Prayer and Miracles in Tibetan Buddhism?

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Prayer and Miracles in Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby Gwiwer » Thu Aug 09, 2012 9:08 pm

I know that lay practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism frequently pray to deities, bodhisattvas, and so on such as Tara for divine protection or intervention for everyday kinds of problems like health, finances, relationships, family issues, protection during travel, and mental or emotional problems. What I've been wondering is if this is merely a folk belief not officially endorsed by the religion or if this practice actually forms an integral and officially recognized role within the religion both for lay practitioners as well as those who've taken formal monastic vows or whatever occurs when a person decides to devote themselves to practicing Tibetan Buddhism at a deeper level than simply being a layperson. I mean, would a respected guru ever pray directly to Tara hoping she will provide some sort of miracle, protection, or intervention?

It seems like a straightforward question, but I've been having some trouble finding answers from reliable sources. Some sources are telling me that it's merely a folk belief heavily discouraged by advanced practitioners while other sources are saying that this is indeed an integral Tibetan Buddhist practice utilized by practitioners of all levels and backgrounds. I'm not really sure who to believe on this because it can be quite hard to verify information about the religion through qualified sources on account of the tendency towards secrecy and withholding knowledge from practitioners until they prove themselves ready to learn it that exists within the religion. So, I just figured I'd ask here and hope that some people more knowledgeable than me might be able to provide a clearer answer on the subject.
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Re: Prayer and Miracles in Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby Andrew108 » Thu Aug 09, 2012 9:51 pm

It's profitable. In my view it has nothing to do with genuine dharma.
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.
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Re: Prayer and Miracles in Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby Gwiwer » Thu Aug 09, 2012 11:14 pm

You might have to define profitable for me. I can't really tell if you mean it in the sense of "something that works and is beneficial", "something that makes money", or both of those things.
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Re: Prayer and Miracles in Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Aug 10, 2012 12:38 am

In my experience (with my teachers, that is), so called "prayers" or other ritual practices have to do with the removing of obstacles to things happening, rather than making things happen.

So for example, if a person is sick and a lama does some ritual or whatever, the ritual or prayer isn't what heals the person, because the person is either going to get better or not get better depending on infinite causes and circumstances (karma). What the ritual does is to remove the obstacles so that whatever might be employed to help the sick person.... even the use of some western scientific equipment, that the function of this remedy operates unimpeded.

This is different from the notion of "faith healing".

My teacher does this without charging money or asking for money .
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Re: Prayer and Miracles in Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby Konchog1 » Fri Aug 10, 2012 2:45 am

Yes.

Praying for things beyond what one needs to survive is frowned upon and monks wouldn't usually pray for good relationships etc. but yes.
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Re: Prayer and Miracles in Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby Gwiwer » Fri Aug 10, 2012 3:02 am

That makes sense and accords with one of the most common perspectives I've been running across from people who favor the idea of Buddhist prayer. Generally, they say that the buddhas, bodhisattvas, and some deities serve as a kind of cosmic source for all the positive, compassionate, wish-fulfilling potential of the Universe for all sentient beings, but many beings are unable to benefit from most of this powerful goodness because their karma prevents it. In that regard, I could see things like prayer, mantras, meditations, and even rituals like creating a sand mandala as being methods for purifying oneself of the negative karma and focusing the mind into a more compassionate state that would make one more capable of benefiting from the pure goodness that these sources are capable of generating. That idea makes a lot of sense to me.

It just leaves me wondering if it's considered acceptable to pray to, for instance, Tara with a specific aim in mind. To use an example from my life, my dog, who's pretty much been my best-friend for the past 12 years died the other day and I've been pretty depressed about that because I would do almost anything to help him. Of course, now that he's gone, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot left I could do for him. It makes me wonder if there's any merit to the idea of praying that he be comforted now and guided by Tara or any other being potentially capable of this towards whatever next incarnation would be best for him. I mean, that isn't the only reason why I'm thinking about this. I've often pondered the concept of Buddhist prayer in the past, but this experience has really renewed my interest in the subject in a much more significant and personal way because, without prayer or some other direct method of trying to help him, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot I could do other than sitting around feeling kind of depressed and powerless.
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Re: Prayer and Miracles in Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby practitioner » Fri Aug 10, 2012 4:56 am

Making aspiration prayers that they may have an auspicious rebirth and meet the dharma in future lives is a common and very helpful for pets after their death.
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Re: Prayer and Miracles in Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby Yudron » Fri Aug 10, 2012 5:50 am

[quote="Gwiwer"]
It just leaves me wondering if it's considered acceptable to pray to, for instance, Tara with a specific aim in mind. To use an example from my life, my dog, who's pretty much been my best-friend for the past 12 years died the other day and I've been pretty depressed about that because I would do almost anything to help him. Of course, now that he's gone, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot left I could do for him. It makes me wonder if there's any merit to the idea of praying that he be comforted now and guided by Tara or any other being potentially capable of this towards whatever next incarnation would be best for him. /quote]

Of course this is acceptable! Faith and devotion open the heart, how could that be bad? Tara embodies the capacity to help immediately -- strong and swift. She loves everybody! I daresay most lamas pray to Tara. I believe two of my lamas recite a 21 Taras prayer everyday.

These archetypes with arms and legs help us focus our intention.
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Re: Prayer and Miracles in Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby Andrew108 » Fri Aug 10, 2012 7:40 am

Gwiwer wrote:You might have to define profitable for me. I can't really tell if you mean it in the sense of "something that works and is beneficial", "something that makes money", or both of those things.

Yep something that makes money. There are a few dharma organizations in Asia that charge for pujas that are supposed to bring worldly benefit. Having lived in Asia for 6 or so years I understand that following dharma in order to get material worldly gain is very much part of the mindset.
Actually even praying to Tara for protection is going against the spirit of the dharma. But not many practitioners can really practice within the spirit of the dharma. So like kids they are given toys to play with. Genuine dharma is hard to find. But if you are inspired by it then you have to follow it to it's logical conclusion rather than rely on worldly experiences to get you through.
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.
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Re: Prayer and Miracles in Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby tomamundsen » Fri Aug 10, 2012 10:35 am

Prayers, at the least, certainly exist in the form of aspirations and supplications to various deities who are beyond samsara. In fact, they are an integral part of some practices, including guru yoga.
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Re: Prayer and Miracles in Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby waimengwan » Fri Aug 10, 2012 12:46 pm

PadmaVonSamba - Thank you very much for sharing yes that sounds correct. A protector like Setrap remove our obstacles, so if we pray to recover from an illness, the protector is helping to remove the obstacle so our medicines and doctors are more effective in treating us. Makes a lot of sense now that you said it.

So the protector is creating the conditions so that we can heal, perhaps even delaying certain karma to manifest so the good karma can work better without the bad karma manifesting.

There is a Gaden Puja House in Dharamsala that helps to do pujas and the money goes back to the monastery.
http://www.kechara.com/kechara-house/re ... oly-monks/
So many lay people go there to do pujas to get the help they need.

So we have also started Shabten Khang in Malaysia
http://www.kechara.com/kechara-house/pu ... ten-khang/
I mean if Lama Atisha made Wealth vases under Tara's instructions to spread the dharma, why not a Puja House that the pujas are authentic and learnt form the monks of Gaden.
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Re: Prayer and Miracles in Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Aug 10, 2012 12:57 pm

Gwiwer wrote:

It just leaves me wondering if it's considered acceptable to pray to, for instance, Tara with a specific aim in mind.


My understanding is this:
There is no separation from enlightened beings and the true or original essence of one's own mind. If we view enlightened beings and ourselves as distinctively different, then this is really the same as religion, where one prays to a god for miracles.

When the non-duality of enlightened mind and one's own true nature is realized, or at least understood, comprehended, or approached, then one isn't engaging in god-worship. One is stepping away from unenlightened duality and instead taking refuge in the state of things that is beyond all such dualities. Then all the examples and questions fall into this understanding of things.
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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
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Re: Prayer and Miracles in Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby Nemo » Fri Aug 10, 2012 2:28 pm

There are Tara's that help with childbirth, getting pregnant, stopping war and battle with weapons. Tara gladly helps with worldly problems. She is not called the Swift Saviouress for nothing.
Andrew108 wrote:Yep something that makes money. There are a few dharma organizations in Asia that charge for pujas that are supposed to bring worldly benefit.
Actually even praying to Tara for protection is going against the spirit of the dharma.


Real Master's pray all the time for sentient beings. I've seen some with secret folders of pictures. Every night they would pray for each one of those people. They do not charge money or brag about it. I only found out because the pictures dropped out. In the past students would find lists with names in with their papers after their thugdam. Many become quite psychic and attempt to give beings whatever they need. Even getting a better job, calming the torment of their loneliness with finding a partner, stopping and deescalating personal conflicts of all kinds, increasing life and health, etc. They become like wish fulfilling jewels. They often have stress related illnesses from how hard they work for others. There is nothing more officially Buddhist than helping sentient beings with anything they need.
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Re: Prayer and Miracles in Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby Gwiwer » Fri Aug 10, 2012 4:45 pm

Yudron wrote:Of course this is acceptable! Faith and devotion open the heart, how could that be bad? Tara embodies the capacity to help immediately -- strong and swift. She loves everybody! I daresay most lamas pray to Tara. I believe two of my lamas recite a 21 Taras prayer everyday.

These archetypes with arms and legs help us focus our intention.


I've actually been reciting the 21 Praises to Tara every morning for months now before I begin my 10-20 minutes of meditation each morning. I recite it in English because my Tibetan pronunciation is horrible and I figure it's more important to understand what I'm saying than to just mindlessly be repeating something I don't understand. When I started reciting it, I actually didn't know much of anything about Tibetan Buddhism. I was mostly interested in Zen at the time, and only fairly recently learned that doing this is a fairly popular Tibetan practice. I had started to do it because I stumbled across some information about Tara during my research on Buddhism and became quite enthralled with the story behind her, her compassionate nature, and the beauty of the poetry of the 21 Praises. I'm not sure I'd consider it a prayer. It's more of simple praises in poetry form expressing admiration for her power, compassion, benevolence, and advanced attainment. It had occurred to me in the past that it might be a good idea to occasionally include an informal spontaneous prayer to Tara after I finished the praises and my meditation session, but I was never quite sure whether or not that would be stepping a bit out of bounds as many of the rituals around Tara seem to be quite formal. In retrospect though, this fear seems a little silly and unfounded since Tara is usually described as a very compassionate being that prefers close, loving interactions with other beings over serious and distant formulaic rituals and practices. She's even been described as playing practical jokes on teachers and monks who are taking their religion too seriously and need to lighten up a little. In fact, that was one of her aspects that made me so fond of her in the first place. I suppose, from now on, I'll probably include some informal prayers in my daily practice whenever it feels right to do so.
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