Before one enters a yogic path, it is natural to pray to the Lord for legitimate accessories to a natural life, with a view to share them also with others. The prayers are answered, unless they would be fatal to that person’s spiritual growth. When he has entered on a path, however, the yogin is expected to rely on his own Great Self, and not to pray for anything at all, either for himself or others.
An idealistic schoolmaster in a small village complained to his teacher that if only he had a larger place, he could do much more for the children of the neighbourhood. “Surely I may pray for that?” he said. “I do not understand our rule which forbids praying for things. Surely it cannot be wrong to pray for that?”
“Devote yourself to realization of your self in God,” said the teacher, “and you will do much more good, to the children as well, than any actions in a new schoolplace.”
“But in the meantime,” persisted the schoolmaster, “surely, surely …”
“Well,” said the teacher finally, “there is one kind of prayer which is allowed. It is nearly always answered rather quickly. But it is rather difficult to do, and …”
“Tell me, tell me,” broke in the other.
“Here it is then. The prayer must be uttered, but you must not be conscious that it is uttered. And it must be uttered with a mouth by which you have never sinned.”
The schoolmaster listened to this, and took his leave in some bewilderment. Some time later he told the teacher that he found the prayer quite impossible. “How can I utter it and be unconscious of it? And anyway, I am ruled out because I have sometimes misused my tongue shamefully, as I now realize. I thought at first it was a bit cruel to tell me such impossible things, but of course I did persist in asking. Well, I have put the idea aside, and gone back to my yoga practises. As a matter of fact, it has been a sort of stimulus to them, I don’t know why.”
Some months later, the local mayor told the schoolmaster that the inspectors had reported very favourably on his work, and that he himself had organized a petition to the Education Ministry. There was a new minister who seized the chance to show a human face (and get publicity) by agreeing to build a larger school in the remote village.
The schoolmaster took the wonderful news to his teacher, who said, “Let us bow together to thank God for answering your prayer.”
“But I didn’t make the prayer. You said it had to be uttered without my being conscious of it, and by a mouth with which I had never sinned. That wasn’t possible, and it wasn’t done.”
“It was possible, and it was done,” the teacher told him. “The prayer was uttered by others, by the parents of the children you have helped. You weren’t conscious of it. Then it was uttered by their mouths, and you have never sinned with their mouths.
“Worship of God through the bodies and minds of others, influenced unknown to you by your yogic life and meditation, is worship of the purest kind: it cannot be polluted even by a temporary association with things.”