Sunday Sermon "Gathas"

Gathas are small poems that many Buddhists and Zoroastrians use to focus their minds on the task at hand. To the Western eye, they look like prayers, but really they are just a form of ritual self-talk (which might be an excellent definition for what really goes on during prayer anyway, but that is a can o'worms for another day...)

There are gathas for just about everything - for waking up in the morning, for turning on the light, for using the toilet, for turning on the television, for answering the telephone, for doing dishes, for driving the car...

This car is my legs.
It goes where I choose.
When I drive with awareness,
Everyone lives in safety.

It is best to coordinate the first line to an inhalation, the second to an exhalation, and so on. This helps us be mindful of our breath, and enter a more meditative state.

Sitting in the present moment,
I breathe mindfully.
Each in-breath nourishes love,
each out-breath, compassion.

Here are some for the activities of the day. Some of these were selected because they are universal to us all, and some were chosen with specific members of the flock in mind; you know who you are...

Waking Up
As I wake up, I welcome a new day,
A mindful smile with every breath.
May I live each moment
With compassion and awareness.

First Steps of the Day
As I take my first step,
My foot kisses the floor.
With gratitude to the earth,
I walk in liberation.

Turning on the Water
As I turn on the water,
My body's essence pours before me.
Clouds, oceans, rivers, and deep wells
All support my life.

Washing Dishes
Each dish I wash
Is my most cherished child.
Each movement contains
Boundless love.

Flushing the Toilet
My body's waste is compost.
Down the hopper it goes,
Returning to the earth.

Walking Meditation
My mind can go in a thousand directions.
Now I walk in peace.
Each step creates a warm breeze.
With each step, a lotus blooms.

Sitting Meditation
Each thought, each feeling
Creates the world.
I hold joy and suffering
Tenderly in each breath.

Calming the Mind
Chasing after the world
Brings chaos.
Allowing it all to come to me
Brings peace.

Turning on the Television
Mind and television
Receive what I choose.
I select well-being
And nourish joy.

Preparing Food
Earth, water, sun, and air,
All live in this food I prepare.
turning on an electric light
Ancient trees, water, and wind
Join my hand to bring light
To this moment.

Problems at Work (by Robert Aitkin, Roshi)
When things fall apart on the job
I vow with all beings
To use this regretful energy
And pick up the pieces with care.

Hugging (by Thich Nhat Hanh)
I am so happy to hug my dear ____ .
I know (s)he is real in my arms.

Going to Sleep (by Robert Aitkin, Roshi)
Falling asleep at last
I vow with all beings
To enjoy the dark and the silence
And rest in the vast unknown.

And here we have two sort of general ones...

All composite things are impermanent,
They are subject to birth and death;
Put an end to birth and death,
And there is a blissful tranquillity.

The teachings of the Seven Buddhas
Not to commit evils,
But to do all that is good,
And to keep one’s thought pure --
This is the teaching of all the Buddhas

Monks use gathas to refocus their minds during the day. Because there are so many times when a gatha is helpful, you will frequently see them posted in various places throughout the monastery - over the kitchen sink, over the toilet, on the ceiling above the bed, next to light switches. I'm going to print up the one for the car and stick it to the visor...

Go in Peace.


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