Offering the Lord Prayers

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One of my favorite activities is offering the Lord my prayers for perfection, and reciting notable prayers.

Offering prayers is one of the nine main classifications of devotional service (these 9 methods of devotional service are also part of a larger number of 64 practices favorable for developing love for Krishna, listed in the Nectar of Devotion, chapter six).

The nine main kinds of devotional service are hearing about Krishna, chanting about him, remembering him, serving him, worshiping him in his Deity form, praying to him, carrying out his orders, serving him as a friend, and sacrificing everything for him. We can obtain perfection through practicing any one of them. If you visit a Hare Krishna Temple you will discover that all the Temple activities facilitate engaging in all these activities.

For now I am just speaking about the importance of praying to Krishna, both your own personal prayers, and reciting prayers of pure devotees. Whoever we are, whatever our position, we should practice praying to Krishna and his devotees for perfection and their mercy.

We can also share our struggles and whatever is going on in our life. In addition, by studying and learning the prayers of great devotees we will understand the standard of pure devotional prayers. We are encouraged to pray in that way, yet we have to pray on whatever level we are on, while we aspire for unmotivated, uninterrupted, and pure devotion. Whatever way we come to Krishna, or whatever our initial motivation is good---somehow Krishna is using our life circumstances to help us come to him.

Krishna says four kinds of persons come to him in the seventh chapter of the Gita (the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and the wise person), and it is understood that we don't all come for pure devotion (few do actually). There are many things we could say about this, but one thing is what we should come to Krishna even for the fulfillment of our material desires. That is not pure devotion, but it is a beginning.

If we engage in devotional service, chant the holy name, hear from and associate with saintly persons, we will become purified. If have to start somewhere. No one is so fallen that they can't be purified----we are not that powerfully fallen!!!!

The scriptures are full of wonderful prayers to the Lord in his different incarnations. We see Krishna as the source of all these different incarnations. I refer you to the 7th Canto of the Shrimad Bhagavatam, concerning the appearance of Lord Nrisimhadeva, the half man, half lion incarnation. Specially chapter 9 about Prahlada's prayers to pacify the Lord.

After Hiranyakashipu was killed, the Lord continued to be very angry, and the demigods, headed by Lord Brahma, could not pacify Him. Even mother Laksmi, the goddess of fortune, the constant companion of Narayana, could not dare come before Lord Nrisimhadeva.

"Then Lord Brahma asked Prahlada Maharaja to go forward and pacify the Lord's anger. Prahlada Maharaja, being confident of the affection of his master, Lord Nrisimhadeva, was not afraid at all. He very gravely appeared before the Lord's lotus feet and offered Him respectful obeisances.

Lord Nrisimhadeva, being very much affectionate toward Prahlada Maharaja, put His hand on Prahlada's head, and because of being personally touched by the Lord, Prahlada Maharaja immediately achieved brahma-jnana, spiritual knowledge. Thus he offered his prayers to the Lord in full spiritual knowledge and full devotional ecstasy. The instructions given by Prahlada Maharaja in the form of his prayers are as follows.

Prahlada said, "I am not proud of being able to offer prayers to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. I simply take shelter of the mercy of the Lord, for without devotion one cannot appease Him. One cannot please the Supreme Personality of Godhead simply by dint of high parentage or great opulence, learning, austerity, penance or mystic power. Indeed, these are never pleasing to the Supreme Lord, for nothing can please Him but pure devotional service.

"Even if a nondevotee is a brahmana (priestly order) qualified with the twelve brahminical symptoms, he cannot be very dear to the Lord, whereas if a person born in a family of dog-eaters is a devotee, the Lord can accept his prayers.

"The Lord does not need anyone's prayers, but if a devotee offers his prayers to the Lord, the devotee benefits greatly. Ignorant persons born in low families, therefore, can sincerely offer heartfelt prayers to the Lord, and the Lord will accept them. As soon as one offers his prayers to the Lord, he is immediately situated on the Brahman (spiritual) platform."

So please pray to Krishna for his mercy. I say many times a day, Lord, please be merciful to me--please help me, and sigh, because although my life is in many ways wonderful, just being in a material body can be troublesome. Then I usually say, "You know Lord this is just a way of speaking, because I want to be surrendered to you and remember you always---then I won't be affected by the duality of the material world. Lord, you are always merciful, and you are always helping me. Please let me realize this, and always act on this understanding".

Yes, I have to smile!! Then I say some expression of gratitude, like, "Thank you Lord for your mercy, your kindness, your love, guidance and help in some many ways". And I do mean it. That always feels very good. Gratitude in whatever condition we are in is always good for us, and is often the solution to whatever ails us. Our feelings and intentions are more important that our words. Practice makes perfect.

Combined comments from old site

Tue, 10/09/2007 - 04:27 — Radhikesh
Mechanical prayers

Well written Karnamrita Prabhu. It is very much important that our feelings and intentions are more important than our words. The reason I am saying this is more often than not when I offer my daily prayers, it becomes kind of a rote and I lose sight of the intention with which I first started saying those prayers. I mechanically repeat the prayers. In devotional service we do many things repeatedly - like chanting or worshipping the deity etc. Any thing done repeatedly has this problem of taking it for granted and becomes mechanical - our minds keep wandering. It becomes kind of niyama-aagraha: taking the rules end in themselves. Srila Rupa Gosvami warns us one should avoid both niyama-agraha: not following the rules and niyama-aagraha: over stressing the rules.

Reading such inspiring posts from you awakens me to offer prayers with sincere feelings and intentions. In that sense it is good that we get more troubles so that we can call out to Krsna helplessly - seeing Krsna means not seeing repeated births and deaths (Queen Kunti's prayers).

Your servant
Radhikesh das


*Reply*

Tue, 10/09/2007 - 10:15 — Karnamrita.das
Going deeper

Ah yes, those mechanical prayers (including my rounds). Over the years as a devotee, that was one of my majors, as I was so busy doing other services, worshiping the Deity, and saving the world, that I forgot about attentive japa and taking the time to really, sincerely, feelingly pray from my reflective, repentant heart.

I find that over the years of practicing our devotional service, we have to revisit why we are a devotee and why we do what we do---sort of like in a marriage, we find it helpful for couples to reaffirm their commitment and vows to each other, less they become too familiar and complacent. As the saying goes, "familiarity breads contempt".

It is so easy after some time to just go through the motions, and I have experienced personally that we can really forget the goal of what we are doing. The externals become sufficient, and we "get our rounds done", or we may maintain a standard of Deity worship which has lost its' life. We could be spiritually dying, but the service is covered---no problem apparently from external vision.

That is why we have to continually take stock of our devotional practices (sadhana) so we don't get carried away by mediocrity. It is also helpful, to have close devotee friends give us feedback about our service attitude which they can sometimes see better than we.

I was a pujari for many years, who had often experienced being overextended and overwhelmed. As a result I could spot the symptoms in others, where someone else might have missed it---even the pujari himself.

And so it is with our chanting as well. We have sung the standard prayers for many years, and then one day, we go to the song book and discover that we are saying the words incorrectly. Then we might think, hey, I don't even know the meaning. So we learn the meaning and feel more enlivened, thoughtful, and yes, less mechanical. There are so many stages we must go through.

We could have driven for a thousand miles, but as soon as we take our hands off the steering wheel, we go into the ditch. We were a great driver, but we forgot what it takes to drive.

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita


*Reply*

Wed, 10/10/2007 - 00:36 — Navasi
Feedback

Dear Karnamrita Prabhu,
Yes, I agree with what you have said here. It is very wonderful to have a close devotee friend give you feedback about your service attitude.
I was hoping for such feedback from a close devotee friend myself, because I asked them for it (or at least I thought they understood that I wanted it) but I think they are maybe too busy for me and my feedback.
So, I guess I just have to hope my service attitude is alright, because there is no close devotee friend to tell me if it is or not!
Thank you,
Navasi