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I have been calling myself a Buddhist for as long as I can remember, but I have never done it right. I notice that my mom would chant the mantras from the book, while usually I would just say anything while I pray. I am wondering... is there a right or respectful way of praying in Buddhism?

Just out of curiosity. Thank you!

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    Hi Tina, and welcome to SE! If you don't mind me asking, who are you praying to? What is the purpose and your intentions when praying? Kind regards! – Brian Díaz Flores Feb 20 at 17:13
  • I am not sure what you meant by "who are you praying to?" But if you meant which branch of Buddhism I worship in, it's Mahayana Buddhism. And for intentions... probably the same as other people. For happiness, luck and peace for myself and the people around me. Also, for forgiveness. – Tina Feb 22 at 10:09
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is there a right or respectful way of praying in Buddhism?

Praying is conventionally understood as a petition or wish addressed to a deity.

In Buddhism, one might:

meditate spreading a heart full of love to one direction, and to the second, and to the third, and to the fourth. In the same way above, below, across, everywhere, all around, spread a heart full of love to the whole world—abundant, expansive, limitless, free of enmity and ill will. --SN46.54

These two are similar except in one important way. Praying often involves intention and volition. In other words one quite often prays for a fixed result (e.g., rain, health, etc.). Notice that in the described mettā meditation, there is simply an extension of good will without boundaries, intention or direction. From a Buddhist perspective, intention and volition tend to perpetuate the cycle of suffering from craving particular outcomes.

This wisdom about intention and volition is also evident in religions with formal prayer. For example, there is the well-known phrase: "be careful what you pray for."

In Buddhism, one cultivates Right View, Right Thought, Right Speech and Right Action in the context of your question. Interestingly, asking about Right View is itself Right View!

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You asked “is there a right or respectful way of praying in Buddhism?” I’d say that @OyaMist and @Brian_Dias_Flores were kind of on the right track, but I'd like to explore this deeper. Specifically, I’m wondering what it is you mean by the word “pray”? The Oxford English dictionary (and I'd guess most of us also) has 2 main definitions.

If you mean it in the sense of “to address God or a god with adoration, confession, supplication, or thanksgiving”, I’d say that it is not clear that the Buddha taught that there was a supreme being or multiple such (god(s)/God). In fact, in the discourse with Anathapindika, he seems to indicate that such does not exist. So I’d say in that sense a Buddhist does not pray. It would make no sense.

If you mean in the sense of “wish or hope strongly for a particular outcome or situation”, I’d say that this might be a way of describing meditation; although I’m not sure I’d use the words “wish” or “hope” here. Maybe more “seek for” would be better used for what you do when you meditate.

The net of it is that I’d suggest that a Buddhist does not “pray” at all; as “meditation” is something completely different from “prayer” in the most common meanings.

With regard to the mantras used in the meditative process, I was taught that these are not designed to be communications to any outward being or entity. Rather, they were designed to be repetitiously repeated to, by sound and thought, be aimed inward in order to help align the body and mind and intensify the meditative process. Nonsense syllables can be used as well as repeated “words” so I’m not sure you could consider them “prayers” in any meaningful sense.

I am admittedly, though, a lay person who is struggling with understanding the teachings of the Buddha myself and would appreciate correction by any who have better knowledge in these areas.

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The video shows how Buddhist monks pray: Morning Chanting - Pali & English and also allows you to pray with them by reading the words.

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