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Prayers For Empowerment

Among Buddhist groups, the Jodo Shinshu does not practice prayers for empowerments or teach that there can be benefits in this world, but all of the other Buddhist groups engage in praying to the buddhas for practical benefits in this world. It is natural for people to want to be blessed with good health or an economic livelihood so that they can live. In this life which we speak of as one in which all things change, we human beings, who have no idea what might happen next, all want to escape from calamities safely, and to that end we pray for ourselves and others, asking for the protection of the buddhas. It must be said that this mind of prayer is most noble in this world.

The fundamental nature of human life and existence, regardless of the individual or society, lies in what might be called the ideal of wanting to live, the search for happiness, and the desire for human livelihood.

Shingon Buddhism is spoken of as being the main organization among Buddhist groups for petitionary prayers and practical benefits. This is because it affirms as its fundamental point that the body as it is should be healthy, and that there should be the empowerment (Kaji) of both material as well as spiritual benefits. All of this is a natural matter of course, and we have no trouble in saying that those who think that prayers for empowerment (Kaji) and practical benefits are superstitious are people who do not know the true conditions of life. The reason for this is that our religion of truth asks that this body become a buddha, and seeks to know that this earthly world is none other than the pure land of quiescent radiance.

At the end of "The Secret Key to the Heart Sutra," he wrote,

    ?Manjusri and Prajna can dissolve confusion, drench those who have lost the way with sweet nectar, cut off ignorance, and destroy a host of demons. It is the year 818 and a great epidemic is sweeping the country. The Emperor personally copied the Heart Sutra with a brush dipped in gold ink. Following the pattern of other commentaries, I have composed a work on the main points of the sutra, and even before I uttered the words marking the end of this task, people who recovered from their illness were standing about the roadways. Night had turned into the brilliant light of day.?

Thus he wrote about the raging epidemic of 818 suddenly lifting through the power of the Heart Sutra. No matter how advanced science may be, this is still a world in which we cannot put an end to calamities just through human power. The power of the Buddha?s blessings and eternal life are still necessary, just as the power accumulated through our own merits is also necessary. When these three powers join to form one entity, the Buddha?s blessings take effect.

In his "Attaining Buddhahood in This Very Body," Kobo Daishi wrote,

    Empowerment (Kaji) express the unity of
    the Buddha?s great compassion and the faith of living beings.
    The bestowal of empowerment (Kaji)
    is the like sunlight from the Buddha?s radiance
    shining on the water (the lifeforce) of the minds of living beings,
    and the receiving of the empowerment (Kaji) is
    the water (the lifeforce) of the practitioner's mind
    feeling the sunlight from the Buddha.

We must say in addition here that prayers for empowerment (kaji) and worldly benefits cannot be obtained apart from the practice of the Three Mysteries of the body, speech, and mind.

©1998,1999 Shingon Buddhist International Institute