Clarifying Buddhist position on prayer

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Adamantus
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Clarifying Buddhist position on prayer

Postby Adamantus » Sat Oct 17, 2015 9:45 pm

I've always found prayer (to god) to have huge benefits for me and I can't really live without it. On the other hand I'm very interested in Buddhsim so combining them is difficult. Buddhism is not considered a monotheistic religion so I lot of people think that praying to god and considering yourself a Buddhist are not allowed. I looked up Prayer on dhammawiki and picked out a few things:

"...from the Tipitaka, ‘to beseech, praise and worship with joined hands’ (ayacanti thomayanti panjalika nemassanama, D.I,240)"
This sounds very Christian, to prayer with joined hands. The Buddha said "The things that people long for most; happiness, long life, rebirth in heaven, etc.,cannot, he said, ‘be acquired by vows and prayers’ (na ayacanahetu va na patthanahetu, A.II,47)". I totally agree with this. The idea that Prayer will bring your worldly benefits is wrong and any benefits are benefits of the soul only so I'm in agreement there.

"A prayer (avhayana or pathana) is a collection of words addressed to God or to gods. " - But Buddhsim is without god? This article has some references to Brahmanism which I think came before Buddhism so could this just be a reference to type of Buddhism which still contain aspects of that religion? I consider myself to be Theravadan at present as I'm keen on learning the authentic word of the Buddha.

So can I be Buddhist and still pray to god or do I have to give up on Buddhism :(

:juggling:

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Ben
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Re: Clarifying Buddhist position on prayer

Postby Ben » Sat Oct 17, 2015 10:10 pm

Buddhism is without an eternally-existing god, creator.
Buddhist cosmology includes realms of different celestial beings but they are samsaric beings who exist for different spans of time before passing away and reappearing elsewhere as a result of the fruition of their kamma.
Some Buddhists pray or propitiate various celestial beings such as Brahma, devas, nats, hungry ghosts (petas) and earthbound demons (yakkhas). However, it's something that you only find in traditional Buddhist cultures and not something that is practiced except a tiny minority of western converts.
A lot of Christians and practitioners of other religions have adopted aspects of Buddhist practice with success. However, most people straddling two religious traditions will eventually come to a point where they become much more serious about one and abandon the other.
Kind regards,
Ben
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samseva
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Re: Clarifying Buddhist position on prayer

Postby samseva » Sat Oct 17, 2015 10:45 pm

Adamantus wrote:Buddhism is not considered a monotheistic religion so I lot of people think that praying to god and considering yourself a Buddhist are not allowed.

Although, Buddhism does not believe in a creator god, there is no such thing as a "rule" or other not allowing someone to worship or praying to God.
Adamantus wrote:So can I be Buddhist and still pray to god or do I have to give up on Buddhism :(

Yes, without a problem for the first, and no for the second.

Regarding praying in Buddhism, we do not pray as what is usually understood from Christianity. In Buddhism, there are some forms of veneration or "prayer", such as chanting, parittas (protection chants) and simply holding your hands in añjali, contemplating anicca, dukkha and anatta.

NotMe
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Re: Clarifying Buddhist position on prayer

Postby NotMe » Sun Oct 18, 2015 12:03 am

All good, gracious replies. i would emphasis that there are unskillful beliefs about the power of prayer that the Buddha warned against. No "genie in a bottle" you can make a wish and have it be true and no free lunches, so to speak.

metta

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mikenz66
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Re: Clarifying Buddhist position on prayer

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Oct 18, 2015 1:43 am

Though there is no creator god in Buddhist cosmology, recollection of the qualities of the devas (celestial beings) is praised:
"There is the case where the disciple of the noble ones recollects the devas, thus: 'There are the Devas of the Four Great Kings, the Devas of the Thirty-three, the Yama Devas, the Contented Devas, the devas who delight in creation, the devas who have power over the creations of others, the devas of Brahma's retinue, the devas beyond them. Whatever conviction they were endowed with that — when falling away from this life — they re-arose there, the same sort of conviction is present in me as well. Whatever virtue they were endowed with that — when falling away from this life — they re-arose there, the same sort of virtue is present in me as well. Whatever learning they were endowed with that — when falling away from this life — they re-arose there, the same sort of learning is present in me as well. Whatever generosity they were endowed with that — when falling away from this life — they re-arose there, the same sort of generosity is present in me as well. Whatever discernment they were endowed with that — when falling away from this life — they re-arose there, the same sort of discernment is present in me as well.' As he is recollecting the devas, his mind is calmed, and joy arises; the defilements of his mind are abandoned, just as when gold is cleansed through the proper technique. And how is gold cleansed through the proper technique? Through the use of a furnace, salt earth, red chalk, a blow-pipe, tongs, & the appropriate human effort. This is how gold is cleansed through the proper technique. In the same way, the defiled mind is cleansed through the proper technique. And how is the defiled mind cleansed through the proper technique? There is the case where the disciple of the noble ones recollects the devas...
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an03/an03.070.than.html#recall-devas


See also: Belief in Deities (Devas)

:anjali:
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tattoogunman
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Re: Clarifying Buddhist position on prayer

Postby tattoogunman » Sun Oct 18, 2015 3:16 am

On other boards that I am a member of when this issue comes up, I usually use the terminology of paying homage to the Buddha as a teacher - not praying to him. So the simple act of holding your hands together in front of a Buddha statue (for example) isn't praying, it's paying homage to the teacher. Take it for what it's worth ;)

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Clarifying Buddhist position on prayer

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Oct 18, 2015 4:13 am

Buddhism has several forms of prayer, though since we do not believe in an Almighty Creator God we appeal to the power of truth. A typical example is found in the verses of the Ratana Sutta.

Ratana Sutta wrote:3. "Whatever treasure there be either here or in the world beyond, whatever precious jewel there be in the heavenly worlds, there is nought comparable to the Tathagata (the perfect One). This precious jewel is the Buddha. By this (asseveration of the) truth may there be happiness.


Similar vows, or asseveration of the truth, can be found in many other places too, where a declaration of the truth is used to heal the sick or gain freedom from danger, such as in the Aṅgulimāla Paritta
Angulimāla Paritta wrote:Sister, since I was born with the Ariyan birth, I have not knowingly and deliberately taken the life of any living being, by this truth may you be well and may your child be well.

The practice of loving-kindness meditation is another form of prayer, wishing happiness and well-being to all beings. It is a form of protection for oneself as well as for others. By protecting others (by undertaking to abstain from killing under any circumstances) one protects oneself from danger.

There's a common misconception in the US that one needs to carry a gun to protect oneself, however, more often than not having a gun puts oneself in danger. Monks are not permitted to carry even a stick as a weapon — they must rely on loving-kindness as their sole protection. Learning Kung Fu and other martial arts is not the teaching of the Buddha.
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NotMe
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Re: Clarifying Buddhist position on prayer

Postby NotMe » Sun Oct 18, 2015 4:23 am

tattoogunman wrote:On other boards that I am a member of when this issue comes up, I usually use the terminology of paying homage to the Buddha as a teacher - not praying to him. So the simple act of holding your hands together in front of a Buddha statue (for example) isn't praying, it's paying homage to the teacher. Take it for what it's worth ;)


Tattoogunman! That is the heart of Buddhism as I understand it. It becomes an action that is not habit, it is fresh intent each time, a renewal; each prostrate.

thepea
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Re: Clarifying Buddhist position on prayer

Postby thepea » Sun Nov 01, 2015 2:34 pm

So can I be Buddhist and still pray to god or do I have to give up on Buddhism :(

:juggling:


God answers prayers, think of this in terms of kamma occurring continuously trillions of times each moment. The question is not about prayer as much as it is about knowing the mind full of craving or aversion.

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Goofaholix
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Re: Clarifying Buddhist position on prayer

Postby Goofaholix » Sun Nov 01, 2015 6:47 pm

I think you should consider the reasons why you want to pray and consider the reasons why you want to practice Buddhism, then consider if those reasons are compatible. They might be now but one day in future they might not.

tattoogunman wrote:I usually use the terminology of paying homage to the Buddha as a teacher - not praying to him.


Paying homage could be taken as a synonym for prayer, the difference is though the teacher that you are paying homage to died 2500 years ago so you pay homage with that in mind whereas the entitie(s) people pray to are supposed to be "alive" and all pervasive.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

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tattoogunman
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Re: Clarifying Buddhist position on prayer

Postby tattoogunman » Mon Nov 02, 2015 3:45 am

Goofaholix wrote:I think you should consider the reasons why you want to pray and consider the reasons why you want to practice Buddhism, then consider if those reasons are compatible. They might be now but one day in future they might not.

tattoogunman wrote:I usually use the terminology of paying homage to the Buddha as a teacher - not praying to him.


Paying homage could be taken as a synonym for prayer, the difference is though the teacher that you are paying homage to died 2500 years ago so you pay homage with that in mind whereas the entitie(s) people pray to are supposed to be "alive" and all pervasive.


True - but when I think "prayer", I think people essentially asking an almighty being for something and not just paying respect. But yes, I suppose it does come down to a semantic issue.

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Goofaholix
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Re: Clarifying Buddhist position on prayer

Postby Goofaholix » Mon Nov 02, 2015 6:04 am

tattoogunman wrote:True - but when I think "prayer", I think people essentially asking an almighty being for something and not just paying respect. But yes, I suppose it does come down to a semantic issue.


As an example in my experience of Christianity it was only about 10-20% asking for something, it was mostly praise aka paying homage. Muslim prayer appears to be a rote formula, so again not asking for something but rather paying homage I'd expect.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

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Mohan Gnanathilake
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Re: Clarifying Buddhist position on prayer

Postby Mohan Gnanathilake » Sun Jan 01, 2017 4:03 pm

When Theravada Buddhists pay respect to the Buddha statue they do not pray to a Buddha in heaven, since the Buddha passed away completely. Theravada Buddhists pay respect to the Buddha statue because they think with deep reverence and gratefulness of his virtues: of his wisdom, his purity and his compassion.
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Re: Clarifying Buddhist position on prayer

Postby thepea » Tue Jan 03, 2017 10:59 pm

Mohan Gnanathilake wrote:When Theravada Buddhists pay respect to the Buddha statue they do not pray to a Buddha in heaven, since the Buddha passed away completely. Theravada Buddhists pay respect to the Buddha statue because they think with deep reverence and gratefulness of his virtues: of his wisdom, his purity and his compassion.

Are you saying paying respect to Buddha statue is prayer?

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Re: Clarifying Buddhist position on prayer

Postby davidbrainerd » Wed Jan 04, 2017 12:46 am

Adamantus wrote:

So can I be Buddhist and still pray to god or do I have to give up on Buddhism :(

:juggling:


Depends on the level of association with other Buddhists you're interested in. If the answer to that is "more than none", then probably they will annoy you into giving up on Buddhism by constantly casting aspersions. (Not necessarily because of the concept of God by itself, but because of its necessary corollary, i.e. that God has a self, because a God with no self is no God at all.)

I would also say I'm not actually aware of a text where Buddha says there is no creator God, only DN 1 where he refuses to answer if the universe is eternal or has a beginning. (Much the same as refusing to answer if there is a self or not is turned into a positive denial of any sort of self, refusal to answer if the universe is eternal or has a beginning is turned into a positive denial of God, in a bit of what could be called over-interpretation)

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aflatun
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Re: Clarifying Buddhist position on prayer

Postby aflatun » Wed Jan 04, 2017 2:28 am

Perhaps keep the prayer and focus on the qualities it helps foster in you and the intentions you bring to bear in that act-compassion, equanimity, serenity, diminished self cherishing, awe, whatever they are-while shelving or even better canning metaphysical positions associated with them.

The pragmatic bent of the Buddha can be instructive in this regard. When he instructed a brahmin on the Brahmaviharas he encouraged and refined a practice/goal he was already interested in without getting into ontological warfare.

Just a thought.

http://awake.kiev.ua/dhamma/tipitaka/2S ... ha-e1.html
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Re: Clarifying Buddhist position on prayer

Postby chownah » Wed Jan 04, 2017 2:42 am

Is a prayer words either internal or external? If there is no word making is there no prayer?
chownah

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Mkoll
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Re: Clarifying Buddhist position on prayer

Postby Mkoll » Wed Jan 04, 2017 2:55 am

davidbrainerd wrote:Depends on the level of association with other Buddhists you're interested in. If the answer to that is "more than none", then probably they will annoy you into giving up on Buddhism by constantly casting aspersions. (Not necessarily because of the concept of God by itself, but because of its necessary corollary, i.e. that God has a self, because a God with no self is no God at all.)

Fellow Buddhists I've met aren't like this IRL, whether Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana, or non-affiliated. Where I'm from, Buddhists tend to be friendly and respectful toward each other's spiritual beliefs, regardless of the specifics involved.

Maybe things are different where you live, but I doubt it. I think you're extrapolating your experience of people posting on Buddhist online forums to Buddhists in the real world. There's a huge difference in how each group tends to act. In the real world, there is a lot less aspersion and a lot more congeniality.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
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mikenz66
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Re: Clarifying Buddhist position on prayer

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jan 04, 2017 3:50 am

Mkoll wrote:Maybe things are different where you live, but I doubt it. I think you're extrapolating your experience of people posting on Buddhist online forums to Buddhists in the real world. There's a huge difference in how each group tends to act. In the real world, there is a lot less aspersion and a lot more congeniality.

Amen! err... Sadhu!

:anjali:
Mike

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Jetavan
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Re: Clarifying Buddhist position on prayer

Postby Jetavan » Wed Jan 04, 2017 3:55 am

Buddhist prayer is a time-honored tradition. Praying to the Buddha is mentioned--in a positive light--in the Pāli Canon. For instance, in the Cunda Sutta (SN 83), Cunda prays to the Buddha.

Pray is from the classical Latin precārī ("to ask, to beseech, to beg"), which derives from prex ("a request, a petition"). Prex evolved from the Proto-Indo-European *prek ("to ask"). This PIE word is also the origin of the Sanskrit prcchatayitum (“to ask”) and the Pali pucchituṁ ("to ask"). The first person present indicative of the Pali is pucchāmi.

Thus, Cunda says

Pucchāmi muniṃ pahūtapaññaṃ


which can be translated as

I pray (to) the sage of abundant discernment


or simply:

I ask the sage of abundant discernment
.

Cunda explains to the Buddha what he is asking:

I ask the sage of abundant discernment,
the Awakened One, Lord of the Dhamma,
free of craving, Supreme
among two-legged beings,
Best of charioteers:
"How many contemplatives
are there in the world?
Please tell me."


And the Buddha proceeds to answer Cunda's "prayer".

So, praying to the Buddha is nothing new.


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