Buddhist Christian Prayer/s

Cambridge, MA. I recently was asked to offer a closing prayer at a parish event where the speaker was Professor Paul F. Knitter, a distinguished Catholic theologian and the Tillich Professor of Theology, World Religions and Culture at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Paul had given a fine presentation of his inviting and provocative book, Without Buddha I Could not be a Christian (One World, 2009), and my prayer was to be the conclusion of the event.

Given the interfaith and exploratory nature of the event, I thought that in the closing prayer for this ecumenical and interfaith gathering, I would bring together, in one utterance, the Christian and Buddhist streams of prayer. I did so by weaving together a famous prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi — well known to readers of this blog, I am sure — with a version of the vow of the Bodhisattva (a kind of Buddhist saint who vows the protection of all beings, and delays her or his own liberation until all beings have been liberated). There are many versions of this vow on the internet, but I took mine from a very nice site that offers several translations of this vow.


For the sake of that evening's prayer, I edited both in small ways, but the editing/omissions do not, I think, detract from the overall benefit gained by weaving them together. The reaction at the parish was quite positive, so I thought I would share the results with you here. I will not offer any heavy-duty theology of the melding, nor express any views at the moment on praying in two traditions at once — but would rather let the text speak for itself. You might even try reading it aloud:

The Prayer of St. Francis with the Bodhisattva Vow


Make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is doubt, faith.

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is darkness, light.

Where there is sadness, joy.

May I be a safeguard for those who have no protection,
A guide for those who journey along the way;
For those who wish to go across the water,
May I be a boat, a raft, a bridge.

May I be a home port for those who yearn for landfall,
And a lamp for those who long for the light;
For those who are tired, may I be a resting place,
For all who need help, their servant.

O Divine Master,

Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled, as to console;

To be understood, as to understand;

To be loved, as to love.

Like the great earth itself and other eternal things,
Enduring as the sky itself endures,
For the boundless multitude of living beings,
May I be the ground and vessel of their lives.

For every single thing that lives,
In number like the boundless reaches of the sky,
May I be their sustenance and nourishment
Until they pass beyond the bounds of suffering.

For it is in giving that we receive.

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.

It is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.


Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Beth Cioffoletti
6 years ago
I love it, Fr. Clooney, thank you.  I intend to use this whenever I am asked to "offer a prayer".

I practice centering prayer and often look to Buddhism for insights and parallels. I can understand the notion of having to be a Buddhist before becoming Christian. 
Thomas McCullough
6 years ago
A striking document indeed. The contrast between the two traditions is striking. The Franciscan prayer's aspirations are for perfection in the things we walking on this earth can and do do. The Boddhisatva's vow aspires to a divine benevolent power, the likes of which a Christian cannot achieve and does not aspire to. I respect and think well of Mahayana Buddhism (I think more highly of Theravada Buddhism) but the prayer above shows clumsy seams between two texts that do not say the same thing and even do not say very similar things.
Comment: Mr McCullough - clumsy on purpose! there is no point in manufacturing seamlessness. But the 'music' works. FXC
Vivian Lewin
6 years ago
''The Boddhisatva's vow aspires to a divine benevolent power, the likes of which a Christian cannot achieve and does not aspire to''  but consider Sunday's Gospel... ''I am the vine, you are the branches...if you abide in me, and I in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you...'' (John 15) True, abiding includes being open to having one's wishes re-informed and reformed continuous in the direction of God's wishes, but is that not also in the direction of benevolence?
6 years ago
Frank,  Thanks again for this wonderful interfaith prayer at the end of our event in Sharon last week. Since then, it's been making further appearances - Cathy used it to begin the telephone  Board Meeting of CRISPAZ (Christians for Peace in El Salvador), and the Buddhist meditation group that she and I lead on Sunday evenings here at Union Theological Seminary prayed it togethe as our "dedication of merit."      Paul
Patricia Bergeron
6 years ago
Dear Fr. Clooney, Thank you for giving me what I needed today. I disagree with a previous posting, in that I feel there is an uncanny and seamless melding between these two prayers. Theology pales by comparison.


Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

 Pope Francis arrives in procession to celebrate Mass marking the feast of Pentecost in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican May 20. The pope at his "Regina Coeli" announced that he will create 14 new cardinals June 29. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Eleven of the new cardinals are under the age of 80 and so have the right to vote in the next conclave.
Gerard O’ConnellMay 20, 2018
Images: AP, Wikimedia Commons
Bishop Curry described Teilhard as “one of the great minds, great spirits of the 20th century.”
Angelo Jesus CantaMay 19, 2018
Both men were close to each other in life, and both are much revered by Pope Francis.
Gerard O’ConnellMay 19, 2018
The Gaza Nakba demonstrations this week have done nothing to advance the situation of Palestinian refugees, nor did they provide relief to the people of Gaza, who dwell in an open-air prison, hemmed in and oppressed at every turn.