Every week at Satsang, we do a short chanting ceremony called a pūjā, or devotional ritual. We chant a few ancient verses in Pāli, the language of the early Buddhist texts. These verses are excerpts from a longer sequence of chants done daily in Theravāda monasteries, emphasizing the basic lay (non-monastic) practices of going for refuge and the five ethical precepts.
The verses we chant praise the Triple Gem of Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha, pay homage to the Buddha, renew our practice of Taking Refuge in the Triple Gem, and renew our commitment to the ethical practices known as the Five Lay Precepts. The pūja ends with a short verse in English known as the Five Recollections. Here’s the sequence we do:
Honoring the Triple Jewel
arahaṁ sammā-sambuddho bhagavā
buddhaṁ bhagavantaṁ abhivādemi
svākkhāto bhagavatā dhammo
supaṭipanno bhagavato sāvaka-saṅgho
The Blessed One is accomplished & fully self-awakened. I bow to the Blessed One.
The Dhamma is well taught by the Blessed One. I bow to the Dhamma.
The Sangha of the Blessed One has practiced well. I bow to the Sangha.
Homage to the Buddha
namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammā-sambuddhasa (3x)
Homage to the blessed, accomplished, and fully self-awakened one. (3x)
Going for Refuge
buddhaṁ saraṇaṁ gacchāmi
dhammaṁ saraṇaṁ gacchāmi
saṅghaṁ saraṇaṁ gacchāmi
dutiyampi buddhaṁ saraṇaṁ gacchāmi
dutiyampi dhammaṁ saraṇaṁ gacchāmi
dutiyampi saṅghaṁ saraṇaṁ gacchāmi
tatiyampi buddhaṁ saraṇaṁ gacchāmi
tatiyampi dhammaṁ saraṇaṁ gacchāmi
tatiyampi saṅghaṁ saraṇaṁ gacchāmi
ti saraṅa-gamanaṃ niṭṭhitaṃ
I go for refuge to the Buddha, Dhamma, & Saṅgha.
A second time I go for refuge to the Buddha, Dhamma, & Saṅgha.
A third time I go for refuge to the Buddha, Dhamma, & Saṅgha.
I have gone for refuge to the Triple Gem.
5 Ethical Precepts for Lay Practitioners
pāṇātipātā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi
adinnādānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi
kāmesu micchācārā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi
musāvādā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi
surāmeraya majja-pamādaṭṭhānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi
idam me silaṃ magga phala ñānassa paccayo hotu
Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I undertake the training to protect life.
…to take only that which is offered to me.
…to express my sexual energy wisely.
…to speak the truth with kindness.
…to abstain from intoxicants that cloud the mind.
Through the discipline of Ethics [sīla] may I realize the Path & Fruit of practice.
5 Recollections for Embodied Life
I am of the nature to age, I have not gone beyond aging.
I am of the nature to sicken, I have not gone beyond sickness.
I am of the nature to die, I have not gone beyond dying.
All that is mine, beloved and pleasing, will become otherwise, will be separated from me.
I am the owner of my actions [kamma], heir to my actions, born of my actions, related to my actions, abide supported by my actions. Whatever action I do, for good or for ill, of that I will be the heir.
We finish the meditation with one of three mantras in Sanskrit.
The first, shared by the Buddhist and Hindu Yoga traditions, cultivates the intention toward kindness and well-being for all beings everywhere. The second is the mantra for Quan Yin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, and the third is the root mantra, or vidyā, for the Bodhisattva Prajñapāramitā, the goddess of the Perfection of Wisdom.
lokāḥ samastāḥ sukhino bhavantu
oṃ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ
May all beings be at ease. OM, peace, peace, peace.
namo quan shr yin pusa
Homage to Quan Yin, She Who Hears the Cries of the World.
gate gate paragate parasaṃgate bodhi svaha
Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone fully beyond. Complete awakening!
This last mantra, to Prajñāpāramitā is not really translatable. It’s a mystical, non-dual magic spell associated with a goddess whose primary metaphor is the infinite void! Words fall rather short with this one.
As of October 2019, especially now that we are practicing in front of the altar to Prajñāpāramitā at Ashtanga Yoga Berkeley, and the course on the Heart Sutra is out, we’ll start using this mantra more at the Tuesday Satsang.
Audio: Refuge & Precepts pūjā
Recorded live at Insight Meditation Satsang on September 17, 2019.
(We also regularly chant the Discourse on Loving-kindness, the Sharing of Blessings, a Sharing Merit chant, and other texts. I’ll post more on those soon.)