Chanting day in Malvern

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    9am. The sky was silvery grey. I had just finished my morning cup of tea and was anticipating the chanting morning. Satya and I had already done a morning yoga practice. Practice happens in the body, and it easy to mistake the body simply for a vehicle for the mind in this day and age. Reuniting them, or reminding myself that they are not separate, perhaps, has become an important part of my own practice.

    We finished our tea and went upstairs. I grabbed the vacuum cleaner, and Satya started to make some notices for the doors.  We were asking for silence outside the shrine room. Usually our Malvern chanting days are a festive social occasion as much as a retreat day, but this time we wanted to make an extra effort to have a strong container for the chanting.

    I cleaned the shrine room. I vacuumed. I dusted the alters. I took the old stubs of incense from the offering bowl. I lit the candles. We were ready.

    Satya and I sat in meditation. Adam, Rob, Fi and Jen all joined us before ten o clock. At ten I reminded everyone what we were doing here: Nien Fo – keeping the Buddha in mind. I suggested that some people find it supportive to put their attention on the Buddha as they are chanting, but if that if we did this we could think of it as an instance of Other Power at work – the Buddha planting the seed and creating the conditions that allow his image to flourish in our minds.

    We stood and made five prostrations together, and then started the continuous chanting.

    As the morning went on we settled into a steady chanting rhythm. Jen left. Wendy joined us for a while. Emma arrived for the last hour. As the nembutsu echoed around the room I noticed my mind diving into complaining, and then my attention would be caught by the chant and a sense of ease would return. Sometimes an image of the Buddha appeared, and then my mind dived back into complaining. This ego noise is other power too, I thought. The seeds of this complaining, and the conditions that allow it to appear come from outside me. The complaints dropped away, for a little while at least.

    Three hours later the chanting eased in to silence. Outside the birds sang, the odd car passed by, and then our builder started hammering something just outside the shrine room window.

    I struck our biggest singing bowl. The deep complex sound rang out for minutes. It was time for lunch.

    There was a great feeling of warmth in the dining room, a great sense of fellowship and of celebrating our good fortune to have come into contact with the dharma.

    Later I mentioned my other power ego to Satya. Mara follows every step, she said.

    Namo Amida Bu. Namo Amida Bu. Namo Amida Bu.

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