by Jayaram V
Most people close their eyes, when they pray. This is the general practice.
The eyes remain closed, as we join our hands or bow our heads in the presence of God. But in most instances, the mind remains active and distracted as usual. In such cases, prayer becomes just another activity, some kind of a ritual performed to keep our fears and feelings of insecurity assuaged.
The truth is, when we pray we should close not only just our eyes, but all the other senses and the mind as well. We cannot approach the divine with a disturbed mind and distracted attention. We have to shut ourselves completely, to the extent possible, from the external world, in order to find the center of peace and light within.
The image in front of us, if we choose to keep one, is helpful in keeping the mind steady and concentrated. It acts like a front door through which, with some effort, we can enter the House of God. If the senses are under control, if the mind is not distracted, we are in a better position to bring ourselves in tune with our higher aspirations and thereby in tune with the higher forces of the universe.
However this is not the only effective way to pray to God. The beauty and strength of life is that in any given situation we have choices and many opportunities to achieve the same goal or approach the same truth. Prayer is not an exception.
There is another method, prescribed by some schools of devotional theism, in which the devotees are allowed to pray and sing while gazing adoringly at the image of their personal deity for prolonged periods of time, with their senses fully awake, and their minds filled with rapturous devotion and full concentration. This generally results in the devotees' falling into trance or some trance like mental state. Here the highest form of devotion is manifested in the ordinary plane of consciousness and the divine is almost pulled into the earthly plane by its magnetic force.
In some cases this practice is allowed to go to the extremes. Here the devotees not only sing and dance, but give full expression to their heartfelt emotions, till they fall into some kind of trance or ecstatic state. The ideas of detachment and renunciation of the worldly life, which are central to all spiritual life, become manifested in their mode of worship. The devotees experience some deep feelings of unbridled joy and inner freedom, so much so that sometime they lose sight of all social inhibitions and exhibit their love for the divine in extraordinary ways.
It is difficult to say which of these methods one should follow. It depends upon each individual, his or her religious background, and inner disposition. Some people prefer the silent way of praying, because they feel more comfortable with it and like to communicate with God through the silent recesses of their minds. Some people prefer the noisy way, bringing out the best and worst in them so that in the end they feel a greater calm descending upon them through the enervated body and mind and charging them with divine energy. They feel transformed and purified through exhaustion.
God, being what He is, perhaps would not discriminate between one devotee and another. Perhaps He is amused by all the approaches and treats all his devotees with the same love and attention. What makes the difference is the sincerity and the child like purity of approach, backed by unwavering mind and firm faith.
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