The Gita: A Message from Shree Krishna
Why do you worry so much unnecessarily? Who are you afraid of? Who can kill you? Atma (soul) does not get born and does not die.
Whatever happened, it was for the good, what is happening is also for the good, and what is going to happen, will also be for the good.
Do not remember the past, do not worry about the future, live in the present time.
What have you lost that you are crying? What did you bring when you were born and now you have lost it? You came empty handed and you will go empty handed. What belongs to you today was somebody else’s yesterday, will be somebody else’s tomorrow. The joy that you feel thinking of what is yours, is the cause of your unhappiness.
Change is a routine process of this world. What you think of as death is life in itself. In one moment you become rich, the next moment you become poor. If you can get a handle on your mind and accept the change, you will be happy.
This body is not yours, you do not belong to the body. The body is made out of the elements of nature- fire, earth, water, air and ether and it will become one with nature in the end.
ATMA (SOUL) IS STABLE AND IS INDESTRUCTIBLE. IF YOU CAN UNDERSTAND THIS, YOU WILL BE HAPPY
One who realizes God’s strength and shelter becomes fearless and enjoys the freedom of living a life free of worries, sadness and fear of death.
I have very often been asked to recite prayers either at the beginning or the end of public functions or meetings. I used to feel very awkward and would recite one or two shlokas that I knew and end up with Om Shanti Shanti Shanti. I could not translate the shloka and often ended up with the feeling that neither the audience nor I had understood the prayer at all – maybe only the last part of Om Shanti Shanti Shanti. When I began to attend interfaith meetings, I found that the Christians and the Muslims prayed differently. They rarely quoted from the scriptures but they asked for the Lord’s blessings for the meeting or function, to give guidance and to help to complete the task at hand. I admired that form of prayers and wished that I could do the same. I did try but found it to be superficial and unsatisfactory. I again turned to our prayers that we normally recited at our functions and tried to find the correct translations for them.
The first prayer that I learnt and found a good translation for it was the Gayatri Mantra. When I next had the opportunity, I recited the Gayatri Mantra and then recited the translation. It made a very deep impression on the people of other faiths in the meeting. It was also more satisfying to me since this was a proper Hindu prayer.
I had another opportunity where I was specifically asked to say the prayers at the end of the meeting of interfaith action for peace. For this meeting I chose the prayer that we recite at our meetings at the end – Shanti Path. I recited this prayer and when I had done the translation, I almost got a standing ovation! This prayer just hit the right note after all the discussions about peace building!
I realised that not only had we something unique to offer in Hindu prayers but that these prayers are very powerful. This has led me learn further about our prayers and to make them more relevant to modern times. What makes our prayers different is that they are universal and are for the whole mankind. When we talk about peace, we talk about peace in heaven, peace on earth, peace in the ether, peace in the vegetation, peace in medicinal herbs etc. We talk about individual and universal peace. This is a better way of praying. When we ask for blessings, we seek them for the whole of mankind.
Understanding some of our prayers properly can be very enlightening. My favourite prayer is the prayer from Durga Saptashati or Chandi Path. This prayer is recited on many occasions in bits and pieces i.e. only a few shlokas are recited. If the entire prayer is taken it actually describes the strong forces of interaction within humanity. This prayer is by devas to Devi – the Energy Principle of God, to come and help them to defeat two great ‘rakshashas’ (Monster) Shumbh and Nishumbh. The prayer is a long one but the shlokas that are normally recited starts with the following verse:
Ya Devi sarva bhuteshu, Vishnumayeti shabdita, Namas tasyay, namas tasyay, namas tasyay namo Namah
That Devi who is known as the Maya of Vishnu in all the living things, we bow down to her again and again.
The verses then continue to enumerate different aspects of this Energy Principle and bowing down to all these different aspects. The following aspects are addressed in the prayer:
Chaitanya, Budhhi, Nidra, Kshudha, Chhaya, Shakti, Trushna, Kshanti, Jati, Lajja, Shradhha, Kanti, Laxmi, Vriti, Smriti, Dayaa, Tushti, Matrum, Bhranti
The verses are all the same except that one aspect is mentioned after another i.e.
Ya Devi Bhuteshu, Buddhi rupen sansitha, Namas tasyay, namas tasyay, namas tasyas namo Namah
Ya Devi Bhuteshu, Nidra rupen sansitha, Namas tasyay, namas tasyay, namas tasyas namo Namah
Ya Devi Bhuteshu, Kshudha rupen sansitha, Namas tasyay, namas tasyay, namas tasyas namo Namah
Ya Devi Bhuteshu, Chhaya rupen sansitha, Namas tasyay, namas tasyay, namas tasyas namo Namah
And so on
Let us just put these aspects together and examine them. As they are listed above, each one is a driving force of life.
Chaitanya, Budhhi, Nidra, Kshudha, Chhaya, Shakti, Trushna, Kshanti, Jati, Lajja, Shanti, Shradhha, Kanti, Laxmi, Vriti, Smriti, Dayaa, Tushti, Matru, Bhranti
Chaitanya – the life force; Budhhi – intellect; Nidra – sleep; Kshudha – hunger; Chhaya – shelter (or shadow); Shakti – energy (or power); Trushna – thirst; Kshanti – forgiveness; Jati – gender; Lajja – shame; Shanti – peace; Shradhha – faith; Kanti – light; Laxmi – wealth; Vriti – natural tendency (nature of a person); Smriti – memory; Dayaa – kindness; Tushti – contentment; Matru – motherhood; Bhranti – illusion.
One can see immediately that these are very important aspects of life and the ancient rishis (sages) have shown the pervasiveness of all these aspects in all beings on earth. Therefore when we say this prayer to Devi, we are praying for the whole of mankind since the prayer says that Devi is omnipresent in life in the form of say kshudha (hunger) and we bow down to that aspect of Her divinity. The whole concept of this prayer is truly fantastic. Some rishi must have looked at life and meditated on it for a long time to have come up with prayers such as this so many hundreds of years ago! And yet it is so simple! It has very often been said that our prayers have always had much deeper meaning than what appears on the surface. All the above attributes of Devi are in fact the basic factors that spur life into action – sleep, hunger, intellect, shelter, energy, thirst, forgiveness etc. Such lofty and universal prayers are rarely found in other religions. If we accept that these scriptures were written at least 2500 years ago, then we can see the very high evolution of Hindu culture at the time.
Hinduism is a straightforward way of life. It lays a lot of emphasis on personal spiritual development. It follows that the prayers that the ancient rishis recited daily were for all and universal in nature since the prayers were mainly for the reaching an enlightened state of being through meditation and looking inwards so seek God. This is why they are considered applicable to the whole of mankind irrespective of the religion they follow. We should not only learn the Sanskrit prayers and their proper meanings but apart from using them in our daily prayers and puja, we should make an effort to use these prayers at interfaith congregations. These small prayers open a door to people’s heart and will appeal to them immediately. The listeners will be encouraged to find out more about Hinduism and our purpose will be served.