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In which language must we pray?

Sanskrit is one of the most beautiful languages in the world. There are some brilliant compositions, unlikely to be possible in any other language. For instance, in a poem called RamaKrishna Viloma Kavyam from the 14th century, when read from beginning to end, is about the Ramayana, while when read from back to front, is about the Mahabharata!

Sadly, Sanskrit is also a dead language. Hardly anyone speaks it today. And although there are some enthusiasts and some scholars, these are few and far between.

However, the language is also one of prayer. Most chants, mantras, shlokas etc. have all been composed in Sanskrit. Many people memorise these verses and chant them regularly. But given that the language itself is not understood, what then is the point of praying in such a language? Should one pray in their mother tongue instead? Is this a sensible argument? Surely translation from our language to His, is no challenge for a God?

Imagine we come across a beggar. He wears tattered clothes, his face and hands are dirty, he is frail and gaunt, and there is no doubt he has had little to eat in the last few days. Clutching at his stomach, he wails and cries and begs you repeatedly to give him some money. Now imagine another beggar, one dressed well, has a bit of a tummy, comes to you and says “Sir, give me some money.” Chances are, that you would help the first beggar, while doubting the intent, lack of emotion, and authenticity of the second.

Herein lies the key to prayer. Emotion is most essential. If we can figure out whether a person is faking it or not, wouldn’t God know if we are praying with sincerity or not? Without emotion, the most beautiful language cannot make a difference to the prayer. With emotion, even the absence of a language is no barrier.

The most beautiful combination however, would be both emotion and language. And that will take hard work, and intent.

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