Why Pray?

Alan Koh (福定)  


Many people around the world pray regardless of which religion they belong to. They all pray for a purpose to fulfill their wants or needs. Some  pray to their Buddha, God, Heavenly Beings, Ghosts, Ancestors, etc. The faithful ones pray regularly as a way of life in their religion. Some are just followers without the full understanding of their religion. Others pray in times of difficulties. It seems that the only way out is “spiritual means”. The list can go on as to why people pray. The most common reasons are the request for favors or expectations.

What are these favors or  expectations?
For example, some request for good fortune, wealth, health, jobs, marriage, education, family matters, etc. Sometimes requests come with positive results, sometimes not. Positive results come with dharma joy or happiness while negative results come with disappointment or sadness.

Are positive results coming from prayers?
Yes if through prayers you obtain inner peace, and the mind is free from stress. When body and mind are in harmony, one is able to think properly
and work towards the right direction (do good avoid evil). Buddhism believes in Karma. Karma is ‘Causes and Effects’ when condition arises. Good deeds generate good karma while bad deeds generate bad karma. Karma is on going from past to present to future. Karma arises when the conditions arise. Nothing happens by itself and therefore it is ‘Causes and Effects’. Generate positive karma from moment to moment with right thoughts and actions, both mentally and physically.

Buddhist Prayers what are they?
It can be a form of repeated recitation of the name(s) of Buddha or Bodhisattva, mantras, or chanting of sutras. From sutras we can learn the
Buddha Dharma. For some old folks it could be just mental communication in their own words through thoughts. Prayers can be done at any place any time. What matters are the right views, mindfulness and concentration. We also need to understand the true meaning and purpose in our prayers and not merely singing or chanting.

Does the Buddha or Bodhisattva require our prayers?
Buddha or Bodhisattva does not need our prayers. Prayers are for our own benefits as well as other sentient beings through our dedications. The vows of all Buddha and Bodhisattva are for the benefits of all sentient beings and through our sincere prayers we invoke their vows. Prayers
are tools for our own practices and cultivations, similar to concentration meditation. Pray with sincerity and mindfulness, and experience the bliss
within self.

For what purpose is the power of prayers?
The power of prayers is not meant for performing miracles, gaining supernatural powers or acquiring materialistic wants. The power of prayers
is to help us strengthen our faith, provide hope, the calming and purification of mind to cultivate Bodhicitta. Avoid the seeking of materialistic wants that often lead to greed, desire and attachment. Be realistic – “When sick, consult the doctor. Need money, work for it. To pass examinations, study well. Way to Nirvana, right cultivation – the Noble Eightfold Path”. In other words, be realistic rather than idealistic. We must put effort to do what is necessary and not always looking for prayers to solve our problems. The Buddha shows us the way through his teaching, he will not perform miracle for us. We generate our own karma and therefore need to overcome it ourselves. Repent for our past and present unwholesome deeds.

The power of prayers can help us learn and understand the supreme teaching of the Buddha Dharma. Through the Buddha’s supreme wisdom
is the insight of Truth. May the merits of all wholesome deeds be dedicated to all sentient beings.

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