I sung them four times, and then stopped while Kaspa sang them, and then I sang them again. For most of the day, one or both of us were joined by other voices. We left the room to make tea and to eat, but there was no break in the chant.
We sat and sang for twenty minutes, and then we walked and sang for twenty minutes. I can feel it in my legs this morning! The tune changed all by itself. The rhythm shifted from slow & sweet to fast & syncopated and back again.
These six syllables are at the heart of my spiritual practice: Namo Amida Bu.
I wrote the words in big letters on three pieces of paper, and stuck them up on the wall behind our make-shift shrine with our golden Buddha, two big vases of yellow chrysanthemums and three tea-lights on the gold-and-purple piece of cloth we found at a car-boot sale.
For most of the day I quite enjoyed myself, but it didn't feel like anything deep was happening. Most of the time slipped past quickly. There were low points where my head hurt and where we were alone and where five minutes seemed to take hours to pass.
And then at four o'clock a friend entered the room and I was suddenly brim-full of emotion. A gratitude for all the people who'd fought through the snow to join us, for my sangha, for the beautiful space we were borrowing, for this practice which has been passed down from teacher to teacher through the centuries.
Under each of the three words I'd written a short-cut explanation of what they meant. Bu is Buddha. Amida is the Buddha of infinite light and infinite life. And I translated Namo as 'Little me, calling out'.
Little me, calling out to something infinitely bigger.
I kept reading these two words and hearing the truth of them, somewhere deep.
At the beginning of the day, with just me and Kaspa chanting, I felt embarrassed. This was Little me, forgetting that it's not all about me and how I look and whether the day was a success or not. My concerns felt so huge and consuming. Will anyone come to this chanting day I've organised? Will they enjoy it? Will we make enough money from the donations? Is there enough food? Will they like me? Will they think we look like idiots?
As soon as I got caught by the chant, I relaxed. I could trust that the day would proceed with or without me, that the people joining us were perfectly capable of taking responsibility for their own happiness. I remembered that there was something bigger than Little me, and I could trust it absolutely.
It's difficult to put these experiences into words. But I wanted to try because I hope that you might also have an inkling of what it is to be a Little me. And that this deep sense of your own limitation, of Little me, will also point you towards the infinite. That this little taste of the infinite will allow you to relax, to surrender to something, and to live your life with more courage, with more love, with a deeper sense of being-at-home.
Say it once with me. See if you can feel it. Little me, Infinite compassion. Namo Amida Bu.
Kaspa has written his own beautiful account of the day on our Malvern Sangha site - here. And if you'd like a taste look at this old video someone just found, where you can see Kaspa as a bald monk : ) and lots of our friends.
Namo Amida Bu by bits of rubble with gratitude
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