Monday, October 27, 2008

Praying for?

This is a topic I had wished to put down my thoughts on for sometime. Today I witnessed a scene during our Diwali Visit to the famous Ganesha Temple on Bull Temple Road in Basavanagudi that prompted me to finally do it.

The aarthi had taken place and the Poojari was going around showing the lamp and giving blessings. One person, called out urgently to his wife who was moving around to come for the aarthi and take the Poojari's blessings. The wife was clearly annoyed at being called but came over anyway. As they were bowing to the Poojari to take his blessings the lady's cell phone rang. So there was this scene with the lady talking on the phone with her head bent and the poojari giving his blessings by placing his hand on her head while looking elsewhere! I wondered about the point of all this? Did the lady expect to be blessed even while talking on the cell? Was the Poojari so detached that he was giving blessings without any awareness of what his recipients were doing? or maybe he just did not care. They then continued on with their next task with only me left to scratch my head....

Now to my long delayed "think aloud". I have always wondered what is it that we as human beings want when we pray to God? When I was young and being the son of a fairly religious mother, I would do my praying dutifully every day morning and visit temples regularly. At that age our most important prayer was to do well in studies. After further education, marriage, job, children and a lot more worldly knowledge, I began to wonder if somebody really heard our prayers and acted on it. All my logical thinking said that it was utterly impossible. So I just stopped other than a reflexive request for the good health of our family and peace to the world whenever I stand in our prayer room or at a temple. That's where I am at now. Others? I always wonder about that.

It is obvious that those who pray and believe in a higher power do expect deliverance of some kind to their request. Does it happen? I think generally that prayer is for something whose outcome is unknown or not in the persons control for example a job application. If it is successful, then credit is promptly given to God. If it fails there are so many ways to rationalize it that we need not question the existence of this "higher benefactor". It could be because the prayer was not sincere or God gave the job to somebody who required it more or you did something stupid like post the application during a bad time "rahu kalam". But such a reasoner will never arrive at the more possible conclusion which might be that he/she did not interview well or was just not suitable for that job. Same reasoning could be applied for other prayers such as for exams, operations, business deals, etc., I think that's why its so comforting to place all pressure onto a "higher power". This keeps the person confident to face the next hurdle and not getting depressed. For this to work, you have to truly believe in the existence of a higher power. Else it wont work!

So, I always feel, that for those who truly believe, prayer is a good way to relieve tension and pressure in all challenges we face in our lives. For others like me who find it difficult to believe we are on our own to succeed or fail and face the consequences. Is either one the correct way or wrong? I think both are fine as long we don't try to force one to think like the other!

Now where does that leave the lady who takes blessings from an uninterested Poojari while talking on the cell phone? Maybe she does not believe in a God so just did not care or she feels that the call is important enough that "God" will understand and not punish her? Something to chew on... I wish I could have asked her!

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