Bell Gathas

I’m going to tell you how to invite a bell to sound, with a small instrument like this, made of wood. The tranquility in us, the peace in us, we have to call them. There’s tranquility and calmness and peace and joy in us, but we have to call them so that they can manifest themselves. This tranquility, that love, that joy, that stability, sometimes we call them Buddhahood, or the nature of Buddha in us.

The Buddha is someone who is very calm, very tranquil. The Buddha is somebody who has joy, compassion and calmness, and the Buddha is not somebody made of materials like wood or gold. When we invite the bell, it’s one of the means to call the joy in us, the tranquility in us, so that we can awaken the Buddha in us. There is a baby Buddha in each of us, and we have to be aware of it. In a practice center like Plum Village, when we invite the bell to sound, we have a chance to touch the Buddha in us, we have a chance to call the nature of Buddha in us, so it can manifest itself.

If we do it correctly, peace will be there in our hearts, and we will immediately become calm water, and we will reflect reality as it is. If we are not calm, the image we reflect will be a distorted image, and when the image is distorted by our minds, the image is not the reality, and it causes lots of suffering. So we have to call tranquility, to invite it to manifest itself.

When I invite the bell to sound, it is because the bell is considered as a friend, someone who helps us to come back to ourselves, become calm. That is why, when I start inviting the bell to sound, I have to pay respect to the bell like this (Thay bows), exactly as we do to our friend. We pay our respect and love to our friend, so I pay respect to the bell: I join my palms, I make a lotus flower or a tulip, and I offer this flower to my bell, to my friend. Then I take my bell and put it on the palm of my hand, lift it to the level of my eyes, and look at it, and I breathe. We have to practice to do it.

When I hold the bell in my hand, like this, I start breathing in and breathing out. Breathing in, I calm myself, and breathing out I smile. My hand becomes a flower, like a lotus, and the bell becomes a diamond, a jewel in the heart of the lotus. Have you heard the mantra “Om mani padme hum?” It is in Sanskrit, and it means, “Oh, the jewel in the lotus flower!”

When you breathe like that, very deeply in mindfulness, with calmness, you become the lotus flower, because there is mindfulness in you that gleams like a jewel. It is a practice, it is not a prayer. Look at my hand, it looks like a lotus flower with five petals, and in its heart there is a jewel. I breathe in with that image, and then I become a lotus flower with a jewel in me. There’s some bell gathas:

Inviting the Bell to Sound (Version 1) Body, speech, and mind held in perfect oneness, I send my heart along with the sound of the bell. May the hearers awaken from forgetfulness and transcend all anxiety and sorrow.

Inviting the Bell (Version 2) May the sound of this bell penetrate deeply into the cosmos. In even the darkest spots, may living beings hear it clearly, so their suffering will cease, understanding arise in their hearts, and they can transcend the path of anxiety and sorrow. Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya.

Inviting the Bell (Version 3) May the sound of this bell penetrate deeply into the cosmos so that beings, even those in dark places, may hear it and be free from birth and death. May all beings realize awakening and find their way home. Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya.

Listening to the Bell (Version 1) Listen, listen, this wonderful sound brings me back to my true home.

Listening to the Bell (Version 2) Listening to the bell, I feel my afflictions begin to dissolve. My mind is calm, my body relaxed, a smile is born on my lips. Following the bell’s sound, my breathing guides me back to the safe island of mindfulness. In the garden of my heart, the flower of peace blooms beautifully. Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya.

Listening to the Bell (Version 3) Hearing the bell, I am able to let go of all my afflictions. My heart is calm, my sorrows ended. I am no longer bound to anything. I learn to listen to my suffering and the suffering of the other person. When understanding is born in me, compassion is also born.

About Still Water Sangha of MN

We are a community, formed with enthusiasm and joy, practicing Mindfulness and Meditation together in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. We meet on Monday nights from 7-8:30pm in a private home in Stillwater, Minnesota.
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