Santi253 wrote: binocular wrote:
Santi253 wrote:So at a deeper level, what praying to celestial buddhas and bodhisattvas does is give people the inner strength and peace to solve their own difficulties.
It doesn't to me, and surely I am not the only one.
The Lotus Sutra itself
says that those who call on the name of Avalokitesvara will be relieved of the three poisons and will be granted fearlessness. These parts refer to calling on Avalokitesvara's name for the sake of one's spiritual development, rather than asking for material blessings.
I recommend reading the 25th chapter of the Lotus Sutra for yourself before further commenting on it:
If someone doesn't believe in devāḥ and celestial bodhisattvāḥ, I don't think reading the Lotus Sutra will necessarily convince them. Many people read Pali scriptures, in which the existence of devāḥ and supernatural beings is taken for granted, and read them through a lens of modernism, where these "otherworldly" elements are understood as products of the time and place that Buddhism originated in. Others are more likely to take an agnostic approach, being open to the notion of the existence of such things, but not considering it highly relevant to the here-and-now. I am somewhat of this persuasion. I have never seen a deva, or an asura, or a nāga, and I do not think I am likely to. I suppose they might exist, but it doesn't seem relevant to the here-and-now.
But in relation to devāḥ, in the Pali Canon:
(DN 16 Mahāparinibbāṇasutta, 12: Building up Pāṭaligāma/7: Pāṭaliputtanagaramāpana, the Pali-English may be off, my apologies if such is the case.)
Ekamantaṃ nisinne kho sunidhavassakāre magadhamahāmatte bhagavā imāhi gāthāhi anumodi:
Yasmiṃ padese kappeti,
Yā tattha devatā āsuṃ,
Tā pūjitā pūjayanti,
mānitā mānayanti naṃ.
Tato naṃ anukampanti,
mātā puttaṃva orasaṃ;
sadā bhadrāni passatī
Atha kho bhagavā sunidhavassakāre magadhamahāmatte imāhi gāthāhi anumoditvā uṭṭhāyāsanā pakkāmi.
While sitting on one side the Gracious One rejoiced the Magadhan chief ministers Sunīdha and Vassakāra with these verses:
“In that place where he makes his dwelling, having entertained
The wise and virtuous here, the restrained, who live the spiritual life,
He should dedicate a gift of merit to those Divinities who were in that place.
Honoured, they pay honour, revered, they revere him.
Thereafter they have compassion on him, as a mother on her own son,
A man whom the Divinities has compassion on always sees what is auspicious.”
Then the Gracious One after rejoicing the Magadhan chief ministers Sunīdha and Vassakāra with these verses, after rising from his seat, went away.
Whereas this is not really a "central teaching" of the Buddha per se, the "divinities" spoken of are beneficent devāḥ, and this gāthā ("hymn" or "praising verse-song") references pūjā ("worship/offering/anointing") to these devāḥ with beneficent results. Now however we interpret this is up to each of us individually, obviously.
It might remind, perhaps, of some ancient Greeks who did not believe in the gods, but still advocated the civic religion for its perceived good effects on societal welfare.