[Editor-Translations, Oxford University Press]

The first prayer I learnt to say was not "Unni, vaa-vaa" [for SriKrishna] or even Nama Sivaaya for Maheshwara but the "Our Father..." the words that the prince of prayer wanted us to say and which He taught to largely unlettered persons/ spiritual infants.

Over the last 16 years, Ive memorised and joyfully recited some long and difficult Sanskrit prayers. To the Great Mother [Lalithasahasranamam, 200 couplets], to Mahavishnu, [the Vishnusahasranamam 120 couplets], portions of the Saundaryalahiri and some 400 verses of the Bhagavad Gita. But gradually my recitals became mechanical. I would say the wonderful words, but my mind no longer thrilled to the rhythm or words, which linked me with millions of chanters through at least 3000 years of traditional worship. Indeed that is one of the things that prayer is not only a link between God and us but also between us and all of praying humanity.

I have always asked myself---"what am I praying for?" Am I praying only for myself? I would of course pray for people who were facing calamities. I prayed for disputes to be settled. Then one day in Vedanta class, my guru warned us "Never pray with a specific request. Prayer has great power and you can upset the karmic plan, even the cosmic workings of the universe. Praise the Divine and seek general guidance and the strength to endure the pains of life."

Tough to follow but I tried.

Then I fell ill and found that submitting to the Force brought great solace. Whatever had to happen -- let it happen through Him.

When I recovered I felt I owed my energy and remaining days to the Divine. In a very short while, almost as if giving me just enough time to emerge fully and preparing the field as it were, a great opportunity to network and co-produce an important series of books came my way. Something strange happened along with this joint effort. I found I could no longer think only of myself. I felt fulfilled in six others and suddenly understood the meaning of the line, "I am involved in mankind." My identity dissolved into my team, my family of writers.

We were a mini-India.

I realized the true meaning of the wonderful petition, "Our Father..." Not my Father, give me this day my daily bread. But our--us--we. How plainly Jesus taught us that the best way to pray is to send up a collective prayer! He did not intend our focus to be solely on our personal individual relation to Heaven when we prayed. He reminds us that we are not traveling solo in our pilgrimage. And every time we repeat the word "our" we perform an act of charity. For we include all of mankind.

Jesus bases his parables about debt forgiveness on compassion for the debtor. "The kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a king who decided to settle accounts" and we must remember that we began by saying, "May your kingdom come...." So what happens in this kingdom? Jesus asks us to lend without hope of return and in this at least, I will make the grade because it is the story of my life; and why shouldn’t it be? God has given me a great many gifts and not called them loans. Jesus reminds us that it is only money we are giving away --- one of the many treasures you cannot store up and take with you when you leave.

Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors are the only petition which is conditional. You want to be forgiven? Then you must forgive. I love the image this brings to my mind because my brother and I often fought and used to seek arbitration from any elder who happened to be present. The solution was always the same. "Now come-on, come-on, say "sorry”! Then he will say it to you...." Miraculously no sooner were the words out than we were friends again the gory moments of battle behind us. I wish I could take warring people to this Holy Force in our midst. If you can bring yourself to forgive the injury done to you, you too will be relieved of the debt of pain you have accumulated elsewhere. Remember that every hour spent in anger and nursing old grievances is an hour lost to prayer and friendship.

Jesus' advice is so practical and it is miraculous. He is not asking us for spiritual or ascetic feats. You do not have to meditate all night. You do not have to stand on one leg for 1000 years. You do not have to fast for three days. All it takes is a little sensitivity. Give up the right to anger and instead of hanging on to blame, accept that we need to move on to a more understanding future. Constantly remind yourself of the Vedanta advice that we are spiritual beings living in borrowed bodies experiencing thoughts and reactions that have little to do with our true nature.

I would like to end by saying that the line, "Thy Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven" has strong echoes from Vedanta. If as Jesus said over and over again, the kingdom of God is amongst us, and within us, then so is God; so will active in us. I know that Christians are raised to think of Heaven and Earth as two different places, I feel Jesus' insight was so Eastern, so perfectly Upanishad that He knew that if He had told a Jewish population used as it was to the God of the O.T. that there was no angry Father waiting on a throne some place else but was actually enthroned in their hearts, he would have lost his audience very fast or been stoned. He had to get through to them subtly and somehow and hoped that his parables would convey at least to a few of them the great and simple truth. That God was already in them if only they could shed their fear and recognize Him. In this phrase we pray that God's will be carried out in our small self as it is in our higher self, which is already magnetized. So the celestial link demanding the recognition of everybody else as being at least as important as oneself immediately puts the onus of our liberation from our debts on us alone. Will you forgive another? Then you are forgiven too. Will you hang on to your grievances and deny pardon to the other? So will your transgressions be held against you?

So whether or not you win pardon is in your hands because you will be treated exactly as you treat others.

The law of karma works out perfectly in Jesus' teachings. Jesus is the promise of the Vedas.

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