In advaita (non-duality), we know that the God which is devote ourselves to is not separate from us.
For many purists there is no place for devotion and prayer in non-duality. But devotion has always had a prominent role in spiritual traditions, and for good reason: it can be a hugely purifying and uplifting part of spiritual practice with many positive effects on the body and mind and our relationships. (click here for how devotion can be part of a wider spiritual path)
Om! May Brahman protect us!
May Brahman nourish us!
May we have energy!
May we become illumined!
May we not hate!
Om, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti!
(A traditional invocation or prayer from the Upanishads)
In advaita (non-duality), we know that the God which is devote ourselves to is not separate from us. We also know that the devotee is non-existent as a separate entity and also that God is non-existent as a separate entity.
So, the devotee, knowing they do not exist, devote themselves to God, who is nothing but themselves. Or the devotee, knowing themselves to be divine, devote themselves to and worship God, who does not exist as an entity. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, one of the oldest (perhaps the oldest) and most important texts of vedanta, puts it like this:
‘Now if a man worship Brahman, thinking Brahman is one and he another, he has not the true knowledge.’
How can this make sense? Try it for yourself: give thanks, bow, sing words of praise and gratitude. Experiment and find out what works for you.
Whom are we praising? We praise the Universe, ourselves, everything and nothing. Who is doing the praising? The very same: the Universe, ourselves, everything and nothing: ‘I, who am nobody, give thanks to you, who is non other than me.’
This is all a bit of a mouthful, and perhaps is complicating it all too much. Devotion is much more about feeling and surrender rather than the intellect – and therein lies its power. It generates space and energy for a direct encounter and ‘felt realisation’ of no-separation and no-self.
Devotion is much more about feeling and surrender rather than the intellect – and therein lies its power.
Below is a sample devotional prayer I have composed. Please feel free to compose your own, either prior to speaking it or just make up your devotion on the spot. The main themes are total surrender and gratitude. Say it with feeling if you can. The ‘best’ devotion is genuine and from the heart, but we all have to start somewhere. The bracketed lines do not need to be spoken in the prayer but are the implied underlying thought process/reasoning. Let me know what you think:
I give thanks to you My Lord.
I give myself unto you My Lord.
I am and always have been nothing but your servant,
I am your vessel – please (continue to) use me as you see fit.
Thy Will be done, as it is already being done
(for everything that has ever happened has always been Your Mysterious Will),
I give to You all my heart, all my gratitude,
My every thanks, my every action.
Everything I have ever had is because of you, and I am grateful for it
(for You have created everything and You are everything, and my entire life is but a gift from you).
Everything that I am and all I have accomplished is because of You, and I am grateful for it
(and I take no pride in it, for how can I be proud of what is not my doing?).
All obstacles before me are Your Doing, and I am grateful for them
(for I trust in Life; or I trust that obstacles are a part of Your Great Plan and I trust/have faith in You).
And may you forgive me for my failings,
and Love Me in spite of them,
As you would your child,
And fill me with the courage and positive energy to go on.
(For I am Your child,
for all of my sins are nothing but Your mysterious way of revealing Your Grace to me,
all of my failings are ultimately your doings,
revealing your splendour to me whilst humbling me,
I am your child,
Instilled with your Godly touch,
Your Divine Beauty flows through me,
Love me as your child)
Give me the strength to trust You,
To have faith in You,
To know that whatever befall me,
all will be ok.
I am truly Yours
(for everything is Yours),
Nothing is mine
(for there is no me),
Everything is Yours
(for You are already everything and no-one).
I am nothing.
I am but You in action.
Everything is shrouded in Your Divine Love.
I pray that I feel your Love,
I pray that Your Love embrace me again and again,
I give you my thanks,
I give myself unto you,
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti