Saturday, September 3, 2011

Prayer is not an act. You cannot pray, because the one who prays is no longer there. That is prayer.

When Vivekananda came to Ramakrishna, his family was in a very impoverished stat...e. His father, who was an impulsive worldly man, had died leaving many debts to be paid off, so that there was not even enough food in the house. If it somehow became possible to prepare a meal, there was never enough for the two – Vivekananda and his mother. So Vivekananda would say to his mother that he was invited out by some friend to eat with him; otherwise his mother would make him eat first and then go hungry herself. To convince her, he would leave the house, wander around the streets for a while, and then return, looking well pleased and belching! Of course he had not been invited to eat anywhere – this performance was just to please his mother. He would tell her how good the meal was, how content he was after the meal.

When Ramakrishna came to know of this, he said to Vivekananda, ”Are you such a fool? You come here every day, and it would be the easiest thing in the world for you to pray to Kali in the temple for what you need. Why make life so difficult for yourself?” Vivekananda could not refuse his master, and said, ”If you tell me to pray for food, I will do so.”

When Vivekananda went into the temple, Ramakrishna sat outside and waited. When, after a long time, Vivekananda reappeared from the temple with tears of joy and ecstasy flowing, Ramakrishna asked him, ”Have you told the Great Mother of your need?”

Vivekananda said, ”I forgot!”

”Is this a matter to be so easily forgotten?” asked Ramakrishna. ”You are hungry, your mother is hungry, your home is threatened by the debts that have to be paid off – and all you need do is tell Kali. Just a small hint is all that is necessary, and everything will be set in order. Go back!” So Vivekananda disappeared into the temple again, and as before he was gone a long time. When he came out, his eyes were brimming with the tears of bliss. Ramakrishna said, ”There you are, you see. You look so happy, it is obvious that you asked this time.”

”No,” said Vivekananda, ”I forgot again!”

Three times this happened, and finally Vivekananda said, ”It’s no good! Every time I go to her I forget everything but her. She is the only thing I see. I even forget myself, so how to remember my problems? It is impossible!”

Ramakrishna was happy. ”I set you this as a test,” he said, ”and that is why I kept sending you back into the temple. Because had you been able to ask, it would have meant that prayer was not possible, that true prayer had not happened in you yet.”

A mind that can beg is the mind of a beggar. How can such a person enter into prayer? For him there are still bigger things to ask for than God.

A person who desires God himself cannot ask for anything else when he is facing him. He cannot even ask for God! Try to understand this, because the mind is very cunning and knows how to adopt the alternative viewpoint: ”Okay, then I will not ask for anything, only for God himself.” But in that too you are present, and again God is made smaller than you, because it is you who is going to get God. He is going to become your wealth. You are going to grasp him in your hands, and he will become just an extension of your possessions. You will give God a corner in your kingdom, while you remain the master.

Remember it: no one can ask for anything in God’s presence. If you are asking for the world, it only shows that you are not standing in his presence. You are still making the trivial more significant than the vast, you are still taking the meaningless as meaningful, and your prayer is false. And neither can you ask for God, because standing in his presence the very asking disappears, asking becomes meaningless; the one who asks no longer exists.

So prayer is not an act. You cannot pray, because the one who prays is no longer there. Prayer is a state of ecstasy, a state of dissolution in which the doer disappears; you are no more there the way you always were. That is prayer.

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