Urban Dharma Newsletter... May 11, 2004
This Issue: Prayer as Practice
1. BUDDHIST PRAYER
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
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)
certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even
to prayer. - Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)
the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers. - Oscar
Wilde (1854 - 1900), An Ideal husband, 1893
as if everything depended upon God and work as if everything
depended upon man. - Francis Cardinal Spellman (1889 - 1967)
indeed is good, but while calling on the gods a man should himself
lend a hand. - Hippocrates (460 BC - 377 BC), Regimen
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.
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.
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.
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.
is an important practice that serves to internalize the ideals
of the Buddhist path.
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.
Buddhist Prayer Beads
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.
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:
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).”
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
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
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
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.
Soul Food to Go: Meditation - The Foundation of Mental Prayer
...Fr Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Rosary and Stations of the Cross
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.
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.
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.
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.
Prayer vs. Mental Prayer
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Benefits of 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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).
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!
Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R., is a priest of the Franciscan Friars
of the Renewal, St. Felix Friary, 15 Trinity Plaza, Yonkers,
E-sangha, Buddhist Forum & Buddhism Forum -> Topics
in Buddhism -> Beginner's Buddhism
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."
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
Buddhists who understand Buddha-dharma EVER pray to deities,
Buddhism, you learn Buddha-dharma, the teaching of Shakyamuni
is the teaching of shakyamuni Buddha of how to liberate ourselves
from sufferings and how to attain the enlightenment and become
Buddha like him.
is a title meaning An Enlightened One.
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.
are many different schools in Buddhism. Just like in Christianity,
there are catholic, protestant and all sort of traditions.
in Buddhism, we believe all schools of Buddhism are correct
and can lead you out of sufferings and attain the enlightenment
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
I recite Buddhas' and Bodhisattvas' name including mantras,
I tranfer my merits of doing this to other living beings in
6 different sufferings realms.
going to list them from less suffering to the most suffering
3. Humans realms
4. Animals realms
5. Ghosts realms
6 Hells realms
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
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.
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.
gods and deities are not enlightened beings, we should not worship
them, we don't worship them. We don't worship anyone. Not even
is our teacher he teaches us Dharma, we are his students we
learn his dharma.
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.
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
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.
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.
Like what Brian Massumi has to say about hope.
seems like a pretty buddhist approach. No hope. No Fear. Recognizing
how uncertain the display of mind is.
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?
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.
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 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.
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
eBook - Free Download
Vandana: Book of Devotion ...Compiled by Ven. H. Gunaratana
file: 1.31 MB
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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