#1 Do Buddhists Pray?
Yes and no. One should first note that Buddhism is a non-theist religion, meaning there is no God or omnipotent authority that Buddhists pray to.
Because of this, Buddhists don’t necessarily pray.
They moreso engage in an inward prayer of self-reflection, meditation, and stillness.
Possessing more than 375-million Buddhists globally, this spiritual faith is less devoted to an external God, generally focused on inward reflection and reaching a state of nirvana.
Some may pray to the Buddha or sit before a statue of the religion’s founder; however, it is considered a reverence and respect for Buddha (not a worshipping practice). Buddhists do not see the Buddha as a divine entity, they merely have adoration for his principles and founding principles.
The Buddhist style devotion and their non-theistic version of ‘prayer:’
- Is generally gone three times daily (monks praying more frequently or for longer durations)
- Pays homage and gratitude to the Buddha
- Honors Dharma (the cosmic law of social order)
Buddhist prayers are commonly chants or repetitive mantras (such as ‘om’) that send one into a meditative and tranquil state.
Prayer in the Buddhist culture can display itself in many forms.
Some of the capacities by which prayer will be conducted are:
- Praying to the Buddha (a sculpture, image, or thought of Buddha)
- Worshipping and chanting in a group
- Meditating in silence
- Chanting from religious texts (The Sutras, Theravada Scriptures, Mahayana Canons, Pali Canon, Sanskrit Texts, etc.)
- Reflecting on Mantras (could be a word or phrase; a common one is the Avalokiteshvara: ‘om mani padme hum,’ translating abstractly in English to, ‘Behold! A jewel lies within the lotus!’ It is impossible to translate the significance of the poetry behind their symbolism and vernacular idiosyncrasies.
It is not uncommon for a Buddhist to hold prayer beads, close their eyes, or settle into a relaxed state to engage in prayer. Since Buddhists do not necessarily believe in a God; the goals of their prayer will be to release themselves from the earth-bound luxuries, detach from a state of wanting, and become ‘one’ with what is.
Seeking a state of nirvana is seen as a sacred path that mimics the journey of Buddha.
The path to prayer and enlightenment will be cultivated when one can disconnect from morality and live by the fundamental teachings of:
- The Twelve Links of Causation (a doctrine pertaining to the oneness of the world)
- The Three Signs of Being (change, suffering, and releasing the self or ‘I’)
- The Four Noble Truths (related to suffering)
- The Noble Eightfold Path (related to thought, speech, action, and mindfulness)
- The Three Fires (Desire, anger, and delusion)
- The Five Moral Precepts (utilized by the monastic orders and laity and regards – taking life, behaving unchastely, lying, stealing, and consuming toxic or addictive substances).
- The main scriptures and holy texts in Buddhism are the:
- Pali Canon (Tipitaka, also known as Triple Basket)
- Sanskrit Tripitaka
- Theravada (Way of the Elders) – Supposedly the closest to Buddha
- The Sutras (teachings of the Buddha)
- ‘Not to do any evil; to cultivate good; to purify one’s heart – this is the teaching of all the Buddhas.’
- Thebuddhistsociety.org – Fundamental Teachings
- How to Pray Like a Buddhist – Washington Post; Published May 7th, 2015.
#2 Do Buddhists Believe in Karma?
Yes, Buddhists and Hindus believe in the dharmic and karmic principles of the cosmic universe. Dharmic implications are that of social order, while karmic implications are that of a moral order.
Karma is considered the sums of one’s actions. Being that Buddhists also uphold the concept of reincarnation, their explanation of the afterlife is quite distinct from Christianity, Hinduism, or any other theology.
Buddhists believe in seven dimensions or realms of heaven. By possessing good karma in this life, you are supposedly reincarnated in an elevated state from your previous life. If you did badness upon others, were selfish, or behaved in a way that cultivated bad karma, you would pay for that by being in a downgraded state from your previous life.
Karma could be summarized as cause and effect.
A good deed produces good karma, while a bad deed produces bad karma. The effects of these causes may be:
- Or emotional –
Ultimately resulting in one’s happiness or opposing misery.
Because of these implications, Buddhists honor karma by living gently, selflessly, and compassionately.
In the worst of cases, Buddhists believe that karma’s omnipresent power of jurisdiction can result in a person being demoted to an animal or even torment for eternity in a realm of hellish pain.
- “Krishna taught in the Bhadavad Gita: ‘karmanyeva-adhikaraste ma phalesu kadachana’, which means, ‘Be active, never be inactive, and don’t react to the outcome of the work.” – Buddhist-Scriptures.
- Buddhists View of God, Creation, and Karma Explored | Exploring Buddhism; AIB, November 28th, 2018.
#3 Do Buddhists Believe in Heaven?
Yes, Buddhists believe in dimensions of Heaven, but it is not akin to the Christian depiction of Heaven. There are seven higher levels of a heaven-like dimension (Loka) that are seen by Buddhists as esoteric planes within their cosmology.
The Buddhist conception of the afterlife contains an infinite degree of realms, bodies, entities, and realities. Seeing life itself as an everyday ‘hell on earth,’ Heaven is achieved on earth by reaching a state of nirvana.
Buddhists honor death as a natural aspect of life’s cyclical pattern, but they do not see it as the final destination. Believing instead in a rebirth process, reincarnation, Buddhists honor the idea that life will reoccur and repeat itself until growth is nurtured.
Within the Buddhist faith, there are numerous levels of Heaven and varying degrees of nirvana in each; these levels are a part of samsara (a philosophical, Sanskrit term that roughly means ‘wandering in the world,’ and is defined as ‘the indefinitely repeated cycle of birth, misery, and death as caused by karma).’
Through enduring and growing through samsara’s ongoing cycles, one can release themselves by obtaining enlightenment (nirvana), which is one of the closest things to the Christian idea of Heaven that a Buddhist can achieve.
- “The Buddha-nature which is ours from the very beginning is like the sun which emerges from the clouds, or like a mirror which, when rubbed, regains its original purity and clarity. (217)”
― Edward Conze, Buddhist Scriptures
- Do Buddhists Believe in Heaven and Hell?; Lampa Jampa Thaye; June 29th, 2019. “There is no God who administers this universe, who rules who should go to Heaven and who should go to hell. You create your heavens out of your actions and choices; you create your hells out of actions and choices.’ Lama Jampa Thaye is an extraordinary Buddhist master. He met his first spiritual teacher, Karma Thinley Rinpoche, at the age of 20 in 1973 and his other principal masters include H.H. Sakya Trizin and H.H. Karmapa (both the 16th and the 17th). As a result students of Lama Jampa Thaye are in the rare position to be able to receive teachings from both the Sakya and Karma Kagyu traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, which Lama Jampa delivers with exceptional clarity, down to earth humour, and compassion. For information of where and when Lama Jampa is next teaching see www.lamajampa.org”
#4 Do Buddhists Worship Buddha?
Yes and no. Buddhists worship the Buddha to some degree, but the main consensus is that Buddhists do not believe in a God, therefore, do not see Buddha as a God. Despite this, they do respect and revere the Buddha as a great teacher.
The Buddha is seen as an enlightened educator that achieved great wisdom and a state of nirvana. Outside of this innate respect to their religion’s founder – Most Buddhists do not explicitly worship the Buddha, only admire him.
As an exception to this rule, the Mahayana Buddhists do worship the Buddha, seeing him as actually divine. Nonetheless, most Buddhas (including Theravada Buddhists) do not see Buddha as divine.
It is commonly argued that there are Buddhist statues in temples, which could be seen as idolatry or worship; however, this is not necessarily the case. Buddhists are focused on the meditation that all things can become awakened with wisdom and love, just like the Buddha. These idols and figures are reflections are on abstract notions, not dedicated as worshipped prayer to any God. Without the presence of a God, it is difficult to argue a case for idolatry.
- Medium.com writes: “So, what is the Buddha statue for? The Buddhist monk said that the Buddha statue is a sign or symbol of struggling. In life and to have a good life, everybody definitely has an ambition and life goals. In order to achieve them, he/she must work hard.
The same as Siddharta Gautama who was willing to leave the castle and give up luxury. He worked hard to seek for solution to cure suffering, aging, illness, and death. He struggled (the scripture states that he has ever closed to death) until he got enlightened and became a Buddha.
The hardworking of Buddha that resulting in a path called Noble Eightfold Path should motivate others to work hard and achieve their ambition.
So, it is clear that Buddhists are NOT idol worshippers. If they are, they have misconception about Buddhism and they should be informed about the right teaching of Buddha. Clearly, Buddhists that are kneeling in front of Buddha statue are not worshipping. Instead, they are reviewing the Dharma and powering their faith to the Noble Eightfold Path and also to be motivated by the Buddha to achieve their ambition.”
- Reonline.org.uk – Places of Worship in Buddhism; March 23rd, 2010.
#5 Do Buddhists Believe in Jesus?
Yes, many Buddhists believe in Christ, but they do not worship him.
Some Buddhists do believe in the existence of Jesus Christ, but they do not revere him in the way that Christians do. This belief in Jesus’s existence was demonstrated in 2001 when the Dalai Lama was quoted as saying that “Jesus Christ also lived previous lives,” asserting that his soul was caught in the cyclical nature of reincarnation (a Buddhist and Hindu belief that contradicts Christianity).
Christians prescribe to a trinitarian belief typically, believing in the Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.
In Opposition, Buddhists only pay homage to their founder, The Buddha, but they do not generally worship him (or any entity) as a divine God or omnipresent force.
- Buddha: “Let us live most happily, possessing nothing; let us feed on joy, like radiant gods.” (Dhammapada 15.4)
- Diffen.com The Difference Between Buddhism and Christianity; Open Source Religion; August 7th, 2008.
#6 Do Buddhists Drink Alcohol?
No, most Buddhists, especially monks, do not consume alcohol.
There are versatile approaches to Buddhism that have minimal combating views, but generally, it is agreed upon collectively within Buddhism that intoxicants are seen as impure and unnecessary.
Since the earliest times, one of the main pillars of the Buddhist philosophy is the Fifth Precept, from the Sanskrit doctrine called ‘Pali Canon.’ The particular Precept related to alcohol is translated from Sanskrit to English as, “I undertake the training rule to abstain from fermented and distilled intoxicants which are the basis for heedlessness.”
Buddhists claim that the negative aspects of alcohol include it’s:
- Addictive nature
- Propensity to weaken one’s morality
- Tendency to distract one from spirituality
- Inducement of ‘heedlessness’ as the Precept describes
The Buddha himself was quoted as saying: “One is to refrain from drinking even a drop of alcohol and taking intoxicants because they are the cause of heedlessness. If any Buddhists succumb to the lure of intoxicating drinks, they shall not consider me as a teacher.”
- “The Precepts contain the totality of the teachings of the Buddhadharma. … People inquire about practice, ‘What is lay practice?’ Kai—the precepts. ‘What is monastic practice?’ Kai—the precepts. ‘What is home practice?’ Kai—the precepts. ‘What is the sacred?’—Kai. ‘What is the secular?’—Kai. Everything we see, touch, and do, our way of relating, is right here in these precepts. They are the Buddha Way, the heart of the Buddha.” (The Heart of Being: Moral and Ethical Teachings of Zen Buddhism, page 67).
- Six Reasons to Avoid Alcohol as a Buddhist; Einzelganger, March 14th, 2019.
#7 Do Buddhists Fast?
Yes, Buddhists commonly fast, whether this is an abstinence from food or water. It is most common for Buddhists to fast during the daylight hours, generally from noon to dawn of the subsequent day. Americans and Westerners tend to call this eighteen-hour diet style – ‘Intermittent fasting.’
The reasons that Buddhists fast are:
- To focus on their meditation
- To not be distracted or weakened by earthly hungers and cravings
- To mimic the journey of the Buddha
- To achieve enlightenment through
- To honor that people are eating more than they need
- To honor the homeless and starving
As a common practice that has been particularly utilized by the Buddhist monks, the custom of fasting was first seen by the Buddha. With combative research and historical texts on this subject, there is some disagreement about how long the Buddha fasted for and if this was the reason that he achieved enlightenment.
Some say the Buddha fasted for three days; some say he fasted for forty-five days.
As the tale enhances itself each time it is told, the account becomes grander as time goes on. The general story is that Buddha survived on one grain of rice per day, sitting beneath a tree for many days or even weeks.
Some believe that Buddha reached enlightenment through fasting, while others find fasting to be unnecessary. There is no concise data or succinct answer on how the Buddha fasted (likely due to the fact that the Buddha existed approximately six centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ).
- The BBC – The Monk’s Guide to Fasting: Fasting is important to Hindus and some Buddhist monks and nuns forsake evening meals. In the secular world, the 5:2 diet defines fasting as a daily calorie intake of 500 for a woman and 600 for a man, on two non-consecutive days a week. Such a diet isn’t for everyone, and the approach has its critics. The NHS says more research needs to be done on intermittent fasting diets and advises people to consult their GP before embarking on one. Fasting is not just physically demanding. It’s also psychologically tough, says the Anglican Bishop of Manchester, the Right Reverend David Walker, who has drunk only tea and water one day a week during lent for the last decade.”
- Fasting Buddha – How do Buddhist Monks Fast? Dr. LeGrand- Nature’s Health Clinic; November 27th, 2018.
#8 Do Buddhists Believe in God?
No, most Buddhists do not support the belief in any omnipresent God or divine entity.
Buddhists do, however, believe in the following:
- Buddha was a great teacher, but not a God
- The belief in a God can be perceived as human ignorance
- There are higher beings (which the Dalai Lama referred to the Buddha as being)
Instead of believing in or worshipping to a God – Buddhists focus on:
- Reaching nirvana
- Breaking the cycle of karma
- Moving upwards in the stairs of the universe to a better dharma
- “Student, beings are owners of karmas, heirs of karmas, they have karmas as their progenitor, karmas as their kin, karmas as their homing-place. It is karmas that differentiate beings according to inferiority and superiority.” Majjhima Nikaya 135: The Shorter Exposition of Kamma; Buddhism Quotes.
- Do Buddhists Not Believe in God? Yoga Masters of Kriya Yoga International; February 6th, 2019.
#9 Do Buddhists Believe in Karma?
Yes, Buddhists look to the principle of karma as a foundation for how to approach life on earth, as well as the afterlife. Karma, which translates to ‘action,’ is the quality of that action related to its intention.
An absence of ignorance must exist to obtain a karmic effect that is centered on moral motivations. If your motivations are not moral, karma will find a way to punish someone for this ignorance.
In this sense, karma says, ‘you choose your future:’
- If an existence is rooted in self-centeredness, this can lead to negative actions (suffering).
- If an existence is rooted in compassion and selflessness, this can lead to positive actions (healing, escape from suffering, and enlightenment).
Buddhists believe that if you live dutifully, kindly, and gently – “you keep moving up on the stair” (as stated by Buddhist Monk and owner of the Dhammakaya Foundation). He describes – Karma greatly influences our life. Karma is one aspect that has great inflex and effect on how we live our life… There are different ideas of what you explain as God.”
The force of karma is seen as fair, judicious, and still ruthless in its deliberation. Karma is a merciless force that has no problem damning a soul to a hellish existence. Opposingly, karma can be a forgiving and gentle entity that offers kind beings a chance at a better existence in their next reincarnation.
Ultimately, if you live kindly, you should reap those rewards in your next incarnation.
If you did not live kindly, you may experience those punishments in your next incarnation.
Buddhists and Hindus each agree on the dharmas of reincarnation, moksha, and karma.
- “Any action performed with non-greed — born of non-greed, caused by non-greed, originating from non-greed: When greed is gone, that action is thus abandoned, its root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising.” – Accesstoinsight.org – Tipitaka – Nidana Sutta
- What is Karama in Buddhism?; Lama Jampa Thaye; January 2nd 2019.