How To Pray and What to Pray
(Compiled from notes on lectures of H. H. Mahavishnu Goswami)
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In Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 5 Chapter 18, Sukadeva Goswami describes the different varshas of Jambudvipa and the incarnation of the Supreme Lord worshiped in each. In the land known as Hari-varsha, Prahlad Maharaja offers wonderful prayers to Lord Nrsimhadev and following the footsteps of Prahlada Maharaja, the inhabitants of Hari-varsha always worship Lord Nrsimhadeva to receive from Him the benediction of being engaged in His loving service. In verse 5.18.8, Prahlad Maharaja prays as follows
om namo bhagavate narasimhaaya namas tejas-tejase aavir-aavirbhava vajra-nakha vajra-damstra karmaasayaan randhaya randhaya tamo grasa grasa om svaahaa; abhayam abhayam aatmani bhuyisthaa om ksraum
"I offer my respectful obeisances unto Lord Nrsimhadeva, 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. 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."
Many a times when we go in front of the Deity, we don't even know how to pray or what to pray. We simply behave like a business man and treat the Lord like a order supplier. So it is important for us to learn from the pure devotees of the Lord as to how we should pray to Him and for what we should pray to Him. In this prayer we find Prahlad Maharaja requests Lord Narasimhadev to appear completely in our hearts and prays for three important things
a) karma-aashayaan randhaya randhaya - Kindly Vanquish the demoniac desires to be happy by fruitive activities
In this birth somehow by the grace of Krishna we all know what pleases Krishna, what displeases Him, what is devotional service and what are fruitive activities. In spite of knowing these things, we continue to take pleasure in engaging ourselves in fruitive activities due to our enjoying propensities. All these activities can never give us permanent bliss and definitely lead to chain of actions and reactions. To control /overcome these demoniac desires on our own endeavour alone is very difficult. So it is important for us to pray to Lord Narasimhadev to kindly vanquish these desires from our heart. As Srila Prabhupada explains in the purport to the above verse - devotional service unto the lotus feet of Lord Vaasudeva is the only way to overcome these bad habits.
b) tamo-grasa grasa - Kindly drive away the Ignorance
Ignorant about the glories of the Supreme Lord, we fail to offer Him proper respect and take His instructions for granted. Instead of serving Him with love, we try to engage ourselves in His service as per our convenience and with selfish motives. Therefore Prahlad Maharaja prays to Lord Narasimhadev to wipe out this ignorance.
c) abhayam abhayam aatmani bhuyishtaa - Fearlessness in the struggle for existence
This material world is such a wretched place as we have danger in every step. Day by day we find things going from bad to worse. Even if we compare our own life to how it was at least 2 to 3 decades ago, we will realise how much worse it has become now. Soaring prices, increase in traffic-jams, outset of new diseases (swine-flu), recession, bankruptcy, increase in terrorist activities, forgery, earth-quakes, tsunamis, accidents, hi-jacks etc...we just can’t be sure of what will happen the next moment. The other day, we were listening to a lecture where-in Maharaja was saying how even crossing the road is like re-birth. There is no guarantee that people should follow the traffic rules. So to remain fearless in this material world is only possible if we take shelter of the person unto whom fear personified itself has surrendered. So Prahlad Maharaja prays to Lord Narasimhadev to bestow this quality.
In his super-excellent purport to the above verse Srila Prabhupada, very nicely brings out the essence of why we should offer this prayer to Lord Narasimhadev and with what mood we should offer the same. He says - Hiranya means "gold," and kashipu means "a soft cushion or bed." Materialistic persons always desire to make the body comfortable, and for this they require huge amounts of gold. Thus Hiranyakashipu was the perfect representative of materialistic life. He was therefore the cause of great disturbance to the topmost devotee, Prahlada Maharaja, until Lord Nrsimhadeva killed him. Any devotee aspiring to be free of material desires should offer his respectful prayers to Nrsimhadeva as Prahlada Maharaja did in this verse.
Though Guru Maharaja had kindly instructed us to recite this prayer daily, we never bothered to know the real purport of this verse. But, last month by the grace of Maharaja, Srila Prabhupada and Krishna, we came to know the real meaning of this prayer. We pray that at least from now onwards, we recite this prayer in the mood of devotion and surrender and not in a mechanical manner.
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Hare Rama Hare Rama
and be happy.