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By Swami Chidananda

We will soon be observing the sacred annual worship of Lord Siva, Mahasivaratri. It is customary to regard and to speak of Lord Siva in terms of being a destroyer. The three aspects of the Supreme Being are Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Siva the destroyer. They say srishti, sthiti and layakartas. The term “destroyer” is usually not used by me. I use the word “dissolver,” because they do not refer to Lord Siva in mythology as nasakarta or vinasakarta (destroyer) but as layakarta (dissolver). Laya means subsiding back into the original state. Srishti is emerging into variegated names and forms, the One becoming the many. Sthiti is preserving, continuing in time, and laya is merging back into the original unmanifest state, the nameless, formless unified state.

But, quite apart from this concept of Lord Siva as dissolver, it is very widely held, especially in North India, that He is the boongiver. Even though He is the highest of all gods, devadi­deva (Lord of lords), Mahadeva (the great God), yet He is easily pleased. He is very simple and prepared to give anything, to give anything. And He is also a saviour. He saved Markendaya, His boy devotee, from death by appearing before him and daring Lord Yama to touch His devotee. So here, He is not so much the destroyer as He is the protector and saviour. There are innumerable such instances of His saving grace.And it does not take much to please Him. Pour some water over Him, give a bilva leaf and chant His Name once. That is enough. So one of the terms with which He is referred to is asutosh, very easily propitiated, easily pleased­ asutosh mahadev.

But, the most endearing term by which He is popularly referred to by devotees, in North India especially, is the term “bhola. ” Bhola means simple­minded, one who has no complication in his thinking, feeling and acting. He has no complications, no crookedness, no cleverness. He is simple­minded. They call Him Bhola Nath. They call Him Bhola Sambhu. Bhola means simple. He believes whatever He sees. He does not look beyond. Even if a person asks for a boon with a wrong intention, He does not look to the intention.

If a person has taken His Name, or performed tapasya, He does not look into either the intention or the consequences. To anyone who propitiates Him, takes His Name, prays to Him, does tapasya and p I eases Him, He asks: “What do you want?” Ravana. did intense tapasya and just to indicate to what extent Lord Siva is simple, easy to please and prepared to give everything, He gave him His divine partner, Parvati.

It would indeed be a highly beneficial thing if everyone would Undertake an anushthana commencing tomorrow and concluding on Mahasivaratri day. Regularly repeat eleven malas of Om Namah Sivaya dedicated to the welfare of humanity. If you cannot repeat eleven at least repeat five, one mala for each letter of the panchakshara mantra, Om Namah Sivaya. It is very simple, very easy. In five minutes you can do it. It will not be a purascharana, but it will be an anushthana. A japa anushthana you can do, and dedicate it to the welfare of mankind and the peace of the world.

Now, let us consider this ancient tradition in India, especially religious India, that is, praying for others, praying for the world, praying for the welfare of mankind, for the welfare of all creatures, praying for peace on earth, not only for mankind and all creatures but also for everything that exists, praying for peace, wishing peace, desiring peace and sending out thoughts of peace to everything that exists, to all existence: “Peace be unto all the five elements, earth, water, fire, air and ether.” It is desiring peace for the grass, herbs, plants and trees. It is desiring peace for the celestials, for the angelic host, for the gods right up to the creator, Brahma­ visvedev santih (peace to all the Gods), brahma santih (peace to Brahma), santi eva santih (peace for peace itself), wishing peace for peace itself. Let there be peace to all the Vedas, Vedic mantras, to everything. This is the ancient tradition.

Lokah samasta sukhino bhavantu ­May all beings in this universe be happy. Sarvesham svastir­bhavatu­ May prosperity and welfare be unto all beings. Sarvesham santir­bhavatu­May peace be unto all beings. Sarvesham purnam bhavatu­May plenitude and fullness be unto all beings. Sarvesham mangalam bhavatu­May auspiciousness and blessedness be unto all beings. Sarve bhavantu sukhinah­May all be happy. Sarve santu niramayah­May all be free from disease, pain and suffering. Sarve bhadrani pasyantu ­May all behold that which is auspicious, pleasant, nothing fearful nor unpleasant. Bhadra is auspicious, blessed, mild, pleasant. Ma kaschid duhkhabhag bhavet­May not sorrow fall to the lot of anyone. Thus, this has been an ancient tradition­wishing well, wishing peace, happiness, prosperity, freedom from disease and pain, plenty, fullness, blessedness and auspiciousness to everyone.

The desirability of such prayer is not only because the world needs all these things. There is also the subjective dimension of prayer that has to be considered. The process has a very important effect upon the one who prays. By wishing for all that is positive, creative, constructive, good, conducive to welfare, auspicious and blessed to all that exists­all creatures, mankind, the whole world­it makes us aware that our ancients expected us to make life an active, dynamic process of constantly working to bring about those very conditions which we wish for, pray for, intend and want for others. For, unless our prayer is backed up by suitable action to bring about these conditions, it has no meaning.

If we wish peace for others and at the same time we are actively engaged in robbing others of their peace by disturbing them, agitating them, causing them distress, then we stand as a living lie. We stand, in terrible contradiction to what we mouth through such prayers. We say one thing, but we act in another manner. We succeed in doing something that is contrary to that which we pray for. It thus becomes a very serious situation, a very undesirable state of affairs. Every day we say ma kaschid duhkhabhag bhavet ­May not sorrow fall to the lot of any being. Therefore, we have to be perpetually conscious, aware and careful that neither by thought, word nor deed do we create sorrow for others, grief for others.

“Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.” That is the sublime, noble prayer of Saint Francis. When we pray “May not sorrow fall to the lot of anyone,” then we should work in the way indicated by the simple prayer of St. Francis. “0 Lord, where there is sadness, let me bring joy. Make me an instrument of joy to the lives of others. Make me an instrument of removing the sadness of others.” Axiomatically it means that if we wish happiness for others, joy for others, then we have to do something positive to bring joy to others; we have to also, simultaneously, engage in doing acts that remove the sorrow of others, lessen the grief of others, make people less sad. This is implied in this line from the simple prayer of St. Francis,

Apart from this, that such prayer is an indication of what we should work, live and act for, of what our great ancients have placed before us as an ideal for our life and the living of it, it also has still another aspect. By constantly thinking in such a positive manner of the happiness, welfare and peace of others, it brings about a change in our nature. Gradually we become so disposed to act in such a way, to live in such a way, that we become a centre of goodwill towards others, a centre of compassion and kindness towards others, a centre of peace for others. The constant repetition of such prayer, the constant dwelling upon these thoughts, and the constant harbouring of these feelings in our heart have a transforming effect upon our own nature. It tends to gradually make us grow in this quality of goodwill towards all, of ill­will towards none, of compassion and kindness towards all, of prayerfully ever wanting to live in order to bring peace, solace, happiness and comfort to everyone.

This constant prayer has this effect, but only if we pray feelingfully, not mechanically. If, as a matter of routine, we go on uttering this prayer mechanically with lip­service, then, of course, we will be deprived of this purifying, elevating and transforming effect. We will not benefit from it; we will not gain anything by it, It is only when, every time we pray, we pray with earnestness, with sincerity, with feeling, in a meaningful manner, then alone it is a great lifetransforming power, it is a great purifying and uplifting power.

That is its effect upon the one who prays. It has this unfailing effect of making us grow into those very qualities we pray for. This is the subjective dimension of prayer­ how it benefits the one who prays. Constantly having these thoughts, these feelings of goodwill, of kindness, compassion, friendliness, makes us a well­wisher of humanity, a being filled with loving kindness, with good thoughts, goodwill and love, wishing and praying for the peace of all.

Then indeed our life mission is being fulfilled, because we become a centre for radiating around us the quality which is of God, daivi sampad. Compassion, kindness, peace, light, joy all belong to God, and we make ourselves a channel for the manifestation of these Godqualities in this world of His. What greater blessedness can one have?

What greater privilege than this can one have? And what greater satisfaction than this can one have in life than the satisfaction that “I have not lived in vain; I have tried to make myself a true child of God, make myself a channel for manifesting the qualities of Him whom I address as father, mother, friend, relative, and Lord.” That indeed makes life worth living.

It is in this way that we must understand the incalculable value of prayer for the one who prays. Thus may prayer transform your life and make it Divine. God bless you all!”