An excerpt from the book "The Energy of Prayer: How to Deepen Your Spiritual Practice" by Thich Nhat Hanh in the subsection, Prayer as Part of a Spiritual Practice:
"Even if you don’t pray very often, and spiritual practice is not a big part of your life, you may find yourself praying for health, prosperity, and good relationships. But for those who become monks, nuns, and for others with a strong spiritual practice, there is another object of prayer. In the Buddhist chant, “The Disciple Touches the Earth in Respect,” the goal is put like this:
To go beyond the cycle of birth and death, to realize the unborn and the undying.
Of course people who have devoted their life to spiritual practice also pray for health, success, and harmony, but these things alone are not enough. As you deepen your spiritual practice, you begin to question. You may want to know clearly, Where do I come from? Why am I here? Where shall I go? After death, do I continue to exist or not? Is there any relationship between myself and Buddha, between myself and God? What is the original purpose of my being here? These are the questions, the prayers, of a dedicated spiritual practitioner.
If we are practicing, and we only pray for health, success, and good relationships, we are not yet an authentic practitioner. An authentic practitioner has to pray at a deeper level. We have to practice in such a way that in our daily life we are able to have insight into the interdependent nature of all beings. Our greatest desire as spiritual practitioners is to discover the essence of things and to be in touch with this essence. When this satisfaction is there, then whether we have very good health or poor health, we can still be happy. Whether we are successful or not successful in our work, whatever it is, we do not suffer. When our happiness is not dependent on our success or our health, we will be less likely to argue with others or make them suffer. Good relationships will be there quite naturally.
So, how is this kind of prayer different? It is different because of the level of our prayer. When we have been in touch with the ultimate dimension, with nirvana, when we have been in touch with God, then we can accept whatever happens in the here and now. We have already gone to the land of peace and joy and we do not need to suffer. Whether we have another ten years to live or five years to live makes no difference to us. At that point we have changed our way of seeing the world.
If we do not pray and deepen our spiritual practice, we suffer intensely when we don’t have what we want in the world. But when we have been in touch with the essence, the suchness of all things, then it doesn’t matter if we don’t have what we want. Before, if we were not successful in what we wanted, we thought our whole life was a failure. But when we have been in touch with the ultimate dimension, then whether our temple or our practice center burns down, whether people smear our reputation, are jealous of us, or accuse us unjustly, we can still smile and be peaceful and joyful as usual. What we thought to be success, what we thought to be the basis of our happy life, we do not need anymore. Because our happiness is already there in the ultimate dimension, it goes beyond all ideas of success and failure.
When we can see that we and all living beings are of one and the same nature, how can there be division between us? How can there be lack of harmony? We are one with God, with Buddha, so how can there be any division? The deepest desire of a practitioner is to be in touch with the ultimate dimension. Once we have been in touch with the ultimate dimension then quite naturally our health will get better, we shall be successful in our practice and our helping others, and we shall be able to form a peaceful and joyful community that lives together in harmony." - by Thich Nhat Hanh
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