|Written by Toni Dunlap|
|Saturday, 14 November 2009 13:17|
SGI members often relate experiences of "offering earnest prayer", or "praying from the bottom of my heart".
What do SGI members mean when they make such statements?
The Webster's Third International Dictionary defines prayer as "a solemn and humble approach to Divinity in word or thought, usually involving beseeching, petition, confession, praise, or thanksgiving".
In what ways does the Buddhist understanding of prayer accord with this definition, and how does it differ?
Prayer appears to be a universal human activity. There is evidence to suggest that humans have been engaged in some form of "prayer" since the earliest days of our species.
SGI President Daisaku Ikeda has written that religion grew from prayer; that the sentiment and act of prayer precedes the forms which different religious traditions have since given this primordial human act.
Also, as in many Eastern spiritual practices, there is an emphasis on a specific physical form of prayer. For practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism this means the reciting of portions of the Lotus Sutra and the repeated chanting of the phrase "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo", the name of the mystic law that lies within all life derived by Nichiren from the title of the Lotus Sutra. That the chant is audibly intoned expresses the fact that in Nichiren Buddhism prayer is not a purely meditative turning inward, but an act making manifest inner qualities, bringing them out into the real world.
SGI members direct their prayer to the Gohonzon, or object of veneration. This is a mandala, a symbolic representation of the ideal state of Buddhahood, or enlightenment, in which all the tendencies and impulses of life--from the most debased to the most noble--function in harmony toward happiness and creativity.
The Gohonzon is not an "idol" or "god" to be supplicated or appeased but a means for reflection and a catalyst for inner change.
SGI members are encouraged to make their prayers specific, concrete and focused on the real-life problems, hopes and concerns they confront.
SGI members are also encouraged to view prayer as fully integrated with the actions and behavior of daily life. Prayer only becomes genuine prayer when it is acted upon. To succeed in life we need determination and prayer, effort and ingenuity.
Most fundamentally, prayer is the process of bringing forth the supreme state of life referred to as our "Buddha nature". A potential possessed equally by all people, the Buddha nature is the fundamental, compassionate life force inherent in the cosmos. Prayer is the process of realigning our individual lives (the lesser self, with all its impulses and desires) with the rhythm of the living cosmos (the greater self). In doing this we unleash previously untapped sources of self-knowledge, wisdom, vitality and perseverance. And because, in Buddhist philosophy, there is no separation between the internal world of human beings and their environment, changes that occur in our inner life are reflected in our external circumstances.
Daisaku Ikeda has written that the ultimate form of prayer is in fact a vow--a vow to contribute to the happiness of others and the development of human society.
|Last Updated on Saturday, 14 November 2009 13:19|
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