Shaku Sayo Sensei
A few days ago, a friend had asked me what do Buddhist recite, to say “thank you” to the Buddhas, Teachers and so forth. Basically, he wanted me to give him a recitation that is used for expressing gratitude.
I thought for a moment.
I have learned so many prayers and recitations from the many traditions of the Buddha-Dharma that it’s difficult to decide on one. Would he want one from the Theravada school? A basic Mahayana prayer? Or should I offer him one of the lengthy Tibetan recitations I have learned?
Then it hit me. Throughout history, many great Masters have all written many different versions of Gratitude prayers and recitations. Many of them are recited within traditional institutions to this day. But at that moment I realized that they felt empty. And not “Shunyata” empty. But empty as in they were not mine. They were the words someone else used to say thank you. It was not my “Song of Gratitude”.
I feel that our Gratitude Song, our “Gatha”, must come from us, from within. It must be personal. It must come from the heart. If not, then it is simply a recitation you learn and basically repeat. Like when we first learn our ABC’s. We learn them and then just repeat them without a second thought, without any meaning. We simply regurgitate what we have been given.
Instead of giving my friend some generic recitation, I sang a song. At first, he thought I was kidding. I said this is how I say “thanks”. And what did I sing you ask? I sang the chorus from the song “Thank You for the Music” by ABBA.
“So I say Thank you for the Music,
The songs I’m singing.
Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing.
Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty, what would life be?
Without a song or dance, what are we?
So I say thank you for the music.
For giving it to me.”
For me, my “song“, my “music” is Life. It is the Dharma. So I am thankful for being able to hear it. To sing it and share it with others. I am thankful that someone, my Teachers, have given “it” to me.
Why ABBA? Why not some Dharma related song?
Well, my parents used to listen to ABBA all the time when I was a kid.
My mom loved the song “Dancing Queen“. It made her happy to hear that song. It made her alive. And still does to this day. Being alive is Dharma. To be one with the song,
mindful of it, to enjoy it, is Life.
After that brief “sermon“, my friend got it. He understood that we are not restricted to the confines of what has been written down before. They simply point to how other great Teachers and Masters sang their own songs of Gratitude. They show us to be grateful for the Dharma and our opportunity to hear it and hold it.
And, if we stop to think about it before those Masters wrote all those different recitations we have today, what did they recite? Someone came up with these prayers and recitations. Why? Because it was a way for them to express how they felt about the Dharma. But somewhere along the way, we lost our creative spirit. Our own individual way to sing, pray, recite … Live!
So, what is your Song of Gratitude?
Shaku Sayo is part of the Lay Minister program with the Bright Dawn Way of Oneness Sangha. To learn more about Bright Dawn Way of Oneness please visit us here.
For your enjoyment…