There’s a set of Sanskrit shlokas (verses) which I try and recite every morning and evening, followed by a few minutes of meditation. I’ve been saying these prayers for many years. When I keep up with the discipline of doing this regularly, it feels like my days go much better; I feel positive and have much more clarity.
Starting from about a year and a half ago, I began getting increasingly lazy with these prayers. I reasoned with myself that it’s understandable, because I’ve become much busier with the stresses of adult life.
Gradually I began to notice myself getting easily edgy and stressed. When I reflected on my interaction with other people, I could see that I’d developed a short temper as well as a tendency of looking at people with a utilitarian tendency (“What can I get out of them?”), rather than with the Hindu vision of respecting all people as having indwelling divinity within them, in the form of the atman (soul).
Intellectually and politically I’m as staunch a Hindu as I ever have been. I write about Hinduism, I can give a speech about Hinduism, and I’m very much into Hindu social and political issues. But that is different to actually living Hinduism. Living Hinduism involves performing some form of regular spiritual practice and treating people (and the environment) in a way that is in harmony with Hindu spirituality.
After reflecting on the situation, I knew I had to begin praying and meditating again, no matter how busy I thought myself to be. When I used to pray, I conducted my life in a way that I was happy with. The reason is hard to explain. Focusing ones mind on the forms of the Gods, (or the formless divine if you choose – Hinduism offers a tremendous variety), creates a positive force that endures for even the time of day when you are not praying.
So in the last couple of months, I’ve been trying to re-implement my age old discipline of reciting my shlokas and meditating. The first few times I did this – my mind was all over the place. I’d totally lost the ability to focus on the prayers, but now after several weeks of sitting down every day I’m regaining the sparkle and inner peace which comes with being a genuine practitioner of the eternal spiritual teachings that we call Hinduism.