Do Better, Be Better, Try Harder

A common feature of Buddhism is prayer wheels. Cylinders with a prayer mantra written on it and inside of it, the first syllable is Om. According to Tibetan Buddhist tradition spinning a prayer wheel has the same meritorious effect as orally reciting the prayers. “Just touching and turning a prayer wheel brings incredible purification and accumulates unbelievable merit.” Each revolution is as meritorious as reading the inscription aloud as many times as it is written on the scroll, and this means that the more prayer mantras that are inside a prayer wheel, the more powerful it is. One on-line site advertises their prayer wheel this way: “Our prayer wheels contain millions and even billions of the Tibetan Buddhist mantra "Om Mani Padme Hung." The mantras were carefully reproduced on microfilm to allow a large number of mantras to fit inside each prayer wheel.” Buddhist temples will have rows and rows of large prayer wheels that you just walk by to spin. And there are many that are powered by water, wind, solar panels or heat from a candle or fire. That sounds utterly foreign to all of us and we feel sadness for millions of people trapped in such a performance, merit-based religion. We can’t imagine ever doing something like that. Except that we all live in a performance-based world. We grow up in homes where our parents set demands and have expectations based on performance, obedience, keeping the rules. We can often feel like we don’t measure up, we can’t please them, no matter how hard we try.