Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Buddhas and Ancestors

One of the things I miss about not being at Tassajara is that here in the city we do not chant the names of the Buddhas and Ancestors every day - we do half of the male list and the women ancestors on Mondays, and the full male lineage on Saturdays.
When I first went to Tassajara, I enjoyed the process of memorising the two lists of names, not least because I felt a clear distinction between those who had been there for some time and who knew the names by heart, and those who did not, and I wanted to be seen as one of the former. These days there is less ego involved in the process, and I mostly find joy in the sonorities and rhythms of the chanting. A number of times as ino I have encouraged people to keep the tempo up while we chant, as otherwise it seems like a dirge to me, and we are, after all, ackowledging our debt to all these people who devoted their lives to practice, as a result of which the dharma is available to us today. As the dedication afterwards spells out: "We dedicate our practice to all the great teachers from whom we have received immeasurable benefit", and it ends "May our life reveal their compassion; let us honour their true being", phrases which always just seem to slip by, but which are huge requests to make, if we stop and think about it.

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