Category Archives: Prayer

Vajrasattva mantra – karma purification

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Sanskirt
oṃ vajrasattva samayam
anupālaya
vajrasattva tvenopatiṣṭha
dṛḍho me bhava
sutoṣyo me bhava
supoṣyo me bhava
anurakto me bhava
sarva siddhiṃ me prayaccha
sarva karma su ca me
cittaṃ śreyaḥ kuru hūṃ
ha ha ha ha hoḥ
bhagavan sarva tathāgatavajra
mā me muñca
vajrī bhava mahā samaya sattva
aḥ (hūṃ phaṭ)

English:
Oṃ Vajrasattva! Preserve the bond!
As Vajrasattva stand before me.
Be firm for me.
Be greatly pleased for me.
Deeply nourish me.
Love me passionately.
Grant me siddhi in all things,
And in all actions make my mind most excellent. hūṃ!
ha ha ha ha ho!
Blessed One! Vajra of all the Tathāgatas! Do not abandon me.
Be the Vajra-bearer, Being of the Great Bond!
āḥ (hūṃ phaṭ)

The King of Prayers (Gandavyuha Sutra) – The Prayer of Ways High and Sublime

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King of Prayer, also known as Gandavyuha Sutra, the last chapter of Avatamsaka Sutra. Named “King” because all Buddhist Prayers and most of Buddhist Liturgies are inspired from this sutra. This sutra was pronounced by Samanthabhadra Bodhisattva to Sudhana Kumara, give us an example on How should we pray as a Buddhist.


I bow down to the youthful Arya Manjushri!

O lions amongst humans,
Buddhas past, present and future,
To as many of you as exist in the ten directions
I bow down with my body, speech and mind

On waves of strength of this king
Of prayers for exalted sublime ways,
With bodies numerous as atoms of the world,
I bow to the Buddhas pervading space

On every atom is found a Buddha
Sitting amongst countless Buddhas’ spiritual children,
I look with eyes of faith of the victorious ones,
Thus filling the entire sphere of phenomena

Of these with endless oceans of excellence
Endowed with an ocean of wondrous speech
I sing praises of the greatness of all Buddhas,
A eulogy to those gone to bliss

Garlands of flowers I offer them,
And beautiful sounds, supreme perfumes,
Butter lamps and sacred incense
I offer to all the victorious ones

Excellent food, supreme fragrances
And a mound of medicinal substances as high as Mount Meru
I arrange in a special formation
And offer to those who have conquered themselves

All peerless offerings I hold up
In admiration of those gone to bliss
With the strength of faith in sublime ways,
I prostrate and make offerings to the conquerors

Long overpowered by attachment, aversion and ignorance,
Countless evils I have committed
With acts of body, speech and mind.
Each and every one of these I now confess

In the perfections of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas,
The arhats, training and beyond,,
And in the latent goodness of every living being,
I lift up my heart and rejoice

O lights into the ten directions,
Buddhas who have found the passionless stage of enlightenment,
To all of you I direct this request:
Turn the incomparable wheel of Dharma

O masters wishing to show parinirvana,
Stay with us and teach, I pray,
For as many eons as there are specks of dust,
In order to bring goodness and joy to all beings

May any small merits that may have amassed
By thus prostrating, making offerings, confessing, rejoicing
And asking the Buddhas to remain and teach the Dharma,
Be dedicated now to supreme and perfect enlightenment

May my offerings be received by all past Buddhas
And by all those now abiding in the ten directions.
May all the Buddhas who have not yet come
Quickly perfect their minds and reach Buddhahood, the state of supreme full awakening

May all the Buddha realms of the ten directions
Remain forever vast and completely pure.
May the world be completely filled with Buddhas who have attained illumination under sacred trees,
And may they all be surrounded by bodhisattvas

May all living beings in the ten directions
Always abide in health and joy.
May they live in accord with the way of Dharma
And may their every wish be fulfilled

By my living in the ways of enlightenment,
May I remember my past lives in all my reincarnations;
And in all cycles of death, migration and rebirth,
May a sensitivity for truth be ever strong in me

By my following in the footsteps of the Buddhas,
May I utterly perfect the sublime ways of the bodhisattvas,
And may I practice the faultless, undegenerating, stainless
And pure ways of self-control

May I master all languages that exist,
Including those of the gods, yakshas, spirits and varieties of humans,
As well as all forms of communication of living beings,
That I may be able to show the Dharma in every way

Striving thus and in the transcending perfections,
May I never forget the bodhi mind,
And may I totally cleanse from within my mindstream
All negativities and mental veils

May I gain freedom from karma, delusion and karmic maras
To be able to live in the world unaffected by its stains,
Like an unstained lotus grows in the mud,
And like the sun and the moon shine without obstruction in the sky

For as long as there are Buddha fields and directions
May I strive to quell the misery of the lower realms,
May I place all living beings only in happiness
And bring them A only happiness and joy

May I strive to complete the ways of enlightenment
And to abide in ways harmonious with the world.
May I expose to others the ways most sublime
And myself abide in them throughout all future eons

May my ways and the ways of a bodhisattva
Always go together hand in hand
In body, speech and mind
May I attune to their sublime ways

May I never be separated from the good friends
Who reveal the path of the sublime ways
And who wish only to benefit me;
May I never disappoint them even for a moment

May I constantly envision the perfect Buddhas,
The protectors who are surrounded by bodhisattvas,
And in the future may I never weary
Of devoting myself to them with all my strength

May I forever uphold the holy Dharma of the Buddhas
And illumine the sublime way of enlightenment,
May I practice throughout all future ages
The ways and deeds of the sublime path

Circling in the various realms of existence
May I amass inexhaustible goodness and wisdom,
And may I become an unending treasure of qualities
Such as methods, wisdom, samadhi and the experience of a bodhisattva

In every atom are Buddha fields numberless as atoms,
Each field is filled with Buddhas beyond conception
And each Buddha is surrounded by a myriad bodhisattvas,
To all these dwellers in sublime ways I turn my attention

Thus all atoms within the directions
Abide within the space of a single hair
An ocean of Buddhas within an ocean of Buddha fields
Performing enlightened activities for an ocean of eons

Each Buddha, with perfect speech, releases
An ocean of sounds with every word that is said
To satisfy the infinitely diverse tendencies of beings,
Thus does the speech of a Buddha constantly flow

All these conquerors past, present and future
Continually turn the methods of Dharma wheels;
With all the powers of my mind I listen
For the inexhaustible sound of their words

All future eons that could possibly be
Manifest within me in a single instant,
And I myself in a fraction of a moment
Enter into all these eons of the three times

All past, present and future lions among humans
I envision with the instantaneous wisdom
And by the power of the bodhisattvas’ examples
I focus upon the objects of their experience

I manifest Buddha fields past, present and future
Upon one single atom of existence
And then I transform every single atom
Of existence into a Buddha field

By this, when the future lights of the worlds
Eventually gain bodhi, turn the Dharma wheels
And reveal the passing to nirvana’s supreme peace,
May I take rebirth in their very presence

Then may I attain the ten powers:
The power of instant magical emanation,
The power which is a vehicle with every door,
The power of excellent activity,

The power of all pervading love,
The power of constantly positive energy,
The power of passionless wisdom,
The powers of knowledge, method and samadhi,
And the power of enlightenment itself

May I purify the power of karma,
May I crush the power of delusion,
May I render powerless the powerful negative forces
And may I perfect the powers of sublime ways

May I purify an ocean of realms,
May I liberate an ocean of sentient beings,
May I see an ocean of truths,
And may I realise an ocean of wisdom

May I perform an ocean of perfect deeds,
May I perfect an ocean of prayers,
May I revere an ocean of Buddhas,
And may I practice untiringly for an ocean of eons

Through my practice of the sublime bodhisattva ways,
May I gain the enlightenment of Buddhahood
And then fulfil the enlightened and sublime aspirations
Of the Buddhas, past, present and future

In order to match the ways of the sage
Called Samantabhadra, the always sublime one,
Chief amongst the awakened ones’ spiritual children,
I now dedicate all virtues that I possess

Just as the sublime sage Samantabhadra,
Dedicated all pure practices of body, speech and mind
To the attainment of a pure state and pure realms,
So do I now dedicate the fruit of all my efforts

In order to engage in all sublime virtues
I offer the prayer of Manjushri;
In the future may I never become faint
In striving to perfect the exalted bodhisattvas’ way

May my deeds never reach a limit,
May my qualities of excellence become boundless
And by abiding in immeasurable activity,
May I find Buddhahood, the state of limitless manifestation

Limitless is the extent of space,
Limitless is the number of sentient beings
And limitless is the karma and delusions of beings,
Such are the limits of my aspirations

One may offer supreme ornaments of the Buddha fields
Of the ten directions to the conquerors
And also offer the highest joys of humans and gods
For eons numerous as atoms of the world
But to read or hear the King of Prayers
With eyes looking towards supreme illumination
And faith shining in one’s heart for even an instant
Gives birth to far more superior merit

Should anyone recite this aspiration of sublime ways,
They will pass beyond all states of sorrow,
Will rise above all inferior beings and gain
A vision of Amitabha, Buddha of Infinite Light

Even in this very lifetime,
All sublime joys will be theirs,
The experiences of the all sublime Samantabhadra
Without obstructions, will quickly be theirs

Merely by giving voice to these aspirations
Of the sublime ways of a bodhisattva,
The effects can only be known by an omniscient Buddha;
Therefore doubt not that it leads to enlightenment

In order to follow the excellent examples set
By the wisdom of the bodhisattva Manjushri,
And the always sublime Samantabhadra,
All virtues I dedicate to their peerless ideals

All conquerors passed into the three times
Have praised as supreme this peerless dedication;
Therefore I also surrender all roots of my activities
To the sublime goals of a bodhisattva

When the moment of my death arrives,
May I remain free from the spiritual obscurations;
May I perceive the face of Amitabha
And transmigrate to Sukhavati, the pure land of joy

Having arrived there, may I fulfil
All aims of this prayer of aspirations
And benefit the countless living beings
Residing throughout the ten directions

In the joyous Mandala of Amitabha, Buddha,
May I be reborn from a beautiful lotus
And may I there have the pleasure of gaining
A pure prophecy from Amitabha, himself

Having won this word of prophecy
By the power of mind, may I fill all directions
With many millions of mystical emanations
And bring limitless benefits to the world

If by reciting this prayer of the sublime ways,
I have amassed a tiny fragment of goodness,
May it work immediately to fulfil
All Dharmic hopes of the living beings

Cheng Beng

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By Ven Aggacitta 

Venue: TIMS 

Since it is the Cheng Beng season, Ven. Aggacitta checks the suttas to see if the custom of making offerings to departed relatives is in accordance with the Buddha’s teaching. 

Making Offerings to Departed Relatives 

Some people say that Buddhists should not offer food to their departed relatives as it is not a Buddhist practice. Instead they should invite the Sangha, make offerings to the Sangha and then transfer merits to the departed relatives. Is this true? Let us investigate by scrutinising some relevant suttas. 

Also an Ancient Indian Custom 

The tradition of offering food at the graves of ancestors was practised even during the time of the Buddha. There is a story in the Vinaya Pitaka (Pac 40) of a bhikkhu who, being very austere in his practice, used only the shrouds of corpses for his robes and ate only food offerings found in the charnel ground, a sort of cemetery where corpses were left to decompose. Naturally, the food offered by relatives to the dead was good food, so he looked healthy. 

Rumours circulated that he might have consumed human flesh! When the Buddha heard the complaint, he set the rule that food must be offered to the monks before they could eat it. That is why monks have to wait for food to be offered to them before they can consume it, not because they are high and mighty and need to be served. So, during the Buddha’s time, it was already an Indian custom to make food offerings to departed relatives. 

Offerings Include Food and Drinks 

The practice of making offerings to departed relatives is also discussed in Sigalovada Sutta (DN 31) in the section expounding the five responsibilities of children. The fifth responsibility is to continually make offerings to departed relatives. 

Making offerings here could mean offering food to departed relatives. It is not explicitly mentioned in the Sutta that they must invite the Sangha for dana and then transfer merits to the departed relatives, although this is suggested by the commentary. Hence, we cannot say unequivocally that offering food to the departed relatives is not a Buddhist practice. 

The Tirokutta Sutta (Khp 7) describes the circumstances of departed ones with special reference to their living relatives. We recite this when invited for dana on the occasion of a family bereavement. The sutta states that living relatives should make offerings of food and drinks to the departed ones. In this same sutta, there is also a reference to offerings made to the Sangha. 

In Janussoni Sutta (AN 10.177), a brahmin named Janussoni asked the Buddha, “Master Gotama, we brahmins give dana and do things in full faith, thinking, ‘May this dana reach our departed relatives. May the departed relatives make use of this dana.’ Master Gotama, can this dana reach our departed relatives? Can the departed relatives make use of the dana?” 

The Buddha’s answer was: “If there is an opportunity, they can. If there is no opportunity, then they cannot” He then clarified thus: 
conditions of non-opportunity: 
those who break their precepts and are reborn in hell

those who break their precepts and are reborn as animals

those who keep precepts and are reborn as humans

those who keep precepts and are reborn as devas

condition of opportunity: those who break their precepts and are reborn in the realm of ghosts.

It is clear here that dana can only reach the deceased if he is reborn as a ghost. 

In this sutta, we learn three important points: 
The dana given by the living to the deceased cannot reach him if he is born in hell, in the animal kingdom, in the human world or even in heaven.

The dana can only reach the deceased if he is born in the realm of ghosts.

Dana here has to specifically mean offering food and drinks to the departed relatives since this dana cannot be received by a departed one reborn as a deva. It cannot mean transference of merit because this other type of dana can reach a departed relative born as a deva, who benefits by feeling honoured (as we shall see later).

Contemporary Findings 

According to a parapsychology study in Myanmar carried out about twenty years ago, some children could remember their past lives as hungry ghosts. They remembered consuming filth such as sputum, faeces and urine. They were able to eat discarded food but needed only a single grain of rice to be full. 

When I was young, I often fell sick due to supernatural causes. I could not be cured (by Western medicine) until my mother went to the temple to consult the medium and then made offerings to the unseen beings at the roadside. This custom is practised in Burma too. 

These and many other contemporary experiences seem to suggest that some ghosts or unseen beings can actually partake of food and drink. Some people even say that these unseen beings do so by “sucking” the qi (essence) of the offerings; that’s why food that has already been offered tastes rather flat! 

Offerings to Devas as well 

In Pattakamma Sutta (AN 4.61) the Buddha said to Anathapindika that a noble disciple who acquired his income through righteous means should spend it by making five types of offerings (pañcabali.m kattaa hoti). These are offerings to 
living relatives

guests

departed relatives

the king (government)

devas.

There is also a verse in Ratana Sutta (Khp 6) that urges deities to protect humans because they make offerings to them day and night. 

The above references bring us to the following conclusion: a Buddhist is actually encouraged by the Buddha to make offerings to departed relatives as well as to devas. 

Dedication of Offerings to Devas 

In the story on the making of Pataliputta village found in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta (DN 16), the Buddha advised people to offer dana to virtuous monks and dedicate the offering to the devas there. We do the same when we are invited for dana in a new house. These devas, being honoured and cherished, will honour and cherish the occupants of the house in return. 

This shows that a smart person who invites virtuous and restrained Sangha members for dana and then dedicates the offering to the guardian devas in the dwelling can be protected and assisted by the devas. So, dedicating one’s merits to devas is also a practice encouraged by the Buddha. 

Sharing of Merits 

We should take note that the actual procedure of “transferring” or “sharing” merits is not mentioned in all the suttas I have referred to so far, nor in any other sutta in the Pali Canon that I am currently aware of. “Should dedicate the offering” (dakkhi.namaadise) seems to be the nearest hint found in the Pataliputta story (DN 16). 

Conditions for Efficacy 

According to the Commentary to the Tirokutta Sutta, however, a few factors decide whether the merits thus dedicated can be received by the departed relative: 
The donor must think of the deceased and dedicate the dana to the deceased.

The dana recipient must be virtuous.

The deceased must rejoice in the dedication of merits (e.g. by saying, “Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!”).

The commentary argues that the merits done by one cannot be transferred to another because the law of kamma states that beings are the owners of their own kamma. However, by rejoicing in another’s meritorious deed, one is creating wholesome kamma for oneself. In the case of a departed one reborn as a deprived ghost, rejoicing in the dana dedicated to him can give immediate relief and other benefits, particularly if the dana recipient is virtuous. 

A Buddhist son may choose to have a “pure Buddhist” funeral for his departed Taoist father. Now, even if the deceased was aware of the dedication of the Sanghadana, he might not be happy or rejoice because the funeral was not conducted in the Taoist tradition. So, according to the above conditions, he cannot receive the merits, can he? 

On the other hand, if the funeral was conducted according to his personal preference, do you think he would be happy? If he rejoiced in his family’s act of filial duty as recommended by the Buddha in Sigalovada Sutta, Pattakamma Sutta and Tirokutta Sutta, would he be creating wholesome kamma that could also give immediate benefits? Think about it. 

Other Ways of Sharing Merits 

Apart from the dedication of offerings to devas as mentioned in the suttas, and to departed ones as explained in the commentaries, there may also be other ways of sharing merits, as the experiences of contemporary Buddhists imply. There is one real-life story (see The Story of Old Man Tiow by Sichitra Ronruen) that happened in Thailand not too long ago. An irreligious old man was killed and landed in hell. But because of his son, who was a meditating monk, he came back to the human world for a new lease of life. 

How did the monk save his father? He did not do any dana. All he did was meditate then dedicate the merits to his father. And the father was not even aware of the dedication, not to mention rejoicing in it. But he was saved anyhow. This does not seem to be in line with the commentary’s conditions for the efficacy of sharing merits. How can we interpret this apparent inconsistency? 

According to Luang Phor Jaren (Phra Rajsuddhiñanamongkol, author of The Law of Kamma), after meditation, one’s mind is very clear and powerful. Hence, even people who are alive can receive merits that are dedicated to them after meditation, although they may not even be aware of the sharing. 

So, it seems that we can transfer the merits not only from dana but also from any wholesome act such as meditation. 

Based on the above investigations into the suttas, I would like to propose the following interpretation with respect to offerings to departed relatives during Cheng Beng. We can make two types of offerings: the direct offering of food and drinks to the departed ones, and the dana to the Sangha followed by sharing of merits. 

Thus the practice of making offerings to our departed relatives during Cheng Beng is a good custom which we should uphold.