Can you talk a little bit about the science of prayer. Who do you pray to? Coming from a science background, I found it hard to pray to a”god “or deity. I’ve heard how prayer can be useful but I want it to be authentic for me
I like the Hindu term “bhava.” Bhava means something somewhat like a mood of the mind but also a state of consciousness.
In the devotional path of yoga, called Bhakti, the main vehicle to realize god is through prayer, singing, chanting, and other sorts of religious activities meant to facilitate total surrender of mind. In my experience, those on the Bhakti path are very prone to ecstasy and bliss.
Within the context of the Bhakti path, bhava is that indescribable mood of the divine. When you let go of your own mood, the mood of eternity fills you. You become like a hollow instrument through which the divine’s breath moves; the result is spontaneous and sweet music of the soul.
In some other religious traditions of prayer and worship, it is not only a form of the divine that is worshiped but also the distinction between human and divinity. That apparent distance between divine and self is itself a part of their worship–and also an illusion.
Whereas the emphasis in the Bhakti path is not about the separation of human and divinity but rather the surrendering of such walls that sit in the heart and mind.
Personally, also coming from a science background, I am discovering the importance of having elements in my sadhana and lifestyle that are entirely non-scientific. Science is a description, a damn good one. But if we live solely through what is describable, we miss out on that which is without and beyond description.
Maybe it could be said that there is a science to prayer but I have preferred to view it as the “art” of prayer. Art is about being evocative, about stirring something within you. It doesn’t have to make sense or conform to rules or ideas; all it has to do is move you.
I try not to overthink it when I pray. The use of words in prayer is a gimmick, like a hypnotist who uses a swinging pocket watch. It can be helpful but it’s not the point. When I pray, its purpose is threefold:
1. I pray for the peace, happiness, and liberation of all beings. This helps to reduce excessive self-cherishing and also reminds me that ultimately the happiness of all is intertwined. Additionally, when you pray for the wellbeing of all, you yourself are also included. It reduces the sense of separateness.
2. I empty myself through prayer. I let go of my preferences, my ideas, my beliefs, my perspectives, and my word-based mind. Instead, my attention shifts toward the livingness in/as consciousness. This is the beginning of surrender.
3. Mystery. Ultimately, this world and reality is not a knot to be untied or a puzzle to be solved. This shouldn’t stop us from our pursuits of knowledge and truth but we shouldn’t lose touch with the mystery and unknowable aspect of existence/spirit. That room for mystery is important, for it keeps us from getting locked inside of the mental boxes in which we are so accustomed to putting things.
“Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” ~ Gandhi
If you want to do art, you do stuff to get inspired and then you play around with art. You go for a walk, listen to music, let something strike you, and then you paint it, sing it, or whatever. You allow something to alight your heart and then you follow that light within.
You don’t “learn” to pray any more than an artist “learns” art. An artist drops their barriers and boundaries, exposing their heart and mind to influences and inspirations. Through experimentation and practice, they find their own voice. In prayer, it is very similar except that it is an introversion of mental attention to that which is more intimate to your existence than even your body and senses.
If this sounds similar to meditation it is because it is. At their highest “pitch,” prayer, meditation, and contemplation are indistinguishable. All roads leading up a mountain meet at its peak.
So play around with prayer and as weird as it sounds, fake it til you make it. Prayer can feel very insincere at first, the way a painting can suck at first go. But if you keep working it over, something gives way and the painting finally starts coming together.
Detachment is an often advised quality to cultivate on the spiritual way. But this advice is frequently misunderstood as remaining cold, aloof, and indifferent toward life. It is anything but.
Real detachment may be recognized by the arising of joy. Detachment, happiness, and contentment are one and the same.
Suppose you really love strawberries and currently have a massive craving for strawberries. It just so happens that you discover a fresh and beautiful carton of these berries in your refrigerator. So you sit down and savor them, one by one.
Someone comes and offers you chocolate, soda, popcorn, all sorts of snacks. But you don’t feel any desire toward any of that because you are so filled with your enjoyment of the strawberries. That is like true detachment.
But that detachment doesn’t come because of strawberries, or anything for that matter. It comes when you discover that your happiness, your peace, your joy, are nothing else but your Self and it is found nowhere else but within.
Then detachment naturally happens toward the transient play of this world and body. It doesn’t mean that you have distain for them or aloofness or rejection. It simply indicates that you are no longer seeking the right things in the wrong places.
In your own company, before mind, body, and ego, shines the company of all beings as the Self; One without a second. Therein is always peace, freedom, and happiness.
This doesn’t mean that you don’t have compassion and love toward the people you meet and the events in life, but you do not depend on them for any form of happiness. Then you can really enjoy what comes since there is no element of need or insecurity involved.
Practice detachment. Remind yourself that all of this need not be taken as the end all be all of existence. Go within, practice meditation and mindfulness throughout your day. Discover the joy that is your awareness endlessly beholding itself.
Then detachment is found to be a blessing beyond all blessings.
“Wanting your own happiness is key to enlightenment.” ~ Cee
At first this may seem like an odd, even selfish statement. What about the happiness of others? What about compassion? What about “the world”?
The fact of the matter is that none who suffer are satisfied with their suffering, regardless of how big or small. Somewhere within ourselves the unnaturalness behind suffering is intuited and the movement toward happiness naturally arises.
What does enlightenment have to do with being happy and natural?
a) No one who seeks happiness wants a happiness that is partial. The happiness we want is full, overflowing, and without limits. We may compromise and accept lesser forms of happiness but in our hearts it is not what we want.
b) No one who seeks happiness wants a happiness that is temporary. When we are happy, we want that happiness to abide uninterrupted. It is not a fleeting distraction, a rare moment of escape or release that we desire but rather a happiness that is continuous and pervading all experience.
c) No one who seeks happiness wants a happiness that is caused. On some level, we want happiness but we also want to be free and independent from the causes of our happiness. We don’t want to be dependent on others or on circumstances for our happiness. We want to be happy and we ourselves want to be the happiness we enjoy.
Once the above points are wholly acknowledged from our hearts and minds, it leaves only one option: enlightenment. Happiness as it is described above is not just happiness in the ordinary sense with which we are familiar. That happiness which is full, timeless, and uncaused is known as bliss.
And there is only one place to find bliss: your own existence. Just as the nature of water is fluid, wet, and clear, so is the nature of your existence Being, Consciousness, and Bliss.
To rediscover this truth is called enlightenment, or self-realization. It is the most worthwhile endeavor that can be undertaken. It is never a waste of time.
Seeking perfect happiness for yourself does not invalidate or negate the happiness of others. If you seek perfect happiness, you seek bliss. If you seek bliss, you seek revelation of truth. In and by the revelation of truth, all of manifest existence is benefitted. Even the Buddha, a once powerful and influential prince, left behind his empire to seek his own happiness and as a result he brought more light into this world than he would have if he had remained just another king.
Therefore I urge you: Do not deny yourself happiness. Aspire for that happiness which can only be described as bliss. Do not settle for the temporary and limited forms of happiness promised by your desires and fears.
Know what you seek and do not settle for less.