“Those whose minds are distorted by material desires surrender unto demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.20)
कामैस् तैस् तैर् हृत-ज्ञानाः
तं तं नियमम् आस्थाय
प्रकृत्या नियताः स्वया
kāmais tais tair hṛta-jñānāḥ
taṁ taṁ niyamam āsthāya
prakṛtyā niyatāḥ svayā
Friend1: You know what always baffled me?
Friend2: What is that?
Friend1: The situation of conflicting prayers.
Friend2: What do you mean?
Friend1: Let’s take something simple, like a football game.
Friend1: The game comes down to the wire. This last-second field-goal attempt will determine the winner. If the team on offense should make the kick, with the football going through the uprights, then they win.
Friend2: And if the kick misses, the other team wins. There is no time left on the clock?
Friend1: A few seconds. Time for one last play. All of that hard work. All of that preparation. All of that offseason training. Everything comes down to this.
Friend2: That is nerve-wracking.
Friend1: That is why you see people praying. There is nothing else they can do. Just hope that the kick goes through.
Friend2: Don’t forget the other side. Their prayer is equally as intense, but for the reverse outcome. I think the final game in the highest professional league once came down to this situation. The kicker missed.
Friend1: Which means that one team was elated and the other dejected.
Friend2: The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
Friend1: So just think for a moment about the impact of prayer. One side sees that everything was answered. The good Lord came through for them.
Friend2: And the other side knows they were rejected.
Friend1: I see a huge contradiction in this. Don’t you?
Friend2: How so?
Friend1: Why would God choose one side over the other? If He is my order supplier, shouldn’t He always come through?
Friend2: Not necessarily. Things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes the unanswered prayer turns out to be auspicious in the long-term.
Friend1: Okay, but that is not the impetus for the prayer. The people aren’t asking for everything to work out in the end. They want the immediate result.
Friend2: Which only one side can see.
Friend1: Which tells me not to pray at all. I think the wise person would follow that direction.
Friend2: Well, that is one of the reasons Shri Krishna says that a person only worships the demigods when their intelligence has been stolen.
Friend1: Because of the first-come, first-serve nature?
Friend2: For certain requests, only one worshiper can win. It is like a race condition, which computer programmers know. Even if you do everything right, if the demigod is pleased with you, how do you resolve conflicting requests?
Friend1: Exactly. That is my whole point. It seems silly to pray in that fashion.
Friend2: That is further justification for the bhakti path. You can pray. You can approach God the person. But just know that singular events may not unfold as planned. The Supreme Lord might take everything away from you first.
Friend1: Which I think the neophyte would have a difficult time understanding. In coming closer to God, we expect life to get easier, not more difficult.
Friend2: He is known as Hari in this feature. It is supreme kindness, if you think about it. Only He applies such discrimination; the demigods do not.
Friend1: What is the ideal prayer?
Friend2: To ask to continue in service. To remove obstacles along the path, so that the focus can be entirely on linking the consciousness, yoga. That is the real meaning behind the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Friend1: I should abandon the demigods, then?
Friend2: Offer respect. Understand the vital role they play in the affairs of the material world. Appreciate their close association with Bhagavan and how they are forever dear to Him.
Friend1: But we don’t need to necessarily ask for orders to be supplied?
Friend2: The animal community makes no such approach. They get everything they need, more or less. They have no organized religion. The stipulation is there for the human being precisely for achieving a higher level of consciousness. We will ultimately be in the same boat regardless of the outcome to day-to-day events, but if we remember Shri Krishna then we will never have to take birth again.
अन्त-काले च माम् एव
स्मरन् मुक्त्वा कलेवरम्
यः प्रयाति स मद्-भावं
याति नास्त्य् अत्र संशयः
anta-kāle ca mām eva
smaran muktvā kalevaram
yaḥ prayāti sa mad-bhāvaṁ
yāti nāsty atra saṁśayaḥ
“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.5)
Desperate in situation aware,
Immediately falling to prayer.
That certain condition to play,
But another for opposite to pray.
Conflict guaranteed to see,
At least one scorned to be.
Reason to bhakti instead taking,
Krishna the proper outcome making.