A very Interesting evening
Last night I had the great pleasure of attending a Buddhist Meditation exercise held at the Chestnut Street Arts Center in Marshfield. Our teacher was the Venerable Khenpo Kalsang Gyaltsen, a founding member of the Sakya Phuntsok Ling Center in Maryland.
My friend Cat and I really had no idea what to expect, since we had never attended any of these lectures before. I suppose I was expecting something along the lines of ‘this is what Buddhism is, this what we do and why we do it.” More along the lines of a lecture in comparative religious studies or something.
I was surprised when we were given a handout with the text of a Sadhana, or meditation practice ritual to the Medicine Buddha. Venerable Khenpo Kalsang Gyaltsen explained who and what the Menla,(Medicine Buddha) is and the purpose of the meditation ritual.
The Medicine Buddha is an enlightened being whose aspiration is the health, prosperity, longevity, and well-being of all beings, including one’s self. He is depicted as being colored Lapis Lazuli blue; this color is traditionally associated in Buddhist culture as representing healing and all good things, according to the explanation. The ritual was to invoke the Medicine Buddha’s wisdom, compassion and spiritual power in order to promote the healing of all illnesses and the causes of illness in the world as well to provide for the well being of all beings in the world.
Most of the text was in English, with only the traditional mantras being written in a phonetic transliteration of the ancient Sanskrit. Frankly I found those a little intimidating, as I have little or no experience with that language.
As a group, we went through the ritual, with a local student of the Llama reading as we followed along as best we could. The mantras were sung by Venerable Khenpo Kalsang Gyaltsen in the Sanskrit and were very moving. The first part was devoted to the refuge and enlightenment thought, followed by the four limitless meditations as an opening and to allow our minds to settle somewhat.
Next came the ’shrine offerings’, where you would either make physical offerings in front of an actual shrine that had been set up or you would create a visualization of both a sacred shrine and of specific offerings of food, flowers, incense, etc. I can see where this would be applicable if one was travelling or did not have the resources to make such an offering. This was followed by the cloud offering mantra, sung by the Llama three times.
An invocation followed, and the Prostration, which is a gesture of respect to the eight Blissful Lords, a series of Buddhas renowned for their aspirations and teachings over the many centuries of this practice. This is not a physical prostration, in that we did not actually bow before the Buddha, but rather a verbalization of respectful greetings in a very formal style.
Prayers followed, as well as the singing of the main mantra to the Medicine Buddha. This was sung twenty-one times. I found myself becoming very relaxed, almost buzzed, by the sounds and rhythms of the words, even though I did not understand them. A dedication to the benefit of all beings concluded the ritual.
I couldn’t help but compare this ritual with my own meditations. Normally my personal practice is done in silence so as not to disturb my roommate. It is a very private thing, and I am not used to attempting to meditate in a group, barring a few teaching sessions we have done earlier this year.
The full ritual was moving, calming, and energizing as demonstrated by Venerable Khenpo Kalsang Gyaltsen, and I look forward to learning a great deal more about this ancient religion, and about the differences and aspirations of the various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. I find the idea of praying not only for one’s own health and prosperity but for all the world to be a concept shared by every religion. The exception is that Venerable Khenpo Kalsang Gyaltsen stressed that all paths, not just those of Buddhism, must be respected and that this is a major tenet of their faith and practice. That was refreshing, I must say.
To learn more, I suggest you go to http://sakyatemple.org in order to learn more about both this intriguing religious and its practices. I truly enjoyed the evening and learned a great deal, and I intend to learn more.
Find your peace, friends.