Mary Barnett (61) is a freelance editor in Australia. I have met her during seminars in Asian countries. While I took my family to Singapore, we all had lunch together.
Once she told me her life story – she has a 38 year mentally retarded son. Her daughter had cerebral palsy. Her husband died. Life has been really hard for her, though she is financially sound.
“It appears that god is not listening to my prayers. God has not performed any miracles in my life…I don’t know why. Do you pray Uday?”
“Sometimes…whenever I feel like…”I said.
“I know you don’t have to pray. God has given you a good background and beautiful family…so you are happy, unlike me…”
“Mary, I have my own set of problems…I may be appearing better positioned than you – it is just your perception based comparison. But every person in the world has problems and situations that mostly appear unsolvable for him/her…And who told you that we have to pray only to change the mind of God?”
“Change the mind of God?” she asked.
“Yes- Most of our prayers are to change God’s mind (if any). We sometimes instruct god how to change the situation. We give guidelines to god. We want to change the situation that’s provided by God – that’s the sum total of all prayers, isn’t it? Does your God run customer service department? How can god be responsible for the results of our own actions?”
“Hmmm. So you don’t pray in your religion?”
“We do. But it is not mandatory. My religion doesn’t say that god has created everything out of nothing. So there is little scope for prayer for such miracles. In our dharma, prayer is one among many paths to reach God…”
“I don’t understand. Then how should a devotee relate to the God?” she asked.
“According to my ancestors there are two major pathways for the relation between Bhakta (Devotee) and Bhagavanta (The Lord or God, whatever) – Marjaara Nyaya and Markata Nyaya.”
“That’s in Sanskrit language, the most beautiful language that Homo sapiens ever spoke. Maarjaara=Cat. Markata=Monkey. Nyaya=argument or logic. My ancestors noticed the difference between Cats handling kittens and Monkeys handling baby monkeys. The kittens don’t move by themselves. The mother cat with gentle love and affection lifts the kitten by holding its neck with its teeth (not hurting it at all) and goes from place to place and deposits the kitten wherever it wants. The monkey presents an interesting contrast. The baby monkey holds firm to the underside of the belly of its mother and the mother moves from place to place sometimes even jumping from branch to branch of trees at great height. Even if the baby is bruised in the process, it doesn’t let go since instinct tells it that death is certain if it relaxes its grip…”
“How is it related to God?”
“A devotee can be like a baby monkey – hold on to God as a baby monkey clings to its mother- it is devotee’s responsibility to hold on to his Ishta Devata (favourite God). So, come what may, you won’t lose grip to God…”
“And the other one?”
“The devotee becomes like a kitten. Leave everything to God. Whatever happens, it happens for good. It is a total surrender to God with a firm knowledge that god will take care. So, you will know that every situation (good or bad) would be provided by God there should be a reason for that…”
“So, there is no value in prayer…” she said very sadly.
“There IS! Prayer will give you inherent strength. It may invoke the ‘sankalp sakthi’ (A concept on the power of god). Sometimes prayers can open up some channels or unknown dimensions – Many things can happen, we don’t know. We may even get an awareness to see things in different perspective. We may get emotional insight too… Our mind-set may change – so that we would be able to face problems with divine grace…”
“So, God cannot show miracles in my life? Is that what you say?”
“I don’t know…If your leg is cut off after an accident, can it grow again? No – such miracles may never happen. But god may give you wisdom to use artificial limb….”
“So what’s the role of the God?”
“As per my understanding, God (if exists in personal form) is like an honest judge. God can’t change the cosmic law of karma. He is the sole guardian of the law. However, just like any judges in our legal system, the God can use his/her “power” and move about the destiny. God may increase the stipulated bandwidth of the destiny (pre-pone or post-pone it) for later time or may be next birth,” I said as I had to honour her conditioning – the belief in a personal God.
“Uday, it sounds bit complicated – these are alien ideas for me. Can you explain it in layman’s terms?”
“A raw example would be your fixed deposit (FD) or very long-term fund deposit in the bank. Let’s compare your accumulated punya (good deeds) to the FC. When something bad happens, you would pray to God. So, the same way you withdraw your FD, God may withdraw the accumulated Punya to support you for the time being. But there could be an issue similar to the pre-mature withdrawal of a FD. You may not get full benefit of your punya if you try to alter the destiny…This is my understanding” I said.
“So, my life is hopeless? Is it because of previous bad karma that I suffer? My prayers won’t be heard?”
“Who said so? Why wouldn’t God listen? Everything happens for a reason… But why should God tell you the reason? Just think about it.” I said.
“You mean to say, we expect to happen in response to our prayers may be far different from what he actually does?”
“Yeah. God can know your prayer, even before it begins, right? But God cannot change the cosmic law of karma. In your case, God has given you an opportunity to serve two human beings. Why? You are dearer to god – that’s why god has assigned you such a great responsibility. I would say you are currently doing the greatest punya, Mary. Those who appear “enjoying” life today without caring the fellow beings around them will face more problems tomorrow. As your Bible says, Jesus would heal and set free the oppressed and downtrodden, the crushed and bruised…When you take care of and pray for your children, God listens to you and blesses you. Problems in life are mandatory. But worrying about it is optional. See, at least, you are safe, healthy and financially sound – that means god has given enough strength to endure these hardships…. Stay blessed!”
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