Profound teachings, in any tradition, are always chanted, and Zen is no exception.
We chant one of the Short Verses at the beginning and close of our all sittings (except at the daily morning sittings) as well as before a Dharma Talk.
On your way into the zendo, please take one of the Short Verses cards from the holder by the zendo door and keep it under your mat until ready for use. We chant the Heart Sutra or The Great Sutra of Perfect Understanding, which is the heart of Mahayana teaching, at the close of our sittings on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Sheets are distributed.
On zazenkai days and at sesshin, we also chant, in addition to the above, The Sandokai or The Identity of Relative and Absolute. And, on special occasions such as the celebrations of the Buddha’s Enlightenment and the Buddha’s birth, the Ancient Lineage of the White Plum Asangha is chanted by Sensei.
Here are the chants for you to look over and to learn by heart if you continue sitting with us.
Gata of Repentance
All the harmful karma ever created by me of old
On account of my beginningless greed, hatred, and ignorance
Born of my conduct, speech and thought
I repent of it now
Gata on Opening the Sutra
The Dharma, incomparably profound and infinitely subtle
Is rarely encountered even in millions of ages
Now we see it, hear it, receive and maintain it:
May we completely realize the Tathagata’s true meaning
Great Vows For All
Creations are numberless–
I vow to free them.
Delusions are inexhaustible–
I vow to put an end to them.
Dharmas are boundless–
I vow to perceive them.
The Enlightened Way is unsurpassable–
I vow to embody it
Let me respectfully remind you
Life and death are of supreme importance
Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost
Each of us should strive to awaken….
This night your days are diminished by one.
Do not squander your life.
Maha Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra
(The Great Sutra of Perfect Understanding)
Avolokitesvara Bodhisattva (The Awakened One Of Compassion),
doing deep prajna paramita,
Clearly saw emptiness of all the five conditions,
thus completely relieving misfortune and pain.
O Shariputra (a disciple), form is no other than emptiness, emptiness no
other than form; Form is exactly emptiness, emptiness exactly form;
Sensation, conception, discrimination, awareness are likewise like this.
O Shariputra, all dharmas are forms of emptiness, no born, not destroyed;
not stained, not pure, without loss, without gain; So in emptiness there is
no form, no sensation; conception, discrimination, awareness,
No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind;
No color, sound, smell, taste, touch, phenomena;
No realm of sight…no realm of consciousness.
No ignorance and no end to ignorance
No old age and death and no end to old age and death;
No suffering, no cause of suffering, no extinguishing, no path;
No wisdom and no gain. No gain and thus the bodhisattva lives prajna
paramita with no hindrance in the mind, no hindrance, therefore no fear,
Far beyond deluded thoughts, this is nirvana.
All past, present and future Buddhas live prajna paramita,
And therefore attain anuttara-samyak-sambodhi (perfect enlightenment)
Therefore know, prajna paramita is the great mantra, the vivid mantra, the
best mantra, the unsurpassable mantra;
It completely clears all pain–this is the truth, not a lie.
So set forth the Prajna Paramita Mantra,
Set forth this mantra and say:
Gate! Gate! (Gone, Gone)
Paragate (Gone Beyond)
Parasamgate! (Fully Beyond)
Bodhi! Svaha! (Awake, Rejoice)
Prajna Heart Sutra.
IDENTITY OF RELATIVE & ABSOLUTE (Sandokai)
The mind of the great sage of India is intimately
Conveyed from West to East.
Among human beings are wise ones and fools,
But in the Way there is no northern or southern ancestor
The subtle source is clear and bright.
The tributary streams flow through the darkness.
To be attached to things is illusion.
To encounter the absolute is not yet enlightenment.
Each and all, the subjective and objective spheres are related
And at the same time independent.
Related, yet working differently, though each keeps its own place.
Form makes the character and appearance different.
Sounds distinguish comfort and discomfort.
The dark makes all words one,
The brightness distinguishes good and bad phrases.
The four elements return to their nature as a child to its mother.
Fire is hot, wind moves, water is wet, earth hard.
Eyes see, ears hear, nose smells, tongue tastes the salt and sour.
Each is independent of the other.
Cause and effect must return to the great reality.
The words high and low are used relatively.
Within light there is darkness,
But do not try to understand that darkness.
Within darkness there is light,
But do not look for that light.
Light and darkness are a pair,
Like the foot before and the foot behind in walking.
Each thing has its own intrinsic value and is
Related to everything else in function and position.
Ordinary life fits the absolute as a box and its lid.
The absolute works together with the relative
Like two arrows meeting in midair.
Reading words you should grasp the great reality.
Do not judge by any standards.
If you do not see the Way, you do not see it even as you walk on it.
When you walk the Way, it is not near, it is not far.
If you are deluded, you are mountains and rivers away from it.
I respectfully say to those who wish to be enlightened:
Do not waste your time by night or day.