Ideal Directions For Prayer

by on January 23, 2015

In the bounty of Mother Nature, many magical secrets reside which the great seers have attempted to unravel. They have dwelled upon the mysteries of space and time so we can maximize the power of whatever we do. They have given us guidelines for when and where we should eat, sleep, pray, work and relax so we may find peace and an inner alignment.


One of the ways to restore and recharge our inner alignment is by prayer. It gives us an inner focus and strengthens us to face the challenges of material life. It is ideal to do this at a specific time and place everyday for the practice becomes more focussed.


Upadhyaya Amar Muni, a Jain monk, has given many discourses as well as written on the ideal time, place and manner of conducting prayers. The following is an extract adapted from Equanimity – an English translation of his Hindi book.


While praying, the practitioner must ideally face east or north. Jinabhadragaṇī Muni, the great commentator of Jaina canonical literature, writes: “puvvābhimuho uttaramuho va dijjāhavā paḍicchejjā” (Viśeṣāvaśyaka Bhāṣya 3406). In the Sthanaga Sutra, Lord Mahavira has given importance to these two directions. Both north and east are known to be linked with divine energy. While commencing prayers, one must face the guru irrespective of the direction. In the absence of a guru, one must sit facing east or north.


ideal prayer

East – Symbol of Progress


The word ‘prachi’ means east. It is derived from the root word ‘pra’ which means to move ahead and progress. Whilst facing east at dawn, you will experience illumination from the first rays of the sun. Facing east whilst praying bathes the devotee with the bright and purifying rays of the sun, known to bring with them prosperity and positivity. The eastern direction is said to benefit the spirit and assist in reaching salvation.


The power of the eastern direction is well known: the sun’s rays are known to dispel darkness, infuse every pore of nature with fresh energy, lotuses blossom in ponds, birds twitter their wake up call and the world enveloped in slumber awakens to a new day. Just as the sun rises in the east regaining its brightness, so also, man can awaken his sleeping energy and dormant power by facing east. The east is symbolic of the fact that through his own endeavours, man can reach his inner depth and scale great heights. He can transform the world he lives in, into an auspicious place. The east also teaches us that evolution is an unending and continuous cycle. Day is followed by night and night by day. The sun sets every evening only to rise in the east at dawn, with promises of new beginnings.


North – Symbol of Stability

The word ‘uttara’ is derived from the root word ‘ut’ which means steeped in loftiness. ‘Uttara’ means north and it is symbolic of progress in one’s life and ideals. The importance of the north direction lies in it being considered sacred because all positive energies reign here, and this highly charged direction with positive vibrations absorbs energy from the cosmos only to distribute it in the environment.


An individual’s personality is fashioned from the different feelings arising from within his heart. If these feelings are pure, he will display purity in thought and action. If they are impure, they will colour his behaviour accordingly. Feelings such as faith and devotion are known to reside in the heart, which in terms of the human body denotes the northerly direction. The north is also considered the seat of the soul and the direction for infinite possibility.


The North Star is the steady beacon which never shifts from its place. Just as east is considered the messenger of progress and movement, north is the symbol of steadiness, stability, firmness and immovable ideals. In the battle of life, contradictions like stability and movement, harmony and mayhem have always co-existed. On their own, neither stability nor movement can make life complete; it is their being complementary that elevates human life.


There is clear proof about the magical power of the north. In the kutubanuma or dhruva nakshatra, there is a magnetic needle, always facing the north. A needle of magnetic iron is an inert object; so on its own, it has no intelligence to move in any direction. Thus, we have to acknowledge that the northern direction exerts some such special power and attraction by which it draws the magnet towards itself.


No wonder, the great seers of the past realized that the power of directions can exert an influence on humans as well. Even from the worldly point of view, the south represents depletion of energy, and north stands for restoration of energy. Directions have a definite influence on diet, lifestyle, clothing, culture and physical and mental constitution. Till date, many Indians who value this age-old wisdom, do not sleep with their feet towards the south and west.


An extract inspired from “Equanimity” by Upadhyaya Amar Muni
English translation by Pratibha Jain
Image Courtesy: Free Images


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