What To Pray For

The Bhagavad Gita tells a story of Prince Arjuna. He is in a difficult situation. He sees no good options, and he is worried about the outcome of his actions no matter which way he chooses. Krishna, his companion, tells him that he is not entitled to the outcome of his actions. Krishna tells Arjuna that the future is beyond his control or knowing and that he is entitled only to his labor and that the fruits of his labor should be offered to God.

This is a difficult teaching. In our outcome oriented culture it is hard to understand how the outcome might not be the most important part of an action.

Someone I love was in a difficult situation. He had chosen a difficult path of service, and his plans had been cast into doubt. He was faced with at least two possible outcomes neither of which was attractive. I wanted the best for him. I wanted things to turn out well for him. But I realized that even if I had the power to bring about a worldly outcome that would resolve his situation, I did not know which outcome I would choose to bring about. I did not know what to pray for.

Everything changes so every situation does resolve – it resolves into something else – and what at first seems desirable may in time seem undesirable. I could pray for a particular future as if I had a god’s-eye view and could know what would be best for everyone. I realized, though, that of course I do not know which outcome is best for anyone. Because the infinite unfolding of possibility that we all live within is beyond my control or knowing. I cannot claim that the future is mine to know just because I imagine that I know what it should be. If I’m honest about it, my preference for one future rather than another is just that – my preference. Selfish, in other words.

So I come to this: My prayer for my loved one is the same as Krishna’s prayer for Arjuna. I pray that my loved one comes to realize his true, deep Self. I pray that he not be distracted from that quest by fixation on worldly outcomes. I pray that he finds joy in his labor. I pray that he realizes his divinity.

And I make the very same prayer for you. I pray the same for everyone. Without exception.

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