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PRAYER-SYMBOL OF SARANAGATI & UNIVERSALITY

From: KESHAVA PRASAD (103020.541_at_CompuServe.COM)
Date: Sat Apr 27 1996 - 22:02:32 PDT

Hello Fellow Bhaktas / Prapannas:
				This posting is inspired by a brief exchange of
views between me and Parthasarathi Dileepan with regard to praying. 
				Prayer has a special place in all religions known
to mankind. Prayer is perhaps the Common Denominator to all the religions. Here
is what many famed personalities have had someone impress them with the
significance of prayer or expressed their opinions about prayer:
	1)	For a starter, here is a little anecdote from the life history of
Sri Ramanuja whose Thirunakshatra (birthday) was observed a couple of days ago
by Sri Vaishnavas all over the world.

	If we recollect from Sri Kuresa's story, Kuresa who had lost his physical
eyes but had his inner vision in tact, was a perfect image of devotion to the
Guru. He came along with his wife and son to a place called Krishnachala to
perform the worship of Bhagavan Sundarabhuja and resided there for sometime.
While residing there, he thought himself blessed in composing the hymns to Sri,
Sundarabhuja Atimanusha and Sri Vaikuntha. Desirous of touching the lotus feet
of Yatiraja (Ramanuja), his own Guru, he went from there to Yadavadri , appeared
before him and fell at his feet. Sri Ramanuja raised him affectionately from the
ground , embraced him warmly and said, " Today I have been purified and blessed
by the touch of a great devotee. Ah ! what an auspicious day it is for me ! "
		Kuresa shed tears of joy. He could not utter a single word. His
wife and his son Parasara, too, experienced unbounded joy in the gracious
presence of Sri Ramanuja. 
		After a few days, Ramanuja said to Kuresa, " My child, go to
Kanchipuram and pray for your eyes to Lord Varadaraja who will surely remove
your blindness. "
		" Be it so, " said Kuresa at the command of his Guru and went
straight to Kanchipuram. Arriving there, he went to Sri Varadaraja, surrendering
his body, mind and speech to him, began to hymn the Lord. Pleased with his
devotion, Varadaraja asked: " Kuresa, My Child, what do you pray for ? Tell me
what your wish is and I shall fulfill it right now. And the story
continues.......

	2)	" Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily
admission of one's weekness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without
words than words without heart." 
						-Mahatma Gandhi.

	3)	" O Lord of Courage grave, 
			O Master of this night of Spring !
		Make firm in me a heart too brave 
			To ask Thee anything. "
						-John Galsworthy, in "The Prayer"

	4)	" And Fools who came to scoff, remained to pray. "
						-Goldsmith, in "The Deserted
Village".

	5)	" In prayer the lips never act the winning part
		  Without the sweet concurrence of the heart. "
						-Herrick, in " The Heart"
		
	6)	" More things are wrought by prayers than the world dreams of " 
						-Lord Tennyson, in " Mort de
Arthur"

	7)	" One can cross this ocean of worldly life and reach God by means
of Nama 			Sankeerthana " (Singing God's names).
						-Sri Tulasidasa, in "Sri
Ramacharita 						  Manasa"

	8)	" We cannot pray to an impersonal God. We cannot pray to a
Nirguna Brahmam, 		we can  only pray to a Saguna Brahmam.
						-Adi Sankara (who composed hymns
showing his devotion to Vishnu, Siva, Lakshmi, Ambika and Narasimha).

	and finally,

	9)	" One attains grace of God by meditation in Kritayuga, by
sacrifices in 		Thretayuga, by worship in Dwapara yuga and by prayer in
Kaliyuga.
						-Sage Parasara in " Vishnu
Puranam".
	
		Moral of the above observations can be: Prayer is a means by
which the humans can reach out to help from God either for the salvation of
their souls or for the relief of a temporary affliction in the material world
helping them refocus on the true objective of their lives on this earth. Prayer
is often directed to an identity of God that one likes or believes in. Prayer
can be objective at times but mostly subjective. Prayer is most effective when
purely objective and is done in total surrender.
	The question that comes up often is whom to pray to. The subject of a
prayer is usually chosen based on the subjectivity or the objectivity of the one
who prays. Does it really matter as long as the prayer is genuine and fills a
need in one's life ? To a Sri Vaishnava, the supremacy of Lord Narayana is
unequivocal. The subjective mood of a devotee may make him perceive the supreme
Lord in multiple roles. It is not unusual therefore, that prayers are offered to
Gods and Goddesses who are deemed a part of the Brahman but are established to
accomplish a specific function either by the Good Lord Himself or the scriptural
authority which sets the rules for roles played by them. A good analogy that can
be made here is perhaps the white light. The Rainbow colors making up the white
light are manifested on refraction of the light passing through a prism. Here
the bright white light is Lord Narayana and the prism is his devotee. The
multiple colors are the different manifestations of the Lord as seen through the
eyes of a devotee. Is it not possible that different colors emanating from the
source of white light can represent the different aspects of the Brahman ? And
it is equally possible that the individual colored light is appreciated for its
own uniqueness and qualities. It is therefore, not as much the subject of one' s
prayer which matters but the level of devotion or Saranagati that is packed into
the richness of prayer. It will finally reach the supreme Lord. With that
thought behind our minds let us recite a few of the favorite prayers that at
least  some of us are used to singing since our childhoods. The objective here
is the the well being of the universe.

		SUKLAM BARADHARAM VISHNUM SASIVARNAM CHATURBHUJAM 
		PRASANNA VADANAM DHYAYET SARVA VIGHNOPA SANTAYE.
 			
(I offer my salutations to God Vishnu who is omnipresent, who wears white robes
who is as bright and cool as the moon and who has a pleasant face. Let Him drive
away all obstacles to my progress in life and give me peace of mind.

More often than not, the same prayer is addressed to Sri Vinayaka as well).

More often than not, an extension of this prayer is offered to Goddess
Saraswathi and is as follows:

		YA KUNDENDU TUSHARA HARADHAVALA YA SHUBHRA VASTRANVITA
		YA VEENA VARADANDA MANDITAKARA YA SWETA PADMASANA
		YA BRAHMAACHYUTA SANKARA PRABHUTI DEVAIHI SADA POOJITA
		SAMAMPATHU SARASWATHI BHAGAVATI NISSHESHA JADYAPAHA.

It behoves us in some ways to take note that in many a prayer, It is not so much
the person to be the subject of a prayer as the personification of a quality or
an attribute that is being hailed or desired. For example, in the above prayer,
knowledge and a disciplined approach to acquiring knowledge assumes an exalted
position. Saraswati is the personification of that exalted position in the eyes
of the devotee.

		OM ASATOMA SUD GAMAYA, TAMASOMA JYOTHIR GAMAYA
		MRITYORMA AMRITAM GAMAYA, OM SAANTIH SAANTIH SAANTIHI.
{ Oh God, lead me from bad thoughts to good thoughts; lead me from darkness
(ignorance) to light (knowledge);  lead me from mortality to immortality }.

		OM SAHANA VAVATU SAHANAU BHUNAKTU
		SAHA VEERYAM KARAVA VAHAI, TEJASVINAVA
		DHEETAMASTU MA VIDHVISHAVAHAI
		OM SAANTIH, SANTIH, SANTIHI
( Let Brahmam protect us both - the teacher and the disciple. Let Him feed us
with knowledge. Let Him help us work sincerely, harmoniously and without
difference so that the process of learning may be fruitful and bright).

It should be recognized that there is a universality in prayers that are popular
and are repeated over and over again, especially in congregations. whether one
likes it or not, living in this age of multi culturalism one cannot help but
grow sensitive to other cultures and religions. We do not have the luxury of
temples practising our own sampradayas that we can frequent. The few temples
that have been constructed and consecrated in the towns and cities of the U.S.
are due to the efforts of a number of people with diverse backgrounds and
beliefs. The only binding agent is the fact that they are from the holy land of
India. Hence, in our temples here all of us can sing prayers of our liking
during our private moments. But when it comes to the finale when all the
devotees present wilL pray in unison, it is a prayer of universal character,
addressed to one God, the God of mankind, call Him what you want.

OM NAMO NARAYANAYA.

Keshava Prasad.