This Saturday, at our book club meeting of Jab We Booked, Bhavik presented Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead” in great detail, lasting for a full 22 minutes. Among the many things he discussed, one sentence caught my attention: the difference in how Westerners approach prayer compared to Indians. Indian prayers mostly focus on gratitude rather than making requests, which reminded me of some things I had read before.
Neither am I a theist nor an atheist, but Bhavik’s that one sentence about the differences in praising and praying styles between Westerners and Indians had made me think a lot of things on my way back home.
These distinctions are deeply embedded in cultural and philosophical traditions, reflecting how people express their beliefs, values, and sentiments.
In the Western tradition, prayers often involve seeking guidance, making requests, and expressing faith in a higher power. It’s a way to communicate with a deity or divine force, seeking support, and acknowledging a sense of spirituality. As C.S. Lewis wrote in his book “Mere Christianity,” “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.”
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In contrast, Indian praises tend to revolve around gratitude and appreciation for the blessings of life and existence. They emphasize recognizing the interconnectedness of all things and expressing thankfulness for the abundance of nature and life experiences, as reflected in Rabindranath Tagore’s “Gitanjali,” where he writes, “Thou hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure.”
These varying approaches remind us of the rich tapestry of human beliefs and practices, shaped by centuries of cultural evolution. It’s important to approach these differences with an open mind and respect for the diversity of thought and expression that enriches our world.
As Eknath Easwaran, an Indian spiritual teacher, noted in “Words to Live By,” “In the East, prayer is a way of life rather than a request for special favors. It is not so much begging God for something, as it is experiencing God.”
Karen Armstrong, a British author and religious scholar, also explores the history of prayer in various religious traditions in her book “The Case for God,” emphasizing the diversity of approaches to the divine. We should always strive to engage in meaningful dialogue without causing offense or harm to anyone’s sentiments, recognizing that the essence of our shared humanity lies in our capacity for understanding and appreciation.
Mahatma Gandhi‘s spiritual journey and his thoughts on prayer practices, as found in his autobiography “The Story of My Experiments with Truth,” further illustrate the significance of gratitude and seeking inner guidance through prayer in Indian culture. In the end, these examples from various authors highlight how individuals from different backgrounds have contemplated the significance of prayer and its role in expressing their beliefs and values, enriching the tapestry of human spirituality.
And Now Finally, the end of this post
Bhavik’s words at our book club meeting made me think about how Westerners and Indians pray differently, it reminded me of something important. People around the world have their own ways of talking to the higher power or showing gratitude. In the West, they often ask for help and guidance, like talking to a friend. In India, it’s more about saying thank you for everything in life.
These differences teach us that people have diverse beliefs and values, shaped by their cultures and histories. We should respect these differences and talk about them with kindness. In the end, all we need to remember is that we all are members of one big human family and the world would become a better place if we get along and appreciate each other.
Bhavik Presented Ayn Rand’s The FountainHead
Pritam presented Fyodor Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground and Double
Meher Presented Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca
Dhwani Presented a Tetralogy on Mythological Fiction by Amish, The Ramchandra Series
Ankur, the creator and head of our book club had Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational, which he will present next time we all meet. Today we ran out of time.
Rajeshwari too will present next week. (Fun fact: She is an all-rounder: she has 2 YT channels, Rajeshwari Ashar and RA Astronomy).
Rashida, Nirav and Mihir will join us next time.