In these interviews, recorded by a team from studybuddhism.com, Venerable Thubten Chodron answers questions about her life and what it means to be a Buddhist in the 21st century.
What is the importance of devotional practices and prayers, especially for Westerners?
I think it’s as important as it is for Asians, which is that these practices, first of all, they are not based on blind faith.
You’ve got to be very clear. Devotional practices should not be based on blind faith. They are based on understanding the Dharma, and by understanding the Dharma, your confidence and trust in the Three Jewels of refuge arise. And based on that confidence and trust, which is another translation for the word that is often translated as faith (but faith is not a good translation of the Buddhist word), then based on that confidence in
the Three Jewels, these different practices come where you may do visualization, you do the seven-limb prayer, offer mandalas, make requests, recite an abbreviated lamrim prayer with all the steps of the path on it.
Those kinds of practices soften the mind. If you’re studying a lot, if you’re thinking a lot, then sometimes your mind can become a little bit hard and dry, or sometimes it becomes kind of stuck, so if you do these more devotional things, then it loosens that “stuck-ness.” And it just softens the mind, so then you can go back to your studies and the mind is softer and more open.