Comparative Studies

Introduction to the Seven-Limbed Prayer

The Seven-Limbed Prayer

  1. Respectfully I prostrate with body, speech and mind.
  2. I present clouds of every type of offerings, actual and imagined.
  3. I declare all the negative actions I have committed since beginningless time.
  4. And rejoice in the merit of all Aryas and ordinary beings.
  5. Please Teacher, remain until cyclical existence ends.
  6. And turn the wheel of Dharma for all sentient beings.
  7. I dedicate the virtues of myself and others to the great Enlightenment.

The Seven-Limbed Prayer is a popular concise prayer that encompasses and maximises the spirit of all the major aspects of prayer (as below respectively) –

The Seven Aspects of Prayer

  1. Paying of homage (in all ways possible, with our total being)
  2. Making of offerings (using real and visualised precious items)
  3. Repentance of faults (accrued today and in all past lives)
  4. Rejoicing in merits (of the Noble Ones and even the unenlightened)
  5. Requesting that teachers remain (until Samsara is no more)
  6. Requesting the turning of the wheel of Dharma (so as to benefit all beings)
  7. Dedication of merits (of oneself and everyone else to the highest Enlightenment)

Those who are familiar with Samantabhadra Bodhisattva’s vows, which concisely represent all Bodhisattva vows which aim to benefit all beings, will notice their similarities to the prayer –

The Ten Vows of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva 普贤菩萨十大愿

  1. 礼敬诸佛
  2. 称赞如来
  3. 广修供养
  4. 忏悔业障
  5. 随喜功德
  6. 请转法轮
  7. 请佛住世
  8. 常随佛学
  9. 恒顺众生
  10. 普皆回向
  1. To worship and respect all Buddhas. (equivalent to Limb 1)
  2. To praise the Thus Come Ones (Buddhas). (equivalent to Limb 1)
  3. To extensively make offerings. (equivalent to Limb 2)
  4. To repent of karmic obstacles and reform. (equivalent to Limb 3)
  5. To rejoice in and follow merit and virtue. (equivalent to Limb 4)
  6. To request that the Dharma-Wheel be turned. (equivalent to Limb 6)
  7. To request that the Buddhas remain in the world. (equivalent to Limb 5)
  8. To always learn from the Buddhas. (equivalent to Limb 6)
  9. To constantly comply with living beings. (equivalent to Limb 7)
  10. To transfer all merit and virtue universally. (equivalent to Limb 7)

While the vows seem to pertain only as practices towards Buddhas, they also include the Bodhisattva’s way of life in his or her interactions with fellow sentient beings. For instance, note that ‘all Buddhas’ include ‘all beings’, since even the unenlightened are future Buddhas. To ‘make offerings’ include using our time, effort, energy, material goods, fearlessness and Dharma understanding to ‘offer’ others help. To ‘request that the Dharma wheel be turned’ refers to actively asking for Dharma teachings from the Buddhas and orthodox Buddhist teachers. To ‘comply with living beings’ refers to the skilfully giving of appropriate convenience to others, ‘following’ their inclinations such that they can ultimately be benefitted with the Dharma directly or indirectly.

For Pure Land practitioners, it is interesting to note that mindfulness of the name of Amitabha Buddha can be practised to represent any of the seven aspects of the Seven-Limbed Prayer, just as it can express our aspiration to practise each of the vows of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva. This is because we attribute everything positive and pure with the name of Buddha – which is in line with all Buddhist prayers and vows.

The chapter of ‘Samantabhadra Bodhisattva’s Conduct and Vows’ from the Avatamsaka Sutra is also regarded as a Pure Land text – as not only do the ten vows serve as guidelines of practice for all Mahayana practitioners, the tenth vow (as summarised below) also reminds us to help all beings be born in Pure Land.

The supreme and endless blessings of Samantabhadra’s deeds,
I now universally transfer,
May every living being, drowning and adrift,
Soon return to the Land of Limitless Light!

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Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!