By Uma Ram and K S Ram
March 25, 2019
A popular doha of Kabir says: ‘Dukh mein
simran sab kare, sukh mein kare na koi / Jo sukh mein simran kare, dukh kahe ko
hoi?’ – Everybody prays in distress; nobody prays in happiness / If you pray in
happy times, why ever will you suffer distress?
There is a higher idea contained in the
couplet. The key words are: Dukh, sukh, and simran. Dukh relates to body and
mind; it does not affect the Atman. Dukh can be understood as tapatreya: the
threefold distress, that is, adhyātmika, suffering caused by diseases and
mental stress; adhibhoutika, suffering caused by other living creatures and
adhidaivika, suffering caused by physical happenings such as earthquakes.
Sukh may relate to body and worldly
comforts, as also the natural state of atman, that is, absence of any form of
Simiran is not exactly prayer – at least,
not the kind of prayer that is implied in the above doha’s translation, where
you pray for relief from existential distress, or for gain of worldly goodies.
Simiran is meditation in the sense Ramana Maharshi used the term, that is, a
constant remembrance of and instinctive communion with your eternal equation
with God, also called ajapa-japa.
A logical question arises: Any form of
prayer to God or remembrance of Him, whether in times of distress or joy,
should be rewarding. What is wrong if you pray in times of distress?
Praying and communing are acts of the mind.
When you pray in times of joy, your mind immerses in God-thought. But when you
pray in times of distress, your mind is pre-occupied with the distress and the
urge to be rid of it. Meaningful communion is just not possible in such a
state. In fact, when in distress you do not commune at all: you indulge in
desperate prayer, calling upon the force to rid you of the distress. Since
distress always is existential in nature, your entire act is doomed to a
Jesus exhorts his disciples not to come to
prayer when there is an issue raging inside their mind relating to worldly
affairs. He says to first go sort that matter out, and only then, when calm, to
come to prayer. That is, not to pray in Dukh, but rather in Sukh, so the
exercise can be fruitful.
When you pray for things like relief from
distress, you may often find your prayer answered, but such relief is destined
to be impermanent if it fails to consolidate your faith along the right path. A
new distress will confront you sooner or later. This cycle of
distress-prayer-forgetfulness-new distress-return to prayer will go on and on
and you will make no meaningful progress toward an enduring resolution of all
distress. The cycle is likely to extend beyond one birth and death to multiple
births in multiple wombs, not necessarily in human species.
On the other hand, if you cultivate joy
born of contentment and a realisation of the fact that happiness is our natural
state, and cultivate the habit of unending communion with the Self within, you
establish yourself in eternal joy. As Adi Shankaracharya declares, such a one
is full of joy, irrespective of the mundane circumstances she is placed in.
Distress can never approach her.