The Nine Prayers: “… This kind of prayer is also contemplation, meditation, and practice. It generates spirituality in every moment of our daily life …” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh also observes that “… In Buddhism, our effort is to practice mindfulness in each moment, touching deeply what is going on within and all around us, and the fruits are always understanding, acceptance, love, and the desire to relieve suffering and bring joy …”
His above remarks on prayer are most apropos … a reminder that we can consciously sow the seeds of compassion, love, understanding, forgiveness, and joy – qualities that bring us together … qualities that dissolve hatred and divisiveness (neither of which serves us individually and collectively) … qualities that help germinate peace …
… a particularly important need in current times as the COVID crisis continues with surging virus … while the ongoing social unrest in America sees no end … sadly, incidents of hatred and divisiveness keep popping up with alarming frequency … all of which naturally brings despair, anxiety, and fear …
Yet … by consciously focusing on certain prayers – that deepen compassion for all – we can “nourish the tree of universal peace” through our individual and collective efforts … even if it’s bit by bit … even if the contrarian view says this is “not how the world works” or “this is too simple” or “this is very cliche” …
As His Holiness The Dalai Lama’s aptly says:
“I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquillity comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the principal source of success in life.”
So, as part of continuing the theme of encouraging all of us to cultivate and deepen qualities that bring us together … we offer a Buddhist prayer in this post including Thay’s commentary on prayers …
But before we get to that … let’s look at what other actions we can take …
As we’ve done since COVID emerged … Go Fund Me needs to be commended for organizing various campaigns targeted towards COVID-19 relief efforts. All of these campaigns are worthy of our attention … but for now we wanted to highlight TWO critical ones that we have donated personally and also as Stillness Speaks:
Despite the financial challenges that are amongst us all, if your situation allows you to donate and help then …
… please visit Frontline Responders Fund’s Go Fund Me page … and help deliver crucial supplies to these frontline responders …
… and/or visit America’s Food Fund Go Fund Me page and help feed the neighbors in need.
And, we again, express our deepest gratitude to a) the COVID-19 Frontline Responders (all the healthcare professionals – doctors, nurses, hospital/medical-services staff – firefighters, law enforcement, volunteers, and any/all the people involved in keeping the “system-at-large” functioning for ALL of us) … and b) Go Fund Me for organizing America’s Food Fund to feed the needy.
Now … let’s explore … cultivating love and compassion in our everyday life …
This prayer is excerpted from Thich Nhat Hanh’s Introduction to Thomas Merton’s (his teacher page is coming in the future) book Contemplative Prayer … in which Thay talks about the “… approach to prayer in Buddhism …” :
We practice silent meditation, and we try to practice mindfulness in everything we do, to awaken to what is going on inside us and all around us in each moment.
The Buddha taught: “If you are standing on one shore and want to cross over to the other shore, you have to use a boat or swim across. You cannot just pray, ‘Oh, other shore, please come over here for me to step across!’” To a Buddhist, praying without also practicing is not real prayer.
In a real prayer, you ask only for the things you really need, things that are necessary for your well-being, such as peace, solidity, and freedom—freedom from anger, fear, and craving. Happiness and well-being are not possible without peace, solidity, and freedom. Most of our desires are not for our peace, solidity, and freedom. While you pray, you are deeply aware of what you really need and what is just the object of your desire. This kind of prayer is the light of God that shines upon you, telling you which way to go in order to obtain peace, solidity, and freedom.
In a real prayer, you also touch the wholesome seeds in your consciousness and water them. These are seeds of compassion, love, understanding, forgiveness, and joy. If while praying you can recognize these seeds in you and help them grow, your prayer is already a deep practice. Following, for instance, is a Buddhist prayer for love that is practiced by all schools of Buddhism. Our Christian brothers and sisters know that God is love. This prayer is a practice to help us touch love and bring it into our daily life …
The prayer below uses He/she and They with the following – and most expansive – intention … which allows the person praying to “fold in” all people (e.g., “me,” “my” circle of people, “my” country, world, species) in an all encompassing (and essential) manner:
He/she: First the person we like, then the person we love, then the person who is neutral to us, and finally the person we suffer when we think of.
They: The group, the people, the nation, or the species we like, then the one we love, then the one that is neutral to us, and finally the one we suffer when we think of.
The content of the prayer and the way he/she and they are used allows us to include ALL “others” – the others we know, we love to varying degrees, are acquainted with, or are simply aware of – which, if one reflects further, is a profound way to seed then deepen peace all around us … covering all the other beings in the universe … and it truly helps us bring love into our daily life … no wonder it is practiced by all schools of Buddhism!
So … pause … read … reflect … and see where it leads you …
THE NINE PRAYERS
May I be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
May he/she be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
May they be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
May I be free from injury. May I live in safety.
May he/she be free from injury. May he/she live in safety.
May they be free from injury. May they live in safety.
May I be free from disturbance, fear, anxiety, and worry.
May he/she be free from disturbance, fear, anxiety, and worry.
May they be free from disturbance, fear, anxiety, and worry.
May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love.
May he/she learn to look at him/herself with the eyes of understanding and love.
May they learn to look at themselves with the eyes of understanding and love.
May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.
May he/she be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in him/herself.
May they be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in themselves.
May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in myself.
May he/she learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in him/herself.
May they learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in themselves.
May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day.
May he/she know how to nourish the seeds of joy in him/herself every day.
May they know how to nourish the seeds of joy in themselves every day.
May I be able to live fresh, solid, and free.
May he/she be able to live fresh, solid, and free.
May they be able to live fresh, solid, and free.
May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.
May he/she be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.
May they be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.
Thay also adds that “This kind of prayer is also contemplation, meditation, and practice. It generates spirituality in every moment of our daily life.”
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May you cultivate and deepen love and compassion in your daily rhythm and interactions with others … and …
May you remain safe and healthy as you navigate these troubling times.