The Urban Dharma Newsletter... May 11, 2004


In This Issue: Prayer as Practice

2. Buddhist Prayer Beads
3. The Foundation of Mental Prayer
...Fr Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R.
4. E-sangha, Buddhist Forum & Buddhism Forum
5. Temple/Center/Website:
Dharma Crumbs - Bread Crumbs of Buddha Dharma
6. Book/CD/Movie: eBook - Free Download
- Bhavana Vandana: Book of Devotion ...Compiled by Ven. H. Gunaratana



I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: 'O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.' And God granted it. - Voltaire (1694 - 1778)

Under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer. - Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)

When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers. - Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900), An Ideal husband, 1893

Pray as if everything depended upon God and work as if everything depended upon man. - Francis Cardinal Spellman (1889 - 1967)

Prayer indeed is good, but while calling on the gods a man should himself lend a hand. - Hippocrates (460 BC - 377 BC), Regimen



The purpose of Buddhist prayer is to awaken our inherent inner capacities of strength, compassion and wisdom rather than to petition external forces based on fear, idolizing, and worldly and/or heavenly gain. Buddhist prayer is a form of meditation; it is a practice of inner reconditioning. Buddhist prayer replaces the negative with the virtuous and points us to the blessings of Life.

For Buddhists, prayer expresses an aspiration to pull something into one's life, like some new energy or purifying influence and share it with all beings. Likewise, prayer inspires our hearts towards wisdom and compassion for others and ourselves.  It allows us to turn our hearts and minds to the beneficial, rousing our thoughts and actions towards Awakening. If we believe in something enough, it will take hold of us. In other words, believing in it, we will become what we believe. Our ability to be touched like this is evidence of the working of Great Compassion within us. 

What's more, it can a function as a form of self-talking or self-therapy in which one mentally talks through a problem, or talks through it aloud, in the hope that some new insight will come or a better decision can be made. Prayer therefore frequently has the function of being part of a decision-making process.

Everywhere and Anytime

The wonderful thing about prayer practice is that we can do it everywhere and anytime, transforming the ordinary and mundane into the Path of Awakening. Prayer enriches our lives with deep spiritual connection and makes every moment special, manifesting the Pure Land here and now.

Prayer is an important practice that serves to internalize the ideals of the Buddhist path.

Prayer should be part of our spiritual journey, transforming confusion into clarity and suffering into joy.  However, some mistakenly believe that the Absolute is separate and/or different from us. Believing this, their prayers ask for favors, such as health, salvation, fame, victory or the winning lottery numbers.  They use prayer in order to manipulate their God to work for their benefit. Wanting Him to play favorites, they beg to be blessed by Him at the expense of others. However, this attitude defeats the power of prayer.  We believe that in order for prayer to be effective it must be devoid of any self-centeredness and calculation, relying strictly on great compassion. It should be done to strengthen and open our hearts, and to benefit all beings. Buddhist prayer has nothing to do with begging for personal worldly or heavenly gains.

2. Buddhist Prayer Beads


Although many people may recognize a variation of these prayer beads among today’s newest fashion accessories, they carry a far deeper significance in the Buddhist culture.  For this group of individuals, prayer beads, or mala beads as they are called in the Buddhist religion, represent a meditative tool.  Their specific purpose may vary for different individuals, but commonly the beads are used to enhance ‘goodness’ and diminish ‘toxins’.  The overarching purpose of these beads from a true Buddhist perspective is to drive away evil and fill you and all beings with peace and bliss.  In accordance with the active nature of practice in Buddhism, this material object is used as an accomplice for gaining merit on the path to enlightenment. 

The origin of mala beads is rooted in the Hindu religion.  Individuals who converted from the Hindu faith to Buddhism during its birth, transferred this devotional practice with them and it soon became a part of the Buddhist faith.  The story of the beads' origin is as follows:

“Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism, paid a visit to king Vaidunya…Sakya directed him to thread 108 seeds of the Bodhi tree on a string, and while passing them between his fingers to repeat… ‘Hail to the Buddha, the law, and the congregation’… (2,000) times a day (Dubin).”

Another interpretation of this prayer is ‘om mani padme hum.’  During recitation, this phrase is repeated over and over again according to how many beads are on a person’s strand of mala beads.

Traditionally, there are 108 beads on a strand of mala prayer beads.  This number is significant because it represents the number of mental conditions or sinful desires that one must overcome to reach enlightenment or nirvana.  Monks usually have mala beads with 108 beads, where as a lay person may have a strand numbering in 30 or 40 beads.  This difference in length may possibly be explained by understanding each person’s distance traveled on the path to enlightenment.  Commercial sellers of mala beads have also suggested that individuals just beginning this prayer ritual begin with a shorter strand of beads.

Just as variety exists for the number of beads, variety exists for the style, color, and material composition. Differences in the popularity and use of mala beads also exist cross-culturally.  Typically, monks’ mala beads are made of wood from the Bodhi tree.  In Tibet, mala strands often contain parts of semi-precious stones.  In this culture, the most valued strands are made of bones of holy men or lamas.  Typically there are 108 beads divided by 3 large beads.  The end pieces on these strands are “djore” (a thunderbolt) and “drilbu” (the bell).  These end pieces represent the Three Jewels, or Buddha, the doctrine, and the community.  In Japan, mala prayer beads are popular at social events such as funerals, weddings, and otherceremonies.  Mala beads in Japan typically are 112 in number and made of wood.  Additionally, the most coveted strands have been blessed by a monk.  In Korea, the use of mala beads has been extensive.  Their popularity diminished, however, during the period when Buddhism was banned from the country (1392-1910).  In addition to the traditional 108 beads, Korean mala strands usually include 2 large beads, which are used during special prayers.  In China, the use of mala beads was never really popular.  They were used, but more commonly, they were used by the ruling hierarchy as a status symbol.

Although the structure of mala beads may vary among individuals or groups of Buddhists, the overall purpose of all mala beads is to create a sense of tranquility and inner-peace for not only the individual, but for the community as a whole.  In reciting the prayer, ‘toxins’ will leave and a sense of peace will enter making an individual that much closer to reaching nirvana.

3. Soul Food to Go: Meditation - The Foundation of Mental Prayer ...Fr Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R.


If your spiritual life is to develop properly, you must learn how to meditate — the foundation of mental prayer. A great deal can be said about meditation, but we’ll have to limit ourselves to some basic points. I’d like to approach it by sharing something of my own experience.

When I first entered the seminary, I was already used to saying formal prayers, such as my morning and night prayers and some devotional prayers out of a little prayer booklet. But somehow, the idea of meditation seemed complicated. There was talk of different methods and steps in the meditation process. Even the meditation book from which a reflection was read daily to the community in the chapel listed “meditation points” to consider. I felt a bit apprehensive!

Nevertheless, after going to a few organized meditation periods, I realized that this basic form of mental prayer came quite naturally. There was nothing to be afraid of! I began by simply thinking about Jesus in the Gospels, about His words and actions, or about some important part of my Catholic faith, such as the Mass or God’s mercy. Then I found I wanted to talk to the Lord about what I was reflecting on.

In this way I came to realize that my thinking or reflecting (that’s the actual meditation) was leading me to new awareness and insights about Jesus and the truths of my Catholic faith. These insights, in turn, were stirring up various feelings within me (such feelings are called sentiments or affections). The more I meditated and came to new insights, the more I was led to speak with the Lord in my own words, having a loving conversation heart-to-Heart (mine with His). And that, quite simply, was mental prayer.

The Rosary and Stations of the Cross

In fact, I came to realize that I’d actually known for a long time what it is to meditate. For example, I’d done it for years whenever I prayed the Rosary. When reciting each of the fifteen decades, we meditate on one of the joyful, sorrowful, or glorious mysteries or significant events in the life of Jesus and His Blessed Mother.

As I constantly meditated on these mysteries, they became more meaningful for me. I began to see Jesus’ and Mary’s love in each mystery, and gradually realized they have that same love for me, too. By meditating, I was growing to know and love them more personally.

A similar thing was happening when I made the Stations of the Cross. Meditating on fourteen scenes from the passion and death of Our Lord, I experienced feelings (those sentiments or affections) of deeper gratitude to Jesus for all He suffered for me. There were feelings of deeper sorrow for my sins as well, since they caused Jesus to suffer so much. This, in turn, moved me to be more resolved, with the help of His grace, not to commit these sins again in the future.

Judging, then, from my own experience, I would say that many of us Catholics first learn to meditate by simply reciting the Rosary or making the Stations. As we seek to deepen this part of our mental prayer life, a few practical points about meditation and mental prayer may be helpful.

Formal Prayer vs. Mental Prayer

First, mental prayer (also called the prayer of the mind) usually develops naturally from formal prayer (or the prayer of the lips), as my own experience shows. A comparison between these two types of prayer can be useful. Recall St. John Damascene’s famous definition of prayer as “the raising of the mind and the heart to God.” In formal prayer, when we focus on the words of the prayer with our minds, the heart is then moved to love God with the sentiments contained in those words.

For example, if we recite an “Act of Faith,” the words prayed would logically stir up feelings or sentiments of faith in our hearts as we say something such as this: “God, You are all-knowing, and You reveal to us what we need to know and do to get to heaven. I believe in all that You have revealed to us! Please grant me a strong faith so that I will always believe what You teach us through Your Church.”

In mental prayer, however, the focus is not restricted by the words of a prayer formula. Rather, the focus of meditation is usually on a story, such as an event from the life of Jesus; or a teaching He gave, such as a parable; or something from the life of a saint, such as St. Thérèse; or something contained in a good spiritual book. My mind isn’t limited to the words, but moves through various details of the story or ideas contained in the teaching.

The mind, by reflecting on these details, can produce a far wider range of insights, which then stir more sentiments in the heart. The mind is freer to roam through this spiritual landscape. Thus the difference between formal prayer and the meditation of mental prayer is like the difference between reciting a poem, where each specific word is already given, and telling a story freely in your own words.

The Benefits of Meditation

Meditation as form of mental prayer has many benefits. One is a greater understanding and clarity regarding the teachings of our Catholic faith. By meditating, we go deeper into these realities and discover many valuable new insights that weren’t obvious at first sight.

St. John of the Cross used the image of mining for precious metals to describe this spiritual activity. If “there’s gold in them thar hills,” then the more you mine, the more you’ll find! The treasures of the Sacred Scriptures and other truths of our faith aren’t always obvious on the surface, but they’re limitless for those who bother to search for them.

Another benefit, as we’ve seen, is that our reflections stir up the vital sentiments of the heart so needed for loving and serving the Lord faithfully. These sentiments are really the most important fruit of mental prayer. They lead us to talk to God!

In fact, without these sentiments, we’d end up with a purely intellectual exercise, a mere reasoning process. Prayer requires talking with God, and that requires the sentiments.

In this regard, we should mention that beginners practicing mental prayer typically do much more reasoning or reflecting in the mind than speaking from the heart. But as time goes on, less reflection is needed to produce more sentiments. It’s like the growth of a human friendship.

When friends first meet, they need to ask lots of questions and share lots of facts about themselves to get to know each other better. After the friendship has grown, however, there are fewer questions but a deeper knowledge and more intense love for each other. In fact, when the reasoning in prayer becomes significantly less and the sentiments in the heart begin to predominate, it’s usually a sign that we’ve come to the third state or kind or prayer, called affective prayer (or the prayer of the heart).

Finally, the meditation of mental prayer helps us form the resolutions we need to grow in the love of God and our neighbor by a more conscious and consistent practice of the Christian virtues. Our meditations, in the light of the Holy Spirit and with the assistance of His grace, give us insights into how to apply the values of the Gospel, Church teachings, and the wisdom of the saints to our own daily lives. For all these reasons, the meditation that provides a foundation for mental prayer is a must for growth in Christian holiness!

Fr. Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R., is a priest of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, St. Felix Friary, 15 Trinity Plaza, Yonkers, NY 10701

4. E-sangha, Buddhist Forum & Buddhism Forum -> Topics in Buddhism -> Beginner's Buddhism



I have some questions about Buddhist prayers. My background is with Christianity, in which prayer's are directed to a specific deity. They sound a little like letters, sometimes, like "Dear Lord, Thank you for this day. Amen."

I'm wondering what a Buddhist prayer sounds like, and how it works? Praying to a deity is often asking for intervention. Do Buddhists pray to deities?

I have more questions, but I'm not sure how to word them. I know so little about this topic right now that it's hard to find a place to begin. If anyone can give me more information, I'd really appreciate it.

Also, as a side note, is there anywhere on this forum that provides a pronunciation key? That might sound a little silly, but I'm positive I'm saying some of the Sanskrit or Pali words wrong.


Prayers allow one to repent past transgressions and vow not to repeat them. They are also a means of ritually communicating with Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. While there are no prescribed times of prayer, Buddhists usually pray daily in the morning and/or evening, as well as before meals. Many Buddhists use prayer beads as a guide when reciting Buddha’s name. The 108 beads on a traditional rosary are often divided into four sections of 27 beads, with each section being marked by a smaller bead. The tied off ends of some rosaries have three little beads together signifying the Triple Gem. The cord stringing all the beads together can be said to represent the strength of the Buddha’s teachings. Prayer bracelets of fewer than 108 beads are also frequently used.

Prayer in Buddhism is not intercessory in nature. One does not ask Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to intercede or intervene. They do not have the power to grant things. Prayers are out of homage, respect, adoration, and repentance.


Hi Alex,

NO Buddhists who understand Buddha-dharma EVER pray to deities, or god!

In Buddhism, you learn Buddha-dharma, the teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha.

Dharma is the teaching of shakyamuni Buddha of how to liberate ourselves from sufferings and how to attain the enlightenment and become Buddha like him.

Buddha is a title meaning An Enlightened One.

Studying, learning, practicing and cultivating Buddha-dharma, you will have perfect knowledge, perfect wisdom, perfect compassion, and when you have everything perfect, you are enlightened. You achieved the Enlightenment and become Buddha.

There are many different schools in Buddhism. Just like in Christianity, there are catholic, protestant and all sort of traditions.

However, in Buddhism, we believe all schools of Buddhism are correct and can lead you out of sufferings and attain the enlightenment eventually.

I am in the Pureland Buddhism School, which I recite Buddha's names, recite Bodhisattvas' names, recite sutras and mantras. But I do not recite all mantras and all sutras. Just some main important ones.

After I recite Buddhas' and Bodhisattvas' name including mantras, I tranfer my merits of doing this to other living beings in 6 different sufferings realms.

I'm going to list them from less suffering to the most suffering realms.

1. Gods realms
2. Asuras realms
3. Humans realms
4. Animals realms
5. Ghosts realms
6 Hells realms

Living beings are experiencing suffering in these 6 realms, but gods and dieties who rebirth in heaven because in their past life, they have done good things and now they have good merits to live a rewarding life in heaven experience less sufferings, but after certain time, the lifespan of gods and dieties would end and they will fall back down to other realms within these 6 realms.

Because of Shakyamuni Buddha's compassion, his rebirth here on earth to teach all living beings, to teach them Dharma so that they can follow and liberate themselves out of these sufferings and never again have to expereince the life cycle of rebirth and death sufferings and torturement within 6 suffering realms.

He wants all of us to be enlightenment, to become Buddhas like him, and Dharma is what the taught which will liberate you from sufferings and attain the enlightenment eventually.

Because gods and deities are not enlightened beings, we should not worship them, we don't worship them. We don't worship anyone. Not even Buddha.

Buddha is our teacher he teaches us Dharma, we are his students we learn his dharma.

When we bow to buddha, we are not worshiping him as god or idoling him. We bow to buddha to thank him for his great compassion teaching us, we respect him as a teacher.

Even though Buddhism does not focuse on god, we do acknowledge that there are gods and gods are like any of us except they have more merits and have done more good deeds than us that what the reason why they rebirth into heaven and we rebirth in to this world human realms, other living beings are not as fortunate as human, they do more bad things in their past life, thus they rebirth as animals, ghosts, and hell beings experience MOST sufferings, MOST torturement to repay the bad actions they have generated.

I hope these sort of outline will help you understand a little more about Buddhism. If you have anymore questions or confusion you want to clarify, I would like to help you and explain the best of my knowledge. - Namo Amitabha Buddha.

5. Dharma Crumbs - Bread Crumbs of Buddha Dharma, wandering down the buddhist path? Here are some bread crumbs on the path. Little snippits of the way. A Daily Buddhist Blog.


I Like what Brian Massumi has to say about hope.  

It seems like a pretty buddhist approach. No hope. No Fear. Recognizing how uncertain the display of mind is.

"I’d like to think about hope and the affective dimensions of our experience — what freedoms are possible in the new and ‘virtualised’ global and political economies that frame our lives. To begin, though, what are your thoughts on the potential of hope for these times?

From my own point of view, the way that a concept like hope can be made useful is when it is not connected to an expected success — when it starts to be something different from optimism — because when you start trying to think ahead into the future from the present point, rationally there really isn’t much room for hope.

Globally it’s a very pessimistic affair, with economic inequalities increasing year by year, with health and sanitation levels steadily decreasing in many regions, with the global effects of environmental deterioration already being felt, with conflicts among nations and peoples apparently only getting more intractable, leading to mass displacements of workers and refugees ... It seems such a mess that I think it can be paralysing. If hope is the opposite of pessimism, then there’s precious little to be had. On the other hand, if hope is separated from concepts of optimism and pessimism, from a wishful projection of success or even some kind of a rational calculation of outcomes, then I think it starts to be interesting — because it places it in the present.

Yes — the idea of hope in the present is vital. Otherwise we endlessly look to the future or toward some utopian dream of a better society or life, which can only leave us disappointed, and if we see pessimism as the nature flow from this, we can only be paralysed as you suggest.

Yes, because in every situation there are any number of levels of organisation and tendencies in play, in cooperation with each other or at cross-purposes. The way all the elements interrelate is so complex that it isn’t necessarily comprehensible in one go. There’s always a sort of vagueness surrounding the situation, an uncertainty about where you might be able to go and what you might be able to do once you exit that particular context. This uncertainty can actually be empowering — once you realise that it gives you a margin of manoeuvrability and you focus on that, rather than on projecting success or failure. It gives you the feeling that there is always an opening to experiment, to try and see. This brings a sense of potential to the situation. The present’s ‘boundary condition’, to borrow a phrase from science, is never a closed door. It is an open threshold — a threshold of potential. You are only ever in the present in passing. If you look at that way you don’t have to feel boxed in by it, no matter what its horrors and no matter what, rationally, you expect will come. You may not reach the end of the trail but at least there’s a next step. The question of which next step to take is a lot less intimidating than how to reach a far-off goal in a distant future where all our problems will finally be solved. It’s utopian thinking, for me, that’s ‘hopeless’." - Posted by: Dave /  5/8/2004 08:50:42 PM

6. eBook - Free Download

Bhavana Vandana: Book of Devotion ...Compiled by Ven. H. Gunaratana


PDF file: 1.31 MB

From the introduction: The purpose of this book is manifold. One is to teach the users of this book of devotion how to pronounce Pali words correctly. The most effective way of doing so is to repeat the same thing over and over again. This book of devotion is made for daily recitation. We also intend to teach Dhamma through this devotional service, as the Pali language is used primarily to teach the Dhamma.


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