By Nhat Quan
One day, a Buddhist called the temple to ask me to take care of her mother's funeral because the doctor said there was no cure. After a while, she hung up the phone, she called back to say her mother was too tired to bear it and asked us to consider a good day to let her mother go. Hearing that, I said:
- I can see if it's a good day, but I don't know if she will leave or not, long or fast.
Then that Buddhist begged:
- My mother is exhausted, please Master pray that my mother will die immediately so that she will not suffer physical pain.
I laughed and said:
- If the doctor can not cure the patient, he or she can only suggest that the family withdraw the means of supporting the patient's life. No Doctor has ever suggested injecting drugs to kill a dying patient, let alone me, as a teacher who can only pray when someone is already dead, but never pray for death while someone is still alive living.
Through this dialogue, I would like to take this opportunity to talk about the topic: People who know how to pray.
Talking about prayer, under the principle of a cultivator, there are two types of religion: popular religion and true religion.
- Popular religion often takes many forms to satisfy the curiosity of the ignorant crowd. Like praying, or asking a superior for something. The believer's job is to focus only on begging prayer. For the masses, this type of religion is just praying, begging, offering sacrifices, a form of exchange such as making offerings on some items and then asking for some favors such as peace of mind, family security, business prosperity, material development, money, health...etc...
While, The only requirements of true religion are: chanting sutras, reciting the Buddha's name, and sitting in meditation, to correct oneself. Because chanting, reciting Buddha's name, and sitting in meditation is both the key and the door that opens all the vast doors of Spirituality. If there is prayer, then prayer is only an expression of gratitude and thanks to the Buddhas. No begging or wishing for anything.
So if you want to approach true religion, the prerequisite is that you have to step out of the mass religious consciousness. You must be brave, overcoming all the ordinary obstacles to enter the gate of true religion. Only then, until then, will you know who you are and who the Buddha is.
More than 800 years ago, Shinran Shonin appeared in Japan to promote the Jodo Shinshu or True Pure Land Way and the basic, and closest, teachings that Shinran Shonin taught his followers:
- Reciting the Buddha's name is to express gratitude to the Buddhas only!
Other than that, doesn't ask for anything else. Because the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are above, everywhere in the universe, so they already know what your heart needs and wants. So you don't need to express in vulgar words, heavy desires, complicated demands, and lengthy requests
Indeed, what you think, how you act, and how you speak are all watched and observed by your angels and protectors! So if you have a prayer, you should not waste your time telling a long story, or confessing your feelings. And don't pray so long, because it won't help you at all. Because such a prayer is an exchange, almost a trade, with the gods, with Buddhas and Bodhisattvas only!
And if you let greed run rampant all over your lips, it's playing a language game with the Group of Gods, with the Almighty, not with prayer. The best way is to look at what the Buddha and Bodhisattvas have done for you. That's how they have shown you the source of sublime teachings for you to practice, then life is happy. They have given you a tremendous sensitivity to beauty. They have given you awareness. They have given you the possibility to become a Buddha. So you don't want anything more.
Feel grateful, and then prayer has wings, they can soar, and reach the ultimate. However, there are also many people who pray with the attitude of:
- Pray only when they need something or to ask God for something!
Really, don't ask for anything. Begging for anything that goes wrong! Because the Buddha, the Bodhisattvas have already given you everything, you just accept it by reciting the Buddha: Namo Quelling Disasters Lengthening Life Medicine Master, that's enough!
Be thankful for everything they've done. Let's bow our heads! With five parts of the body close to the ground and pay respects sincerely and gratefully. In gratitude, only the heart is needed, so words are not used, because it is useless. Bow in deep gratitude, in silence. Prayer really shouldn't be expressed in words; for words are not as suitable as prayer. Language is intended for all other things of commerce, except prayer. You just keep silent, or recite the Buddha's name because reciting the Buddha's name is the most wonderful prayer! And you will be amazed, when the light of wisdom begins to open your mind, wisdom will cover your life. At that time you are bathed in the sea of merit, in divine and sublime grace.
If praying with greed and delusion is no different from begging, entrusting your destiny to the grace of a supernatural being. But, praying according to the Buddha's wisdom is not at all like that. The person who prays must have complete self-control and must understand the law of cause and effect, and it is important to practice good and evil in order to transform their own karma. In other words, prayer is only for the purpose of lighting up the lamp of awakening in the mind, thereby helping you to pray for self-sublimation, transforming your body and mind in a positive direction to be peaceful in life.
In fact, there are no Buddhas or Bodhisattvas to bless anyone. And it's even more wrong if someone thinks that you live against the rules and then pray and make offerings to the Buddha so that you can avoid the consequences!
The essence of prayer is that there is nothing wrong with it, but people often abuse it too much into cheap games for profit. The true nature of prayer is therefore a method of looking back at your true self, observing your mind, and eliminating worldly desires, selfishness, dependence, and weakness.
Prayer is a way of centering, intending to transform your heart, the heart of others. In other words, Prayer is the process of giving rise to the highest state, which is your Buddha nature. A potential that everyone possesses equally. Buddha's nature is the fundamental energy of life and love inherent in the universe. Prayer is the process of transforming selfish impulses into selfless love.
Prayer also means eliminating the ego, until the ego becomes pure, to achieve spiritual attainment and merge with the true self. That is the purpose of those who know how to cultivate and practice properly, it is the prayer that the venerable ones teach. To be honest, Buddhism has absolutely none of the styles or concepts of prayer like other religions. From the day I came to know the Buddha's way of liberation, I have heard teachers teach prayer, through which usually Buddhist monks or laypeople practice repentance and make great vows. Include:
- Revealing repentance, that is, expressing past mistakes. Then generating bodhicitta, ie making a great vow to save sentient beings, is called genuine prayer.
For example, when seeing and hearing animals being tortured, starved, or oppressed, Buddhists make the following vows:
Disciple today, in front of the Buddhas, Dharma Venerables, and Saint Sangha in the ten directions, please bear witness with great compassion:
- From now on until the day of enlightenment, we vow to support, protect, and protect all immeasurable and boundless sentient beings. We open mercy, love, closeness, and sharing to all animals. If there are sentient beings who are oppressed, forced, imprisoned, or starved, we vow to save, care for, cherish, and make those sentient beings safe and happy.
May the ten directions, together with the end of space, all the Three Jewels prove to us. After making the great vows, we, with our five parts of the body bow down to the ground, bow to the Three Jewels...
Or, for example, if you want to quit a profession that you consider dishonest, make a vow:
- Disciples today, in front of the Buddhas, Dharma, sages, and Sanghas in the ten directions, please bear witness to me, with great compassion, I am vowing from now to the very end of the future time boundaries definitely do not do this unscrupulous profession, and decide to propagate the Buddhadharma, making the true Dharma last for a long time.
I vow to give up my life, my property, and my honor to revive the Buddhadharma, to make the lamp of the Dharma shine brighter and brighter, not to be dimmed, and to let sentient beings enjoy the endless bliss of the Dharma.
That's the prayer of a Buddhist who knows how to practice and who can only act like that, that is, express their feelings and then make a great vow to save sentient beings. If you can do that, the good gods always follow and support, no need to beg or ask for anything. When you practice sincerely, you are known by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and protected by the Dharma protectors. According to the Venerable Thien Tam telling the story:
- Once upon a time, there was a certain Zen master who practiced very diligently, determined to realize enlightenment in this life, so he gave up his position as the abbot of a famous big temple in the city without regret. Alone, he groped up the craggy towering mountains, looking for a hidden cave to practice.
In addition to eating a meager meal each day, consisting of boiled wild vegetables and a handful of broken rice, he devoted all his time to meditating diligently according to the first line taught by the patriarch. But after practicing rigorously for so many years, he still felt that he had not made much progress, because every time he meditated, he often fell asleep, so the results were not satisfactory. He devised a perfect remedy for his sleeping sickness.
So the next day, he went to the side of the mountain, climbed a cliff next to the mouth of the deep abyss, and matured in meditation. Knowing that, if he were to fall asleep for a moment, he would fall into the abyss and would be instantly dismembered. Because he had to deal with death that would happen at any time, he did not dare to fall asleep like before, always awake, trying to master his meditation practice.
For the first few days, he felt he could bear it, but after a few months he began to get tired: His health seemed to be drained and his muscles were exhausted. Day by day, he became more and more tired and lethargic, so much so that one day he fell asleep without realizing it. And of course, this ascetic fell into the abyss, with amazing speed. Anyway, this practice, still helps the monk to stay awake to know that he is about to die. The Master then closed his eyes, single-mindedly remembered the Buddha, and prayed to be reborn in a good realm for easy practice in the next life.
Suddenly, a strange event happened: The monk found his body suspended in mid-air. It seemed that a very large hand was slowly lifting the monk's body onto the ledge. Howling because he had escaped death, he found himself sitting on the rock as before, looking down at the bottom of the black abyss. The Master asked himself:
- Why don't I die? Or is there a god to save me?
Suddenly, a voice resounded in the solitude of the mountains:
- Yes. I just saved you, no one else!
Terrified, the monk asked:
- Who are you?
Still, the same voice rang out:
- I am the Dharma Protector, with the great vow to protect all true practitioners in this world.
- Why did the Dharma Protector save me?
- Because I see you practice very diligently, so follow to help and protect. Always by your side all this time, and you don't even know it!
The Zen master was so happy, he happily started a conversation:
- You are the Dharma Protector, you must have traveled many times around this Jambudvida or the Saha world, right?
The protector, though hidden in the sky, still answered loudly:
- Yes. I regularly travel everywhere in this Saha world and have met countless genuine monastics who are now striving to practice diligently to quickly attain full liberation.
The Zen master was both delighted and proudly asked:
- So, did the Dharma Protector ever meet someone with great temperament, good study skills, and diligent effort like me?
- Much. There are many diligent practitioners like you. Countless tell. But those who are better than you are also many times more, as much as the sand of the Ganges.
- Really?
- Yes. I dare not lie. But I also say goodbye to you forever. I would like to inform you in advance that, from today, I no longer follow and support you as before!
The monk was amazed:
- Why did the Dharma Protector abandon me like that? Can Dharma Protector tell me why?
Dharma Protector smiled faintly:
- No reason at all. You have let go of your arrogant and conceited words, so the merit of practicing for so long has been dissipated, there is nothing left.
If you've read and recited the sutras, it's clear: The biggest obstacle for a cultivator is the Self. Once the ego swells, the more difficult it will be for the spiritual career. At the same time, that Self will destroy all the merit that you have accumulated so far. Meanwhile, humility is the first step for those who fervently seek bodhicitta. The more arrogant a practitioner is, the more difficult it is for a practitioner to realize, and it can be said that anyone who shows even a little bit of pride and arrogance will not only not be able to realize enlightenment, but conversely, you will always be locked in a circle stupidity, ignorance, and delusion. Therefore, I can no longer follow and protect a person with low morals like you!
The mountains and forests were deserted and silent again.
It seems that the dharma protector has really disappeared, so the Zen master can no longer hear the voice echoing through the void. Only the rustling sound of the wind around the sharp rocky outcrops remains.
The Zen master expressed great regret because he couldn't control himself while he was happy, so he uttered words that were too arrogant, causing the merit of his practice to be washed away by the water of ignorance.
Tears streamed down his bony cheeks, the Zen master shivered, quickly folded his hands, and bowed his head:
- Namo Quelling Disasters Lengthening Life Medicine Master, let me repent for the mistakes of this life as well as the endless past lives. Namo Quelling Disasters Lengthening Life Medicine Master, Namo Quelling Disasters Lengthening Life Medicine Master.
In a rush of emotion, he recited Namo Quelling Disasters Lengthening Life Medicine Master non-stop. Moments later, suddenly feeling sorry for himself for having lost so many merits and virtues in his practice, his heart suddenly vibrated wildly and he repeatedly recited Namo Quelling Disasters Lengthening Life Medicine Master. Finally, the Master lamented:
- Well, that's it. It's my fault that I'm too complacent, so the Dharma Protector isn't as supportive as before, but I have to practice anyway. So Zen Master continued to work diligently as before. Still patiently sitting next to the mountain to focus on meditation, determined not to back down.
Then one day, too tired, he fell into the cliff again.
Now, Zen Master is sure that the Dharma Protector is no longer around to save him in time from danger. He kept his mind mindful to hope to be reborn in the Buddhist lineage. This is the point of view of those who know how to cultivate and practice at the time of death, who know well the importance of how to keep their mind in mindfulness. For the purpose of being reborn in a family with Buddhist beliefs, or born in countries where the Buddha appeared, eligible to practice Buddhism.
But this time more surprisingly, Zen Master still found himself being carried by a giant hand up to his seat on the rock. Terrified, because the event happened beyond his imagination, the Master asked loudly:
- Who saved me?
The familiar voice spoke again.
- I am the Dharma Protector!
- Well, you said that from now on, you won't follow me anymore
Still, the voice from the sky echoes:
- Yes. Exactly. I am the Dharma Protector here! Previously, I decided to abandon you just because your arrogance has destroyed all your inherent spiritual virtues. But in the time after that, you recited Namo Quelling Disasters Lengthening Life Medicine Master continuously and repented like that, so I support you again as before.
- Just for that?
- Yes. The title Namo Quelling Disasters Lengthening Life Medicine Master has the most wondrous and wondrous power, not only to wash away his sins in countless past lives but also to manifest all the inconceivable merits of all Buddhas of the ten directions. Therefore, I volunteered to follow you forever, to create all favorable conditions for practice, from now until you are liberated and realized.
In short, the essence of prayer is that there is nothing wrong with it, but do not abuse it too much into cheap games for profit. Because prayer is a method of looking back at your true self, observing your mind, and eliminating worldly desires, selfishness, dependence, weakness, or pride. Through the above story, you can see that the Zen Master was so complacent that he was no longer supported by the Dharma Protector. But when the Master knew how to repent and recite the Medicine Buddha's prayer, the Dharma Protector returned to protect him. Thus, reciting the Buddha's name and praying especially the Medicine Buddha's name, is a way of concentration and intention to transform your mind and the hearts of others. Or to put it another way, prayer is the process of giving rise to the highest state of your Buddha nature. A potential that everyone possesses equally. Buddha's nature is the fundamental life energy and love inherent in the universe. Prayer is the process of transforming selfish impulses into selfless love. Prayer also means to eliminate the ego, until the ego becomes pure, to achieve spiritual attainment, and to merge with the true self.
You should know that when you start to think, when you recite a single thought of truth and goodness, the Buddhas will protect you, and the gods will support you. When you generate a bad thought that has just arisen, ghosts and karma will follow. So when you pray, you don't have to be long. Because of what your mind wants, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of Goodwill know it all. And as a person who knows how to cultivate and practice when speaking, you should be very careful when opening your mouth, if your thoughts think of fame and gain, it is creating more false karma, immediately causing good gods, and Bodhisattvas to be shunned.
So you need to understand clearly, in this day and age, people are in a crazy situation, turning crazy before the world is going crazy, you just need to keep your mind so true, and act so righteously clearly. Having a day's time is a good day's work. But in the good, the most beautiful, the most outstanding is the work of spreading the Dharma to benefit sentient beings.
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