Filed in Tibetan, Devotion

Prayer: Gareth Sparham

An author, translator, and Tibetan monk explicates the historical meanings and uses of prayer in BuddhismGareth Sparham

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The most basic Buddhist prayer is “may all beings find peace,” which expresses the positive mental state of lovingkindness. It is not a prayer directed to some higher power outside the meditator, but the articulation of an attitude; at a deeper level, an aspiration; and at a still deeper level, a commitment. Lovingkindness is cultivated by the inner expression of this “prayer,” so that the meditator not only feels the peace of an open heart, but also in order that the meditation itself is not just another act dominated by narrow, selfish aims. In the earliest Buddhist literature, such basic prayers are called brahma-viharas (“the grounds of a spiritual person”), because they are the basic underpinning of a spiritual life, turning the activity that follows into a spiritual one. Such prayer is not particularly Buddhist at all, but expresses the basic attitude of spiritual life.

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