Tuesday, February 8, 2011

How to pray?

Question : (Unedited)
Is it best to pray standing up, sitting down, on your knees, or bowing down? Should my hands be open, closed, or lifted up? Do my eyes need to be closed when I pray? Is it better to pray in a temple building, or out in nature? Should I pray in the morning when I get up, or at night before I go to bed? Are there certain words that I need to say in my prayer? How do I begin my prayer? What is the proper way to close a prayer? What is the proper way to pray? Do any of the above things even matter?

Hi L...,

Thank you for asking me.

I shall answer your last question first.  It really doesn't matter how you "pray".

Actually Buddhists do not "pray" in the Christian sense.  However we pay homage to the image of the Buddha as a mark of reverence.  We also recite the suttas which are the teachings of the Buddha; and after that we radiate good thoughts to share with the Devas (higher beings) and other beings.  With this sharing we may make aspirations that the Devas may protect us.  This is the Theravada practice.

Coming back to the "proper" rites and rituals; it will depend on which tradition you practise.  The three main groups, namely, the Tibetan, Chinese Mahayana, and Theravada have different "styles" in their "praying" gestures.  The best way to know them is to visit the respective temples and join in the rituals.

I can share with you the Theravada way I am practising.  I recite the "salutations and refuges" and the five precepts first thing in the morning and last thing before going to sleep.  As my alter is low, I recite, kneeling with hands clasped.  After the recitation, I bow three times with my forehead touching the floor.  Please click here to follow the ritual:


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