Prayers come in all forms — some big and some small. As children, we want a lot of things — to be successful, to be rich, to be popular, to love and be loved, to travel around the world, to be perfect and so on. But does wealth really bring happiness? Does love make us contended and give us peace? What about success and popularity? Do they satisfy us? Who bothers about these things at that age?
Wisdom comes with experience and, sadly, not necessarily with age. The more difficult the experience, the more we learn from it. So, with the relentless knocks of life and advancing years, I realised that most of the things I had craved for were either transient or downright undesirable. I know, I know! All those admonishments I had heard about them being so had never penetrated my thick skull, till life knocked sense into it.
As we grow older our prayers metamorphose from the material and selfish, into intangible ones, seeking clarity of mind and the welfare of those around us. I had been feeling good about the last, till I read an article about prayers by Swami Dayanand Saraswati. Apparently, all prayers are self centred no matter for whom you pray! When you see someone suffering, you also suffer because you are human. You want the other person to be happy which means you want to be happy….. My prayer therefore is to help prevent or bear that (my) suffering.
As selfish as they are, I take comfort from the fact that they help me in becoming a better person and so I am sharing them here with you.
Desirable as it is, love can suck you into its vortex and spin you out of control and that is a dangerous thing. When that happens, you can get hurt, turn possessive or smother those you love.
In my new found wisdom, I have realised that detachment is the key. Love with detachment is also unconditional because it releases both the lover and the loved from any kind restrictive binding. Being detached, one does not feel taken for granted or get hurt by those who reject the love. Detachment is especially necessary for those who are caregivers, whether at home or outside. Even those who are in social work, need a measure of detachment, lest the sufferings of those they are helping, overwhelms them.
So my first prayer is: God, give me detachment, and the courage to look from afar at those whom I love, if going too near is making them claustrophobic. After all, a handful of sand drains away fast when held tightly in the fist.
Is there anything as ‘enough’ when it comes to material wealth and possessions? As we crave for and get more, we end up being proportionately more dissatisfied and there is no contentment. Contentment here is not to be confused with passivity, as it is being happy with what you have while still striving to improve your lot in the material sense. Only, the striving stops short of greed and discontent.
So please God, give me contentment and happiness with what I have — both material and otherwise. And give me a generous heart to share what I have in humility and gratefulness, for being able to, instead of a sense of charity or a feeling of superiority.
Why would anyone ask for imperfection, you wonder? I once had wanted to be a perfectionist – in everything I did. However, I soon realised that it is not a virtue and being an order-freak can be downright undesirable. For it fosters intolerance, impatience, smugness and contempt for anything or anyone one considers less than perfect. I also discovered that perfection is subjective and hence there is no such thing as absolute ‘perfection.’ What one might find as being perfect might fall short of another’s parameters. Besides, it is too fraught with tension – those who are hung up on order and perfection can create tension for others, if not for themselves! A major offshoot of perfectionism is a monster sized ego. And that is something I want to save myself from, under all circumstances.
So my next prayer is: God, make me imperfect if perfection inflates my ego, breeds intolerance, ridicule, smugness and condescension towards those whom I consider beneath my standards of perfection. Instead let me see the beauty in imperfection — a twisted branch, an imperfect vase and a limping gait or crooked teeth. Please keep me from the isolation that perfection and the attendant arrogance it breeds.
No, I am not asking for success, but for the opposite. When I had been young, I had craved to be recognised as an achiever. But alas, it never happened. However, in hindsight, I am glad that it didn’t, for it spared me the ills limelight brings in its wake — the need to perform consistently to conform to the expectations of others, the pressure of being the cynosure of all eyes and the attendant emotions — both positive and negative. I find that these are too high a price to pay for success. I have done quite a lot in life, but quietly and without pressure. And I am grateful to God for that.
So God, please let me remain unknown and unsung – an ordinary, average person. And if you do give me popularity, do give me the humility to acknowledge and thank all those who have made me popular, and to take bouquets and brickbats with equanimity and grace.
Hey! I just realised that all these prayers can be condensed into a single one: God please nip my ego in bud. For, isn’t ego at the root of the desire for success, love, possessions and everything else that makes one look good?
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