Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What may I pray for? Myself? Others? - Part 1

Part 1 - Stories

Admittedly, most "praying" people wouldn't think twice about praying for their own needs. After all, "there are no atheists in foxholes" as the saying goes. When in crises, even non-prayers find themselves praying--sometimes making promises if they can get rescued from their crises.

Reminds me of a joke about an Irishman who is desperately looking for a parking place because he's late for an important meeting. He prays, "Lord, if you can find me a parking place, I'll stop drinking." Suddenly, he sees a space opening up, and he prays, "Never mind, Lord, I found one!" (I think that as a child I probably reneged on a few prayers, too!)

My teacher, Swami Kriyananda (1926-2013) describes a kidney stone attack one Sunday morning. He was doubled over with pain but refused to pray for himself, but he was scheduled to give the Sunday morning homily. As the time for the Service approached, though shaking with pain and unable to move, he had the inspiration to pray, "Divine Mother, if you want me to give the Service and not disappoint those who have come today, you'll have to do something about this."

Suddenly and in a flash, the pain vanished. While formerly he was too much pain to even speak, he found that when he went to do the Service he was in too much bliss to speak! And, as he pointed out, it was not because the pain had gone but because of the joy of Divine Mother's caring response. Later he reflected that perhaps She approved of his prayer which was directed on behalf of others!

In his book, "Awaken to Superconsciousness," he tells this story but then adds that he wouldn't expect to hold most people to such a high standard in respect to their personal needs, fears, and desires. Once, when he was a young monk, he had the thought of "wouldn't it be nice" to taste one of those Swiss chocolates he remembered from his childhood growing up in Europe. (This was in the early 1950's when Swiss chocolate wasn't common in American stores.)

What was "sweet" was that on or around his birthday that year, a box of Swiss chocolates showed up from someone who could not have known it was both his birthday and his wish for them. With joy, he shared them with his fellow monks. When God rescues us from fatal harm, well, you can "kinda" expect that, but when a small desire is fulfilled in a way that only God could have known about and fulfilled, well, that's especially touching.

I have tried to live my life in this spirit, though I freely pray for liberation and freedom from delusion. This desire, too, must be fulfilled, Paramhansa Yogananda said! I also pray that if I must reincarnate again, that I find my guru and spiritual path quickly before delusion swallows me up again (or at least delays unnecessarily my journey to Self-realization).

There was a time in the early years of my life at Ananda Village in California, when I felt it was time to move on from the administrative work I was doing at the fledgling community. I wasn't sure what form the next step would take but I had reached the point where no opportunity for change was presenting itself. Given that, at the time, there wasn't anyone else obviously capable of taking my place, it seemed (to me) that I was stuck for a long time to come.

My dilemma was that I didn't want to "ask for myself" or to cause any hardship to the Community. In his famous Yoga Sutras, Patanjali says "what is ours will surely come to us." Thus I was hesitant to speak up for myself to anyone, feeling that if Divine Mother wants me to serve in administrative functions for the rest of my life, well, I guess I'd better embrace it and be happy about it!

Then one day in the 1980's when Padma and I had traveled to our center in Italy (we were with Swami Kriyananda, Ananda's founder, on Ananda business), I felt to share with him my feelings on the matter. We were having a quiet lunch together in Rome at a friend's house and were soon to part ways: we back to California and he on to another leg of a lecture tour. He nodded sympathetically and seemed to agree that a change was needed but nothing was decided or even put into motion as a result. But, interestingly, after that conversation, there soon appeared on the scene a new member who had the precise credentials needed! I had simply stated my case, as it were.

A year ago I had a sudden paralysis of my right hand. It was disconcerting at first. I didn't know what it was or whether it was short-term or permanent. After my initial shock, an inspiration came to me: "This must be my guru's grace!" An improbable thought, perhaps, but it was more than an affirmation: the thought rang with truth.

From that point forward and though I did all the exercises and therapies suggested to me, I let go of any expectation of recovery. It was no "mere" inconvenience. I do constant typing (emails, compositions, planning, etc.) but was limited to one finger typing which for me, as a lifelong very fast typist, was excruciating. Many ordinary tasks were impossible. With my limp hand I'd constantly send objects flying across the room. In my frequent classes I couldn't play the harmonium and had to ask for help. Yet help was there, without any need for me to seek it.

For weeks while struggling to carry on my ordinary activities and conceal, as best I could, my disability, I kept affirming "Guru's grace." Then after six weeks long weeks and only one day before my annual seclusion I found I could move my fingers sufficiently to play the harmonium once again. Within a week or two the paralysis disappeared!

Part 2 - Continued in the blog article: How to Pray for Your Self & Others

Swami Hrimananda....praying that you'll read the next one......:-)

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