Prayer

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Vidyaraja
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Prayer

Post by Vidyaraja »

What is the role or function, if any, of prayer in Buddhism? By this I mean Buddhism in general but Mahayana Buddhism in particular. Is there anyone to pray to in Buddhism? What do Buddhists do when they feel distress or wish to call upon forces for aid in some matter? Are there any forces which can aid in the practice of asceticism/sadhana or the spiritual path in general? If there is prayer in Buddhism, how does it jive with more nondual teachings like Chan?

Any books or other resources on this topic?

Thanks
dude
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Re: Prayer

Post by dude »

I pray to the Buddha and the Law for specific things I want for myself and others.
I don't think of them as being outside myself.
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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: Prayer

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

You know, because buddhism is a little bit different to every buddhist, you are likely to get a wide spectrum of answers here. I recall once, someone asking, in general, "what do buddhists believe?" and the response to that was "here is what buddhism teaches....what buddhists believe may be something else entirely!" So, for many buddhists around the world, praying to various buddhas and bodhisattvas, seeing them as separate, conscious entities, the way people pray to gods, is quite common. For others, All the buddhist personages are regarded strictly as enlightened aspects of one's own mind, such as wisdom or compassion, but with a face on it. And then, there are those who sort of see it and experience it both ways. This is because the nature of enlightened beings (and of the person 'praying' for that matter) is beyond our ordinary concepts of real / not real.

Avalokiteshvara ("hearer of cries") is probably the most widely supplicated of all Buddhist deities. Likewise, there are sadhanas and mantras and so forth, pertaining to various deities ( such as Manjushri, which can help a person develop wisdom), or to remove obstacles and so on.

Personally, I don't care much for the term 'prayer' although I accept its wide usage. mainly, I don't care for it because it tends to suggest a specific, separate reality between the person who is praying and the object of supplication. Buddhism, for all of its various divine beings, isn't really a "godly' religion at all. It is a means of realizing the true nanture of mind, but at the same time, that nature is much more vast and powerful than what most people realize. We look in the mirror when we wash our faces and brush our teeth.
Is the person in the mirror real?
Not any more so than the person looking at it.
At the same time, these Buddhas do manifest in an array of amazing ways, and "meditating and wishing" (okay...praying) often results in some rather amazing results.
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JamyangTashi
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Re: Prayer

Post by JamyangTashi »

Vidyaraja wrote:What do Buddhists do when they feel distress or wish to call upon forces for aid in some matter?
Feeling distress is an opportunity to understand the nature of distress, to investigate the cause of distress, and eventually to experience the cessation of that distress. It's also a reminder of the importance of practicing the path to the cessation of distress and avoiding actions that cause such distress to arise in the future.
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rory
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Re: Prayer

Post by rory »

like dude I pray to the buddha/dharma when in difficulties and know the benevolent deities will help me.
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Rory
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The Tai-ching states "the women in the realms of Mara, Sakra and Brahma all neither abandoned ( their old) bodies nor received (new) bodies. They all received buddhahood with their current bodies (genshin)" Thus these verses state that the dharma nature is like a great ocean. No right or wrong is preached (within it) Ordinary people and sages are equal, without superiority or inferiority
Paul, Groner "The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture"eds. Tanabe p. 58
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zsc
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Re: Prayer

Post by zsc »

I pray to Amida, but honestly for me it's more like being mindful of Amida, because since I don't see Amida as separate, words often aren't necessary. It's different for everyone though.

Also, plenty of Buddhists petition devas as well.
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Nicholas Weeks
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Re: Prayer

Post by Nicholas Weeks »

Vidyaraja wrote:What is the role or function, if any, of prayer in Buddhism? By this I mean Buddhism in general but Mahayana Buddhism in particular. Is there anyone to pray to in Buddhism? What do Buddhists do when they feel distress or wish to call upon forces for aid in some matter? Are there any forces which can aid in the practice of asceticism/sadhana or the spiritual path in general? If there is prayer in Buddhism, how does it jive with more nondual teachings like Chan?

Any books or other resources on this topic?

Thanks
Too many resources, in truth. But if you have a good guru, that would be the first resource for help. Secondly, any of the Eight Great bodhisattvas that appeal strongly to you: Avalokiteshvara, Vajrapani, Manjushri, Samantabhadra, Akasagarbha, Ksitigarbha, Maitreya and one more who name is too long for me to recall or spell.

Really though, if your refuge in the Triple Jewel is strong and your vows & practice are altruistic, you are already on the 'watch list' of the buddhas & bodhisattvas. They will help you as much as your karma permits - without being petitioned or prayed to.
May all seek, find & follow the Path of Buddhas.
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kirtu
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Re: Prayer

Post by kirtu »

Will wrote:Secondly, any of the Eight Great bodhisattvas that appeal strongly to you: Avalokiteshvara, Vajrapani, Manjushri, Samantabhadra, Akasagarbha, Ksitigarbha, Maitreya and one more who name is too long for me to recall or spell.
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"Even if you practice only for an hour a day with faith and inspiration, good qualities will steadily increase. Regular practice makes it easy to transform your mind. From seeing only relative truth, you will eventually reach a profound certainty in the meaning of absolute truth."
Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
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Wayfarer
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Re: Prayer

Post by Wayfarer »

Interesting quetion. If one is engaged in a regular meditation practice then the difference between it and prayer may not seem that great to an external observer. But in my practice (generally following Soto Zen guideliness) you don't meditate 'for' anything - for any particular outcome or desired result. I am not atheist, by the way, but I don't have any image or idea of God to pray to. So my approach is strictly 'apophatic' - the 'way of negation', not this, not that, Cloud of Unknowing - that sort of approach, or non-approach. Although I do some chantings, Pali and English at the beginning of each sitting, and intend to learn some more.

I was reading a chapter of a current Zen title Living by Vow: A Practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts by Shohaku Okumura - it makes a similar observation. The author was giving a talk to some Catholic sisters - he too said that Zen doesn't consist of prayer in that sense of 'praying to' someone or something. He was surprised that they liked the talk, but they seemed to get it.

Of course from time to time in bad situations - like family member being in an accident, or when faced with financial stress or employment problems - I will sometimes find myself saying 'please Lord'...and hoping for a favourable outcome, that everything will be OK. But mostly when I sit, from time to time I will simply reflect on the serene nature of the Buddha's meditation, other than that, strictly as per the guidelines in Zen Mind Beginner's Mind.
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi
steveb1
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Re: Prayer

Post by steveb1 »

Yes, as one poster said, for me "prayer" consists of mindfulness of Amida Buddha (I am Jodo Shinshu).

Also, the Nembutsu has two more functions beyond mindfulness of the Buddha:

1. An expression of gratitude to Amida Buddha.
2. A "sacramental" unity of the adherant's mind with Amida's Mind (Amida is directly active in Nembutsu recitation, as Caller-Called Upon and paradoxically as the reciter: Amida "in us" recites the prayer sincerely, since as bombus we are incapable of doing this).
plwk
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Re: Prayer

Post by plwk »

Also, plenty of Buddhists petition devas as well.
True and at times cause a lot of confusion as to what is the value of refuge in the Triple Gem and relying on less than pristine examples of reliance for the small mercies of this world... instead of practicing devanusmrti by the Lord, most end up in mundane propitiations..
Vajraprajnakhadga
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Re: Prayer

Post by Vajraprajnakhadga »

Prayer has such a Judeo-Christian connotation. I really dislike the use of that word in regards to Buddhism.
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yan kong
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Re: Prayer

Post by yan kong »

Vajraprajnakhadga wrote:Prayer has such a Judeo-Christian connotation. I really dislike the use of that word in regards to Buddhism.
Yet it sometimes, from an outward perspective, functions much like that in Judeo-Christian. What's wrong with that?
"Meditation is a spiritual exercise, not a therapeutic regime... Our intention is to enter Nirvana, not to make life in Samsara more tolerable." Chan Master Hsu Yun
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conebeckham
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Re: Prayer

Post by conebeckham »

Vajraprajnakhadga wrote:Prayer has such a Judeo-Christian connotation. I really dislike the use of that word in regards to Buddhism.
Tibetans have terms like "Sol Deb," Topa," "Mon Lam," etc.
There are praises to the deities, supplications, requests, aspiration prayers....."prayer" is, to me, a perfectly acceptable translation of an entire genre of liturgical methods.

The question "What is one praying to" is a question that one needs to figure out for oneself. However, I will note that in Vajrayana rituals, there are "self-generations" of the yidam/ishvadevata, and also "In-Front Generations," and "Vase Generations."

There are also, of course, "offerings" of various sorts.
དམ་པའི་དོན་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ཆེ་བ་དང་།
རྟོག་གེའི་ཡུལ་མིན་བླ་མའི་བྱིན་རླབས་དང་།
སྐལ་ལྡན་ལས་འཕྲོ་ཅན་གྱིས་རྟོགས་པ་སྟེ།
དེ་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ལ་ནི་ལོ་རྟོག་སེལ།།


"Absolute Truth is not an object of analytical discourse or great discriminating wisdom,
It is realized through the blessing grace of the Guru and fortunate Karmic potential.
Like this, mistaken ideas of discriminating wisdom are clarified."
- (Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, from his summary of "The Ocean of Definitive Meaning")
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Vidyaraja
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Re: Prayer

Post by Vidyaraja »

Vajraprajnakhadga wrote:Prayer has such a Judeo-Christian connotation. I really dislike the use of that word in regards to Buddhism.
Sometimes the popular image of prayer in the Christian tradition doesn't reveal the depths. Take for example the object of prayer according to the medieval English Christian mystical text, the Cloud of Unknowing:
The purpose of prayer is the naughting of oneself and the all-ing of God.
Or take for example Evagrius Ponticus, influential in the Orthodox hesychast tradition as found in the Philoklaia, speaking on prayer:
The way of prayer is twofold; it comprises the practice of the virtues and contemplation.

When the soul has been purified through the keeping of all the commandments, it makes the intellect (nous) able to receive the state needed for prayer.

Prayer is the communion of the intellect with God. If you wish to behold and commune with Him who is beyond sense-perception and beyond concepts, you must free yourself from every impassioned thought.

Prayer is the flower of gentleness and of freedom from anger.

Prayer is the ascent of the intellect to God. If you long for prayer, renounce all to gain all.

The state of prayer is one of dispassion, which by virtue of the most intense love transports to the noetic realm the intellect that longs for wisdom.

If the intellect has not risen above the contemplation of the created world, it has not yet beheld the realm of God perfectly. For it may be occupied with the knowledge of intelligible things, and so involved in their multiplicity.

When you are praying, do not shape within yourself any image of the Deity, and do not let your intellect be stamped with the impress of any form; but approach the Immaterial in an immaterial manner, and then you will understand.

You cannot attain pure prayer while entangled in material things and agitated by constant cares. For prayer means the shedding of thoughts.

Psalmody calms the passions and curbs the uncontrolled impulses in the body; and prayer enables the intellect to activate its own energy.

Prayer is the energy which accords with the dignity of the intellect; it is intellect's true and highest activity.

Psalmody appertains to the wisdom of the world of multiplicity; prayer is the prelude to the immaterial knowledge of the One.

Spiritual knowledge has great beauty; it is the helpmate of prayer, awakening the noetic power of the intellect to contemplation of divine knowledge.

Blessed is the intellect that, undistracted in its prayer, acquires an ever greater longing for God.

Blessed is the intellect that during prayer is free from materiality and stripped of all possessions.

Blessed is the intellect that has acquired complete freedom from sensations during prayer.
In any case, it seems obvious to me that Buddhists, especially in Asia, pray, but the question remains as to who or what that prayer is directed. Are there actually beings like Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and devas which can assist a person, or are they merely aspects of a nondual reality? Or can both be true?
dude
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Re: Prayer

Post by dude »

Both are true.
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conebeckham
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Re: Prayer

Post by conebeckham »

..and neither. :smile:
དམ་པའི་དོན་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ཆེ་བ་དང་།
རྟོག་གེའི་ཡུལ་མིན་བླ་མའི་བྱིན་རླབས་དང་།
སྐལ་ལྡན་ལས་འཕྲོ་ཅན་གྱིས་རྟོགས་པ་སྟེ།
དེ་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ལ་ནི་ལོ་རྟོག་སེལ།།


"Absolute Truth is not an object of analytical discourse or great discriminating wisdom,
It is realized through the blessing grace of the Guru and fortunate Karmic potential.
Like this, mistaken ideas of discriminating wisdom are clarified."
- (Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, from his summary of "The Ocean of Definitive Meaning")
dude
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Re: Prayer

Post by dude »

I thought of putting it that way myself.
Vajraprajnakhadga
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Re: Prayer

Post by Vajraprajnakhadga »

conebeckham wrote:
Vajraprajnakhadga wrote:Prayer has such a Judeo-Christian connotation. I really dislike the use of that word in regards to Buddhism.
Tibetans have terms like "Sol Deb," Topa," "Mon Lam," etc.
There are praises to the deities, supplications, requests, aspiration prayers....."prayer" is, to me, a perfectly acceptable translation of an entire genre of liturgical methods.

The question "What is one praying to" is a question that one needs to figure out for oneself. However, I will note that in Vajrayana rituals, there are "self-generations" of the yidam/ishvadevata, and also "In-Front Generations," and "Vase Generations."

There are also, of course, "offerings" of various sorts.
Prayers to God and praise to meditational deities are fundamentally different in virtually every possible way. You may think it is an acceptable translation, and that's your business, but to me the term promotes fundamental misconceptions and really should be avoided.
Vajraprajnakhadga
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Re: Prayer

Post by Vajraprajnakhadga »

Vidyaraja wrote:Are there actually beings like Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and devas which can assist a person, or are they merely aspects of a nondual reality? Or can both be true?
Buddhist non-duality is actually pluralistic so yes both can be true.
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