I’ve been praying a lot lately–for Mio’s travel papers to get fixed, for our country that seems on the brink again, and a lot of other things. There are a lot of reasons I can think of why it is important to pray. Prayers are very powerful. They not only answer our longings and petitions but do a lot of other things. To me, a very important function of prayer is that it can give me a sense of perspective–about the real significance of who we are, or our connectedness to God and everything that is. From time to time, I make my own and I borrow prayers from traditions other than Christian. Below are some of my favorite prayers from zen. Each time I read them, I am greatly moved. These two prayers are said before and after teisho (which is similar to a sermon or talk by a Zen teacher before the sangha or the congregation. A bit long but worth reading!
The Wisdom of God says this:
Source of all Being,
You created me when Your purpose first unfolded
Before the oldest of Your works,
From the everlasting I was firmly set,
From the beginning, before the earth came into being,
The deep was not when I was born.
There were no springs to gush with water.
Before the mountains were settled,
Before the hills I came to birth;
Before You made the earth, the countryside,
Or the first grains of the world’s dust.
When You fixed the heavens firm, I was there,
When You drew a ring on the surface of the deep,
When You thickened the clouds above,
When You fixed fast the springs of the deep,
When You assigned the seas its boundaries —
And the waters will not invade the shore —
When You laid down the foundations of the earth,
I was by Your side, a master artisan,
Delighting You day after day
Ever at play in Your presence,
At play everywhere in Your world,
Delighting to be with the children of earth.
PRAYER AFTER TEISHO
Jikijitsu: Hakuin Zenji’s SONG OF ZAZEN
All beings by nature are Buddha
As ice by nature is water
Apart from water, there is no ice
Apart from beings, no Buddha.
How sad that people ignore the near
And search for Truth afar
Like those in the midst of water
Crying out for thirst
Like a child of a wealthy home
Wandering among the poor.
The karma of our transmigration
Is our dark path of ignorance
From dark path to dark path we wander
When shall we be cut from birth and death?
Oh, the Zenjo of the Mahayana!
To this, the highest praise!
Nembutsu, confession, discipline
The many virtues all rise within Zenjo.
Those who try zazen but once
Sweep all their ancient vice away
Where can evil intentions be
The Pure Land itself is right here.
Those who hear this Truth but once
And listen to It with a grateful heart
Exalting It, revering It;
Gain blessings without end.
Still more, those who turn within
And prove their own self-nature
Self-nature that is no nature
Go far beyond mere cleverness.
They know effect and cause are one
Not two, not three, the path runs straight.
With form that is no form
Going and coming, never astray
With thought that is no thought
Their song and dance are the voice of the Law.
Broad is the sky of Samadhi set free
Transparent the moonlight of wisdom
And what more indeed can we seek?
Here is Nirvana itself revealed
This very place is the Lotus Land
This very body, the Buddha.
I was in Bahrain recently and I had a chance to visit the Grand Mosque. What is significant about mosques is that there are no statues, images, symbols of any kind. Why? Because in their view, there is nothing that can represent or symbolize God. Even the elaborate designs and motifs around have no religious significance whatsoever. An 18 year old female scholar who toured me around allowed me to take pictures and gave me the Holy Koran as a present and asked me to look at the very first prayer on it. I was stunned when she pointed out the similarities to the Christian Our Father.
”In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds;
Master of the Day of Judgment. Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech for help.
Show us the straight way,
The path of those whom Thou hast favoured;
Not the (path) of those who earn Thine anger nor of those who go astray.”
* * *
Our prayers were answered!
Yesterday, Mio left for his 40 day college preparatory course in Oxford and Paris. His visas were issued at the last minute—the UK visa the other day and the French one hours before leaving! I can only roll my eyes since this scenario seems to be very much like Mio. Here’s a little background: He was due to be born Sept. 11, 1987, the late dictator Marcos’ birthday, even as I was hoping he would come out another day. And to further compound the bad luck, the hospital where Lydia was supposed to deliver had a strike going on. But as fortune would have it, the strike ended the very next day, and Mio decided to be born into this world on September 12. It is a better day (definitely much better especially after 9-11 which will forever be known as a day of infamy!). This Blue Dragon boy was born knowing how to avoid minefields. I am confident that no disaster shall befall Mio since so far, the red sea always seems to part when he wants to cross. Ha ha!! This guy always makes it through the skin of his teeth. His Lolas on both sides must be watching out for him as he claims! I do not doubt it.
Farewell Mio! Soak it all in and embrace this wonderful world and all its gifts. Learn from great teachers, meet new, wonderful friends and beautiful girls with strange accents. This is the start of your hero’s journey. May you return a wiser young man with lots of experience but few scars inflicted on yourself and the world!
I wish I could have done this when I was young.