On collective prayer and meditation

These are a couple of talks by the Mother Mirra Alfassa on the  efficacy of collective meditation.  Double-blind scientific experiments have been conducted to determine the potency of prayer, as discussed in the wikipedia pages on the efficacy of prayer and studies on intercessory prayer. Those who wish to further explore the scientific angle can read chapter 3 – “Psychophysiological Influence” in the book Irreducible Mind by Edward Kelly, et al.

Collective meditation

Collective meditations have been practiced in all ages for different reasons, in different ways and with different motives. What may be called a collective meditation is a group of people who gather together for a definite purpose; for example, in all ages it has been a practice to gather for prayers. Naturally in the Churches, it is a sort of collective meditation but even outside the Churches, some people have organised collective meditations for group prayer.  These prayers are of two different kinds.

From the beginning of human history, it is known that certain groups of people would meet to express a certain common state of soul: some to sing together the praise of God, hymns, thanksgiving, to express adoration, thankfulness, gratitude, and to praise God; others – and there are historical examples of this – a certain number of people gathered together for a common invocation, for instance, to ask God for something, and this was done all together, united, in the hope that this invocation, this prayer, this asking would carry more weight. There have been some very famous instances. A very old one occurred in 1000 A.D. when some prophets had announced that it was the end of the world and everywhere people gathered together to offer common prayers and ask that the world may not come to an end (!) or anyway, for it to be protected. Much more recently, in modern times, when King George of England was dying of pneumonia, people assembled in England, not only in the churches but even in the streets in front of the royal palace, to offer prayers and ask God to cure him. It so happened that he recovered, and they believed that it was their prayers.…That is, of course, the most external form, I could say the most worldly, of group meditation.

In all initiatory groups, in all the spiritual schools of ancient times, group meditation was always practiced and in that case the motive was quite different. They assembled for a collective progress, to open together to a force, a light, an influence, and…this is more or less what we want to try to do.

However, there are two methods, and this is what I am going to explain to you. In both cases, one must practise as one does in individual meditation, that is, sit in a position at once comfortable enough for one to be able to keep it and yet not too comfortable for one to fall asleep in it! And then you prepare for the meditation, try to become calm and silent; not only to avoid chattering outwardly, but to try to silence your mind and gather your consciousness which is dispersed in all the thoughts you have and your preoccupations; to gather it, bring it back within yourself as completely as possible and concentrate it here, in the region of the heart, near the solar plexus, so that all the active energies in the head and all that keeps the brain running, may be brought back and concentrated here. This can be done in a few seconds, it can take a few minutes: that depends on each one. Well, this is a preparatory attitude. And then, once this is done – or done as well as you can do it – you may take two attitudes, that is, an active attitude or a passive attitude.

What I call an active attitude is to concentrate on – I shall put it in general terms – on the person who is directing the meditation, with the will to open and receive from him what he intends to give you or the force with which he wants to put you into contact. That is active, for here there is a will at work and an active concentration to open yourself to someone, a concentration on someone.

The other one, the passive one is simply this: to be concentrated as I have told you, then you open yourself as one opens a door; you see, you have a door here (gesture at the level of the heart) and once you are concentrated, you open the door and stay like this (gesture of immobility). Or else, you may take another image, as if it were a book, and you open your book very wide with its pages completely blank, that is, quite silent, and you stay like that waiting for what is going to happen.

These are the two attitudes. You may take one or the other, according to the day, the occasion, or you may adopt one of them, out of preference, if it helps you more. Both are effective and can have equally good results.

(Collected Works of the Mother, vol. 9, pp 38-39)

Collective prayer

The efficacy of collective prayer depends upon its quality and this quality is governed by the nature of the collectivity that prays. All congregations are not of the same kind. There are groups, for instance, that come together for a while drawn by some common interest. It may be some one in danger; people gather to pray for him. Or it may be a prayer for averting a threatened general calamity or prayer for rain etc. It may even be to pray for the destruction of someone -a tyrant. In all such cases the mass that prays is constituted of those who meet only for that purpose and then disperse.  These are not movements that are organised with a life of their own, an inner bond to keep them united as a collectivity for long. All the same, this prayer has a certain power; it releases into the atmosphere a charge of will and call which evokes a response the precise nature of which is, indeed, determined by so many other factors.

There is another type of collectivity -a group of persons who are devoted to an Ideal or an Action. It has one faith, one way and one goal.  They are organised to achieve a set purpose.  When they meet together, their prayer or meditation is not a collection of haphazard vibrations from all kinds of people who happen to be present, but a purposive will that has a common background and a standing relation, an active, continuing rapport. Each individual aspiration reinforces the others and stands fortified by them. The prayer acquires a force which gathers strength each time they meet and participate in the communion. In this way they forge not only individual growth, but also a collective progress and – if that be the aim – they exert an influence on the world.

There can be still another category of groups: those that have a common life even physically.  They are communities of individuals dedicated to a common Purpose -say, the realisation of a spiritual Ideal or Teaching. Their whole life is coordinated and set in one place around the central Ideal and each one seeks to realise it in himself in co-operation with and with the help of the others. They come together not merely for purposes of prayer or meditation; they are always together in a subtle way all the time. The lives, the activities of mind, soul and body of these individuals interpenetrate those of others so constantly that it is no more a collection of so many people, but a living organisation wIth a massive life of its own. It has a unified consciousness, a corporate soul, even a subtle body, so to say. Naturally the prayer of such a collectivity has an achieving Power of great range and intensity. And when this inner cohesion becomes a living fact, the individual power too finds its effectivity enlarged and multiplied.

Collective Prayer has an efficacy of its own. No doubt the general level of the aspiration in a collectivity is lower than that of most individuals taken separately. Individuals may experience a drag in their consciousness from the pulls of nature in the mass. But the weaker ones gain in the process; feeble aspirations receive strength, stronger ones contribute their might to the forging of a collective will and call for the speedier achievement of the object in which all can share.

(M.P. Pandit, Mother of Love, vol. 3, pp 28-30)

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4 thoughts on “On collective prayer and meditation

  1. Pingback: Sufi anecdotes and stories | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  2. Pingback: What’s the purpose of praying in temples? | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  3. mike

    For some reason, lately, l’ve been drawn to the christian apparitions at Medjugorje in portugal [ which are still going on BTW]. l wasn’t sure what was really happening there. Then l found this article by a follower of SA and M,which is very interesting. Some of the things seen by these six children are remarkably like descriptions of M, as pointed out in the article. l’ll post part of it and provide a link for the rest, for anyone interested:

    The Mother says:

    “Just see. Look at me. I am here come back in my new body, – divine, transformed and glorious. And I am the same mother, still human. Do not worry. Do not be concerned about your own self, your progress and realisation, nor about others. I am here, look at me, gaze into me, enter into me wholly, merge into my being, lose yourself into my love, with your love. You will see all problems solved, everything done. Forget all else, forget the world. Remember me alone, be one with me, with my love…”

    A vision by Nolini Kanta Gupta.

    The Catholic world is confronted with a unique phenomenon: since now almost 30 years the Blessed Virgin Mary appears in a Bosnian village to six children, now married adults, giving them messages and guiding them towards spiritual perfection.

    Medjugorje has already become the biggest place of pilgrimage for Catholics and Pope Benedict XIV. has established a committee to go into the matter.

    There have been many apparitions in the history of the church, the most famous those of Lourdes (1958) and Fatima (1917), but they have been all very limited in time. The very length of the present apparitions makes many people suspicious – why Mary has to come for 30 years, just delivering some messages? But if there something else is going on, perhaps the transformation of Christianity and the preparation of some chosen vessels to express the new Consciousness integrally, the length of time required is not surprising any more.

    This paper suggests that it may be actually The Mother who has taken up this work in the shape of Virgin Mary. Part I describes the events per se, Part II shows how much The Mother was involved in transforming Christianity into an instrument of Truth.

    The writer of this paper came to Auroville in 1977. But this was an unfortunate time of discord and hostility between Auroville and the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry which refused to recommend a residential permit to him as he was staying at Auroville. So he had to go back to Germany asking The Mother in prayer to show him a place or people who carry on her seemingly endangered work. The very next year, 1978, he discovered Medjugorje on the way to Greece for holidays, far off the high roads frequented by tourists…three years before the apparitions began.

    Beginning with June 24, 1981 some children of the hamlet Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegowina have apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These apparitions are going on till today. Some of the visionaries have still daily apparitions, others only on fixed days. Marjia gets the monthly messages which are meant to guide the faithful on their way to God and are distributed by phone, internet, brochures etc. all over the world. Besides the messages and a personal spiritual guidance for the visionaries the Virgin also told the story of her life as the mother of Jesus, spoke about the future of the world and the church and gave 10 secrets to the children – all this is following her advice not yet published. Ivan has specially chosen the education of the youth, which he sees very much endangered by drugs, etc. Vicka is specially devoted to the pilgrims, she spends hours every day meeting them in the courtyard of her house and untiringly explaining the basic requests made by the Gospa, the Croatian word for Our Lady. These basic requests are: peace, conversion, prayer, fasting and holy mass. [i] Vicka is the only one who remained unmarried – till 26.1.2002! She offered her life totally to the Gospa and underwent some mysterious illnesses, including cataleptic states. One clairvoyant saw her emitting golden light.

    The visionaries describe the Gospa as a beautiful young woman with black hair and blue eyes. She wears a simple grey cloth and is covered by a veil. She stands on a cloud and is crowned by 12 stars. She is indescribably beautiful, so much that the visionaries fell all in love with her. Asked, why she is so beautiful, She answered: I am beautiful because I love. If you want to be beautiful, love. Her voice is described like ringing of bells.[ii]

    Sometimes She appears in marvellous golden and silver clothes, sparkling with divine splendour, but sometimes She even weeps looking at the falsehood ruling the world and the miseries of Her children.[iii]

    Her main message for the moment seems to be Peace, even reflected in Her name, Queen of Peace, Kraljica Mira. In the beginning the Croatian word mir (peace) was written in golden letters across the sky.


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