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ghengis

Buddhism And Prayer

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My wife prays to Buddha every night - in Pali, Sanskrit, Thai and English for good measure. Her father was a monk for 10 years and taught Sanskrit and Pali at a University in Thailand. Her mother was a nun for a year. So she comes from a very devout Buddhist background.

Most religions have the concept of a supernatural being - a god, or in the case in Hindus many gods. Buddhism does not. So what is the theory behind this practice for Buddhists?

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What does she pray for? Guidance, protection, goodluck or what?

I spend a few minutes now and then myself in fornt of a Buddha statue to 'tune in' with the spirit and principle represented.

I think a good explanation is given by andy in the closed thread and in the 'spirits' thread.

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That is a very good point Ghengis,as doe`s my Gf every night pray to Buddha,but she also pray`s to her Grandmama who died when she was 12 & who she loved very much & still talks about.

I know my Gf believes in spirits/ghosts so maybe she prays to Siddhartha Gautama believeing that he is there to listen to her word`s?.

Im still a novice with time i hope to understand more.

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My wife prays the she, her family and husband will have good health, will be protected from harm etc. She say that many people in Thailand pray to Buddha.

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Yes, prayer is a very important part of Buddhist practice. This might seem strange to a Westerner but that is because you associate the word 'prayer' with communicating with a deity that is not acknowledged in Buddhism. You might get the odd western Buddhist who has post-Christian hang-ups (very common!) and insists Buddhists don't pray, they chant, but if a Buddhist from birth says they pray, let it be so. We need to expand our definition of the term.

It is perhaps easier to understand if we first consider Mahayana Buddhism. When I was practising Tibetan Buddhism I'd spend 2-5 hours a day in the temple praying to the Buddhas. It is understood that ULTIMATELY the Buddhas are nowhere else but within you, but by projecting them outside it is easier for the unenlightened mind to relate to them. In tantric practice you visualise the Buddha sitting in front of you, pray to him/her and finally dissolve the image within you. That way you are taking in the compassion/wisdom the buddha represents and 'waking up' that latent quality within.

It works more subtly in Theravada but essentially it is the same. If Mahayana teaches that there are multiple Buddhas and they are accessible, Theravada teaches that there is one Buddha per aeon and after his parinibbana he is inaccessible. However whilst the Buddha himself is no longer here, 'Buddhanature' is. Buddhanature is the potential within all of us to achieve what he achieved - enlightenment. All Theravada Buddhists - lay as well as monks - take refuge in the Three Jewels. The first is "I go for refuge to the Buddha". That doesn't make a lot of sense if you only think of the Buddha as a man who passed away 2500 years ago, but it also means 'I have confidence in the buddhanature within'.

So when a Theravada Buddhist is praying to the Buddha they are in a sense 'projecting' their buddhanature onto the image of the Buddha (mental or physical) and thus 'internalising' or 'waking up' their latent Buddha-like qualities, becoming just a little more like Buddha.

It is like this: everyone agrees that it is better to be kind and compassionate, but how to do so? Buddhism gives a very successful series of practical steps to achieve this, so that they don't remain just nice ideas but can be actualized. My teacher taught me what he called the 'magic key' to understanding EVERYTHING in Buddhism - ALL of the teachings, stories and practices. They all have one purpose:

To transform the mind - from greed, hatred & ignorance (the three root poisons) to contentment, compassion & wisdom.

You'll find a lot of things that westerners get confused about (is this story TRUE?, What has this practice to do with Buddhism? etc.) become clear when you apply this key.

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