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Posts Tagged ‘Kol Nidre’

My Life of “Prayer” – Ron’s Memoirs

“Our prayers should be for blessings in general,

for God knows best what is good for us.”

~ Socrates
“When we pray to God we must be seeking nothing — nothing.”

“We should seek not so much to pray, but to become prayer.”

~ Saint Francis of Assisi
“[Our] own will is all that answers prayer,
only it appears under the guise of different religious conceptions to each mind.
We may call it Buddha, Jesus, Krishna,
but it is only the Self, the ‘I’.”

~ Swami Vivekananda





Introduction.

After a midlife spiritual awakening at age forty three, prayer became essential to my spiritually conscious life process. So my spiritual memoirs appropriately include the following description and explanation of “prayer” in my life, both before and since the midlife awakening.

My history with “prayer”.

I don’t recall spontaneously praying or crying to God prior to midlife.  But I do remember feeling emotionally moved while singing collective prayers, and on hearing chanted cantorial prayers, at organized Jewish high holy day services. Even though I didn’t understand the words, I was especially affected by “Kol Nidre” (“All Vows”), an emotively powerful prayer with a hauntingly beautiful melody which is chanted and recited in ancient Aramaic, to begin Yom Kippur services.

Only after the midlife awakening did I synchronistically begin regularly praying with daily recitations of the “make me an instrument of Thy peace” prayer attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi – heartfelt recitations which have continued for over forty years.

Before the midlife awakening I hadn’t shed tears as an adult. But thereupon, I cried for twenty four hours, and soon realized with amazement that I was crying with intense longing for God. (See Beholding The Eternal Light Of Consciousness.)

Two years after the midlife awakening, I met my beloved Guruji, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas, and received shaktipat initiation into the path of kundalini yoga. Thereupon I was given a sacred “Rama” mantra and spiritual name “Rasik: one engrossed in devotion”. Afterwards, as Guruji presciently had foreseen, I became and have ever since remained “engrossed in devotion”, intensely yearning for the Divine, and often spontaneously calling and weeping for “Rama” with deep longing.

Also, in addition to the Saint Francis prayer, I began regularly reciting prayers and mantras recommended by Guruji, and soon became a “born-again Hindu”. Though some Hindu prayers were directed to mythological Hindu deities – including the legendary monkey-god Hanuman – in calling, crying or praying to the Divine, I consistently conceived of “God” as formless and invisible. Ultimately, on my acceptance of Advaita non-duality philosophy, “God” as ultimate Reality became (and remains} for me an inconceivable Mystery.

Especially during my extended post-retirement reclusive period, I daily prayed for particular people, envisioning them as enveloped by divine light, while silently praying for everyone everywhere. Sometimes I prayed for specific outcomes, like healing or wellbeing. But gradually I ceased praying for specific outcomes, while continuing to pray for all Life everywhere.

Now, although all specific loving prayers are beneficial, I instinctively pray with faith for best outcomes, without specifying desired results. Especially since miraculously surviving and recovering from a June, 2014 near-death taxicab rundown, I have gratefully given my ‘irrevocable power of attorney’ to The Lone Arranger to determine appropriate outcomes for all Life everywhere.

What is “prayer”?

On first meeting Guruji I simply thought of prayer as ‘talking to God’, and meditation as listening. So I didn’t then even consider calling and crying for God or reciting mantras as “prayers”. But since then my view of “prayer” gradually widened to include those and many other behaviors not previously regarded as “prayer”. Thus my concept of prayer now includes all heartfelt longings for eternal communion with the Divine. And I accept Mahatma Gandhi’s statement that “prayer is nothing else but an intense longing of the heart”. Also, I believe it possible for us to prayerfully open our hearts to all Life, without excluding anyone or anything, even vile enemies. (See e.g. https://sillysutras.com/how-st-francis-of-assisi-inspires-pope-francis/)

How shall we pray?

Prayer is universal – a concept recognized worldwide by all cultures and people. But it is understood and practiced in different ways at different times.

In perceived dire sudden emergencies or threats most humans spontaneously pray for help, even if they haven’t previously prayed and their instinct to pray is subliminal. Thus, once before becoming a “born-again Hindu”, I suddenly began calling and crying out to God as “Rama, Rama, Rama”, upon fearfully being lost in a jungle-like Hawaiian nature preserve. And I remember instinctively exclaiming “Jesus” when twice almost run down by crazy car drivers, though I’d never before prayed to Jesus.

All humans share a common instinct to return to our Divine Source. But, as unique beings with uniquely conditioned karmic perspectives and limitations, we each experience different evolutionary challenges and different theoretical spiritual paths. So, as we evolve toward realization of our common spiritual Source and Self identity, different practices and behaviors are most appropriate for each of us – including whether, when or how we pray. (See e.g. https://sillysutras.com/different-person-different-path/ ) In my experience, our inner insights and instincts best help us determine our unique evolutionary paths.

Thus, though I began this lifetime only praying rarely in organized religious programs, after years of evolutionary process I now instinctively pray constantly and spontaneously, with an unprecedented and all encompassing concept of “prayer”.

I am unqualified to tell others how, when or whether to pray. But it is my aspiration that SillySutras readers may find guidance about prayer and other spiritual practices from these memoirs and cited spiritual quotations. So I will hereafter share my opinions and observations about prayer in our lives.

Observations and quotations about “prayer”.

Praying is instinctive. Throughout recorded human history prayers have been offered by countless saints and sages, and by ordinary people of every religious denomination. Even Buddhists who don’t believe in a Creator God recite many mantras and pray a lot. 

Different people have differing ideas about meanings and methods of “prayer”. Most often prayer involves asking for divine help or expressing gratitude to God or other higher power. But “prayer” can be broadly considered as all spontaneous, heartfelt, or worshipful longing for or communion with Universal Intelligence, Nature, or Divinity.   And all such selfless loving prayer may be magically powerful.  For example I’ve become gratefully convinced that heartfelt prayers of others helped my miraculous survival and healing from a 2014 near-death taxi rundown. And all our compassionate prayers are often answered. Mahatma Gandhi has said that prayer “is the most potent instrument of action”; that “with the Grace of God everything can be achieved.”

“Everything we think, do or say changes this world in some way”. So we are all co-creating our earthly mental reality. As Universal Spirit, we are ONE, and we ‘contagiously’ influence one another, positively or negatively. Every thought affects our collective consciousness. We have infinite potentiality to lovingly and prayerfully bless this world. But our fearful and worrisome thoughts and behaviors are tantamount to negative prayers, which can unknowingly afflict the world.  So mental mindfulness helps us avert such worrisome thoughts.

Beyond historically helpful traditional prayer customs and practices, even Western scientific double-blind “placebo effect” studies, now support efficacy of prayer.  A 2006 Washington Post article even asserted that “prayer is the most common complement to mainstream medicine, far outpacing acupuncture, herbs, vitamins and other alternative remedies.”

The stiller and more focused our minds, the more opened our hearts, and the deeper our harmony with Nature, the more impactful are our prayers. And, whether or not we intentionally “pray”, our focused awareness of conditioned mental propensities can be key to fulfilling our deepest evolutionary aspirations.

It is best to be givers, not getters. For it is in giving that we receive. So, it’s preferable to pray selflessly for peace and welfare of all others, rather than for our perceived self-interests; to ‘pray for God to do through us – not for us’.

“When we pray to God we must be seeking nothing — nothing.”
~ Saint Francis of Assisi to his Order of Friars Minor


And it’s best to leave to Supreme Authority details of how to accomplish all our prayerful wishes, rather than to specify them.

“Our prayers should be for blessings in general,
for God knows best what is good for us.”

~ Socrates


As we evolve beyond our illusionary perceptual/conceptual separation of each other, and all our other mistaken beliefs which theoretically divide ONE Reality, those illusions gradually melt into mystery. And increasingly we realize that we are THAT eternal Self to which we which we pray, and to which we intensely aspire to return. We see that

“[Our] own will is all that answers prayer,
only it appears under the guise of different religious conceptions to each mind.
We may call it Buddha, Jesus, Krishna,
but it is only the Self, the ‘I’.”

~ Swami Vivekananda – Jnana Yoga


Becoming “prayer”.

There are now, and always have been, rare Avatars, Saints and Buddha-like beings who are completely devoted to blessing all Life, without exception or exclusion. Hence, it is possible to live life as continual prayer, not just with continual prayer. So it can be evolutionarily feasible that ultimately

“We should seek not so much to pray, but to become prayer.”
~ Saint Francis of Assisi to his Order of Friars Minor


Realization of humanity’s shared evolutionary aspiration.

Realization of such a perpetually prayerful saintly state is humanity’s deepest aspiration. Knowingly or unknowingly, consciously or subconsciously, no matter who or where we are, no matter our age, gender or culture, all humans share a universal and irresistible instinct and desire to return to a soul-remembered original state of Divine Love, Peace and Oneness – a transcendent state beyond words or thoughts, so marvelous that its subliminal memory magnetically attracts every sentient being to merge and be At-One with THAT.

Self Realization of THAT to which we pray, and for which we deeply aspire, is our ultimate destiny.

Conclusion.

May these writings on “prayer” help advance us toward realization of that ultimate destiny.

And so may it be!

Ron Rattner

Forgiving the Past to Live in the Present

“Life can be found only in the present moment.
The past is gone, the future is not yet here,
and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment,
we cannot be in touch with life.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
“The greatest discovery of any generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering the attitudes of their minds.”
~ Albert Schweitzer
Ordinary human consciousness is conditioned consciousness;
it is pure Awareness conditioned by conceptions.
And our conceptual conditioning determines our condition.
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“If the doors of perception were cleansed
everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”
~ William Blake

 

Marc Chagall – The Praying Jew


Forgiving the Past to Live in the Present

Mystics and some scientists say that our thoughts or beliefs about our ‘reality’ and self-identity determine our earth-life experience; that those thoughts or beliefs originate unconsciously with very subtle mental impressions (sometimes called in Sanskrit vasanas or samskaras) which through reincarnation are carried by the soul from lifetime to lifetime; that we can radically change our lives and behaviors by changing our thoughts about who or what we are; and that we can become “enlightened” only by transcending all mental conditioning.

Thus, according to twentieth century Indian sage J. Krishnamurti,

“Our problem is how to be free from all conditioning . . When the mind is completely unconditioned then only can [we] experience or discover if there is something real or not. . [A] mind . . filled with beliefs, . . dogmas . . assertions ..is really an uncreative mind; it is merely a repetitive mind.”

Our mental conditioning operates our physical body, like computer software systems operate computer hardware platforms. And, like computer software systems, all mental conditioning comes from the past – from this or prior lifetimes.

But, habitually abiding or operating with beliefs or tendencies from past experience, or projecting them into the future as fear or worry, prevents us from living spontaneously and authentically in the present moment – from fully being here NOW.

Past is history and future’s mystery, while Life is never then – it is only NOW.

“Life can be found only in the present moment. The past is gone, the future is not yet here, and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Thus, Buddha taught that:

“There is only one time when it is essential to awaken. That time is now.” . . . . .
“That which is timeless is found now.”

Only by wiping the slate clean from past conditioning and resulting thoughts or concerns, are we are fully freed to live in the present –
in the eternal NOW. Thus our spiritual evolution is furthered by any activity or practice which helps us live moment by moment in the precious present, spontaneously and authentically without mental pre-conditioning.

My life experience following a dramatic midlife spiritual awakening confirms these teachings. As gradually I have recognized and eliminated or changed beliefs and paradigms which no longer seemed valid or useful, quieted my mind, and more and more self-identified as spirit, my life has become more spontaneous and magical, and I’ve experienced ever more happiness, peace of mind, and gratitude for this precious life-time.

For me, it has been a process of mindfully witnessing inappropriate or obsolete behavioral patterns with intention of changing or eliminating them through grateful remembrance that I am not merely a separate mortal entity but universal spirit experiencing a blessed human life.

The more that I have gratefully and mindfully self-identified as spirit – as Universal Awareness – the more I have experienced fulfillment, insight, empathy, and creativity and the less I have manifested unhelpful habits and reflexive behaviors.

I have found that this transformative process of mindful spiritual self-identification has been accelerated through meditation and other universal practices of perennial wisdom traditions which help clear mental conditioning. So I’ve dedicated SillySutras.com to exploring and sharing universal wisdom principles and practices which can help us all live happier lives, as they have helped me.

During Jewish High Holy days, I am reminded of certain practices other than meditation, which may help free us from past conditioning:

1. Non-judgmental forgiveness or atonement of supposed transgressions or ‘sins’ by or against us [see “Forgiveness And Atonement Of ‘Sins.’”] ; and,

2. Annulment and rescission of obsolete and unhelpful personal intentions, resolutions, or vows.

The Jewish High Holy Days are ten days of religious introspection and repentance, concluding with Yom Kippur [“day of atonement”]. During services, congregants communally repent past “sins” while repeatedly acknowledging that

“Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins,” [ Ecclesiastes 7:20 ]

The Yom Kippur observance begins with “Kol Nidre” (“All Vows”), a powerful prayer with a hauntingly beautiful melody which is chanted and recited in ancient Aramaic, and which for many Jews is the religious highpoint of their year.

When I attended Jewish services, during adolescence and later irregularly as an adult ( before I became a “born-again Hindu”), the Kol Nidre ritual was for me emotionally memorable, even though I don’t recall knowing the meaning of the prayer until much later receiving a translation in an email message.

So, on ultimately learning the translated meaning, I was quite surprised and puzzled to learn that Kol Nidre enigmatically purports to disavow and annul until the next day of atonement all past and/or future communal or individual oaths or vows, viz.

”Let all our vows and oaths, all the promises we make and the obligations we incur to You, 0 God, between this Yom Kippur and the next, be null and void should we, after honest effort, find ourselves unable to fulfill them. Then may we be absolved of them.”

Since Judaism emphasizes the honoring of promises and obligations to others, I wondered:

“Why does the holiest of Jewish high holy days begin with a communal disavowal of all oaths or vows, which in Jewish tradition are regarded as ethically important?”


Also I began wondering why the Kol Nidre prayer has been so emotionally powerful even when its meaning is largely unknown. After reflection and research I concluded that:

Kol Nidre applies only to personal vows to oneself or God, not affecting promises or obligations to others; it is not an unconditional request for Divine absolution from guilt for dishonored vows or obligations to others.

Many people – not just Jews – make resolutions or vows concerning their intended future behavior which are unfulfilled or become inappropriate or unhelpful as times change. And often they feel consequent frustration or guilt.

Rather than harboring guilt or frustration for this, Jewish tradition recognizes that it is best to wipe the mental slate clean. Thus, observant Jews can be spiritually uplifted and mentally cleared by communal participation in High Holy Day rituals of forgiveness or atonement of “sins”, and rescission of unhelpful personal resolutions.

And I believe that Kol Nidre has been especially powerful for even those unaware of its meaning, because subtly or subconsciously it invokes Humankind’s universal – yet paradoxically impossible – aspiration to be in this world beyond inevitable human frailty and suffering, beyond “sin” or ‘missing the mark’.

So, perhaps Kol Nidre and its haunting melody, invoke an Eternal inner voice which reminds us of our true nature – ever immanent Divine Love – with which we are ultimately destined to merge.

Concluding Invocation

On holy days and every day, may everyone everywhere be blessed to remember their affinity and identity with Divinity; and, may we thus wipe clean the slate of past behaviors or attitudes which impede living in the precious present.

And so, may everyone everywhere be eternally happy –

NOW!


Ron’s Commentary on Forgiving the Past to Live in the Present

Dear Friends,

In lunar equinox seasons of major theistic religious ‘holy days’ – Jewish (days of awe); Moslem (Eid Al-Adha); Christian (Feast of St. Francis); – we are often reminded that central to all major theistic religions is the goal of psychologically returning to “godliness”. Moreover, all major religions – Buddhist-Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish – teach a common message of Love as the supreme “unifying principle of Life. . . . the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate Reality.” [Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] 

Yet, often in the name of religion, our world remains rife with discrimination, violence and killing which must be transcended for survival of Human life as we have known it.

Whether or not we are ‘religious’, we are all experiencing a mythological perennial process of returning to a psychological state of self-identity and “at-one-ment” with Universal Awareness, our ultimate Essence and destiny – an evolutionary process of gradually living more and more in and as the timeless NOW.

The above essay, Forgiving the Past to Live in the Present, encourages our harmony with this crucially important perennial process.

As gradually we mindfully observe and change behaviors, beliefs, and paradigms which no longer seem valid or useful, and as more and more we commonly self-identify as ONE Eternal spirit, which is Love – not just as separate mortals – our lives become more spontaneous and magical, enabling us to synchronistically experience ever more happiness, peace of mind, and gratitude for this precious human lifetime.

And so may it be!

Ron Rattner