‘Prayer’ means always being in accordance with the Truth (Dharma). The essential meaning of the act of prayer can be understood by the action itself. Although it may be of changing appearance, still, the essence meaning cannot be discarded. But, the act exposes what is apparent and what is hidden. If one understood this, he might be in accord with the dharma.
Generally speaking, it means respecting highly and kneeling down in submission. In this case if one respects the true self-nature, and if unenlightened darkness has knelt down, in submission, then it can be called prayer. Since they respect, they do not humiliate. Since it knelt down, it cannot be negligent. If sinful thought permanently vanishes and good thought steadily stays, then, even though it is not seen from the outside, one is continually in prayer. What is apparent is the physical appearance when they bow in respect. In order to submit their minds and humble themselves, the ordinary-beings kneel down in respect to an outer image of Buddha. When it is functioning, then it is exposed (as bowing). When that functioning is eliminated, then it is hidden. Only when self-nature and physical form are in mutual accord can inside-wisdom be brightened through physical prayers.
When one is attached to only the outside form of prayers, then he will be negligent, having greed, anger, and ignorance; raising sinful thought inside and having only false prayer outside, which are not real prayers. This is deceiving the sages and fooling the wise ones. The karmic consequence of this endures!
Here you can find more information about the ordination as Zen Monk / Zen Nun. For further questions about the meaning of Prayer in Zen Buddhism contact us at any time via a contact form on the homepage or call. We would be pleased to welcome you in one of our Zen temples. Visit for a cup of coffee, an evening meditation, for a short or long term templestay. The temple gates are always open and the daily routine continues. Examine and share Life & Death with the Zen Nuns and Zen Monks in Switzerland.