You probably heard that Buddha is not a God. That means we do not pray to Buddha for boon or favour. We definitely do not pray that Buddha punishes our enemy or Buddha end covid-19.
If we accord with Buddha’s teachings, mankind has to create the cause for his own happiness. In the case of covid-19, that means we need to mask up, get vaccinated, gift poorer country with vaccines, and etc. In short, do all the wise and correct things collectively.
Having said that, some of us couldn’t help feeling lost and anxious during a challenging time. Prayers can help soothe our mind too. If prayer makes us feel better, then there is no harm praying too. In Buddhism, the verbalization of our wishes is our prayer. We do not direct our mind to ask Buddha or Bodhisattva for something. That is not how it works. Instead we simply say our wishes, either mentally or verbally. For example “May the world be freed from pandemics soon.” or “May you recover from this illness soon” or “May all be well and happy.”
With such expression, we direct our mind to let go of that troubling topic and re-establish itself in peace and happiness. It is a form of mental comfort. An inclination towards hope for a better future.
When our mind is less troubled by the issues at hand, it becomes easier for us to create the correct conditions for our wishes to come true.
Therefore, Buddhist prayer is not about praying to an imaginary figure and hoping that our wishes will be granted.
For example, if we wish to have material success in life, then we have to work hard for it. Our Buddhist prayer help us focus for success. And if we practice mind training, then our mind will incline towards success by guiding us in that right direction.
For example, many Buddhist who practice chanting or meditations recounted “miracles” of meeting the right people or being at the right place where favorable conditions appear. That decision to speak with someone or be at certain places is all in our mind.
When we practice hard enough, our current issues and challenges take a back seat in our mind. That makes our mind powerful because it is not troubled or worried. Our practice also cause wisdom to arise in our mind. The wisdom to make right decision in life. Decisions that lead to fulfillment of our wishes.
Meeting the right condition is only half way. We may meet the correct people but our nasty personality may put people off subsequently. We may clinch an ideal job interview but our poor attitude or bad temper may create road blocks in our career.
Buddhist practice is not limited to meditation and chanting. We also cultivate our behaviors and attitude. Be more patient, more persevere, more hardworking, more flexible in the way we do things, and etc. When we incline our mind towards a goal and we practice mind training; then we will move in the right direction.
Places for prayer
This part is more about supernatural or divine interventions. Many heavenly beings (aka Gods and goddesses) have converted to Buddhism since the Buddha’s time and they have undertaken to support the cause of worthy practitioners.
When we practice well, we attract the attentions of these wholesome beings. They will also lend a helping hand when situations justify it.
For most of us, we feel empowered when praying in a temple. The ambience seems more conducive….
In Thai Buddhism, divine beings are usually enshrined outside the main Buddha Shrine. One popular deity who is commonly found in Thai temple is “Brahma” If we must verbalize our wish (pray) for mundane goals, then this is where we should do it.
In Chinese Mahayana temple, we can pray to the Bodhisattvas or to the four heavenly Kings.
When we are in the main Buddha hall, it is better for us to let go of all our mundane concerns. Facing the serene looking Buddha, it is better for us to empty our thoughts and focus on taking refuge. That moment of complete faith and confidence in the Triple Gems will generate tons of merits for ourselves. That merit will also pave the way for our wish to be fulfilled.
May all be well and happy.