This is the next in the series on Sanaatan Dharm; these articles are my reflections as I attempt to understand myself, my religious affiliation, and the world around me – it is the chronicle of my path of self-discovery… I make no assertions on a collective scale
WHY DO WE PRAY?
This is one question that has come to my mind only very recently; it is one of the triggers for penning this article. Why do we Humans pray? For what purpose? I can make no assertions for you – but I can examine and analyse myself, and try to determine why I pray. What is it that drives me to prayer? In my case, I can truthfully state that prayers started as a means, an effort, to get divine assistance to smoothen my rather difficult, or rather uncertain life and its attendant problems. That is how it started out – and it would probably have remained at that level, had life not had other ideas.
That is the best way I can put it – for I can find no other reasons for the sequence of events that has lead to this deep self-examination that I subject myself to in writing this chronicle of self-discovery. Being a person with deep seated, strong belief systems based on values – Integrity, Honesty, Loyalty and so on; living in a world which thrived on “gamesmanship”, selfishness and materialism – not having a coping mechanism meant I had to build one of my own. My response – building my mental ability to disconnect; my hobbies, which have enabled me to keep afloat, even achieve a lot despite being rather strict in my values, was one aspect; but, in difficult times – the answer I had usually had was a combination of my hobbies and being able to disconnect, and prayer to deal with the resultant stress.
That brings me to what I can call the first level of consciousness – Fear. Fear is can be said to be a driver of action – this is well accepted by science. Fear is also what drives humans towards Prayer, as uncertainty raises worries, anxieties and stress levels. That drove me increasingly towards Prayer – something I almost never did right till my late 20s, despite not having a Job, or any career clarity. I wasn’t built that way. Well-wishers, family advised me and directed me towards Prayer – thus, Prayer is also a learned response, it would seem. One does need a Guru, a Guide to set a person on the right path. Praying kindled hope, it also kindled action, as somehow I acted much better with the confidence of a firm hope behind me.
Life went on; I advanced in age, in my career, in my personal life; this kindled in me my desires. Initially, these desires were materialistic in nature. However, it needs to be noted that Fear outpaces, outdistances Desire; fear is a far stronger emotion. Desires and ambitions lie dormant, and are drivers of longer term action, whereas fear-driven responses are shorter term, in my experience. These never drove me to prayer; Desires and Ambitions spurred me to action – in my life, in my career.
These operate at two different levels, as I have observed keenly over the past 2 years – fear is always on the top of the mind, whenever present; and desire lies dormant, together determining life choices and decisions. In good times as well as bad, this hold true. These drive what you are today, what you want to be tomorrow… not what you will be tomorrow, which is the result of a combination of your actions & your circumstances and your decisions. Understanding how, why to take these decisions is a life hunt for each individual. The gap between what you want to be and what your direction is taking you towards stress, kindling, once again – fear and desire, taking you back where you started. Fear keeps you on your toes in the real world, while desire enables action and response mechanisms, together leading towards your life materialistic goals. These are thus two different levels of consciousness!
TOUCHING DEEPER INTO YOUR CONSCIOUSNESS
Most of us go through life in these levels of existence – fear & desire. So far, we are in safe territory even from a perspective of psychology and known science. And yet, I have always looked out into the sky at night, wondering why we are here; why we are alive; who am I; what is life; and having a deep dear of dying – as long as I can remember. I have no idea why I had these thoughts. I have always wondered who is God, how did this Universe come about – maybe all Humans do have these thoughts. Assuming that is so, I, like other humans, did nothing about these except suppress them.
THE THIRD LEVEL – SELF CONTEMPLATION AND EXAMINATION
I have no recollection or idea what drove me towards reading The Bhagwad Geeta in several translations, The Upanishads, or The Vedic Texts; but it was connected to my habit of reading, when I came across an excellent book – What India Should Know, the 2nd half of which was based on The RugVed and YajurVed. I have always been a voracious reader; so that wasn’t a surprise. But till this day I have no answer to why I picked up my first Bhagwad Geeta translation, or my first Upanishad. Maybe it was God’s hint; I don’t know – but I was lucky to pick up the one by Geeta Press.
And it is through studying these scriptures, which I have been doing for 3.5 years now, repeated alliterations of the same, that I can arrive at a faintly glimmering look at the 3rd Level of Consciousness, a level deeper than these above 2. From a perspective of Psychology – fear & desire cant answer your value system, which is the core of human personality. Lying dormant, but the determinant of all actions as well as deep thoughts is your core value system.
What is the connect? Simply this : I have always wondered how I can stay cool, calm and reasoned even under extreme stress and difficulty, of which I have seen far more than my fair share? This isn’t my observation, by the way – several friends have observed this in me, and it is they who brought my attention to this factor. If fear & desire are the two levels, then there has to be a third level of consciousness that determines your behaviour, attitudes and your actions, which has to be the bedrock of your nature & your personality.
This is where we diverge from accepted Psychology so far as I am aware; and paradoxically, this is where Psychology and our scriptures also come together. As we shall see in the next part of this series, whenever I get around to penning it, this 3rd level is extremely hard to put into words, let alone understand. And yet – it is there, it is present, as you yourself have no doubt realized in the quiet contemplative moments of your life. This is a level that transcends fear, desire and existence; and goes to the core of the intersection of Psychology and Scriptures – as we shall see in the next part of this series of personal thoughts on Sanaatan Dharm…