Om Sweet Om

Today, November 26, 2009, marks the one year anniversary of the Mumbai terror attacks– beginning on November 26, 2008 and lasting until November 29, 2008, terrorists sent by an Islamic extremist group in Pakistan coordinated more than ten shooting and bombing attacks across Mumbai, India’s financial capital. Reports conflict, but it is generally accepted that more than 173 people were murdered in the attacks and at least 300 wounded.

mumbai_ribbon.jpgSometimes in the face of unimaginable horror, in the midst of unspeakable sorrow, in response to inconceivable evil — all we can do is pray. All we can do seems to imply that prayer is an admission of helplessness or  futility. It is true that prayer is far too often seen as a last resort, but Hindu wisdom holds that prayers are more than just utterances of futility or wishful thinking. Sometimes a prayer can be a proclamation of hope, or a pledge to fundamentally alter the spiritual fabric of the world  around us. Hinduism teaches that certain sacred sounds, or mantras, operate as a sort of performative utterance.

Many prayers thus begin with the phrase svasty astu — “let there be happiness” or “may there be peace.” For the devotee who sincerely prays this way, saying it is not just wishful thinking; it is as if a judge proclaimed, “I order this to be so.”  It is a vow, a sankalpa, that this will be so. And inherent in the prayer is the resolve to make it happen; I accept personal responsibility to heal a wound made a year ago and thousands of miles away, through my actions today.

In memory of the victims of the Mumbai terror attacks, a prayer for peace from the Hindu tradition:

svasty astu vishvasya khalah prasidatam, dhyayantu bhutani shivam mitho dhiya

manash ca bhadram bhajatad adhokshaje, aveshyatam no matir apy ahaituki

“May the entire universe be blessed with peace and hope. May
everyone driven by envy and enmity become pacified and reconciled. May all
living beings develop abiding concern for the welfare of others. May our
own hearts and minds be filled with purity and serenity. May all these
blessings flow naturally from this supreme benediction: May our attention
become spontaneously absorbed in the rapture of pure love unto the
transcendent Lord.”

– offered by Prahlad Maharaj in the Srimad Bhagavata Purana, Canto 5, Chapter
18, Verse 9
translation by Ravindra Svarupa Dasa (William H. Deadwyler, III)

Please feel free to share your own prayers for peace — from within Hinduism or any other tradition, or of your own composition — below.

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