Children, some people criticise devotion and prayer, calling it a mere display of emotion. They view singing bhajans and praying out loud as a show. People who criticise in this manner have simply not understood the principle behind prayer. Prayer does not mean putting out a list of desires to god. On the other hand, it means to open our hearts to god.
When a person speaks to his beloved, will he feel as though he is putting on a show? If his love is true, he will certainly not feel that way. But it may look like a show to someone else. Similarly, as far as a devotee is concerned, his devotional singing and prayer are never a show. Prayer is a conversation, a dialogue between the devotee and god. Every moment of the prayer is blissful to the devotee. Whether the lover is talking to his beloved or the beloved to the lover, there is only happiness.
There is no discontentment. No matter how long they talk, they do not feel boredom. Similar is the case with prayer. In fact, prayer is a conversation with our ‘inner lover’. The devotee finds joy in talking to god, who is, in fact, the pure consciousness that pervades and fills every atom, both within and without.
It is not an easy task to make our mind, which is wandering among material objects, turn inward. Some people may like self-inquiry. But there are many ordinary people who have not studied the scriptures. Shouldn’t they also realise god? Some people develop allergies to injections given to cure their illness—such injections may even prove fatal to them.
For their illness to be cured, they will have to be given oral medicines that will suit the nature of their body. Similarly, the spiritual practices for each individual should be based on his or her samskara, or accrued spiritual culture from many births. Looking at it from this point of view, the path most suitable for most people is that of bhakti.
Prayer is also a means of putting down the burden on the mind. Because the devotee places the burdens of his mind before god as they originate, he will be able to move forward in life without becoming disillusioned in any situation. Ever since our infancy, we have grown through our connection with our mother, father and friends. It is difficult for us to assimilate the concept of a formless god without any attributes. But through a personal connection with god, we will be able to develop our devotion and finally reach that concept of god without attributes.
Children, real bhakti is seeing god in everyone and being respectful to everyone. We should try to uplift our minds about this. Through bhakti, we are not searching for a god who sits up in the heavens, beyond the sky. We are trying to see god in everything. God shines within each person. Prayer is the path to that divinity.
It is necessary to lift the soul from the plane of the body, mind and intellect to the plane of the Self. At present, the soul is like a 100-watt bulb hung in the kitchen, where it is covered with smoke and fails to emit the light of even a zero-watt bulb.
But if the smoke film is wiped clean, the bulb will emit proper light. Similarly, bhakti is a process through which the veil of our ego is removed. If the veil, which covers our inner divinity is eliminated, we will be able to experience the pure Self, our true nature. The writer is a world-renowned spiritual leader and humanitarian