THE ROLE OF PRAYER.
O Lord purify us with water, purify us with solar rays, purify us with medicinal herbs and, above all, purify us with Wisdom, i.e., endow us with POWERS OF MIND by enlightening our intellects.—Rig Veda—viii, 19-2.
HOW exquisitely painful are the effects of Ignorance. Many are the victims, many the bond slaves of their lower selves. Many are the wrecks awaiting an early grave and looking forward to the time when Death shall come as a welcome relief. Many walk the earth with an uneasy Conscience, starting with sudden fright at their own shadows and conscious all the while as if the brand of Cain had burnt its mark on their brows. Many are even now undergoing the tortures of Hell in the fierce conflicts raging in their souls. Many close their eyes when the cold hands of Death have seized upon them with this cry, "To what end have I lived? Alas! I die as ignorant as I was born. All my fond wishes have vanished into thin vapor, all my long cherished aims have been shattered into pieces." Such are the woes of Mankind—God's children.
"Ignorance is the only soil where Evils can grow and germinate" misdirection ofNature's forces entails misery, pain and sorrow. These latter seem quite in advance of the enormity of the mistake. "Why should I be smitten so hard for a little thing like that?" that is the angry protest of the sufferer. I shall take it that you have aspired after noble heights of Spiritual Development and the PEACE consequent thereupon. As Emerson puts it: "Let us say then frankly that the education of the Will is the object of our existence. Poverty, the prison, the rack, the fire, the hatred and execration of our fellow-men appear trials beyond the endurance of common humanity, but to the hero whose intellect is aggrandized by the Soul, and so measures the good which his thought surveys against these penalties; the terrors vanish as darkness at sunrise."
Have you ever caught a glimpse of the peace that passeth all understanding? Let us listen attentively to what a noble thinker says: "There are moments, supreme and rare moments, that come to the life of the pure and the spiritual when every sheath (the material coatings in and through which the spirit impresses its will upon the Objective Universe) is still and harmonious; when the senses are tranquil, quiet, insensitive; when the mind is serene, calm, and unchanging; when, fixed in meditation, the whole being is steady and nothing that is without may avail to disturb; when love has permeated every fibre; when devotion has illuminated, so that the whole nature is translucent; there is a silence and in the silence is a sudden change; no words
may tell it; no syllable may utter it, but the change is there; all limitations have fallen away. Every limit of every kind has vanished. As stars swing in boundless space, the self is in limitless life and knows no limits and realizes no bounds. There is light in wisdom, consciousness of perfect light that knows no shadow and therefore knows not itself a slight; the thinker has become the knower; all reason has vanished and all-wisdom has taken its place. Who shall say what it is save that it is bliss? Who shall try to utter that which is unutterable in mortal speech—but it is true and it exists, . . . Its nature is bliss; all the spheres have ceased; all else has gone; none but the pure may reach it; none but the devotee may know it; none but the wise may enter it."
Such indeed is the ineffable sense of power serene that folds its wings around the earnest Yogi. The restless world with its warring interests, its corroding passions, its bloody wars, its existence of want-and-have, of buy-and-sell, of self-love, greed and eternal heart-burn, seems to lose its jar and shock in the presence of this tremendous spiritual force. How can it be otherwise? I take it that your gaze is fixed with earnest longing upon the eternal; that your intellect has expanded to the light of the spiritual illumination, yet,—I cannot help feeling it—so imperfectly, that my aim is, in these short papers, to point out to you the "How" rather than the "Why;" since, from my point of view, the former alone solves the latter; realization alone vanquishes the
weapons of skepticism and doubt. "Steadfastly by truth, by austerity, by perfect wisdom, by Brahmacharva-practice (Perfect Chastity) is this atma attained. In the midst of the body, clad in light, He whom the sinless and the subdued behold is pure."—(Mundakopanishad).
Feel convinced, student, that the emotion which impels to lofty aspiration and noble achievement is powerless in itself, unless the clear light of expanded intellect irradiates the soul and shines full along your path. "The intellect," said Sextus the Pythagorean, "is a chorus of Divinities. From the plane of pure intellection all life, both subjective and objective, both inner and outer, appears embosomed in beauty, but, viewed from the platform of action, life is a struggle, where the stakes are life and death, and in which "The joys of conquest are the joys of man." In the supreme struggle for Self Perfection,—for you must aim at nothing short of that,—the joys of the final triumph constitute the greatest joy of man.
Nowadays it is the way with some to run down the intellect and to give emotions the first place. Again, there are others who ask you to kill out the heart—the seat of emotion—and to give the head—the seat of reason—the first place. Both schools are dogmatic and their reasoning is shallow, very shallow. The fact is;—neither can be suppressed and crushed out. Steady reflection will prove that each is great in its own place, that the heart and the head, the feelings and the intelligence,
complement themselves, and both are ultimately resolvable into Infinity—which is Unity, pure and simple. Nature aims at human development on all planes and you must unfold on all sides; otherwise you run the great risk of being top-heavy, onesided, fanatical, narrow and short-sighted. Indeed, you cannot infringe upon the Eternal Law of all-round development without bringing pain upon yourself. Try to realize this supreme truth! Nature is conquered by Obedience. Nature's laws are invariable and their very uniformity is your safeguard. Knowledge invests you with the power to control. Nature's forces are at your disposal and you must learn how to manipulate them. If you put the same question to Nature rightly, the same answers shall be invariably returned. When the scientist in the laboratory fails to perfect an experiment, he examines his methods and always finds somewhere something wrong in his own processes.
Hence, if you plead ignorance as the cause of your blunders all blame to you and do not be surprised if dire punishment overtakes you for pulling the strings of fate the wrong way. This is at the root of all human miseries. Now, there are those who pretend to laugh at the efficacy of the intellect to promote spiritual development. They laugh at Yoga and austere living and say, "O, everything comes from devotion and worship. God will give me everything." Quite so. Perfectly so. But friend, how is it that after you have had your tear—relief from your little, emotionally-worded prayer, you
seem to forget everything but your personal concerns; you seem thoroughly steeped in animalism, selflove and hatred; you seem quite upset at the loss of your trifling worldly things; you seem swayed to and fro by other's opinions; by your own passions. Come, are you not a slave? Would you dare to part with your fleshy tenement at a moment's notice? Are you not far removed from God?
Then, how dare you cry down the Yogi and his efforts to master himself? I say, how dare you? You profess to follow the dictates of the heart and yet your egg-shell existence of narrow selfism has quite dried up the fountain of love within you. No; so long as you are a slave, you cannot love and worship the Infinite. The intellect must be developed along spiritual lines; the will-force must have vanquished the animal cravings which are ever exerting a pull downwards. "The torch of wisdom must be lighted in the secret chamber of your heart." The soul must contemplate the glories of the Infinite Intelligence. Then, the love-force,—"the all-consuming fire?—shall inundate your heart. It will make your whole being vibrate in tune with the Infinite.
The student of Yoga is taught to meditate upon the Supreme Ruler of the Universe: Omkara! Why? Because to meditate thus is the highest worship. But that I have no power to teach. What is worship? There is the worship of Ignorance—Avidya; again there is a worship of the intelligence and illumined soul—the
true Philosopher—the Gnani—the worshipper of the Om!
The worship of the worldly man has back of it the all-consuming forces PECUNIOMANIA.
Is then worldly happiness the proper standard to judge religion by? You may roll in riches. You may dine off the most succulent viands and the most richly prepared dishes. You may wear the costliest raiments. You may drive in the smartest equipages. You may live in palatial buildings adorned with the most beautiful appointments. You may have all the physical comforts such as the rich mines of Golconda or the artifices of modern civilization could procure you. The world may call you blessed by the Lord and you may lose your mental poise under the subtle influence of their fulsome flattery and indulge in heroics, may even consider yourself God's beloved. But stop. You are a pleasure-seeker; and the pleasure-seeker is an ass and so are they that pander to his vanity. If you think sense-gratification the summum bonum of existence, please stop reading this—it is not meant for you.
I just now mentioned a peculiar word—Pecuniomania. Now what is the significance of this word? Why, my friend, it is a disease. It is very infectious. It is a force that plays off man against man. Why does one fly at the throat of another? Why should be this blinding clash of human wills? Why should one man be so phlegmatic, so indifferent to the actual needs of another? Why should there be a constant feeling of hungry
stomach, a parched throat and a feverish brain? Why should you so persistently talk evil behind the scenes of the very man whom you just now flattered face to face? Why should you consider the whole world selfish and feel yourself bound to blacken your soul through selfishness and deception? Take your mirror in hand and now just study your face. You are already on the hunt for that which will help you to gratify these cravings that the face portrays and that something is money. You are already a worshipper of the Golden Calf. You are praying to Plutus—the god of gold. This is pecuniomania. This thirst for gold to gratify the demands of your animal soul is a madness that dulls the eyes, senses, coarsens the features and dwarfs the intellects of the young and the middle-aged as well as the old; women as well as men. Well may such as these feel utterly taken aback when there comes among them a man who, although young, opens his lips only to utter words of wisdom; opens his eyes only to look the living embodiment of perfect chastity and good will; seems utterly innocent of self-seeking, self-glorification, self-righteousness and self-importance. Did you ever see a man whose earnest enthusiasm and noble aims, shine in his eyes, dwell in the ring of his voice, seem to have entered his hands and feet and compel his entire being? These are true devotees of the Supreme Intelligence.
Such alone can pray. Prayer is the sincere lifting of the soul to the source of All-power. Prayer is the burning
desire of the soul to achieve inner wisdom. Prayer is the earnest strain upwards of the intelligence to pierce the dark penetralia of Ignorance. Prayer is the ceaseless pressure upon the Superconscious mind—the Divine part of ourselves—to expand our sphere of insight. Prayer is the deepening of the intellect and the expansion of the Heart. Prayer is the triumphant conjunction of Reason with Intuition. Prayer is the cry of the purified and expanded soul for power and Wisdom to help and uplift, to purify and ennoble, to exalt and strengthen those towards whom it may feel itself drawn by the bond of spiritual affinity. Prayer is the longing of the son to co-operate with his father; to lift on his own shoulders a little of the heavy Karma of this world. Prayer is the struggle of the soul to free its wings; the flutter of the heart through the awe of lofty Idealism; the instinctive leaning on our secret selves; the drawing inwards for more light and life. Prayer is the concentration of the spirit on the Problems of the Divine life; the turning of the search-light of the Super-conscious-self upon the riddles of existence. Prayer is the filling of inner vision with positive light—light that rends asunder the veils of Darkness and Maya. Prayer is the souler-ascent up the magnetic chain of Evolution. Prayer is the meditation on the Infinite in the silence. Prayer is the faith of the seer in his visions; in his contemplation of the facts of life, inner and outer, subjective and objective, from the highest standpoint, in the utmost trust that he reposes in the Infinite;
law that sweetly and steadfastly seeks to ever provide our feet with iron shoes for rough roads. "Prayer that craves a particular commodity—anything less than all good—is vicious. Prayer is the contemplation of the facts of life from the highest point of view. It is a soliloquy of a beholding and jubilant soul. It is the spirit of God pronouncing His works good. But prayer as a means to effect a private end is meanness and theft. It supposes dualism and not unity in Nature and in consciousness. As soon as the man is at one with the God he will not beg. He will then see prayer in all action. The thoughts of the purified soul are all prayer. Perhaps you will ask: What are the effects of prayer?
The attitude of the praying mind is one of intense concentration. The feelings which are the motive power of all men, have been wrought up to a state of tension. The nerve-currents are all being carried up to the brain and there converted into thought-power. With each exertion, whether mental or emotional, there is an outgoing current of magnetism. There sets up a stress in the ether. The entire organism is subject to Self-Magnetization. The psychic atmosphere around the praying soul is throbbing with his thought-forces. The aura—the photosphere round each form is bathed in living light, sending forth waves of golden yellow color and scintillating with unimaginable splendor. The finer forces of the super-physical planes have been attracted to you. Your mind is opened to the influx of Divine Help. Receive it. It is yours for the asking.The question of how to pray need not trouble us much. Prof. James, in his well-known work on "Psychology," makes the following most truthful remarks: We hear in these days of scientific enlightenment, about the efficacy of prayer and many reasons are given us why we should not pray, while others are given us why we should. But in all this very little is said of the reason why we do pray, which is simply that we cannot help praying. It seems probable that in spite of all that science may do to the contrary, men will continue to pray to the end of time, unless their mental nature changes in a manner which nothing we know should lead us to expect."
Quite so. It is your nature to pray. You eat twice and there are some who eat every three hours in the day, lest your body should starve. But in the meantime you are starving your soul. The moment you feel the need for a higher plane of Development, you will pray. Plato advised those who prayed to remain silent in the presence of the divine ones, till they remove the cloud from the eyes and enabled them to see by the light which issued from themselves." always isolated himself from men during the "conversation" he held with God and whenever he felt the necessity for divine contemplation and prayer, he wrapped himself head and all in the drapery of his white woolen mantle. (Isis Unveiled P. I.) "When thou prayest, enter into thy closet and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father in secret," says the Nazarene. Prof. HiramErastus Butler—one of the noblest amongst the modern American Christian thinkers—says in his beautiful book, "The Seven Creative Principles:" "When heavenly desire is active, then man prays, but not without it can he pray effectually. Then the prayer of that soul which looks out upon the human family and the world and sees the fallen condition we are in today reaches out with that pure thought which they should have. O, for Wisdom and Power, that I might work under thy guidance for the elevation of my brethren; of those under my care! O, that I might become an instrument in the hands of that Infinite Power to work that I may alleviate, elevate and strengthen; that I may bring my fellows into the consciousness of that glorified life."
Now, reader: understand, once for ever, prayer is willing. It leads to the accomplishment of your aims on the spot. The righteous and pure soul expresses its will force in prayer. Thereby it is exalted into the spiritual realm. In this sphere Will is the basal power of influence. It draws all your finer forces into a focus towards the thing willed for. The result is that the thing is done. The astonished and grateful recipient attributes his success to a Special Providence and he is justified in doing so. The Great Law operates always and everywhere. The prayer simply attunes himself thereto by taking intelligent advantage of nature's forces. By prayer you come into rapport with the spiritually conscious side of yourself. You are as a needle pointing to the magnet—the more faith—and faith
comes from Knowledge and Chastity—you put into the task, the sooner will you adjust your forces; the quicker shall be the response; the more lasting and powerful the reaction. Here, then, you have all the switches and levers of energy and inspiration.
Therefore pray ever and believe that your prayer shall ripen to fruition. Build up faith in the unseen and the invisible. The self in you is your guide, philosopher and friend. It is the Rock of the Ages—the Eternal among the Transient—the Source of All-Power, Wisdom and Activity. Lean on it for it is Strength—Invincible Strength.