PARVARDIGAR PRAYER & THE PRAYER OF REPENTANCE: A REVIEW
Professor J.S. Rathore
The Paravardigar Prayer, originally called The Universal Prayer and later as The Master's Prayer, and The Prayer of Repentance are two most precious gifts given to humanity by the Avatar of the Age, Meher Baba. What makes them unique is the fact that both were dictated by Meher Baba and He himself quite often was present as a silent participant during their recitals. No Avatar had done this before. Bal Natu, one of Baba's mandali, has captured such moments in the following words in his book entitled `The Samadhi: Star Of Infinity The Tomb Shrine of Meher Baba':
"Baba's attitude towards the prayers, I saw, clearly reflected the importance they had for Him in His universal work. He would wash His hands and face and straighten His coat or sadra. Then, with great solemnity, Baba would join His palms and listen with closed eyes while the prayers were read aloud by Eruch. ... From 1966 onward, Baba was in seclusion, engaged in intense universal spiritual work on all planes of consciousness. In spite of the fact that this work seemed to leave Baba terribly drained, He wanted the prayers read almost every day when a particular part of His work was finished. After 1967, He usually needed one of His disciples to stand at His side to support Him. ... On one such occasion, with Baba standing in spite of His pain and fatigue, He signalled to Eruch to read the prayer faster. Then, several moments later, He gestured again to read faster still. Eruch was reading briskly when Baba signalled once again to increase the pace. Now Eruch was reading at breakneck speed and the words were running together."
Imagining mentally that he is reciting with the pace of a train barrelling its way from one station to another, Eruch involuntarily burst out laughing but soon collected himself and resumed reading, Rebuking Eruch, Baba gestured :
"You have no idea of the physical strain I was going through when I gestured you to read faster. For you, reading the prayer fast may seem farcical, but for Me to participate in these prayers in My present state of health is no joke. I have given these prayers to humanity to recite. They are for all posterity. Whenever anyone recites these prayers, they will be helped spiritually because of My personal participation. It has nothing to do with how quickly you read the prayer or how much feeling you read it with or anything of that sort. All that matters is My having participated in the prayers. Any time anyone repeats these prayers, I am there with them, and they will be helped spiritually." Giving the simile of telephone push buttons, Bal Natu writes:
"With Meher Baba who is omnipresent, it is remembrance of Him that puts us in touch with the divine `Operator.' And prayers directed to Him, especially the prayers gifted to us personally by Baba -`The Master's Prayer' and `The Prayer of Repentance' - are the buttons He has given us to push to send our hearts' message to Him through loving remembrance. Any invocation to Baba with a sincere feeling is like a wireless message in the inner domains, needing no physical connection - a direct signal straight to the Avatar's compassionate heart. While visiting a Christian chapel in Murrie, Pakistan, in 1933, Baba conveyed to a group of Westerners, `All worship returns to Me. The sigh within the prayer is the same in the heart of a Christian or the Muslim, or the Jew [or any worshipper. They are all indivisibly longing for the same God."
Even a casual reader of Meher Baba's life can not miss the fact that at the onset of almost all important events of His life, Baba would either dictate a prayer of His own or would ask the mandali to recite the prayers of the religions of their birth. This is how Baba would make mandali and His lovers realize the importance of prayer as the most effective medium of communication with God. Prayer is a mighty channel of direct access to God without any intermediary. About an ideal prayer, Baba says:
"The ideal prayer to Lord is nothing more than spontaneous praise of His being. You praise Him, not in the spirit of bargain but in the spirit of self-forgetful appreciation of what He really is. You praise Him because He is praiseworthy. Your praise is a spontaneous appreciative response to His true being, as infinite light, infinite power and infinite bliss. ... All hymns and prayers reach out towards the eternal Truth of Godhead only to merge those who utter them in silent and unending adoration. ... But all prayers with a motive fall short of the ideal prayer, which is without motive. In the entire spiritual panorama of the universe nothing is more sublime than a spontaneous prayer. It gushes out of the human heart, filled with appreciative joy...(`Beams from Meher Baba on the Spiritual Panorama' ed. C.D.Deshmukh. 2nd ptg. 1968.74-76)."
Prayer purifies and fills the heart with joyful peace. However, the participation of the Avatar in a prayer makes it an event of great spiritual significance. Meher Baba explains:
"The Avatar does not pray for his own purity - he prays for others. His praying is quite different; it is not for himself. In fact, the Avatar himself is the `Prayer made perfect' (Lord Meher, Vol.XX, p.6763)."
In an interesting encounter, described vividly in Lord Meher (vol.19), Baba said to Don Stevens, (who was involved in the editing of God Speaks with Ivy Duce in 1954-55 and Listen Humanity in 1955-56): "You must understand that whenever Baba gives out words for his lovers to use and read, he attaches a spiritual energy to them - something like an atomic spiritual bomb. ... Then, when one reads those words, even if he does not understand even one word of what he reads, a part of spiritual energy will be absorbed by that person. And this energy will be very important for that person in his spiritual progress." The message is clear. Words given by the Avatar are inviolable. And if it is a prayer given by the Avatar Himself, and the one in which He Himself has participated, every word glows with a sacred halo of its own.
Everyday at Beloved Baba's Samadhi or Tomb-Shrine at Meherabad the `Parvardigar Prayer' and the `Prayer of Repentance' are recited morning and evening. New pilgrims are free to pick the yellow booklet [YB] of `Avatar Meher Baba's Prayers and Aratis with translations,' few copies of which are made always available for free collection. In his `Meher Baba, The Awakener of the Age,' Don Stevens refers specifically to Purdom's biography of Meher Baba `The God-Man' [GM] as one of the important sources for these prayers.
A casual peep into these prayers, as given by Purdom, however, startled me. I found that there are significant differences in what we are reciting everyday and, let us name for convenience sake, Purdom's version. Bewildered, I scanned other accepted standard sources such as Lord Meher [LM], Glimpses of God-Man Meher Baba [GGMM], Love Alone Prevails [LAP], The Mastery Of Consciousness [MC] and the confusion got only compounded. Chronologically, among above-mentioned sources, GM is the oldest as it was first published in 1964. MC comes next, being published in 1977. Rest of the books made their appearance in 1980s with Lord Meher finally concluded, in 20 volumes, in 2001.
Lord Meher volume 12 gives Thursday, August 13th, 1953, as the date when Beloved Meher Baba dictated this prayer in English in Dehradun, India. And from that day until the 2nd of September, it was recited every evening with Baba taking part in the prayer. Dr.Donkin, one of Baba's mandali, would read it aloud in English, and its Gujarati translation by another mandali. When it was over, Baba would lay His head on the feet of each of the men mandali. This description appears to be correct because fortunately this prayer was released for Baba lovers in the form of Life Circular 15 issued on September 14th, 1953, by Adi K. Irani, Baba's Secretary. Adi K. Irani was a meticulous person and the Parvardigar Prayer published in Life Circular 15 should, therefore, be taken as the correct copy of the prayer dictated by Beloved Baba. The Prayer is:
O Parvardigar, the Preserver and Protector of All,
You are without Beginning, and without End;
Non-dual, beyond Comparison; and none can measure You.
You are without colour, without expression, without form, and without attributes.
You are unlimited and unfathomable, beyond imagination and
conception; eternal and imperishable.
You are indivisible; and none can see You but with eyes Divine.
You always were, You always are, and You always will be;
You are everywhere, You are in everything; and You are also beyond
everywhere and beyond everything.
You are in the firmament and in the depths, You are manifest and
unmanifest; on all planes, and beyond all planes.
You are in the three worlds, and also beyond the three worlds. You
are imperceptible and independent.
You are the Creator, the Lord of Lords, the Knower of all minds and hearts;
You are Omnipotent and Omnipresent.
You are Knowledge Infinite, Power Infinite, and Bliss Infinite.
You are the Ocean of Knowledge, All-Knowing, Infinitely-Knowing;
the Knower of the past, the present, and the future; and You are Knowledge itself.
You are All-merciful and eternally benevolent;
You are the Soul of souls, the One with infinite attributes;
You are the Trinity of Truth, Knowledge, and Bliss;
You are the Source of Truth; the Ocean of Love;
You are the Ancient One, the Highest of the High; You are Prabhu and Parameshwar;
You are the Beyond-God, and the Beyond-Beyond-God also; You are Parabrahma;
Allah; Elahi; Yezdan; Ahurmazda; and God the Beloved.
You are named Ezad: i.e. the only One worthy of worship.
A comparison with the sources cited as above, ignoring the differences in punctuation and word emphasis, reveals:
GM (The God-Man,pp.209):
(1) The entire prayer is in the archaic words-format using thou, art, thee, wert etc.
(2) The last three lines read,
"thou art the Beyond-God, and the Beyond-Beyond-God; thou art Parabrahma; Paramatma; Allah; Elahi; Yazdan; Ahuramazda; God Almighty; and God the Beloved. Thou art named Ezad, the Only One worthy of worship." Words "Paramatma" and "God Almighty" are not found in the original prayer. The word "also" is missing after "Beyond-Beyond-God."
MC (Mastery Of Consciousness, pp.170):
(1) The prayer makes use of American-English spellings e.g. "colour" is spelled "color."
(2) Excepting minor punctuation and word stress differences, the prayer is identical with the original prayer.
LAP (Love Alone Prevails):
(1) The last three lines read, "You are the Beyond-God, and the Beyond-Beyond-God also;You are Parabrahma; Paramatma; Allah; Elahi; Yazdan; Ahuramazda; God Almighty; and God the Beloved. You are named Ezad, the Only One worthy of worship."
Words "Paramatma" and "God Almighty" are not found in the original prayer.
LM (Lord Meher, vol.12,pp.4209):
(1) American-English spellings are used, e.g. "colour" is spelled "color."
(2) Last three lines as in LAP. Thus, words "Paramatma" and "God Almighty" are not found in the original prayer.
(3) Word emphasis differs at many places.
GGMM (Glimpses of the God-Man, Meher Baba; vol. 4, pp.94-95):
(1) Excepting minor punctuation and word emphasis differences, the prayer is identical with the original prayer.
YB (Yellow Booklet):
(1) Excepting minor punctuation and word stress differences, the prayer is identical with the original prayer.
The timing of this prayer by Beloved Baba needs special mention. August 1953 was also the month when Baba began dictating His book about the theme of creation and its purpose, God Speaks, in Dehradun. He would dictate "points" everyday to Eruch, who would jot them down and write them out at night. The next day Eruch would read to Baba what he had written, and Baba would correct him and give additional dictation. The book, however, was completed at Satara in 1954. Though the prayer was dictated on 13th of August, but everyday from Tuesday, August 11th, until the 19th, Baba would come to mandali quarters, and after the utterance of God's name ( Ya Yezdan, Parabrahma Paramatma, Allah hu Akbar, Ahurmazda, Beloved God & Paratpar Buddha) seven times each, he would put his head on the feet of each member of his men mandali. Kaikobad had his usual prayer or repetition of Baba's name. Baba also worked with select masts at this time. Baba radiated God's glory and on September 7th, 1953, spontaneously dictated his very first public statement, The Highest of The High, on His spiritual status of the Ancient One and The Highest of The High.
Parvardigar Prayer was not revised or edited at any stage. It is, therefore, difficult to understand how and when its archaic-english version and the additions of two words "Paramatma" and "God Almighty" were made. The Zorastrian term "Ahurmazda" means Allah or Paramatma or God Almighty. Babahas used the Hindu terms "Paratparabrahma" and "Parabrahma" as denoting the Beyond-the-Beyond-God and the Beyond-God states respectively.
Parvardigar Prayer starts with the words "O Parvardigar", a Sufi term meaning "the preserver and sustainer" of cosmos. The corresponding Hindu term is Vishnu, who is Purusham Puranam (Ancient One) and Paratpara (Highest of The High). It was 1915 when Sai Baba of Shirdi, on beholding Meher, proclaimed loudly "Parvardigar". Parvardigar Prayer, therefore, is a prayer addressed to the Avatar of the Age, Meher Baba.
The Prayer of Repentance
On November 14th, Baba washed the feet of the Muslim caretaker of Zarzari Baksh's tomb. Baba then contacted seventy-four poor people, washed their feet, bowed down to them and gave each person ten rupees. The caretaker then offered the Fatihah worship and Eruch, Pendu, Baidul and Gustadji prayed for Baba's success in His work. Soon after, Baba, accompanied by a Hindu, begged at the doors of five Hindu families. After the heads of twenty-four Hindu families received alms, Baba washed and laid his head on their feet. To twenty-two of them he gave ten rupees each ,and on behalf of the remaining two families, one blind man was given fifteen rupees and the other twenty. Baba also sought the blessings of a Catholic priest, Father Berger. Baba knelt before him. Baba also visited a Parsi Tower and sat for some time in the prayer room while His companions recited Zorastrian prayers. The prayer that Baba dictated to Eruch is as follows:
"We repent, O God most merciful, for all our sins;
for every thought that was false or unjust or unclean;
for every word spoken that ought not to have been spoken;
for every deed done that ought not to have been done;
We repent for every deed and word and thought inspired by selfishness,
for every deed and word and thought inspired by hatred.
We repent especially for every lustful thought and every lustful action;
for every lie; for all hypocrisy;
for every promise given but not fulfilled,
and for all slander and backbiting.
Most especially also, we repent for every action
that has brought harm to others,
for every word and deed that has given others pain;
and for every wish that pain should befall others.
In Your unbounded mercy, we ask you to forgive us, O God,
for all these sins committed by us,
and to forgive us for our constant failures
to think and speak and act according to Your wish.
Beloved Baba's New Life was a perfect backdrop for repentance prayer. Baba took His group joining them as a human companion. About His status in New Life, Baba said: "In my New Life, Perfect Divinity is replaced by Perfect Humility. In my New Life, I am the Seeker, the Lover and the Friend (The God-Man, pp.189)." His other statements are:
"I will live among you, like a brother. I may even fall at your feet or ask you to spit on me (Lord Meher, Volume 10, pp.3398)" and "We are all on equal footing from now on. For us all, henceforth, there is no spirituality, no Master, no disciple, no miracles, no key-turning business, no hopes, no thoughts of benefits or of privations. Look upon me as a friend who will help and advise you until the end of December (Lord Meher, Vol.10, pp.3442)."
Avatar being the `Prayer made perfect' had no need to repent, but in His New Life,He was in the role of a humble human companion. In the footnotes to Volume 10 of Lord Meher, it is stated that the prayer dictated by Baba at Khuldabad became the Prayer of Repentance. But it was, not recited aloud until a year later [on 8th November, 1952]. The last word "wish" was changed at one point, because a devotee printed thousands of copies of the Prayer but accidentally changed or misprinted the word "wish" to "will," which became the accepted norm.
On the morning of November 8th, 1952, all were served rava ( a sweet dish) with tea at Meherabad. At 8 A.M. Baba said, "Today is a very important day for me and for my work in the Fiery Life which begins on November 15th. And so I have called today a few selected ones to join me on this day, and I bow down to your love and faith for having responded to my call (Lord Meher, Vol.11, pp.3949)." Baba then asked Donkin to read on His behalf a statement in English, translations of which in Marathi and Hindi were read aloud by Dr. Deshmukh and Keshav Nigam. In the concluding part of this statement, it was stated: "The Repentance Prayer for forgiveness will now be uttered for me, for you, and for all who are connected with me. May be some of you, or many of you, have not bindings of desires and attachments, but here today, as I am in the state of a devotee, I would like you all to join me and encourage me in asking God's forgiveness." As the prayer was being said, Baba lightly slapped His cheeks throughout the recitation, a gesture promising never to repeat the act. Beloved Baba was no longer in the New Life but had entered what He called as the tri-partite Life, an offspring of the union of the Old and New Life in which He had regained the Knowledge, Strength and Greatness of the Old Life and retained the ignorance, weakness and humility of the New Life. Baba asked Donkin to Read the Prayer of Repentance in English. This prayer given on page 3951 of Lord Meher, Volume 11, differs from the prayer given earlier at Khuldabad. The differences are:
(1) The line "We repent especially for every lustful thought" now appears as "We repent most especially for every lustful thought,"
(2) The line "that has brought harm to others" now appears as "that has brought ruin to others,"
(3) the last line "and speak and act according to Your wish" appears as "and speak and act according to Your Will," and
(4) "especially" is replaced by "specially." Should we assume that this was the time when the printed copies of the prayer, with these four changes, were brought and distributed and our compassionate Baba just ignored these lapses? Its not easy to answer this question. All the major sources cited as above appeared after 1952 and one expects uniformity in citing this prayer. A comparison with the Khuldabad version, however, reveals a confusing picture:
GM (The God-Man, pp.238):
The prayer is identical with the Khuldabad version excepting the last line where "will" replaces "wish." The God-Man was published in 1964. It appears that between 1951 to 1964 somebody printed the Khuldabad version with only one inadvertent change of "wish" to "will" and C.B. Purdom picked up this for GM.
MC (The Mastery Of Consciousness, pp.169):
The prayer is identical with the Meherabad version.
LAP (Love Alone Prevails):
No change in the line, "We repent especially for every lustful thought and every lustful action." No change in the word "especially." However, "ruin" replaces "harm" and "Will" replaces "wish."
GGMM (Glimpses of God-Man Meher Baba, Volume 3, pp.180-81):
The prayer is identical with the Meherabad version.
YB (Yellow Booklet):
Excepting minor differences of word emphasis and punctuations, the prayer is identical with the Meherabad version.
Prayer is essentially an act of love and to many lovers this comparative study and review may appear as wasteful polemics. It makes no difference to a sincere lover if he or she utters "wish" or "will" while reciting the Prayer of Repentance. Speaking additional words "Paramatma" and "God Almighty," while reciting Parvardigar Prayer, would perhaps add to the glory God.But prayers, dictated by God Himself and in the recitals of which He Himself has participated, have a sanctity and aura of their own. They have a life-time of centuries. The responsibility of maintaining their purity rests on our shoulders.
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