Prayer is an important spiritual practice. We don’t always receive what we ask for but I have found that this kind of conversation itself brings great healing. Lately, I have been reflecting on a story from Sikh history—the way of life that I grew up in. It relays a wonderful lesson about how we ask for things from the Divine and has guided my practice of prayer to new depths. This particular story was told to me when I was a child.
The sixth Guru of the Sikhs, named Guru Hargobind was born in Northern India in 1595. He lived as a warrior saint, teaching the essential elements of Sikh spiritual wisdom while defending the region from the tyrannical rule of the Mogul Emperor of India. There are many incredible stories from the battle field in which Guru Hargobind, along with his Sikhs, wielded the sword with great bravery. However, the story I wish to share with you is from the Guru's Court or Darabaar. During times of peace, Guru Hargobind would sit in his Darabaar inviting all to come and be with him. Divine songs would be sung in praise of the One. The Guru would teach and receive all visitors, both rich and poor. A light came through his presence that allowed those who came to him to be healed and find liberation from lifetimes of pain. Often, people would endure great hardships to make the journey to be in the presence of the Guru. The Guru would sit on a throne and receive all with great love—never tiring as this powerful light flowed from his being. Many donations and gifts came to the Guru which he used to support the Langar or free sacred meal that was served to everyone.
One day, a devoted Sikh brought a beautiful horse to Guru Hargobind knowing his love of horses, especially on the battlefield. Tied to the horse was a large bag of gold. The Guru, in the presence of the many Sikhs gathered in the Darabaar, accepted the horse and gold with gratitude. The next day, as the Guru sat on his throne and the divine music came to a close, he looked at all of the gathered Sikhs and asked with his strong voice and sparkling eyes,
"Is there any Sikh who can recite Jap Ji for me right now in this Darabaar?"
Jap Ji is a sacred poem given by Guru Naanak, the first Guru of the Sikhs, that takes one through the journey of the soul into its final merger with the One. In the Kundalini Yoga tradition, we recite these words every morning as a part of our daily practice. If you wish to find out more about it please visit the following link. (Meditation on the Soul)
One Sikh man raised his hand. He began to recite Jap Ji with so much love that everyone in the hall fell into a deep meditative state. The Guru sat on his throne meditating with his eyes closed. However, about half way through the recitation he began to get up, but then suddenly sat back down again.
After the man finished, the Guru thanked him and asked for the horse and bag of gold, given as gifts just the day before to be brought forward. He offered these gifts to the man. With surprise and happiness, the man took these gifts from the Guru and went home.
Later that night, a few Sikhs who observed the events of the day, sat with the Guru. With curiosity one asked,
"Beloved Guru, can you tell me why you were getting up off of your throne while that man recited Jap Ji?"
The Guru replied,
"He was reciting Jap Ji so beautifully and in such union with the energy of Guru Naanak that I felt the light of the Guruship passing to him. I was getting off the throne to give him his rightful place in that experience of union. However, about half way through, instead of going into the light of the sacred words and the flow of his soul, a thought occurred to this man.”
"Maybe if I do a really good job reciting, the Guru will give me that horse and bag of gold that was brought to him yesterday!"
"Like a thief it stole the experience of union away. He could no longer receive the gift and flow of God and Guru because he got caught by the desire and wish of his mind."
I reflect on this story now and it has changed the way I pray and the way I ask things of God. Why just ask for what I want? Instead, I have learned to ask for what God wants of me! Like looking to the trees and the leaves sparkling in the golden sunlight. Instead of focusing on one leaf, let them all dance together in their union. Let me experience that great wisdom.
Snatam Kaur is an American singer, peace activist and author raised in the Sikh and Kundalini Yoga tradition. She grew up in the presence of her spiritual teacher, Yogi Bhajan, learning the essence of Naad Yoga, a form of yoga focusing on sacred sound. At the core of this practice is an essential experience of peace and healing which helps her music be accessible to all people. Her book Original Light is a compassionate and supportive guide to creating a daily spiritual practice. To find out more about her book and online course visit snatamkaur.com.