In almost every religion, God is considered the Creator. Logic tells us that effects have a cause: the received wisdom is therefore there has to be an ultimate cause of everything around us: That we call God. God is also the dispenser of the fruits of our action. God is therefore both the Shrishti-karta and karmaphala-daata.

One might ask - if these are His chosen functions and if He performs them any way, why do we pray to Him? Where is the need for Bhakti, or, devotion to the One who created, not at our choice, and who dispenses, not at our request?

The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali provides the answer. After defining yoga as the control of mind’s activity, he says the way to achieve it is to worship God. God is perfect among the imperfects; unmoved and immovable - stthanu (or stable) amidst instability. By focussing our mind on Him and by meditating on Him, the hope is that, at least to an extent, we also get transformed like Him, in particular, unaffected by want or desire. It is like holding on to a steady pillar in a ship on choppy waters, so as not to be tossed about, at least not thrown off.

Sometimes, while praying, mindful that God is all-knowing and all powerful – which is the reason we pray to Him - we do not ask for specific things at all. For example, at the conclusion of Sandhyavandanam, we perform achamaneeyam and say, yad badram thanma aasuva, ie., may God give me whatever He thinks is good for me. More commonly, however, we petition for specific benefits. Does the Omniscient not know what we want? Does the Fairest of all wait to be praised and asked? Indeed, because of our prayer, what God has ordained, in reality, does it change? We know the rather uncomfortable answers to these questions and yet pray - why?

We pray for at least two reasons: first, saying what we want to say in itself is a great healer. It gives us greater peace of mind. It enables us to focus on what we can control instead of wailing over things beyond our control. Second, we go to Him in a sublime endeavour to remove our impurities and imperfections. As Tiruvalluvar aptly says – To Him who has no attachments, we attach ourselves, so as to rid ourselves of other attachments. We pray so that we are re-charged, spiritually.

Bhakti, ie., a devout consciousness that God exists and acquiescing in unconditionally, alchemizes us into greater purity. We become better persons.

Hara Hara Sankara, Jaya Jaya Sankara
Hara Hara Sankara, Jaya Jaya Sankara