Sunday, August 2, 2009

O Parvardigar!

Meher Baba wrote the Parvardigar Prayer in Dehradun in August 1953 and made it public on September 13th of that year. In 1968, almost exactly a year before he dropped his body, in a circular Baba asked his lovers round the world to recite the Parvardigar Prayer and The Prayer of Repentance once a day for six months. The following is a short commentary on the Parvardigar Prayer - blue and red font signifying comments. The prayer is described in terms of individual lines, rather than stanzas, to be precise. The two red asterisks are explained near the bottom.

The Parvardigar Prayer, or Universal Prayer, is a prayer whereby the worshipper recites to God of all that He (God) is and all that He (God) is not, along with his names. It is thus a prayer of complete account of what we mean by God. Exactly the full magnitude of this we cannot know.
Begin prayer text:
  1. O Parvardigar! The Preserver and Protector of All,
    Parvardigar, usually spelled Parwardigar, literally means sustainer. The word has Persian roots and comes from parwa/parva meaning to foster, cherish, to nurture, to develop/care for. Digar, when applied in this sense, means "again and again." Thus Parvardigar means "to care again and again." In this first line, the main aspect of God that is beseeched is named - God the Sustainer. Humanity reminds God that He is the protector of all, and beseeches His continued upholdment, and to that end also all of Creation upon which man's existence is dependent.

    In the next 10 lines, humanity reminds God of all that He is NOT.
  2. You are without beginning and without end.
  3. Non-dual, beyond comparison,
  4. and none can measure You.
  5. You are without color, without expression,
  6. without form and without attributes. *
  7. You are unlimited and unfathomable;
  8. beyond imagination and conception;
  9. eternal and imperishable.
  10. You are indivisible; Cannot be divided into parts
  11. and none can see you but with eyes divine.

    In the following 5 lines, the opposite is done. Humanity reminds God of all that He is - Infinite and Eternal.
  12. You always were, You always are,
  13. and You always will be.
  14. You are everywhere, You are in everything, and
  15. You are also beyond everywhere and beyond everything.
  16. You are in the firmament and in the depths,

    Here there is a break, and God is told those things that he both is and is not, i.e. manifest and unmanifest.
  17. You are manifest and unmanifest;
  18. on all planes and beyond all planes.
  19. You are in the three worlds,
  20. and also beyond the three worlds.

    Back to what He is not; He cannot be perceived and is not dependent on anything else.
  21. You are imperceptible and independent.

    Now for 13 lines God is told WHAT He is, along with His powers and attributes. The word "the" is used frequently.
  22. You are the Creator, the Lord of Lords,
  23. the Knower of all minds and hearts.
  24. You are Omnipotent and Omnipresent.
  25. You are Knowledge Infinite, Power Infinite and Bliss Infinite.
  26. You are the Ocean of Knowledge,
  27. All-knowing, Infinitely-knowing;
  28. the Knower of the past, the present and the future;
  29. and You are Knowledge itself.
  30. You are all-merciful and eternally benevolent.
  31. You are the Soul of souls, the One with infinite attributes. *
  32. You are the Trinity of Truth, Knowledge and Bliss;
  33. You are the Source of Truth, the Ocean of Love.
  34. You are the Ancient One, the Highest of the High.

    Now, in the final 5 lines, God is told some of His names. Each will be discussed.
  35. You are Prabhu and Parameshwar; 
  36. Prabhu is Sanskrit and literally means Lord, Master, or King; a name applied to God in Vedanta. Parameshwar, also directly from Sanskrit, means Supreme God (Param means Supreme; Ishvara means God as Supreme Controller).
  37. You are the Beyond God and the Beyond-Beyond God also; 
  38. These two names of God are unique to Meher Baba and appear in His book God Speaks.
  39. You are Parabrahma; Paramatma; Allah; Elahi; Yezdan; 
  40. In Sanskrit, Para or Param means Supreme or Transcendent. So Parabrahma literally means Supreme Brahma (Supreme Spirit); Paramatma means Supreme Soul (Over-Soul) in Vedanta. Allah means God in Islam, Elahi is Aramaic and means My God (more on Elahi). Yezdan is Zoroastrian.
  41. Ahuramazda, God Almighty, and God the Beloved. 
  42. Ahuramazda is the name of God's attributes of Life and Wisdom in Zoroastrianism. God Almighty is the second of the 101 names of the Lord Ahura Mazda in Zoroastrianism (Harvesp-tawan) and the eighth of the 99 names of God in Islam (Al-Aziz). In Judaism it is the name of God given to Moses on Mount Sinai (El Shaddai). God the Beloved is Christian. “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” (Mk 9:7).
  43. You are named Ezad, the Only One Worthy of Worship.
    Ezad is Zoroastrian, derived from Yazata, an ancient Avestan term literally meaning Worthy of Worship. Thus "the Only One Worthy of Worship" is merely a reiteration in English of Ezad, the ultimate name of God - possibly a modern derivation of the most ancient name still in use. In Middle Persian Yazata became yazad or yazd, pl. yazdān, continuing in New Persian as izad.
* Special Note on Attributes

In line 6 ("without form and without attributes"), God is described as having no attributes. Then in Line 31 ("the One with infinite attributes") it seems to contradict this. There is a video in which Eruch Jessawala explains this. God has both a manifest and unmanifest state. God as Master or Avatar is manifest; Otherwise God is unmanifest (See Ten States of God, God Speaks). Note that God is described as attributeless in the section of the prayer that names all that God is not, and is described as attributed in the section below it in which all that God is is named. Between the two is a short section (Lines 17–20) in which God is described as both manifest and unmanifest:
You are manifest and unmanifest;
on all planes and beyond all planes.
You are in the three worlds,
and also beyond the three worlds.
This intermediate section (Lines 17–20) bridges the contradiction by stating that God is in both states — his manifest state having attributes, his unmanifest state having none.

Below is a musical interpretation of the prayer, written and performed by English rock composer Pete Townshend.

See also David Walsh does O Parvardigar

See also O Parvardigar in Italian

Update (5/2/2012): H. TALAT HALMAN, Ph.D.    Assistant Professor, ReligionCentral Michigan University made the following observations: I want to suggest to you that in the Parvardigar prayer "God the Beloved" comes from Sufi poetry, where the words for Beloved are "Mahbub" "Ma'ashuq," and sometimes "duust" and "yar."


  1. Very good commentary, Chris. Thank you.

  2. Jai Baba,

    Dear Chris,

    Thanks for these precious gems: in this case the divinity is in these details.

    What a beautiful feeling from the root meanings of the name Parvardigar: fostering, nurturing, caring for, again and again and again. What beautiful meaning this adds to Meher Baba's words. Thank you for explaining the divine names and attributes.

    I appreciate understanding more closely the meanings these moments of the prayer had for those who traveled with Baba and prayed them with Baba. Thank you for providing all these details in a way that evokes the context. And I love your semantic link between prayer and contract, covenant.

    Thank you for sharing this divine beauty.


  3. We said these prayers when I was 8 years old. My father gave me a wooden board with the prayer shellacked to it and I'd say it each night. One evening he sat on my bed and went over with me all the words - what they meant - like omnipotent, omnipresent, infinite, firmament, and so on all the way through. Today my daughter has a similar board we made out of cardboard.