Excerpted from To Know Your Self, by Sri Swami Satchidananda
Prayers transform themselves into actions. Actions offered up are prayers. In time every action is a prayer, it’s a meditation. You won’t be able to live any other way.
If you really want God to show you the way, pray. Prayer is the only way. Tell God: “God, anything that is good for me You know. I’m Your child. Guide and direct me. I cannot demand this and that. I may make mistakes by my demands. By my own ego I may do things wrong. So I allow You to work through me.”
If you still want to ask for something in prayer, you can say, “God, don’t you know that I am Yours? Do anything You want. Let me always understand that I am Your child, that You are taking care of me every minute. Give me the boon of always remembering this truth.”
God is always there. But you have to reach to receive God’s help. That’s why the Bible says, “Ask and it shall be given.” God will not come by force to help you. You must ask for God’s mercy or blessings. God’s grace is everywhere. It’s not that God selects people and says, “I will bless this one and not that one.” God and God’s creation, which you call nature, are always neutral.
But to become ready to receive God’s help you need God’s grace. How can you get it? You must open yourself to God. God won’t use force. God will wait. Sri Ramakrishna once gave a beautiful example. There were a few fisherman preparing to go to sea early in the morning. Within half an hour they were ready and all the boats were sailing out—except one.
That one man complained, “What’s this? My boat’s not moving. All the others seem to be sailing fine. The wind seems to be partial. It gives its force to those boats but not to mine. How could this be?”
He was blaming the wind when a person standing on the shore called to him, “Say, what is this? They have all unfurled their sails, caught the wind and are going. But you haven’t opened your sails.”
“Oh, I see. I’ll do that.” He opened his sail and immediately the boat went forward and then stopped. He stood up and shouted, “See, I told you. God is not impartial. I think God has some kind of grievance against me. You said for me to open my sail. I did that and it moved a little, but now I’m stuck again. What can I do now?”
“Friend, you are quick to blame others. You don’t want to see your mistake. Did you pull up your anchor?”
“Ahh. I see. I’m terribly sorry.” And the minute he did, he sailed on.
God is like that. God wants to bless you, but can’t use force. God waits for you to be ready, for you to ask, to open your mind. That’s why the scripture says that even a camel can pass through the eye of a needle before God can come into the millionaire’s mind. Those are not the exact words, but you probably understand. Does it mean God is so weak without the capacity to come into anyone’s mind? No, God wants to go there, but there’s no room. There’s just room for autos, radios, TV, money, estates—there’s no room for God.
A poor person has nothing. It’s all vacant. So God comes and enjoys the space. If God wants to come in, make room. The devotee should aspire to this. If you are sincere, yo might feel too weak to even ask for blessings. Then ask indirectly, “God, by myself I have no capacity to ask anything of You. Without Your blessing and Your grace, I cannot even pray.” This itself is a prayer. Then you become aware of your smallness, which opens up your mind.
This open-mindedness means you are opening your heart, opening up yourself. By prayer and meditation—by asking in this way—you open. But at the same time you must do something else. Remember the fisherman who opened his sail, but he still did not move. There are many people who from childhood go to church and regularly pray but still will not change their ways. They continue to reveal their vicious side.
They may be doing what’s given in scripture, but unfortunately they haven’t pulled up the anchor. They are tied down to the world by so many ropes. That’s why you need both discrimination and dispassion—they go together. On one side you cut all the ties that bind you into the world; on the other, you open your heart to God. Only then can you sail. This is why scriptures say you must give everything to God. Don’t keep yourself tied to petty things. Then in your very asking you feel God’s grace; otherwise God is just there. You have to do your part. God helps those who help themselves. Ramakrishna says, if you walk one foot toward God, God is merciful and runs ten feet toward you. But if you don’t walk that one foot—no, don’t use your calculate and think God will come eight feet. You have to begin the process.