You ask me: “I have heard you say not to ask for anything in our prayers.” In fact, the moment you stop asking, you will stop praying. That is a simple methodology – I sometimes have to go a little roundabout, just so as not to hurt you too much.
I don’t see that there is any God who created the world. I certainly experience a quality of godliness in existence, but it is a quality, not a person. It is more like love, more like silence, more like joy – less like a person. You are never going to meet God and say hello to him, how are you? and I have been looking for you for thousands of years; where have you been hiding?
God is not a person but only a presence. And when I say “presence” be very attentive, because you can go on listening according to your own conditioning. You can even make presence something objective – you have again fallen into the same trap. God is a presence at the innermost core of your being: it is your own presence. It is not a meeting with somebody else.
Martin Buber, one of the great Jewish thinkers of this age, has written that prayer is a dialogue between “I” and “thou.” There is no “thou”; hence the dialogue is impossible. All prayers are monologues. And because there is no “thou” there is no “I” either; they can exist only together, they cannot exist in separation. How can you imagine the existence of “I” without “thous”? “Thous” are needed to demark the line of the “I.”
But Martin Buber in a sense is right – he is defining the whole past of religion. He himself is burdened with the past; he could never get out of his Jewish skin. He remained encaged, he remained a Jew – a nice, beautiful person, of great intellectual capacities, but still in bondage.
The Jewish idea of “I” and “thou” is the basic pattern for prayer. Without “I” you cannot pray because there is nobody to pray. Without “thou” you cannot pray, because whom to pray to? And if you are not asking for anything, then for what are you praying? Prayer means asking: it is a demand, howsoever camouflaged, howsoever subtly hidden behind beautiful garbs and masks. It is asking; you are demanding, you are saying, “Give me this! Give me that!”
So when I say there is no God, remember this: I really mean that existence is enough unto itself. It needs no creator. There is creativity but no creator. The division between creator and creativity has to be dissolved; only then will you be able to rise to the peaks of meditation. Otherwise, you will remain confined to the childish patterns of the past: kneeling down before images in temples, in synagogues, in churches, and doing all kinds of foolish things. But those foolish things are being done by thousands of others, so you never become aware that they are foolish. When the crowd is with you, when the multitudes are with you, you feel on safe ground. You feel shaky only when you are alone.
Meditation is the experience of aloneness. Only very courageous people can enter into that dimension. Prayer is a crowd phenomenon, it is part of the collective mind. And when you are in a crowd, certainly a great confidence arises in you. It is infectious, because so many people cannot be wrong.