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Some questions about Buddhist Prayer / Chanting

OK, since I'm here, I have some questions about Buddhism I have been meaning to ask, since my knowledge of Buddhism is more limited than I would like it to be. I know there are some good sources here, but maybe someone could give me a quick answer, and perhaps point me to the right resource.

Bear in mind, I am not "seeking" per se, just intellectually curious.

First question:

I know that Buddhists do not have a god, unless they happen to be Buddhist and another faith as well. I understand that you do not "pray" in the traditional sense of the word, as in praying to a god. Yet, there are Buddhist prayers. Now, I read this source:

http://buddhistfaith.tripod.com/pureland_sangha/id41.html

Do you agree with that explanation?

If you are a Buddhist, and you pray, and would not mind explaining to me why you pray and what you hope to accomplish with it, please do.

Oh, and I know that Buddhists meditate, that's not what I am asking about, I am asking specifially about known Buddhists Prayers, ie: http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/Dojo/1299/buddha.htm


Dexter...

Comments

  • edited January 2005
    Don't get too hung up on the word prayer. I think that word is mostly used to comfort americans/westerners who need a gentle transition into a completely different spirtual path from the one they were most likely raised in.

    Buddhists around the world chant. Also, merely a word ("chant") ..

    I've noticed that newcomers to buddhism really get hung up on the chanting thing. They hear the word "chant" and immediately associate it with cultish behaviour, or maybe Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

    Really, the concepts that "pray" and "chant" represent are somewhat similar, and many times can be interchanged. However, one key difference is that when theists pray, they are very often beseeching their god for intervention in some worldly manner, or thanking the deity for some help that they believe the deity provided. They are praying "to" something/someone.

    When Buddhists chant/pray, it is used as a focus.

    See, this will delve slightly off course into the topic of meditation. I'll try to keep it brief.

    When people start learning how to meditate, they are learning a difficult mental exercise, much like learning complicated physical exercises. Like physical exercise, you start slow, and experience much frustration, and sometimes feel like giving up for lack of seeing or feeling any tangible results.

    So, just as tools such as free weights, weight belts, and even things like headphones for music are all tools to help you focus your exercise and weight training, so too are there "meditation objects" that are used to help focus the mind and help acheive higher levels of meditation. One of the first meditation objects we learn (probably the first after "breathe") are the chants.

    Look, to be perfectly honest, most of the chants are in Pali - a dead language that is no longer spoken or understood by anyone but monks and scholars. Similar to Latin. So, chanting in Pali is meaningless to most westerners. Many of the chants have been translated (Cheesily, sometimes) into english and labeled as "buddhist prayers" in order to make them more palatable to the bookstore buddhist crowd. It can be a comfort for someone who still has the fear of God in them, however minor, to think "oh, well at least I'm saying prayers"..

    The chants themselves are honorable. They are simple things like "May all beings be free from suffering" and "May all beings be happy". There is never the concept of "asking" for anything. There is nobody to "ask". The chants are used as a mediation object and also as a reminder and a focus for good heart, good intentions, and lovingkindness. In a literal sense, saying to yourself "May all beings be free from suffering", you tend to think about that concept, and that's good for your heart.
  • edited January 2005
    I hope you don't mind that I changed the thread title, Dex. On a site like this, there tends to be a lot of threads with the same variation of title "Few questions" or "simple question", etc... I changed it so it is topical in case anyone ever searches for the topic. If you want me to, I'll change it back :)
  • edited January 2005
    I don't mind at all Brian, anything that makes it easier for others to find the same info if they are curious is fine by me. :)

    Thanks for your explanation. I had to chuckle when you mentioned chanting and the western mindset of cults or the Temple of Doom....As you know, I grew up Catholic, and my now non-Catholic opinion is that Catholics chant too, they just don't call it that. Go to a Catholic church sometime if you have never been, and have a listen to them praying in unison, giving the required responses to the priest's words, reciting their Nicene creed, etc. Sure sounds like chanting to me.

    And if you ever find a traditional Latin Mass (which was still the norm until a few decades ago...) you have chanting in an old language that is mostly only understood by scholars.

    It's not so different, is it?

    Thanks again for your explanation, it makes sense.

    Dexter...
  • edited January 2005
    Dexter said:


    If you are a Buddhist, and you pray, and would not mind explaining to me why you pray and what you hope to accomplish with it, please do.

    Dexter...
    When I pray, I am seeking a peace of mind knowing that I do have something to hold on to mentally although my days and nights are shadowed with darkness. I pray, for I might remember what I need to accomplish first. In other words, my words remind me of my troubles. Without an proper action from me, I will never be rid of such troubles. Human's mind is complicated. I do know one thing, however. When we all have to face with troubles, we always seek spiritual support, and religion seems to be the first thing in that list.

    Thus, I pray to remind myself that I must help myself to be rid of such troubles or to gain something before anyone can help me. When I pray asking Buddha to show me the path to meet my success, for instance, I am reminding myself that I must do something, such as work harder or go back to school to acquire further knowledge, to accomplish just that by using my belief, Buddha, as a guide.

    When I chant, I am repeating and remebering Buddha teaching. No, I do not understand Pali. But to chant in Pali, I must concentrate in reading those words. Thus, I am preparing my mind for meditation.

    Chanting is the other means to prepare my mind for meditation. My concentration to those words allows my mind to let go of everything, stress, day dreaming, and many others, and seeing or thinking of one thing, those chanting words. And, that is what meditation is all about, to be able to clear your mind to accomplish a nothingness stage by using one thing as a guide.

    Please note that nothingness satage, by all means, does not mean you are becomnig invisible. Yet, when you close your eyes, you become a part of the darkness you are seeing in your meditation.
  • edited January 2005
    Dexter said:
    And if you ever find a traditional Latin Mass (which was still the norm until a few decades ago...) you have chanting in an old language that is mostly only understood by scholars.
    I grew up going to Latin masses..... It was still the norm in my Polish church :D
    Dexter said:
    It's not so different, is it?
    Not at all. In fact, that experience is what made it so easy for me to make the connection between prayer and chanting when I was an adult.
    FiveAngels said:
    When I chant, I am repeating and remebering Buddha teaching. No, I do not understand Pali. But to chant in Pali, I must concentrate in reading those words. Thus, I am preparing my mind for meditation.
    That is exactly what I was trying to say. That's the perfect way to say it: You have to concentrate, so you are preparing your mind.

    It really is all just mental exercise, from my perspective :)
  • edited April 2005
    Preparing one's mind for awareness. Prayer is a consolation for most. To sya what Brian said the people praying usually ask for intervention from a god(s). One should rememeber that prayer can alos be used to focus much like chanting just you don't use prayer as an consolation or your own desires, which sort of makes not aprayer at all.
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Somewhere in the UK, Central-Southern.... Moderator
    edited April 2005
    Two wonderful ways also to just 'cleanse and release' any "stuck" energy in your chest or throat.... I chant at the top of my voice, in my car, usually to a Buddhist chants CD or even Gregorian Chants! What a wonderful way to express the joy of the human spirit, in all its' forms... Chanting and praying are not just actions for when there is despair/worry/need for peace in our hearts. it is also an excellent medium for just expressing the sheer joy of being here and now - !! :bigclap:
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