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May 17, 2006

Praying with a Sankalpa

Notes by Vijay.

Prasad started the meeting with the well-known chant:

"Gurur Brahma, gurur Vishnu, gurur devo Maheswarah
Gurur sakshat parambrahmah, tasmai sri gurave namah"

Translation: The Guru is none other than the creator, Lord Brahma;
he verily is Lord Vishnu, the preserver, and he is truly Maheshwara, the destroyer. He is the supreme Brahman himself.
To such a Guru I offer my salutations.

Today people often use the word 'guru' to refer to a competent teacher or a person who is very knowledgeable in a particular field. But Prasad explained that, traditionally, a guru is a very special and unique person. He is at the top of a multi-layer hierarchy of teachers/mentors, consisting of seven levels as given below (approximate modern equivalents are noted in parenthesis):

*Upadhyaya (junior school teacher or teaching assistant)
*Adhyapaka (school teacher)
*Pradhan Adhyapaka (school principal)
*Acharya (professor) - examples are Dronacharya and Sankaracharya
*Pradhan Acharya (chief acharya)
*Avataar: Someone who teaches by being a role model
*Guru (the "master") - Gurus are very rare. Common examples are Lord Krishna and Lord Shiva

Then Prasad talked about the significance of daily prayers (pooja) and mantra chanting in our lives. The most important aspect of these activities is the sankalpa (resolve) accompanying the rituals. When you pray with unwavering sankalpa and proper devotion, your desires are sure to be fulfilled (i.e., "phala sruti" will be achieved). However, mechanical recitation of prayers or repetition of mantras will usually not produce any tangible results.

Vijay wondered if these results are an example of a "placebo effect" in the spiritual domain. In other words, just as a placebo (a "sugar" pill) can cure a disease or alleviate a pain when you have faith in its curative powers, a prayer with a genuine sankalpa can help you achieve the results you desire. Prasad concurred. In the first case, the power to heal is already within you--the faith in the placebo just helps you invoke it. In the second case, the power to achieve the desired results is similarly within you--the sankalpa and the prayer merely help you to harness that power.

What are some of the problems/obstacles in achieving our goals? They are called 'taapas.' A taapa is a trouble, obstruction, or unpleasant experience that can undermine our efforts (or project). There are three kinds of taapas: aadi bhautika, aadi adhyaatmika, and aadi daivika. Aadi bhautika refers to taapa arising from the five bhootas (earth, water, fire, air, and ether), i.e., our relationship with the external world; aadi adhyaatmika refers to taapa originating within ourselves; and, aadi daivika refers to taapa arising from natural causes, such as a flood.

These taapas can be mitigated through prayers, e.g. , the chanting of the Vishnu Sahasranama. Similarly, potential obstructions can be removed/avoided by invoking Lord Ganesha. Of course, the chanting and invocation must be done with complete focus and devotion.

How can you use the concepts of sankalpa and prayers in your daily work? For example, you can translate your project goals into a meaningful sankalpa, use prayers to remove obstacles, and connect your intentions to your daily actions.

How do you know what is an appropriate sankalpa? Should you wish to be a manager at a $120K salary or a VP at a $240K salary? Should you ask a $2K/day fee for conducting a seminar or $5K/day? Before others can value you at, say, $5K/day, you must first value yourself at that level. If you truly believe that you are providing a higher value to your employer or customer, you will likely achieve a commensurately higher compensation.

Make a sankalpa today related to your professional or personal work and let us know what difference it brought to the result.