The Theosophical Forum – May 1945

HOW DOES THE BUDDHIST PRAY? (1)

He does not. This is a literal statement. The true philosophy of the Buddha precluded the dependence of the mind upon external props or propitiation of a superior force — in fact, it regarded such props simply as evidence of childish dependence.

Not that the Buddha denied the existence of forces in the Universe which are strong and mighty, or of forms of invisible life which may be regarded as equivalent to the 'gods,' or even of the Supreme Source or Cause of Being, which might be considered the equivalent of the present day conception of One God. But, the Buddha proclaimed the absolute necessity of conquering for oneself the lessons of life which came, and the foolishness of expecting an extraneous, though beneficent, power to intervene or interpose protection. He taught it by precept, discourse and example. He repeated it upon his death bed to his immediate followers. He taught the path of self-reliance, to do the right thing for the sake of right, not because of the belief in eternal punishment. He taught that cause produces effects, that effects can be calculated, and that the way to create the proper effects is by understanding and controlling causes. He taught the LAW, which is immutable in an unwavering and unbending expression all through the Cosmos.

He taught that Man is capable of self-directed effort; that his effort should be directed upon himself, not upon others; and that he should learn to follow LAW and thereby control the cause. He taught the way to break the hold of superstition upon the Mind, and that dependence upon prayer, appeal, favor or control of invisible help or guidance from superior forces or beings is an insidious superstition destined to weaken rather than to help the one who uses it.

He spoke of rites and ceremonies as unnecessary and inclined to deaden effort. He showed the futility of sacrifices, and the extreme desirability of the high way of Mind. Yet this is little explanation to the people who have been taught from childhood to rely on prayer — which is a euphemism for cold, calculated demands upon a power considered inefficient enough to overlook, or the wrung heart's appeal in agony and trouble. The last is comprehensible, but the formal routine prayers are not logical or sensible. They do not leave much doubt in a reasoning mind about the conviction in the prayer's mind that it is necessary to remind a very remiss power of the problem of the moment. And so one wonders how the custom has existed for so many ages, and one can only say — it is a custom and is devised to satisfy the need of weak and unimaginative people.

The Buddha taught men of maturity to think, to reason, to apply the forces of the mind and body to the problem in hand — to the problem of self, in short — and to throw off Desire which creates the need for prayer.

FOOTNOTE:

1. Reprinted from The Golden Lotus, July, 1944. (return to text)


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