What is the origin of practice of blessings by the sangha?

Hi

Can anybody advise the origin of the practice of blessings given by the sangha.

Ben

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I don’t know where this is in the timeline of the Sangha, but it appears in the suttas here: SuttaCentral

In this case, the monk’s compassion motivates him to offer an unsolicited blessing.

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Ratana sutta seems to be the most quoted one. Anglumala sutta also suggests offering a blessing of sorts. I would rather like to think of ‘blessings’ in terms of karma. That is, a person with good karma may have what they wish for. If they wish for another to be well and happy, it might work, if the recipient’s (negative) karma isn’t more powerful.

Also wishing on a certain truth (satyakriya) is said to be powerful, as in both the suttas above . However I wonder if these had roots in Brahmanical chants and incantation… does anyone know about these pre Buddhist rituals?

with metta

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Blessings by the Sangha are to us laypeople what the cheering by a crowd is to a soccer team playing in the field. The power of it is solely in its potential to inspire us to develop the qualities which support and lead us to further development of the path.

I cannot exactly recall which specific Ajahn gave me this analogy but it makes lot of sense to me and is something I keep in mind whenever I am in the audience of a blessing by the Sangha.

I think that some suttas nowadays preserved and chanted as blessings convey exactly that sort of power. For example the suttas which contain verses chanted by the Buddha or leading disciples to those sick and weak as a way to bring their minds to the seven factors of awakening.

I have myself experienced the healing power of recollecting these specific aspects and strongly recommend anyone curious to give it a try when the next flu or cold episode takes place!

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One of the qualities which support and lead us to further development of the path is the quality of mindfulness. Last week a young woman brought her new car to the Wat I attend to have it blessed by the head monk. I thought to myself as the young woman was preparing to leave, I sure hope she exercises mindfulness because now that the car has been blessed I would hate to see that beautiful new car get damaged due to a lack of mindful driving. I like to think that the blessing was not only for the car, but to bring the young woman’s mind to the proper mindful state to exercise care and attention when she is driving.

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That’s a good approach. I suppose there’s an element of emotional support and reassurance. My intention of well being for a certain person might be valid and very valued by the other person too.

With metta

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Thanks for your inputs.

I understand the logic by various respondents on blessings given by the monks but how can we reconcile the teaching on self-reliant ie to find a solution through self practice vs the practice of seeking blessings from the monks?

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Maybe some humility in the idea that we cannot do this all by ourselves. :hearts:

with metta

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Could you please give a link to the teaching on self-reliance you have in mind? Then it would be possible to address specifically about whether or how seeking blessings from monks might conflict with that teaching.

In regard to self-reliance, there are certain teachings that emphasize the importance of good support from others, such as

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origin of blessings? Like with any organized religion, I believe the evolution of ritualized blessings follows supply and demand.

In other religions they have tithing, buying your stairway to heaven, paying for funeral blessings, hoping for better job prospects. In old times, when survival was hard, if you didn’t have favorable weather, for your crops to survive, you could die. So there was lots of incentive for getting divine or other blessings.

There are things in the Theravada chanting book that make me hurl.

I suspect privately, most monastics feel the same way, but it’s problematic to express those sentiments publicly, since doing so would cast doubt on the authenticity of all the teachings, not just corrupted sections.

For a bojjhanga paritta to be a real paritta, there’s a key word that’s missing in all the bojjhanga parittas that I’ve seen in the chanting books. “Bhāveti.” Develop/cultivate (those 7 awakening factors). You can’t just recite 7 magic words and expect anything good to happen to you.

If you happen to experience protection from devas, or an infusion of healing energy from an external source, as a result of chanting 7 magic words, it’s not because those 7 words have inherent power to heal, it’s because you have cummulatively practiced the Dhamma in a way that makes beings want to help you. If you did not, then it would not matter what you chanted you would not get external protection. If you have good sila, a good practice that beings want to help you, again it doesn’t matter much what you chant they will want to help you.

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This is the chanting book that I use
http://www.tathagata.org/sites/default/files/ParittaSutta%20v2.1%20-%20Sayadaw%20U%20Silananda.pdf

My Pali is not so great, but I believe their version of bojjhanga does indeed have the verb you mention.

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I don’t think we really have to. Only the most superstitious practitioner would assign salvific power to Buddhist rituals. These rituals can’t themselves “enlighten you”. I’m sure the monks performing them would agree.

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I found myself going for ‘blessings’ so that I could overcome my aversion to them, as part of my ‘practice’.

With metta

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You’re right, it does say something like “when developed, seven awakening factors leads to awakening.” But my point still stands, that line is just a cursory explanation of the purpose of the 7sb, as a Dhamma taught by the Buddha. The 7sb “parittas”, as they exist in the chanting books, beyond listing the 7 names of the 7sb, don’t actually explain what the 7 factors are, and how to develop them. It just says by reciting those 7 names like a magic mantra , one is miraculously cured of grave illness. The genuine teaching of the Buddha is not about reciting magic mantras to cure illness. The 7sb are powerful, and are protective, and liberating, but not a cure for physical illness.

You are moving the goal posts :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

Now you want the paritta to explain what the 7 factors are. I agree that it is important for people who chant, or listen to, this paritta to have an understanding of the meaning of the words of the chant. IMO, it is not an effective use of chanting to explain those meanings - that is better accomplished by reading lengthier suttas or commentaries, listening to dhamma talks, participating in dhamma discussions and practicing meditation. Then when chanting, the speaking or hearing of the name of a factor triggers an understanding that already exists (to whatever level).

Again looking at the actual words in the paritta, it does not say “grave” illness and it does not say “magic”. While some (and perhaps many, I don’t know myself) people may have that mindset regarding the paritta, it is not supported by the actual words.

As an aside, I don’t think the large body of scientific evidence supporting the importance of a positive mental attitude in healing should be so quickly dismissed.

I do not support the recitation of parittas as a substitute for medical treatment, nor do I believe there is anything magical about them. And I agree that such misinterpretation of paritta chanting should be discouraged. I don’t agree that all paritta chanting should be dismissed as misguided or harmful on that basis.

My experience of Buddhist practice is confined to the US and Europe, and I don’t even have much exposure to communities of Asian immigrants. So I have never met or observed someone who has the belief that simply the recitation of such a paritta, without understanding and without additional study and practice, provides a cure for physical illness. The Buddhist centers I attend and support take great pains to balance the practices of study, meditation, and chanting. I imagine that if I was immersed in a community that did hold a magical attitude towards parittas, I might feel as you do.

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Mental health and physical health are intertwined: Immunity and stress,
No health without mental health

with metta

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It occurs to me that in giving blessings there is something in it for the monks as well. Last week a young couple brought their newborn infant to the Wat I attend to have the baby blessed. They came with their extended family which included two other young toddlers.

From my vantage point, the monks, who otherwise lead a fairly regimented daily routine, enjoyed having the little tykes scampering around the premises for a few hours. Everyone seemingly got something out of the experience.

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