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Praying all day long

How can I stay connected to God throughout the day?

Reading Time: 7 minutes

In the following famous verse, we are given insight into a prayerful attitude that we can adopt in our daily lives:

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन |
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि || 2.47 ||

karmaṇy-evādhikāras te mā phaleṣhu kadāchana
mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr mā te saṅgo ’stvakarmaṇi

You have command over your actions but never over the results. Do not consider yourself to be in command of results nor should you be attached to inaction.

||Bhagavad Gita 2.47||

To answer the main question regarding prayer, we must first understand the underlying principles of karma yoga. 

Karma yoga is a set of attitudes through which your regular everyday activities are converted into a spiritual practice. The basic way it works is by reducing the power of raga (the compulsion of running towards what you want) and dvesha (the compulsion of running away from what you don’t want). 

As long as your life is molded by raga and dvesha, there is no hope for progress in a spiritual path. Raga and dvesha keep you trapped in a life of worldly suffering. Both are instances of kama (desire). Kama compels you to act (karma) to fulfill your desires. You cannot be free of kama until you get rid of avidya (ignorance). There is nothing you need to get for the sake of your wellbeing, and there is nothing that needs to be avoided for the sense of your well-being. This is what it means to be enlightened. 

Does My Attitude Matter More Than My Actions?

Karma yoga is not what you do, but rather how you approach what you do. If what you do is help people, this is not necessarily karma yoga. If someone helps people to feel good about themselves, or to get paid well, or for recognition… these are not examples of karma yoga. It’s not about your actions, it’s the attitude with which you carry out your daily activities. 

Bhagvad Gita – Chapter 2, Verse 47 gives us two crucial aspects of the set of attitudes that form karma yoga. If you have control over your actions but no control over the results, you start to realize the limits of what you can accomplish in life. You start to realize that you are not the master of your life. There are so many factors that you have no control over. This recognition of your fundamental incapacity to create a life of contentment and peace. 

As hard or as smart as you work, it is absolutely impossible to create a life of perfect contentment, peace, happiness, and joy. It is simply impossible. This understanding leads to a major conversion in your attitude where you realize that perfect peace and contentment cannot be achieved through worldly efforts, and as a result, your attitude shifts to focus on spiritual growth. You shift to seeking spiritual growth for the sake of moksha

The second attitude conveyed in verse 2.47 is recognizing that you receive the results of your actions from Ishvara’s hands. You are not in control of the consequences of your actions.

How Can I Maintain Prayer Throughout the Day?

To circle back to the main question: suppose whatever you do throughout the day you appreciate the fact that Ishvara is the giver of the fruits of actions, which then brings you to a prayerful attitude towards that action. If this becomes your attitude you will have hundreds of thousands of opportunities for prayer daily. 

To pray without ceasing doesn’t mean to keep your hands folded throughout the day, it means to adopt this attitude where you recognize Ishvara as the giver of actions. It means you maintain this prayerful attitude throughout the day that allows you to let go of the attachment to the outcome of your actions.

How Can I Act Knowing My Actions Will Never Lead to Total Happiness?

In the next verse, Krishna says to Arjuna:

योगस्थ: कुरु कर्माणि सङ्गं त्यक्त्वा धनञ्जय |
सिद्ध्यसिद्ध्यो: समो भूत्वा समत्वं योग उच्यते || 2.48||

yoga-sthaḥ kuru karmāṇi saṅgaṁ tyaktvā dhanañjaya
siddhy-asiddhyoḥ samo bhūtvā samatvaṁ yoga uchyate

Being steadfast in karma yoga, performing actions without attachment, O Arjuna, treating success and failure alike, karma yoga is called equanimity.

||Bhagavad Gita 2.48||

In other words, carry out your duties throughout the day without desire. When you recognize that all your worldly efforts will never add up to perfect contentment and peace, your attitude shifts. It means you are no longer driven by raga and dvesha because it is futile to burn yourself out with worldly activities once you know you will never gain peace and contentment through external means. The way you overcome attachment (sangha), raga, and dvesha is through recognizing that all your worldly efforts will never bring you perfect bliss.

How Can I Overcome Desire?

You cannot give up attachment as a matter of will. Suppose someone drinks a lot of tea, and this person comes to believe that they are so attached to drinking tea that it will be an obstacle to spiritual growth. This person decides to give up their tea. The next morning, the person can think of nothing but tea. You can stop drinking tea, but you cannot stop desiring tea. The point is that the desire or raga and dvesha are not a matter of will. You cannot choose to give up desire. However, you can overcome desire through discernment or through understanding the limitations of that worldly desire.

In conventional life, it’s absolutely impossible to treat success and failure the same. Karma yoga requires this attitude adjustment where you realize that conventional life doesn’t lead to peace and contentment. With that understanding, you engage in your actions without being driven by the results. Your priorities shift to the extent that your priority is moksha

Suppose there is a politician that is a perfect karma yogi, and this politician wants to get reelected. But as a perfect karma yogi their ultimate goal is not to get reelected—it is moksha. So, when the election comes along, whether or not the politician gets reelected does not make any difference. Karma yoga is said to be equanimity by treating success and failure alike. That politician is not driven by worldly success, but spiritual growth that ultimately leading to moksha

Equanimity does not mean that everything in this world is okay. People living in poverty and suffering from disease are not okay. People being deprived of proper education is not okay. Equanimity is specifically towards your worldly activities. You can be successful or unsuccessful in any endeavor knowing that your ultimate goal is spiritual growth and not the successful outcome of your endeavor. 

How Stable Is My Contentment Derived From Worldly Activities?

Suppose you want pure water so you distill the water. You get rid of more and more alcohol every ten minutes of boiling. The water becomes purer and purer. At which point does it become perfectly pure? When do you get rid of the last molecule of alcohol? 

Statistically speaking, you never get rid of the last molecule. You approach purity, but you never quite get there. That’s the problem of worldly effort. Worldly effort can approach a condition of perfect peace and contentment but can never reach there because the effort to achieve the state of perfection is infinite. And an infinite amount of effort is simply not possible. Therefore, Arjuna should seek refuge in the teachings of karma yoga rather than be motivated by results.

बुद्धियुक्तो जहातीह उभे सुकृतदुष्कृते |
तस्माद्योगाय युज्यस्व योग: कर्मसु कौशलम् || 2.50||

buddhi-yukto jahātīha ubhe sukṛita-duṣhkṛite
tasmād yogāya yujyasva yogaḥ karmasu kauśhalam

Engaged in karma yoga, one abandons in life both good and bad karmas. Therefore, be engaged in karma yoga. Karma yoga is being skillful in actions.

|| Bhagavad Gita 2.50||

Most people are focused on perfect happiness and contentment here in this life, but there are also people who are focused on the next life. If those people were karma yogis, they would stop worrying so much about the next life. It’s a very worldly attitude to focus on accumulating religious merit and avoiding religious demerit, but this is not a spiritual attitude at all. When you adopt the attitudes of karma yoga you give up focusing your goal on the next life and instead focus on the ultimate goal of life: moksha.

The skill is not the skill of doing the action, rather it is the attitude with which the action is being done. Yoga is a particular skill brought into the performance of an action, and here the skill is one of attitude. To be engaged in your actions not driven by raga or dvesha as conventional karma is, but to be engaged in activities based on the attitudes of karma yoga. 

The attitude of karma yoga is that your ultimate goal is not being successful in whatever deeds you are doing but recognizing that your ultimate goal is moksha. With moksha as your overriding priority in life, your attitude gets tremendously transformed. The pressure is off. You are not driven by raga and dvesha. You are driven to gain spiritual growth.

What The Gita Teaches Us

We can maintain a prayerful attitude throughout the day by recognizing that we decide how we act, but we do not have power over the results of our actions. In remembering this, our attitude towards everything we do undergoes a shift towards letting go of expectations. As a result, we adopt a healthier attitude and are better equipped to handle whatever comes our way.