For he who is active, mindful,
pure in deeds, considerate,
self-controlled, living by Dhamma,
heedful, fame greatly increases.
- Dhammapada 2:24
We always hear people around us telling us to "pray for the best", "pray that it all goes well", "pray that they will be fine", and so on. In Buddhism, since we talk about the concept of letting go of things so much, why do we pray?
We might often hear our grandparents chanting "Namo Amitabha" or "Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambuddhasa". These are the most common forms of prayers, or chanting in the two largest denominations of Buddhism, Mahayana and Theravada respectively.
But what are they chanting and praying for? Is it true that by reciting just those names or phrases, good luck will come your way? That is not entirely true. During the Buddha's time, about 2500 years ago, paper did not exist. Stone carvings were the most popular way of writing things down and it was quite difficult.
What the Buddha's disciples did was instead, recite his teachings daily, which is what we know today as Buddhist Prayers or Chanting. And at the same time, these Prayers, Chanting, whatever we may call it are also known to be a form of meditation. After all, meditation at its core is focusing your whole mind on something, and that is exactly what Buddhist prayer is about.
But it does go beyond that. As Buddhists, we believe in the existence of various realms, including the realms of heaven. In those heavens, there are beings called devas (equivalent to gods in English) that are able to hear our prayers and help us to a certain extent. There are also Bodhisattvas, beings who have attained a state of understanding of the world of that equal to a Buddha, but do not wish to enter Nibanna (the final goal) yet. But there is only so much they can do. We ourselves should not just have faith, but also put our mind and heart to everything we do in our lives.
"May all distresses be averted.
may every disease be destroyed.
May there be no dangers for you.
May you be happy & live long.
For one of respectful nature who
constantly honors the worthy,
Four qualities increase:
long life, beauty, happiness, strength."
By the power of this truth, may all beings be well and happy.