Osho’s answer to the question: “Is prayer useful? If so, teach me how to pray. I mean, prayer to receive god’s love, to feel his grace.”
First, prayer is not useful – not at all. Prayer has no use, no utility. It is not a commodity. You cannot use it; it is not a thing. It is not a means to anything else – how can you use it?
I can understand the questioner’s mind. The so-called religions have been teaching people that prayer is a means to God. It is not! Prayer is God. It is not a means towards anything – to be prayerful is the end in itself. When you are prayerful, you are divine. Not that the prayer leads you towards the Divine: in prayerfulness you discover your divinity.
Prayer is not a means. It is the end unto itself.
But this fallacy has persisted down the centuries in man’s mind. Love is also a means, so is prayer, so is meditation – all that is impossible to reduce to means has been reduced. And that’s why the beauty is lost.
Love is useless, so is prayer, so is meditation.
When you ask: “Is prayer useful?” you don’t understand what the word ‘prayer’ means. You are greedy. You want God, you want to grab God; now you are finding ways and means to grab. And God cannot be grabbed!
You cannot possess God. You cannot contain God. You cannot interpret God. You cannot experience God. Then what can be done about God? Only one thing: you can be God. Nothing else can be done about it – because you are God. Recognize it or not, realize it or not, but you are God. And only that can be done which is already there; only that can be done which has already happened. Nothing new can be added… only revelation, only discovery.
So, the first thing: prayer is not any utility. The moment you use prayer, you make it ugly. That is a sacrilege to use prayer. And whosoever has said to you to use prayer has been not only irreligious but anti-religious. He does not understand what he is saying. He is talking nonsense.
Be prayerful, not because it has some utility, but because it is a joy. Be prayerful, not because through it you will arrive anywhere, but through it you are! Through it you start being. Through it you are present: without it you are absent. It is not a goal somewhere in the future; it is a discovery of the presence that is already there, that is already the case.
And don’t think in terms of things, otherwise prayer becomes part of economics, not part of religion. If it is a means, then it is part of economics. All means are part of economics. Ends are beyond economics. Religion is concerned with the end, not with the means. Religion is not concerned at all with reaching somewhere.
Religion is concerned only with one thing: to know where we are!
To celebrate this moment is prayer. To be herenow is prayer. To listen to these birds is prayer. To feel the presence of people around you is prayer. To touch a tree with love is prayer. To look at a child with deep respect, with reverence for life, is prayer.
So, first thing: don’t ask “Is prayer useful?”
And then the second thing you say: “If so, teach me how to pray.”
If you start by ‘if’, prayer cannot be taught. The very beginning with ‘if’ is the beginning of doubt. ‘If’ is not part of a prayerful mind. Prayer needs trust; there is no ‘if’. It is so. It is absolutely so.
When you can trust the unknown, the invisible, the unmanifest, then there is prayer. If you start by ‘if’, then prayer will be at most a hypothesis. Then prayer will be a theory, and prayer is not a theory. Prayer is not a thing, not a theory – prayer is an experience. You cannot start by ‘if’.
The very beginning goes wrong. You have taken a step in the wrong direction. Drop ifs and you will be in prayer. Drop all ifs, don’t live life through hypothetical things: “If this is so, if there is God, then I will pray.” But how can you pray if God is just an if? If God is just ‘as if’, then your prayer will also be just ‘as if’. It will be an empty gesture. You will bow down, you will utter a few words, but your heart will not be there. The heart is never with ifs.
Science works through ifs: religion does not work through ifs.
You are asking: “If there is love, then teach me love.”
If there is love? Then nothing has stirred in your heart, then the spring has not come, and that breeze has not touched you which is called love. You must have heard somebody else talking about love. You must have read in some book; you must have been reading romantic poetry. The word ‘love’ has come to you, but there has been not a single moment of love experience… so you ask: “If there is love, then teach us.” But with if, love cannot be taught.
Have you never experienced any moment of love, prayer, beatitude? I have never come across a single human being who is so poor. Have you not ever listened to the silence of the night? Have you not ever been thrilled by it? Touched by it? Transformed by it? Have you never seen a sun rising on the horizon? Have you never felt like a deep interrelationship with the rising sun? Have you not felt more life in you, pouring from everywhere? Maybe for a moment…. Have you never held the hand of a human being and something started flowing from you to him and from him to you? Have you never experienced when two human spaces overlap and flow into each other? Have you never seen a rose flower and smelt the fragrance of it – and suddenly you are transported into another world?
These are moments of prayer. Don’t start by if. Gather all the moments of your life which were beautiful – they were all moments of prayer. Base your temple of prayer on those moments. Let that be the foundation, not if. The bricks of if are false. Build the foundation with certainties, with absolute certainties – only then, only then is there a possibility of your ever entering into the world of prayer. It is a great world. It has a beginning, but it has no end. It is oceanic.
So please don’t say “if so”.
It is so! And if you have not yet felt it is so, then look into your life and find out some certainties about beauty, about love, about experiences which go beyond the mind. Collect all those.
The ordinary habit of the mind is not to collect them, because they go against the logical mind. So we never take note of them. They happen, they happen to everybody. Let me repeat: Nobody is so poor. They happen to the poorest man. Man is made in such a way, man is in such a way – they are bound to happen. But we don’t take note of them because they are dangerous moments. If they are real, then what will happen to our logical mind? They are very illogical moments.
Now, listening to a bird, and something starts singing within you – this is very illogical. You cannot find out how it is happening, why it is happening – why should it be so? The mind is at a loss. The only course left for the mind is not to take note of it, forget about it! It is just a whim – maybe some eccentric moment, maybe you have gone temporarily mad. The mind interprets these things like this… it was nothing, just a mood. You were emotional, you were being sentimental – that’s all. There was no authentic experience in it.
This is the way to deny. Once you start denying, then you don’t have any moments to base your prayer life upon. Hence the question: “If so…”
My first suggestion is: go into your life; remember all those moments. You must have been a small child collecting sea shells on a beach, and the sun was showering on you, and the wind was salty and sharp, and you were in tremendous joy. No king has ever been so joyful. You were almost at the top of the world – you were an emperor. Remember… that is the right brick to base upon.
You were a small child running after a butterfly – that was the moment of prayer. For the first time you fell in love with a woman or a man, and your heart was churned and stirred, and you started dreaming in a new way… that was the moment of prayer, your first love, your first friendship.
Gather from your past a few certainties about something that goes beyond the mind, which the mind cannot interpret, which the mind cannot dissect, which is simply transcendental to the mind. Collect those transcendental moments, even a few, they will do – but then there will be no if. Then you move with certainty. Then it is not a hypothesis. Then there is trust.
If it could happen to you when you were a child, why can’t it happen to you now? Why? Gather those moments of wonder when you were thrilled. […]
So first drop if, and collect some certainties – that is the first lesson about prayer.
Second thing you say: “… teach me how to pray.” There is no how. Prayer is not a technique. Meditation can be taught; it is a technique, it is a method. Prayer is not a method – it is a love affair! You can pray, but prayer cannot be taught.
It happened once: Some of Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Master, teach us to pray and teach us how.” And what did Jesus do? You know? He acted exactly the way a Zen Master is supposed to act: he simply fell on the ground, on his knees, and started praying! They were puzzled. They looked. They must have shrugged their shoulders that “We have asked him to teach, and what is he doing? He is praying – but how can his praying help us?” Later on they must have asked, and Jesus said, “But that is the only way – there is no technique!”
Jesus prayed – what else can you do? If they had been a little more alert, they would have sat silently by the side of Jesus, holding his hands or touching his robe… contact high. Something would have happened there.
I cannot teach you prayer, but I am prayer. And I need not fall on my knees to pray – I am prayer. You just imbibe my being, you drink me as much as you can, my presence. And it will teach you what prayer is. Every morning I am teaching you what prayer is! Every moment when you come to me I am teaching you what prayer is. I am in prayer! You just be a little open. You just open your doors… Let my breeze pass through you. It is an infection – prayer is an infection.
I cannot teach you how to pray, but I can make you prayerful. Get more in tune with my presence.
And don’t keep these questions inside your mind because they will be the barriers. Just be vulnerable and it will happen. One day suddenly you will see the heart is singing, and something is dancing within you… some new energy, as if in a dark night a sudden ray of light has entered your being.
This is prayer! You cannot do it – you can only allow it to happen. Meditation can be done – prayer cannot be done. Meditation is more scientific that way; it can be taught. But prayer? Prayer is absolutely unscientific; it is a matter of the heart.
Feel me and you will feel prayer. Touch me… and you will touch prayer. Listen to me and you are listening to words which are full of prayer.
And then, sometime sitting silently, let there be a dialogue – a dialogue with existence. You can call the existence God or Father or Mother – anything is okay. But don’t repeat any ritual. Don’t repeat the Christian prayer, and don’t repeat the Hindu prayer, don’t repeat the Gayatri Mantra, and don’t repeat Namokar – don’t repeat any mantra, Indian, Tibetan, Chinese. Don’t repeat! Create your own mantra: don’t be a parrot. Can’t you say something to God on your own? And don’t rehearse it, don’t prepare for it. Can’t you face God directly as a small child faces his father or mother? Can’t you say something to Him? Can’t you say “hello”?
Let prayer happen! Don’t prepare for it. A prepared prayer is a false prayer. And a repeated prayer is just a mechanical thing. You can repeat the Christian prayer – you have crammed it, it has been forced upon you. You can repeat it in the night and fall asleep, but it will not make you aware – because it has not been done as a response!
I have heard about a great mathematician who used to pray every night with a single word: he would look at the sky and would say, “Ditto.”
What is the point of repeating every day the same as yesterday? What are you doing when you repeat the same prayer again and again? ‘Ditto’ is better! Why bother God every day with the same repetition? Say something if you have something to say; if you don’t have something to say, just say, “I don’t have anything to say today.”
Or just be silent – what is the need of saying anything? But be true – at least between you and the Whole, let there be truth. That’s what prayer is. Open your heart. […]
And the last thing you say: “I mean prayer to receive God’s love, to feel His grace.”
Again your question is wrong: “I mean prayer to receive God’s love.” You are greedy! Prayer is to love God. Yes, love comes from God a thousandfold, but that is not the desire: that is the outcome of it; not the result, but the consequence. Yes, love will come like a flood. You take one step towards God and God takes a thousand steps towards you. You give Him one drop, offer Him one drop of your love, and His whole ocean becomes available to you. Yes, that happens! But that should not be the desire. The desire is wrong. If you simply want God’s love, and that’s why you are praying, then your prayer is a bargain, then it is business. And beware of business!
In a small school somewhere in the United States, the teacher asks the boys: “Who was the greatest man in human history?”
Of course, an American says, “Abraham Lincoln,” and an Indian says, “Mahatma Gandhi,” and an English boy says, “Winston Churchill,” and so on and so forth.
And then a small Jewish boy stands up and says, “Jesus,” and he wins, he wins a reward.
But the teacher asks him, “You are a Jew, why did you say Jesus?”
He said, “I know all the time in my heart it is Moses – but business is business.”
Don’t make prayer a business. Let it be a pure offering: just give it out of your heart. Don’t ask for anything in return. Then much comes… thousandfold, millionfold, God flows towards you. But, again, remember: it is a consequence not a result.
Osho, The Tantra Vision, Vol 1, Ch 10, Q 2 (excerpt)