Epistemes wrote:I don't intend to open up a topic on Buddhism and the existence of God, but I'm confused about who Buddhists pray to. Do they pray to Sakyamuni? Amitabha? Avolekitesvara? Taras? Brahma?
How does this prayer differ from Judeo-Christian and Islamic prayer?
It depends. In some traditions there's almost no prayer. In others, they ask for help to Bodhisattvas and other deities.
You could ask: but if those deities are there and are benevolent, enlightened, why the need to pray for help? Wouldn't that make them capricious somehow?
But this is not the correct way to look at it.
Let me use an analogy: imagine the sun, shinning with equanimity everywhere. When you pray, you don't move the sun. You move yourself from the shade to the light.
You recognize what was there already and benefit from it, the compassion and enlightened activity of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
For instance, take a look at this quote: "I am present in front of anyone who has faith in me , just as the moon casts its reflection,effortlessly, in any vessel filled with water". This is a good example of the point made above.
There are also mantras and then action mantras aimed to specific effects, but that's a different subject that has to do with tantric practices which involve creating a connection at the energy level with a certain deity.
None of the above said supersedes the empty nature of deities. They are not more or less real than you or me. However, that doesn't stop us from talking with each other. The fact that our selves only have conventional existence doesn't mean that we can't function. So it's the same. However, you can perceive me through what can be called your defiled vision. To perceive the sambhogakaya, you need to train your mind to a level you haven't yet reached, otherwise you wouldn't be asking, I suppose.