Entering the Life of Prayer


Entering the Life of Prayer

Dark this morning. The trees on either side of the road are almost meeting in the center like an arch. They are so full of green and stretching out, but it is a cold summer, cold even for Ireland.

Prayer is not just recitation, it’s a whole life. I was reading in Therese of Lisieux that she was trying to do everything for God, for Krishna. That includes offering up to Him her suffering. What does that mean? I think of it like this: I offer a good thing. For example, I was just doing exercises on the road. I was thinking, “Krishna, I am doing this for. You so that I can offer a strong body in Your service.” While doing push-ups I go, “One Hare Krishna, two Hare Krishna.” I am trying to chant more, but also thinking and praying all the time with the act. Right now I have a strong sense of well-being. It’s so nice here. I am offering the solitude to prepare myself for Krishna. I’m thanking Krishna. However, when disturbing things happen as arranged by Providence, you have to find how to appreciate that. See it as Krishna’s mercy and thank Him for it. How do you offer suffering to Krishna? It’s a matter of keeping the right attitude, as in the verse, tat te ‘nukampam susamiksamano: this is due to my past activities and I thank You; I offer obeisances unto You; I don’t forget You.

Isn’t any service just a matter of devotion? For example, whenever you offer food to Krishna, it’s not the food, it is the devotion. When we say “offer suffering,” it sounds strange, as if, “What is Krishna going to do with some pain?” Again, it is the devotion. In the same way, what is Krishna going to do with some fruit from this material world compared to what He has in Goloka? Once more, your offering is your thoughtfulness. My dear Lord, this is nice fruit and we are offering it to You. My dear. Lord, I am suffering and it is an effort to do so. Please accept this somehow as a form of devotional offering to You, just as You would accept flowers and fruits. Please know that I am doing it for You and trying to remember You.

Each day I have been speaking while walking, but today I have been mostly silent. I trust that Krishna is preparing me in silence also. There are also some points that I am thoughtful about, and I am not so completely clear and conclusive. I understand from recent readings that even a great personal ardor for spiritual life could possibly be a tainted ambition rather than what Krishna wants. I know we should be ambitious in the right sense—to serve Krishna. I am a little confused about my petitions. I was willing to go on praying, “My dear Lord Krishna please give me this and please give me that . . . “—different kinds of requests for service, because one should cry to serve, laulyam. I was willing to appear foolish, but I don’t want to do it if it is not right. I make so many petitions to Krishna, whereas we should just want to do whatever He wants. That’s already happening, isn’t it? What He wants is happening. All you can ask Him, then, is to see what is happening, or to understand Him and to love Him.

My dear Lord Krishna, please have mercy on this sinner. I want to be happy in prayer. I want to have favorite prayers, but most important is what You want. My dear Lord Krishna, I am not the center of the universe or even the center of my prayers. Even to say that I am little is not the point. You are everything, and I just have to be Your servant. Simultaneously, I feel that I am benefiting from reading the last conversations of St. Therese, and yet realizing more that I should try to hear regularly the pastimes of Krishna as in the Krishna book.

If someone asks me why I think it is important to pray aside from chanting Hare Krishna, I will say just to hear the holy name is fine, but how do you hear? For example, when you hear a car going by, you don’t care for it. So I am always distracted when I chant the holy name. I want to improve. I realize intellectually that even inattentive chanting is valuable, but I have been chanting for a couple of decades and more. I don’t know about your chanting, but mine is full of distraction. I have also heard that one should be patient and that one is actually close to Krishna if you keep trying, even without consolations. Well, that’s nice to hear, but it does seem that I should, at the same time I am being patient, invest my energy not for seeking consolations, but to try to become actually conscious. Pray to Krishna and think of Krishna with quality, with value, with meaning, rather than without those things. Pray with attention and with devotion, and that takes some effort. That is why I am investing time in this. If I can come to the stage of just feeling myself very humble, chanting and only hearing the name of the Lord and quietly within praying to Him, then that will be fine and I will keep going in that way.

I have not been so successful yet in trying to pray in my own thoughts and words aside from chanting Hare Krishna. I still think it is worthy, though, and therefore I am reading about it, trying to enter the sincere mood of feeling lowly and feeling some communication with Krishna so that I can talk to Him and think about Him all the time according to the standard scriptures and in my own heart.

Nevertheless, there are still problems such as, “Do I pray to Krishna, or do I pray to Prabhupada? How can I be so presumptuous as to talk to Krishna all day long?” In my mind I turn to Prabhupada. I tell him, “My dear Srila Prabhupada, I learned about Krishna in this way. Do you approve it? Please accept it. I want to show you that prayer is making me a better devotee of Krishna.” Then I think Prabhupada would say, “Then it is all right.” He doesn’t need to read St. Therese, but he says, “If you say it helps you, then it is all right. I want to see, though, that it makes you a more inspired devotee of the sankirtana movement, chanting and hearing Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

I am trying to understand how one can offer suffering to Krishna in devotional service. When you dedicate some activity to Krishna, it’s not the suffering per se, but if the activity becomes very difficult, then you know that you are suffering for Krishna. To give a very, very tiny, embarrassing example: I was just doing some exercises, just push-ups. Why am I doing push-ups? The idea is to keep this aging body fit for more service. To make it strong enough, perhaps, to overcome the headache syndrome. Health for service. Keeping that in mind, that these push-ups and obeisances is for Krishna —both in the service of Lord Krishna. The pain of doing more push-ups is devotional service. If I can do just one more, two more push-ups, it is for Krishna. Perhaps that simple example can be expanded to other kinds of sufferings. Then you have someone like St. Therese, who feels joy in the suffering. She admits that she is just like a little child in suffering in the body—it is very terrible, but in the soul she feels peaceful. Each moment to moment was difficult, though.

I’m also trying to understand the meaning of mortification (which may be the same as austerities or tapasya). The spiritual teachers seem to say that when you deny yourself something that you want, and if you do it in the right way, it’s a spiritual benefit. You want it, and you deny yourself. You restrain yourself not out of a sense of void, but to curb your physical appetites and mental desires. We are meant to follow the dictates of Krishna. Krishna doesn’t want to see us suffer or be denied, but we have gone so far in this wrong direction that we have to go backwards. So we are taking these material things away to replace them with Krishna consciousness. That which in the beginning is like poison and later is nectar, is happiness in the mode of goodness. When we feel some physical pain, that comes from the nature of this body. When we deny ourselves some pleasure which is actually a physical or material pleasure, we feel disappointment. We have such a strong desire-instinct to be happy because that is our original nature, anandamayo ‘bhyasat. Therefore, when we feel this unhappiness due to pain or restriction of material pleasure, we think it must be wrong. We definitely don’t want to endure it.
Actually, our physical indulgence is a false happiness. It is hard for the mind to accept. There is so much misery in life, so if we can find a little happiness in this world we want to take it. However, if it is not a real happiness, it is just going to make things worse. Prahlada Maharaja says that the remedy which I take for my unhappiness turns out to be worse than the actual unhappiness. So we have to be intelligent and suffer, and when we suffer for purification, we can thank Krishna, “Please give me the strength to suffer in this way so that I can become a fit devotee.” We are trying to offer ourselves to Krishna. We want to thank Him for this purification, asking Him for the strength and the intelligence to understand the suffering and to understand our relationship with Him. Tat te ‘nu-kampam.

A particular danger I sense, if I try to advance, is the pride of the enjoying spirit, trying to raise my reputation by any kind of favors Krishna would give. That false ego would, of course, destroy real spiritual advancement. One actually advances by feeling himself unworthy.