Hinduism does not have a set rule for prayers. Well, it does. And it doesn’t. Hinduism is a religion with plenty of sub-religions and sects. Everyone follows their own method of prayer. Read monotheism in Hinduism to know how it works. In this post, we discuss the three main types of prayers in Hinduism and talk about some more categories of prayers.
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The Three Main Types of Prayers According to Bhagavad Gita
Some sects define how to pray to Hindu gods. Others don’t. For example, a sect may tell its followers that one must pray in a specific manner and utter mantras in a pre-defined way else the gods may not accept the prayer. Early literature and Vedanta literature allows for prayers without rituals.
According to the Bhagavad Gita, there are three main types of prayers in Hinduism: sattvic, rajasik, and tamasik.
A. Sattvic Prayers
Sattvic prayers are when you are praying to God. You believe that God is the power of the Universe. Remember it is not Sattvic if you pray to God and berate other gods or people praying to God in a different form. God is one and can take any form so there is no harm in people praying to different forms of God.
Swami Vivekananda said that wise people do not stop other people from praying to God in a form different from what they perceive because they know that interfering can create doubts in others and may prove to be a hindrance in attaining God.
B. Rajasik Prayers
When you pray to semi-divine elements such as the yakshas, it is called the Rajasik prayer. Such prayers are generally focused on personal and community benefits. Some people also pray to harm others. I don’t know if praying to harm others really works. Prayers offered to kul (linege) devi/devatas, gram (village) devatas, gram devi, etc are mostly Rajasik in nature as the desire of the person praying is related to family or personal gain.
C. Tamasik Prayers
Prayers to preta (ghosts/spirits) and such elements are called Tamasik prayers. Such prayers are generally for personal gain or to harm others.
Types of Prayers in Hinduism According to Desired Outcome
There are two types of prayers in Hinduism that are based on what outcome you prefer while praying (That is to say, the fruits of prayer).
Kaam means desire. If you are praying to God expecting anything in return, it is known as a Sakaam prayer. The returns may be anything, personal gains, family gains, community gains, or gains for society at large. Any prayer done with an intention to gain anything in return is a Sakaam prayer in Hinduism.
When the object and the objective of prayers is God, it is a Nishkaam prayer. Nishkaam means without any desire. Many people pray to God for the sake of praying and expect nothing in return. Such prayers are Nishkaam prayers in Hinduism. Sri Ramakrishna said to pray to God for the love of God. People who want God or Moksha (liberation from the cycle of rebirths) indulge in Nishkaam prayers.
Types of Prayers Based on Sound
Some people pray aloud, and others pray without opening their mouths. Based on the method they are using, prayers in Hinduism are divided into verbal and non-verbal prayers. When reciting mantras in mind without uttering them using vocal cords, it is a non-verbal prayer. When reciting mantras using vocal cords, it is a verbal prayer.
When uttering mantras in verbal prayers, emphasis is laid on the pronunciation of the mantras. It is said that the mantras should be uttered in a specific way or else the mantras will not bear fruit.
On the other hand, there is no such restriction in non-verbal prayers in Hinduism. One can pray repeating mantras in mind or without any mantra (meditation type prayers).
The above explains the main types of prayers in Hinduism. The most described are the three types according to Bhagavad Gita. It is said that people should aspire for Sattvic prayers and avoid going for spirits etc. But people still go to the graves of the deceased and pray there out of ignorance or because they are desperate for the results of their prayers. Some people pray to yaksha/yakshini for the same reasons. Lord Krishna said in the Bhagavad Gita that whomsoever people pray, God is the receiver of the prayers and provides fruits thereof.
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