Buddhist prayer...

Requesting and offering prayers and aspirations for those in need.

Buddhist prayer...

Postby ChangYuan » Thu Nov 19, 2009 9:07 pm

So we all know Buddhism is non-theistic. But, when asked, this is where it gets hard to explain for me.

If there is no "God" in Buddhism, then who do we pray to?
Where exactly do the petitions we make go?


_/\_ Amituofo
_/\_ Amituofo

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Re: Buddhist prayer...

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Nov 20, 2009 12:36 am

Greetings,

Is it assistance from bodhisattvas, for the benefit of the world and one's own bodhisattva aspirations?

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: Buddhist prayer...

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Sat Nov 21, 2009 12:24 am

I'm no expert.

Kindergarten answer: In Mahayana we pray to enlightened Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for their assistance. They're all around us teaching all the time but we're too dumb to notice.

Sophomore answer: We pray to that which is spros bral, beyond concept, not God, not not-God, not both, not neither.

One of my pet theories is that Buddhism accomplished in the east what Judaism accomplished in the west - it has turned God into G-d, Ha-Shem, that which cannot and should not be named.

Gentlemen with white beards on thrones notwithstanding.
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Re: Buddhist prayer...

Postby catmoon » Sat Nov 21, 2009 8:47 am

ChangYuan wrote:So we all know Buddhism is non-theistic. But, when asked, this is where it gets hard to explain for me.

If there is no "God" in Buddhism, then who do we pray to?
Where exactly do the petitions we make go?


_/\_ Amituofo


I just excise the whole problem by not making petitionary prayers at all.
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Re: Buddhist prayer...

Postby KeithBC » Sun Nov 22, 2009 6:48 pm

I do not pray "to" anything. In fact, I do not think that I pray at all. However, I recognize that some of what I do could be called prayer by others.

When I say, for example, "May all sentient beings have happiness and the causes of happiness", I am not petitioning some external or omnipresent entity. I am expressing my own wish. To a Christian, the sub-text might be "I sure wish God would make it so." To me, the sub-text is, "Now that I know what I want, it is up to me to make it so." Definitely not the same thing at all.

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Re: Buddhist prayer...

Postby ground » Wed Nov 25, 2009 7:17 am

I am praying to the buddhas, bodhisattvas, deities, dakinis and lamas who are present all the time and in all locations and they never let me down.

:namaste:
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Re: Buddhist prayer...

Postby Luke » Fri Nov 27, 2009 6:02 pm

ChangYuan wrote:So we all know Buddhism is non-theistic. But, when asked, this is where it gets hard to explain for me.

If there is no "God" in Buddhism, then who do we pray to?

Where exactly do the petitions we make go?

_/\_ Amituofo

Good questions, Changyuan! These things are definitely not easy to explain because they deal with the interplay of the relative and the absolute. I'm going to rely on Bokar Rinpoche's book "Tara: The Feminine Divine" in order to give an answer.

From what I gather from this book, we are praying to either the true nature of mind (the Dharmakaya), or we are praying to a "Bodies of Enjoyment" (Sambhogakaya) which were spontaneously produced by Buddhas (one who have relized the Dharmakaya). Everything is encompassed by the Dharmakaya, since the true nature of mind is vast like space. This true nature of mind is the medium of transmission, the sender, and the receiver, so in some sense we are praying to the true essence of ourselves.

Why do prayers like this work? ...Er, I haven't dug up an answer to that yet. Perhaps, due to the amazing nature of the Dharmakaya???
Here are some juicy parts from the book:
"In reality, all wordly appearances are a manifestation of our mind. Fear, apprehension, and danger are also a manifestation of our mind, just like in a bad dream the mind creates both the threat and the one who feels it.

The creative faculty of our mind is very strong. It is this strength that exerts itself in the fervent prayer addressed to Tara. Together with Tara's immense will to help beings, this strength makes possible the protection...

...We must understand that if phenomena had reality in themselves, no change would be possible. By the fact that they are empty in nature, they are only expressions of the deep conditioning of our mind that can be changed.

...This is also why, when the true nature of the mind is realized, all fear disappears."


Now some good parts from that book about the nature of deities:
"Let us suppose that in a dream we meet a deity. We would be sure of the individual existence of that deity. Also, we would be sure of the reality of the "I" who, upon seeing the deity, would feel joy and devotion. However, in truth, the person perceiving the deity and the deity would both be manifestations from the same inexpressible essence, the mind itself. In the same way, for those who live on a relative level, the deities appear on a relative level without being separated from their essence, which is none other than the essence of the mind.

To understand the true nature of deities, we must always remind ourselves of the two levels of reality:
--Ultimate truth, beyond notions of subject and object, I and other, beyond concepts and words, truth is always present and always "true," but it is not experienced by ordinary beings.
--Relative truth, "false" in essence but "true" for the people who experience it, a truth founded on the fallacious perception of subject and object, of an "I" and another."


Thank you, Bokar Rinpoche, for writing such an awesome book! I encourage other people to check it out.
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Re: Buddhist prayer...

Postby Aemilius » Wed Jul 03, 2013 10:38 am

Can you explain the functioning of prayers with the 12 links of dependent origination?
Prayer is a mental action, i.e. volition or samskara. It is also the links of craving and grasping. If you pray for something you want something, you grasp at something, you want a particular state of affairs to manifest. This is craving and grasping and a mental formation. Manifestation happens in this life and in future lives, which is the links of becoming & birth. If in this life, it is the links of consciousness, name and form, etc.. to feeling.
How does the mentioning of an outside person/figure in a prayer, for example a buddha or a bodhisattva, affect the mental formations (samskara)? Affect the links of craving and grasping?
There are several components in one's mental formation. There is a will for a future event to menifest, there is imagining of this future state. There is also, in one's mental formation, a component of faith in an other person's samadhi, in his/her bodhisattva vows, and in the power of his/her morality, generosity and other virtues.
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Re: Buddhist prayer...

Postby LastLegend » Wed Jul 03, 2013 11:11 am

If we ask, we will get answers. Didn't Buddha not do this throughout history? But it depends on what we ask for. In addition, if one wants to get out of his impoverished condition, he must practice giving. This is simply cause and effect. And if our mind is really pure, what can't we not ask for?
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NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)
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Re: Buddhist prayer...

Postby Ramon1920 » Sat Jul 13, 2013 1:31 pm

We pray to the triple gem: the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. These three include the lamas, lineage masters, dieties, realized practitioners, Bodhisattvas, etc.

We also pray to announce our intentions, rouse our own qualities, and to give voice to the teachings. These three purposes here are very transformative and powerful in their own right.

I think our own internal refuge is far more powerful than praying to external beings, but people accustomed to worshiping petty gods and spirits with praise and offerings to gain some favor may have a hard time understanding this.

If I had to place a bet on which was more effective, prayer to an external being or sincere and intense Bodhicitta, I would put my money on Bodhicitta.
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Re: Buddhist prayer...

Postby Aemilius » Tue Jul 16, 2013 10:04 am

Ramon1920 wrote:We pray to the triple gem: the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. These three include the lamas, lineage masters, dieties, realized practitioners, Bodhisattvas, etc.

We also pray to announce our intentions, rouse our own qualities, and to give voice to the teachings. These three purposes here are very transformative and powerful in their own right.

I think our own internal refuge is far more powerful than praying to external beings, but people accustomed to worshiping petty gods and spirits with praise and offerings to gain some favor may have a hard time understanding this.

If I had to place a bet on which was more effective, prayer to an external being or sincere and intense Bodhicitta, I would put my money on Bodhicitta.


In both cases it is your mind that prays or generates bodhicitta. They both have effects, in some ways.
In the Nikayas/Agamas Buddha Gautama ricules prayer, he gives the example of a man wanting to cross a river and then he prays that the other shore would come to where he is. You cross the river of samsaric existence by purifying your own mind.
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Re: Buddhist prayer...

Postby lobster » Tue Jul 16, 2013 12:55 pm

ChangYuan wrote:Where exactly do the petitions we make go?

_/\_ Amituofo


They go to making you a better person :namaste:
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Re: Buddhist prayer...

Postby Ramon1920 » Tue Jul 16, 2013 2:56 pm

Aemilius wrote:In both cases it is your mind that prays or generates bodhicitta. They both have effects, in some ways.
In the Nikayas/Agamas Buddha Gautama ricules prayer, he gives the example of a man wanting to cross a river and then he prays that the other shore would come to where he is. You cross the river of samsaric existence by purifying your own mind.


There are many instances of Buddha Shakyamuni "ridiculing" prayer by pointing out it's inability to achieve aims like a good rebirth or liberation. My interpretation of this is that he criticizes prayer when it is being touted as being equal to skillful body, speech, and mind. Many suttas come to mind on this subject and this seems to be the commonality between them.

But then in the same category of nikaya/agama you see people being miraculously healed, including the Buddha himself, through the reciting of teachings like in the Maha Cunda Bojjhanga Sutta.
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Re: Buddhist prayer...

Postby Aemilius » Tue Jul 16, 2013 4:48 pm

This subject is explained in the Abhidharma thus: There is a kind of force in merit that can be directed or dedicated for a specific purpose, like for example to an increase in one's life span or to healing etc. The fact that generosity, morality, and recitation of sutras posses merit doesn't constitute an outside supernatural being. Dedicating merit for a purpose doesn't constitute a prayer in the theistic sense, far from it.
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Re: Buddhist prayer...

Postby Ramon1920 » Tue Jul 16, 2013 5:03 pm

Aemilius wrote:This subject is explained in the Abhidharma thus: There is a kind of force in merit that can be directed or dedicated for a specific purpose, like for example to an increase in one's life span or to healing etc. The fact that generosity, morality, and recitation of sutras posses merit doesn't constitute an outside supernatural being. Dedicating merit for a purpose doesn't constitute a prayer in the theistic sense, far from it.


If we were to debate the validity of supernatural beings in the context of the Nikayas you would find that devas, asuras, nagas, etc. are recognized as valid.

In fact there are records in the Nikayas of devas that personally observe practitioners in the way one in the West might associate with guardian angels. I think it would be difficult to find, but I recall there is a sutta where a monk newly attained arhantship and a deva came to tell the Buddha what had transpired.

Also, suppose someone were to pray to the Buddha who has clairvoyance, or any other benevolent being with clairvoyance and a means to benefit. Why would prayers not be effective when praying so such a being?

The Nikayas acknowledge beings like this, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

"Then the devata inhabiting the forest thicket, feeling sympathy for the monk, desiring his benefit, desiring to bring him to his senses, approached him and addressed him with this verse:
..............................
[The devata:]
A person ruthless & grasping, smeared like a nursing diaper: to him I have nothing to say. It's you to whom I should speak. To a person unblemished, constantly searching for purity, a hair-tip's worth of evil seems as large as a cloud.

[The monk:]
Yes, yakkha, you understand me and show me sympathy. Warn me again, yakkha, whenever again you see something like this. "
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Re: Buddhist prayer...

Postby smcj » Tue Jul 16, 2013 10:05 pm

ChangYuan wrote:So we all know Buddhism is non-theistic.

Buddhism, in all it's forms familiar to me, does not posit an "Omnipotent Creator God", such as you find in the Old Testament.

If there is no "God" in Buddhism, then who do we pray to?
Where exactly do the petitions we make go?

Buddhas, bodhisattvas, yidams, dharmapalas, dakas and dakinis.

Whether or not that constitutes a "theistic" belief system is a matter of semantics, and the discussion of which is guaranteed to cause unmitigated hysteria on any Internet forum.
A human being has his limits. And thus, in every conceivable way, with every possible means, he tries to make the teaching enter into his own limits. ChNN
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Re: Buddhist prayer...

Postby Aemilius » Wed Jul 17, 2013 9:13 am

Ramon1920 wrote:
Aemilius wrote:This subject is explained in the Abhidharma thus: There is a kind of force in merit that can be directed or dedicated for a specific purpose, like for example to an increase in one's life span or to healing etc. The fact that generosity, morality, and recitation of sutras posses merit doesn't constitute an outside supernatural being. Dedicating merit for a purpose doesn't constitute a prayer in the theistic sense, far from it.


If we were to debate the validity of supernatural beings in the context of the Nikayas you would find that devas, asuras, nagas, etc. are recognized as valid.

In fact there are records in the Nikayas of devas that personally observe practitioners in the way one in the West might associate with guardian angels. I think it would be difficult to find, but I recall there is a sutta where a monk newly attained arhantship and a deva came to tell the Buddha what had transpired.

Also, suppose someone were to pray to the Buddha who has clairvoyance, or any other benevolent being with clairvoyance and a means to benefit. Why would prayers not be effective when praying so such a being?

The Nikayas acknowledge beings like this, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

"Then the devata inhabiting the forest thicket, feeling sympathy for the monk, desiring his benefit, desiring to bring him to his senses, approached him and addressed him with this verse:
..............................
[The devata:]
A person ruthless & grasping, smeared like a nursing diaper: to him I have nothing to say. It's you to whom I should speak. To a person unblemished, constantly searching for purity, a hair-tip's worth of evil seems as large as a cloud.

[The monk:]
Yes, yakkha, you understand me and show me sympathy. Warn me again, yakkha, whenever again you see something like this. "


I agree, I don't deny the existence of devas, yakshas, brahmas, asuras, etc..., the question is what causes what, i.e. of causation. Buddhism says that existence derives from one's volitions (samskara) that arise because of ignorance (avidya) and so on... (the rest of pratitya samutpada). This is the great difference to the theistic religions. Devas, brahmas, yakshas and asuras arise in the same way (as humans).
Ofcourse one can do something for others, like parents, teachers, friends and relatives can do to children. We do not deny that either. This applies to devas and the rest.
The emphasis is on one's own actions, they are omnipotent.
Dhammapada verse 43: "Neither mother, father, nor any other relative can do one greater good than one's own well directed mind."
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Re: Buddhist prayer...

Postby Snovid » Sun Jul 21, 2013 8:33 am

If there is no "God" in Buddhism, then who do we pray to?


"Some people are worried that in Buddhism there is no God.
In fact, in Buddhism there are many gods, but none of them is considered to be one and only God."-ChNN
I am from Poland I use google translator I do not know English
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Re: Buddhist prayer...

Postby smcj » Fri Jul 26, 2013 10:37 pm

If there is no "God" in Buddhism, then who do we pray to?


"Some people are worried that in Buddhism there is no God.
In fact, in Buddhism there are many gods, but none of them is considered to be one and only God."-ChNN

a.k.a. Polytheism.
A human being has his limits. And thus, in every conceivable way, with every possible means, he tries to make the teaching enter into his own limits. ChNN
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Re: Buddhist prayer...

Postby Aemilius » Tue Oct 15, 2013 3:58 pm

That doesn't make buddhism polytheistic, because in buddhism the gods come into being like humans and other classes of beings come into being, i.e. by the conditional genesis or pratitya samutpada.
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