We begin each of our sangha meetings with some brief chanting practice, as a way of bringing our voices together in harmony and embodying the reality of interconnection. We typically start with the Metta Sutta, which we chant in the ancient language of Pali, reminding us of how people have been coming together in similar practice for thousands of years. We also chant the Heart Sutra, in English, the words of which are considered by many to be an encapsulation of the whole of Zen. Perhaps more important than the meaning of the words is the practice of fully being with and allowing the sound of the chants to penetrate us, being mindful of the body in this ritual activity. Although rituals, such as sutra chanting, may initially seem foreign, this is both another practice in the four foundations of mindfulness (body, feelings and sensations, mind or mental processes, and mental objects or qualities), and, as Daido Loori Roshi used to say, “making the invisible visible.” Sometimes, we will also engage in the chant that comes before a dharma talk, and we always close our meetings with chanting the Bodhisattva Vows, three times.
Click here to see these chants.
These and other chants used at Upaya Zen Center can be found in Upaya’s Jukai preparation book. Here is a recording of the Metta Sutta chant and accompanying Upaya slides: