How do Buddhist pray?

Pray: to speak to a god or goddess a pantheon of deities, either privately or in a religious ceremony, in order to express love, admiration, or thanks or in order to ask for something.

The first elephant in the room is that Buddha is not God. In Buddhism, gods and goddesses refer to sentient beings who are born into a heavenly realm. We believe that we are too insignificant for them to take any interest in us. Just like not many of us are concerned about the well beings of the worms in our garden? Likewise, the Gods and goddesses are too engrossed with their lives to care about us, the mortals.

Although we believe that it is useless praying to them, there is a method to get them to notice us. And that is non-other than to tune our minds to a higher state. To evolve spiritually, so that we are on par with them. To do that, we need to practice Metta (loving-kindness). [Please refer to the posts on Metta Meditation to find out more]. When we do that, the divine will cherish us.

Do Buddhist pray to Buddha? It depends on your psychological needs.

Strictly speaking, the Theravada traditions do not pray to Buddha. This is because we believe that he already exited Samsara (the unenlightened state of existence). In the Buddha’s last sermon, he exhorted his followers to be independent and rely on his teachings to find their own enlightenment. Thus, those who see the Dharma, see the Buddha.

However, we have something call an aspiration prayer. And guess what? the prayer is not directed at Buddha or Divine, but to ourselves. For example, when we say, “May I be Enlightened” that invokes a sense of purpose regarding what needs to be done; practice the Noble Eightfold Path. And when we say, “May I get rich or be successful”, we are not asking Buddha or the Divine for any presents. Again, it is an aspiration we make, very similar to a New Year’s Resolution. At the back of our mind, we should be conscious of the things that need to be done, to get us there. And the things to be done are to practice the Noble Eightfold Path,

As we practice and tune our minds to a higher state, the divine forces will notice and they will support and help nurture the noble disciples too. Moreover, there are many sotappanna who are reborn in higher state of beings. They are fellow buddhists who will help to support the Sangha. If we practice well, then we are part of Sangha. If we don’t, then we simply “fall” out of the club. There is no divine judge whatsoever, everything is explained as a simple natural phenomenon.

What if we are reliant on worship to find peace?

This is where the Mahayana system with its emphasis on compassion comes in. In the Mahayana beliefs, Buddha did not leave us behind. Instead, there is a pantheon of Buddhas, each with their specialization and lords over their own pureland (heaven).

We have various mantra for different purposes, we sing praises of the Buddhas, and we recite stories of their achievement. We are encouraged to aspire to be like these eternally present celestial Buddhas.

To make our prayers come true, it is important for us to practice good and avoid evil, and earn more merits through religious rites and rituals. This approach to religion offers comfort to many people.

And to make our wish come true, we are encouraged to shift our mindset when we chant the mantra. Instead of chanting mantra like a prayer, we are advised to chant without thoughts, without want, and without anger. When we achieve a peaceful and happy mind, it becomes easier for us to succeed and achieve our dream.

In this manner, we practice praying to manage our stressful situations in life, It offers some psychological comfort that Buddha will watch over us and help us when the situation is tough. The only thing we have to do is be steadfast in doing good deeds.

May all be well and happy.

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