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Is there a place for prayer in Yoga?

йога, намасте,
Anyone, without a doubt, had a need for a prayer. After all, it’s has a place in everyone’s heart. Most people, in one way or another, every day turn to God. It’s just, that everyone has their own God. The understanding of Him builds up from the features of upbringing, cultural and social environment, and often defines by the person’s commitment to different confessions of Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam (or by the commitment to the one of thousands sects within these religions, or sects of unknown origin).

The question of prayer also concerns atheists. To quote the philosopher J.A.Livraga “and if there are those, who seriously don’t believe in God, do not perceive Him and even claim, that He is just a made-up idea, brought by the fear of death, the majority of these people do not deny so much the possibility of Cosmic Mind’s existence, moved by the necessity or Higher Will, as those infantile forms, in which religions usually present these great mysteries, that guide a person from the day of his birth”.

Atheists’ distrust in dogmas absolutely doesn’t get in the way, when in times of desperation or deep joy they want to call to the unknown and omnipotent. God is in everything. And everything is God.

Before i got to know Yoga, i had been living with an unbending belief about the necessity of prayer.

But once i started the path of self-improvement, i have experienced a sort of dissonance. Because, as i see it, prayer is adverted to a Deity (a Higher Power), when Yoga teaches to concentrate on yourself.

In prayer we praise, worship, beg... And, certainly, we anticipate the response, God’s mercy.

In case of Yoga - we direct our efforts to the inside, we change the world by means of self-improvement. Here i can see the element of arrogance, cultivated through the assumption of human omnipotence.

Does it turn out, that two these practices are incompatible? Let’s try to make this thing out.

So what is really a prayer, and how it can be inserted into the space of Yoga?

In fact, there are three levels of prayer:

• verbal prayer

• mental prayer

• spiritual prayer

Frequently, verbal prayer is born from the state of ignorance (tamas), and reminds a prayer of a savage, who, while slashing the air with a spear, lets out a war-cry. Time after time, he shows to his tribal Deity the desire of achieving victory. Such prayer does not contain a rational source. It’s based on emotions and consists, exceptionally, of the expressions of desires (the very complaints and demands) Such prayer can focus only around the one’s astral body, and, as a rule, doesn’t bring desirable results.

Quoting I.S. Turgenev on such prayer, it goes down to the following: “Lord All-mighty, make that two by two would not be four”

Mental prayer - is an instrument of mind, when we turn on our consciousness and sincerely ask for something, basically, calling upon our own reason. And here the aspect of the energy of passion (rajas) appears. The power of such a prayer, that expresses a sincere wish, also comes from the astral body, but, because it comes through the mind, thus enhancing streams of vibrations, in the end, it appears materialistically.

However, the capacities of such a prayer are limited.

“Like children, we address our parents, seniors and guardians with entreaties, when in time of need. We seek their support and patronage. In childhood we learn to address or pray to ourselves, to our concealed capacities and strength. We try to be confident in ourselves and not depend on the help of others. But such prayer has it’s limits. When we feel, that we need something lying beyond our abilities, something that is unreachable for a human being, we address to God and pray for His help. We feel His response, the vigorous inner strength, which is heard in our prayers, which grants us our wishes, when we are devoted and sincere”. Sri Swami Shivananda, “Bhakti Yoga”

Spiritual prayer in a state of virtue (sattva) - is one’s readiness in opening his mind to such stream of Divine mercy, that enhances vibrations of the astral body and elevates consciousness to the highest extent of spirituality. Such prayer does not contain anticipation, and of course, requests, for it is - a conversation between man and God.

This is when i understood a lot. Because, before, i had this kind of a view towards prayer: people repeat prayers over and over like parrots, just because that’s a necessity, or they pray only in times of sorrow. Turns out, i was open to the perceptions of only two first steps of this practice, and i constantly had to struggle with doubts, distrust...and experience suffering.

«Prayer, supplication, is born of self-pity. You pray when you are in difficulty, when there is sorrow; but when there is happiness, joy, there is no supplication This self-pity, so deeply embedded in man, is the root of separation. That which is separate, or thinks itself separate, ever seeking identification with something which is not separate, brings only more division and pain. Out of this confusion one cries to heaven, or to one's husband, or to some deity of the mind. This cry may find an answer, but the answer is the echo of self-pity, in its separation». J. Krishnamurti “Meditations”.

But now, i understand, that just as food is vital for the body and as science is vital for the mind, so the prayer is vital for the spiritual life of a person. One should consciously develop his spirituality and understand, that a prayer - it isn’t when you speak with God, it’s when you listen to him. Prayer - is a self-renunciation, as a way of connecting with higher forces.

“Do not desire” doesn’t mean “be insensitive”. On the contrary, replace the desire with an immutable order of pure thought. In this order you call upon all the forces of light and make their currents act according to your pure aspiration.” Dementyeva N.M., “Agni-Yoga”.

And even the Christian tradition states, that not every prayer is pleasing to God.

Jesus Christ teaches: “And when you pray - do not be like the hypocrites, who like to pray in synagogues and on the corners the streets in order to show themselves in front people. You, when need to pray, enter your room and having the door closed, pray to your Father, who is in secret. And, while praying, do not say much”.

“Prayer is an awareness of eternity. In prayer, there are beauty, love, daring, courage, selflessness, commitment, aspiration. But if a prayer has superstition, fear and doubt, then such a spell is no different from those in times of fetishism” Dementyeva N.M., “Agni-Yoga”.

The same in Yoga: a prayer is not something you say, it’s, first of all, attention.

Since old times traditional Yogis treated prayer (prartana) as a useful resource of achieving the ascent over all outer authorities and mental projections, of bringing one to the state of liberation, enlightenment.

In yoga, religion and spirituality are directly separated. Religion focuses on the outer authority and the necessity of having an intermediary between the individual and the ultimate Reality. Spirituality relies, mainly, on the inner authority and the voluntarily accepted self-discipline, based on self-perception. And even if the outer authority (guru) engages in the spiritual, it’s assumed that this man is the manifestation of the same “Self”, only more complete in comparison with a beginner practitioner.

By means of prayer, we establish contact with higher Reality, independently of the form, in which we conceptualize or visualize it.
As a rule, Yoga tradition considers this connection not to be only symbolic, but objectively real.

“The prayer’s impact is as real, as gravity. It may reaches realms, where mind is too null to enter. Prayer can do miracles. It’s effectiveness is indescribable. It’s power cannot be seized by the intellect; it only can be experienced by it’s practitioner.” Sri Swami Shivananda “Bhakti Yoga”.

When our will (iccha-shakti) completely merges with the deity’s will, we open far more deep realm - the energy of omnipotence and deity’s glory (aishwarya-shakti). This energy is crucial to suppress all the kleshas (poisons), conquer inner demons, obstacles, which represent our negative karma.

“I beg you, express yourself, find yourself. Go beyond the things you do. Look beyond the place, where you stand. This world belongs neither to you, nor Me. You live in this world because of your karma, because of the power of your desire. You have many wishes, that’s why you’re so far from the truth. I’m not meant for you to seek Me. Your perception will find Me on it’s own. Your perception will awake itself on it’s own. Return to yourself”. Pilot Baba “Who am I”.

Guru Nanak said “Ik Onkar” - one with one, then will become one.

If one will be conquered - everyone will be conquered. If you’re dual, how can you attain One? Principal theory of God: he - is One, you - are One, you have to merge, in order to become God.

There are 84 000 asanas in Yoga. The goal of Yoga - is to attain perfection, at least, in one of these asanas (when your mind, spirit and body are one).

Therefore, having plunged into this theme and having considered it through the prism of synthesis, i managed, as it seems to me, to attain particular enlightenment in this subject and destroy imaginary contradictions. My primordial mistake consisted in wrong understanding of the essences of the two practices.

And now i understand, that praying doesn’t mean waiting, sitting on your hands till higher forces will start favoring you.

Divine forces are ready to help you, but to realize them it takes an effective impulse from you.

Personal experience and the Teaching of Buddha demonstrate best, that only through one’s personal efforts one can attain the termination of suffering (Noble eightfold path).

On the whole, this story shows well how Yogi understands prayer : ”There was a girl, who was upset because her brother wanted to catch birds in a trap. When she complained to her father, he told her : “Pray to God about this”. Later on, when he saw her very happy, he asked if she had prayed. “Yes, - she answered, - i prayed three times: first of all, i prayed so that God would not allow birds to traps, then, i prayed so that the traps would not catch birds; after that, i broke all those traps to bits”.

Prayer of Yogi - is an act of gratitude and sacrifice of all his achievements to the benefit of the living beings.

“What’s the point in praying to the Most High, if you don’t appreciate the life He gave you?” Kal Ho Naa Ho “If Tomorrow Never Comes”

“Prayer ennobles, when it’s a deep feeling, rising from the depths of our heart for the benefit of others, not ourselves.” E.P. Blavatskaya.

"You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions." (James 4: 3).”


the author of the article, Shishkanova Nadezhda