While prayer is an integral part of all religious traditions, the kinds of prayer that are practiced differ depending on your religion. Seen as a direct line of communication with God, prayer is largely used as a way to relay and release religious devotees' desires, fears and thanks for themselves and others to a higher power. For some religions, like Hinduism, prayers are recited as chants or mantras, each with its own specific purpose -- which can be for an individual or for the good of all.
Forms of Prayer
Hinduism recognizes innumerable aspects of divinity as the personification of thousands of gods. Most Hindus believe that all gods are parts of one supreme divinity and consequently either worship all as one or choose one personification of divinity that resonates with their lives. Such a chosen deity then becomes the focus of prayer. Hindu prayers can be either the repetition of formulated mantras and chants or simple prayers created by the religious devotee.
Topics for Prayer
Like many other religions, much of Hindu prayer is directed toward giving thanks or asking for aid. Because each deity has an explicit focus of his or her attention, a Hindu may pray to a particular god to request specific help. For example, the Hindu god Ganesha is seen as the remover of obstacles. Therefore if devotees wishes for clarity of understanding or a clear path to achieving certain desires, they will pray to Ganesha to remove impediments. However, in the Hindu tradition prayers can also be offered on the behalf of all people, rather than just for the benefit of one devotee.
Why Pray for Peace
As a result of the Hindu belief in karma (that each individual soul reaps the consequences of all its actions) and the power of compassion, many Hindu mantras and chants are said for the benefit of all people. Such universal prayers can request anything from freedom from sickness and suffering to wisdom and peace for all. A core concept in Hinduism is that the goal of life is enlightenment, which comes with complete release of the ego and control over the wandering mind. Enlightenment is viewed as the perfectly clear mind's union with God and as such is the attainment of the ultimate state of moksha (freedom) or peace. Prayers for peace in Hinduism are, therefore, conceived out of the desire to free all people from suffering and unite them with God.
Specific Peace Prayers
Hindu mantras, chants and prayers aimed at creating peace internally and throughout the world can be found throughout Hindu scripture, and highly regarded Hindu practitioners, such as Mahatma Gandhi, have also created such prayers. The simplest way to pray for peace is to repeat the Sanskrit word for peace, "shanti," three times. The number of repetitions is symbolic: the first is for the removal of disturbances that come from God, such as natural disasters; the second for disturbances that come from other people and things in the world; and the third for disturbances originating from the devotee's own mind.
There are also many peace mantras that come from a variety of scriptural sources. The most frequently used peace mantras come from the Upanishads of the Veda, which is the most sacred of Hindu scriptures. One mantra, sometimes referred to as the "Asatoma" mantra, requests that devotees be led from the real to the unreal, from darkness to light, and from the fear of death to the knowledge of immortality. Other common mantras are the " Purnam-idam" mantra and the "Lokah" prayer, which does not have an origin in the Veda. The "Lokah" prayer requests happiness, health and peace everywhere.
- Dictionary: Prayer Definition
- BBC: Religions -- Hindu Worship
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- Saraswati Publications: What Is Mantra and How Does It Work?
- University of Wyoming: Hinduism -- Time and Worship
- Mata Amritanandamayi Devi: The Divine Birth of Ganesha
- University of Wyoming: Hinduism -- The Hindu Cosmos
- Mata Amritanandamayi Devi: Meaning of Shanti Mantras
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