of this simple habit that has become such an integral part of our daily routine, our output could really become so much better and blessed!

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