June 13, 2016

In the Wake of Tragedy, is Praying Enough? 


To begin, I have no intention of speaking for God, only my understanding of Her.

In the face of the hate-fueled mass murder in Orlando, one of the most horrific days in American history, many of us are praying.

And in return, many others are angry at these prayers.

The hashtag #thoughtsandprayers has been trending on Twitter since the massacre, as people call on their fellow citizens to stop praying and start acting.

The assumption is that those who are praying are only praying, and that they are using their prayers as psychological shields. “I said a prayer so now I’m off the hook. I’m still a good person.”

It begs the question, in the shadow of the monster of violence that we are allowing to roam unchecked in our homes and cities, often targeting those of us most in need of protection, what does God expect of us? Prayer or action?

I have turned today to the story of the warrior Arjuna from The Bhagavad Gita, one of my spiritual touchstones. The Gita came to me later in life, right when it was supposed to reach me. I’ve read across every major religion and then some. What I love most about the Gita in particular is that it focuses on action. There are literal and figurative wars raging all around us, and we are all soldiers in those wars, whether we are languishing on the floor of our chariots, like Arjuna, or not. Inaction is action. You and I are fighting in the war against violence, but the question becomes, whose side are we on?

Dharma, or a truth so profound that it holds the weight of the highest universal law, is often envisioned and studied in the context of the Wheel of Dharma, or Dharmachakra. There are so many ways to apply this concept in our lives, including by seeing the connection between prayer and action in a world at war.

The Gita counsels us to meditate, to quiet the wild mind in order to hear the deeper guidance of the Soul. Then, with this wisdom as our sword, we fight, we move, and we act. This combination becomes a powerful circle of energy that might just win a war.

It is widely understood that prayer is when we talk to God and meditation is when we listen. Every one of us has prayed in recent days, if only in anger, if only in our own heads. “Help me. Help them. Why?”

These reactions seem so very human in the face of such a massive loss of human life. I imagine those prayers being heard and noted, but my understanding of God expects more of me. She wants me to stop talking and start listening. Then, to complete the turn of the wheel, she wants me to act, using whatever talents and resources that I have in this moment in service of the greater good. And the wheel continues to turn.

We meditate. We listen to God. We quiet our egoic minds in order to hear our highest wisdom. We stop talking.

Then we act from that place of wisdom. We fight. We protest. We vote.

Around and around between meditation and action. This is the Wheel of Dharma. This is what I believe God wants from us, all of us, those of us who are only praying and those of us who are only getting mad at the people who are only praying, all of whom aren’t really upset with each other, but rather with this monster, the one running loose, the one that we can absolutely stop by connecting with our higher wisdom and then bringing that wisdom out into the world.

“Be one in self-harmony, in Yoga” the Gita teaches us, “and arise, great warrior, arise.”


Author: Karen Costa

Image: @hartzell965

Editors: Emily Bartran; Sarah Kolkka

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