In the first part on Prayers, we looked at the immediate benefit of prayers, called drushta phala. This benefit alone is good enough reason for us to pray. Will this benefit accrue only if I pray to a particular God, Isvara? Emphatically, No.

Every ancient religion (of which only Hinduism remains alive) accepts that one can see God in anything. It is not just a symbol or a figure. Isvara has to be understood as that which the symbol or the statue represents.  A national flag may be seen as just a piece of cloth. But no one will accept his/her national flag being insulted, being stamped upon or burnt. It is not just a piece of cloth to him, but represents the very idea of the nation. A wedding ring or a mangalsutra is not just a piece of metal. It represents something much bigger, loftier. 

When we do a puja, the purohit will usually make a small mound of turmeric. With a few mantras, a devata, God is invoked into that mound of turmeric. It is now no more a mound of spice; it represents God for the duration of the puja. At the end of the puja, the purohit will utter another mantra, releasing the devata from the turmeric and dissolving in water what is now only a spice.

Clearly, one can pray to any God.

Cause and effect

We know that there can be no effect without a preceding action and no action can be without a corresponding result, an effect. Every action causes a result or results, an effect or effects. Our scriptures (indeed, every religious book) tells us that a good deed or punya produces a situation sometime in the future that is pleasant for the person. Similarly, every ‘papa karma’ will produce a situation that is not so pleasant.

When a person finds himself in a situation of pain or sorrow, clearly, it must be the result of papa karma done sometime either in the immediate or in the distant past. Unfortunately every karma will result in an appropriate result. The law of karma that governs this cause-effect relationship is infallible. 

However, there is a way of at least reducing the intensity of pain or sorrow caused as a result of a papa karma by performing another action, a karma that has the opposite effect. One such a karma – an extremely effective one at that — is prayer.

Praying – to any God – is an action of one’s free will. Prayer produces, in addition to the drushta phala we have seen, another effect; one that may be difficult to directly connect to the prayer, called adrushta phala

Since we are never sure of which karma has resulted in (or will result in) one being put in a not-so-pleasant situation, one can do a general prayer. It will act like a broad spectrum antibiotic and address results born of a variety of papa karma. For example, everyone commits papa karma in terms of hurting/harming other beings every day, knowingly or unknowingly. Stepping on insects while walking, cutting a tree for ‘development’ are some examples. They must, and will, have a result, a papa-karma-phala, that is not so pleasant. Daily prayers take care of this and mitigate the results, if not completely eliminate some of them. Such is the power of prayer.

Think about it.