Do Prayers work? To the question "Do prayers work", Adinarayanan Ji answers by narrating a story from the Mahabharata. Quite a lot of work happens in the background when we pray.
Q : So many people have this question, whether our prayers are actually being answered. So we go to the temple, pray for something, but sometimes what we pray for happens but sometimes it doesn’t happen, so is there something that is going on in the background?
Okay, this becomes a very important question, because especially since now our modern educational process has taught us that everything is like clockwork, mechanical precision. For example, this body is made up of atoms, now where is the “I”. It is quite missing, you know. There is no connection, there is a disconnect, but our experience of ourselves is not that way, it is not just atoms. Like that if we look at this universe as something that is like clockwork, then tick, tick, tick, tick…it just goes on mechanically, what is the use of intelligence? Is it a participatory universe, that is our key understanding that we need, it is a participatory universe, that means, the effort that we put in actually has commensurate result. Without that there is no motivation to put in effort, because anyhow it is clockwork.
So it does not work that way. So to illustrate this there is a beautiful episode in the Mahabharata, so there is this brahmana who is extremely poor, because brahmanas generally at that time, you know varnashrama dharma, if you look at the classification, brahmanas were devoted to knowledge, so they would not care for material wealth so much, just the basic existence and that the community, the society would take care of that. So they would not be focussed on that at all. So he was like that and then… because of extreme poverty, and because of social circumstances he could not get even basic subsistence, he could not make ends meet, and hence he decided that he needed wealth. So towards gaining wealth, he decided he would pray. Through appropriate prayers he would satisfy. He went to appropriate temples then he found a deity who was not much sought after and that was a deity , a megha, a cloud, Kundodhara. So he started praying and the prayer got really intense and it was recognized by Kundodhara. Kundodhara supplicated to the devas, that let wealth be given to this brahmana, the devotee of his.
So on this supplication, the devas said,”Okay, let’s give him so much wealth.” But Kundodhara again kept on asking, “Let proper wealth, that which is really beneficial for my devotee be given to him.” This took a long period of time, while the brahmana kept on praying, kept on with his prayer, without any visible result, as per his understanding, he is not getting any visible feedback. But at the subtler level, Kundodhara is supplicating again and again supplicating and finally the devas decide,”Okay, the greatest wealth that a person can possess is moksha, being free of all desires and all wealth and you know being free of all of this. And then Kundodhara is happy, that his devotee has attained to a good end. So when the devas actually mention,”Thathastu. So be it, may this brahmana get this wealth.” At that instant, in the inner experience of the brahmana, he gets vairagya, he feels,”What is the use of my pursuing just material wealth. It is anyhow going to be….it is almost frivolous pursuit. It is going to be nothing at all.” And hence, when the devas grant this boon, the brahmana experiences an inner freedom. And he goes towards pursuit of….he becomes free, of this pursuit of material wealth. And that is illustrated through this story. Then Kundodhara actually gives darshan to the brahmana and the brahmana actually asks,”I have been praying to you but you have not given me anything.” While Kundodhara actually explains what happened in the background. Then it really opens the eyes of the brahmana! And this is how it works for us as well, we pray, we don’t see a visible result, visible impact, but there are things happening in the background.
This is illustrated by another beautiful story. There is this great Savitri that you would have heard of. So Savitri’s father prays for 18 years, to Gayatri devi and she finally she blesses him with a daughter. But he is “Okay, I have been praying for 18 years, what took you so long.” Then she explains that to actually satisfy is prayer, she has to visit Brahmaji in his loka, get his appropriate permission, and then come back and then deliver the result. That times time you know! All this is not visible to us and hence we give up very easily, but when this is visible, then we see our effort, even in terms of prayers, that also cleanses us, it leads to antahkarana shuddhi, because we pursue it and that over a period of time, actually makes us, just takes away all unnecessary, unwarranted desires, it makes us free, and focussed and that then, we actually pursue it and when the result comes, it is also satisfying, we also get only what is appropriate, if it is not appropriate for us…the brahmana, as in the story, the brahmana wanted material wealth, while actually Kundodhara, the deity that he prayed to felt that what is appropriate, really appropriate for him is not just material wealth, because material wealth, you will again get entangled, but actually what is appropriate for him is the ultimate wealth of freedom, of liberation. So likewise, in the background….even children you would have seen, children pray for let’s say chocolates, but parents look at the appropriateness of the prayer and grant what is good for them, not just what they seek. So this is how prayers work and that’s…to reinforce this, this people say is faith. It is not just faith, it is understanding through science, how the inner parameters work. That understanding is very very critical. So, prayers do work.