Archive for October, 2008

Prayer 6 – Hope

The final Prayer for the Day broadcast in this series.

I didn’t know the man admitted in the bed opposite me in the ward. He had arrived in the morning with his wife and 12-year-old son.

Later my neighbour came over to say hello. He announced to me that he had pancreatic cancer and had three weeks to live. I was shocked, and I didn’t know how to respond, aside from a weak commiseration.

After some time I remembered that when I was fourteen years old my father died of pancreatic cancer – and the connection dawned. I approached my neighbour and told him that before my father passed away he gave me very sound advice, based on his life’s experience, which has sustained me to this day. I suggested that it may be important to offer his advice now, reviewing his life in these terms for his son.

My neighbour grabbed two chairs and we sat down and spoke of his need to communicate with his son something substantial of his life. It was a moving exchange where he did most of the talking.

Later I had the opportunity to be introduced to his son and I was able to share with him my experience that at his age my father had the same disease and how it was important for him now to listen to his father’s advice and perspective so that he could reflect on it his whole life, as I have. He was wide-eyed and appreciative and I know it gave him hope.

When my neighbour left we embraced and said we would meet again but we know we won’t, not in this life.

Lord, not every story ends happily, but even in the worst circumstances we will find hope. Please guide us to see the hope and to our part in this play. Hare Krishna.

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Prayer 5 – Example

I think we can all admit, at least to ourselves, in the privacy of our own homes, with the doors closed and the windows barred, that sometimes we can be a bit selfish. Or is that just me?

Anyway, one advantage of the present financial crisis has been the wonderful scapegoat of the financial ‘fat cats’. They make my selfish moments seem like episodes from a Disney film.

It’s a real mess, speculation and gossip, predictions of gloom, with every man, institution, and country for himself. Not very inspiring, and the realisation has dawned on me that with the same temptation as the ‘fat cats’, with my inclinations to enjoy, I may adopt the same short term and self-centred vision that got us into this mess.

Well then, this final day of the Hindu festival of Dwali would seem to be a good time to mention the example of Lord Rama. Rama was a prince, who, for the sake of peace, his Father’s honour, and for his people, accepted fourteen years of exile to the forest. He accepted sacrificing his comfort for others without reservation. Rama didn’t line his pockets but emptied them. Lord Rama did this specifically to give us an excellent example of leadership – and we are all called to give good example to others, to be leaders.

It’s the example we need to keep striving to do the right thing, to bring out our good.

Dear Lord Rama, I sometimes envy those who have more than I do, but, by your grace, I will accept less to give more to those who have less than I have. Thank you for your example. Hare Krishna.

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Prayer 3 – Diwali

All over the UK today Hindus are celebrating the festival day of Diwali. Diwali is perhaps the most well known of all Hindu religious festivals, as it, uniquely, has special significance for almost all of India’s many religious traditions.

Hindus will visit temples today; they will spend much time preparing food and sweets; presents are exchanged among family members; and displays of fireworks will end the celebrations.

The Sanskrit word Diwali refers to a cluster of lights, and one of the most popular stories associated with Diwali is the journey of Lord Rama from Lanka to his kingdom of Ayodhya, in Northern India. The journey began in the evening and Rama’s subjects lit the way by placing rows of lamps in their windows to guide Him.

Rama was returning home after winning an epic battle which symbolised the victory of goodness over selfishness and conceit, of light over darkness. Rama returned to His coronation and a rule typified by truthfulness, justice, service, and devotion – thus the endurance of His story.

Rama, as the embodiment of morality and right-living, is attractive to everyone who aspires to be good. We all need inspiration in our struggle to make wise and proper decisions. Diwali serves as a nurturing mother to our good desires and aspirations.

This evening, in homes all over the country, candles will be lit to guide Rama on his way – to usher in a new beginning, a new year and a new commitment to the principles of goodness.

Dear Lord Rama, during this year please guide me through the fog of my passions, and the demands of events. Help me to see the right thing to do, and help me to do it right. Hare Krishna

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Yesterday the five-day festival of Diwali began with the worship of Laxmi, the Goddess of Fortune, the custodian of wealth and prosperity – and in our present uncertain financial climate Laxmi may find many worshiping at her altar.

At this time many Hindus will ritually wash coins, symbolising their wealth, and offer it back to Laxmi, to purify their use of her boon, and to attract more. It is a commitment to become good custodians of our acquired wealth.

Any banker will tell you that money makes the world go around – but who listens to bankers anymore. Our gurus, the Beatles, have advised that money can’t buy us love – and still we want it, loads of money. We hope for it, pray for it, and work for it.

While promoting the worship of Laxmi, Hindu texts caution that wealth can degrade us. If we want it we can have it, but there is a price. When we get it, sages suggest, we become more susceptible to pride and greed. Our peace of mind evaporates as we now have more to worry about; and our ability to trust is compromised as we can’t tell who likes us and who just likes our money.

Importantly, Laxmi is unattached to wealth or prosperity of any kind, a fact which leads the capitalist in me to ask, “If, Laxmi, the Goddess of Fortune has no interest in money, what does she have that is more valuable”? Well, Laxmi is totally in love with the Main Man, the Supreme Lord Himself, Vishnu. She considers love of God to be the most valuable gift.

Dear Laxmi Devi, please help me achieve real prosperity by introducing me to the All Attractive Person, your Love. Your words of introduction will be more valuable than gold. Hare Krishna.

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BBC Radio 4 commissioned me to broadcast six prayers in their ‘Prayer for the Day’ slot again. They are being aired over the week of Diwali so most will reflect on themes associated with this festival.

I had to go to hospital recently to have an operation for – well, something to do with my bottom.

I had survived for thirteen years with this condition without anyone knowing and I thought I could have a simple operation without anyone guessing that I ever had such a malady.

Unfortunately the surgeons performed a more serious procedure and I ended up having three operations. So everyone found out and the jokes start piling in, so to speak. Did they get to the bottom of it? Can you put it behind you?

But the serious side was severe pain which even morphine was unable to fully alleviate. The situation was out of my control, and I realised that the only thing I could control was my response. In a mercifully timely reading of the Bhagavat Purana, a Hindu text, I found a verse which advised that the devotee of God sees everything as being a gift from God, whether it be pleasure or pain, happiness or distress, fame and infamy.

So, I could choose to respond like a devotee, even if I was having difficulty responding like a man. I realised, as I took my gaze from my own pain that others around me were suffering more. I became more thoughtful, more willing to be compassionate, less demanding of my needs and comforts, and so happy to find God in adversity, accepting suffering as a necessary and productive part of my life. My distress was now a gift.

I think I did get to the bottom of it and I will put it behind me.

Lord, Thank you for your gifts. Thank you for the pleasure – and the pain. I learn so much from both. Allow me to always accept your gifts with grace. Hare Krishna.

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