To pray or not to pray

What do we pray for? When do we pray? BALVINDER SINGH puts on his thinking turban to reflect on the controversy triggered by the call for prayer by a pilot of AirAsia flight in a flight from Perth to Kuala Lumpur following a severe engine problem.


By Balvinder Singh

Who would have thought that a simple request from the pilot of an aircraft to all on board to say a prayer for the safe landing of the flight would invite intense analysis of the propriety of his actions from all angles. Since I am not an aviation expert and not versed with the SOPs of pilots when faced with adversity whilst airborne, it is really not my place to say whether the actions of the pilot are proper or otherwise from the perspective of the aviation industry. I will leave that to the pilots. There may very well be some rule which discourages any comment from the pilot which can cause panic among passengers in mid air. Like screaming “Oh God…we’re all gonna die!!” at the top of his/her voice over the PA system.

So whats the point of this post then? Well it got me thinking. What do we pray for? Or perhaps even to ask ourselves “When do we pray”?

As Sikhs we are thought to be in thankful and devoted worship and prayer at all times. We strive for the Almighty to remain the focus of our actions and deeds at all times. Worship or prayer is much more that merely sitting silently in folded hands and eyes closed asking something of God or reciting the holy scriptures. Worship is a constant quest to understand the “Hukam” of the Lord as it unfolds and see the presence of the Almighty in all that we experience. Sikhs therefore do not pray for the Almighty to intervene or intercede in the Hukam or Laws of Nature but rather seek guidance, wisdom and the strength to understand the Hukam, deal with it and accept the outcome. Through prayer, a Sikh asks for the Divine to bestow him with the wisdom on how best to react to a particular adversity and of course, the strength to accept the outcome, whatever it may be, as per the laws of Hukam. This does not mean that we are to sit by idly and let nature take its course. Hukam also gives each one of us the understanding that our actions can impact upon the outcome as we are part of that Hukam.

We are to remain in prayer at all times and pray for the strength to contribute positively to the Hukam with the discerning intellect that we are all blessed with. For me the pilot’s call is nothing more than a reminder of what we need to be doing anyway. In any event, if I were one of the passengers on board that flight, I would already be furiously praying! I too saw the video clip of the “washing machine” effect which the cabin experienced.

Now back to the pilot. I understand that he took the decision of flying the plane back to the airport of origin which was 90 minute away, instead of a closer landing field which was a mere 25 minutes away. Again not my place to judge his actions as there may be other factors involved. However, looking at it from a layman’s perspective, I would venture to speculate that wisdom was lacking. Perhaps the expectation of divine intervention obscures it.

The armies of Babur, the Mughal Ruler invaded Northern India during the time of Guru Nanak. Guruji observed in “Babur Baani” that the masses were content with dealing with this invasion by resorting to “prayer”. The “Rishis” and “Yogis” and High priests were all consulted and they allayed the fear of the masses by assuring them that with their “mantras” all will be well. Babur’s army will be blinded and will be lost.

However, Guru Nanak observed that nothing of that sort happened and the masses were butchered and plundered by the mighty Mughals while the sat with folded hands. Guru Nanak himself laid the foundation for the creation of a balanced human having both “Miri” (might) and “Piri” (spiritual enlightenment).

Everything said, “Eat Pray Love”.

Balvinder Singh is a Kuala Lumpur-based practicing lawyer and an active Sikh social worker, especially on the kirtan and katha front.

* This is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.


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