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Above the Clouds 05 - SB 5.18.8

Effective Prayers: “Let the Real Me Speak!”

Welcome to our podcast ˮAbove the Clouds.” In these podcasts we are looking at the Bhagavatam from a certain angle. We are interested to find out how to apply the immortal lessons of the Bhagavatam in our lives.

Today we will be looking at prayer. I have chosen a prayer, spoken by Prahlada Maharaja to Lord Nrisimhadevajust after He has appeared.


oṁ namo bhagavate narasiṁhāya

namas tejas-tejase āvir-āvirbhava

vajra-nakha vajra-daṁṣṭra karmāśayān

randhaya randhaya tamo grasa grasa om svāhā;

abhayam abhayam ātmani bhūyiṣṭhā oṁ kṣraum.


I quote the translation, “I offer my respectful obeisances unto Lord Nrisimhadeva, the source of all power. O my Lord who possesses nails and teeth just like thunderbolts, kindly vanquish our demonlike desires for fruitive activity in this material world (this means desires for sense gratification). Please appear in our hearts and drive away our ignorance so that by Your mercy we may become fearless in the struggle for existence in this material world.” (SB 5.18.8)

In this prayer Prahlada Maharaja requests the Lord to remove His internal enemies: lust, ignorance and fear. In Paris, Srila Prabhupada was once asked, “Prabhupada, what is the devotee’s greatest enemy?” Prabhupada, “He himelf. Because he’s a rascal, he’s his greatest enemy. So just get out of this rascaldom, and you become your friend.”

There is a very nice purport in the next verse, where Srila Prabhupada says, “We should pray to Lord Nrisimhadeva to sit in our hearts. We should pray, bahir nṛsiṁho hṛdaye nṛsiṁho : ‘Let Lord Nrisimhadeva sit in the core of my heart, killing all my bad propensities. Let my mind become clean so that I may peacefully worship the Lord and bring peace to the entire world.’”

Here we will see perhaps the greatest blessings of bhakti in practice. One is turning towards a supreme power, the power of the Lord and asks Him for support. On our own we are always limited, but with the help of the Lord even the impossible becomes possible. Thus Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura in his purport to the same prayer writes, “You are the power of power itself. Burn up the impressions of karma, appear in my mind so that there is fearlessness.” Yes, someone who is in contact with the Lord can immediately experience how the Lord is there, in one’s heart and helps one to become free from those bondages, those conditionings, which are there due to one’s karma. Then one also becomes full of courage and full of confidence, since the fear is driven away.

Prayer can be seen as a little tool given to mankind, through which we can reach where ordinarily we would be denied entry. We wouldn’t get there without prayer. Let us ask today: When is prayer most effective?

The immediate answer is: When someone prays out of loving surrender. Then his prayer will be immediately heard – it will immediately reach Krishna’s ear.

A second answer, which I would like to dwell on a little bit more is: Our prayers become, let us say, very real, when we see that our own strategies and tactics are no longer working. At that time we turn to the source of all power whom even fear itself fears and know, ‘He is the only one who can help now. My will doesn’t work. But His will always works.’ However there is a certain difficulty, which we need to address. The person we are calling is so much beyond, He is so much in the transcendental realm and we are so much stuck here in the material realm. So how can we bridge the gap? The answer is: When we pray most urgently, giving up our illusions and become real.

When I pray - and I’m at the right space – I usually first bring myself to the awareness that my so-called real world and the me that I imagine to be my true identity are very, very far away from the spiritual reality - that which is substantially true, always and eternally. In that space this world appears to me more like a stage, something that is artificially constructed and the so-called me is more like an actor, who acts out a role according to a pre-written script. When I come to the place of real prayer I can see, ‘Wow, there is another world, which is much more real! There is also another me, who is much more real!’ As long as I live in this body I may not be able to physically exit the so-called stage of this world. But what I can do is, I can mentally leave the illusory world and remember that I have a life beyond the stage. And that my off-stage personality is so much more real than the dramatic persona, who performs his karmic role in the theatre of the world - to more or less earn something like subtle and gross remunerations.

C. S. Lewis expressed this in a remarkably clear way. He said, “The prayer preceding all other prayers is ´May it be the real I who speaks. And may it be the real You that I speak to.’” Yes, may the real I speak! And may You, the eternal Lord of my heart please listen and answer.

When we are able to pray from these depths, we often get a feeling that our communication with the Lord is very real – more real than anything else. We feel He has heard us, and we have revealed to Him what is most essential.

If we want to go back into the analogy: although our physical body may still be active on the stage of this world, in prayer we leave the stage and our role and we enter the real world, if only for a little moment. At that time we are left with the certainty, ‘I was in touch with the Lord! And I have been heard’. By such prayer we have been allowed to enter the real world and when we return others can sense it – almost like people who come in touch with someone who just visited a perfume shop. They can smell the nice scents.

Coming back to the prayer we are discussing: It was spoken by Prahladawho has just witnessed how the palace world in which he had grown up and the rule of his father Hiranyakasipu had been torn apart by Lord Nrisimhadeva. We all know, Lord Nrisimhadeva had come out of the pillar and he protected Prahlada when Hiranyakasipu wanted to kill him. Afterwards, the huge army of Hiranyakasipu attacked Lord Nrisimhadeva, but the Lord annihilated them all. In this way the world of Prahladahad been ripped to shreds really, it was no longer there. The stage had been demolished. In this mood he offered his obeisances and he prayed for three things: 1. freedom from desires, 2. freedom from the darkness of ignorance, and 3. freedom from fear. He wanted to live his life full of courage.

Let us hear this beautiful prayer again in another translation, “ I offer respects to the Supreme Lord Narasimha, the power of all powers. Please, appear before me. O Lord with thunderbolt nails and teeth, burn up the impressions of karma, destroy ignorance and please appear in my mind so that it becomes fearless.”

This and other prayers from the Bhagavatam are far-reaching prayers in the sense that they immediately arrive at the ears and the heart of the Lord who then thinks, ‘Oh, he is now speaking to Me! Let Me listen and let Me grant My mercy to them.’

I would like to leave you with a practical application. Whenever you pray, make sure that the real you speaks. To do this I suggest the following steps:

1. sit at the disturbance-free place,

2. centre yourself,

3. take a few deep breaths

4. and then connect with the essence of prayer – where you mentally step before the Lord and speak to Him.

While you pray, make sure that your prayers are heart-deep, not just lip-deep. And at that time you can be sure that the Lord will reciprocate.

Thank you for listening and I will see you at the next “Above the Clouds.”

Sacinandana Swami

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