Till now our fledging meditation group has stayed clear of chanting — something that’s integral to monasteries and priest-led practice centres. We’ve limited rituals to ringing a bell here and a han there; we bow as we arrive and depart, when taking and leaving our seats, and as part of tea service. During this week of rohatsu, however, we’re adding the four-line chant of the Bodhisattva Vows to our morning and evening sittings. It begins with this line:
Beings are numberless, I vow to free them.
You what? Why not end world hunger or make peace on earth while you’re at it? Outright silly, you say? Meaningless? Get real! And who are you to “free” anyone? And free from what? Delusions? Greed? Illness? Sadness? Bad habits? Arrogance? Old age? Just a few that come to mind: states I wish I could be free of. Bingo! Start right here, right now.
What keeps me from being a kind person, a happy man, a good neighbour, a forgiving brother, a generous friend? How about this for a vow: May I be free from fear, anxiety, anger, hatred, prejudice. May I accept myself as I am, warts and all. May I cut myself some slack.
That’s a start: my mantra for today. May your day go well.