A prayer is one of the methods of being in communication with God. It, more often than not, takes the shape of addressing the God with the purpose of petitioning, praising, worshipping, confessing or even verbally abusing the chosen deity while in the process being in communication with the God. Or a prayer can also take the form of a person merely pouring out his/her emotions as an act of sharing. One of the main ends of a prayer across all religions and cultures is seeking solace.
THE HINDU WAY OF PRAYER :
In a Hindu’s life, the prayer forms an important component. Every action, event and the ensuing circumstances, success or failure, is filled with prayers. Therefore, in Hindu tradition, prayer takes different and numerous forms compared to other cultures, though the object and motive remain the same.
Arguably, Hinduism is the one religion with maximum number of prayers, worship, rituals and ceremonies. Waking up, going to sleep, bathing, and commencing a new venture – to name some, prayers form the important part in all these and the whole life.
In Hinduism, the prayer is called Prārthana. Prārthana is not merely requesting or praising or confessing. It is simply an act of communicating to God.
- Hindu prayers can be broadly classified into mental or Mānasika, verbal or Vācika and physical or kāyika. Staying in the very thought of the Divine and completely forgetting oneself is a mental orMānasika Prārthana, though, at lower level, a thought about Divine, an appeal or desire about God can also be construed as Mānasika Prārthana.
- Chanting of mantras, repeating the verses about God, or verbal appeals and requests constitute the Vācika Prārthana.
- Offering of oblation to fire, making mystical gestures, circumambulation of a temple, prostrating in front of god, going on a pilgrimage, etc. constitute physical or Kāyika Prārthana.
In the verbal Prārthana, several mystical syllables are used since these syllables have the power of conveying the Grace of God quicker and also cleansing the aspirant both physically and mentally.
An unique feature of Hindu prayers is that the prayers are not only made to God or Deity and the images representing them, but also to many things that are considered Holy and Sacred as they are manifestations of the Ultimate. So, a Hindu prays to variety of Sages, Saints and Preceptors, the mountains, the rivers and even the trees.
There are set of prayers that a Hindu repeats every day spiritualising and energizing every day existence. There are prayers that are repeated on certain occasions. And there are prayers that are meant for special occasions. Many of these are not followed by many people because of growing western culture in the east and diminishment of culture.
Following are a few daily prayers and some useful prayers to various gods and for specific occasions. [PS: There could be minor variations in the mantras provided in this series, due to regional differences, etc.]
~ Prayer to be chanted before studies :
Siddhir bhavatume sadā.
“Oh Goddess Saraswati, my humble prostrations unto Thee, who are the fulfiller of all my wishes. I start my studies with a request that Thou wilt bestow Thy blessings on me”.
Saying this prayer, the student should start studies daily.
~ Prayer to be chanted before meals :
Brahmārpaṇam brahma havir
Brahmaiva tena gantavyam
Brahma karma samādhinā.
“Brahman is the oblation; Brahman is the clarified butter etc. constituting the offerings, by Brahman is the oblation poured into the fire of Brahman; Brahman verily shall be reached by him who always sees Brahman in all actions.”
Uttering this prayer, one should start one’s meals.
Prayer for Universal Peace :
Sarve bhavantu sukhinah,
Sarve santu nirāmayāh;
Sarve bhadrāni paśyantu,
Mā kaśchid duhkha bhāga bhavet
“May everybody be happy. May everybody be free from disease. May everybody have good luck. May none fall on evil days.”