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Prayer in Buddhism

 

by G.R. Lewis

(BFF Senior Teacher & Founder)

 

 

Prayer should be part of our spiritual journey, transforming confusion into clarity and suffering into joy.  However, some mistakenly believe that the Absolute is separate and/or different from us. Believing this, their prayers ask for favors, such as health, salvation, fame, victory or the winning lottery numbers.  They use prayer in order to manipulate their God to work for their benefit. Wanting Him to play favorites, they beg to be blessed by Him at the expense of others. However, this attitude defeats the power of prayer.  We believe that in order for prayer to be effective it must be devoid of any self-centeredness and calculation, relying strictly on great compassion. It should be done to strengthen and open our hearts, and to benefit all beings. Buddhist prayer has nothing to do with begging for personal worldly or heavenly gains.

 

 Buddhist prayer is a practice to awaken our inherent inner capacities of strength, compassion and wisdom rather than to petition external forces based on fear, idolizing, and worldly and/or heavenly gain. Buddhist prayer is a form of meditation; it is a practice of inner reconditioning. Buddhist prayer replaces the negative with the virtuous and points us to the blessings of Life.

Buddhist prayer are inner aspirations.
Buddhist prayer are inner aspirations.

Inspirational

For Shin Buddhists, prayer expresses an aspiration to pull something into one's life, like some new energy or purifying influence and share it with all beings. Likewise, prayer inspires our hearts towards wisdom and compassion for others and ourselves.  It allows us to turn our hearts and minds to the beneficial, rousing our thoughts and actions towards Awakening. If we believe in something enough, it will take hold of us. In other words, believing in it, we will become what we believe. Our ability to be touched like this is evidence of the working of Great Compassion within us. 

 

What's more, it can a function as a form of self-talking or self-therapy in which one mentally talks through a problem, or talks through it aloud, in the hope that some new insight will come or a better decision can be made. Prayer therefore frequently has the function of being part of a decision-making process.

 

 

Everywhere and Anytime

 

The wonderful thing about prayer practice is that we can do it everywhere and anytime, transforming the ordinary and mundane into the Path of Awakening. Prayer enriches our lives with deep spiritual connection and makes every moment special, manifesting the Pure Land here and now.

 

Below is an example of our most popular prayer adapted from Shantideva's 8th century Indian prayer, called the Metta Karuna Prayer.

 

 

Metta Karuna Prayer

 
Oneness of Life and Light,
Entrusting in your Great Compassion,
May you shed the foolishness in myself,
Transforming me into a conduit of Love.
May I be a medicine for the sick and weary,
Nursing their afflictions until they are cured;
May I become food and drink,

During time of famine,
May I protect the helpless and the poor,
May I be a lamp,

For those who need your Light,
May I be a bed for those who need rest,
and guide all seekers to the Other Shore.
May all find happiness through my actions,
and let no one suffer because of me.
Whether they love or hate me,
Whether they hurt or wrong me,
May they all realize true entrusting,
Through Other Power,
and realize Supreme Nirvana.
Namo Amida Buddha

 

Below are other examples of Shin Buddhist prayers.

 

 

Universal Love Aspiration

 

Through the working of Great Compassion

in their hearts,

May all beings have happiness

and the causes of happiness,

May all be free from sorrow

and the causes of sorrow;

May all never be separated from the

sacred happiness, which is sorrowless;

And may all live in equanimity,

Without too much attachment

and too much aversion;

and live believing in the equality of

all that lives. Namo Amida Buddha

 

 

Daily Affirmation Prayer

 

Entrusting in the Primal Vow of Buddha,

Calling out the Buddha-name,

I shall pass through the journey of life with strength and joy.

 

Revering the Light of Buddha,

Reflecting upon my imperfect self,

I shall proceed to live a life of gratitude.

 

Following the Teachings of Buddha,

Listening to the Right Path,

I shall share the True Dharma with all.

 

Rejoicing in the compassion of Buddha,

Respecting and aiding all sentient beings,

I shall work towards the welfare of society and the world.

Namo Amida Buddha.

 

Golden Chain Prayer

 

We are a link in Amida's golden chain

of love that stretches around the world.

We will keep our link bright and strong.

 

We will be kind and gentle to every living thing and protect all who are weaker than ourselves.

                       

We will think pure and beautiful thoughts,

say pure and beautiful words, and do pure

and beautiful deeds.

 

May every link in Amida's chain of love be bright and strong, and may we all attain perfect peace. Namo Amida Buddha.

Namu Amida Butsu!