The grand old man of Indian journalism, Khushwant Singh, who has his widely-read ‘Malice’ column in several dailies, recently wrote that prayers are useless and just a waste of time and energy. But one can’t take his view.
True, I am, like him, an atheist; but I never say that prayers are useless. My point is that those who believe in God and have belief in the power of prayer, are lucky that they have that kind of faith. What gives them solace and peace of mind – be it their belief in God, prayer or any other religious ritual – has to be great.
It is all a matter of one’s bent of mind and understanding of the universal functioning and other factors like one’s upbringing in a particular society. The nonagenarian Sardar’s saying that we Indians waste more time in performing rituals than any other people in the world can’t be taken seriously.
If people spend quite a time in visiting shrines daily, this not only enlarges their social network but keeps them happy because of the fulfilment of the inner desire to be one with the gods and goddesses they believe in. Moreover, such rituals prepare one for the day’s journey and make the believers think that with God on their side, half of their day’s task is done! Daily rituals keep one in a positive mind and mood; and make one more confident in facing the day’s tasks.
Khushwant also challenges the importance of meditation. Only those who do it can understand its importance and its role in their overall upkeep and fitness, mentally and physically. For me, meditation is a higher level of physical and mental exercise and enables one to understand and know one’s true self.
It is not for nothing that Gandhi had said that prayer is the call of the soul, an admission of one’s weaknesses and a way to become stronger. And, as a quote (source unknown) has it, “prayer moves the hand that moves the universe.” Another quote (again source unknown) has a direct message to Khushwant , “Seven days without prayer makes one weak”!