Faith Healing - Healing the World
by Roozbeh Gazdar
The prayer is not an old woman's idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action. - Mahatma Gandhi
As a young boy I used to learn the violin. To instill confidence, as soon as students achieved a level of proficiency, my teacher inducted them into an amateur orchestra with which she was associated. Casual with my practice and terrified of the public gaze, my time to go through this rite of passage was fraught with anxiety.
Backstage on the big day, I was all nerves, unsure of my ability to play a note. The relaxed confidence displayed by other players made me feel hopelessly out of place. But as I awaited imminent public disgrace that evening, a little ritual saved me. Before making their entry on stage, all the players formed a circle. Intoning a prayer, they requested God's blessings for each and every player and asked for the success of the performance.
This simple ritual had a far-reaching effect on my jittery nerves. The solemnity with which it was enacted, somehow, conveyed a feeling of solidarity. I felt that I wasn't alone; we were in it together and could depend on each other. In better control now, I managed to strut on stage, violin confidently tucked under the arm, and take my seat. And as the first notes were struck, my fear vanished completely as I played through my parts with commendable, if deceptive, bravado. It was a lesson in the power of prayer.
Evenings, every other Sunday in Mumbai, a motley collection of men and women, young and old, assembles at a predetermined place, usually the home of a group member. Following a brief round of introductions - it's a variable group where all may not know each other - they shift into the main activity of the evening. Sitting around a bag containing 'prayer requests'- chits containing written pleas for prayers - they shut their eyes, hold hands and pray. Silently, each in his or her own way, they request God's intervention to solve the problems.
Welcome to Connect-Ticket, a unique non-religious prayer group that is the brainchild of senior journalist and reiki teacher, R. Shridhar. The idea occurred to him while doing an interactive column in his newspaper where people were invited to write in with their personal problems to encourage other readers to contribute prayers for their alleviation. The concept went down so well with readers that when Shridhar proposed a formal group, the response was enthusiastic and in 2001, Connect-Ticket was formed. Today, also functioning as an e-group on yahoo groups, Ctzens as Connect-Ticket members call themselves, are spread all over the world, connected by their common will to do good.
At the prayer meetings, as also on the group's website, stories circulate of miraculous healings and effortless resolution of difficulties, brought about through the benign intervention of prayer.
One such is Sneha Bhangle's. After an accident left this soft-spoken homemaker unable to walk or even speak normally, her life was miserable, any hopes of improvement becoming bleaker by the day. Then her husband took her to one of Connect-ticket's prayer sessions. Sneha reminisces, "With so many people praying for me, I somehow started feeling better. My confidence, which had been completely shattered, returned. Barely six months after my first session, I even managed to make it to the meeting without anybody having to accompany me. But for the prayers, I might never have regained my health."
Jyotsna Kumar came in touch with Connect-Ticket when her younger daughter was diagnosed with a rare heart defect. On a friend's suggestion, she posted a prayer request, but couldn't follow it up as she was in Chennai, battling for her daughter's life. The worst behind her today, Jyotsna remembers, " Though the doctors had as good as given up on my daughter, she did eventually pull through. Though not fully recovered, Anandita is so much better today that I am sure it is a result of the prayers that were offered for her."
Meera Suresh was already part of Connect-Ticket when she requested prayers for her sister-in-law, who, suspected of having breast cancer, was to be operated upon. Even her expectations were wildly surpassed, however, for the suspect lump reduced considerably by the time of the surgery, enabling the procedure to ensue smoothly.
Retired RBI officer and reiki practitioner Shyamala Ramamurthy, likewise, testifies to a gamut of issues, relating to health, family or finance that resolved smoothly whenever she put in a request for prayers.
Community of Well-Wishers
In this age of nuclear science and gene cloning, what stock can we actually put by prayer?
Says Shridhar, "The thought that so many people are praying for you is a big high and a lot of people have been cured just by that. Many people just need someone to listen to them. Knowing that there is a community of humane souls who will help them out, heals them." Testifies Sneha, "So many strangers praying for me gave me the courage to take my recovery in my own hands." For Jyotsna and her husband, who are newcomers to Mumbai, Connect-Ticket is like a second family. "In case of a crisis, I know I can always rely on the members of the group for moral and practical support. I feel safe, " she says.
Shridhar points out the obvious practical benefits of such a community of well-wishers. "When one puts in a prayer request, a plethora of solutions emerge. People come forward with home remedies, information about the ailment, doctors, support groups, blood donations, job offers, even a kind word or two."
Besides, he explains, even the very act of unburdening yourself before others is cathartic. "Every prayer session starts with a round where each member talks about himself and in the process releases hidden emotions. This cleanses them, improves the individual's energy level and in turn, helps to improve the energy in the room."
Boosting morale, group support and cathartic release: is that all there is? Or is there something else, something more intrinsic to the ritual of prayer itself?
Not associated with Connect-Ticket, Prakriti Poddar is an HR consultant who also practices hypnotherapy. Her birth has a remarkable story to it. A 'still-born' child, she was apparently 'resurrected', by a nurse who, acting on her grandmother's instructions, recited the 'prayer of the cross' for her. Providentially, since early childhood Prakriti has displayed an innate ability to heal though prayer. "It runs in my family and my grandmother had the ability, as does my mother, though she did not develop it, " she explains.
Prakriti's methods are simple. Determining the nature of an ailment, she simply puts her hands over the affected part and prays. Again, the results bear out any doubts arising from the apparent simplicity of the exercise. She recalls an incident where her mother had a fibroid in the uterus. "It affected her life badly, causing frequent urination, disturbing her sleep patterns and leading to insomnia. With just one session where I prayed for her, the fibroid reduced and she could relax and sleep better."
"All thoughts are wavelengths and so when one prays with faith, its power is strong enough to overcome illness and other problems," explains Prakriti. Agrees Shridhar, "When we pray, we generate positive energy within us. And by being in a place of worship, or by doing certain rituals, we aim to increase this dosage of positive energy. This helps bring fruition to the prayer requests."
However, it is in the context of a group effort that the results of prayer unfold as most striking. Shridhar explains, "Group prayers for a person constitute a huge influx of positive energy into that person, because it is comprised of a little bit of energy contributed by each praying person. The result is as a tremendous boost to the positive energy of the person." Meera Suresh compares it to the difference between a lone individual pleading and a morcha lobbying for a cause.
Prakriti, who usually works alone, also supports this view. "Many wavelengths working together create a very powerful energy. For instance, when you hold a satsang in a room having bad or stagnant energy, it starts radiating positive energy and this can be verified using a Lecher antenna."
Adds Jyotsna, " In a group members are not emotionally attached to the intended beneficiary and so they can pray with detachment and this makes the prayers more potent."
Ultimately, agree all those who repose faith in prayer, it is intention that makes all the difference. Shridhar puts it in a nutshell, "The intention to pray is more important than how to pray. We use the technique of praying that we know best. The prayers are affirmations written in the future perfect tense. So if someone has cancer, the prayer request for him would read that the person is healed of cancer." Agrees Prakriti, "Prayer works primarily because of pure selfless intention. If you are drawn towards those who suffer, you too can develop the ability to heal. But the unremitting urge to help has to be there."
Right intention it would seem then is what sustains prayer. It is the force that guides it unerringly through insurmountable hurdles, to bring succor to its intended beneficiaries. And for once, science seems to agree too.
Prayer and Medicine
Dr. Larry Dossey is one of the pioneering researchers into the role of prayer in medical convalescence. Drawing on research conducted at various hospitals and laboratories, he presents some startling results.
In his book, Healing Words, Dossey cites a study carried out by Dr. Randolph Byrd at San Francisco General Hospital in which randomly selected heart patients received prayers from volunteers while a control group received the same care, but no prayers. According to Dossey, patients who were prayed for were five times less likely to need antibiotics than the control group, three times less likely to develop fluid in their lungs, and, unlike members in the control group, none of them needed to be on artificial ventilators. Hardly surprising then, that in Recovering the Soul, Dossey cites studies that show how prayer and intention influenced plants by increased number of seeds sprouting and even inanimate objects such as styrofoam balls by influencing their random falling patterns!
The results from Dossey's work also suggest that prayers work best when coming from an overall intention that is in line with a sense of connectedness to the Divine or with one's higher self. They were also more effective when the person offering them had some personal knowledge of the intended recipient. Also, a cumulative effect of intention was observed with recipients' recovery being directly proportional to the amount of the prayers they received.
Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist with a keen interest in eastern spirituality. His radical theory of 'morphic resonance' could explain how individual intention could have far-reaching effects.
According to this, all members of a species transmit and access information to and from a kind of collective memory field called 'morphogenetic field', through a process of non-local resonance. This theory implies that behaviour learnt by some members of a species are then picked up by the species as a whole. Thus, when a group of rats in a New York laboratory learn to solve a certain trick, rats of the same species the world over, would be able to pick up the trick much faster - as if by dipping into 'a collective mind' of the species.
In his paper, Prayer: A Challenge for Science, Sheldrake uses morphic resonance to validate prayer. He writes, "The key to understanding prayer as a scientific phenomenon requires, in my view, getting away from the idea of the mind as somehow inside the brain…I see minds being field-like in nature (part of my general view of morphic fields), and I see mental fields as the basis for habitual patterns of thought. Mental fields go beyond, through, and interface with the electromagnetic patterns in the brain. In this way mental fields can affect our bodies through our brains. However, they are much more extensive than our brains, reaching out to great distances in some cases.
"As soon as we have the idea that the mind can be extended through these mental fields, and over large distances, we have a medium of connection through which the power of prayer could work… we have a medium for a whole series of connections between us and the people, animals and places we know and care about - with the rest of the world, in fact. When we pray, those extended mental fields would be the context in which prayer could work non-locally."
If collective intention expressed as prayer can be used to address individual problems, one wonders why it couldn't be harnessed for other larger, loftier, causes. Says Shridhar, "I see Connect-ticket not as a healing or prayer group but as a movement. When one person's goodness or positive energy, connects to another's goodness or positive energy, and so on, what gets formed is a strong band of positivity across the world. This band can become strong enough to stop anything negative. For instance, we can will it to stop a war."
www.prayerforce.org is a website dedicated to peace through individual and collective consciousness. Putting up prayers written by her to counter the world's tragic events by having others join her in the process of healing, website creator Clyo Beck sees it as taking collective responsibility for our own doing. She writes, "The premise is that violence and conflict could not exist in the world if it did not exist in each of us, individually. If this premise is true, it is futile to blame others for the state of the world. Blaming others only creates another layer of alienation and conflict. Instead, the most powerful action for us, as individuals, is to take full responsibility for what we see outside and resolve to change the root cause of it inside us. We can only do this, one person at a time."
The last word here belongs to renowned vedic scholar, David Frawley. Contending that such a collective prayer would help clear the collective mental field of negative karma, prevent war and help create peace and harmony in society, he proposes it as a counter to our "negative rituals of drama and sensation, sex and violence, or political action." Writes Frawley, "One of the most simple of all rituals is a collective prayer for peace. Such prayers should always be directed toward peace for all beings, for all creation, and should not be prayers on behalf of particular countries, religions, or groups… Unless we counter these influences with positive rituals, the state of the world cannot improve."
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