Transformation Is The Test
OH FIRE, LEAD US TO THE RIGHTEOUS PATH.
OH GOD, THE KNOWER OF ALL KNOWLEDGE AND ACTIONS, DESTROY OUR DECEITFUL SINS.
WE BOW TO YOU INNUMERABLE TIMES.
We have seen streams and brooks flowing down from the mountain. We know that rivers flow towards the ocean. Water runs always towards lower and lower levels in search of the lowest level, and its journey ends in ditches. To flow down is its path; its nature is to go down and down. Fire has quite the opposite nature: it always goes upwards. Rising upwards is its path, on and on upwards towards the sky. You may strike a flame anywhere, you may keep it in any position, you may hang a lamp upside down - its flame will still begin to rise upwards. Since ancient times the higher souls, the mystics, have clearly understood the upward, rising nature of fire.
Consciousness can flow both ways, like water or like fire. Generally we flow like water, seeking ever lower pits. If our consciousness gets a chance to slide downwards, we immediately drop the upwards path. Ordinarily we behave like water; but we should behave like fire, abandoning the lower levels when even a small occasion to rise higher comes before us. We should be ready to take even the smallest opportunity to spread our wings and fly towards the sky.
For those seeking an upward path, for those whose hopes were to enter a higher dimension, fire became the ideal, the symbol, for their behavior; it was regarded as a god. There is another reason why fire was regarded as a symbol and a god. When an individual begins to travel upwards, simultaneously he begins to journey within. It is exactly the opposite of the journey which is simultaneously downwards and outwards. Looking into their connotations, outwards and downwards are synonymous; and inwards and upwards are synonymous too. You will go as far upwards as you go inwards, and you will go as far downwards as you go outwards. Or, you go as much out as you go down, and you go as much within as you go up. From the existential point of view, up and within have the same meaning.
Likewise, from the point of view of experience, though not semantically, outwards and downwards have the same meaning. Those who decided to make an upward journey had to make an inward journey also, and as they went further within, darkness began to decrease and light to increase. So fire became the symbol of the journey within.
There is also another reason why fire became a symbol and began to be worshipped. It has one great beauty of its own; it saves the pure and destroys the impure. If gold is thrown into fire, the impurities are burned and destroyed, and the pure gold comes out brighter. This is known as the ordeal by fire - the test to destroy the impure and save the pure. The ordeal by fire became a symbol of the fact that fire will destroy that which is impure and will save and protect that which is pure. This is its natural quality. It is eager to protect the pure and to burn the impure.
There is a great deal of impurity within us - so much that no trace of gold is to be seen, though it may be lying concealed somewhere within us. Sometimes some sage talks of gold, but we know only the dust and rubbish within which it lies. Some realized soul, some wise man, tells us there is gold, pure gold, within us, but when we go looking for it we find nothing but stones. So we have to throw even gold into the fire. The meaning of penance is to throw gold into fire. The word tapa, penance, is derived from tapa - fire. Tapa does not just mean that a person stands in the heat of the sun practicing penance. Penance means that one should pass through so much fire within that all that is impure may be burned, destroyed - and all that is pure may be left.
It is necessary to bear in mind one or two other points about fire so that it will be easy to remember its divine form, its divinity. It will be useful to understand the prayer of the sage, "O fire, lead me to the right path," and to realize why such a prayer was offered to fire. You have seen fire, you have seen water also. However low it may sink, water remains. Flowing down from a mountain it enters a valley, but it is not lost, it does not vanish. Fire rises towards the sky, but vanishes after rising only a little distance.
Truly speaking, one who makes an upward journey will vanish. As he goes up and up he is vanishing every moment; soon he will lose his ego and cease to be. He will be one with the sky. Fire remains visible for a short distance and then disappears - lost in the void, in nothingness. Water remains, however far down it may flow. The ego will surely persist on its downward journey, and if it goes very deep down it will be transformed. When ego sinks very low it becomes hard, like a stone. Bear this in mind; the ego becomes strong, frozen, hard and crystallized as you descend lower and lower, and becomes thin, weak and invisible as you rise higher and higher. Watch a flame and you will see - in a short while it has gone away. Where has it gone?
When Buddha was about to enter his final liberation, he said, "Within a few seconds I shall cease to be."
Then someone asked, "Where will you be then, when you are not?"
Buddha replied, "Watch the lamp, and ask it where its flame, disappearing into the air, has gone. I shall also disappear in that way in a short time. That moment has arrived when my flame will be absorbed in the vast sky."
There is one more secret, one more mystery, about fire: it burns everything and finally destroys itself too. After consuming the fuel, fire does not save itself. As soon as the fuel is extinguished the fire is also extinguished. Everything is extinguished, and finally no fire is left behind; it also vanishes. It would be violence if it saved itself after burning everything else, but it is love when one disappears after making others disappear. So fire is not the enemy of fuel; it is its friend, its lover. If it were not so, it would certainly save itself after consuming the fuel. It does not consume others to preserve itself; this is not the nature of fire. After burning the fuel, it burns itself and becomes quiet.
It is worth noting that fuel is preserved in the form of ashes after it has been consumed, whereas fire is not saved in any form. It is so pure that it leaves no ashes of itself behind. In actual fact, ash is formed out of impurities. Fire is simply the purest existence. It leaves no trace whatsoever behind it. It is a very arduous search for the seeker to find an ideal symbol on the outside for what happens within. The best symbol found up to now is fire. Whether burning constantly in the Parsi temples or in the religious sacrifices of the rishis, or in fire sacrifices or in the temple lamps, fire is to this day held as the best symbol, closest to the happenings within - those transcendental happenings within.
This is why people consider it a god.
What is it that is considered a god? It is not simply that which is divine, because everything and everyone is divine. Everything is divine because everything comes out of the divine. The dictionary meaning of the word devata is one who is divine, but everyone is divine. Some know this fact and some do not, but what is there which is not divine? The stone, the tree, the river, the mountain, the sky - all are divine. Each atom is divine. So the word devata does not mean that which is divine.
Why is a thing designated a god in a special additional sense? It means this: it is not only divine, but also leads others to divinity. One who turns others to divinity, who indicates the divine, who turns our longing towards divinity, is a god. That is why the sages could say the master is God. There was no other reason but this. If one is reminded by looking at the sky of that which is without form, then the sky is God. But we have difficulty in understanding this.
Those who read the Vedas today find it difficult to understand its assertions that the sky is God, Indra is God, the sun is God, and so on. They think, "What is all this madness, all this nonsense?"
When Westerners first read the Vedas, they too found them difficult to understand. They said, "This is polytheism - a religion of many gods. These people have a tendency to see God in all things." But no, it is not that. Anything is a god through whom divinity is remembered, by whom one is struck with divinity, through whom the strings of the veena of the heart are caused to vibrate, through whom one begins the journey towards the divine.
Look at the sky. If you continue to look for some time, the form will vanish and the revelation of formlessness will begin. The sky is thus pointing towards formlessness. Shall we then be so ungrateful as not to thank that phenomenon, saying, "O God, you reminded me of the formless; I am thankful"?
Go on looking at fire - that was the purpose and meaning of the religious fire sacrifices. The offering itself is not so important in fire sacrifices; what is important is to be one with the transcendental journey of fire, through sitting near it. You see the fire leaping upwards, its flame vanishing into that great nothingness, and if at that moment you become one with that flame with a concentrated and meditative mind and lose yourself in that void, then fire becomes your god.
That is God through whom you hear the divine, through which you are inspired within to move towards divinity, through which your dormant seed of divinity is broken open, leading you to divinity.
That is why the sage says, "O God, O fire, lead me to the right path. I do not know the path. I do not even know that which is meaningful from that which is meaningless. I am ignorant. Please lead me."
There is one point here which should be profoundly understood, and it is this: one who pleads to be led towards the right path is making no ordinary plea; it is extraordinary, because the plea itself is the basis of the help one needs to proceed towards the right path. This plea is extraordinary because our every intention, our every passion, our every desire, leads us to the wrong path - there is no need to pray, to plead for it. Nature has given us sufficient means for that; nature itself leads us there. If you want to go down, to degrade yourself, you need no prayer to help you. If you want to go towards darkness, nature is already helping you. Your own actions lead you to that path. Your own habits and past impressions are already leading you towards it. It is interesting to note that nobody has ever prayed to God to lead him to an unrighteous path. Here God is not required; man himself is strong and capable enough to go astray. There is no need of God's help in doing so. On the contrary, man has the capacity to lead God onto an unrighteous path!
The madness is that it is the unrighteous path which is full of dangers, yet no one prays for God's help to take it. It should be done thus: "O God, please help me along the unrighteous path, for it is full of dangers!" To walk this path is to enter into much suffering and misery and madness. It is inviting troubles to overwhelm us. In such circumstances God's help should be sought, but no one seeks it because everybody thinks he is capable enough to meet the challenge. Man is strong enough to follow an unrighteous path, but when the question of traveling the right path comes up, he suddenly finds he is unable to do so!
The reason for man's weakness is that all his desires and passions draw him downwards, and there is no such passion endowed by nature to lift him upwards. If he does nothing and stands still, he will automatically slip downwards, sliding and stumbling in his descent. The gravitational force of nature is enough to draw him down, and with every step he will think of going lower and lower. The whole life force will urge him downwards more and more. He imagines there is happiness down below, and if he meets with unhappiness in his efforts, he argues, "It is because I have not gone far enough."
When the so-called honest people meet me they tell me, "Have you seen how happy the dishonest people are becoming in this world?" I call such people so-called honest people because they cannot remain honest for long, since they see happiness in dishonesty. They cannot be honest from the depths of their hearts, and if they appear honest it is out of fear. To be dishonest requires courage and daring. They are weak and cowardly; they dare not practice dishonesty or treachery. But their belief that the treacherous are becoming happy and prosperous reveals the truth - the voice of their desires is warning them that they are making a mistake in being honest.
From within also, nature urges you to go down and down. Why? - because in descending you become more and more a part of nature. By the same token, as you rise higher and higher you go beyond nature. It is easy for nature to persuade you to descend still further because there is much rest there, and if you become like a stone there is complete rest. "Go down, leave aside your consciousness," say your desires and passions. "Give up consciousness; it is the cause of your unhappiness, so remain in a trance - in unconsciousness." That is why man takes to drink, to intoxicating drugs and a thousand other such tricks - so that he can descend easily and remain as if in a trance. There is a whole system of arrangements to help you to descend, but there is none to help you go up. And there is no bliss, no peace, without rising upwards.
This is the human dilemma, this is man's turmoil - the duel he has to fight, with all kinds of means and ways to descend but no ways set out to help him upwards. And no purpose is served without going up; without the upward journey nothing is achieved but wandering. In such helplessness, a prayer comes forth from within. When man realizes the helplessness in his condition, he prays to God. So the sage prays, "O God, lead me to the righteous path."
This does not mean that some God will take you to that path; this sort of interpretation has created many false beliefs. No God will help you. You yourself will have to go to that path; but this prayer will give you strength, will encourage you, to go on. If this prayer becomes firm and concentrated in you, if it becomes a thirst, a cry from every fiber of your being, if it becomes your breath itself crying, "O God, O fire, take me where everything vanishes and only that remains which is not I, and which was there and which will be there when I am not!" then the prayer will break open a door within you.
It will be the means to take you to the righteous path, because where we deeply yearn to go, we go.
Our very thoughts become our actions.
Eddington has written a very wonderful sentence, the more so because it is written by a person like Eddington. He is a Nobel prize winner, and one of the best scientists of the last fifty years. During the last days of his life he wrote in his memoirs: "I began scientific research in my youth. Then I thought of the world, the universe, as a collection of things. But going deeper and deeper in my research work and experiencing the mysteries of nature, I have come to realize that the universe resembles more a thought than a thing. This is my last will and testimony to the world."
The same statement is the first sentence of Buddha in the Dhammapada. "You will be that which you think, so give proper consideration and reflection to your thoughts, because you cannot hold anyone else responsible for your actions; what you do today is the result of what you thought yesterday." Our own follies and mistaken notions become solid and turn into actions. Our own thoughts solidify and dictate our life. A minute wave of thought, having arisen, starts on its journey, and if not today, then tomorrow, becomes a solid thing.
All things are really condensed thoughts. What we are is the result of our thoughts. So if any prayer becomes so concentrated that it thrills every particle of your life, stirs your heart to throbbing, affects your dreams in the night, envelops your daydreams, infiltrates your sleep and becomes the obsession of your life, then the prayer is answered. No God will come to help you; but the prayer offered to the divine, wherever it is seen by us, creates in us the thrill.
This distinction should be understood properly. If you think, "My life will now be carefree. I have prayed to God, now he will look after me," then you are mistaken. Many people think like this.
They think, "We have acknowledged God sufficiently by offering our prayers; we have obliged him sufficiently, now it is his duty to see that our prayers are answered." And if God fails to respond they complain against him and declare, "There is no God, it is all hocus-pocus."
No, prayer does not mean shifting our responsibility onto another. Prayer is a kind of device by which we bring a thrill into our entire life, we thrill every particle of our body. And remember, it is the device which can enter deepest of all into our hearts and bodies. If anyone becomes fully absorbed in prayer, with all his heart, then every particle of his body becomes active.
No thought goes as deep as prayer, no desire goes as deep as prayer, provided only that one has the capacity to really pray. There is not a single desire from which you cannot be freed. You can be free even from sex, which is considered the most enduring of the desires. You are not totally absorbed even in that, you are detached even from that. Some hidden portion of consciousness remains out of it. At the most it is the body that is absorbed in sexual activity; only a very small portion of the mind of a sexually-aroused person enters the action, but consciousness and the soul remain absolutely out of it. You cannot be total in sex, and that is the cause of the trouble and frustration in sexual desire. The lustful mind says, "I will sink into it totally and will derive complete pleasure from it." But it is never able to sink totally. It always finds itself as if sunk completely, but in fact is not able to do so - it goes to a certain limit and then returns. No sooner does it reach the moment of sinking than the moment of bursting brings it back up.
Prayer is the only happening in which man sinks totally, in which nothing is left outside. The prayer becomes total when nothing of the person offering the prayer is left outside. While praying, if you are not totally in it then it becomes a superficial act. It will not affect you, you will remain untouched.
But prayer can be so profound - it becomes so - that the person offering it is lost and only the prayer remains. Then, lost in the current of total prayer, the thing happens, and the journey to the righteous path begins. The whole orientation changes. The face makes a one-hundred-and-eighty-degree turn from the downward journey towards the upward one.
This is why the sages pray to fire - it is a rising phenomenon, it burns impurities, it has no ego, and it is absorbed very soon into the sky. When someone is totally in prayer, is one with it, he becomes a flame in which there is no smoke. The smoke is there before someone begins to really pray. There is no immediate fire. There is a lot of smoke in the beginning because our fuel is very wet. In fact the fuel is as wet as our desires are many. It is like the billows of smoke that rise when we set fire to wet fuel. Do not be afraid of this. The person setting out on the journey of prayer does not witness the fire at first; he sees only thick smoke in the beginning, because we have a lot of wet fuel with us.
This is why the sage has asked the fire to burn his past actions also - because these actions are the fuel that is so wet.
When is an action dry and when is it wet? Which action can be considered wet and which can be considered dry? If the action is dry the upward journey is easy, because a dry action is good fuel; and if it is wet the upward journey becomes arduous, because the fuel does not burn but produces a lot of smoke. When you remain completely detached from an action while doing it, then the action is dry. That action is wet with which you remain linked while doing it, and even after doing it. If you can be a witness while doing an action, then that action becomes dry. If you are unable to be a witness to an action while doing it, but become its doer, that action will be wet. If, while performing an action, you are full of ego and say, "I am doing it," then that action becomes wet. If instead you say, "God induces me to do this, nature gets it done through me, I am simply witnessing it," and of course if you not only say it but realize it and live in this spirit also, then that action becomes dry.
And the flame of life of those who have the fuel of dry actions immediately jumps into the Brahman - the eternal spirit. But those who have the fuel of wet actions are in difficulty.
The sage knows that for all of us, most of our actions are wet. So try to make your actions dry, because prayer alone, without dry actions, will achieve nothing. Tear your ego away from actions of the past and don't let your present and future actions be bound to ego. But always bear this in mind, that no one will come to fulfill your prayer; you will be transformed only by your own prayer. Prayer is transformation. Transformation does not follow prayer, it happens in the prayer itself. So do not expect its fruit to come in the future, because the prayer itself is the fruit; and forget it quietly after you have prayed, because it is the fruit itself. It is a great achievement to pray in the right spirit. But we have mistaken notions, expecting someone else to fulfill our prayer, thinking that now we have prayed we have to wait for the fruit.
Like fire, prayer is an intensely living phenomenon. Prayer has three aspects which I shall explain to you so that you can grasp their significance correctly. The first is that when you offer a prayer you are saying goodbye to your ego; there can be no prayer if ego remains. When the sage says, "O fire, O God, show me the right path, I know nothing," he has said farewell to his ego. Prayer is the total acceptance of our humility. You cannot offer a prayer unless you become nothing.
So the first point is that to offer prayer is to demonstrate our acceptance of humility, our complete helplessness. "I declare that I am not able to do anything. I admit that whatever I did only took me downwards, whatever I did only entangled and perplexed me more. My actions have become my hell. The entanglement of my actions has become a burden, a stone weighing on my chest. I can no longer do anything. Now I pray, 'O God, now you are the doer, now lead me on.'" Let me repeat:
this does not mean God will lead you - this very prayer will lead you. If it is done with a total heart, with utter sincerity, and if there is total egolessness, then it will surely lead you.
So the first sutra is: No ego.
The second sutra: We depend too much on ourselves.
A person once went to the saint Eckhart and said, "I am a self-made man!"
Eckhart heard him, looked at the sky with folded hands, and said, "O God, you are free of much responsibility. It is good that this man is self-made, because I was wondering how you manage to look after all the different types of people you are creating." Then, looking at the man again, he said, "Since you are self-made, you have obliged God greatly. At least God is saved from the guilt of being responsible for you."
We have great faith in ourselves. Most of us think we are self-made. This is like believing that we are our own fathers. Everyone thinks like this. All our behavior sets out to prove that we are our own fathers. The man who thinks he is his own father tries to pull himself up by his own shoelaces. We all behave in this way, and in doing so we only exhaust ourselves, break our shoelaces and injure ourselves.
No one is able to raise himself. To give up depending on ourselves is prayer. So give up this vain belief that, "I will raise myself up." Give up this confidence that, "I will make my own way and reach the destination of my journey myself." I repeat, you will have to make the journey, no one else can do it for you. But the journey only begins when this confidence is given up. This so-called self- confidence is a hindrance. No sooner is it forsaken than your energy is liberated and becomes God-consecrated. You yourself become a god. There is no other fire which will lead you; only the fire within you is able to do it.
You have enough of divinity in you to begin the journey, but that divinity will be narrowed to the extent that you have an ego. Ego will not be able to find its way, it will find the doors closed. In spite of tremendous efforts that divinity will not be able to ascend, because ego is like a stone around your neck which will drown you in the river. But forsake this misplaced confidence in yourself and you will be able to cross the river.
Have you ever observed a wonderful happening that takes place in rivers? ... But we do not observe, we are blind. The living are drowned, but dead bodies know some secret of swimming, of floating on water, of not being drowned, that the living do not know. No river, not even great oceans, can drown a dead body; it at once comes up to the surface. What is the secret? A dead body does not know anything, it is simply a dead body, and that is the secret. If a living person behaves like a dead body, then sinking is impossible - you float. No God helps you float, you simply become weightless. You become light as soon as your stone of ego is removed. Then, even if someone tries to drown you, how can he do it? We are drowned by our own selves. Confidence in ourselves drowns us. Clinging to our egos drowns us. The thought, "I shall do everything," puts us on a journey to hell.
That is why these prayers are so wonderful. Bear in mind, I have my own difficulty when I say the prayer of the sage is wonderful, because I do not consider those prayers wonderful which you do in your homes, nor even those which you start doing after reading the Ishavasya. They are absolutely bogus. To sit before the sacrificial fire throwing offerings on the fire and singing religious songs - all this is nonsense if there is no transformation in you.
Transformation is the real test.
If a person performs religious sacrifices for forty years, for his whole life, and there is no transformation in him, then in fact no sacrifice has been performed. If a person visits a temple or a mosque every day and yet there is no transformation in him, he stays where he was - then he has never entered a temple or a mosque. The temple may have been damaged a bit by his visits, but no damage is done to him, no transformation has taken place in him. He is where he was. The mosque might be afraid of him, thinking, "This man has been troubling me for the last forty years, but he himself is not troubled at all." No, it is not prayer at all. That visit to the temple is only a gesture.
I find the prayer of the sage full of meaning. It is very humble, very innocent, very natural: "O fire, lead me to the right path, because I know nothing about it, I am ignorant." If you can say with all sincerity, "O sky, lead me to the formless, because I do not know anything," you will all of a sudden find that the road is open for you. The path of knowledge opens for anyone who says, "I do not know." Such a person has taken the first step towards true knowledge. And one who says, "I know, I am a learned man," seals even the few holes which might allow him entry into the inner temple.
Prayer is the acceptance not only of ignorance but also of helplessness. No shore, no boat is seen, only the boundless ocean is visible, and its depth is fathomless. Our courage fails us. We close our eyes and imagine, think we are in a boat, but really all boats are paper boats. Such is our condition - absolutely helpless.
In a true prayer there is an acceptance of helplessness as well as of ignorance. And one who declares, "I am helpless," finds the remedy, the solution. This very declaration of helplessness is the solution. This total acceptance of helplessness is in itself our greatest and only help. The man who surrenders himself meets God. The man who says, "From now on I will walk if you bid me walk, I will rise if you raise me, I will follow you wherever you go" - this man sees his doors opening within, because he has communicated with the infinite so innocently and with such unconditional surrender that he finds himself before God.
These prayers are the keys to open the door. These short prayers are very deep in meaning and carry us very far. Keep this prayer in mind while performing your daily routine, and whenever you get an opportunity, remind yourself, "I do not know anything, I am helpless. O God, lead me." Again I emphasize the fact that no one else will come to lead you to the right path. This prayer itself will take you. In praying thus, you will be able to lead yourself. Prayer is a power, a very great power.
There is tremendous energy hidden in a small atom, but the energy hidden in these small prayers is many times more powerful than that in an infinite numbers of atoms. Pray and see; test it! The result is immediate. You will be light in no time. You will grow wings and be ready to fly high.
The burden vanishes as our heavily laden ego falls away. But we are so clever that we even fill up the prayer with our ego. Look at the person coming out of the temple after offering prayers. He looks around in pride, as if to announce to the sinners all around him his own piety at having offered prayers in the temple.
Once Mohammed asked a young man to go with him to pray. The young man could not avoid it, because Mohammed had asked him - just as you cannot avoid something if I ask you to do it! In the morning he went with Mohammed. Mohammed stood there and prayed, and the young man also stood and began to murmur something. He could only murmur.
Mohammed became very uneasy and thought, "I made a mistake in bringing this man here." But now there was no way out of it. After praying, they left. It was morning and people were still in their beds.
The young man said to Mohammed, "Sir, what will happen to these people? Though this is the time for prayer they are still in their beds. What do you think of them? Will they go to hell?"
Mohammed replied, "I do not know where they will go, but I shall have to go back to the mosque."
The man asked, "What has happened to you?"
Mohammed said, "My first prayer has become useless - I have harmed you. Before offering prayers this morning at least you were humble; you did not consider these people sinful. This is another harm done. Please pardon me, and do not come to the mosque again. Now I must go back again to pray, because now my first prayer is useless. I have harmed you by bringing you to the mosque because now you have become more egoistic and vain. The ego should be shattered by prayers, but yours has become stronger!"
Have you seen how proudly a man walks with a saffron mark and sandal paste on his forehead?
He behaves as if God has given him a special license. Such people think they are God's relatives, God's family, God's chosen ones. Now they will not rest content until they have condemned the whole world to hell. Man must be considered a very strange animal when he can become full of ego even through prayer. There is no limit to his cunningness.
The essential quality of prayer is the abandonment, the death of the ego. A truly religious person cannot even say, "I am a religious person." He is so aware of his unrighteousness that he will say rather, "Who is more irreligious than I?" He will not be able to declare himself a virtuous person because he will see a streak of sin in virtue; he will see the ego in saying so. Therefore the sage says, "I do not know how many sins I have committed to burden me in my progress. I am utterly unfit, I cannot claim the right to reach the goal. I can simply pray."
So remember this sutra too, that prayer is not a claim. It is not an announcement of entitlement but an acceptance of unfitness. If you feel a little that, "I am a true claimant," then your prayer becomes polluted and poisonous. A person offering prayer finds something when he prays, "O God, it is your grace, I am not fit for it." Hence people coined the term 'God's grace'. It is divine grace. They say, "When were we ever fit? It is difficult to find people more unfit than us."
And yet I repeat, you achieve through your fitness - and not through your unfitness. But the awareness of your unfitness is the fitting prayer. The awareness of being nothing is the claim of prayer. To claim nothing is the essence of prayer. Prayer sends the fruit, but if it does not come we will say, "We were not fit to receive it"; if it comes we will say, "It is by his grace." Yet it is not achieved by his grace because he is equally graceful to all! If it is attained by his grace, it means that nepotism is prevalent here also.
A person goes to a temple, rings the bell and prays, "O God, you are the purifier of the sinful, you are the almighty," with an intention that God will be pleased and will fulfill his desires. This is just like a person who gets what he desires by praying before a king and pleasing him. That is why all our prayers are worded in courtly language. Such royal prayer is all flattery. The other word for flattery in Sanskrit is stuti - prayer!
No, you have not to say, "God is great." That is just flattery. "I am nothing" - this statement is enough. Not: "You are great. How can I - a humble person - propound on your greatness? How much greatness is there in my use of the word great? How can I measure you? How can I calculate your greatness? No, I can have no yardstick by which to measure your greatness. It is enough for me to measure my own humbleness. It is enough if I am able to say in my prayer, 'I am nothing.'"
I want to tell you again that nothing is obtained by his grace, and yet when someone achieves, he knows it is God's grace. Whenever someone has achieved the ultimate he has danced in ecstasy and declared most sincerely before the world that he has achieved through God's grace. And yet nobody gets anything through his grace, because you can only show grace and favor if you can also show disfavor. But his grace is perpetual, it is continuously raining.
Buddha used to say, "Nectar is raining, but some people keep their pitchers upside-down." It is not that nectar will begin to shower on the day when you turn your pitcher upright. It was raining even when you had your pitcher upside-down, it was pouring even when there was no pitcher at all. There will be no special grace filling your pitcher when you keep it the right way up. Nectar is continuously raining: to show grace is his nature - the nectar of existence is his nature.
It is continuously raining, but we have kept our buckets upside-down. Ego keeps its bucket upside- down and at the same time tries to fill it. To keep the bucket upright means to admit, "I am nothing."
When the bucket is upright, its emptiness becomes manifest. What else can it manifest? When it is upside-down, its emptiness is concealed. An upside-down bucket creates an illusion of being full, because emptiness is not seen, it is suppressed. That is why we keep it upside-down. By being upright, the bucket comes to know that it is nothing but empty. There is an opening which can be filled with something.
A man's bucket turns the right way up when he knows that he is nothing, and when he keeps it upright he enters prayer. God's grace is raining and it will fill his bucket, and when it is full the man will say, "It is his grace."
If you do not keep your bucket upright, he cannot show his grace. It is by your grace that you keep it upright. To show grace to oneself is prayer. To have compassion on oneself is prayer. To be cruel to oneself is ego. To commit tyranny against oneself is ego. To commit violence against oneself is ego.
This is enough for the morning session. Now let us disperse. And kindly keep your buckets upright!