How to Pray
Prayer is not something “out there.” It is our compassionate nature expressed as focused intention. “Because of our habit of duality, we see prayer and being as separate. But they are not,” says Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo, a master in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and the spiritual director of Kunzang Palyul Choling.
When we pray, we should be fully aware that our nature is compassion and it is that compassion that benefits all beings. “We have compassion because we ARE compassion. That is the potency and power that we rely on. That is what we send to others,” says Jetsunma.
How can we do this?
Connect to a lineage of enlightened activity, taking refuge in the enlightened state that is free of suffering and those bodhisattvas who embody that awakened mind. Refuge gives us strength, amplifies our virtue, awakens us to non-duality and allows us to let the boxes of our ego fall away so that we can come from a space of loving concern.
Let go of pride and the idea that WE are praying. Pride increases separation and duality and works against our intention to help others. It places the focus on “me” and “I” instead of on those whom we seek to benefit. When we have prideful thoughts, we are in a state of judgment where we place ourselves above others. “Pride is like a constricting force around your heart,” says Jetsunma. “It keeps you from opening up. It keeps you separate. You are praying for suffering when you pray with pride.”
Develop equanimity: an awareness that all beings are the same in their nature. Everyone is an expression of infinite possibility—like white light going into a crystal and dispersed into different shades and beautiful reflections. We must consider those who are suffering as our brothers and sisters, the same as us in their nature.
Adopt the stance of “clear hearing” to heed the call of sentient beings. When we pray, we keep our ears open to the cries of sentient beings who need our help. We think, “I hear you. I am not separate from you.” “Have the posture of ‘It is a privilege to honor that which you are,’” says Jetsunma. “Invoke compassion. …Compassion is separate from nothing. It contains all potential, all accomplishment. It is the first movement, like the first word…the big YES.”
Pray like we mean it. Prayer is not an intellectual exercise but a fully embodied experience. We must pray deeply and sincerely, opening our hearts. “Pray until tears come to your eyes,” says Jetsunma.
Let go of doubt. Doubt cuts off our potency and shuts down our ability to reach beyond ourselves. It catapults us back into a state of powerlessness. When we doubt, we forget that we are complete, conditionless and perfect in every way. Like pride, doubt brings the focus back on us and creates separation. We must have confidence in our prayers because they are indistinguishable from compassion, which is our nature.
“We have deprived ourselves of the deliciousness, the comfort and the happiness of true compassion for so long that it seems to us like something we have to work on, like an outsider that we have to bring into our home,” says Jetsunma. “How sad because compassion is our nature. … When we know that other beings are suffering so terribly and we have found this ‘jewel’ and it is in our hands, I ask you, “Why not learn to pray?”
'Compassion and love are not mere luxuries.
24 Hour Prayer Vigil sponsored by Kunzang Palyul Chöling