On The Purpose Of Prayer

The Chosen PathPrayer, in Nichiren Buddhism, is unlike that in most other faiths, in that they are not directed to a higher power for help or consideration for the subject of the prayer.

When Nichiren Buddhists pray, they are making themselves more mindful of the effects they wish to see in their lives, and raising their life-state in order to enable them to create the causes to achieve those effects.

It is important to remember that our prayers reflect our life state. In that respect, prayer is a solemn means to raise our life-state or condition. To receive exactly the results for which we are praying, it is crucial to make a determined, single minded effort toward that goal.

This is the true path of manifesting faith in our daily life. Those of us who proceed along this narrow path, day after day, month after month, year after year, will develop, without fail. Just as a sapling grows into a mighty tree, to become a person of outstanding strength and character, one with wisdom, courage and compassion, relies on us remaining true to our chosen path.

Inner Communication

Inner CommunicationI hear myself once again having to explain, that unlike almost every other religion, Nichiren Buddhism sees things differently.

Not that I feel I am apologising for that, just that because it is a philosophy for life and living, rather than a religion in the more generally accepted sense, the meaning and purpose of prayer are in my opinion, fundamentally different.

As with all the deity based religions, prayer is a conduit of communication, a method for getting a message, or request heard. However, in Buddhism, prayer is a communication to the inner self, rather than to an external being, and in that respect, it is more about focussing the conscious and sub-conscious on a task or topic at hand.

Prayer in Nichiren Buddhism is an integral part of our daily practice. We say, or think, as three of the prayers are silent, four prayers during Gongyo and these are they:

First Prayer – for the appreciation of life’s protective forces:

I offer appreciation to the Shoten Zenjin, the functions in life and in the environment that serve to protect us, and pray that these protective powers may further be strengthened and enhanced through my practice of the Law.

Second Prayer – for the appreciation for the Gohonzon:

I offer my deepest praise and most sincere gratitude to the Dai-Gohonzon of the Three Great Secret Laws, which was bestowed upon the entire world.

I offer my deepest praise and most sincere gratitude to Nichiren Daishonin, the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law.

I offer my deepest praise and most sincere gratitude to Nikko Shonin.

I offer sincere gratitude to Nichimoku Shonin.

Third Prayer – for the attainment of kosen-rufu:

I pray that the great desire for kosen-rufu is fulfilled, and that the Soka Gakkai International develops eternally in this endeavour.

I offer my most sincere gratitude to the three founding presidents – Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Josei Toda and Daisaku Ikeda – for their eternal example of selfless dedication to the propagation of the Law.

Fourth Prayer – personal prayers and prayers for the deceased:

I pray to bring forth Buddhahood from within my life, change my karma and to fulfil my wishes in the present and the future.

* Prayers for specific outcomes are brought to mind here.

I pray for my deceased relatives and for all those who have passed away, particularly for these individuals:

* Here we bring to mind the names of those we particularly wish to remember

I pray for peace throughout the world and for the happiness of all humanity.

I think you can see that the prayers are mainly intended to bring to mind the subjects they contain, rather than being any form of communication with a third party. They focus the mind on the desired effect, and are intended to remind us that we need to make the causes ourselves, for the effects we wish to see.

We remember the dedication and sacrifices that the founding presidents have made in order to keep the faith alive and the efforts they have made in promoting the religion in the past decades. I feel it is important to mention that although the third prayer mentions the development of the Soka Gakkai International, it is more important that the aim of the SGI to promote peace for all on earth, rather than the organisation itself, is the desired outcome.

Personally, during the forth prayer, where we bring to mind specific outcomes, I remind myself of personal goals, self-improvement, human revolution and the like, as well as thinking of others who are struggling with challenges such as ill health, difficult situations and so on.

By bring these things into my consciousness means that I can focus on ways I may resolve my own challenges, or help others resolve theirs. There is no concept of me asking any third party to intervene in the outcome, the responsibility for that is all my own.

In that respect, I find Nichiren Buddhism to be a very empowering philosophy. I am taking responsibility for the events occurring in my life, myself. Whilst this puts the onus squarely on my own shoulders, it also gives me control, rather than handing it to any third party  whatsoever.

Far from being an all-knowing, all-seeing deity, I am, like you, a simple human being. So I make mistakes in the decisions and thoughts, words and deeds I perform each and every day. Because I take full responsibility for all those mistakes, I am free to learn from them, rather than ask forgiveness for them.

Prayers form a large part in that learning process. By purposefully bringing these erroneous issues into my consciousness, I am able to analyse, evaluate and modify my thinking. By doing this as part of my daily regime, I am forced to constantly confront my failings, and that improves my chances to improve and to increase the scope of  my enlightened nature.

So I hope you can see the contrast between Buddhist prayers and those of other theistic religions. Far from being a form of communication between the person praying and his or her god, it is communication between me and my consciousness. Furthermore, because I accept responsibility for everything that happens in my life, I am forced to search for the causes of the effects I am experiencing, rather than asking ‘why is this happening to me?’.

I am tempted to suggest that Nichiren Buddhists do not actually pray at all, in the accepted definition of that word. But although the intended recipient of our prayers could not be more different, the intention behind those prayers can be seen to be very much the same.

Inner Strength

Inner StrengthWe are very similar, in many ways, to steel reinforced concrete, in that much of our strength comes from within. The pillars of motorway bridges are immensely strong because, apart from the toughness of the concrete itself, they have a rigid steel structure embedded within them.

In the same way, we have an inner strength, an emotional structure that allows us to handle the rigours of daily life. The strength of that structure is different in each one of us, indeed it can change depending on the strain that life is exerting at any given point in time. But the important thing is that we can increase it through some very simple practices.

Generally speaking, we are stronger, mentally, when we see problems as challenges, and stronger still when we feel we can overcome those challenges and come out the other side unscathed. So how do we improve our resilience to the bumps and knocks that life delivers?

Well in my own case, I find that chanting raises my life-state and allows me to tackle challenges more positively. By chanting about a particular issue, I find that I see the details more clearly and hence have more ideas regarding the possible solutions to solve it.

Of course, other people have their own way to deal with challenges. Some meditate, some pray to their God for guidance or divine intervention, some in fact are so grounded that they seem to have a built in ability to cope.

However you go about it, the most important thing to remember is that confidence and determination are key factors in winning the battle. Sitting and cogitating the fluff in your navel, getting depressed, or feeling that the challenge is just far too great to tackle, will undoubtedly result in failure, so don’t do it.

One really good tip, whatever you are facing, is to try to break down the task at hand into bite sized pieces. As Geoff says to Ed, in The Buddha, Geoff and Me, ‘How do you eat an elephant?’ … ‘One bite at a time’. So take it bit by bit, deal with each day as it arrives, and remember to stay strong and above all positive. If you believe you will win, then you are already half way there.

Buddhahood In This Lifetime?

Buddhahood in this lifetime?Religion must teach us an “attitude to life”. To live a life of true human dignity is certainly difficult.

Life is change; it is continuous change. Nothing is constant. The four sufferings of birth, old age, sickness and death are an eternal theme that no one can escape.

Amid harsh reality, people yearn from the depths of their beings to live with dignity and for their lives to have meaning, and they make efforts toward that end. The product of these human yearnings, these prayers, is religion. Religion was born from prayer.

What is Nichiren’s response to these prayers of human beings? What attitude toward life does he teach? The answer, in short, is the principle of attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime.

What is needed to attain Buddhahood in this lifetime? Wisdom, Courage and Compassion and that comes from sustained, diligent practice.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

November 2013 – Global Meltdown?

Radiation Effects - Click for detailsIn March 2011 I wrote a post asking for thoughts and prayers for Japan in the wake of the huge earthquake. Today I am asking for you to offer prayers for the team of experts who will, at the beginning of November, attempt the clean-up of the Fukushima nuclear plant.

In a horrific ‘damned if we do, damned if we don’t’ scenario, there is a pressing need to remove the spent fuel rods from the cooling pond of reactor no. 4 before another earthquake occurs. The task is unbelievably complex and dangerous and involves moving 400 tonnes of highly irradiated and damaged fuel rods.

The rods, of which there are over 1300, are 4.5 metres long, weigh about 300kg and contain Plutonium, amongst other highly radioactive components. Ordinarily, the process would be monitored by a sophisticated computer controlled safety system, but since the disaster destroyed this, it will have to be done using machines controlled by hand.

When you consider that the total radiation of the rods is equivalent to around 14,000 times that released by the Hiroshima atomic device used in WWII, the scale of the problem becomes clear. Coupled with the fact that there is no form of containment vessel to stop radiation escaping into the atmosphere, this becomes a truly global issue.

Whilst not trying to create any form of panic, I urge you to read an article describing the situation, and maybe share the information contained within it with your friends and families. It is important that the facts about the gravity of this challenging task are widely known. Our thoughts and prayers should be with all those concerned, for all our sakes.

It’s Prayer Jim, But Not As We Know It

Prayer in Nichiren BuddhismNot for the first time, and rather like a scratched record, I hear myself once again explaining, that unlike almost every other religion, Nichiren Buddhism sees things differently. Not that I feel I am apologising for that, just that because it is a philosophy for life and living, rather than a religion in the more generally accepted sense, the meaning and purpose of prayer are in my opinion, fundamentally different.

As with all the deity based religions, prayer is a conduit of communication, a method for getting a message, or request, heard. However, in Buddhism, prayer is a communication to the inner self, rather than to an external being, and in that respect, it is more about focussing the conscious and sub-conscious on a task or topic at hand.

Prayer in Nichiren Buddhism is an integral part of our daily practice. We say, or think, as three of the prayers are silent, four prayers during Gongyo and these are they:

First Prayer – for the appreciation of life’s protective forces:

I offer appreciation to the Shoten Zenjin, the functions in life and in the environment that serve to protect us, and pray that these protective powers may further be strengthened and enhanced through my practice of the Law.

Second Prayer – for the appreciation for the Gohonzon:

I offer my deepest praise and most sincere gratitude to the Dai-Gohonzon of the Three Great Secret Laws, which was bestowed upon the entire world.

I offer my deepest praise and most sincere gratitude to Nichiren Daishonin, the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law.

I offer my deepest praise and most sincere gratitude to Nikko Shonin.

I offer sincere gratitude to Nichimoku Shonin.

Third Prayer – for the attainment of kosen-rufu:

I pray that the great desire for kosen-rufu is fulfilled, and that the Soka Gakkai International develops eternally in this endeavour.

I offer my most sincere gratitude to the three founding presidents – Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Josei Toda and Daisaku Ikeda – for their eternal example of selfless dedication to the propagation of the Law.

Fourth Prayer – personal prayers and prayers for the deceased:

I pray to bring forth Buddhahood from within my life, change my karma and to fulfil my wishes in the present and the future.

* Prayers for specific outcomes are brought to mind here.

I pray for my deceased relatives and for all those who have passed away, particularly for these individuals:

* Here we bring to mind the names of those we particularly wish to remember

I pray for peace throughout the world and for the happiness of all humanity.

I think you can see that the prayers are mainly intended to bring to mind the subjects they contain, rather than being any form of communication with a third party. They focus the mind on the desired effect, and are intended to remind us that we need to make the causes ourselves, for the effects we wish to see.

We remember the dedication and sacrifices that the founding presidents have made in order to keep the faith alive and the efforts they have made in promoting the religion in the past decades. I feel it is important to mention that although the third prayer mentions the development of the Soka Gakkai International, it is more important that the aim of the SGI to promote peace for all on earth, rather than the organisation itself, is the desired outcome.

Personally, during the forth prayer, where we bring to mind specific outcomes, I remind myself of personal goals, self-improvement, human revolution and the like, as well as thinking of others who are struggling with challenges such as ill health, difficult situations and so on.

By bring these things into my consciousness means that I can focus on ways I may resolve my own challenges, or help others resolve theirs. There is no concept of me asking any third party to intervene in the outcome, the responsibility for that is all my own.

In that respect, I find Nichiren Buddhism to be a very empowering philosophy. I am taking responsibility for the events occurring in my life, myself. Whilst this puts the onus squarely on my own shoulders, it also gives me control, rather than handing it to any third party  whatsoever.

Far from being an all-knowing, all-seeing deity, I am, like you, a simple human being. So I make mistakes in the decisions and thoughts, words and deeds I perform each and every day. Because I take full responsibility for all those mistakes, I am free to learn from them, rather than ask forgiveness for them.

Prayers form a large part in that learning process. By purposefully bringing these erroneous issues into my consciousness, I am able to analyse, evaluate and modify my thinking. By doing this as part of my daily regime, I am forced to constantly confront my failings, and that improves my chances to improve and to increase the scope of  my enlightened nature.

So I hope you can see the contrast between Buddhist prayers and those of other theistic religions. Far from being a form of communication between the person praying and his or her god, it is communication between me and my consciousness. Furthermore, because I accept responsibility for everything that happens in my life, I am forced to search for the causes of the effects I am experiencing, rather than asking ‘why is this happening to me?’.

I am tempted to suggest that Nichiren Buddhists do not actually pray at all, in the accepted definition of that word. But although the intended recipient of our prayers could not be more different, the intention behind those prayers can be seen to be very much the same.

Reflections

It is important to remember that our prayers reflect our state of life. In that respect, prayer is a solemn means to raise our life-state or condition. To receive exactly the results for which we are praying, it is crucial to make a determined, single minded effort toward that goal.

This is the true path of manifesting faith in our daily life. Those of us who proceed along this narrow path, day after day, month after month, year after year, will develop, without fail. Just as a sapling grows into a mighty tree, to become a person of outstanding strength and character, one with wisdom, courage and compassion, relies on us remaining true to our chosen path.

The Purpose Of My Prayer

An article, written by me, for the Homophilosophicus blog to explain my view of the role of prayer in Nichiren Buddhism.

Prayer in Nichiren BuddhismJust like a scratched record, I hear myself once again having to explain, that unlike almost every other religion, Nichiren Buddhism see things differently. Not that I feel I am apologising for that, just that because it is a philosophy for life and living, rather than a religion in the more generally accepted sense, the meaning and purpose of prayer are in my opinion, fundamentally different.

As with all the deity based religions, prayer is a conduit of communication, a method for getting a message, or request, heard. However, in Buddhism, prayer is a communication to the inner self, rather than to an external being, and in that respect, it is more about focussing the conscious and sub-conscious on a task or topic at hand.

Prayer in Nichiren Buddhism is an integral part of our daily practice. We say, or think, as three of the prayers are silent, four prayers during Gongyo and these are they:

First Prayer – for the appreciation of life’s protective forces:

I offer appreciation to the Shoten Zenjin, the functions in life and in the environment that serve to protect us, and pray that these protective powers may further be strengthened and enhanced through my practice of the Law.

Second Prayer – for the appreciation for the Gohonzon:

I offer my deepest praise and most sincere gratitude to the Dai-Gohonzon of the Three Great Secret Laws, which was bestowed upon the entire world.

I offer my deepest praise and most sincere gratitude to Nichiren Daishonin, the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law.

I offer my deepest praise and most sincere gratitude to Nikko Shonin.

I offer sincere gratitude to Nichimoku Shonin.

Third Prayer – for the attainment of kosen-rufu:

I pray that the great desire for kosen-rufu is fulfilled, and that the Soka Gakkai International develops eternally in this endeavour.

I offer my most sincere gratitude to the three founding presidents – Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Josei Toda and Daisaku Ikeda – for their eternal example of selfless dedication to the propagation of the Law.

Fourth Prayer – personal prayers and prayers for the deceased:

I pray to bring forth Buddhahood from within my life, change my karma and to fulfil my wishes in the present and the future.

* Prayers for specific outcomes are brought to mind here.

I pray for my deceased relatives and for all those who have passed away, particularly for these individuals:

* Here we bring to mind the names of those we particularly wish to remember

I pray for peace throughout the world and for the happiness of all humanity.

I think you can see that the prayers are mainly intended to bring to mind the subjects they contain, rather than being any form of communication with a third party. They focus the mind on the desired effect, and are intended to remind us that we need to make the causes ourselves, for the effects we wish to see.

We remember the dedication and sacrifices that the founding presidents have made in order to keep the faith alive and the efforts they have made in promoting the religion in the past decades. I feel it is important to mention that although the third prayer mentions the development of the Soka Gakkai International, it is more important that the aim of the SGI to promote peace for all on earth, rather than the organisation itself, is the desired outcome.

Personally, during the forth prayer, where we bring to mind specific outcomes, I remind myself of personal goals, self-improvement, human revolution and the like, as well as thinking of others who are struggling with challenges such as ill health, difficult situations and so on.

By bring these things into my consciousness means that I can focus on ways I may resolve my own challenges, or help others resolve theirs. There is no concept of me asking any third party to intervene in the outcome, the responsibility for that is all my own.

In that respect, I find Nichiren Buddhism to be a very empowering philosophy. I am taking responsibility for the events occurring in my life, myself. Whilst this puts the onus squarely on my own shoulders, it also gives me control, rather than handing it to any third party  whatsoever.

Far from being an all-knowing, all-seeing deity, I am, like you, a simple human being. So I make mistakes in the decisions and thoughts, words and deeds I perform each and every day. Because I take full responsibility for all those mistakes, I am free to learn from them, rather than ask forgiveness for them.

Prayers form a large part in that learning process. By purposefully bringing these erroneous issues into my consciousness, I am able to analyse, evaluate and modify my thinking. By doing this as part of my daily regime, I am forced to constantly confront my failings, and that improves my chances to improve and to increase the scope of  my enlightened nature.

So I hope you can see the contrast between Buddhist prayers and those of other theistic religions. Far from being a form of communication between the person praying and his or her god, it is communication between me and my consciousness. Furthermore, because I accept responsibility for everything that happens in my life, I am forced to search for the causes of the effects I am experiencing, rather than asking ‘why is this happening to me?’.

I am tempted to suggest that Nichiren Buddhists do not actually pray at all, in the accepted definition of that word. But although the intended recipient of our prayers could not be more different, the intention behind those prayers can be seen to be very much the same.

The Power Of Prayer

During morning Gongyo we say four Prayers, the first out loud, the last three silently to ourselves. During evening Gongyo, the first prayer is omitted.

The First Prayer – Appreciation for Life’s Protective Forces (spoken – morning Gongyo)

lotusI offer appreciation to the Shoten Zenjin, the functions in life and in the environment that serve to protect us, and prey that these protective powers may be further strengthened and enhanced through my practice of the Law.

The Second Prayer – Appreciation for the Gohonzon (silent)

lotusI offer my deepest praise and most sincere gratitude to the Dai-Gohonzon of the Three Great Secret Laws, which was bestowed upon the entire world.

I offer my deepest praise and most sincere gratitude to Nichiren Daishonin, the Buddha  of the Latter Day of the Law.

I offer my deepest praise and most sincere gratitude to Nikko Shonin.

I offer sincere gratitude to Nichimoku Shonin.

The Third Prayer – For the attainment of kosen-rufu (silent)

lotusI pray that the great desire for kosen-rufu is fulfilled, and that the Soka Gakkai International develops eternally in this endeavour.

I offer my most sincere gratitude to the three founding presidents – Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Josei Toda and Daisaku Ikeda – for their eternal example of selfless dedication to the propagation of the Law.

The Fourth Prayer – Personal prayers and prayer for the deceased (silent)

lotusI pray to bring forth Buddhahood from within my life, change my karma and to fulfil my wishes in the present and the future.

(we may offer additional prayers here)

I pray for my deceased relatives and for all those who have passed away, particularly for these individuals:

(we name our relatives and friends here)

I pray for peace throughout the world and for the happiness of all humanity.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

Core Strength

Inner StrengthWe are very similar, in many ways, to steel reinforced concrete, in that much of our strength comes from within. The pillars of motorway bridges are immensely strong because, apart from the toughness of the concrete itself, they have a rigid steel structure embedded within them.

In the same way, we have an inner strength, an emotional structure that allows us to handle the rigours of daily life. The strength of that structure is different in each one of us, indeed it can change depending on the strain that life is exerting at any given point in time. But the important thing to understand, is that we can increase it through some very simple practices.

Generally speaking, we are stronger, mentally, when we see problems as challenges, and stronger still when we feel we can overcome those challenges and come out the other side unscathed. So how do we improve our resilience to the bumps and knocks that life delivers?

Well in my own case, I find that chanting raises my life-state and allows me to tackle challenges more positively. By chanting about a particular issue, I find that I see the details more clearly and hence have more ideas regarding the possible solutions to solve it.

Of course, other people have their own way to deal with challenges. Some meditate, some pray to their God for guidance or divine intervention, some in fact are so grounded that they seem to have a built in ability to cope.

However you go about it, the most important thing to remember is that confidence and determination are key factors in winning the battle. Sitting and cogitating the fluff in your navel, getting depressed, or feeling that the challenge is just far too great to tackle, will undoubtedly result in failure, so don’t do it.

One really good tip, whatever you are facing, is to try to break down the task at hand into bite sized pieces. As Geoff says to Ed, in The Buddha, Geoff and Me, ‘How do you eat an elephant?’ … ‘One bite at a time’. So take it bit by bit, deal with each day as it arrives, and remember to stay strong and above all positive. If you believe you will win, then you are already half way there.

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