“P” is for Prayer
Perhaps you don’t think of “prayer” when you think of Buddhism. I don’t think most people do; perhaps including Buddhists!
AND, as I kept trying to figure out what to do “P” on, “prayer” kept coming up…..
Perhaps it’s because there’s been many deaths and challenging aging and illness events in my life and in the lives of my various sanghas members lately….
Here are some thoughts on prayer and how it could fit into a “Buddhist viewpoint.”
Prayer often arise at those moments when we meet a situation that seems beyond our sense of “This is what’s happening ‘to me’ or ‘in my world.'” It seems, to me, to arise at those moments when the LARGENESS of life and living makes us go, “Huh?”….Maybe even “What the f___!”
Another way to put it is….. At those moments of awe. When I was young, I remember hearing in the Presbyterian church we went to that “Yahweh,” the Hebrew word for “God,” means “to be” or “to become.” However, to say this name of God was to be blasphemous. I don’t remember why this was so…..These days, I’m wondering if perhaps, the admonition not to use this name of God was a way to say “God” and what he represents is TOO BIG to think that we could grasp and/or hold on to? Perhaps, that “God” is similar to “All encompassing” so how can we think of even naming this force?
How does one name AWE?
Similarly, at a moment when we find it hard to make sense of the LARGENESS of life and life’s happenings, is when a need for something which can help us to be with this vastness that a prayer is wanted? Something for us to utter in this moment which helps to ground us, to place us, in the midst of such wonder….And , perhaps to also be able to be with the accompanying fear or anxiety; or even with joy which comes with it? Or, perhaps, a wanting of some utterance to help us hold the sadness or grief in such a moment?
At such times, I’m thinking that Christianity responses with the thought of “Yahweh”/”God” and the utterance of “Amen.”
What does Buddhism provide? That’s what I’m pondering……
What’s coming up is Metta, Karuna, and Mudita…..And Upekkha; the 4 Brahma Viharas. These are the four qualities of heart and mind in which EASE and OPENNESS can be accessed and known.
Metta: Open Friendliness/Lovingkindness….Heck, “Just Kindness” and Goodwill.
Karuna: Compassion. Willingness to BE WITH. “Respect for the human condition”
Mudita: Sympathetic/Emphatic Joy is the usual translation. I like to say Inclusive Joy. Joy with another.
Upekkha: Equanimity. Balance of mind. Patience when the bigger picture can be accessed or held.
These are qualities we already have and they are qualities we can cultivate. We practice cultivating the ground for easier access to remembering and resting in them when we mos need it.
For those moments when our mind or heart skips a beat and has the spaciousness to not follow its habitual reactions and contractions. At such moment, it’s possible to utter:
May I meet this with friendliness as it reveals itself to me.
May I be with pain or suffering as it is and not try to make it, or myself, different.
May I rejoice and be happy for my own or other’s good fortune.
May I be aware of interdependence and that all are dependent on many and various causes and conditions. That all things, people, and situations have a design that I may not be able to see, know, or understand.
These four Brahma Vihara qualities interacts with each other, helping us to hold our awe and wonder with what we could call a “safety net” of ease and openness.
And, if we need to shorten it (like with the utterance of “Amen”) then ours could be “May.”
A prayer of “May it be possible.”