Buddhism in the modern world has stimulated a huge amount of academic scholarship and there are innumerable books. So many things one can study! And then, on the other hand, there is the idea of Buddhism as a way of life, and I have to say often a rather strict way of life with much emphasis  on moral and ethical questions. Avoid anything frivolous! But in all this we shouldn't lose touch with the dimension of Buddhism that's called bhakti.

When I was in Assam, I talked to the musicologist. Assam has only been Hindu for the past 150 years or so. Before it was Buddhist and followed a form of Buddhism mostly centered on Amitabha. This researcher was convinced that this kind of hypnotic chanting that's now used by Hindus (the kind of thing you probably associate with Hare Krishna and so on) originated in Buddhism, this was a Buddhist form. 

As far as one can tell, Buddhism in the early days was rapturous. It was poetic, it was melodic, it was full of chants and songs. Many of the Buddha's teachings were given in verse and this is often lost in translation. I can remember sitting on a roof top in Delhi with a group of Buddhists and the women were all singing a song the words of which translated went something like

♫  My mother will scold me and tell me I'm stupid,
but I'm going to run away and join the buddhasangha. 

♫  My father will lecture me and tell me I'm wrong,
but I'm going to run away and join the buddhasangha.

My husband will beat me and tell me I can't go,
but I'm going to run away and join the buddhasangha.

♫  My brother will lock me up in a dark cupboard,
but I'm going to run away and join the buddhasangha
. ♫

And this was all sung with great jubilation and laughter and so on.

You see, mindfulness originally meant to have one's mind full of the Dharma and this meant that the Dharma had to be remembered and to make it memorable the Buddha used song, rhyme, beat, rhythm.

You know, we might say:
“I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in the Dharma, I take refuge in the Sangha”

But in Pali we say:

Buddham saranam gacchami

Dhammam saranam gacchami

Sangham saranam gacchami

[klick to listen]

… and this might be accompanied by a tambourine or a drum or something like that.

Here is a verse from the Dhammapada:

“Mind is the forerunner of states,
Mind is chief, mind-made are they,
If one speaks or acts with pure mind,
Because of that happiness follows
Even as one's shadow that never leaves.”

Well, you can see, it's quite poetic!

If we go to the Pali, it might originally have sounded something like this:

Manopubbaṅgamā dhammā, manoseṭṭhā manomayā,

manasā ce pasannena bhāsati vā karoti vā, 

tato naṁ sukham-anveti chāyā va anapāyinī. 

[klick to listen]

So, let's not lose the music of the Dharma!
Let's no lose the ecstatic aspect!
Let's not get so sober that the bliss is missed out!

The Buddhadharma was intended to be lodged in the mind. Sometimes you  may  have that experience that a song gets stuck in your mind, perhaps it's a pop song and it goes round and round and you can't get rid of it. You know that experience. All day long this tune keeps coming back to you. That's how the Dharma should be. The Dharma is in your mind like that: like something you can't get rid of.

The Buddha wrote 1000 songs, probably more. So, I hope that somehow we can bring some of that back into our practice.

Namo Amida Bu
Thank you very much


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