Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur paced the balcony and asked questions to himself and then answered them. In this newsletter, I do the same. I ask myself questions and then I answer them. I am asking subtle questions that I think are important for our advancement in Krishna Consciousness.
I ask a question about the nature of pure prayer:
Is it wrong to pray to Krishna for protection in the material world? Is it okay to pray to Krishna for the fulfillment of material desires that will help us in devotional service or make us more peaceful so that we can be more stable? Do such prayers indicate a lack of faith in His protection and support?
I also ask:
Can prayer change our karma? And is it wrong to ask Krishna if we ourselves are not making efforts to achieve what we are praying for? Do we need to pray if we are already making the necessary efforts to achieve our goals? And if Krishna knows everything, do we need to pray to Him at all?
I wish you always think of Krishna,
Since we all have our individual karma, if we pray to Krishna to achieve something that is not due to our karma, can we get it?
Yes, prayer can change our karma. But since karma is Krishna’s law that brings us closer to Him, why should He change it? There is a verse in Bhakti Sandarbha which says that if a person asks Krishna only for material things, Krishna will grant the request of such a fool but will not give him bhakti.
Therefore, we should be determined not to ask for material things, unless such material things or desires are connected with the service of Krishna.
Krishna uses our karma to purify us. So if we are praying for our karma to change, we are asking Krishna to change His plan for what is best for us. But usually, whatever our karma is, Krishna keeps all reactions to a minimum.
Srila Prabhupada said that it may be due to karma that we should be decapitated, but because we are devotees, we can just cut our finger. If a devotee himself purifies his consciousness, he no longer needs purification in the form of full karma. Therefore Krishna reduces it.
In addition, whatever happiness or misfortune awaits a devotee, if we react to it in Krsna consciousness, then we become less affected by material happiness and misfortune. This is one way of changing our destiny by surrendering to Krishna, where we look at and react to our karma in a different way. Moreover, in devotional service, we experience greater happiness than karma could ever give us.
If happiness or unhappiness can disturb us, then they are an obstacle on the path to bhakti. Therefore, if we simply tolerate them, we will experience spiritual happiness and, as we advance in Krishna consciousness, we will become better able to tolerate happiness and misery. After all, our desire to pray for something material is also caused by the desire to be happy. But by Krsna consciousness, we can become many times happier.
Krishna will either reduce our karma or use it for our spiritual advancement. Getting protection from Krishna means that Krishna does what is best. Usually, our karma is the best for us, so Krishna uses it.
The main thing is to always pray in such a way that prayer awakens our dormant love.
- How would you answer the previous question regarding devotees who are mostly busy with work and family? Is there a difference between how karma affects them and how it affects those who are “fully engaged” in service?
The full meaning of the word “God” is that He reciprocates with His devotees. So it depends on the attitude of the devotee, not on the ashram and external situation. If the ashram influences his mood of devotion, then it will also influence how Krishna responds (” ye yatha mam prapadyante “).
- Every desire we have is known to Krishna, and every desire is actually a prayer. So does it matter what result we get if we desire something and don’t pray for it, or we desire something and pray for it?
Desire itself is the essence of prayer, but prayer is one of the processes of devotional service. Therefore, we need to pray. In addition, prayer strengthens desire. And from the racial point of view, Krishna does not know everything. He can forget if it is necessary for the race. Therefore, it is best to both wish and pray, because it is quite possible that He will not fulfill some of our desires if we do not pray for it.
- If my desire is material, then since Krishna already knows about it, why bother Him to fulfill my desire? Also, wouldn’t that indicate a lack of faith and purity, as Prabhupada says, “A pure devotee of the Lord is ashamed to ask for anything for himself? But householders are sometimes compelled to ask for a favor while bound by the ties of family affection.”
When in a critical situation, a devotee seeks shelter somewhere. So why not ask Krishna for help? This seeking refuge is a natural manifestation of love because the mood of a loving servant is that he perceives Krishna as the one who supports and protects him.
Of course, with such confidence, a person may decide that there is no need to ask anything from Krishna because He is already supporting and protecting us. Therefore, according to our faith, we may or may not ask Krishna for help. But in any case, the mood of devotion must be present. Those. Whatever we pray for (even if it is something material), it must help our bhakti in some way. However, what we pray for often depends on our level of faith.
- Is there any way to refine prayer that may seem materially oriented, such as when I pray for something only because I believe it will help me in my ministry? So although I may pray for a spouse, material wealth, or health, my mood is that these things will help me serve Krishna better, and if He wants to give me all of these, I will use them for Him?
Yes, if you need to pray and give up the mood of love, asking the Lord for something, then try to recognize that the will of God is the best, and ask, as you suggested: for what will help improve your service and not your sensual pleasure. And if you are not sure that you are asking for the right things, add the phrase “… if you will” to your prayer.
- It seems unreasonable, and perhaps useless, to pray for something that we strongly do not want and do not actively strive for. For example, I may pray to be free from envy, but I do little or nothing to become non-envious. As for me, it’s like asking someone to help move the table, and when this person raised his edge of the table, not to raise his own. There is a saying: “Act as if everything depends on you, and pray, knowing that everything depends on God.” So is it wrong to pray if we are not willing to make an effort to achieve what we are praying for?
I don’t think it is useless to pray in this way, because the mood of the devotee is that everything depends on Krishna. This is the recognition that we are not independent of Him, and this is the mood of surrender and the path to bhakti. We ask for purity, and at the same time, prayer itself is consciousness and the desire to gain purity. In other words, praying for something that we do not really want yet, and therefore do not really strive for, still purifies us, being a process of sadhana. By acting in this way, we can develop pure desire.
We can also pray for the desire to become clean.
- If we have a strong desire for pure devotional service and try to do activities that will help us achieve it, won’t that lead us to the goal even if we don’t pray for it? In other words, if I am completely focused on my goal, then isn’t this the perfection of prayer, the outward manifestation of prayer? Or is prayer still necessary?
Prayer is still necessary to keep us in a mood of dependence on Krishna for success. Otherwise, our determination may turn into ahankara , and we will think that we can achieve everything on our own.
- What about prayers that help in a dangerous situation? A devotee does not ask Krishna for anything, but at the same time, he completely relies on Krishna for protection. In case of danger, we pray to Lord Nrsimhadeva. Druapadi prayed to Krishna to protect her, and Uttara came to Krishna when she saw that a brahmastra was approaching. Only Krishna can protect us, so is it right to seek and ask for His protection? Or should we ask Krishna to protect only our devotional service?
In The Nectar of Devotion, Srila Prabhupada says to go to God and open your problems to Him. Prabhupada also said, “Go to Gaura-Nitai, tell Them about your problems, and They will do whatever it takes.”
Again, if the request for protection is motivated by a desire to be cleansed, then such prayers are welcome. Sometimes we have to ask Krishna for material help because He is our only shelter and we are in great difficulty. The nature of such prayers and dependent position will show the level of our spiritual development. So even though we want to improve the quality of our prayers so as not to ask Krishna for anything for ourselves, we also need to be truthful in our prayers.
- There is a fine line between accepting a situation and praying for the situation to change. When we pray for a change in a situation that we cannot solve ourselves, we create such a mood in ourselves that we will not be able to reconcile ourselves if the situation does not change. Are there any recommendations in this regard?
Sometimes we need to pray for strength to deal with a situation instead of praying for a change in the situation. “Krishna, please give me strength, intelligence, and the ability to cope with the trials that I am facing.”
- What about the prayers of a person who asks the Lord to save him from the ocean of birth and death? Is it possible to say that at the level of vaidhi this is permissible, but at a higher level of bhakti it is not? And how does this relate to the question of praying to Krishna for protection?
For the neophyte, the prayer for salvation from the ocean of births and deaths corresponds to his level of development. He is suffering in the material world and wants to get out of it. Such suffering is a serious incentive for him to be in Krsna consciousness. As for the more mature devotee, he wants to be liberated from the ocean of birth and death in the sense that he asks the Lord, “Make me a speck of dust at Your lotus feet.” He always wants to serve the Lord, free from all material contamination – in heaven or hell.